Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Lesser of Two Weevils




Left: the Wall Street Raptor Weevil. Right: the Angry Populist Weevil.

E.M.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Melania’s “Plagiarism”: A Conspirator in the Trump Team?




Honestly I feel sorry for Melania Trump. I watched her speech at the RNC and thought she did an impressive job. And now it turns out that some lines from that speech were almost certainly lifted from the 2008 convention speech by Michelle Obama.

Amazing. But how is it possible?

No one assumes that such a high-profile speech from a candidate’s spouse will be entirely written by the speaker. Especially if the speaker, as in Melania’s case, speaks English as a second language.

The Trump campaign acknowledges that Melania worked with a speech writer. So the obvious question is: How did Michelle Obama’s lines end up in Melania’s speech?

A friend of mine, poet John Poch, posted a theory on his Facebook wall. Although he was only half serious, I think he may be onto something: “I have a conspiracy theory, because craziness sometimes makes too much sense. One of Trump's speechwriters (a Democratic plant) plagiarized Michelle Obama on purpose. That person knew the speech would immediately be recognized . . . by everyone except the Trump camp, who are so unaware of things like spellcheck or plagiarism tools like turnitin.com or even basic things like famous speeches by famous ladies. . . . I mean, it's too bad to be true, right? A lot of smeared mascara last night after she found out she'd been tricked. Whoever it is, wow. Just wow."

Sounds crazy, right? But actually not. Because again: How else would those lines have ended up where they did? Whoever fed them to Melania must have known where they came from, and no speech writer in the Trump campaign would have been dumb enough to expect them to go unnoticed.

I wouldn’t so much suspect a Democratic plant as an anti-Trump GOP insider being responsible. Who all was helping Melania on this speech?

As my friend John writes: “Can you imagine the middle of the night meeting with the speech writers? Can you hear the shouting and the overturning of furniture!? I can.”

Eric Mader

Update: Well, the NYT has since put paid to our theory. Or rather, it seems that the conspirator may very well be . . . one Meredith McIver.

According to sources, Melania had a speech written for her by two former Bush speech writers, but didn't like it, so set to revising it, turning to McIver:

But Ms. Trump decided to revise it, and at one point she turned to a trusted hand: Meredith McIver, a New York City-based former ballet dancer and English major who has worked on some of Mr. Trump’s books, including “Think Like a Billionaire.” It was not clear how much of a hand Ms. McIver had in the final product, and she did not respond to an email on Tuesday.

Research for the speech, it seems, drew them to the previous convention speeches delivered by candidates’ spouses.

Ouch. Depressing all around. Michelle Obama's words likely ended up in Melania's speech via sheer bumbling. John's theory is much more interesting, no?

But one still wonders. Why did Melania's speech writer or writers, whoever they were, have Melania quote specifically Mrs. Obama? And why specifically on honesty? And why did these writers lead Melania to rickroll the RNC audience? Isn't there's something here that hints at more than just an embarrassing gaffe? Or is my conspiratorial side working over time?

>>>Check out my book Idiocy, Ltd. at Amazon.com and begin the long, hard reckoning.<<<

Friday, July 8, 2016

Salmon Fishing at Langara Lodge



Well, I did hold first place for a couple days.
Chinook Salmon caught at Haida Gwaii.

When you’re angling for salmon all day, the very best thing to dine on at night, if you can manage it, is of course salmon. And it would be best if the salmon you dined on were the same salmon you hooked during the day.

But it’s impossible. In the dining room where we ate--and Chef Jason was extraordinary--they’re not allowed to serve fish the anglers caught out on the water that day. The fish you caught hasn’t gone through the necessary health inspections required by the Canadian government, and the lodge is obliged to follow code.

No matter. I still ordered salmon at least twice during our four-day trip. Likely flown in from Vancouver. And it was excellent even if not caught in our boat. Besides, the dining room had three or four dishes on offer each night (steak, lamb, sablefish, etc.) and any choice you opted for would be excellent, thanks to Jason and his team. Langara Lodge, way up in the Canadian wilderness, also has its own pastry chef, believe it or not, and this pastry chef, named Donesh, does some amazing things. Not your typical fishing outpost in the woods by any means.

My father invited me to this place, Langara Fishing Lodge, and it was by a long shot the best of the dozen or so fishing trips I’d been on. Langara is a small island at the top of the Haida Gwaii island chain just off the northwest Pacific coast of Canada. On a clear day you can see the southern coast of Alaska across the water. The island chain is named for the Haida people that had lived there for centuries before Europeans arrived.

We were fishing mainly for chinook salmon, but also caught coho salmon and bottom fished a bit for halibut too.

The surroundings at Langara are beautiful: rugged uninhabited coastline, mist hanging in the endless miles of fir, bald eagles watching us from the rocks as we fished, hoping we’d toss them a fish now and then. Yes, the eagle on duty will swoop down and take a dead fish off the surface of the water--a rock fish or any other species tossed back in the ocean that wouldn’t live.

I saw humpback whales every day, and on two of my four days there a pod of fifty or so orca whales was passing through. The orcas managed to chase away or eat many of the chinook in the area, so their presence made for a mid-trip lull in the fishing--sometimes an hour would pass without a bite.

But generally the fishing was great, and I managed to pull off a coup of sorts during the second day, hooking and landing a 34.5 lb. chinook. My fish stood as the biggest caught by any of the 75 anglers there, a title that held for most of the trip. And I’d never fished salmon before.

Another challenge fishing Haida Gwaii was keeping an eye on the sea lions, who spend their days stealing fish. Our top-notch guide Layne Stewart, spotting one in the area, would usually just say: “Reel up. We’re outa here.” Sea lions, sometimes growing up to 2,200 pounds, swim round the boats waiting for an angler to hook a fish. Then, when the angler has tired the fish and gotten it near the boat, the lazy predator will close in and do its best to steal it off the hook. In one instance Layne maneuvered the fish and our boat brilliantly so as to keep one of these moochers from stealing our salmon. And yes, during one of the lulls in fishing, I penned a little “Ode to a Sea Lion” to record just how fishermen feel about these whiskered beasts. Read it if you’ve ever had sea lion blues.

Second to last day, in the dining room, we sat next to a retired Austrian gentleman who’d fished the world, mainly as a fly fisherman. We didn’t exchange names that night, but learned he’d made a career as a congress organizer and had offices in Prague, Vienna and Shanghai. We talked politics and fishing, and finally he made a friendly bet with me that on the last day he’d displace me from my title to largest salmon in the lodge. It was statistically unlikely of course.

Next day my father and I got a late start, the Austrian gentleman had gotten out much earlier, but when we came down to breakfast he was there in the dining room. Why?

“My guide has fallen ill,” he said. “He needed to come in and take a break for a couple hours. We’ll try heading out again later. It’s terrible bad luck for me if I’m to beat your fish.”

Later that afternoon, when all the anglers had returned to the lodge, I went up to the whiteboard where all the day’s notable catches are marked, and saw that someone had pulled in a 45 lb. salmon, putting me in second place. Again, it was very unlikely that the person in question would be our new Austrian friend, as there were 75 fishermen on that board.

I went into the dining room and saw him there holding a sort of poker face.

“Well,” he said offhandedly. “I did alright today.”

“Actually we never got your name last night. You are . . . ?”

“Rainer Kostka.”

It was the name I’d seen on the board.

“You bastard!” I shouted, breaking into a laugh and slapping him on the shoulder.

“Heh heh heh,” he added. “It’s the Tyrolean stamina you know. We’re not to be defeated.”

“You stole my fish!” my father complained. “That was my fish.”

Rainer had landed his winning chinook in a little stretch of water my father and I had trolled through not an hour before Rainer got there.

It was good fun. We congratulated Rainer and later that evening, during dinner, his win was announced and he was invited to dance round the dining room in a Hawaiian-themed victory dance with a troupe of staff members, dressed for the occasion in faux-Hawaiian outfits.

So at least I didn’t have to do that dance.

Langara Fishing Lodge is a brilliantly run operation. All the staff were great fun, completely on the ball, and as I’ve said, the food was extraordinary. The lodge fillets and freezes your salmon for you and boxes it in cool packs so you can take it home at the end of the trip. Having to return eventually to Taiwan, I couldn’t take that option, but I could get my salmon canned and shipped. My two best catches made for around fifty cans of salmon.

To get to Langara you first fly in by jet to a small town on the main island of Haida Gwaii, then fly by helicopter to the lodge.

Layne Stewart was the sharpest fishing guide I’ve ever fished with. A student of marine biology, he can tell you much about the tides, the whales, the salmon, and helps tweak your angling skills so as to maximize your likelihood of getting those hard-fighting chinook in the boat.

Many thanks to my father, Victor Mader, for bringing me along to one of the best salmon fisheries on the globe. He’s always praised Langara, and now I get it.

Eric Mader



Boarding the helicopter to Langara



Langara Lodge from the water. The dining room, kitchen, and guest rooms are on a barge.



Some chinooks caught with my father.



The killer whales showed up Day 2.



Our awesome guide Layne Stewart.



Bald eagle respectfully waiting for handouts.



A man and his halibut.



Coastline in the morning.



Sea lion, showing not an ounce of decency, stalks our boat.



The pastry chef Donesh made something for my father's birthday. Birthday boy: "This is really the most delicious birthday cake I've ever eaten." He wasn't lying.



Victorious Rainer Kostka gets official weight on his winning chinook.



Map of Langara. I just noticed now our lodge was nestled under "Iphigenia Point". I didn't see any smoke.


>>>> Check out my book Idiocy, Ltd. at Amazon.com and begin the long, hard reckoning. <<<<<

Ode to a Sea Lion




You snorting huffing parasites
Blondish shoreline termites
We’d gladly send your tribe a famine
To end your racket stealing salmon

The angler hooks a fine chinook
And look--here comes the blubbery crook
And watches while he tires the fish
And waits to snatch his free-lunch dish

If I could club you with a gaff
Or summon an orca to bite you in half
I wouldn’t be spewing this derision
Though I might end up in prison

’Cuz you’ve got strict laws to protect you
Still--we anglers don’t respect you
Your numbers are getting out of hand
You fornicate on shit-stained sand

And it’s we anglers who pay the bill
To give you bitches your protein fill
Why not go for clams or dead bear
Or rob eagles' nests or go on welfare?

My friend Layne lost his biggest salmon
To seven (!) of your number working in tandem
So if a Sea Lion Kill's not something you’d wish
Why not hunt for your own damn fish?

Eric Mader

Check out my book Idiocy, Ltd. at Amazon.com and begin the long, hard reckoning.



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Illogic of FBI Director James Comey: In a Nutshell




Having my coffee this morning I was treated to an interesting bit of political theater. FBI director James Comey first explained in detail how Hillary Clinton was guilty of committing a felony under federal law, then explained that his bureau would not recommend she be indicted for that felony.

Huh?

The laws under which Clinton could be indicted for her use of a private email server criminalize at least two things. One might either 1) intend to transmit classified information, or 2) show gross negligence in the handing of classified information.

Listening to Comey, I can only conclude that he intentionally obscured the importance of the “or” that separates 1) and 2). Comey read it as an and, implying that no prosector would pursue a case against Clinton because the investigation found no evidence of intent to transmit classified information.

But our law doesn’t merely criminalize intent, it criminalizes gross negligence as well.

Bizarrely, according to Comey’s logic, to commit a felony one must both intend to betray secrets and then show gross negligence in handling those secrets. This simply doesn’t make legal, or even practical, sense. If I intend to betray information, I’m not then going to show gross negligence in handling it. The relevant statues refer to two distinct crimes, having nothing to do with each other. To be guilty of one, Clinton doesn’t have to be guilty of both, as any prosecutor would know.

It gets worse. Comey himself stated that top secret information may very well have been stolen by our enemies thanks to Clinton’s insistence on transmitting it through her unsecured private email server:

We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.

As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was responsible for handling classified information carefully. She knowingly did the opposite. Which is why the following sentence from Comey literally contradicts itself:

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

Federal law already makes gross negligence a crime for which one may be imprisoned up to ten years. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find any clear difference between “extremely careless” and “grossly negligent”. Comey basically laid out why the Secretary of State is guilty of a felony.

What kind of information was compromised? Clinton has repeatedly said that no classified information was transmitted through her private server. She was lying. Comey:

For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).

None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

There is no excuse for this. Hillary Clinton knew full well what she was doing, and although she may not have intended to compromise classified information, it is obvious she didn’t much care if it got compromised. The evident priority for Clinton in all of this was being able to conduct business through her own server and email account, from which she could then delete and scrub whatever she liked without any oversight or permanent record. And why would she want to do such scrubbing?

Study a bit about the Clinton Foundation and you may get an inkling why.

Eric Mader

Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. at Amazon.com and begin the long, hard reckoning.