I Miss Barack Obama   ◆

David Brooks, writing for the New York Times one year ago:

[…] it feels as if there’s been a decline in behavioral standards across the board. Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.

That was about the campaign, and the decline seems to have continued its downward trend since the election.

Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss, and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him.

It’s safe to say that none of those adjectives will ever be used to describe the current White House occupant, without a negation in front.

Three is two, two is one, one is zero

You’ve probably heard the saying that “three is two, two is one, one is zero” in the context of survival strategies.

I use it in the context of data backups.

In my usage, if you have one copy of some data (a picture, a PDF, a document), you might as well have zero copies of that data: If it’s deleted or corrupted, you’re hosed.

If you have a backup, you have two copies of your data. But under the same principle, one backup means zero backups, if that backup goes south on you.

You want multiple copies of your data, and that means multiple backups. Where those backups are also makes a difference. There’s no point in having multiple backups if they’re all in the house that catches fire or is flooded, so having a remote backup is crucial.

I use a three level backup strategy that gives me some piece of mind. This might be overkill for some, but sometimes I feel it’s still not enough.

Most of my working data resides on my Apple 5K iMac. I have the following backups:

  1. Local, to an Apple AirPort Time Capsule. This creates hourly backups to a drive inside the house. It’s my first line of defense against stupidity. If I accidentally delete a file, I have a recent copy I can get to quickly and with a minimum of fuss.
  2. Local, to a Drobo 5D, using Cronosync to copy data daily. It’s meant as a redundant local backup in case something goes wrong with my Time Capsule.
  3. Offsite, to Backblaze. A remote copy is a requirement in case of physical damage to your local backups (such as fire, flood or theft).
  4. Off-site, to Dropbox for most (though not all) of my data. I limit this to “active” files due to storage limits with Dropbox (1 TB for $99/year for individuals). It’s technically not a backup because these are working files, but Dropbox keeps copies of any changed or deleted files for 30 days.

This gives me up to five copies of my data: the original, and four backups: two local, two remote.

(I actually have more than that, because I currently copy some of my Drobo 5D backups to a second Drobo, and some data gets synced to my computer at work, which itself has multiple backups,… but that’s too complicated to get into in any detail.)

The other piece of course is to test your backups.

For me this means occasionally trying to recover files from Time Machine on my Mac, opening files on my Drobo, and restoring files from Backblaze. There’s no point in having all these backups if I can’t actually get my data back.

Why do I have so many backups? Because I’ve lost data in the past, and I expect I’ll lose data in the future. Plus data recovery is expensive, and backups are cheap by comparison.

And they’ve saved my bacon before.

I can’t preach this any more loudly:
* Backup Your Data
* Test Your Backups

You can start slow. Backblaze is easiest because its inexpensive, unlimited, off-site, and automatic. Even Dropbox is better than nothing.

Just start.

New York Times 1992 Book Review of The Men Who Pulled the Triggers   ◆

The phrase “Ordinary Americans” in the aforelinked piece struck me as familiar, in the context of the Holocaust.

A brief search suggested why: a book titled Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland.

Walter Reich wrote in a 1992 New York Times Book Review:

We know a lot about how the Germans carried out the Holocaust. We know much less about how they felt and what they thought as they did it, how they were affected by what they did, and what made it possible for them to do it. In fact, we know remarkably little about the ordinary Germans who made the Holocaust happen — not the desk murderers in Berlin, not the Eichmanns and Heydrichs, and not Hitler and Himmler, but the tens of thousands of conscripted soldiers and policemen from all walks of life, many of them middle-aged, who rounded up millions of Jews and methodically shot them, one by one, in forests, ravines and ditches, or stuffed them, one by one, into cattle cars and guarded those cars on their way to the gas chambers.

We’re no where near rounding up millions of anyone and killing them, but this is incremental. Again, from the review:

The Jews were presented not only as evil and dangerous but also, in some way, as responsible for the bombing deaths of German women and children. Another factor was the process of dehumanization: abetted by Nazi racial theories that were embraced by policemen who preferred not to see themselves as killers, Jews were seen as less than people, as creatures who could be killed without the qualms that would be provoked in them were they to kill fellow Germans or even Slavs.

Evil and dangerous. Responsible for deaths. Dehumanization. Less than.

Sound familiar?

From the review, one more time:

CLEARLY, ordinary human beings are capable of following orders of the most terrible kinds. What stands between civilization and genocide is the respect for the rights and lives of all human beings that societies must struggle to protect. Nazi Germany provided the context, ideological as well as psychological, that allowed the policemen’s actions to happen. Only political systems that recognize the worst possibilities in human nature, but that fashion societies that reward the best, can guard the lives and dignity of all their citizens.

Ordinary Americans, whether in positions of authority or not, must recognize their role in how other human beings are treated.

Handcuffing a five-year-old child or a 65-year-old woman, or denying people food and bathrooms, does not protect this country. It only dehumanizes us all.

Ordinary Americans carried out inhumane acts for Trump   ◆

Chris Edelman in the Baltimore Sun:

When we worry and wonder about authoritarian regimes that inflict cruelty on civilians, we often imagine tyrannical despots unilaterally advancing their sinister agendas. But no would-be autocrat can act alone. As a practical matter, he needs subordinates willing to carry out orders. Of course, neither Donald Trump nor Steve Bannon personally detained any of the more than 100 people held at airports over the weekend pursuant to the administration’s executive order on immigration, visitation and travel to the United States. They relied on assistance.

The men and women who reportedly handcuffed small children and the elderly, separated a child from his mother and held others without food for 20 hours, are undoubtedly “ordinary” people. What I mean by that, is that these are, in normal circumstances, people who likely treat their neighbors and co-workers with kindness and do not intentionally seek to harm others. That is chilling, as it is a reminder that authoritarians have no trouble finding the people they need to carry out their acts of cruelty. They do not need special monsters; they can issue orders to otherwise unexceptional people who will carry them out dutifully.

This behavior that worries me. Petty acts by petty actors with delusions of power. It’s bad enough to be “following orders”, quite another thing to do so without compassion.

Keep It Simple and Take Credit   ◆

Democracy Journal:

When society decided citizens should be able to read, we didn’t provide tax credits for books, we created public libraries. When we decided peoples’ houses shouldn’t burn down, we didn’t provide savings accounts for private fire insurance, we hired firefighters and built fire stations. If the broad left takes power again, enough with too-clever-by-half social engineering. Help people and take credit.

It’s great to do good, but people need to know Democrats are the ones doing good. Why hide your light under a bushel?

After all, it ain’t bragging if it’s true.

“Snollygoster”   ◆

Merriam-Webster, responding to a question on Twitter about removing words from the dictionary:

Yes—like snollygoster, “a shrewd & unprincipled person, especially an unprincipled politician.” Just added it back. https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/whats-a-snollygoster

Shade.

When is “3x” not “3x”?   ◆

The Huffington Post, in a story about the Trump Administration’s attempt to “tweak” Obamacare rules:

Insurers would have more leeway to vary prices by age, so that premiums for the oldest customers could be 3.49 times as large as those for younger customers. Today, premiums for the old can be only three times as high as premiums for the young, which is what the Affordable Care Act stipulates. According to sources privy to HHS discussions with insurers, officials would argue that since 3.49 “rounds down” to three, the change would still comply with the statute. 

“Rounds down to three?” Seriously?

If I’m currently paying $300 a month, and this fake math raises it to $349, I’m paying more money. That’s no longer “three times as high”, it’s “3.49 times as high”.

By that logic, 3.99 also “rounds down” to 3, if rounding to whole numbers.

This adminstration is hostile to all truth, even mathematical truth.

Against Normalization: The Lesson of the “Munich Post”   ◆

A lot of “Trump is the new Hitler” think pieces are based on superficial comparisons of authoritarian berhavior. This one by Ron Rosenbaum in the Los Angeles Review of Books is different:

What I want to suggest is an actual comparison with Hitler that deserves thought. It’s what you might call the secret technique, a kind of rhetorical control that both Hitler and Trump used on their opponents, especially the media. And they’re not joking. If you’d received the threatening words and pictures I did during the campaign (one Tweet simply read “I gas Jews”), as did so many Jewish reporters and people of color, the sick bloodthirsty lust to terrify is unmistakably sincere. The playbook is Mein Kampf.

I came to this conclusion in a roundabout way. The story of Hitler’s relation to the media begins with a strange episode in Hitler’s rise to power, a clash between him and the press that looked like it might contribute to the end of his political career. But alas, it did not. In fact, it set him up for the struggle that would later bring him to power.

The behavior Rosenbaum describes will seem scarily familiar.

By the way, Rosenbaum is an historian and a journalist who authored the book Explaining Hitler after spending more than a decade researching him.