October 24, 2016

Steven DenBeste 1952(?)-2016

Steven DenBeste has passed away.

I just received word from Steven's brother, graciously thanking me for making the welfare call to the police and confirming that what many of us feared had indeed come to pass.  I did not inquire as to specifics, but Steven had been in very poor health of late, having had a stroke just under four years ago.

Steven was brilliant, a former engineer with a crackerjack mind. His old blog, U.S.S. Clueless was tremendously important in the early days of the 'blogosphere'. It is hard to overstate the importance of U.S.S. Clueless and the brilliance of his analysis. Sadly, that site went down this past week as well, when Steven's server failed. That site was immensely influential to many of us, and I am far from the only person he inspired to blog or helped along.

Bill Whittle once described Steven as 
..brilliant, insightful, inspiring and ALWAYS RIGHT.

Bill, like so many others, was positively impacted by Steven's writings and inspired to do his own. Mr. Whittle also described Steven as one of the most gentle people he had known.

Some years ago, due to declining health and vicious internet trolling, Steven started Chizumatic to focus on less consequential topics, but he continued to be inspirational and influential in his new bailiwick. 

Pete describes it thus:
 Named after a character in Mahoromatic, Chizumatic was one of the oldest anime blogs.......

.....From the beginning, Chizumatic offered a strong editorial voice for the most competent direction and the cutest girls, as well as an excellent understanding of the classical blogging, which Steven brought with him from the political arena. Explanations and WMG were another hallmark. Did you think too that the crow in Haibane Renmei represented Rakka’s dog? We aren’t getting such insights anymore and animeblogging has become poorer for that.

Steven DenBeste had an overwhelmingly positive influence on the world despite his physical frailty, one out of all proportion to his resources. The world today is undeniably a better place for his having lived, but it is a bit dimmer today with his loss.

He will be sorely missed.

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October 23, 2016

Fearing the Worst; Hoping for the Best for Steven DenBeste (UPDATED)

On October 14th, Steven DenBeste posted that he anticipated there might be an interruption in his posting due to an approaching Typhoon. No one has heard from him since. I've called his landline, others have attempted to contact friends, and Wonderduck and Ubu both contacted vendors he's blogged about using since they are assumed to have his mailing address. 

9 days on, the power in that part of Oregon has been restored (and his landline is ringing)., many of us are beginning to fear the worst.

In addition to the storm Steven has been in failing health of late, so his absence is of particular concern.

Steven is an atheist, so he won't appreciate prayers...but they can't hurt....

In the Hopes That it Will Amuse Steven: Pious Bunnygirl with kitten by Juji Amo

UPDATE: Earlier this evening I contacted the police with my limited information, which consisted of a phone number and the city (gleaned through the first six digits of said phone number. A few minutes ago I was contacted by the Beaverton police. There were three addresses that it could have been, the second was Steven's family. The officer had offered to escort them to Steven's house, but they said they would handle things in the family and declined further assistance. That is all I know at this time, and as I'm not family it's all I am likely to discover. It does not sound good. 

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Well, This is...Edgey.

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October 17, 2016

106 Years Ago Today

...the airship America broke records and achieved several firsts.

The ship was the brainchild of reporter/adventurer Walter Wellman and was initially financed by the Chicago Tribune, being designed and built for an attempt to be the first to reach the north pole. The aircraft was actually built in France, which was closer to Norway and allowed the designers to use the considerable expertise and physical plant of French balloon manufacturers, and presumably gain some input from the Gaelic airship pioneers. The craft, was, however, quite distinctive. America was a semi-rigid dirigible with a number of innovative features including swiveling airscrews capable of providing vectored thrust. 

America, as built, about to make one of her attempts to reach the pole.

In 1906 the airship left Spitsbergen  bound for the pole, but suffered from total engine failure. However, the crew managed to return as a balloon. The engine proved unrepairable and the ship was broken down and shipped to France for repairs. After the installation of a new engine the craft returned in 1907 and made 2 more attempts, however, both were stymied by abominable weather. The ship was shipped out again this tome to America and had it's envelope enlarged, had newer, more powerful engines installed, an electrical system including electric lights, and a wireless set was fitted, as was a lifeboat and a peculiar altitude regulator called an equillibrator, described here

 The device was a 300-foot long steel cable with 30 steel tanks containing gasoline and 40 wooden blocks. Each steel tank was 4-feet long and 9 inches in diameter and weighed about 100 pounds when filled with gasoline; the concave end of one tank fit into the convex end of another, like a ball and socket joint, and was padded with felt to absorb shocks and minimize wear and abrasion. The far end of the device consisted of 40 solid wooden blocks, tapering in diameter like the tail of a snake, that would float on the surface.  

This was intended to compensate for day/night changes in buoyancy, without permanently dropping ballast. This was obviously a hazard to people on the ground, but with Robert E. Peary having gotten to the north pole in 1909. Wellman and the ship's designer, Melvin Vaniman had set their sights on a different "first", one that would push their little airship to the limits of it's capability. Their new goal was to cross the Atlantic by air, and for this, the equillibrator actually made sense as it had the potential to minimize losses of ballast and hydrogen.

America as refitted.

On October 15, 1910 America took off from Atlantic city New Jersey. Almost at once, things began to go wrong. The ship's propellors set for full vertical thrust kicked up a spectacular sandstorm. Moments after takeoff a loud screech was heard and investigation revealed the presence of a terrified cat that had stowed away in a box near the engine. He was named Kiddo. Engine trouble quickly ensued and and the ship continued on one engine. Attempts at repair proved futile as it was discovered that the engine had ingested a good deal of sand that had been kicked up during takeoff and was a total loss. It was decided to disassemble  the other engine and clean it...but engine number two chose that moment to die. 

The second engine was not completely wrecked and was repairable, but a ballasting error resulted in considerable loss of hydrogen. Over the next day, a storm came up and one engine was not enough to overcome the strong winds which  pushed the ship far to the south.

The ship was far off course and the second engine became intermittent, so it was decided to abandon the flight. On the 17th, just north of Bermuda, the airship, now effectively a balloon spotted a British mail packet, the S.S. Trent, and hailed them via wireless using CQD (the predecessor to SOS). All six crewmen and Kiddo got into the lifeboat and were picked up by Trent, however, before a hawser could be attached, America, relieved of the weight of the lifeboat shot into the sky and was never seen again.
America photographed from RMSTrent. Note the visible "plug" in the envelope where the ship was enlarged & the equillibrator trailing in the water..

The flight, while unsucsessful, had a number of firsts.
2: Longest duration flight to that date by a considerable margin.
3: Longest distance covered by an aircraft in a single flight (over 1000 miles), also by a considerable margin.
4: First radio transmission from an aircraft was "Roy come and get this goddamned cat!"
5: First distress signal sent from an aircraft.
6: First launch of a boat from an aircraft.
7: First air-sea rescue....actually a sea-air rescue.

If things had broken just a bit different, America probably would have made it. An air intake filter would have prevented the loss of the engines. Of course this was one of the learning experiences that caused people to adopt them

Wellman threw in the towel on aviation after this, but Vaniman attempted another crossing of the Atlantic the next year in an improved and enlarged version of America named Akron (the first airship manufactured by Goodyear). Tragically, Akron exploded shortly after launch with the loss of all hands. The Atlantic would not be crossed by air until 1919.

If you are interested in more stuff involving airships, J.C.Carlton has you covered.

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October 16, 2016

Trigger Warning: Banality

Yes, banality lurks below the fold. 

As is traditional here, we atone for this by providing an image of some exotic and atypically proportioned young ladies enjoying the last of the good weather as they relax next to the ocean.

Art by Ebimomo

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October 10, 2016

My Crazy Theory May Have Just Been Debunked

Earlier, I stated that I had a Crazy Theory regarding the election, specifically that the world and economic  situation was so bad that both parties were trying to throw the election so that the other would have to deal with the mess, and thus accrue blame for the inevitable carnage.

That was always dubious as it assumed awareness on the part our political class. Now, thanks to those occasionally useful creeps at Wikileaks, it seems to have been debunked, and another theory, that has been in the back of my mind for some time, has been given credence.

Trump was a tool for Hillary's campaign all along. She wanted the press to take Trump seriously, put him up as the most viable option for Republicans, and the right took the bait, hook, line, and sinker. Now with the Trump campaign burning to the ground, and GOP leaders walking away due to his recent comments, the Clinton campaign's plan to put Hillary on top is coming to fruition.

No word on when Sean Hannity will go back to his pre DNC-hack policy of decrying Assange as a criminal, or when Drudge might cover this electorally relevant story. 

As he might say...Developing.

"This just in. Stupid party is stupid. More at 11."


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It's much worse in the western part of the state, and vastly worse in North Carolina.

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October 09, 2016

Self - Fulfilling Prophecy!?

I note quite ruefully that the busybody teacher who told me to stop eating the Play-Dough was the same teacher who said I'd never be an astronaut.

 My life, derailed by poor career counseling and dietary advice.

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October 08, 2016

Mathew Missed His Turn

ODU is flooded a minimum of a foot deep  and on emergency power. After driving to the dorms other students kicked out of library by power failure I noted cartops just visible above water down the street from the school. It took 2 hrs to get out of Norfolk and had to take interstate long way around. Trees down on interstate. I'm in a Truckstop in Suffolk watching water rise and power flicker.


I need to invest in a dashcam. The things I saw tonight really needed to be filmed. The phone is completely dead. I'm home now after a 4 hour trek to make what is normally a 15 minute trip. The tunnel is apparently flooded, which will make my Monday commute....interesting. The garage is flooded, trees are down all over. Power seems stable for now, but I'm signing off just in case. According to the Weather Channel, Mathew's eyewall is passing overhead (though the eye is 100 miles to the southeast...Mathew is kinda "stretchy"). The worst is supposed to hit around 3:30AM...or about 2 hours from when I typed this.

A couple of very bad pictures of Ghent and ODU

I went to check on my parent's boat this morning. The trip required some detours.

One thing I noted was that many streets that were no longer impassable due to water were nearly impassable due to the large number of no longer submerged cars that had been abandoned.

My parent's boat was OK, but the marina was roughly handled. They had just gotten their boat back in the water after scraping the bottom. This poor fellow...

Standing water remains..

As I type this, the sun seems to be coming out and the wind, while still high is not so bad. 

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October 06, 2016

OK...This is a Cute Use of the Format

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More on the Implications of Mathew's Current Track

Rand Simberg had this to say yesterday. 
But the latest is that it’s still headed right at the Cape, and could even become a five when it hits tomorrow. If that happens, it will probably destroy the VAB, and other facilities, which are only rated for 125 mph winds. It would also probably wipe out much of the infrastructure at CCAFS, which would put both SpaceX and ULA out of business for low-inclination launches until it can be repaired. The only access to ISS (at least with any significant payload — one can dogleg out of Vandenberg, with a big performance penalty) would be from Wallops, via Orbital ATK. Hard to understate what a blow this would be in terms of our space capabilities.  

This is the track as of 8pm tonight.

UPDATE:It's actually worse. Via Scott Lowther comes this:
Kennedy’s Orbiter Processing Facilities are rated to withstand sustained winds of 105 mph. The Vehicle Assembly Building and launchpads hold together up until about 115 mph, while newer buildings constructed after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 are designed to weather 130 mph winds.

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Go Home Mathew. You're Drunk!

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October 05, 2016

What a Difference a Day Makes

It looks like the Floridians and the Bahamians are in for a rough couple of days.

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The Correct Response to the Visionless Chucklehead Mentioned in the Previous Post

Two of the Brickmuppet's Crack Team of Science Babes have thoughts on the implications of this test and how it might  benefit humanity.

"Mass access to space is almost here!"
"Rocket powered dildos!"

Well....we'll focus on just one of those implications as we are ill-equipped to opine on the other.
The booster was not expected to survive, but was sufficiently overbuilt that it did. This indicates a very good design margin. While this system is intended for tourist flights, and strictly suborbital, it is a proof of concept rig and is intended to scale to fully orbital systems. New Glenn is the name Bezos has given to the larger members of this rocket family. 

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It's Time to Have a Little Talk With HR

Scott Lowther notes another scolderiffic luddite pantywaist killjoy douche-mongler who is all upset about Elon Musks rather ambitious Mars plan. The piece is a sad commentary on our culture but would not really be worth noting were it not for one tidbit that Mr. Lowther turned up about this Calvinistic sourpuss who thinks that the ideal model for society is a pot of crabs. 

• Manager of Communications , NASA Astrobiology  Program, Jan. 2007 – present.
• Communication  research, planning,  and  analysis, NASA Planetary Protection Office, Sept. 2002 – 2006.
•  Director of Communications , SPACEHAB, Inc., Washington,  D.C., Sept. 1999 – Aug. 2002 .
• Chancellor’s Fellow  (1996 – 97, Knight  Fellow  (1997 – 99) , Indiana U. School  of Journalism.
• Director of Science Communication,  Life Sciences Division,  NASA HQ, Oct. 1994 – Aug.  1996.
• Manager of education  and  out reach, exploration office, NASA HQ, Dec. 1993 – Oct. 1994 .
• Senior editor/analyst, BDM International, April 1990 – December 1993.
• Editor, Lockheed Engineering & Sciences Co., July 1988 – April 1990.
• Senior editor for space, Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine, December 1985 – July 1988.
• Public affairs officer, National Commission on  Space, Sept. – Dec. 1985.
• Consultant, National Science Foundation, August – September 1985 .
• Editor, Space Business News, June  1983 – August 1985.  

"So...she's diametrically opposed to the Raison d ' être 
of the organization, and is more generally an enemy of reason. 
Why is NASA paying this person?"

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October 04, 2016

Been Securing The Yard

...also buying water. If this thing goes down to cat 2 as currently forecast 
we'll probably be OK with regards to wind, but the thing will still be carrying a category 4 surge. A lot will depend on how fast it moves, when it hits and of course, exactly where it makes landfall. This is a big and reportedly very wet storm. We are reasonably prepared for this this down here, however, the northeast, which was roughly handled by Sandy 4 years ago, may be in for another bad time. 

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October 03, 2016

Just Another Day in the Mojave

A nicely done FALLOUT fan film.

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Gir Brings Us News Befitting a Monday

Foreign Policy has more on the simmering water conflict between India and Pakistan. Pakistan is threatening to use nuclear weapons on India in response to an Indian raid that killed numerous Jihadists which the Pakistani's claim to have nothing to do with. India is still pondering a redirection of the Indus river and now China  is threatening India over an Indian state that China claims under the principle that if Chinese pottery has been found by archeologists...that region is part of China. this has been going on for a while, Foreign Policy points out that China is looking at cutting off the Brahmaputra ...which would be rather more challenging than closing the flow gates on the Indus but would screw India good.

More history than news now and not representing any direct threat, this story is,, nevertheless, sufficiently horrifying to be included in a Monday news dump.
 Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton turned away a high-ranking Chinese defector who sought political asylum after the communist police chief sought refuge in a U.S. consulate in southwestern China four years ago. 
That is sickening. What could possibly be worse than....OH MY GOD! Fortunately we have another option hopefully with the perspective and maturity to...Oh for frack's sake

I started to type something very terrifying in this space, but upon tracking down the source for the story, all references to it led back to Zero Hedge. Whew!

The USGS is taking the unusual step of issuing an advisory, that the chances of a major earthquake in Souther California is much greater over the next few days.  Note that the San Andreas isn't the only potentially aggravating geological feature within 10 miles of these quakes. 

Oh yes. This.

Realizing that their exploding phones are unlikely to get iPhone or Blackberry users, Samsung is making an effort to get the rest of us with exploding washing machines. I guess Whirlpool was the correct choice!

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October 02, 2016

Three Weeks to Go.....UPDATED

Here's the first full length trailer for RWBY Season 4. It first aired at RTX in July and low quality phone cam pirates have been making the rounds since then, so it's a little disappointing that this has no additional footage after all the hype.

Still, it is very impressive in a lot of ways and unlike the fuzzy pirate versions, this gives a very good idea of just how much the production values have improved. Like seasons 2 and three this is a major leap the animation quality of the previous volume.

It's gorgeous, but the choreography is off. Monty Oum went to great lengths to make his fight sequences at least appear to be obeying some laws of physics. Inhumanely dramatic changes in momentum generally had some rationale, either they were the result of recoil, rocket boost, using leverage to redirect momentum or acknowledged wire work as with Blake's kusurigama inspired weapon. In this vid Ruby might as well be supergirl. That sense of movement and mass, and the implication of extreme skill is not present. In any of the "hang-time" movements (though the combat on the ground is pretty satisfactory in that regard). Monty Oum was truly a singular talent, and it is understandable that his sucsessors will go there own way, but this is the thing that stood out from this video...that and the fact that Ruby and Blake's new outfits are REALLY cool.

I also liked the  attention to detail with Nora and Ren's hair, which gives a good sense of the passage of time and the little system status icon "Local Area Only" which is a nice reference to the communications situation in the wake of the events at the end of season 3. 

Of course production values can be bought. The question is whether the story is any good. I'm hopeful. The last season ended rather jarringly and turned off many people but it was quite effective at surprising it's audience.  I found it to be quite pongniant and have been looking forward to the continuation.

With 19 days to go, it is probably time to review the current status of characters that underwent major changes at the end of last season.

UPDATE: OK...spoiler tag is not working, so the overview of major character developments goes below the fold. Note that sentence, which is an indicator of SPOILERS!

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September 29, 2016

Meanwhile, In Kashmir

India hits back with bullets and bayonets, rather than the 'spicket'.

Indian officials said elite troops crossed into Pakistan-ruled Kashmir on Thursday and killed suspected militants preparing to infiltrate and carry out attacks on major cities, in a surprise raid that raised tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals.

It appears though, that the 'spicket' option, is still on the table.

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September 28, 2016

"But Ponder THIS..."

"...you can call ME Dear Sweet Oni-Chan without it technically being creepy."

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Questions for Tech People

I saw this on Instapundit and immediately thought of the Battle of Midway, the Verona transcripts and Bletchley Park.

The language follows step-by-step, logically, and can be tested just like a mathematical proof. So why is this formal verification essentially hack-proof? Because most hacks are made by exploiting bugs and errors in code. Code that’s gone through this process, with this approach, is supposed to be bug-proof. So there are no holes for hackers to exploit, because the code just works.  
Emphasis mine.

In your professional opinion, how applicable (as a practical matter) would this be to the IT industry in general?
Do any of the IT people reading this blog think that the "Internet of Things" is a cracking good idea which will provide benefits far surpassing its potential security risks and bot-farm potential?
Would it be a good idea or a waste of time to make a class or 2 in code mandatory in highschool? If so what language would you reccomend? Does it matter that much? 
Turning over the internet to ICANN: discuss. 

Why is Minx not listed here?

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September 27, 2016

Keeping Informed


India and Pakistan are having a tiff.

At least 18 soldiers were killed in a terror attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18. All four terrorists, who attacked the camp, were killed.

This did not occur in a vacuum.. 

Pakistan's defense minister, last week decided this an oppertune moment to clarify Pakistan's stance.

Amidst growing tension over Uri attack by Pakistani terrorists on Sunday, a video of the country’s Defence Minister Khawaja M Asif threatening to use nuclear weapon against India is doing the rounds on social media. The video shows the Pakistani defence minister telling Geo News: "If Pakistan’s security is threatened, we will not hesitate in using tactical (nuclear) weapons.”  

And patience is running thin in India which has decided that they need to take action.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a fiery speech in Kerala where he blamed Pakistan for exporting global terrorism has now called for a briefing on the Indus Waters Treaty. 


One of the suggestions is to turn off the Indus river tap that waters much of Pakistan

Oh Dear. 

India and Pakistan have a bit over 100 nukes each. 


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September 26, 2016

Re-Zero Ends

So...I guess there won't be a sequel, huh?

Oh but there was SO much more to Re: Zero than a very touching love story. This series was one that hooked me early on and I was quite optimistic about it. That optimism was not misplaced. 

This is absolutely one of the most emotionally engaging shows in any medium I've encountered in years. It frequently accomplishes this in a most unusual way (by grabbing ones emotions by the throat, beating them upside the head with some rebar and then staking those concussed and bleeding emotions to a fire ant hill). Yes, this show is quite hard to watch at times, but is extraordinarily well paced and well thought out. Its tone and themes remind me of Ellison's Delusion for a Dragon Slayer, in that the protagonist start's out a person of, at best, mediocre character and quite unfit for what he must face. Unlike that tale however, this is a story about redemption and the fact that we can change. Subaru, the hero, is a really interesting character who learns from his numerous and painful mistakes. He comes to confront his myriad failings and change what he can, and work around those failings he cannot. 

Strong women are not a novelty in this day and age, but the heroines (and villainesses) in this show are some of the best, most realistically portrayed in any fantasy series. They are written and talk like actual. umm, women,  Emillia, for instance, is quite the awesome and noble character.

And it was nice to be reminded that she can righteously kick ass. 

She also comes off as a real woman despite a remarkably limited time onscreen. At one point she saves Subaru's butt for approximately the umpteenth time and he apologizes for thus imposing on her. She replies that an apology is unnecessary...but a "Thank you." would be appreciated. Exchanges like that, actual things that actual humans might actually say, really make this show. 

Re: Zero is heartbreaking and terrifying at times, far more so than one would expect given the show's central conceit, but the fact that they can pull that off is a remarkable achievement.  Any show can be grim and gritty, but this show uses the horror as a way to move the characters forward and contrast to the show's highs. The writers here do so masterfully. 

The show has a bit to say about the nature of love and its complexity including its selfish component, and how pride can toxify anything. The show also deals with the more painful sides of love such as loss.

Re:ZERO Starting Life in Another World is a superbly engineered emotional rollercoaster that may cause nausea and night-sweats, but unlike most rollercoasters, which take you back to where you started, this is a terrifyingly thrilling journey to a much better place

 While there are some unresolved plot threads, the ending is perfectly satisfying as is. If they decide to do more I'll definitely be watching it. 

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September 25, 2016

A Retraction

In 2009, Brickmuppet Blog joined with others in not speaking ill of the dead. While the sentiments expressed in that post are ones we are generally in broad agreement with and are the foundation of civilized civics; in this specific instance and in retrospect, their expression seems to have been an embarrassingly ill-informed decision for which we at Brickmuppet Blog most sincerely apologize.

 Kennedy’s message was simple. He proposed an unabashed quid pro quo. Kennedy would lend Andropov a hand in dealing with President Reagan. In return, the Soviet leader would lend the Democratic Party a hand in challenging Reagan in the 1984 presidential election. "The only real potential threats to Reagan are problems of war and peace and Soviet-American relations,” the memorandum stated. "These issues, according to the senator, will without a doubt become the most important of the election campaign.”
 Kennedy made Andropov a couple of specific offers... 

Do read the whole thing....because this historical anecdote does have some relevance today. 

'Representatives of America's  biggest media companies' haven't actually gotten worse in recent years, their mask has merely slipped.

Forbes article via.

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