Friday, November 3, 2017

File Not Found

Heh:

Trump’s Twitter account was briefly deactivated Thursday night by a departing Twitter employee, the company said, raising serious questions about the security of a tool the president wields to set major policy agendas, connect with his voter base and lash out at his adversaries.

The company has suspended other high-profile accounts in the past for violating its terms and conditions.

But there has not been a case where an employee has acted alone to take down the account of a well-known person, seemingly on their own.

[…]

Trump’s account initially disappeared at around 7 p.m. ET Thursday, with visitors to the page met with the message, “Sorry, that page doesn’t exist!” For about an hour, the Twitter-sphere joked about the short-lived window of history without @realDonaldTrump.

But then at 8:05 p.m. ET, Twitter posted a statement saying Trump’s “account was inadvertently deactivated due to human error by a Twitter employee.”

“The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored,” the statement read. “We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.”

However, two hours later, Twitter admitted that the deactivation wasn’t an accident at all. A preliminary investigation showed that Trump’s account was taken offline “by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee’s last day.”

Whoever that employee was, they were livin’ the dream.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Hack Job

David Corn reports in Mother Jones that Russian hackers broke into the Trump cyber network.

Four years ago, the Trump Organization experienced a major cyber breach that could have allowed the perpetrator (or perpetrators) to mount malware attacks from the company’s web domains and may have enabled the intruders to gain access to the company’s computer network. Up until this week, this penetration had gone undetected by President Donald Trump’s company, according to several internet security researchers.

In 2013, a hacker (or hackers) apparently obtained access to the Trump Organization’s domain registration account and created at least 250 website subdomains that cybersecurity experts refer to as “shadow” subdomains. Each one of these shadow Trump subdomains pointed to a Russian IP address, meaning that they were hosted at these Russian addresses. (Every website domain is associated with one or more IP addresses. These addresses allow the internet to find the server that hosts the website. Authentic Trump Organization domains point to IP addresses that are hosted in the United States or countries where the company operates.) The creation of these shadow subdomains within the Trump Organization network was visible in the publicly available records of the company’s domains.

There’s much more in the article itself, but the first thing that occurs to me is blackmail.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Short Takes

Trump looking into drug czar appointment after “60 Minutes” report.

Iraqi forces seize Kirkuk.

Wildfires kill 30 in Portugal and northern Spain.

Security flaw puts every WiFi connection at risk.

Scientists catch neutron star collision… 132 million years ago.

Fun fact: This is the 2,900th edition of Short Takes.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Friday, July 21, 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Reading

Lessons Not Learned — Russell Berman in The Atlantic on what the Republicans should have learned from the Democrats.

Appearing on “Morning Joe” on Friday morning, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana didn’t flinch when host Willie Geist asked him a direct question about what would happen if the American Health Care Act—which the House narrowly approved a day earlier—became law.

“So everyone with a pre-existing condition right now who is covered under Obamacare will continue to have coverage?” he asked the congressman, who as House majority whip is the third-ranking Republican in the chamber.

“Absolutely,” Scalise replied.

“Everyone?” Geist pressed him.

“Everyone,” Scalise confirmed.

From off camera, Mika Brzezinski let out a sound that was somewhere between a groan and a gasp. In the interest of reassuring the public about the GOP’s plan, Scalise had made the kind of blanket commitment that could come back to haunt the party in the future. While Republican leaders were careful to maintain the federal requirement under Obamacare that insurers offer coverage to anyone, including those with pre-existing conditions, their bill would allow states to wriggle out of the mandate that insurers charge those customers the same price. As a result, people with pre-existing conditions could find insurance unaffordable in states that get a waiver to opt out of the federal law.

Did Republicans learn nothing in the last eight years?From making unrealistic promises to cutting back-room deals, Republicans are ignoring many of the lessons they should have taken from the Democrats’ experience selling a complicated health-care plan to the public.

Don’t Over-Promise

“If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” That one concrete pledge repeated dozens of times by former President Barack Obama—and many other Democrats at the time—became an albatross for his party once the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2013. They had made the commitment to try to sell the public on the plan and get it passed initially, having seen how the fear of change illustrated in ads by the fictional couple “Harry and Louise” torpedoed the Clinton health-care bill 20 years earlier. But although Obamacare did not directly force people off their insurance, many had to change their plans because insurers stopped selling due to the new coverage requirements under the law. That broken promise helped the GOP expand its House majority and retake the Senate in the 2014 elections.

Republicans, however, have ignored that lesson repeatedly in 2017, making all kinds of assurances about their health-care bill that will be all but impossible to keep. Most egregiously, President Trump told The Washington Post in January that his Obamacare replacement plan would provide “insurance for everybody.” In fact, Republicans made no attempt at universal coverage; their bill cuts Medicaid deeply, and the Congressional Budget Office projected that it would result in 24 million fewer people having insurance after a decade.

In recent days, House Republicans like Scalise have made claims about people with pre-existing conditions that are unlikely to stand up over time. Like Democrats before them, GOP lawmakers may genuinely want their assurances to bear out, but they are putting themselves at political risk by not being forthright about the tradeoffs involved in health policy and the potential consequences of a sweeping new law. If the American Health Care Act never gets enacted, it’ll be a moot point. But if it does, Republicans better watch out.

Read the Bill

Or at least don’t admit publicly that you didn’t.

After Democrats enacted the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Republicans succeeded in making a couple of key quotes infamous as they rallied opposition to the law. Then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi uttered one of them just two weeks before final passage: “We have to pass the bill,” she said during a speech, “so that you can find out what’s in it.”

No matter the context, the comment perfectly encapsulated the GOP’s criticism of the bill—that at nearly 1,000 pages, it was too long for members of Congress to read and understand, much less the general public, and that Democrats were intent on jamming it into law before people found out what it would actually do. (Just watch then-House Minority Leader John Boehner make the case right before the final vote.)Republicans did take heed of Obamacare’s length when they wrote its replacement. As Sean Spicer passionately demonstrated, the American Health Care Act is just 124 pages, and even after the amendments Republicans added, it comes in at less than 200 as passed by the House.

But even that was too long for some GOP lawmakers. “I fully admit, Wolf, I did not,” Representative Chris Collins of New York told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer when he was asked if he had read the complete and final text of the AHCA. Two other Republicans admitted as much to CNN, although they noted that their staff read the bill and briefed them on its content.

The lawmakers have a point when they say they rely on policy experts on their staff to fully read and summarize to them the legislative text of legislation, particularly when it comes to massive spending bills that the House and Senate vote on just days after they are unveiled. But it seems that Collins’s team didn’t even fully explain the impact of the GOP health-care bill to him. As the Buffalo Newsreported, the congressman was unfamiliar with a provision that could decimate a state health plan that serves 635,000 New Yorkers.

Unlike staff, it’s the members of Congress themselves who are elected by the public and accountable to their constituents, and it’s not too much to ask that they personally read bills that could affect health care for the entire country. Failure to do so just feeds the perception that Republicans rushed the AHCA to passage without sufficient scrutiny, especially after the House adopted late changes that had only been public for a few hours before the vote and after the GOP spent years accusing Democrats of doing the same thing.

Avoid Back-Room Deals

The Cornhusker Kickback.

The Louisiana Purchase.

Democrats relied on these side agreements benefiting individual states to secure the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate’s version of Obamacare in late 2009. The additional Medicaid money for Nebraska wasn’t even included in the final bill, but the back-room deals helped sour the public on the new law. Republicans seized on them to argue that Democrats were buying off senators in secret, undermining a bill that actually went through months of public scrutiny and debate.Eight years later, the GOP resorted to the same kind of tactic in the “Buffalo Bribe” (or, if you prefer, the “Tammany Haul”)—a provision the House leadership added to the AHCA at the urging of five members of the New York delegation that would shift the Medicaid tax burden away from upstate counties.

But there’s a reason this kind of horse-trading is a time-honored, if unsavory, part of legislative politics: It helps to win votes, and members of Congress have a legitimate responsibility to look out for their constituents. The New York lawmakers publicized their victory, so it wasn’t a secret, but the provision’s inclusion after Republicans reported their bill out of committee underscored the legislation’s relative lack of public hearings or lengthy formal debate.

Just Stay Away From Health Care Entirely (Or Don’t Tackle It Alone)

Maybe Republicans were doomed from the start. “The mover on health care loses; to do something is to lose,” the always-blunt Democratic strategist James Carville reportedly told party donors earlier this year. Twice now, Democrats have lost their House majority in the next election after pursuing a major overhaul of the health insurance system. With their vote on Thursday, Republicans could be at the same risk next year.

As the president recently discovered, health care is incredibly complicated. But more than that, it is intensely personal. The trade-offs between cost and coverage will always cause controversy. The economics of private insurance necessarily require younger, healthier people to subsidize the care of those who are older and needier. And changes in policies will almost always mean some will pay more so others can pay less.

Republicans may be missing a lesson the Democrats learned in another way. The party that controls government might not be able to avoid touching health-care policy entire, but it doesn’t have to do so alone. Bipartisanship doesn’t guarantee a better result, and it can’t happen if both parties don’t agree to cooperate. But like insurance itself, it’s at least a way to share the risk.

Equal Rights Under The Law — Michelle Chen in The Nation on why the Equality Act is essential.

Segregated schools were outlawed long ago, so why are trans students still shut out of the bathroom? And why, if sex discrimination is illegal, are workers fired because their spouses are the “wrong” gender? The language of the Constitution in many cases fails to contemplate gay, trans, and queer identities, and rights advocates say an update is way overdue.

So a much-needed addendum to the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act has been reintroduced in Congress, providing explicit protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, in line with the framework that has applied to categories of sex and race for decades.

The Equality Act would leave no ambiguity that the fundamental foundation of equality under the Constitution applies equally to LGBTQ communities as it does to women, people of color, immigrants, and religious groups. Moreover, the legislation would amend the existing 1995 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which rolled back civil-rights mandates for individuals and institutions claiming religiously based exemptions, so that the new law could prevent religion from being used as a pretext for discrimination “on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” While the RFRA remains on the books, the Equality Act would at least shift the burden of proof onto the employer or institution claiming a religious exemption rather than on the individual to prove they’re entitled to full constitutional protection.

The amendment would effectively change the Civil Rights Act, along with the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and other anti-discrimination laws related to public-sector employment and access to public facilities, to cover “sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.” It would officially expand protections for public spaces and ensure equal access to federally funded programs, including health and social benefits.

It would both simplify and complicate our current legal crisis surrounding the rights of, for example, trans teens shut out of the locker room that fits their gender, or same-sex couples barred from insurance coverage, under an administration that has shown unprecedented hostility to the idea of equal justice.

The struggle for equal protection is more acute than ever because Trump has just signed a major executive order on “religious freedom” aimed at expanding the power of the religious right to influence federal politics. A more sweeping leaked draft version that The Nation published earlier this year had aimed to grant broad legal exemptions for legal and workplace discrimination under the pretext of acting on religious belief. Though the version signed by Trump today does not include those most severely discriminatory provisions, it would enable religious institutions to participate more directly in electoral campaigns, potentially opening the path to further rollbacks on LGBTQ rights, driven by religious hard-liners fueling Trump’s Christian, right-wing support base.

The Equality Act would not, of course, remedy the worst violations that disproportionately impact the poor, people of color, and youth and the elderly within the LGBTQ community. It would, however, provide basic legal recourse for the estimated half of LGBTQ individuals who reside in states without any civil-rights protections that include their gender or sexual identity categories.

Currently, fewer than half of states explicitly protect people against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and just 19 maintain explicit anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

So in most states it’s often perfectly legal to get fired for insisting that your boss identify you by the right gender at work, or facing unequal access to medical care for a gender transition, or being denied equal rights as a married couple or adoptive parents in a same-sex relationship. For youth facing abuse at school, only 14 states protect their rights explicitly in the education system. Trump’s anticipated executive order, if fully implemented, would pose an even more direct threat to the hard-won but limited rights LGBTQ communities have fought for through civil litigation and public advocacy.

The act would also underscore the ongoing legal resistance to discrimination laws and practices targeting the LGBTQ community. While the courts have in recent years upheld LGBTQ protections under existing laws—most recently with a landmark Appeals Court ruling affirming that anti-LGBTQ workplace discrimination against an Illinois college professor is a form of sex discrimination under federal law—Lambda Legal says it is “ready to take the fight to the courts” for further legal challenges to Trump’s “religious refusal” decree.

According to Sharon MacGowan, director of strategy with Lambda Legal’s DC office, the Equality Act, previous versions of which have won bipartisan support, “makes clear that Congress agrees that these terms should really be understood as just a subset of what sex discrimination already covers.”

While Trump purports to champion a silent majority of cultural conservatives, the Equality Act articulates what rights advocates see as a generational culture shift toward embracing LGBTQ identities. That, MacGowan argues, is undeniable, regardless of Washington’s current political clashes:

To stand in the way of this clarification and development in the law is symptomatic of the fact that there is a small, really ideologically driven group of people who are getting in the way of progress that this country as a whole is squarely behind.

While other marginalized groups, including women, Muslims, and immigrants, have been more blatantly targeted through Trump’s demonizing rhetoric, MacGowan warns that the Trump administration is imposing a kind of “death by a thousand cuts” through subtler policy changes—for example, cutting back on demographic data collection for LGBTQ groups. So rights advocates seek to affirm both within and outside the LGBTQ community that defending their rights remains as crucial as ever to defending the basic tenets of equal protection. While bracing for an attack parallel to those Trump has waged against other marginalized groups, MacGowan warns that activists need to affirm their allies and know their common enemy.

Whether or not the legislation advances, “now more than ever it’s important for those who stand on the side of equality to plant the flag, to make sure that everybody knows who’s on the side of this issue,” MacGowan says, and in Washington and beyond, “keep up the conversation about…how the values that are embodied in the Equality Act are really who we are as a country and not what we hear coming out of the White House.”

Don’t Let Facebook Make You Miserable — Seth Stephens-Davidowitz writes about the social media grip.

IT is now official. Scholars have analyzed the data and confirmed what we already knew in our hearts. Social media is making us miserable.

We are all dimly aware that everybody else can’t possibly be as successful, rich, attractive, relaxed, intellectual and joyous as they appear to be on Facebook. Yet we can’t help comparing our inner lives with the curated lives of our friends.

Just how different is the real world from the world on social media? In the real world, The National Enquirer, a weekly, sells nearly three times as many copies as The Atlantic, a monthly, every year. On Facebook, The Atlantic is 45 times more popular.

Americans spend about six times as much of their time cleaning dishes as they do golfing. But there are roughly twice as many tweets reporting golfing as there are tweets reporting doing the dishes.

The Las Vegas budget hotel Circus Circus and the luxurious hotel Bellagio each holds about the same number of people. But the Bellagio gets about three times as many check-ins on Facebook.

The search for online status takes some peculiar twists. Facebook works with an outside company to gather data on the cars people actually own. Facebook also has data on the cars people associate with by posting about them or by liking them.

Owners of luxury cars like BMWs and Mercedeses are about two and a half times as likely to announce their affiliation on Facebook as are owners of ordinary makes and models.

In the United States, the desire to show off and exaggerate wealth is universal. Caucasians, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are all two to three times as likely to associate on Facebook with a luxury car they own than with a non-luxury car they own.

But different people in different places can have different notions of what is cool and what is embarrassing. Take musical taste. According to 2014 data from Spotify Insights on what people actually listen to, men and women have similar tastes; 29 of the 40 musicians women listened to most frequently were also the artists most frequently listened to by men.

On Facebook, though, men seem to underplay their interest in artists considered more feminine. For example, on Spotify, Katy Perry was the 10th most listened to artist among men, beating Bob Marley, Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar and Wiz Khalifa. But those other artists all have more male likes on Facebook.

The pressure to look a certain way on social media can do much more than distort our image of the musicians other people actually listen to.

Sufferers of various illnesses are increasingly using social media to connect with others and to raise awareness about their diseases. But if a condition is considered embarrassing, people are less likely to publicly associate themselves with it.

Irritable bowel syndrome and migraines are similarly prevalent, each affecting around 10 percent of the American population. But migraine sufferers have built Facebook awareness and support groups two and a half times larger than I.B.S. sufferers have.

None of this behavior is all that new, although the form it takes is. Friends have always showed off to friends. People have always struggled to remind themselves that other people don’t have it as easy as they claim.

Think of the aphorism quoted by members of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides.” Of course, this advice is difficult to follow. We never see other people’s insides.

I have actually spent the past five years peeking into people’s insides. I have been studying aggregate Google search data. Alone with a screen and anonymous, people tend to tell Google things they don’t reveal to social media; they even tell Google things they don’t tell to anybody else. Google offers digital truth serum. The words we type there are more honest than the pictures we present on Facebook or Instagram.

Sometimes the contrasts in different data sources are amusing. Consider how wives speak about their husbands.

On social media, the top descriptors to complete the phrase “My husband is …” are “the best,” “my best friend,” “amazing,” “the greatest” and “so cute.” On Google, one of the top five ways to complete that phrase is also “amazing.” So that checks out. The other four: “a jerk,” “annoying,” “gay” and “mean.”

While spending five years staring at a computer screen learning about some of human beings’ strangest and darkest thoughts may not strike most people as a good time, I have found the honest data surprisingly comforting. I have consistently felt less alone in my insecurities, anxieties, struggles and desires.

Once you’ve looked at enough aggregate search data, it’s hard to take the curated selves we see on social media too seriously. Or, as I like to sum up what Google data has taught me: We’re all a mess.

Now, you may not be a data scientist. You may not know how to code in R or calculate a confidence interval. But you can still take advantage of big data and digital truth serum to put an end to envy — or at least take some of the bite out of it.

Any time you are feeling down about your life after lurking on Facebook, go to Google and start typing stuff into the search box. Google’s autocomplete will tell you the searches other people are making. Type in “I always …” and you may see the suggestion, based on other people’s searches, “I always feel tired” or “I always have diarrhea.” This can offer a stark contrast to social media, where everybody “always” seems to be on a Caribbean vacation.

As our lives increasingly move online, I propose a new self-help mantra for the 21st century, courtesy of big data: Don’t compare your Google searches with other people’s Facebook posts.

 Doonesbury — Nice tweet.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Short Takes

Charlotte police chief says the video of the shooting does not offer definitive evidence that the victim was holding a gun.

Police officer in Tulsa charged with first degree manslaughter in shooting of unarmed man.

Yahoo reports a vast e-mail breach by a “state-sponsored” hack dating to 2014.

President Obama honored some of the country’s top artists and filmmakers, including Mel Brooks.

The Tigers took Game 1 9-2 and Game 2 4-2 of the double header from Minnesota.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Stamp of Approval

As Bryan notes, while some people are upset that the U.S. Treasury is replacing one of America’s worst presidents on the $20 bill with a woman worthy of being honored, Canada is boldly going where no postcard has gone before.

When Star Trek first aired on TV decades ago, the crew members of the Enterprise were in the midst of a five-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Lately, however, its well-known characters have been going to a place where many people have gone before — onto stamps being pasted on envelopes mailed by Canadians.

Canada Post has been rolling out a series of Star Trek-themed stamps, one at a time, in honour of the iconic TV show’s 50th anniversary.

I think they’re trying to make up for sending us Justin Bieber and Ted Cruz.  It’s a start.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Short Takes

EgyptAir hijacking ends peacefully.

President Obama announced new proposals to fight the opioid addiction epidemic.

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced he will not defend the state’s new LGBTQ discrimination law.  (Cooper is the current governor’s opponent in this year’s election.)

The Supreme Court wants to hear more on the Obamacare contraception case.

The Justice Department vs. Apple case is officially over.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Phone Hack

Via the New York Times:

The Justice Department said on Monday that it had found a way to unlock an iPhone without help from Apple, allowing the agency to withdraw its legal effort to compel the tech company to assist in a mass-shooting investigation.

The decision to drop the case — which involved demanding Apple’s help to open an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, a gunman in the December shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that killed 14 people — ends a legal standoff between the government and the world’s most valuable public company. The case had become increasingly contentious as Apple refused to help the authorities, inciting a debate about whether privacy or security was more important.

It’s spring break.  They probably found some 12-year-old kid with nothing better to do to hack it.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Reading

Weimar America — Eric Weitz at Moyers and Company says it’s not the candidate but the electorate that brings about the dictators.

All around the Web, in print, and on radio comes the claim that America has entered its “Weimar” phase. Economic collapse, political paralysis, rampant homosexuality, a desperate, disoriented populace open to the ravings of a demagogue – that is the portrait we get of Germany between the end of World War I in 1918 and the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. That is where America is supposedly situated in 2016.

Yes, Weimar Germany ended badly, horribly so. But the America of today bears little similarity to Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. America is a society ripped through by gaping inequalities, but it is hardly in a state of economic collapse. It still boasts the world’s largest economy and it has recovered from the Great Recession far better than many others in the Western world. America is still a powerful country internationally, one that deploys its military at will, something that Germany, suffering under the strictures of the Versailles Peace Treaty, could never attempt. Yes, there’s political paralysis in Washington, yet it barely rises to the level of Weimar Germany, where over 20 parties were represented in the Reichstag and the country was governed by a presidential dictatorship for the three years prior to the Nazi takeover.

Moreover, commentators right and left, focused only on the negatives and the disasters that ensued – the Third Reich, World War II, and the Holocaust — leave out so much about the great democratic experiment that was the Weimar Republic. Germans had greater political freedoms than ever before. A vast program of public housing moved hundreds of thousands out of dank tenements into modern, light-filled apartments. Public health clinics sprang up all around the country, and many of them offered sexual counseling to a population that physicians claimed lacked fundamental knowledge about reproduction and the pleasures of the body and lived in sexual misery. Literature, philosophy, music theater and film all flourished, much of it new, edgy and experimental. Brecht and Weill’s Threepenny Opera, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time – these and much more are great markers of 20th century Western culture that we still read, view and hear with pleasure and profit.

The lessons to be learned from Weimar Germany are not the ones we hear and read about today. Weimar Germany did not collapse under the weight of its various crises. It was actively destroyed by a conservative elite – noble landowners, high-level state officials, businessmen, army officers – that chose to ally with the Nazi Party. As we watch the Republican establishment’s ineffectual flailings to stop Donald Trump, it’s worth remembering that Weimar Germany’s old-style conservatives never really liked Hitler and the Nazis either. To them, the Nazis were too loud, uncouth, low class. But they admired Hitler’s nationalism, his promise to revive Germany’s great power status, his opposition to democracy, and his anti-communism. And they were either indifferent to or actively supported the Nazis’ anti-Semitism.

The conservative elite got much more than they had bargained for with their willingness to turn political power over to the Nazis. Some would live to regret their choice, many not until American and British bombs rained down on Hamburg, Berlin and other cities and the Red Army approached the gates.

But the conservatives had made Hitler and the Nazis salonfähig, as one says in German. Colloquially in English, that means “acceptable in polite society.” That is the real lesson from Weimar Germany and the real danger – when traditional or moderate conservatives throw in their lot with radical conservatives. The moderates may not like the radicals, may not embrace them, but when other alternatives have failed, they bring the radicals into the fold, claim that power will inevitably moderate their more wild side, reassure the population that the radicals are really not that bad after all.

That is where we are today with Donald Trump. Trump is not a fascist or a neo-Nazi, as some have claimed, though he has certainly made countless racist and misogynist comments. He has also proclaimed a blatant disregard for laws, treaties and constitutional provisions in an America that is supposed to be governed by the rule of law. While some Republicans are back pedaling and trying to block a Trump nomination, we are still being treated to the spectacle of many Republican candidates and office holders asserting that they will support him if he is chosen by the party. These are the people who are making Trump salonfähig.

The real issue is not whether Trump is a modern-day Hitler or Mussolini. The problem lies deeper: with the social and political mores that have made possible his crude nativism and contempt for social progress. Democrats and Republicans alike have been marveling at his success as if it were a bolt out of the blue. Yet for years now Republicans have been bowing before the idol of radical conservatism. They have cowered before the tea party and have stashed the party coffers with immense contributions from the Koch brothers’ operation. The people who are now struggling to stop Trump are the same ones who made his views salonfähig.

In America today, the major threats do not come from abroad. They lie within, from those who claim to believe in democracy yet undermine its substance by deploying great wealth in the political process and devaluing the diversity of American society. And the danger comes especially from those who perhaps should know better, but make anti-democratic, radical conservatives salonfähig. That is the real lesson to be taken from Weimar Germany.

The Password is “Money” — David Murphy at PC Magazine on how cheaply some folks will sell out their company.

“Everybody has a price,” as the World Wrestling Entertainment’s Ted DiBiase used to boast. While it’s true that there are plenty of people out there who are willing to keep their company’s secrets private no matter the cost, many would be happy to turn over everything from private information to passwords for a little (or a lot of) cash.

According to new research from SailPoint, around 20 percent of respondents to a recent survey indicated they would sell their passwords to a third party if paid to do so. The survey went out to 1,000 office workers at companies with 1,000 or more employees (located in Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.). Based on the responses, it doesn’t appear as if it would take very much money to encourage quite a few employees to cough up their credentials.

“In last year’s survey, we were astonished to see that not only were respondents willing to sell their passwords to a third party (1 in 7), but they were willing to do it for as little as $150,” reads SailPoint’s 2016 Market Pulse Survey. “Twenty percent shared passwords with their co-workers, and a little more than half (56 percent) shared passwords among applications. This year, even among a larger concern for their personal information’s security, the percentage of those willing to risk corporate data either through apathy, negligence, or financial gain only increased.

“This year, we found that 1 in 5 respondents would sell their passwords to a third-party organization and a staggering 44 percent of them would do it for less than $1,000. Even more concerning? Some would sell their corporate credentials for less than $100.”

Breaking down the figures by geography, more workers in the United States (27 percent) indicated they would be willing to sell their passwords if asked than any other measured region. Only 12 percent of respondents in the Netherlands and Australia would do the same.

In general, the number of office workers who would be willing to sell their passwords is up 42 percent from the previous year’s survey. In the U.S., 40 percent of those who said they would sell their passwords would do so for less than $1,000. Office workers in the United Kingdom were most willing to sell their passwords for less money (52 percent), and those in the Netherlands were the least likely (33 percent).

“Considering the average organization size for the corporations from which our respondents are employed is about 50,000, that means it’s possible that 10,000 users at any of those enterprises would sell their password, and 4,400 sell theirs for less than $1,000. [That’s] 32,500 share passwords among applications and nearly 17,000 share passwords with their co-workers,” reads SailPoint’s report.

That said, you might not get very much for your credentials anyway (depending on where you work and what you have access to). Even if there’s some way that your passwords could allow a third party to access a bunch of credit card data, for example, that’s not going to make you a millionaire. You’re better off coughing up your own bank account number.

Test Anxiety — John Flowers at The New Yorker gets sample questions from the final at Trump University.

Below you will find three examples of questions from previous final exams at Trump University. Use these sample questions and the answer key provided to prepare for next week’s big test.

1. Two plus two equals what?

(a) Maybe four.
(b) Could be four. Could be. Lotta people saying it’s five.
(c) I’m not saying it’s five; I’m saying it could be—could be five. You see these establishment hacks, losers, like Mitt Romney? Real crank. They hate me. They take answers like “could be” and say, “Oh, he says two plus two equals five.” I never said that. I never—I said “could be.” Could be six. We don’t know.
(d) All of the above.
(e) None of the above.
(f) D and E.

2. Describe a major theme of “The Old Man and the Sea.”

(a) Well, the theme is big. That I can assure you. Definitely no problem in the theme department. Quite big. Quite.
(b) I know what you want me to say here. You want me to say “yuge.” Well, I’m not. I’m not gonna say that.
(c) Should I say it? . . . No. I’m not gonna say it. But it is.
(d) Now—and I don’t even wanna bring it up—but you got a lot of people. I’m not going to mention names. O.K., Marco. You got Little Marco, who has a tiny theme. No, it’s true. Very small. Probably why he’s outta the race. Seriously, find me one person who says there was a big theme behind that campaign. But anyway, here’s Little Marco, saying I’m the one with the small theme. Can you believe that? Says I’m like Santiago in “The Old Man and the Sea.” Says I sometimes lose my harpoon—you know, prematurely—when I try to reel in the big fish. Totally not true.
(e) In fact, reminds me of the time I tried to get a date with Brooke Shields. Remember Brooke Shields? Gorgeous. Not like my wife. Gorgeous, though. I asked her out. She said no. Career went downhill after that. Left me like Santiago at the end of the book, hauling this gigantic mast home with nothing to show for my troubles.
(f) Seriously, “The Old Man and the Sea”? Please. Santiago’s not a winner. Here’s what you need to read: “The Art of the Deal.” Best book since the Bible. Probably better. People say that. I don’t. People do. Bible was, like, God with sixty ghostwriters. “The Art of the Deal” was just me, dictating to Tony Schwartz. Great guy. Takes dictation better than Moses.

3. H2O is the chemical symbol for what compound?

(a) What the hell’s “huh-twenty”?
(b) No, that’s what it says, “huh-twenty.” Or maybe the “H” is silent. I dunno.
(c) I didn’t say “huh-twenty.” You said “huh-twenty.” You asked me what “huh-twenty” was. You see, this is what the media does. They claim, “You said ‘huh-twenty!’ ” And I’m like, “I said? No you said ‘huh-twenty.’ I just repeated what you said.”
(d) That’s all they do, ask these totally bogus questions, when what they should be asking about is Hillary’s e-mails. That’s what this question should be about. Because what she did—wow. I mean, that’s why she’s hugging Obama every chance she gets.
(e) You know who else hugs Obama? Chris Christie.
(f) But we love Chris, don’t we? We love Chris.

Answer key:

1. I like A. I like B, too. D doesn’t do much for me, but E and F are real winners.

2. I’m gonna have to look into A and B. C is very compelling. Very. I hear good things about D through F. But I don’t wanna say anything yet.

3. I don’t know why people are saying there were three questions. There weren’t. I mean, do you have video? Show me the video where there were three questions. You can’t, because there is no video. People come here. They try to make trouble, saying we started a question three. We did not. And lemme tell ya, we’re gonna fight back. I’m not saying we’ll sue, but we could. Throw a few punches, ya know. Because this test prep is a great test prep. You thought so, too: you signed the agreement saying that you thought this was the greatest test prep of all time and that you wanted to be sued if video surfaced of you saying otherwise.

Congratulations, this was actually the final. You’ve passed. Now give me $35,000.

Doonesbury — Rising waters in Denial River.