Late Night Puerto Rico Open Thread: Lest We Forget

Under normal circumstances, I’d be posting this tomorrow when more readers would see it… but Murphy only knows what skeletons will fall out of various Repub closets for this week’s Friday News Dump…

Saturday Late Night Open Thread: Bad Omens

Serene cluelessness alert!

Some kind of as-yet-unknown ‘massive power surge’ blew out the surge protector, the power bar, and probably the widescreen monitor on my computer yesterday. Ended August having to cancel our planned mini-vacation. My expiring credit card’s replacement got hacked before it reached me. And the drain blockage we’ve dumped a couple thou into diagnosing is now labelled as a pipe collapse where it enters the main sewer under the public road — our responsibility, “normal wear & tear”, insurance won’t cover it — so we’ll be tapping the home equity credit line as soon as we can hire a city-approved contractor. How was your week?

Should’ve known bad craziness would be coming down…

Who Wrote the Op-Ed: Text-Mining Edition

When the cowardly “Resistance” op-ed came out, my first thought was, Gee, I bet we could get some insights on authorship by doing an automated textual analysis. Because of course that was my first thought. Well, somebody was kind enough to do one for us. Specifically, Michael W. Kearney, a journalism and informatics professor at the University of Missouri. Here is the result; I’ll do a layperson’s explanation below, and then some technical links for those so inclined.

Executive summary: This analysis suggests that it was somebody from the office of the Vice President, the State Department, or the Department of Commerce.

What is this?

  • The y-axis is various Twitter accounts, labeled on the left.
  • The x-axis is the textual correlation.
  • Kearney took up to 3,200 tweets from each of the accounts listed, and ran an analysis on those corpuses. He then compared the resulting numbers to the results of the same analysis run on the text of the op-ed.
  • The line at the top shows, of course, a 1.0 correlation with the op-ed itself. The next-highest are the Twitter accounts for the Vice President, Trump (who we can discount), Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Ross, and the State Department.
  • The analysis includes figures for things like comma usage, sentiment, politeness, word choice, first- and second-person preference, and so on.
  • It probably wasn’t somebody at the Department of Transportation.


  • Update: I assumed this went without saying, but obviously tweets are not an ideal data source; just most-readily usable with what Kearney had laying around, and within a very short time period. 
  • We know from reporting on the Wolff book that anonymous sources sometimes intentionally steal other staffers’ phrasing when providing quotes.
    • This could explain the use of ‘lodestar,’ a strongly Pence-affiliated word.
    • However, it is harder to fake things like comma usage.
  • Higher-ranking officials are likely, in their Twitter communications, to try to sound more like Trump, or in general use more homogenous language.
    • This could explain the ~0.7 cluster of the most important officials and departments.
  • These are not huge volumes of text, and thus the figures are potentially not representative.

Technical Details

Read more

A Russian Nuclear Cruise Missile?

Back in March, Vladimir Putin unveiled a number of new nuclear weapons. But they’re not operational, and, in my opinion, are unlikely ever to be.

One was the Poiseidon (Status-6) underwater drone, supposedly designed to hit the east coast of the United States with a radioactive tsunami. Oh, and did I say that it’s undetectable?

Another was a cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor.

Except for the first few seconds, the videos are animations. This does not suggest a high degree of development. Read more

Late Night Open Thread: Well, That Explains Tuesday…

… but this was Monday:

Site Updates: Not So Much Fun


Looks like something happened to a bunch of widgets and ads in the sidebar. As in, “poof, they’ve gone into the aether”. Enjoy the mostly-ad-free current state as I’ll be restoring those soon.

iPad users, rejoice: I’m working with the Mobile site vendor to get the @#$*&^$@ issue solved.  Once that’s done, I expect M4 and I will get the pie filter re-enabled.

There are a number of other things going on in the background that will make things better soon. I’ll be updating the core theme version (finally!) and that should improve performance. I’ve got some tweaks to apply to the caching system and then will get the #$($&^ CDN working correctly. That will greatly reduce the download time and server load, making things groovy for all readers. I curse the CDN because both times I enabled it, many users (including myself!) had trouble  getting the site, instead getting bad gateway and/or CloudFlare errors. Since there were other core issues to improve, I put that on the back burner and so later this week, things will improve.  Between now and then it may be a bit bumpy, but we’ll get to a better place, tout de suite.

Open thread and since I’m working on back-end issues, this is not so much a bitch about the site thread. I’ve detailed what I’m working on, and once we get this stuff nailed down and things settle for a week or three, there will be one or two threads seeking suggestions for improvements. A redesign/update is in order.

Don’t forget that you can always use the Contact a Front Pager form to report tech issues to me, or bad-behaving ads to me or John. For such ads, please let us know which advertiser it was as that’s the crucial information needed to suppress them.

I will be updating the WordPress version and a plugin or two in a bit, and I’m downloading some large db files, so the site may slow down a bit over the next couple of hours.

Have a great Sunday, everyone.


The Strawberries That’s… That’s Where I Had Them

According to Vanity Fair, working at the White House is increasingly like serving on a certain destroyer-minesweeper careening through increasingly violent storms while its captain chases wisps round the wardroom.

Exhibit A:

“The Manafort trial is spinning him into a frenzy,” one Republican in frequent contact with the president told me. Another Republican told me Trump thinks “the only thing the trial shows is that Manafort is a sleaze.”

That’s one way of looking at it. Paranoid narcissism has a way of producing erratic (he said politely) behavior under stress:

Sources say Trump is increasingly taking his legal defense into his own hands—very much at his own peril. The Sessions tweet crossed a line into what many interpreted to be outright obstruction of justice. Trump also is arguing that he wants to sit for an interview with Mueller, against his lawyers’ advice, The New York Times reported. [links in the original]

It doesn’t help that Only The Best People ™ enable such well crafted plans:

Trump’s latest attacks on Mueller are partly being enabled by conversations with his attorney Emmet Flood, one source told me. “Emmet feels there’s nothing there with collusion, so it’s fine for Trump to comment and tweet…”

Steam, increasingly pressurized, seeks escape. Absent a valve, get ready for shrapnel:

Trump appears to be in earnest about his desire for Sessions to end the Mueller probe, and spoke of a timeline of a couple of weeks. Otherwise, Trump has threatened to fire Rosenstein himself.

Enjoy the ride. (I’m not…)

Open thread.

Image: J. W. M. Turner, Shipwreck of the Minotaur, c. 1810…and yes, this, like many of my posts, was prompted by a desire to showcase this painting.