Printers

I recently had to factory reset my WiFi printer, an HL2270dw.

Now, this printer does not have a screen or keyboard; so you cannot reconnect to WiFi without involving a computer.

I guess this is not altogether unreasonable as a printer isn’t much use without a computer anyway.

So, I plugged it into the (Ethernet) switch… no link

I’ve never tried to use the Ethernet on this printer before so I suppose it could’ve been broken for years without my knowing of it.

I turn to Google. A USB cable can be used temporarily to set up WiFi using a manufacturer provided wizard.

Easy?

Ha.

Error1.jpeg

Ok then….. of course this error is not documented anywhere.

I run the setup tool a second time.

“To continue installing your printer, you  must reboot now.”

Well, this is going well…

shutdown /r /t 00

Connect USB

At this point, I did obviously, plug in the USB cable

No dice.

Wait.

Wait.

Wait.

Nothing.

Fire up procexp (Yes, I am a nerd…) no sign of any activity. The dirty rotten swine is deaded already.

Repeat for what feels like 200 times.

Finally, it works.

Now, having factory resetted (resat?) it, I have to go into the 90s web menu and set everything up again.

I chanced upon this gem.

Now remember, everything is at factory default.

WhatsApp Image 2017-08-05 at 7.48.25 PM

This is not a joke. Out of the box, the Ethernet is switched off, and the WiFi on.

WHY ON EARTH WOULD ANYONE EVER DO THAT?

It’s difficult bordering on impossible to automatically connect to WiFi! Hence the dual security nightmares SoHo gateway manufacturers have visited upon us.

But, except in certain rare cases mainly confined to huge corporations, Ethernet is plug-and-play.

Why on earth isn’t Auto Switching (Enable Both Interfaces) the default?

FUB

bomb

Desire and the perfect phone

This is a twittish, Vox-dot-commy article which accidentally hits on something profound.

There is a lot of talk, especially on those sorts of self-help feel-good nonsense programs that tend to air on PBS during Pledge Drive—Daniel Dennet referred to that genre as “deepity”—of the importance of fulfilment.

But on the contrary, fulfilment would be a kind of self-extinguishment.

When you were a child, or if you cannot remember think of children you have observed, do you recall how you would always ask for something? If you asked mother for milk, and she gave you milk you would ask for a cookie. When you got the cookie, you would ask for a banana, and when you got that a piece of cake and so on until she would not give you any more things.

Or perhaps, especially as you were older, The Toy. A TV ad told you that you wanted it and you obeyed. But if you got it, when you got it, it never satisfied.

What is going on here? How can it be that The Toy which seemed the-most-important-thing-in-the-world to get (this was before puberty, mind) could amount to so little? Played with a while and then abandoned.

In Girls, its often ponies.

When you get to be my age its often sexual, a specific act or a specific person. And then you get it, or him and somehow it’s just not like in the movies where the music swells and the camera swoons and the light changes and….

But the advantage to Ponies is that virtually nobody gets a pony. And so, the Desire for the pony may be held indefinitely, or at least until there begins the mania for boys (or girls). In this we begin to see how it works.

Desire is connected to lack. In Continental philosophy Lack (manque) is often spoken of in terms of “that which is beyond the demesne of language”, in other words the impossible unspeakable thing which cannot be put into words which cannot be imagined (for we only can imagine in language) and which cannot be properly experienced.

We never desire something. We desire to desire. In other words, we desire desire itself. The fantasy is more important than the thing fantasized for to obtain the thing (the fantasand?) extinguishes the lack and kills the fantasy.

We can see how this works in the film Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. In the movie, an unexplained event, possibly aliens, created a place called The Zone in which there is found a building with a Room. Those who enter the room receive their hearts innermost desire. They are, “fulfilled” in a way that is a Deeptyists wet dream. It would seem that here is the solution to all mankind’s problems, but to enter the Zone is illegal and attempted only by the desperate. The film focuses on two such desperates, lead through the Zone by a guide, the titular Stalker.

Yet… at the threshold of the room the characters hesitate.

05-At-the-very-end-of-their-quest-Stalker-Writer-and-Professor-hestate-on-the-very-threshold-of-The-Room.

There are lots of ways to analyze this. The film suggests one: they receive what they desire, not what they ask for. What they think that they desire may not be what they wish to think it to be. This is another dimension of Desire which could be a whole post to itself.

The unnamed Stalker mentions a cautionary tale of another Stalker named Porcupine whose brother died and so he broke the cardinal article of Stalker ethics and ventured into the room himself. When he got home his brother was still dead but he had won the lottery.

He hanged himself.

But another way, a subtler way is to understand what a total leap into oblivion it would be to fulfill desire, to no longer lack.

Necessity is the mother of invention, hunger was the father of agriculture and from pain was birthed medicine and on the most fundamental level it is from this Lack that springs all of civilization and identity and all that it means “To Be Human.” To relinquish Lack is to relinquish Humanity and enter the domain of That Which Cannot be Said.

It truly would be unimaginable terror.

The Entirety of Western Economics is based on this. We Lack, so we buy. We buy ostensibly to fill the lack, but in reality, to highlight the lack. We buy to use up, to discard, to move on in the never-ending cycle of masturbatory consumption.

In the eerily prophetic movie Network, written by Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet, Howard Beal—mad prophet of the airwaves—is summoned before Mister Jensen, boss of bosses to receive a new message for the masses. Here is the relevant part of the famous “The World is a Business” speech, embedded in full below.

Jensen: The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality — one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock, all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel.

Beale: But why me?

Jensen: Because you’re on television, dummy.

But what a catastrophe this would be! No wonder Mr. Jensen’s message goes over like a lead balloon and the ratings begin to fall off (leading to one of the most perversely funny endings of any movie ever.)

Therefore, there must not be a perfect smartphone, for if there were it would be a catastrophe.

France Insoumise

In recent years, smaller parties such as « France Insoumise » [Roughly, ‘France Undefeated*’] have argued that declining voter turnout represents a rejection by the French of the present ‘5th Republic’ and that there must be a constitutional convention to sketch out the ‘6th.’ It’s difficult to argue that they don’t have a point.

On Sunday, France saw the lowest turnout since the sixties of only 75.30% (The current election system dates to 1965.)

I’m envious.

In the last election, U.S. turnout was a measly 55.5%; this is fairly average for the last two centuries, sadly. Clearly, change is needed.

In recent discussions I have detected no appetite for structural change, only a short-term “stopping of Trump.” But let’s look at the big picture so we don’t have this problem again in 4-8 years.

I know that some of my friends may disagree that Trump needs to be stopped but lay that aside for a moment and ask yourself, why did you vote for Trump? Because of structural rot in the system. Because the government was captivated by interest groups and not responsive to your needs. But if we do not address the structural rot that leads to depressing choices that make people not show up this will not even seem significant compared to what is to come.

We must…

  • Switch to ‘ranked preference voting’ for the Executive Offices, including the presidency (AKA ‘Instant Runoff Voting,’ this was recently adopted in Maine and there are videos on the internet which explain how the “instant runoff” works.)
  • Switch to mixed-member-proportional voting for state and House elections. (This is used in New Zealand and there’s a video from the NZ Electoral Commission which explains this very well.)
  • Return to an appointed federal Senate and do away with state Senates.
  • Make voting mandatory and do away with ‘voter registration,’ instead people will be automatically registered on a time-delay when they file for Social Security (I.E. at birth.)
  • Ban legislature controlled redistricting and switch to mathematically defined redistricting such as “Shortest Split Line Method.” (The Left often overstates the degree to which gerrymandering skews elections, but it nonetheless occurs and it is repugnant.) And finally….. the BIG one….
  • Term limits! Presidency: 1 6-year term, no reelection. Senate: 2 8-year terms. House: 3 4-year terms. Supreme Court: 10 years.

* A lot of newspapers are rendering it “France Indomitable,” mainly because it begins with “I,” but that’s wrong that’d be « France Indomptable » . If we wanted to be puckish we could also translate it as “Contumacious France…” 😉

Aaron Hernandez

Several posts I have seen suggest that Aaron Hernandez did away with himself in an esoteric legal maneuver to ensure that his daughter inherits money. This not legally correct. And it’s a huge DISTRACTION from what is really important here.

The theories hinge on a legal doctrine called ‘abatement ab initiatio’ which destroys the conviction of someone who dies while on an appeal. While this doctrine might come into play in this case it has no real relevance to the final outcome.

The first version of the theory has Hernandez reinstated in his NFL contract. This won’t happen, he wasn’t sent down because of his conviction, but because of his arrest. In fact, even if he was found not-guilty he still wouldn’t have been reinstated. Is this unfair? Yes. Is this legal? Unfortunately. Also, it can happen to you.

The other version of the theory has Hernandez seeking to protect his estate from the victims’ lawyers. This is just inaccurate. One of the most important legal rules in—not just the Constitution—but also Common law in general is the rule against ‘double jeopardy’ which means that you cannot be tried twice on the same case, except in cases of mistrial.

As with many fundamental civil and legal rights this has been eroded to the point of meaninglessness by cupidity and electioneering. Even if you are outright acquitted, expect to find yourself in civil court for the same thing. The legal standard is very low in civil court, so there is a greater likelihood of the complainant succeeding. (Particularly if you have a sizable bank account, but yes this can happen to you too.)

Even though Hernandez is dead, it is possible to bring civil claims against an Estate for ‘wrongful death.’

The reason I am writing this is not to pick picayune legal disputes but to point to two things:

  • SUICIDE DOES NOT FIX PROBLEMS! Call 1-800-273-8255 for confidential help that does.
  • The American prison system is evil, it does not serve justice, but compounds injustice by creating more wrongs.

Most analyses of the American prison-industrial complex focus on mass overincarceration, especially of blacks. And that’s true, many people in prison are innocent, ‘guilty’ of offences which shouldn’t be offences or guilty of trivial offenses which shouldn’t EVER result in incarceration but there is another problem: American prisons and jails are charnel houses. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse is widespread. Gangs and other criminal enterprises operate openly. Foreign embassies warn their citizens who intend to visit the U.S. against them. Prison reform, both in the administration of prisons and in who is sent to them is desperately needed.

Remember that society is judged by how it treats the least among its ranks. And who could be lesser than those we have chosen to keep under lock and key?

This is enabled by the greatest cancer of American social thinking: If someone slips at the stop of the stairs, we don’t grab their hand to steady them: we shove—hard—and then mozy down to the bottom and spit on them, hating them for falling. This is true not just in criminal ‘justice’ but in the economy. Oh, you fell and broke your spine? Well, you shouldn’t have done that. Just stop being poor already. I digress, but not much.

Now, the point here is not whether or not Hernandez is even guilty, after all murder isn’t ‘slipping’ as much as it is jumping over a cliff, morally speaking. The point is that we have ceased to view prisoners and convicts as human beings. We are devoid of moral feeling towards them. We have chosen to ignore them and to refuse to look at these problems.

The social photographer Jacob Riis documented in pictures the horrors of ‘How the Other Half Lives‘ in his 1890 book of the same name. It shocked the imagination of polite society. This problem was huge, but kept out of sight and so out of mind and so out of remedy. But we have gone back to this, or perhaps never left it.

When Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of Heroin use suddenly it was on the front-page of all the Newspapers. Before him, hundreds and thousands of faceless, nameless little people died and we did not care.

The opioid crisis was not and is not new. But one celebrity was all it took…

….all it took to bring about a lot of hand-wringing, protestations of helplessness by officials and by the media and water-cooler “awareness” and a few band-aids such as naloxone with absolutely none of the radical and possibly effectual action.

Will that not yet be the case again here? If that? I am concerned that the U.S. is careening towards state failure.

We have entered into an atmosphere of faux-helplessness: we talk non-stop about huge social problems but even when what is necessary to do is very clear we cannot do it. When it is unclear what to do we are unwilling to try things until we find something that works. Our political system is not capable of functioning. And even more scarily I do not see a path to restoring that capability. We have lost the ability to imagine.

Atoms and void

After the mesmerising meltdown that just took place, in a normal country the cabinet would resign and we would have new elections…. in the U.S…. somehow the Government is expected to just go on despite both the Executive or the Legislative Branch being stripped entirely of any credibility. (And what’s left of the Judiciary’s credibility is being put through a wood-chipper with the Gorsuch hearings.)

Perhaps it is misleading to say “go on” for that would imply that the government has been going on and can continue but there is nothing to continue. Democritus said, “By convention hot, by convention cold yet in reality Atoms and Void” Somehow we seem to have left the atoms out and all that remains is Void.

Democritus was called the “laughing philosopher” for he laughed at the folly of man. By the way, don’t think I’m letting the Left off the hook either: where are the Democrat’s ideas? They’re gloating about the demise of a bill, this would be unseemly except that they had nothing to do with it—the bill collapsed entirely on its own. Gloating isn’t in this case so much ‘unseemly’ as ‘delirious.’

What the Democrats should have done is had a new bill ready to go! Nothing dramatic, just a ‘fix’ bill. Let’s not B.S. ourselves, there are serious problems with the ACA. But, some of them can be fixed! As soon as the GOP bill collapsed (and its collapse could be seen a mile off) they should have produced their own “ACA Amendment” act to fix some of the problems with the law,

“Well,” in some parallel universe I imagine Pelosi and Schumer saying, “that didn’t work, but fortunately we have a backup.” Unfortunately, we don’t live in that harmonious universe. In some but not all states, the ACA exchanges are collapsing. There is real danger that some states will have the dreaded and heretofore somewhat mythic “insurance death spiral.”

This is in part because “you know who” knocked out several of the key risk abatement mechanisms of the act, out of pique, but nobody is telling that to the people who are seeing double-digit premium increases for exchange plans. All they see is “Obamacare is Bankrupting me.” And for that they blame Democrats.

By having no plan, Democrats missed a GOLDEN opportunity to force the house GOP to trod on those people’s valid concerns by refusing to move or by voting down the putative ‘fix bill.’

If Democrats want to win they have to RESPECTFULLY show the people who voted for Trump, erroneously, due to legitimate grievances that they can help and the GOP cannot. But Democrats are not talking to those people at all. Democrats honestly almost seem as if they don’t want to win any more.

Political cults (Donald Trump wins IV)

A person of outright and obviously immoral character has been elected president. This has been done legitimately, according to the rules and without tampering. Furthermore, this person is simply not fit to conduct an effective presidency. He does not have the experience, temperament or wisdom.

These defects of Mr. Trump were obvious, nobody can claim to be surprised by them, unlike was the case with, say Nixon. But Donald Trump is not a normal politician: rather he is the leader of something which resembles a political cult. And as is always the case when we are dealing with cults, it is necessary to build ‘off ramps’ so that his supporters can make an exit. At what time should we do this? Immediately.

When people are entranced by a person or thing which is actually quite bad they often are immune to reality for a time, but eventually the shine wears off. They then go through a period of internal and external defensiveness. Eventually, they will deescalate their emotional investment until they leave the fold.

If you will excuse a facile, even cheeky example this pattern has recently been observed with products made by a certain fruit company.

But back to seriousness. It is imperative to accelerate the de-escalation of emotional investment because primaries are coming up: all the House and 1/3rd of the Senate in two years. If people bristle in anger and blame and use destructive negative rhetoric (such as the obsession with trying to get the newspapers to use the word ‘lie’ and smearing all people who voted for Trump as bigots, etc) then the de-escalation will not take place.

Applying deviance-labels to people who have erred does nothing to improve or even meaningfully explain their behavior. It’s important to remember that nobody ever considers themselves to be in a cult. Experts who study cults say that one of the main reasons why people remain in cults, even after extreme behavior such as violence occurs, is that the cost of exiting is rejection and not just by coreligionists.

Cult members fear being scorned, called stupid or deemed mentally ill by the ‘outside world.’ However, how do I justify my terming of Trumpism as cult-like?

  • Cults target alienated people who have suffered some sense of loss or dislocation. * The cult then provides simple, albeit false, answers to complex (or imaginary) problems.
  • Cults subtly discourage critical thought.
  • Cults are hugely oriented towards a single person, only he knows the secrets of the world.
  • Cults seek to distort the victims’ understanding of reality with alternative facts.
  • Cults are isolating, they keep their victims’ in filter-bubbles.
  • Cults avoid individualistic expression. They speak of ‘we.’ This is because…
  • Cults are very often marked by a distinct “us” and “them” mentality. Cults tend to have an enemy.
  • Cults devalue the intellect of others without rational basis. Foes are ‘failing piles of garbage.’ A cult usually does not attempt to disprove evidence but to reject it out of hand.
  • Cults are obsessed with symbolism and pageantry.
  • Cults exhibit outwardly-directed negative emotions such as fear, hate and anger.

It should be apparent how these features apply to Trumpism.

As for the broader question of how our political system became amenable to cultish behavior, let us realize that our world has changed very rapidly.

If we look back to the world at the end of the 19th century, we see massive political, cultural and economic change due to the transition from a largely agrarian and rural to largely industrialized and urban lifestyle. This came to be known as the fin de siècle and it was marked by uncertainty, fear, malaise and pessimism as well as a rejection of rationalism and Enlightenment thinking. This perfectly set the stage for fascism. It’s also eerily familiar, no? Perhaps future historians will speak of “début de siècle.”

Now, Donald Trump is not a fascist. I know that this phrase has been bandied about and I am guilty of having carelessly used it myself. Defining “fascist” is notoriously slippery, but to my mind the core distinction between fascism and authoritarianism is the emotional investiture in the state as the embodiment of national glory and the agent of her millennial destiny. So far, this is not present. The bad news is that these elements are pretty easy to get to from where Mr. Trump is standing. The even worse news is that this is not important. It’s not actionable.

The real problem is not just that Mr. Trump is evil, but that he is IRRATIONALLY evil. It is not possible to accurately predict how he will behave.

As you may know, a huge scandal has erupted in South Korea. It has been revealed that the President, Park Geun Hye was under the thrall of a shaman-like figure who has apparently influenced government policy and has allegedly used her closeness to the President to shake down companies for “donations.” There are also other, wilder allegations.

I read an article which asserted that what truly galled Koreans was not the corruption, it is endemic and something to which they are to a degree inured but the irrationality of the corruption. Koreans realized that they could no longer dismiss allegations and rumors as “too absurd” because nothing now is too absurd. Likely, many of the hurricane of innuendos to consume the Blue House are exaggerated or false, but the comforting basis of “no rational person would…” has been swept away. There is no suggestion that Mr. Trump has fallen in with anything quite like this. (Though, upon even brief examination the religious ideology of Betsy De Vos is… terrifying.) But there is no questioning that we cannot ever dismiss anything Donald Trump threatens to do, tweets about or is rumored to be going to do with a sentence which begins “no rational person would…”

Chaos Reigns.

Consider just one small part this. Can we say “no rational person would ignore an order of the Supreme Court.” Can this sentence apply to Mr. Trump? If not, and if eventually we come to this point what happens? A Constitutional Crisis is more at this point a question of ‘what will trigger it and when and how bad?’ and not ‘will it take place?’

The Republic is at risk. This is why it is so important that we off-ramp Trumpists because we will need their help in two years. It is likely that many congressional Republicans are going along with Trumpism because they saw which way their district went and are afraid of losing their seats. Until that changes, Mr. Trump bears no credible threat of impeachment, defunding* or blocking. He knows this.

We do not need a blue-wave to put a firewall on Trump, we just need off-ramping. We just need to shift the political calculus so that Republicans find it politically advantageous to stand up to Trump.

– – – –

* Congress’ supremacy in taxation, borrowing and spending is the key. Not only can Congress refuse to authorize borrowing or taxing to fund projects, it can frustrate the president from rearranging the existing budget by passing a law prohibiting the expenditure of “appropriated funds” on anything it doesn’t want the Executive branch to do.

Donald Trump wins III

Let’s be careful not to fall into hermeneutic interpretation of simple facts. Or, to put it another way…. let’s not B.S. ourselves. Donald Trump is a bigot. Moreover, and perhaps worse, Mike Pence is a mega-Mega-MEGA bigot.

Given Trump’s vagary, Pence may be the ‘power behind the throne’ like Cheney. Some people have wishfully said, ‘Maybe Trump will get bored and quit?’ That might not be an improvement. In the new congressional majority too there are many people who are, let us say, not so nice.

MANY people looked at Trump and saw a chance to take back their country… to the fifties. That is why so many people, including myself, are deeply frightened at Trump’s win. We have suddenly realized that this particular problem was much bigger than we thought (or, returning to the fist post in this series that it is as big as we disavowed knowing but to some degree knew nonetheless.)

When people chant “Jew-S-A” at Trump rallies and when the KKK and other white-supremacist organizations can hardly contain their glee at his ascension, in these cases no further analysis is necessary or possible.

Again, let’s not B.S. ourselves or try to say things like “they don’t know what they’re saying” or “they’re just burning off steam.” That’s crap. Take them at their revanchist word.

However in other cases there is a reason to be nuanced. I think that there are three basic types of Trump voter. In addition to those ‘a priori’ bigots there are the desperate and the ‘adjunctive’ racists.

Many people said “My and my friends’ standard of living has cratered. Our children’s will surely be lower still or they might drown in a sea of heroin and fentanyl. Our town/city will never recover. I am desperate and I’ve had it with trickle-down economics, political correctness and arrogant elites. How do these things help anyone, let alone our children?”

Also for these people do not miss the importance of Clinton’s closeness to Wall Street.

Another important fact is that in the key “flip” states many of them are actually lifelong Democrats. They voted for Trump, not with malice but out of reckless desperation. “This,”—I am sure many thought—”is our one and only chance.”

In voting for Trump on this basis (or by refraining from voting or by voting third-party which is basically the same thing) did these people act with lack of empathy for and perhaps disregard for minorities? Yes. Is this the U.S.A at its finest? No.

However, in two years there is a midterm and it is of paramount importance that we zero in on the parts of that logic we can work with and ignore the parts we can’t, for now anyway. We must be able to credibly say “We can help you and your children.” We must make the case (and then we must actually do it, ‘natch.) They did not believe that Clinton could help them or would. And I think that they were right. They are wrong that Trump can help them but that must be a part of our case.

Here is a quotation from a November 10 Reuters piece by Peter Eisler. The dateline is Bethlehem, PA.

[Jim] McAndrew, 69, a retired steel worker, voted Democrat in every presidential election for half a century. This year he stayed home… [He] was intrigued by Trump, but decided eventually that “all he does is insult everybody … women, black people, white people, rich, poor. He’s an idiot.” He considered Clinton, but was concerned by the scandal over her handling of classified material on a private email server as secretary of state. “I hated both of them, so I just said, ‘the hell with it,’” McAndrew said. His wife, also a life- long Democrat, went to the polls without him—and voted Republican. “First time ever,” he said.

The title of the article? “How Hillary Clinton’s white voters melted away.” Notice how this man specifically identified disparagement of black people and women as a reason to not vote for Trump. His response to this situation was not perfect, but there is reason for hope. To denounce these people and shout “bigot!” is counterproductive.

The third group voted for Trump because of adjunctive racism. The difference between this and a priori racism is that this racism emanates from something identifiable. It’s basically superstition, an incorrect explanation for something which is real. “Mexicans took my job.” “Blacks come into my town and deal drugs.” You know the drill.

They lashed out in anger because they perceived themselves as victims (and they may have a point about that) but blamed the wrong victimizers. This can be dealt with in basically the same way. If we point to the real facts and make credible promises to ameliorate the social ills, the racism will be abandoned as it will no longer seem attractive.

Deprive racism of an argument and it won’t give even false explanations for anything. We need well-founded, unhostile counter-arguments that focus on the factual inaccuracy of the logical linkage and which leave the valence of the racial disparagement for later.

I use the term “adjunctive racism” not “adjunctive bigotry” because 99% of this is wrapped up in nativism. However to the extent that it applies to other categories of bias then mutatis mutandis the same solution may also apply.

(But obviously, some of Trump’s supporters are dangerous. Violence has entered into our public discourse in a way that is quite scary. Emotions have exploded out of control. So be smart about who you talk to and how.)

Donald Trump wins II

In the thirty years since the fall of Communism, we have lived in an intellectual famine. Basically, the left and right stopped developing, frozen like insects in amber. Our politics became consumed with Manichean zero-sum fables.

‘There is no Alternative,’ Margret Thatcher said, “T.I.N.A.” We came to agree with her. The right-wing historian Francis Fukuyama termed it “The End of History.”

Have you noticed how even a supposedly socialist candidate did not call for the abolition of property of markets and of normal buying and selling? That’s not socialism. It’s not even fabianism.

But the politics of fear which defined that era did not go away, rather than fear the Reds, we came to fear each other. This fear sank in and stained our minds.

I have a troubled and uneasy relationship with the American left which to me seems to have lost its teeth and mind and to have settled for a sort of economic-neoliberalism with fuzzy-edges and a penumbra of weak, arrogant thinking. Liberalism is like a cheap suit, it fits me—but poorly. It always sucks being more catholic than the pope.

The Internet and the modern media landscape have made it so easy, so natural to find only those who we agree with and to see only the information which confirms our biases.

The Left is very good at diagnosing this problem in others (Fox ‘news’, Brietbart) but cannot diagnose it in itself.

In 1972, Paulene Kael delivered a speech to the Modern Language Association in which she famously said “I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don’t know. They’re outside my ken. But sometimes when I’m in a theater I can feel them.” Far too many of us live in Kael’s “rather special world.”

This is a part of what went wrong.

This election reveals that the Left has utterly failed to convince people of certain things that we thought were at least the grudging consensus.

Presented with the “establishment-Left” candidate nonpariel, 58+ million people rejected capitalism-lite and more than 90 million thought the whole matter so insipid that they did not bother to vote at all (or they cast pointless ballots for 3rd party candidates.)

Yes, your math is correct: only about 25% of people voted for the man who will become President of 100% of Americans.

“There is no Alternative!” we said. Many agreed and decided to make no choice. But some said “Aha!, You are wrong! The Alternative is Trump!” And we could not answer them because they were technically right.

It seems history did not end, though we may wish it had.

Donald Trump wins I

Donald Rumsfeld (a broken clock is right twice a day, hear this out) famously spoke of the “Known Unknown,” the gap in knowledge which we are aware of and of the particular danger of the “Unknown Unknown,” that which we do not begin to realize that we do not know.

Slovenian postmodernist semi-philosopher (a broken clock is right twice a day, hear this out) Slajov Zizek spoke of the “Unknown Known”, being that which we know but but do not acknowledge knowing. The obscene, dark, Lynchian side of daily life. The hidden practices which are always on the periphery.

The news has been greeted with much popping of monocles and clutching of pearls. I have read many insincere choir-preaching, huffy Gawkery rants. I have read many sincere and humble professions of total shock.

I have heard and read so much that begins “I can’t believe…” But is that really so? Or is it, rather, that we knew but did not know we knew? “I COULD not believe…” or “I DID not believe…” One word, so much difference.

Might it not be the case that we knew far more than we knew?

Hillary Clinton and guns

Someone recently said that they are considering voting for Donald Trump because they fear that Hillary Clinton will take away their guns*.

I respectfully disagree, here is why that is wrong.

To begin with. I am fine with personal gun ownership. I know that this is liberal heresy but I never claimed to be large-L Liberal. Beside, let us look, clear-eyed, at the candidates; if we accept the common definition that conservatives wish to retain the way things are now, or return to earlier ways and liberals wish to try new ways in no meaningful sense is Trump conservative or Clinton liberal. Trump is a radically disrupting, innovative, even deviant force. Clinton is the ultimate status-quo candidate. “Liberalism” and “conservativism” are now dead.

Hillary Clinton will not take guns away because that is legally impossible.

Not even the most contorted reading can get around the fact that the constitution flatly prohibits a total ban on private gun ownership. Aside from the obvious 2nd amendment dimension, in practice a gun ban would involve the 5th amendment (illegal taking) the 14th amendment (ditto) and, vitiated though it is, the 10th amendment (limits on Federal power vs. State power.)

Hillary Clinton will not take guns away because that is politically impossible.

Forty-three percent of Americans own at least one gun according to a Gallup poll. The same poll showed 72% oppose a handgun ban. 56% said an increase in concealed-carry would make the country safer. 58% had a favorable opinion of the NRA. Remember: those people vote.

However, polls (and not just this one) do show considerable support for expanding background checks. That, however, does not constitute taking guns away.

Even barring the overwhelming legal obstacles, gun confiscation is politically suicidal. In addition: while predicting the future in normal years is a guessing-game and in this political year doubly so, I do not think that the GOP will lose the house. Their majority will surely be diluted but they will not likely lose the house because they have the largest majority in modern history.

Probably, Democrats have a chance of retaking the Senate. (Just as districting (the ‘Electoral College’) currently works FOR Democrats in the presidential election, districting currently works AGAINST them in the House. Democrats are largely and heavily concentrated in blue-leaning urban districts. Many of those districts are leaning so-far to the blue side that they’ve fallen and can’t get up. That means remarkable levels of ‘wasted’ votes. Moreover, the GOP controlled the last gerrymandering–excuse me, ‘re-districting’, and naturally distorted the system heavily to their favor**. Therefore: even though in 2014, Democrats won 47% of the vote, excluding minor parties, they won a mere 43% of seats.)

A significant additional reason why the Dems did so poorly in 2014 was that their core voter didn’t turn up. Now, in an election year, with a fabulously unpopular if not downright toxic candidate at the head of the ticket…. don’t hold your breath, especially if it looks like (and it does) that Trump is hurtling toward inevitable defeat.

So, in order to seriously dent gun rights. Clinton would have to win legislation that cannot pass, that would see root-and-branch resistance among a large percentage of the electorate and that would be shot down by the Supreme court. It is more politically probable that the Eritrea will apply to become the 51st state than that significant gun policy changes will occur.

There are three “live-rails” of American politics: Medicare, Social Security and Gun Rights. Even politicians of singular conviction and moral strength cannot touch these.

Speaking of that…. Hillary Clinton is singularly vacuous and lacking in principals, thus it is foolish to imagine that she will actually blow a huge amount of her already meager political capital on something that cannot occur.

Clinton has flippity-flopped on so many issues that it buggers belief. No politician is more nakedly blown here and there by every wind of doctrine. Only the presence of you-know-who prevents me from describing her as the “dada-candidate.”

Trump is the Dada candidate. It’s silly to assume that a candidate who has no rational or coherent policy agenda, may be insane and does not even bother to try to hide his constant policy gyrations would actually support any thing whatsoever. He is a splintered reed. That goes for gun rights as for anything. At this point, if Donald Trump said he was for three square meals a day I would disbelieve him.

*This was before Trump hinted that his followers should assassinate Clinton. However, in political writing you can pick no more than two of currency, sophistication and style.

** In fairness, oh yes Democrats 100% do that too. They just weren’t in a position to do so at the time.

Why did Bernie Sanders’ campaign fail?

Are you sure it failed? Certainly, Sanders has been precluded from being the nominee for a long time but it prevented the no-challenge Clinton coronation that everyone was afraid of. That is not to be sneezed at.

Beside, by out flanking her ideologically he has forced her into the unfortunate position of having as her best argument “I’m not Trump.”

But let’s examine some things that undermined the campaign.

  1. TOO NICE – Sanders was a remarkably civil, high-concept opponent. Not to sound cynical but that doesn’t really work in presidential politics.
  2. THE WORD SOCIALISM — There are two problems with using the word “socialism.” First is the obvious one. It’s just not true.

    Sanders is no socialist, nowhere near it. Nationalization of industry and abolishment of normal buying and selling are central and inseparable to the definition of socialism and both are conspicuously absent from Sander’s agenda. Sanders is a garden variety social democrat (which is a world of difference from “democratic socialist” a term with no accepted prior definition.) This left the unavoidable impression that Sanders was either uninformed or reaching for shock value. Neither is a good look on a presidential candidate.

    The second problem with “socialism” is that it invites false but hard to rebut comparisons to failed states such as Venezuela. What is happening in Venezuela is the inevitable result of the combination of price controls and artificially fixed currency exchange rates which encourage the normally economically irrational practice of buying things in order to export them out of the country. This has very little to do with socialism and the majority of Venezuelan industry is privately owned.

  3. WRONG PHRASING — I cannot say it enough, “income inequality” is a junk concept. To be sure, it’s a real and existential threat to the stability of our civilization in the long-term and when it entails rigging and economic fakery, which is more commonly than imagined, it is morally wrong but the problem lies in how it is termed. “Income inequality” sounds greedy and entitled. You get nowhere with that. Try talking about “dramatic collapse in upward mobility.”

    When you phrase it that way, many Sanders initiatives such as free at the point of use healthcare and higher education sound less like lazy-bum handouts and more like investments in that thing Donald Trump keeps talking about: Making America Great. The tack that Sanders and the left at large are taking is ideologically immoderate and renders cross-aisle support unlikely.

  4. IMPRACTICALITY — You don’t have to have a degree in politics to determine that there is zero chance in hell of Sanders implementing even a single plank of his platform as long as Republicans control the House and/or Senate. More likely than not they will retain the House and Senate. Sanders never articulated any idea as to how he was going to actually implement this. Rather, he embraced what is sometimes termed “whig history” – the idea of historical inevitability of progress towards certain ideas. That is to say, no action was required other than a vague “political revolution.” We all know what happened to the Whigs.
  5. TACTICAL ERROR — I admire the spirit of the comment about “your damn emails” but that was a mistake. We, voters, are obliged to consider the matter. Not necessarily because of alleged illegality per se but because of what pattern of secrecy, contempt for rules and disregard for appearances of propriety they evince.