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I’ve been failing in my blogging duties, I realize. I have good reasons. One of them is a lack of time – it’s been a busy and transitional month at work, and family time has also been busier than usual.

Also, I find I don’t have much to say about the hot button issues I might normally blog about, if only because I’ve already made similar comments elsewhere and I find I’m just repeating myself. Either that or my response just seems so obvious that it doesn’t seem worth the effort to post anything about it.

Burkini bans in France? Stupid and bigoted.

Taco trucks on every corner? Best pro-immigration argument EVER. (I’ll bet good money Marco Gutiérrez wishes he’d used a different example – like “rape trucks” or something.)

Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the national anthem? Good for him because guess what – you get to do that in a free country.

Hillary’s “basket of deplorables”? Apparently it's okay to say what everyone is thinking if yr Trump but not if yr HRC.

Whatever Donald Trump said this week? Of course it’s ludicrous, but what else could I add to it? I’ve already endorsed Hillary Clinton – it’s not like I need additional “evidence” at this stage to prove Trump isn’t qualified to be POTUS.

Okay, there is The Donald’s Birther Reversal, which is about as stunning a display of CHOOTZ-spa as you could ask for in a presidential election. But there’s not a whole lot to say there, since it’s essentially another example of the constantly shifting alternate reality Trump entertains in his head. It takes a special kind of mentality for someone to go on national television and claim he personally solved that mystery for America five years ago, and by the way yr welcome, when he’s actually been milking the birther conspiracy with the old “I don’t know, nobody knows, why don’t we know?” routine for those last five years (and it’s not like we don’t have documented evidence of him doing this), and expect everyone to believe him.

Which is why for my money, it’s really just more proof that Trump and other conservative politicians and pundits never seriously cared about Obama’s birth certificate – it was just another handful of rhetorical mud to give The American People™ to throw. It didn’t matter if it stuck – it just mattered that you could get the rubes to throw it at him.

So … that’s me caught up, I think.

We blog econo,

This is dF
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Speaking of Gary Johnson, he took a lot of flak for his Aleppo moment a few days ago.

It’s not hard to see why, but some people have said, well that’s it for Johnson, no one’s going to elect a guy who blanks on a question like that.

Personally, I don’t think it will hurt him that much, for a few reasons:

1. George W Bush couldn’t name three out of four foreign leaders he would be dealing with when he ran for POTUS the first time. He went on to serve two terms.

2. D. Trump knows less than Bush, or at least what he knows comes from an alternate universe. He won a major party nomination and he’s only a few points behind Hillary Clinton at the moment.

3. Johnson’s chances weren’t that great to begin with, although I understand he’s the first third-party candidate since Ross Perot to make the ballot in all 50 states. And one good thing about Aleppo is that a lot more people now know who Gary Johnson is. Any publicity is good publicity, they say.

But yeah, I don’t think it’s going to cost him an election he has a very slim chance of winning anyway. And most of his support is coming from people who hate Hillary and Donald so much that I doubt they care if he blanks on the occasional question. If there's one thing I've learned from past elections, it's that anything your candidate does or says is excusable, explainable or overblown by the biased media. 

Ask me something,

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For those Americans who aren’t happy with the major party POTUS candidates, well, you can always go third-party.

And I don’t mean Gary Johnson.

Gabriel Green for President! 1960

[Via Slobber Drool Drip Has Risen From The Grave]

Change you want to believe in,

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Gene Wilder is gone, as you probably know.

I should probably say something – partly because I’m a fan of many of his 70s films, but also because the very first film I remember seeing in a cinema was Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.

Or at least it’s the first live-action film I remember. My parents may have taken me to see a Disney film or two (which would have been either The Jungle Book and/or The Aristocats), but I have no memory of that. But I vividly remember going to see WW&TCF. I was six when it came out, and I remember the contrast between the darkness of Charlie’s world (especially the scene where Slugworth tries to recruit him as an industrial espionage agent) and the bright Technicolor world of Wonka, and I remember the fates of the bad kids, and the twisted horror of the psychedelic riverboat scene (which scared the hell out of me).

And of course I remember Gene Wilder alternately singing, chattering and shouting his way through the picture. Wonka was the first movie character to stick in my head. He’s been there ever since, though it wasn’t until I was older that I realized just how well-constructed a character Wonka was, and how a lot of that was down to Wilder’s brilliant performance.

And then came his work with Mel Brooks – The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein – and Richard Pryor (the first two films, anyway).

By the 80s, I’d lost interest in Wilder after he seemed to just want to do sentimental romantic comedies, a genre which has never really interested me. The Woman In Red in particular seemed to cement his image as the Lionel Richie of Hollywood comedy – politely inoffensive romantic man in a cardigan – at a time when I was getting into horror movies and punk.

But I still enjoy watching him in his 70s heyday. I used to joke that he was one of the Great Shouting Actors Named Gene of my generation (the other one being Gene Hackman). But it’s intended as a compliment.

Incidentally, one Wilder film I’d recommend that isn't a Wonka or Mel Brooks film is The Frisco Kid (1979). You may want to approach with caution because (1) it got mixed reviews and (2) I haven’t seen it for over 30 years. But I remember liking it at the time. If nothing else, you get to see a younger Harrison Ford play cowboy.

Pure imagination,

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Whittling down that “to read” pile one book at a time (or two books at a time, really, but it’s getting smaller, is the point …):

The Rhesus Chart (Laundry Files, #5)The Rhesus Chart by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth novel in the Laundry Files series (in which a secret British intelligence agency is all that stands between humanity and death by Cthulhu) sees protagonist agent Bob Howard accidentally discovering a nest of vampires in the high-frequency trading division of a merchant bank – despite the apparent official Laundry position that vampires do not exist. Stross has a lot of fun with this one – not just in determining how vampirism would work within the context of the Laundry’s applied computational demonology, but also in terms of how the Laundry (which is at heart a civil-service bureaucracy) would deal with them. Of course, there is more to this sudden outbreak of vampirism than meets the eye, and Bob’s investigation results in a shocking climax I can’t really comment on more without giving away the ballgame. The one downside is that the prose seems a little repetitive – which seems to be more for the benefit of new readers just starting the series, rather than long-time fans who understand how the Laundry universe works. But that’s a minor complaint – this is another satisfying entry in a series that has yet to get stale. And the next instalment is already in my to-read pile.


The Body SnatchersThe Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’ve seen the films (the first two, that is) but never read the novel until now. Of course you probably know the basics – Dr Miles Bennell in Santa Mira, CA starts hearing from patients that their relatives are not who they appear to be, and discovers that alien pods are duplicating people with the aim of taking over the planet. As a concept, The Body Snatchers is a classic staple of paranoid alien-invasion SF. As a novel, it’s seriously flawed in places – namely the tendency of Dr Bennell to have revelations from out of nowhere or react to a situation in ways that make no real sense (to include being preoccupied with his budding romance with Becky Driscoll, which serves no real purpose apart from giving him a damsel to rescue). Also, the climax (which is different from the films) isn’t very convincing. Yet the set-up is quite good and some of the scenes focusing on the paranoia of the situation are really gripping and believable. Overall it's a rather uneven novel: sometimes effective, sometimes ridiculous. Great idea, though.


Rumor, Fear and the Madness of CrowdsRumor, Fear and the Madness of Crowds by J.P. Chaplin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

William Gibson namechecked this book on Twitter awhile back, so I decided to check it out. Published in 1959, it’s meant to be an academic study of examples of mass hysteria in the US, including the Red Scare of 1919, McCarthyism, the War Of The Worlds broadcast, apocalypse preachers, UFO sightings and distraught Rudolph Valentino fans, among others. But there’s not much in-depth analysis of each event, and some of them really qualify more as examples of mass gullibility and pranks than hysteria. Also, J.P. Chaplin’s writing style isn’t exactly accessible. That said, it’s an interesting collection of anecdotes that manages by the end to make a larger point: (1) most of these events took place in the context of general fear and uncertainty over local, national and global events (i.e. both World Wars, the Cold War, anarchist bombings, sensationalist media, etc), (2) that fear and uncertainty is what makes us vulnerable to exploitation by demagogues and charlatans, and (3) the key is to understand those fears, what drives them and how to address them – because if we don’t, our enemies will. Given current events, I’d say he had a point.


The Bridge Over the River KwaiThe Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first thing to mention is that I haven’t seen the film. The second thing to mention is that it’s a challenging book to read in 2016 because of the inherent racism in the narrative. The anti-Japanese sentiment is to be expected from an early 50s WW2 novel written by an author who was a POW in Asia (albeit under the Vichy French, not the Japanese), but the premise of the British POWs – led by Col. Nicholson – that Anglo-Saxon civilization is superior to Oriental civilization comes across as self-satisfyingly smug. On the other hand, Nicholson was meant to be satirical of British snobbery, so perhaps Boulle was also satirizing that mentality (the opening chapter suggests as much). Anyway, when you get past the racist stuff, what you have is a very tight, suspense-filled page-turner that spends as much time on the inner thoughts of the characters as it does on the action (as well as the technical details on how to blow up a bridge). It also highlights the horrible conditions POWs were forced to work under to build the railway (which did happen, though the story and characters are fictional), without dwelling on it or resorting to melodrama. The narrative gets somewhat unfocused by the end, but not to the point of derailing itself (so to speak).

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Take it to the bridge,

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One thing Donald Trump and Bernie Bros have in common is their unshakable belief that the election is rigged against them. This is one of the great unsung traditions of democracy, of course – when yr candidate loses, accuse the other side of cheating because WHAT OTHER EXPLANATION COULD THERE POSSIBLY BE?

However, it’s one thing when voters do it. It’s another when the candidate does it. The former has the luxury of being sore losers. The latter doesn’t. And it’s another thing again when a candidate does it well ahead of the actual election, effectively warning his supporters, “If I lose, it’ll be because the election was rigged against me.”

Which D. Trump did.

And it’s comments like this – as well as the adamant belief of some Bernie Sanders fans that Hillary literally stole the nomination and thus is not a legitimate candidate – that get me to wonder if we’re not seeing the end of democracy as we know it.

To explain:

American democracy has always generally been a model for a peaceful transition of power. That’s actually kind of the point. You may hate that the opposition won, but yr not going to try and change the result with a coup de tat like they do in other parts of the world. Even in 2000 when George W Bush was effectively handed the election by the Supreme Court, as angry as liberals were about that, they weren’t furious enough to resort to violence as a remedy.

Occasionally some idiot resorts to assassination to eliminate a specific POTUS or candidate, but that doesn’t result in a handover of power from one party to another. (Put simply, assassinating President Obama results in President Biden, not President Romney.)

So generally, we accept the results of a given election, as much as we may hate them. The question is how much longer we will continue to do so.

Consider the following:
  • Trump’s campaign hinges on milking anger and frustration and providing scapegoats in the form of foreigners, Muslims and – notably – the liberal opposition
  • Some of his supporters have a tendency to express that anger and frustration in the form of opportunistic violence (a tendency that Trump hasn't exactly gone out of his way to discourage)
  • Others who stick to verbal expressions have expressed their feelings about Hillary Clinton in the form of chants such as “hang the bitch” and “kill the bitch” – to include his own advisors (albeit without using the “B” word)
  • Many Republicans – even ones that don’t support Trump specifically – are already convinced that voter fraud is a widespread problem that favors Democrats, which is why they’ve been pushing voter ID laws in as many states as possible
  • A number of those laws were recently weakened or overturned in court decisions.
So with all of those factors currently in play, it’s only natural to wonder how the Trump Mob is going to react if Hillary wins – especially given Trump’s recent Second Amendment crack.

A couple of quick points:

1. I feel obligated to point out at this stage that lots of people assumed the Republican convention would be a bloodbath thanks to the Trump Mob. It wasn’t.

2. I also think the 2A “joke” has been blown out of proportion in the sense that I don’t believe Trump was actively or intentionally calling for someone to shoot his opponent.

Similarly, on the rigged-election meme, I don’t think Trump is intentionally calling for revolution, assassination or any kind of violent remedy should he lose. I think he’s more interested in making sure everyone understands the only possible way he can lose is if Hillary cheats, because DONALD TRUMP NEVER LOSES.

However, as this article at The Atlantic points out, it’s not about what Trump meant, it’s about what his fans thought he meant – especially in the context described above – how much they take it to heart, and how far they’re prepared to run with it.

(I'll also add that while I doubt Trump gives a second thought about how his rhetoric is being processed, I do think whatever violence breaks out will be on him, no matter what his intentions were. He may have no control over the mob he’s created, but that doesn’t absolve him of responsibility for its actions.) 

That’s just the Trump camp. Elsewhere, we are seeing that a growing number of voters are becoming polarized to the point where they believe the opposition has become clear and present danger to the country, making compromise or possibly even co-existence impossible. I hear this from conservatives and liberals alike, and boy are they angry about it.

To be clear, most of them aren’t talking about armed revolution, and the ones who are don’t have the numbers to come anywhere close to succeeding. But it seems to me we are heading in a direction where people eventually decide, “What the hell is the point of democracy if my side doesn't win?”

It may take us decades to get to that point. It might take until November. I don’t know. But it’s clear there’s a serious breakdown of trust in the current electoral process – it’s not rigged, but people think it is because they don’t understand how it works. Everyone thinks it’s a simple matter of whoever gets the most votes wins – it’s not, and hasn’t been for a very long time. But people don’t know that. And making matters worse is the process that does exist is starting to buckle under the strain of political polarization among the voting public.

If something isn’t done to correct this – either by reforming the process, simplifying it or even just educating people on how and why it works the way it does – the problem is going to get worse. Democracy works when people trust the system. When that trust is replaced with sufficient anger, suspicion and paranoia … well, at the very least you get D. Trump as a POTUS nominee telling his Very Very Angry supporters to assume a Hillary victory is illegitimate – and refuse to let her get away with it.

If we’re lucky, D. Trump’s numbers will keep dwindling until all he has left is a handful of die-hards. On the other hand, in a room full of dynamite it only takes one dingbat with a match to set it off.

Revolution ballroom,

This is dF
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Well, we’re down to the final two for POTUS 2016, and the election so far has gone exactly as I predicted … except that Donald Trump actually won the GOP nomination and Bernie Sanders made Hillary break a sweat.

Apart from that, I totally nailed it.

It’s amusing to think many of us thought this election would be predictable, and that we had another Bush/Clinton fight to look forward to, and how boring is that, it’s the same old thing, would it kill them to mix it up a little or find someone who isn’t a member of a political family dynasty to run, etc.

Like the man said: be careful what you wish for.

Anyway. Here we are.

And now everyone wants to know who I’ll be voting for because almost everyone I know is unhappy with either choice and seems convinced that no matter who wins America is doomed doomed doomed because their guy didn’t survive the primaries.

As usual, I’m incapable of giving a straight answer without overexplaining my viewpoint, so I’m going to write this in a tl;dr Q&A format. Sorry.

Blah blah blah oh you probably know already ... )

Anyway, I’ll revisit this question in a few months. In the meantime …

I’m with her,

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Well, maybe it won’t. But it seems the more interesting new music releases I’ve come across in the last few months fit that description.

First there’s Tricot, a math-rock band from Japan who has released their second EP, Kabuku. The angular jazz chords and shifting time-signatures are kind of standard, but it’s the multi-layered vocals that help Tricot stand out, for my money.

Here’s the lead-off single, “Setsuyakuka”:



And then you have Korean band Jambinai, which combines traditional Korean folk instruments with post-rock, heavy metal and hip-hop. The result is surprisingly hypnotic and surreal.

Here’s the closing track from their second album, A Hermitage, out now:



To defy the laws of tradition,

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defrog: (mooseburgers)


By now you know that Donald Trump responded to Khizr Khan’s DNC speech in the usual Trump way: by attacking his wife and implying she wasn’t allowed to speak. Because, you know, that’s what radical Muslims do. Not saying he is one. Radical, I mean. I’m just saying, etc.

This in itself isn’t that notable – Trump has said worse thing about various people throughout this campaign with no noticeable negative effects on his popularity. For all the dithering from GOP players over this and the general notion that American combat veterans are the one sacred cow in the political arena you never ever go after, the fact is that Trump’s constituents don’t care

And if you think Trump is awful, you should see the people who speak on his behalf. Like these people who responded to Khan’s speech by circulating a conspiracy theory that Khizr Khan is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and that his son, U.S. Army Captain Humayun Khan, was a double agent for al-Qaeda.

(Note that they’re not saying he is, they're just saying he COULD be and someone should investigate this because HELLO, MUSLIM.) 

And those who aren’t going for full-on conspiracies are taking Khan to task for not using his speech time to denounce the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Which translates to many conservative ears as: “ISN’T IT INTERESTING YOU CHOSE NOT TO DO THAT? IF YOU ARE NOT WITH THE BROTHERHOOD WHY DID YOU NOT DENOUNCE THEM WHEN THE REAL ENEMY OF AMERICA IS ISLAM OF WHICH YOU ARE ONE?”

So no, I don't think this is going to damage him all that much as far as his support base is concerned. 

What’s more interesting is this: 

The job of POTUS generally involves a lot of public criticism – some of it fair, much of it not. It’s part of the job description. Trump does it to Obama all the time. But Trump’s response to Khizr Khan indicates that he won’t put up with any criticism he deems unfair (which so far seems to be all of it) and if he can’t discredit yr argument, he’ll discredit you and yr family. We don’t have to imagine how this might play with someone who will have the NSA, CIA and FBI at his disposal. After all, Trump wouldn't be the first paranoid, vindictive POTUS with an enemies list (which includes the press) and zero tolerance for criticism. 

So, you know, there's that to look forward to.

On my list,

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Books and books and books and books and books!

ScrewjackScrewjack by Hunter S. Thompson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

One of the few HST books I haven’t read yet, mainly due to economics – I couldn’t see paying the full trade-paperback price for a 60-page book with three short pieces. Finally I got a cheap copy, and I have to say it was worthwhile only in that it was a fast way to put me another book ahead in my 2016 Reading Challenge. The first story, “Mescalito” – about his first experience with mescaline – is actually classic HST, but it also appears in Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream, so if you have that you don’t need this. The other two stories are slivers of flash fiction that are visceral but not necessarily in a good way, although even here HST’s writing style remains a joy for me. But I can get it elsewhere and in better quality. By no means essential.


Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy (Secret File, #7)Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Spy by Len Deighton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

(NOTE: My copy is entitled Catch A Falling Spy, which is the US title for the same book.) Like Spy Story, this is another of Deighton’s “nameless hero” novels that isn’t about Harry Palmer. It may not even be the same guy in in Spy Story, but it arguably doesn't matter since the main focus of the book is CIA agent Major Mickey Mann, who is working with the unnamed British agent to aid in the defection of Andrei Bekuv, a Russian scientist searching the skies for alien life who may know who is leaking classified US science documents to the Kremlin. Naturally, what appears to be a simple defection operation turns out to be something far more complicated and devious as Bekuv’s wife is also brought over and Mann and the narrating British agent chase clues on the leak that take them across the globe. Like Spy Story, it pales in comparison to the Palmer novels and the Bernard Samson series, but it’s an entertaining espionage tale nonetheless.


Walden and Other WritingsWalden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thoreau gets name-dropped so often in my circle of friends and in other books I’ve read that I finally decided to read him. This collection has the important stuff – “Walden”, “Civil Disobedience” and “Life Without Principle”, as well as some other writings. And sorry, but most of it didn’t really register with me. The reason has less to do with whether I agree or disagree with his overall philosophy, and more to do with the fact that much of it seems even less relevant in 2016 than it reputedly did in the 1800s when his writings were first published – at least to me. There’s good advice here and there – and his argument that the daily newspapers are a waste of man’s intellect seems particularly prescient today – but as a life template there’s not much here for me. Even if I just take it as a straight document of Thoreau’s philosophical outlook and his Walden experiment, it’s a tough read, as his writing does have a tendency to wander off on grand, sweeping and arguably self-absorbed tangents, although he also has an uncanny ability to rope you back in with a brilliant sentence or observation. So I’m not saying it’s undeserving in its reputation as a classic work of literature, but I found it to be more rambling, pretentious and impractical than inspiring.


The Gospel According to PeanutsThe Gospel According to Peanuts by Robert L. Short

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I remember checking this out of the library when I was a kid, but I mainly just read the comics. Which is just as well, as the actual text – in which Robert Short explores how the Peanuts strips reflect key themes in the Gospels – would have been over my head. The Peanuts/Christianity link isn’t that big a stretch – Charles Schulz was a devout Christian whose faith played a key part in the strip’s overall theme, although never really to the point of hitting people over the head with it – so it’s not a case of Short trying to read too much into it. However, Short’s prose is a little difficult to keep up with at times, and overall I think he’s more convincing when he’s arguing that art (even comics) is a great way to convey truth indirectly to a given audience rather than arguing that Christianity and comedy have a lot in common. But that’s just me. As a thought experiment it’s very interesting. And even if you don’t buy the book’s premise, you get a lot of classic Peanuts strips for yr money. One point: this particular edition has some really bad formatting issues where the text sometimes doesn’t quite match the cartoons, and in one case cuts off the last few lines of the chapter completely. So I’d recommend getting a different edition from this one.


The Twilight Zone: The Midnight SunThe Twilight Zone: The Midnight Sun by Mark Kneece

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I came across this on sale in a children’s book store in my village – it’s one of a series of nine graphic novels from Walker Books adapted from select episodes of The Twilight Zone, authorized by Carol Serling and using the original scripts written by Rod Serling. In this episode, in which the Earth is getting hotter as it slowly orbits into the sun, artist Norma and her landlady Mrs Bronson struggle to survive as society collapses around them. Mark Kneece takes a couple of liberties with the story – mainly by adding a scene deleted from the original script and also imagining the visuals (illustrated by Anthony Spay) as though Serling had had the necessary budget at the time. I wouldn't say it adds anything to the original TV version (apart from the deleted scene), but in any case it’s a good story and a decent adaptation that Serling fans should appreciate.


The Man With The Golden ArmThe Man With The Golden Arm by Nelson Algren

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First of all, forget about the Sinatra film, because that version bears little resemblance to the source. Algren’s story of heroin addict Frankie Machine, who makes a living dealing cards at illegal poker games, is a grim portrait of drunks, shoplifters and lowlifes in a Chicago slum. Similar to Algren’s A Walk on the Wild Side, Frankie serves more as a centerpiece for Algren to showcase the variety of characters that populate his world, and wax lyrical about their dehumanized existence. Crucially, Algren pulls off a remarkable balancing act, sympathizing with his characters without glamorizing or making excuses for them, railing against the rigged system that beats people down yet holding them accountable for their own failings. Also like A Walk On The Wild Side, Algren’s lyrical writing style is both a marvel and a bit of a slog at times, so it takes some patience. But it’s worth the effort.

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Solid gold,

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At least to Democrats who did not #FeelTheBern. For the Bernie die-hards and Republicans, not so much.

But I think even on a reasonably objective level, the Democratic Party has established itself as the official party of patriotic hope and aspirations – as sappy and unrealistic as those may be – compared to the GOP Doom Train that Donald Trump is currently driving. Indeed, it’s probably the success of the Donald Trump/GOP hate machine that inspired the DNC to take the “Yes We Can” optimist meme and dial it to 11.

And why not? Conventions aren’t about reality – they’re grand political spectacles for the party faithful with two basic goals: (1) nominate a POTUS candidate, and (2) motivate the party to get behind that candidate with a true sense of purpose. And the contrast between the two conventions couldn’t be more obvious.

Just ask conservatives who watched the DNC convention and said, “Holy crap, we just got our collective ass handed to us.”

That happens when yr party has basically sucked itself into a downward spiral of fear and loathing to the point where its base went with a nominee whose main message to America is: “This would be a much greater country if it wasn’t for THOSE people over there!”

Okay, sure, Democrats are essentially saying the same thing about the GOP. But they’re not proposing to deport or jail them – or at least none of the convention speakers did. (I confess I know a few people who would love to do to the GOP what Trump wants to do to the Mexicans, Muslims and ISIS – or so they say on Facebook. They may be kidding. If so, they’re kidding very loudly and angrily. But they’re not in charge of anything, so okay.)

And true, the Demo convention wasn’t all unity and free hugs – some Bernie fans just can’t let it go. But they didn't manage to derail the overall narrative of the convention – whatever you think is wrong with America, we have to work together to fix it.

Is it all horsepoop? Oh sure, probably. But it’s arguably more inspiring than “Build the wall!” and “Lock her up!”

Of course it helps too that Hillary Clinton has made history as the first female POTUS nominee, which is pretty inspiring in itself. It’s not a reason to vote for her, necessarily. But it’s a hell of a hook.

Will it make a difference in the outcome? No idea. It’s true that any swing voter looking at the two party options that have been presented to them the last couple of weeks will see one party that has its act together, and one that doesn’t. But the sad truth is that a large chunk of the voting public supports Trump’s Xenophobic Angry White Guy schtick to the point where he can insult the parents of a dead war hero and get away with it just because they’re Muslim.

Anyway, these days inspirational visions and solid ideas only get you so far in a POTUS election – it usually comes down to personality and performance. This year the choice is between an experienced grown-up and a buffoonish reality-TV insult comic – and both have a fairly equal shot at winning this thing.

Let’s just ponder that for a moment.

Together we’re heavy,

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At least I hope so. This is one of those stories where it pays to wait and see what happens next before drawing conclusions from it. So naturally everyone is jumping to the conclusions they want for maximum political impact. Put another way, at this stage the leaked emails prove whatever conspiracy theory you want them to prove, and no future research into their contents is going to change yr conclusions.

So feel free to ignore the rest of this post, because what the hell do I know?

1. The going conspiracy theory is that Vlad Putin is somehow behind this with the goal of helping Trump win (i.e. the emails were allegedly stolen by Russian hackers, Donald Trump and Putin are BFFs, COINCIDENCE?!).

That theory is big on speculation and light on hard evidence (at least for now) – which isn’t stopping Hillary from running with it, and why not? It’s a great hook, especially during convention week, although personally, every time Hillary mentions Russia now I can't help thinking of Burn After Reading.

However, we do know that (1) the DNC’s email servers were in fact hacked, and (2) the evidence is piling up that Russian intelligence agencies were behind that.

What we don’t know for sure yet is whether the leaked emails acquired by Wikileaks from “Guccifer 2.0” came from that specific hack – or how reliable the documents are (for example, if it IS a Russian intel operation, could some of the juicier files have been edited or planted?). It’s already been suggested that Guccifer 2.0 himself may be a false flag to throw cyber-detectives off the scent.

What fun!

And we also don’t know for sure if Vlad Putin personally ordered the hack, or even knew about it. We probably never will.

2. Whether or not Wikileaks has been weaponized by Putin to sabotage Hillary’s campaign, we know for a fact that the timing was intentional because Julian Assange wants Hillary stopped in her corrupt Wall-Street-stained tracks. He’s made it no secret how he feels about her, and that he’s partly motivated by the fact that Hillary wants him arrested.

3. In any case, all the shock/horror of the DNC’s apparent attitude towards Sanders is so much shadenfreude to me. To paraphrase Rick Wilson: A political party playing political tricks against a candidate who is not a party member? INCONCEIVABLE!

For my money, the emails are an interesting look under the hood of a major political party that illustrates the truth that politics is a “whatever it takes” business and politicos play dirty to win. Believe it or not, this is how political parties work (to include the RNC, and yr kidding yrself if you think it doesn’t).

Yes, it IS sleazy and dishonest. Unfortunately, that’s how this game is played. And sorry, but at least some Sanders fans aren’t really in a position to take the high road on civilized, honest conduct in a presidential campaign.

4. While the emails do indicate that the head of the DNC was taking sides, there’s no evidence that some of their more nefarious plans (exploiting Sanders’ alleged atheism, for example) were ever executed, or that the DNC actively rigged votes or cheated, or otherwise had a definitive influence in the results. That doesn’t excuse the intent, of course. But so far I haven’t seen any particular smoking gun proving the DNC actively rigged anything (based on my definition of “smoking gun” and “rigged”, anyway). That may change later. But it’s been a few days now, and so far, all it really shows is that the DNC was not happy about a non-Democrat using the DNC to compete against an actual Democratic Party member and looked for ways to mitigate that – which, again, shouldn’t surprise anyone.

5. Of course Bernie Bros are using this bombshell to prove Hillary cheated and stole the election, therefore … what? She should quit and give it to Bernie? We should all vote for Trump who may be the most dangerous nominee to ever run for office but hey at least he’s honest about it?

I don’t blame Bernie fans for seeing it as one last chance to dump Hillary in favor of Sanders. But even Sanders said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Guys, drop it unless you'd rather have Donald Trump turn the country into a batshit xenophobic trash fire than let Hillary be in charge of it, in which case yr all idiots.”

So at this stage, I suspect at least some Bernie fans are at the same emotional space that birthers were after Obama was elected (and later re-elected): they no longer care about the election results, they just want everyone to admit that they were right about Hillary all along and would it kill you to say that in front of everyone and apologize to me?

6. So in the end, I’m a lot less concerned about the alleged conduct of the DNC (which is sleazy politics as usual and no reason to either drop Hillary or support Trump) and way more concerned by the possibility that a foreign govt (with the possibly unwitting help of Julian Assange) is engaging in a form of cyberwarfare to actively influence the outcome of a US presidential election. That’s the far bigger story here.

And while Trump might benefit from it, I doubt he or his alleged Russian business connections had anything directly to do with it.

On the other hand, if Hillary’s 30,000 missing emails suddenly turn up on Wikileaks, well yeah, you can say there’s a connection there.

You’ve got mail,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
And all of the speeches from Hillary, Bernie, Michelle Obama, Meryl Streep, etc.



Also applicable to select #BernieOrBust constituents, possibly. (Just swap "commie" for "Hillary".)

Hate so pure,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I am traveling in Malaysia to edit a daily newspaper for a telephones convention that week. A PR person I know tells me that somewhere in town a South Korean tire dealer is planning to give away its entire stock. I tell her I don’t really need tires for my car, but she says, “Hey, free tires.”

Eventually I happen to be nearby the tire dealer when the giveaway starts, but when I get there most of the stock is already gone. They do have some 12” tires, which is the size I would need (at least I think it is – I’m not 100% sure) but they're not in great condition – not used, just shabby.

Shift: the B-52s are playing the convention this year, and I get a chance to interview them. Somehow this evolves into me going on tour with them while they play various shows in Malaysia. Kate Pierson and I end up being good friends, and we hang out a lot and talk about various things, though I remember mostly telling her how much I love the B-52s, and how I wish I could talk like Fred Schneider.

I also ask her how they came up with some of their stage antics, to include a “kissy doll” routine where she and Cindy Wilson would make themselves up as china dolls and kiss each other on stage (pecking style, not sexy lesbian style). Kate says she doesn’t remember, since a lot of what they did was improvised, and if it went over well, they’d repeat it for a few shows.

On the last day of the tour, the narrative shifts into a pulp-fiction novel in which Kate and I are supposed to meet the rest of the band on the other side of a river. The bridge we need to cross is a rickety wooden affair. It’s raining and the river is rising, so we figure we’d better hurry. We go back to my hotel to get my stuff, but we take a wrong turn and go the long way around to the side entrance.

We catch the hotel manager rummaging around in my room. The hotel is a bit of a fleabag, and the manager looks like Harvey Pekar.  At first I think he’s crabby because he thinks I was skipping my bill, even though that doesn’t make sense because all my stuff is still in the room. But then Kate notices that he is turning on all the gas outlets in the room, as well as a large fan to circulate the gas around the whole floor.

Belligerently he shoves a matchbook in my rear jeans pocket. That’s when we realize he’s planning to burn down the hotel, collect the insurance and blame it on me (and I will have conveniently died in the explosion so I can’t contradict his story).

We make a run for it, and the manager blocks our way. I shove him and he falls onto the fan, which shreds him to pieces. I don’t actually see this, and when I look back the manager is gone but there’s no blood or indeed any sign of him at all.

“That’s not a very convincing ending,” I remark.

“I’ll take it,” says Kate. “C’mon, this place could still blow up any second.”

We leave the hotel hurriedly and head for the bridge. I suddenly realize I have no shirt and no shoes. “Damn, I left my stuff behind.”

“Got it right here,” says Kate as she pats a duffel bag I hadn’t noticed her carrying. She hands me a shirt and shoes. I put them on and we cross the bridge.

And then I woke up.

My own private Idaho,

This is dF
defrog: (mooseburgers)
Yes, I know, some people will say that’s been true since the 1970s. But after the spectacle that was the GOP convention, I think it’s something you can actually prove scientifically.

Mind you, a lot of what’s been said about the convention spelling horrible, horrible doom for America is overblown, or at least unremarkable. Liberals say that about EVERY Repub convention, and it’s usually based on the slanted benchmark that whatever happens at the convention is horrible and offensive mainly to liberals who basically find the very existence of conservatives horrible and offensive.

Also, one thing that’s not being talked about much is the fact that the predictions of the GOP convention resulting in wholesale violence and gunplay – and that’s just between the Republicans themselves – pretty much never actually happened. So that’s good.

However, that seems to be about the only positive thing you can say about the convention. You’ve probably read/seen all the horror stories, but here are the things that stand out for me personally:

1. Am I conservative enough for you?

The GOP revised its official platform, and while a lot of it is the same basic positions they’ve always held, they've taken many of those positions – especially the ones regarding social issues, guns and Christianity – and dialed them up to 11. It’s like the party decided, “Fuck it, why even pretend to appeal to the moderates?” 

You can read the full text here, or select summaries here and here

But this is by far the biggest story of the convention. Donald Trump doesn’t particularly agree with every plank here, but much of it is tailored to his worldview (which is why they added a plank calling for wall on the Mexican border). And it doesn’t matter if Trump disagrees with some planks – if he wins, he’s not likely to veto any particular action they take on these things unless it gets in the way of his main priorities

Also, Mike Pence is much more on board with the platform than Trump, who allegedly intends to delegate the meat and potatoes work to Pence(Pence being the CEO to Trump’s Chairman Of The Board, I guess). 

So the GOP is officially the party of Trump and conservative extremism. There’s no real middle ground from this point on – and that’s regardless of whether Trump wins. 

2. For once in his life, Ted Cruz does something right

To be perfectly clear, I think Ted Cruz would make an even worse POTUS than Donald Trump, because he does agree with everything in the updated party platform. However, you have to respect him for refusing to coronate Trump – even if he did probably do it mainly to kickstart his 2020 campaign. Still, it took balls to go up there and refuse to say what yr expected to say at these things. 

On the other hand, integrity only gets you so far when the only difference between Cruz and Trump is that Cruz actually believes in his inflexible hardline conservative ideology and would work overtime to inflict it on the country. Most conservatives I know only hate Trump because he’s a loudmouth poseur. So let’s not pretend that a Cruz presidency would be an improvement, or at least more sane. It would be less like a WWF event, but that’s about it. 

3. The way things used to be

On a related note, it’s worth mentioning that conventions used to be a lot rowdier and more contested than this. We’ve grown used to conventions being a sort of coronation ceremony with a unified statement of purpose. But they didn’t used to be that way. And frankly, everyone was expecting this convention to be even more raucous than it turned out to be. 

So in that sense, the RNC convention was a throwback to old-school conventioneering than a decline into party madness. That said, as has been accurately pointed out, at least of the chaos could have been easily avoided with better planning (i.e. vetting speeches for plagiarizing yr political enemies, allowing a guy who genuinely hates you to speak and upstage yr VP’s speech, etc). 

5. BENGHAZIPALOOZA!

The Hillary HateFest portion of the convention wasn’t unexpected, but it was decidedly over the top – at least to those of us who aren't conditioned to think of Hillary as a Feminista Criminal Mastermind. It’s one thing for one speaker to run with the “Lock her up!” meme – but for three of them to run with that and milk the crowd with it like a wrestler going for a cheap pop? That’s borderline incitement. And that’s before you get to the guy who said she should be shot for treason

Sure, you can argue that it’s just theatre and the GOP isn’t literally demanding that Hillary be jailed and/or shot. But (1) I’m reasonably sure that at least some of the people yelling “Lock her up!” weren’t kidding, and (2) whether they were or not, the overall message that the GOP is sending to both its base and the general public is that Hillary should be jailed/shot for crimes Republicans know for a fact she’s guilty of – despite some 30 years worth of investigations and no evidence of criminal wrongdoing – because there are tons of smoking guns in the alternate fantasy world they apparently live in. 

Or maybe they believe the smoking gun is Hillary herself: “She can’t POSSIBLY be innocent! She’s HILLARY F***ING CLINTON, for God’s sake! That’s proof enough for me!”

Which is ironic for a group of people who also go around saying “Blue Lives matter!” and demand restoration of law and order (which would imply due process, but why bother when you KNOW people are guilty? Like Hillary? Or black people who get shot by the police and therefore probably deserve it?). 

6. Dangerous creeps are everywhere

But then the “Lock her up!” meme slots in neatly with Trump’s overall message in his acceptance speech (which he shouted for 75 minutes): (1) America is in the worst shape it’s ever been (no matter what actual data tells you), and that’s because it is surrounded (and has been heavily infiltrated) by dangerous people, most of whom just happen to be non-white (and liberal!), and that’s entirely the fault of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and (2) only Donald Trump can save you! 

Or, as John Scalzi nicely summed it up

• We’re all doomed by crime, immigrants and minorities;
• It’s all Hillary Clinton’s fault, let’s jail and/or kill her;
• Trump is great, Trump is the supreme leader, all hail Trump, details to come.

Okay, Trump did try to be inclusive by pointing out how bad life is for black people economically (being shot by racist cops excluded, because that just doesn’t happen in America), and by saying that LGBTs shouldn’t be gunned down in nightclubs because of “hateful foreign ideology” (because certainly 
no one with hateful domestic ideology has ever supported the idea that LGBTs should be executed in the name of God). But again, the party that nominated him (to include his VP pick) has made it clear how they feel about homosex (it’s curable, for example), and while they may agree that mowing them down en masse is wrong, that’s about as far as they're willing to go in terms of outreach.

So that’s pretty much it – the GOP is officially the Loud Terrified Fucking Angry White Guy Party, and they’re out to fix America but good.

And again, that’s regardless of whether Donald wins. He’s got over 40% of the country on his side, and that’s not going to go away under a HillRod presidency. That's the opposition she'll be dealing with. If nothing else, the “Lock her up!” meme is a stark preview of the kind of cooperation she can expect from a GOP-led Congress. The motions for impeachment will probably start November 9th.

Unconventional,

This is dF

defrog: (Default)
ITEM: Breitbart technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos has been banned from Twitter for tweeting racist abuse at Leslie Jones, who is currently starring in the Ghostbusters reboot, which has angered people like Yiannopoulos because they ruined a perfectly good movie by putting a bunch of girls in it to kowtow to the liberal Feminazi agenda or something.

So yeah, a few things here:

1. For the record, I haven’t seen the movie yet, and while I don’t think we needed a Ghostbusters reboot, I have no problem with the casting.

2. As usual John Scalzi saves me a lot of typing here regarding Yiannopoulos’ cries of censorship and liberal bias at Twitter. Basically, no and no.

3. Scalzi also raises a point that Leslie Jones has also mentioned – that Twitter needs to do more about this kind of thing, and not just when it happens to celebrities with lots of followers.

It’s true that trolls are a perennial problem anywhere on the internet, and yes, shutting them down doesn’t make them or their racist/sexist attitudes go away. But there’s a big difference between free speech and bullying – especially when it’s the kind of professional organized bullying that trolls like Yiannopoulos engage in. (For more on this, I recommend this piece by Laurie Penny, who has known Yiannopoulos for some time and attended his pro-Trump rally at the RNC Convention this week – poor woman.)

Social media has become so poisonous that companies like Twitter (and Facebook and all of them, really) do need to be more proactive in protecting users from abuse. It’s difficult for them to do that because their business model relies on keeping users, not kicking them off permanently. But it’s either that or people like Leslie Jones quitting. They can’t have it both ways for much longer – especially now that one of the biggest trolls in the country just accepted the GOP nomination for President.

Not with the banned,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)


I don’t know that there actually is one, mind you. But there probably is. Probably.

No respect,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
As a blogger I’m expected to express my opinion about #AltonSterling, #PhilandoCastile, the Dallas shootings and the subsequent aftermath. And I’m way late on this, I know, but I’ve been busy.

And to be honest, there’s not much I can add to what I’ve posted before about #BlackLivesMatters. So much of the rhetoric on my Facebook feed and elsewhere is the same recycled talking points we’ve heard since Ferguson (which was, believe it or not, two years ago) – the #AllLivesMatter crowd are repeating themselves because they refuse to listen to what #BLM is trying to tell them, and #BLM are repeating themselves because #ALM isn’t listening.

You see the problem.

Anyway, here’s a few things to add to the “conversation”, such as it is, about the specific events last week.

1. One of the takeaways from Dallas is that when Micah Johnson started shooting, the cops did what they could to protect the protesters, and protesters did what they could to help the police. Also, considering that some of the protesters were openly armed, it says a lot that not a single cop shot anyone they saw carrying a gun. Both of these factoids do not slot in neatly with the stereotypical rhetoric that gets thrown around on TwitBook in related political memes.

2. All three incidents raise serious questions about Open Carry and the general belief of the NRA that everyone is entitled to carry guns openly because it makes us all safer.

For a start, Open Carry clearly didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the Dallas shooting, although it did make it more difficult for the police to determine who the actual shooter was (and that there was only one).

Also – and more to the point – both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were legally carrying firearms in Open Carry states. Yet the fact that they had guns alarmed police enough to use deadly force in the same way that white people with guns generally don’t alarm them. The NRA – which normally leaps at the chance to defend the right of everyone to carry a gun without being hassled by the police about it – hasn’t had a blessed thing to say about either case. And their own members are starting to call them on it (at least about Castile).

The NRA eventually released a statement about the Castile shooting (without mentioning his name), saying they don’t comment on ongoing investigations – which is possibly wise, but does come across as a blatant media-management trick to avoid saying something that people are going to use against you on Twitter for the rest of yr life.

3. There’s also the fact that the Dallas police took out Johnson with a suicide bomber robot. Which is a flashy way of describing what was the equivalent of a telepresence drone attack on a suspect, which raises all kinds of legal and ethical questions regarding due process, lethal force, militarization of the police, etc.

It doesn’t necessarily mean that the Dallas police were wrong to use a robot in this specific situation – and there is actually precedent for using weaponized robots, although not with the specific intention to kill. And if we agree that the police have a legal right to kill someone in a situation like this, it arguably doesn't matter if they use robot bombs, guns, 16-ton weights or their bare hands.

Still, we’re headed into unknown territory here, especially when you remember (1) the current advances being made in robot technology regarding automation and artificial intelligence, and (2) the continuing trend of police militarization, and what it means to give cops the ability to send in a robot or drone to deal with suspects.

4. Inevitably there are idiots who were hoping Dallas would spark some kind of race war – including this guy. Possibly. I’m not entirely sure what exactly Joe Walsh wants, and it’s possible he doesn’t, either, apart from something that will make BLM protesters and Obama – and thus (in his mind) America’s race problem – go away, or at least make them look as evil and terrible and violent as he imagines they are.

I’d like to think the Joe Walshes of America are in the minority, but he’s not without support. Even my Facebook feed, sadly, makes that clear – many white people I know see BLM (and Obama) as the cause of racial tension in America: “Hey, I’m not racist, THEY started it, everything was fine until they saying white lives don’t matter and started shooting white cops!”

And while that’s not the same as openly advocating a race war, it seems pretty obvious that Walsh et al would welcome any excuse to crack down on the entire movement – like, say, a couple of violent psychopaths killing cops. It seems likely they’re going to milk Dallas (and now Baton Rouge) as “evidence” BLM is a terrorist group like ISIS and was all along and needs to be neutralized before they take over the country and enslave all the white people, or whatever it is they think BLM wants.

Good thing they’re only a fringe minority that won’t be emboldened by the success of a major Presidential candidate whose campaign has been built on white xenophobic … oh, wait.

It’s all sad and stupid, really. If a race war does happen, historians 100 years from now will shake their heads sadly at how easy it was to start one.

It never ends,

This is dF
defrog: (science!)



With these hands,

This is dF
defrog: (devo mouse)


Trash talking,

This is dF

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