Crony Connect

“Crony Connect allows you to identify politically-connected individuals, using data from Companies House, the Electoral Commission and the MP’s Register of Financial Interests.

How does it work? When you enter the name of an individual, Crony Connect looks for any companies linked to that individual in the Companies House database. Then it searches for the individual and any of their associated companies in the donations and financial interests databases.”

Crony Connect

I tried Michael Gove, 1967 and August and it had two entries. One indicated he was affiliated with the Henry Jackson Society, which probably doesn’t add much to what you might know of his politics. But, it’s interesting none-the-less.

I like how projects like these try to make information more accessible and present it in different ways. It also shows the problems in how information is organized. For example, Michael Gove should have one authority record, and all variants should point to the authority record, rather than multiple listings based on whether his middle name is included or not.

Crony Connect reminded me of TheyRule.net, which was a Flash site from 2001 that described itself in this way:

“They Rule is a website that allows you to create maps of the interlocking directories of the top 100 companies in the US in 2001. The data is static, so it is fast becoming out of date, as companies merge and disappear and directors shift boards.”

But, the site provided a visual representation of interlocking corporate boards that showed how information and power is shared in a visual way. I found it fascinating. But, it also shows how quickly this information changes, so there needs to be a dynamic way to generate and present this information that makes these kinds of relationships clear. Because it is when they are not clear that corruption flourishes.

Crony Connect is an interesting attempt along these lines. I found the search mechanism, particularly the need to include birth year and month, a bad user experience. But, I liked the spirit of the thing.

Eat [and Drink] Less Plastic

Drink water from your tap. Drinking water is one of the biggest contributors to microplastic ingestion, but bottled water has about double the microplastic level of tap water, according to Mason, making it a poor choice for those who want to consume less plastic. Some bottled waters have also been found to have high levels of PFAS chemicals. Mason says that unless you know your tap water is unsafe, you should opt for that over anything in a plastic bottle.”

-Kevin Lorea, “How to Eat Less Plastic.” Consumer Reports. August 13, 2019.
  • Drink water from your tap.
  • Don’t heat food in plastic.
  • Avoid plastic food containers.
  • Eat more fresh food.
  • Minimize household dust.
  • Reducing plastic pollution is going to require government intervention.

Open question: Does microplastic pollution and its effects on hormones and reducing fertility an existentional threat to the human species?

GovDeals.com

“GovDeals provides services to various government agencies that allow them to sell surplus and confiscated items via the Internet. Each participating agency has its own auction rules and regulations and may be subject to government ordinances.”

https://www.govdeals.com/

Search nearby and find out about all the weird stuff your government is trying to divest itself of. In a quick search, I found land, broken hovercraft, concrete planters, tractors, generators, mowers, a safe, golf skate caddies, and so forth. Worth a look.

Cesium & Plutonium Make The Best Nightmare Fuel

“Two security experts from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio, Texas, in March 2017 with a sensitive mission: to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab there.

Their task, according to documents and interviews, was to ensure that the radioactive materials did not fall into the wrong hands on the way back to Idaho, where the government maintains a stockpile of nuclear explosive materials for the military and others.

To ensure they got the right items, the specialists from Idaho brought radiation detectors and small samples of dangerous materials to calibrate them: specifically, a plastic-covered disk of plutonium, a material that can be used to fuel nuclear weapons, and another of cesium, a highly radioactive isotope that could potentially be used in a so-called “dirty” radioactive bomb.

But when they stopped at a Marriott hotel just off Highway 410, in a high-crime neighborhood filled with temp agencies and ranch homes, they left those sensors on the back seat of their rented Ford Expedition. When they awoke the next morning, the window had been smashed and the special valises holding these sensors and nuclear materials had vanished.”

—Patrick Malone. “Plutonium is Missing, But The Government Says Nothing.” The Center for Public Integrity. July 16, 2018.

Explaining the ‘Mystery’ of Numbers Stations

“Numbers stations have been in existence since World War I. Over the years they have attracted sporadic interest from journalists, video game designers, and filmmakers. Despite this attention, there are few explanations of what these signals actually are. Too often, they are described as “spooky,” “creepy,” or “mysterious,” and the discussion stops there. It may be disappointing to some, but these stations are not signals from aliens or mind control devices, nor are they dead relics of the Cold War — rather, these stations are part of the sophisticated work of intelligence agencies and militaries, and they are very much still on the air. This article will explain what they are, how to listen to them, and why they matter.”

—Māris Goldmanis. “Explaining the ‘Mystery’ of Numbers Stations.” War on the Rocks. May 24, 2018.

Is This Fascism?

“‘You submit to tyranny,’ Snyder writes, ‘when you renounce the difference between what you want to hear and what is actually the case.'”

—Snyder, Timothy. “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century” quoted in Gumbel, Andrew. “Is This Fascism?Los Angeles Review of Books. July 24, 2017.

Interesting discussion throughout regarding the Trump presidency. This quote on the American style of fascism seemed particularly on point:

In 1944, The New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to assess the risk of fascism in the United States, and Wallace’s startlingly frank answer was that there were millions of fascists in the country already. Wallace identified a peculiarly American brand of fascist, not a brownshirt bent on violence but rather a charismatic populist interested in poisoning the well of public information and appealing to the public’s worst instincts as a way of accumulating wealth and power. What Wallace most feared was a ‘purposeful coalition’ between ‘cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.’ ‘They claim to be super-patriots,’ he wrote, ‘but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.'”

Fair Representation Act

“Virginia Democratic Rep. Don Beyer authored and introduced the Fair Representation Act, which would enact a series of reforms designed to make our elections more competitive and open them up to more parties. Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland have co-sponsored the legislation.

The bill would do three things: require all congressional districts to be drawn by independent redistricting commissions, establish multi-member districts, and have all districts use what’s known as ranked-choice voting (RCV).”

—Jilani, Zaid. “New House Bill Would Kill Gerrymandering and Could Move America Away From Two-Party Dominance.” The Intercept. July 5, 2017.

Sounds like a good idea, except invariably democratic reforms of this sort always have unintended consequences. For example, it’s not too hard to imagine that this might break up the major parties leaving small, radical blocks with decisive votes on the Congressional level or multi-member districts where even members cancel themselves out and odd number groups have a microcosm of tyranny of the majority and the problems of faction outlined in Federalist Paper No. 10.

The Cost of Wars

“One of the striking aspects of American military power is how little serious attention is spent on examining the key elements of its total cost by war and mission, and the linkage between the use of resources and the presence of an effective strategy. For the last several decades, there has been little real effort to examine the costs of key missions and strategic commitments and the longer term trends in force planning and cost. Both the Executive Branch and the Congress have failed to reform any key aspect of the defense and foreign policy budgets to look beyond input budgeting by line item and by military service, and doing so on an annual basis.”

—Cordesman, Anthony. “The Cost of Wars.” CSIS. June 26, 2017.