• Cambridge Analytica Suspends CEO

    Well, let’s see what’s new on this fine Monday mor—

    I guess that Channel 4 undercover video might not have been edited to distort the truth after all.

  • Science® Says Mitch McConnell Is the Most Hated Politician in America

    Matt Yglesias points today to an interesting chart from a new paper by Larry Bartels. Basically, Bartels is looking at partisanship in the Trump era, and finds that Republicans aren’t very divided on cultural issues while Democrats are. Here’s how the divisions play out:

    Much of this is no surprise, of course, but there are a few interesting tidbits:

    • Aside from explicitly partisan figures and groups, no one is all that disliked. Among Democrats, even Wall Street bankers can only manage 3.5, and among Republicans it’s the same story for journalists. Sure, they’re disliked, but not really all that much.
    • Nobody likes politicians all that much. Among Democrats, Barack Obama scores around 8.2. Among Republicans, no one does even that well. The NRA is the most liked group at about 7.2.
    • Among political figures, Mitch McConnell is uniquely disliked.
    • Poor old atheists can’t catch a break. Republicans rate them lower than Mitch McConnell, while Democrats barely tolerate them too, rating them slightly below Walmart. Sigh.
    • Republicans claim to like poor people and single mothers. They are lying.

    Among politicians, Republicans hate Hillary Clinton the most. Democrats hate Donald Trump the most. No surprises there.

  • Scrunchies Are Back! Or Are They?

    A ballerina wearing a lovely burgundy scrunchie while warming up at the barre.Source/ZUMAPRESS

    Here’s your big fashion news of the week:

    Women are wearing scrunchies again—in public, and most notably, to the office, where their presence is producing reactions ranging from unbridled enthusiasm, to jokes that might not be jokes, to silent judgment. Some scrunchie fans wonder if they will be taken seriously while wearing one.

    ….Scrunchies, often in bright colors and patterns, were once everywhere….But W Magazine included scrunchies on its trend list for 2018. Scrunchies appeared on the runway at New York Fashion Week in September during the Mansur Gavriel show.

    ….Cassandra Jennings, 22, recently tested the scrunchie waters on Wall Street. She works at a marketing firm and usually dresses up, but was having one of those days. “I had a normal hair tie in my hair at first but then my eyes were just going to my scrunchie,” she says. She pulled her hair back in a tight bun and put on a white velvet scrunchie. No one said a word, but she felt self-conscious the whole day.

    “I was aware that I was wearing it,” she says. “I think I was judging myself.”

    Here in the Drum household, we no longer wear scrunchies. They have long since been demoted to cat toys and then demolished. This means that our current cats have never even seen a scrunchie. That’s kind of sad, so maybe we should buy a few.

    Anyway, let’s take a poll. How many men reading this (a) had any idea what a scrunchie is, (b) knew that it was fatally dated, and (c) would have judged any woman wearing one? Also: why isn’t the singular spelled scrunchy?

  • DC Councilman Believes Rich People Control the Weather

    This is an actual headline from earlier today:

    D.C. Councilman Apologizes for Claiming That Jews Control the Weather

    This is being played as a guy who’s such a moron he didn’t realize that “Rothschilds control _____” is code for “Jews control _____ .” After reading his muddled apology, I can believe that. But that leaves one teensy little problem. This guy is a DC city councilman. Before that he was on the Board of Education. And he believes that rich people are controlling the weather so they can make lots of money by creating natural disasters. He’s just decided it’s not specificially Jewish rich people who are doing this.

    Does anyone care about that? Neither of the two stories I read even bothered to mention it. Is this what we’ve come to in the era of Trump? WTF?

    POSTSCRIPT: If anyone’s defense of White is that lots of politicians believe batshit crazy stuff, then I guess I have to say…

    …that, um, you’ve got a point. We h. sapiens are a helluva species, aren’t we?

  • FBI Wants To Talk to Russian Sex Guru/AI Researcher in Thai Jail

    Elizabeth Nolan Brown regales us with news of the weird today:

    Leslie/Lesley is “the self-help author/seduction coach/international harem leader now imprisoned in a Thai jail.”¹ But it turns out he’s also the director of a Russian AI research group. And his group was supported by DARPA. And he says he has dirt on Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign. And the FBI wants to talk to him but Thai authorities won’t let them.

    In the age of Trump, it’s not common for someone to out-weird the master. So I thought I’d share.

    ¹Among other things, he’s the self-published author of Kindle books called Life Without Panties: Skills of Seduction and The Game of Master and Huntress.

  • The Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Case Is Over. The Good Guys Won.

    The new congressional map enacted by the Pennsylvania state supreme court.Pennsylvania Supreme Court/www.pacourts.us

    The Pennsylvania redistricting case is over. Thanks to the way election law works, the Republican appeal went straight to a 3-judge district court, which unanimously denied their arguments to overturn the new map. This ruling can be appealed only to the Supreme Court, but a few hours later the Supreme Court turned down a similar request to overturn the new map. There were no dissents.

    So that’s that. The 2018 election will be held under a map that’s been drawn fairly, and that’s likely to mean Democrats will pick up three or four seats. It’s more bad news for Republicans.

    If you’re in a pessimistic mood, this ruling doesn’t mean much since the Republican case was really weak from the start. If you’re in an optimistic mood, it might suggest that the Supreme Court is becoming less tolerant of blatant gerrymandering. Perhaps that means a favorable ruling is in store in the big gerrymandering case currently pending?

  • Cambridge Analytica Was a Perfect Fit for Donald Trump

    Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix.Christian Charisius/DPA via ZUMA

    Here’s the latest on Cambridge Analytica, the data company funded by right-wing billionaires and chosen by Donald Trump to help with his 2016 campaign. It comes from Britain’s Channel 4 News:

    Senior executives at Cambridge Analytica — the data company that credits itself with Donald Trump’s presidential victory — have been secretly filmed saying they could entrap politicians in compromising situations with bribes and Ukrainian sex workers.

    ….In one exchange, when asked about digging up material on political opponents, [Alexander] Nix said they could “send some girls around to the candidate’s house”, adding that Ukrainian girls “are very beautiful, I find that works very well”.

    In another he said: “We’ll offer a large amount of money to the candidate, to finance his campaign in exchange for land for instance, we’ll have the whole thing recorded, we’ll blank out the face of our guy and we post it on the Internet.

    ….Mr Nix also said: “…Many of our clients don’t want to be seen to be working with a foreign company… so often we set up, if we are working then we can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options we can look at. I have lots of experience in this.”

    This is quite an organization: honey traps, bribery offers, hidden identities, and, of course, massive amounts of misused Facebook data. It sounds like a company right after Trump’s heart, doesn’t it?

    Amusingly, CA’s defense is that they were entrapping the fake reporter in order to make sure they weren’t dealing with anyone corrupt:

    Assessing the legality and reputational risks associated with new projects is critical for us, and we routinely undertake conversations with prospective clients to try to tease out any unethical or illegal intentions. The two Cambridge Analytica executives at the meeting humoured these questions and actively encouraged the prospective client to disclose his intentions. They left with grave concerns and did not meet with him again.

    ….CEO Alexander Nix acknowledges that on this occasion he misjudged the situation: “In playing along with this line of conversation, and partly to spare our ‘client’ from embarrassment, we entertained a series of ludicrous hypothetical scenarios. I am aware how this looks, but it is simply not the case. I must emphatically state that Cambridge Analytica does not condone or engage in entrapment, bribes or so-called ‘honeytraps’, and nor does it use untrue material for any purpose.”

    Okey doke.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    Rosario Beach, Fidalgo Island, Washington state.

    March 17, 2018 — Rosario Beach, Washington state
  • Health Update

    Today you get two charts showing my health status. Exciting!

    First off, here’s the usual M-protein chart, which provides a rough idea of how well the multiple myeloma is being controlled:

    As you can see, it’s been rising slowly but steadily for several months now. Generally speaking, the Revlimid maintenance phase of my treatment is usually good for about two years, and I’m already past two-and-a-half. When the M-protein level gets consistently above 1.0, it will be time to switch to a second-line treatment. If this happens in late summer, I will have gotten three years out of the Revlimid, which isn’t bad.

    But that’s not the only reason my Revlimid phase is nearly over. One of the side effects of Revlimid—along with lots of other chemotherapy—is that it affects your immune system. I get tested every month for this, and here’s what it looks like for the past couple of years:

    The normal level for this is about 5,000. When it gets below 1,000, things get a little worrisome. I’ve dipped below that a couple of times recently, and it’s pretty obvious I’m going to drop below 1,000 consistently starting in a few months. This makes me more vulnerable to various illnesses, of course, and it also produces periodic stomach problems. So this is yet another sign that my Revlimid phase is nearly over. My body has simply stopped tolerating it.

    Most likely, I’ll switch to a second-line treatment sometime this summer. It’s one of the newer meds combined with the evil dex, which will provide me with an exciting free night once a week, followed by killer naps for a few days afterward as my body tries to recover its lost eight hours. But at least I know what to expect, and the infusion cycle only lasts eight weeks. So that’s not too bad.

    Bottom line: things are progressing about as expected. My personal guess is that I’ll cycle through a second-line, third-line, and possibly fourth-line treatment before it’s time to investigate the new CAR-T therapies that are still in development. My oncologist, oddly, had a very negative reaction when I mentioned this to him. I’m not quite sure why, and it’s not a big issue right now. Hopefully the clinical trials will progress well and provide me with an alternative treatment two or three years from now, which is probably when I’ll need it.

  • Andrew McCabe Is Completely Innocent of Wrongdoing

    I’ve got something to say.

    Late on Friday night, Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe. The official reason is that he “lacked candor” during an investigation about contacts with the media during the 2016 campaign. The IG report making this charge was not released, which means that no one can say for sure what evidence it contains.

    This is not an accident. It was deliberate, and it was designed to obscure the fact that the charges against McCabe are completely unfounded and the investigation of McCabe has been bogus from the start. The whole thing was the result of Donald Trump’s search for someone to attack during the campaign. This eventually morphed into President Trump’s search for a scapegoat to explain his loss of the popular vote, which in turn morphed into an insane jihad against the entire leadership of the FBI.

    Can I prove this? Of course not. That’s the whole point of withholding the IG report. But everyone in Washington is well aware of how this has unfolded. Everyone is well aware of Trump’s insane obsession with getting revenge on his enemies, both real and perceived. Everyone knows what the McCabe vendetta is about.

    At this point, to pretend that we don’t know this—maybe McCabe really did seriously breach the rules, we’ll have to wait and see—is little more than a knee-jerk veneration of faux evenhandedness. It is an attempt to remain willfully ignorant when everyone knows what’s happening.

    As with the Nunes memo, here’s what I have to say: We’ve seen this movie before. This entire investigation was bogus. The charges against McCabe are bogus. He did nothing wrong. The whole affair is part of a pathological vendetta begun by the president of the United States. Eventually all the evidence will become public and this is how it will turn out. We should all stop pretending otherwise.