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Scripting News

Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Published: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:03:11 GMT

Last Build Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:43:10 GMT


What went wrong with journalism?

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:03:11 GMT

I see so many people discussing what went wrong for the Dems in 2016. But most are written by journalists, so they miss (imho) their own role in what went wrong. 

Imagine you're watching an NBA basketball game, and one team is being called for every infraction, but it turns out that most of the calls end up inconclusive, it just appears that they might have been thinking of doing something that could be seen as inappropriate, but probably not illegal, or even dishonest.

On the other hand, the other team is not only fouling a lot, several times on every play, they're also getting hauled into court for committing crimes on the court, not  crimes of the sport, but actual legal crimes. And when they explain what they're doing, they commit technical fouls, back in the game.

And in the crucial final minute of the game, they call the first team for a huge blatant foul, but then the call is reversed, but after the game is lost. Oh well. Shit happens.

I think that's a pretty good telling of the role the press played in the 2016 election. They could have run Trump University ads showing the candidate selling snake oil. Caught red-handed. And then explain the devastation he brought to Atlantic City. Show how his employees and customers feel about him as a businessperson, since that's how he's presenting himself. Very germane to voters. They probably would have helped us understand what it would be like to be governed by him. Give us some idea how to view what he was saying in his stump speeches.

That's the story journalism missed. Show us what a Trump presidency would be like. Be the Consumer Reports of the executive branch of government. 

Will I lose Medicare or ObamaCare? Will my kids have to fight in a war? Will banks be free to suck all the value out of our property, so they can buy themselves bigger estates and yachts? We have to figure this out, it's important, and that means if you're doing your jobs, you have to help us do that. 

I'm not saying the journalists are bad people, or if I would have done better in their shoes. The NBA has never seen a team like Trump/Pence in 2016. But it's good to really look at things dispassionately, to see how you all can do better in the future. And for that imho you have to listen to how your work was viewed by others, not just by asking other journalists. 

PS: I have to call out the New Yorker for doing an outstanding piece of journalism that tried to give us a sense of what a Trump presidency would be like. I think it is the single most valuable bit of writing in 2016 politics. 

PPS: It's hard to analyze a story in which you are a central character. You're likely to miss your own role. See Do you have a Head? for a kids game that illustrates. 

Trump knows what he's doing

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:27:44 GMT

Oh there he goes again with the lying and weak ego etc, only sometimes it's strategic, and you have to pay attention to all of it to see if you can figure out how it furthers the Republican cause.

Let's play Jeopardy!

So when Trump talks about millions of illegal votes, let's play Jeopardy. 

Trump Paranoia for $1000, Alex.

"It's the idea behind millions of forged ballots."

What is massive new voter suppression?

Correct! We also would have accepted the destruction of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

It's the disenfranchisement dummy!

Winning the White House and both houses of Congress give the Republicans a lot of new ways to disenfranchise voters. They don't even have to convince anyone that there was massive voter fraud, but if you have the chance, why not. It makes the voter suppression go down easier, for the people whose votes are not being suppressed (i.e. reliable Republican votes). 

And no, they're not going to try to keep people in California from voting. This is strictly for pivotal purple and purpleish states like Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Ohio. Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Iowa, that are sometimes red and sometimes blue. The goal is to make them permanently red, and give the Repubs control of the White House basically forever, the same way they gerrymandered their way into control of the House.

It's the opposite of the Hanlon's razor rule that says "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." With the Repubs, you should always look for the malice. It's there, and it's usually not very hard to find. In this case, they're setting us up for massive disenfranchisement and a Republican lock on the White House.

Trump is not stupid

People used to say George W. Bush is stupid, but I always thought he was smart. Same thing with Trump. No way someone gets to where he is and is stupid. He's plotting and scheming, and has lots of experience and has a sense of which bets are worth taking. So when he says something that appears random, it's safer to assume that it's not. 

Don't take my word for it...

For background I recommend this episode of the Slate daily podcast. It's an interview with Bruce Ackerman, a professor of constitutional law at Yale. It's depressing for sure, but you should hear what he thinks is happening. 

Also enlightening is this Fresh Air podcast from last summer laying out how the Repubs were suppressing the vote for the Nov 8 election. This clearly played a role in the Trump win. 

Underground railroad for ideas

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:42:29 GMT

We need an "underground railroad" for facts and ideas.

Maybe a new editorial product from the Washington Post or NY Times?

If we could crack that nut, we could create a union of people who want accurate information that isn't Republican or Democratic or in a red state or blue.

We may disagree on policy but we agree on basing our thinking on facts and intelligence. The scientific method. There still are plenty of us. And we have the tools to do it. 

Update -- libraries?

Maybe this is something librarians can help with? They're distributed all around the country, and they certainly believe in these principles.

The more I think about it, the better I like libraries being the focal point for a people's news system. Even better, have students staff it. Keep an eye on what's going on in your community, and let us know what you see. I started a student newspaper when I was in high school (many many years ago!) and I remember it can be done, and it's a lot of fun. And you certainly learn a lot. 

The voters who elected Trump

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 15:41:43 GMT

The big news story of 2016 is The Voter Who Elected Trump.

Yet the news orgs have snapped back to business-as-usual. 

They tried to cast Trump as the standard-issue Republican Party candidate for president, but that never worked. They're now going to expend serious energy making him fit into the role of President of the United States, and this time with the help of the Constitution, they will probably have a bit more success, which will encourage them to keep on the path they're on.

And that's fine, but it isn't furthering the story-of-the-year. 

This should be a long-term redirection for news orgs. Shifting the focus of news from all-coasts-all-the-time to centers throughout the country. The first step is to build a new hub mid-country. I suggest Flint, Michigan. The host would be Michael Moore of course. And he would invite on anyone he wants. He could invite people from NY, DC, LA, SF or Seattle, but they'd have to travel to Flint to be on the show. The idea is to shift the center.

What would happen? I don't know. But it would probably be more like TrumpLand than Hardball. I bet it would be good. And it would sure be different. And we need that difference. 

America is changing. Has been changing for a number of decades. But journalism has tried to keep things constant. I once described this to my then-colleague, Jay Rosen, as picking up a box from one place and putting it down in another, without considering that the box shape might not be the right one for now. 

We have to bring new people into the conversation. That's the message of the new age. It should have been done smoothly, by hosting blogs at the big news orgs for people who were newsworthy on their own, to go direct to the readers. But they wouldn't do it. So it happened on Facebook and Twitter. But as we see, the social media services, with their limits, are not good containers for intelligent discourse. And we need to include people who previously we didn't. Again, if the news orgs don't do it we will have to do it ourselves.

My first podcast with Chris

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 20:11:19 GMT

I always have trouble finding the first podcast I did with Chris Lydon on July 9, 2003

We were sitting at a table at Berkman Center, which was located on Mass Ave in Cambridge at that time. For some reason I think the table was outside, but I don't think there actually were any outside tables at that building. Memory is not perfect. 

It took a while for me to get going. Here it is. The sound quality as you would expect from Chris was outstanding. Hopefully now it won't be so hard to find. ;-)

Also, later that month I wrote a longer post about Chris's podcast, which I called a "weblog for the ears." This is before we settled on calling them podcasts (that didn't happen until Sept 2004).

Media Files:

Podcast: Trump voters, we hear you

Tue, 29 Nov 2016 17:09:39 GMT

This is a longish podcast (18 minutes).

I start with the story of the Trump voter on Delta airlines who gave a speech and was banned for life. I thought he actually had something important to say, if we listened from a different point of view. This is the tweet I wrote about it. 

The guy ranting on @delta flight was saying (rudely) "Fuck you, I'm powerful," after his whole life hearing "Fuck you, you're powerless."

Then I talk about the three episodes of the Run-up podcast that every voter imho should listen to. 

And the reality of war, it feels great when you're starting war. Ending wars is harder. The misery lasts a long time, with lots of death and suffering. 

We have cartoon-character images of each other, that aren't real. That's how wars begin, by making enemies of people who aren't actually enemies. By objectifying people. 

It's pretty clear the new leadership wants us to be fighting with each other.

Simple things we can do -- news orgs can have shows originate from the middle of the country, Kansas, Alabama, Michigan, Utah or Arizona. Let us hear directly from the people who voted for Trump, who is on track to become the next president unless the people flex their power, again.

Interesting thought. I think any NBA coach would be a better president than the one who was elected. I explain why I think that. I think the guy on the Delta flight would be a better president! Not a joke.

There really isn't any time to waste. Trump voters, you are powerful. Your message has been received. 

Listening, now, is actually the key to digging out of the hole. Later it won't be as easy. 

PS: If you can't get through the NYT paywall, I'm told you can listen to the podcasts here

Media Files:

Listening across the red/blue divide

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 16:58:28 GMT

The Run-up podcast did something along the lines of my Nov 14 proposal to create connections between red and blue state people.

They did three podcast conversations between friends and family members, each of whom voted for different candidates.

Each conversation is incredibly revealing, they can be hard to listen to, because you see the problem, and one of the two people doesn't. I imagine that if you voted the other way you see a different problem. This is the place where we need to listen, try to understand, and give each other the benefit of the doubt. 

I feel this is the kind of grounding we need, all of us, to just listen to each other, and the Run-up people have done something great here. Highly recommended.

Continuing to argue on Twitter and Facebook is only going to make things worse. There's an incredible frenzy of petition-signing, money-giving, ranting, but we're way past the point where people need releases, it's just activity for the sake of being active. What we need is, imho, to get reflective, and think about what we want to happen. Listen to ourselves fully and then try to listen to each other. 

There still is a huge amount of power with the people, but it's diminishing. We're always one step behind where we need to be to avoid heading further over the cliff. So please take some time with yourself, go for a walk, sit on a bench, with your phone turned off. Breathe. 

What you do in the next few weeks matters an awful lot.

Twitter text, day 2

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 15:59:34 GMT

Follow-up to Friday's post

The thing that's really hard is styling. 

If you just want bold or italic, you have to bring in the heavy machinery.

Since the last time I looked however, the machinery has been nicely packaged thus..

It works. Still filled with mystery, but I have something interesting working, but far from complete.

Bruce Springsteen podcast

Mon, 28 Nov 2016 15:59:21 GMT

Listened to a podcast interview with Bruce Springsteen

Funny, after listening to his music all these years, I had never heard him talk. 

He sounds like my friends from childhood. We're like cousins. Who knew. 

And the guy is funny and he's just like someone who could be your friend. 

Except he's made some of the best music ever. 

Tools for Twitter text?

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 23:55:41 GMT

I'm interested in tools that generate what I think of as "Twitter Text".

Here are a few examples.

Each of them presents a quote, as a bitmap, obviously rendered through a template.

I'm wondering what kinds of tools exist for creating these?

I imagine some of them are done in Photoshop, but I'm thinking of a text editor that automatically generates them.

I have good HTML 5 canvas code. You can try it out with Little Card Editor, which produces somewhat similar results. Also there's a video demo

I've turned on comments on this post, looking for links to existing products, experience using in-house tools, etc.

Lessig on the Electoral College

Fri, 25 Nov 2016 13:20:19 GMT

The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Larry Lessig on the Electoral College today. This is a very important piece. He says something that very much needs to be said, and heard. If you can access the piece through their paywall please do. But this piece is so important, I'm reproducing it here in full, so everyone can read it.By Lawrence Lessig.Conventional wisdom tells us that the electoral college requires that the person who lost the popular vote this year must nonetheless become our president. That view is an insult to our framers. It is compelled by nothing in our Constitution. It should be rejected by anyone with any understanding of our democratic traditions  — most important, the electors themselves.The framers believed, as Alexander Hamilton put it, that “the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the [president].” But no nation had ever tried that idea before. So the framers created a safety valve on the people’s choice. Like a judge reviewing a jury verdict, where the people voted, the electoral college was intended to confirm — or not — the people’s choice. Electors were to apply, in Hamilton’s words, “a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice” — and then decide. The Constitution says nothing about “winner take all.” It says nothing to suggest that electors’ freedom should be constrained in any way. Instead, their wisdom — about whether to overrule “the people” or not — was to be free of political control yet guided by democratic values. They were to be citizens exercising judgment,  not cogs turning a wheel.Many think we should abolish the electoral college. I’m not convinced that we should. Properly understood, the electors can serve an important function. What if the people elect a Manchurian candidate? Or a child rapist? What if evidence of massive fraud pervades a close election? It is a useful thing to have a body confirm the results of a democratic election — so long as that body exercises its power reflectively and conservatively. Rarely — if ever — should it veto the people’s choice. And if it does, it needs a very good reason.So, do the electors in 2016 have such a reason?Only twice in our past has the electoral college selected a president against the will of the people — once in the 19th century and once on the cusp of the 21st. (In 1824, it was Congress that decided the election for John Quincy Adams; likewise in 1876, it was Congress that gave disputed electoral college votes to Rutherford B. Hayes.)In 1888, Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to Grover Cleveland but won in the electoral college, only because Boss Tweed’s Tammany Hall turned New York away from the reformer Cleveland (by fewer than 15,000 votes). In 2000, George W. Bush lost the popular vote by a tiny fraction — half a percent — and beat Al Gore in the electoral college by an equally small margin — less than 1 percent.In both cases, the result violated what has become one of the most important principles governing our democracy — one person, one vote. In both cases, the votes of some weighed much more heavily than the votes of others. Today, the vote of a citizen in Wyoming is four times as powerful as the vote of a citizen in Michigan. The vote of a citizen in Vermont is three times as powerful as a vote in Missouri. This denies Americans the fundamental value of a representative democracy — equal citizenship. Yet nothing in our Constitution compels this result.Instead, if the electoral college is to control who becomes our president, we should take it seriously by understanding its purpose precisely. It is not meant to deny a reasonable judgment by the people. It is meant to be a circuit breaker — just in case the peopl[...]

Gravitas wins elections, not ideas

Thu, 24 Nov 2016 02:43:36 GMT

I'm on a TV news budget. No more than one hour a night. That generally means I watch Rachel Maddow. Sometimes Chris Hayes.

There's a lot of fussing about What Went Wrong, and the irony that Hillary got more than 2 million more votes than Trump and that number keeps growing. Given those numbers, it's kind of obvious that a lot went right. That's first. Don't overlook that. 

Second, I think you can figure out what the difference was between 2012 and 2016 without me saying it, but people can't seem to make the words come out of their mouths, so I will say it for them. 

2012: A charismatic campaigner against a guy with a stick up his ass. The charismatic campaigner won. Pretty much the same thing in 2008, btw.

2016: A charismatic campaigner who said a lot of shit that made educated people look away in horror, vs a smart candidate who was careful not to say anything that would make people mad at her (for good reason) and would have been a great president (imho) but (key point here) is a poor campaigner. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say Hillary was at best a 3. Very often a 2. The charismatic campaigner, as always, won.

People love stories. They love to cheer. Elections are tribal. We want to feel like we belong to God's Own Tribe. We have right on our side. But those are just words. What's actually going on is body chemistry. When you feel part of a winning tribe, you get oxytocin in your blood which is basically heroin. It feels great. It's like falling in love. A lot of people got that from Trump. And if he weren't so transparently ignorant and unsuited for the job, and racist, he probably would have inspired a lot more people to vote for him. 

Hillary? I supported her all the way, but I always hoped people wouldn't notice how awkward she is on the trail. No confidence in herself. In the debates, she was fantastic. That's her element. But getting a crowd off their feet, yelling and cheering, she isn't a natural. In that sense Bernie was a better candidate. Not saying he would have won. I don't know, no one does.

Moral of the story. If you think your candidate can't campaign, have a straight talk with him or her, and tell them they have to step aside, because they're going to lose and that does no one any good.

Now that said, there's no upside in blaming anyone, making them feel bad, tarnishing them in history. Leave it alone. But you must tattoo the lessons on your forehead so you never forget. Campaigns matter. Gravitas matters. Confidence, storytelling, building a tribal presence, they all matter. Body chemistry matters. 

Which brings me to the dazzling Rachel Maddow. She can tell a story and make you cheer and stand up and say YEAH. The feeling is I want lots more of that. She has a natural ability to get the tribal oxytocin flowing. She's a fantastic, passionate, super-smart, high-feeling, earnest, learned, inspirational story-teller. High integrity, honorable, she cares, and you can tell. She would do well, imho, if she decided to run.

I forgive you

Wed, 23 Nov 2016 16:45:24 GMT

This is the second part of my Thanksgiving message. 

Yesterday I said let's have a nice Thanksgiving. 

Today I add, forgive everyone you possibly can.

We're all having a tough time.

What if everyone decided to be nice to everyone else from now until we have sorted out this political mess? Let bygones be bygones. Nothing is accomplished by blaming other people. We need to be creative about getting in front of our problems. And grudge-holding is only holding us back.

In 1995 I wrote a piece where I called for a new form of social behavior. Forgive everyone you meet. Let's love each other without reservation. It might help. ;-)

It's not like anyone gets out of this alive! 


Happy Thanksgiving!

Tue, 22 Nov 2016 14:30:48 GMT

I have an idea for this Thanksgiving.

Let's give thanks to the the United States that is us.

Did you ever notice how the initials for the country are also our name?

E pluribus unum, it's on every bill -- Out of many, one. That's us. 

So let's thank the United States.

The generous, diverse, upward-reaching United States. 

The one that figures stuff out, makes things right, gets shit done and sets a table at the feast for everyone, no matter what color their skin, including white. 

Say thank you to everyone and everything.

Remember what President Kennedy said: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

Let's break the mold this holiday season and set records for acceptance and gratuity

Let's have a nice Thanksgiving!

PS: Here's part 2 of my Thanksgiving message.

Four tweets

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 03:26:02 GMT

Sometimes you figure stuff out in four tweets. 

#1: Spooky thing about jury duty is the realization that you're personally part of a courtroom drama, after watching them on TV a million times.

#2: That's what's spooky about this political thriller our lives have become. The plot is rich and surprising. And we are in it.

#3: Imagine Obama meeting with Putin. Obama lost our country to him. We were invaded, and conquered in a bloodless war.

#4: You think this was electronic chaos? It hasn't started yet.

I'd just add that the US isn't yet a failed state, but it's on it's way to becoming one. Trump as president, it can't end well. That's something we all have to face. The sooner the better, imho. (This part was not in a tweet.)

Why Zuck must be careful

Sun, 20 Nov 2016 16:15:36 GMT

On Facebook, Scott Rafer writes

"I've been trying to rationalize Mark Zuckerberg's behavior, and all I can come up with is that he is secretly pro Trump. He can't admit or too much of his workforce would quit starting with Sheryl Sandberg. But the behavior around defending Peter Thiel and denying the influence of fake news and Facebook's place in it only leads me one place."

My response

Imho it's "more complicated." 

He has to work with the new government, and if they're going to act like Russia or China, they're going to want to control what people say on Facebook. Zuck has been trying to work with China, so he knows all about this, far more than any of us. 

Presumably Facebook in their negotiations with China has had to demonstrate the ability to control speech. Those features would not be turned on in the US, but Trump might want them to be, at some point. The excuse will probably be something like preventing terrorists from using Facebook to plan attacks, but it's likely it would be used to control dissent and keep the opposition disorganized and confused. His supporters too, for that matter. 

Facebook is likely already communicating with the new administration, since they absolutely understand how powerful Facebook is. Of course they are even more powerful (Trump et al). So he has to be careful. 

Facebook can thrive, for the time-being, without being in China (as they are), but they probably couldn't survive without the United States. He almost certainly is not in favor of Trump personally, from what I know about him, but if he were to act on that, or if it could be spun that way, it could be a disaster for his company.

Faster home page

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 19:23:36 GMT

I made a small change in the way the home page is built which should result in it loading faster. I made the same change to In both cases it was only the home page that changed, not any subordinate pages.

So, here are the two things to look for

  1. Does it load faster, subjectively, for you? Or about the same? Slower?
  2. Are there display anomalies? Things that look weird that you are pretty sure didn't look weird before. (For that matter anything that looks weird is worth noting.)

The next step will be to make the same change for new story pages. I'm not going to screw with pre-existing stories. 

The change is that I merged all the code inclusions into a single file, and all the styles. They are also all on, so that also might help convince some virus apps that Scripting News, the oldest blog on the net, isn't trying to do some harm to your computer (seriously that's how shitty some of this shit is). 

I've turned on comments on this post so people can report any problems or just say hi. Remember the comment guidelines. No blog-post-length comments, speeches, or opinions about people. I delete off-topic comments.  ;-)

Full posts from IA on Facebook

Sat, 19 Nov 2016 18:31:51 GMT

Facebook friends, one of the things you all could do to improve the news here is, if there is an IA feed, include the full text of the post in the web version.

People don't often click on links. This way they would have more info to go on, if they're trying to vet the quality of the news themselves, right here on Facebook.

This was a big disappointment for me with Instant Articles. I was hoping it would make the web and Facebook work much better together.

I wrote about this a lot earlier this year and the year before.

PS: This originally appeared on Facebook.

Finding meaning in 2016

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 17:52:57 GMT

I read this piece in CJR, the story of Chris Arnade who spent a year embedded with Trump voters. Lots of interesting ideas.

We want our leaders to tell us why we're here, what we're supposed to do, how we can define, and then find success. 

The best leaders give us a cause to join that gives meaning to our lives. 

FDR did fireside chats where the talked the country through the depression and World War II. 

JFK went on TV and said Let's go to the moon!

At some point climate change will get so tangible that it will be possible to rally the country around overcoming it, becoming a sustainable civilization.

I guess for some people Trump inspired them. It didn't work for me. I can't feel inspired when I'm feeling so much fear. 

So now after this election, Trump said he wants to unify the country, but his appointments send another signal. Women, Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Latinos, have much to be afraid of. He's not actually going to do any unifying until the fear fades into the background.  And he's doing the opposite, he's stoking the fear. 

Attn: Jeff Bezos

Fri, 18 Nov 2016 14:20:24 GMT

Yesterday I wrote a piece urging the news industry to finally join together to produce a user experience with news that is at least equal to Facebook and only contains items from actual news organizations and bloggers. 


Of course I've urged the news industry to do this many times before. 

For many years. 

Eventually Facebook filled the void.

And because for whatever reason Facebook doesn't want to take responsibility for the authenticity of the news sources, their product is now worse than useless, it is doing real harm, on a massive scale.

It's time for the news industry to combine their flows into one, using the same metadata that flows to Twitter and Facebook, and produce a stream where the fake sources can't get in. 

I don't think this idea is understood, but I can think of one person who probably cares, who will understand, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post. 

Can you help this idea reach him? (No spam please, only if you actually know him. I've never met Bezos myself.)

Please, let's get this together quickly. It won't hurt anyone's business model, and it will provide an alternative to the fast-becoming-truthless news world of Facebook.

PS: Here's a rough idea of what such a feed might look like. 

News industry: Work together!

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 22:15:09 GMT

It would be relatively simple to produce a web-based feed, outside of Twitter or Facebook, that includes only stories from vetted news orgs. That doesn't mean that their stories are true, just that they are making their best efforts to produce real news.

There's no time to get into a deep philosophical discussion about this. I know all about the flaws of the press. But there's a world of difference between their product and some of the pubs people are relying on for news. Sort of like the difference between the flaws of the two candidates we all just voted for, that were covered so inadequately by the press. (Ironic isn't it.)

I'm calling on the news industry to work together solve this problem. The technology is there now. We have to help readers find reasonably reliable sources of news. The technical problem is already solved. All that's needed is the will to create the system. It is not hard to do what Facebook does in aggregating news. 

Relying on the tech industry to distribute news has had terrible results. The news industry must do its own distribution if the resulting product is going to be worth anything. 

Each news org has been a silo. We need a platform that combines the flows of all the silos. Not full text. Just abstracts and images. The tech and knowhow are here now. It's long past time to act. We all feel the urgency. Work together. Now.

You must be feeling by now what Ben Franklin expressed so well in revolutionary days. "We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately."


PS: I posted a follow-up. demo

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 16:49:25 GMT

width="560" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">

Check it out for yourself at

BTW, to programmers who are tuned in, this is a demo of an outliner being used to browse a networked data structure, the graph of synonyms of the English language.

On making fun of Trump

Thu, 17 Nov 2016 15:45:14 GMT

People made fun of Trump, saying he could never get the Republican nomination. Then they made fun of him saying he could never win the election. At this point, you must see how pathetic it is to make fun of him.

December 19 is a big day

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 23:13:37 GMT

A 7-minute podcast where I propose candlelight vigils in the state capitals on December 19 when the electors vote. The same way you'd have a vigil for a death penalty execution.

Something is dying on December 19. Let's at least mark it with our presence. 

I want the electors to know that if they want to vote for a different candidate there are millions of Americans who support them. 

This is part of the Constitution. Don't believe any pundits or journalists who say this can't be done. 

And if you know Michael Moore, please ask him to listen to this. 

We need to get this idea out there. The president is still Obama, and our freedom of assembly should still work. 

This is the most potent political tool left to the citizens. 

Let's be smart now, and stand up for America. 

PS: Here's a spreadsheet with the capitals of the 2016 red states.

Media Files:

Reboot the West Wing!

Wed, 16 Nov 2016 21:55:56 GMT

I'm a big fan of the West Wing Weekly podcast. I've tried tweeting the hosts, at times, without acknowledgment. Occasionally I have what I think is a good idea for them, or a word of encouragement. Unlike other fans of theirs, who they talk about on the show, I never have a harsh word. I love the show and the two protagonists. I'm not only a fan but I'm a supporter. (I have a lot of experience with podcasts going back to the early 2000s, and I know how kvetchy fans can be.)

So I'm going to try writing a short blog post and send them a link because they really need to hear this!

At the beginning of the show that came out today they explain that they recorded it before the election and it's clear that, like many of us, their world is rocking because of the result. 

What I want to say is that The West Wing is the antidote. It's the escape. Let me explain.

When the show ran originally we were in the midst of the Bush II presidency. It was a real nightmare. He bumbled through wars and tax cuts, the economy first shuddered and then collapsed. Hard times in America! Watching The West Wing gave us a chance to escape for an hour a week in a White House with a cranky but eloquent Nobel laureate as the president, and a staff of the best and brightest of their generation, all speaking words written for them by the ironic and warm-hearted Aaron Sorkin. 

I've proposed elsewhere that the Trump presidency offers a great chance to reboot the West Wing franchise. This time it should star a young attractive POTUS who is constantly fighting battles with an obstructionist Republican congress, but still manages to be a wonderful president. He is always being pursued by a crackpot who questions his birthplace and legitimacy as president. The White House is staffed by various bright young smart people who are always doing zany unpredictable things, but you know their hearts are in the right place. If we manage to survive the Trump years, at least we can do it with a certain amount of comfort and hope for the future. 

And even if they don't reboot the West Wing TV show, at least we still have the podcast! Keep up the good work Josh and Hrishi. You are not alone. ;-)

PS: I also proposed during the campaign that someone offer Trump a starring role in a reboot of the West Wing. Somehow I think that's more like what he wanted. Too late now. (Maybe not?)

PPS: I've written about the WW quite a few times previously. 

PPPS: Geez I'm far from the only person talking about this.