Pocket, you're doing it wrong

Update: Since I originally posted this, Pocket has responded and pushed out a fix for this issue. The founder/CEO's comments are below the post. :-)

I have a friend who is an American Islamic scholar. He's very well-educated, and has impeccable credentials when it comes to the study of Islamic law, including study with the former Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, which resulted in his being licensed to issue Islamic legal opinions, known as fatwas.  Technically, he's entitled to be called "Sheikh" due to his accomplishments. He lives in Abu Dhabi, and does a lot of work translating Islamic legal texts into English. He also maintains a blog.

Today, I saw in my newsreader that he had a new post. Clicking through, I decided to save it to Pocket for later. These are the tags that Pocket suggested: 
 
 
There is absolutely nothing in Musa's post that could remotely be associated with terrorism, except for the fact it deals with the serious study of Islamic law, which SHOULD NOT BE AUTOMATICALLY ASSOCIATED WITH TERRORISM any more than a discussion of Roman Catholic canon law should be associated with IRA terrorism. It's stupid, and it's offensive, and it needs to stop.

Pocket, you are doing it so, so wrong.

Using Slack as an information center: Mailclark

I've been using Slack as a personal information hub, and if you haven't tried this, you're missing out.  I plan to share some tips based on things I'm doing, and today's topic is email.

If you're on a paid plan, Slack has some limited email integration built in, but if you really want to supercharge your personal Slack's email capability (or you're on the free tier), you need Mailclark

Mailclark is an integration that allows you to both receive and send email directly from your Slack team, and it gives you a separate email address for each channel. For example, mail for your #general channel would go to general@yourteamname.mailclark.ai. You determine which channels have Mailclark built in by inviting user @mailclark to each channel. 

You can use this in some interesting ways. Create a bookmarks channel, and email the URL to bookmarks@yourteamname.mailclark.ai.  Have your travel itineraries sent to travel@yourteamname.mailclark.ai. Save recipes to recipes@yourteamname.mailclark.ai. 

Use Gmail or another service that allows plus addressing? Change your login email for Amazon to yourname+amazon@gmail.com, and set up a filter that directs all mail sent to that address to orders@yourteamname.mailclark.ai and auto-archives the original. That way, you have the original safely tucked away, and you get a notification in Slack when your order ships or is delivered--and it keeps your email inbox uncluttered.

Another neat use is with Nixle, which is the service many U.S. public safety agencies use to disseminate information. Sign up with a channel-specific Mailclark address, and get alerts sent to your Slack:

So there you have it. Mailclark and Slack. Try it and let me know what you think!

My election valediction

I've been pretty outspoken this election season. Apart from having always been interested in politics, I've felt a special need to be involved this year because of how it's developed. As someone trained in history, I've been seeing historical parallels that couldn't be ignored.

In a little more than ten weeks, it will be Election Day in the United States, and when day breaks on November 9, the most unusual election season in American history will finally be over. 

I'm declaring it over now.

Unless you've been living in a cave in the remotest jungles of Borneo and attempting to avoid all contact with the outside world, you know who the candidates are. You know what they stand for. You know who their followers are (and, as the saying goes, by their friends ye shall know them). 

Nothing I can say or do is going to change anyone's mind at this point, and I'm frankly tired of trying. And if you haven't made up your mind by now, I don't know what else I can say. 

If you honestly believe there's some kind of equivalency between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, you haven't been paying attention. Trump has condoned violence by his supporters, regularly suggests violating the Constitution, and blatantly panders to white supremacists. The GOP convention had all of this on display, and more. Someone on Reddit, of all places, compiled a list of things said by Trump, and it's chilling. You can find it here: https://www.reddit.com/r/EnoughTrumpSpam/comments/4teoxl/a_final_response_to_the_tell_me_why_trump_is_a/

Meanwhile, people are opposed to Hillary because she made some speeches to Goldman Sachs, supported the war in Iraq, and is tight with the Establishment.

Sorry, but if Hillary Clinton is the lesser of two evils, it's like comparing dandruff to terminal syphilis. I'll take the dandruff.

If Hillary doesn't meet your progressive purity test, too bad. Look at the GOP and see how well their conservative litmus tests have worked out for them. 

And, despite all your Stein fantasies and Johnson daydreams, the next President will either be Trump or Clinton. Pick one. There is no way, mathematically or electorally, that the Greens or Libertarians will elect a President, except in the sense of helping one of the two major candidates as spoilers. In an ordinary election, between Clinton and a non-insane Republican (e.g., Dole in '96), I'd say fine, vote for the third party. But this is not that kind of election.

If Trump wins, do not count on the Constitution to save you. Strongmen are not noted for their respect for constitutional niceties, whether you're talking about Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Stalin, Idi Amin, Hafez Assad, or Robert Mugabe. By 1938, there probably weren't many people in Germany glad that they voted for Ernst Thälmann or Ludwig Kaas in 1932 because Otto Wels of the Social Democrats just didn't meet their litmus tests. Votes matter.

And no, I'm not saying Trump is Hitler. Trump is Trump, and Trump is a fascist by any reasonable definition of the word. He ignores facts, lies continuously, condones violence, blames all our problems on minorities like Mexicans and Muslims, calls for the jailing of his political opponents, and says only he can rescue this country from its dire situation.

Just this morning, he said he hoped that the Russians had Clinton's emails. When pressed on that, he told reporter Katy Tur to "be quiet."  (Original link dead; alternate link here: )

Can you imagine the kind of Supreme Court justices Trump would nominate? And how easily they'd slide through nomination with a Republican Congress? 

So don't talk to me about overcoming fear. There are damn good reasons to fear a Trump presidency. 

No, Hillary isn't my dream candidate, but she's qualified and experienced. Same goes for Tim Kaine. Each one is a better choice than their Republican counterparts.

And with that final word, I'm ending my political posts and tweets for this election season. I won't be engaging further on the subject for the sake of my own mental health.  You have the information you need; I can do no more. The people will make up their minds, and the people will speak.

Meanwhile, I'll be preparing for the worst-case scenario, because sometimes that's what life gives you. But one last time, I beg of you:

Please, don't let it come to that.  


Of Brexit and the fate of the kingdom

I've been thinking about the situation in the United Kingdom. Specifically, I've been thinking about the Brexit vote, the new government, and what it all means.

I saw a tweet today from an Englishman I follow in which he lamented that if things keep going the way they have been, nobody will take Britain seriously anymore. I can understand his frustration, but when I look at the last 70 years or so, this looks an awful lot like a continuation of an ongoing process. 

The British Empire died in 1947 with Indian independence, followed by a long string of colonies allowed to go their own way. This was inevitable and good, as self-determination is the desire of all peoples, and all empires must eventually fall. Despite this, Britain continued to punch above its weight for half a century, playing off its relationship with the Commonwealth and the strength of its military, including its nuclear arsenal--and its membership in a larger European community. Those days are ending.

What we've seen in the last few weeks is the most remarkable act of national seppuku I can remember. The only historical parallel that I can think of is the voluntary dissolution of the Empire, but the difference is that this time, it didn't need to happen. Britain has voluntarily voted to break away from the European Union, and from the outside it looks a lot like a turning inward. Desperate to stay in the EU, Scotland is likely to hold another independence referendum, which this time will likely pass, and that will put paid to the Act of Union. 

A shrunken Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (assuming that Ulster doesn't decide some kind of federation with Eire is preferable in order to keep EU citizenship) isn't going to pack the same punch that the UK did, and Englishmen shouldn't assume that it will. The rest of the world will look to the EU, and specifically Germany, its economic powerhouse--and if that isn't the nightmare of the average Leave voter, it should be.

Meanwhile, the main players in the Leave campaign have buggered off, leaving a new government to sort the mess out. Given all of the foregoing, the naming of the Clown Prince of the Tories as foreign secretary by the new PM isn't likely to have that much impact on foreign opinion of England, the fact that he's gone well out of his way to offend numerous foreign leaders, including the U.S. President, aside. There will be a Brexit minister and a foreign trade minister to handle the heavy lifting, and Boris will be free to go to diplomatic functions and dinners and, as someone said, hand out the Ferrero Rocher. 

So, if you're thinking that the rest of the world won't take Britain seriously because of the new government, I've got some very bad news for you. That ship has largely sailed, and the people of Britain are the ones who untied the moorings. There will always be an England, and probably a royal family, and tourists from Iowa will still come to see the soldiers in red jackets and tall furry hats guarding the Queen. 

But if you're a Briton who wants the rest of the world to look to London for leadership in times of crisis, you'll have to earn that anew. Because as of today, you've squandered your inheritance, and what you have to show for it isn't worth a farthing. 

Something that's been driving me nuts

I keep seeing people say that Hitler was elected. He was not. He lost the German presidential election to Paul von Hindenburg in 1932, and in 1933 was asked to form a government (i.e., become Chancellor) by President von Hindenburg. At the time, the National Socialists were the largest party in the Reichstag, but did not command a majority of seats. Hitler's first cabinet had a majority of non-Nazi members. Former Chancellor Franz von Papen famously said that they had "hired" Hitler, in the belief he could be controlled.

Learn your damn history, people.

The November decision

Even before voting in the California primary next month, I’ve been thinking a lot about the November election.  We now know that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, and it appears likely that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate.

(I’m still voting for Bernie Sanders next month, by the way.)

Anyway, if things break the way I expect them to, there’s going to be huge pressure on progressive voters to vote for HRC to keep Trump out of the White House. This, by the way, is what I’ve been planning to do, because I am a one-issue voter, and that one issue is keeping power-hungry fascist demagogues out of power.

Which is why I’ve been troubled to see the behavior of the Democratic National Committee and many Clinton supporters. The DNC, whose chair openly supports Clinton. is doing its level best to keep the Sanders campaign out of convention committees, as well as any position of influence. And a lot of Hillary supporters are calling for Bernie to suspend his campaign in the name of party unity, fearing he's damaging their chances in November. 

There’s just one problem with that.

He’s still winning primary elections—and the big prize of California is yet to come.  That’s one he could theoretically win, too. And as the current count of pledged delegates is something like 1716 for Clinton to 1433 for Sanders, California and the other states that vote on June 7 could be pivotal.

So yeah, he could still win in terms of pledged delegates. Looks like I was wrong about item #7 in my last post

But what about superdelegates, you ask? Yeah, about that: they’re mostly all for Clinton. But it’s kind of hard to call yourself the Democratic party and have your elite, free-agent superdelegates voting against the obvious will of the rank-and-file. Not very democratic, that.  There’s an excellent article here that discusses this in some detail.

But I digress. Many Sanders supporters are understandably somewhat miffed that their candidate might win the popular vote and still get shoved aside because the superdelegates are engaging in voter nullification.  A tweet I saw this morning stated their point rather nicely:

“It isn't our job to save the Dem party. If their super-delegates insist on supporting a candidate with a 62% negative approval, vote Green.”

Yeah. There’s that. In a year when the electorate is obviously and demonstrably sick of politics as usual, the Democratic establishment appears poised to ram through a candidate who is clearly part of the Washington and business establishments (former Walmart board member, former First Lady, former Senator, former Secretary of State) and who has massive negative approval ratings. They'll vote that way no doubt in part because of favors owed to both Clintons, as well as being afraid of what might happen to the corporate contributions that flow into their own campaigns if the national party gives the finger to Wall Street by electing a self-described democratic socialist.  That’s understandable in its own way—why break up what is a very comfortable arrangement? Apart from all the cronyism and corruption, of course. And then there are the polls showing her losing to Trump, where Sanders would win comfortably.

Anyway…so what should a progressive voter do?

One answer is to vote for a third-party candidate like Jill Stein of the Greens. But then you risk a Trump presidency.

Another answer is to hold your nose and vote for Hillary.  You’ll help keep Trump out, but then the Democratic Party will have no incentive to change its ways.

A third option, which I refuse to contemplate, is voting for Trump. No doubt some will.

And finally, you can stay home and sit this one out. Some will do this, too.

What will I do?

I won’t sit it out. At this point, I’m likely to vote for Hillary in November. But it’s not certain.  Much will depend on what transpires between now and then in the Democratic campaign.  Because when it’s all over, I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I voted according to my conscience.  I don’t want Trump in the White House. Then again, I don’t want the Democratic Party to merely be a business-dominated, mildly right-of-center alternative to a Trump-dominated, batshit crazy neofascist Republican party, either.  The Green Party is closer to my personal beliefs, and very, very tempting.

There is, however, one thing I do know.

If I end up voting for Hillary merely to keep out Trump--which may very well happen--after she and the Democratic National Committee have done everything in their power to keep Sanders-supporting progressives out of any position of influence, they will have earned an abandonment, and it will likely be the last vote I ever cast for a Democrat. 

The Presidential election: Facts, opinions, and two unhappy thoughts

This is a good time to remember a few basic facts about the November election:

  1. It hasn’t happened yet. Anything could happen.
  2. The Republican nominee will be Donald Trump.
  3. If the GOP leadership thinks it can stop #2 from becoming reality, they’re delusional.
  4. Any attempt to stop #2 from happening will likely split the party.
  5. Anyone who doesn’t think the GOP can split is delusional.  See #1.
  6. The Democratic nominee will be Hillary Clinton.
  7. If Bernie Sanders thinks he can stop #6 from happening, he’s delusional.
  8. If Hillary Clinton thinks she’s going to have her own way at the convention, she’s delusional.
  9. The Sanders campaign has amassed a lot of delegates and will be in a position to influence the convention.
  10. If the Democratic leadership thinks it can stop #9 from happening, it’s delusional.
  11. Donald Trump can win in November.
  12. Anyone who denies #11 is delusional. See #1.
  13. Hillary Clinton can win in November.
  14. Anyone who denies #13 is delusional. See #1.
  15. Neither Trump nor Clinton is going to glide into the Oval Office easily. See #1.
  16. No matter who is elected, there is going to be a large and angry segment of the population that refuses to accept it. Our nation’s politics will not become sweetness and light just because the GOP loses control of the Senate. Or gains the White House.
  17. There will likely be violence. It’s happened already and is unlikely to stop.

And finally, two unhappy thoughts:

  1. Constitutions only matter as long as attention is paid to them. The Soviet Union had a constitution. East Germany had a constitution. Nazi Germany had a constitution. North Korea has a constitution.
  2. If you elect a demagogue who is backed by arms, the Constitution will not protect you.

Decision day

This message is an open letter to Republican voters in Ohio and Florida.


Dear Florida and Ohio Republicans,

We probably don't agree on much, but I have to say this or I'll regret it forever: You have a choice today. You can vote for Cruz, Kasich, or Rubio, and deny the nomination to Donald Trump, which will probably result in a brokered convention and quite possibly the most violent convention since the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968. It may also result in the destruction of the GOP, at least in the near term, possibly in the long term.

Or, you can vote for Trump, and virtually hand him the Republican nomination on a platter. This will probably avoid a chaotic convention, but will probably also sound the death knell for American democracy if he's elected in November and is able to consolidate his power. That may sound overly dramatic. It isn't. I have no love for his GOP opponents, but they aren't demagogues. He is.

You can destroy the GOP, or you can destroy our country and what it has always stood for. 

Your choice.

Choose wisely.

And may God have mercy on all of us.