defrog: (Default)
I don’t watch cable TV news, and I don’t spend much time on social media, so I do miss out on certain trends that are all the rage in American sociopolitical discourse.

Like the sudden popularity of the word “snowflake”.

Which – as most of you probably know, but it’s news to me – doesn’t refer to actual snow, but people who are emotionally sensitive and/or easily offended.

In other words: liberals, PC enforcers, SJWs, and other labels that conservatives – particularly Trump supporters – like to slap on anyone who says D.Trump is kind of a jerk, or that nuclear war isn't such a great idea.

The Guardian has a good write-up here on the emergence of the “snowflake” trend.

But while the article describes it as a recent thing that has sprung up during this particular election year, to me it’s really just another variation on a long-running conservative theme – that it’s a virtue to be tough, manly and invulnerable to insult.

Pansy, pussy, sissy, candy-ass, bleeding-heart, libtard, snowflake – it’s all the same, really.

Ironically, I do happen to agree – to a point – that political correctness and safe spaces are ultimately detrimental to both personal development and free speech. You can't really say you have an informed opinion about anything if you can’t rationally evaluate other points of view – and that means having to listen to them. It’s not enough to be able to say (for example), “racism is wrong”. You have to be able to explain why it’s wrong. And you have to be able to do that because actual racists have a long list of reasons why they believe their views are right. Screaming at them that they are evil stupid people may make you feel better, but it doesn't make the case against racism or solve the problem of racism. Neither does pretending they don’t exist, or denying racists a platform to speak.

The current furor over Milo Yiannopoulos and his upcoming new book is a good microcosmic example of how zero tolerance for the kind of stuff Yiannopoulos says all too easily leads to censorship and stifling of debate – and also tends to work in favor of the person being censored.

That said, however, the “snowflake” mentality isn't really about that. Conservatives who whip out the “political correctness” or “snowflake” label to defend what they say aren't interested in opening debate – they just want the right to offend people (intentionally or otherwise) without being criticized for it. It’s kind of the reverse mentality of the PC groups but with the same basic result: I get to say what I want, and you have no right to contradict me.

If a “snowflake” is someone so thin-skinned that they can’t take criticism or even a joke, then Donald Trump is President of the Snowflakes. Trump and his fans are basically arguing for the right to insult and mock groups of people they hate without getting crap for it.

Also, as this column points out, the term “snowflake” – much like the term “politically correct” – has already become so overused as to become meaningless. It started out as a specific reference to certain people who demand the right to not be offended – now it’s a catch-all term for anyone who criticizes Trump et al on any point whatsoever.

So the term is already both hypocritical and pointless name-calling.

But that’s how we debate things in 2017 I guess – say whatever you want and scream down anyone else who says things you disagree with.

(NOTE: Given what I’ve written previously about Yiannopoulos and his Twitter behavior, I should mention that I see a difference between abusive behavior on Twitter and expressing unpopular and/or offensive ideas. I realize that tends to be a fine line with Yiannopoulos and people like him, but Twitter is a different venue from writing a book or giving a speech. There are different rules of engagement in play. It's the difference between me writing a book about my political opinions and me coming up to you and screaming them in yr face and harrassing you for not agreeing with me until you cry.)

Let it snow,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
Way back in the early 90s, I read Philip K Dick’s The Man In The High Castle, his classic alternative history that imagines what life in America would be like if the Axis had won WW2.

Nowadays, it seems a lot of people are taking a sudden interest in the book – or at least the TV adaptation of it – in part because they think it's a preview of the Trump admin.

While I remember liking the book, I didn't remember much about the story. So I decided to re-read it to see if it really is a vision of what Trump’s America will be like.

In a word, no. Here’s why.

1. For a start, of course, the America in TMitHC has been split up between Germany (east coast) and Japan (west coast) as a result of winning WW2. So it’s not the same scenario as a POTUS rising to power and implementing a nationwide fascist regime identical to Nazi Germany.

2. Also, the story takes place in either the Japan-run West Coast or the neutral buffer zone in the Rocky Mountain states. So it’s more of a depiction of life in those areas rather than the Nazi-controlled East Coast and the South.

3. The book does mention what life in the Nazi section is like, and it is what you’d expect – no Jews, no blacks (apart from slaves, as slavery is back in style, much to the delight of the South), secret police, banned books, totalitarian fascism in general, etc. It also mentions some of the atrocities the Nazis have committed with their insane ideology (such as literally wiping out every black person in Africa).

4. However, I seriously doubt that any of these things will come to pass under a Trump admin. The fact that actual Nazis (who would love to see these things implemented) voted for Trump doesn’t count. Whatever you think about Trump’s proposed policies regarding Muslims and immigrants, and whatever fascist tendencies he may have regarding the media, law enforcement, violence at rallies, people who criticize him, etc, I really don’t think that life in America under his command is going to become the fascist totalitarian state that Nazi Germany was and that the east coast of TMitHC’s America is said to be. It won’t even be close.

5. Sure, a Trump admin is not likely to be pleasant, especially for Muslims, LGBTs, racial minorities, etc. In fact, one slightly accurate comparison is that in TMitHC, some American characters express sympathy with the Nazis in terms of anti-Semitism, racism, establishment of public order, etc. Those attitudes aren’t as prevalent today as they were in 1962 when the book was published, but they do still exist, even though the targets of bigotry may have shifted.

But as I’ve said elsewhere, (1) Trump is no Hitler, (2) an authoritarian leader does not equal an authoritarian state and (3) the majority of the country did not vote for him, and doesn’t support his most extreme policy ideas. Granted, many people may be indifferent to them, but I think that’s in part because they didn’t take his rhetoric seriously in the first place.

6. So overall, no, TMitHC isn't what Trump’s America will be like. It’s a lazy comparison by people who think Trump is literally a Nazi (or at least actual Nazis voted for him, which apparently is the exact same thing).

7. I should add that I have not seen the TV version of TMitHC, so I don’t know to what extent they run with the “life under Nazis” aspect. I mention this because I suspect some people referencing TMitHC as a Trump preview may be thinking of the show, not the book.

Stranger than fiction,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

ITEM: Mark Hamill reads D.Trump’s gloating New Years tweet in his Joker voice.


The joke’s on you,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

I have seen Rogue One. I will opinionize about it now. 

There may be spoilers .... )

War is hell,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
And so 2016 is done.

Here’s how a lot of people feel about it.







Here’s how I personally feel about it:

1. I do think that on some kind of objective or non-partisan level, 2016 wasn’t a great year, particularly for the West. After all, it was the year of a particularly noxious US election – easily the most soul-sucking and joyless of any election I’ve ever followed – bookended by the deaths of major cultural icons like David Bowie and Carrie Fisher, and punctuated by hate-fueled mass shootings, terrorism, and a deterioration of race relations, among other things. And it was a year where politicians successfully exploited fear, loathing and xenophobia to gain power, stoking higher and higher levels of fear and distrust between groups of people.

2. However, it’s fair to say a lot of this was artificially amplified by hyperpartisan broadcast media, blog sites and social media feeds packed with hyperbolic batshit negativity memes (which in itself is an objective indicator that 2016 was a drag).

3. So it’s weirdly appropriate that the “Fuck You 2016” meme shooting around the internet is itself a hyperbolic batshit negativity meme – for far too many people, that was their default setting in terms of media consumption and online interaction.

4. But it is hyperbole. This article from NPR and this article from WaPo make a good case for this. Also, this article from the Smithsonian provides historical perspective on the “worst year ever” meme. 

5. Granted, the extent to which it is hyperbole will depend on yr specific circumstances. For example, if yr just sad that yr candidate lost the POTUS election, that's just post-election blues amplified by the emo/fear aspects of this specific election. However, if you live in Flint, MI, or if yr an African-American whose family member was killed by police despite being unarmed, or if yr a Muslim who just watched a guy win the presidency by promising to treat you as an enemy of the state, or if yr hometown is Aleppo – etc and so on – then absolutely you’ve earned the right to say that 2016 was a terrible year. 

(On the flip side, if yr a Trump fan, a member of the KKK and/or a Wall Street player – or if you were simply someone who was not directly impacted by any of the above trends and/or don't really care about those who were – then 2016 may have been good year for you, barring any personal circumstances.)

6. In terms of historical perspective, 2016 was lightweight compared to – say – the years that contained political assassinations, the Holocaust, the Inquisition or the Black Plague. And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, in terms of pure statistics, 2016 actually showed promise in a lot of areas. So like the NPR article mentions above, a lot of the dithering over 2016 is more about perception than reality.

7. Others have pointed out – and I agree – that calendars are artificial constructs for tracking the passage of time, so it’s kind of silly to treat 2016 as a bad year that we need to get out of the way. It doesn't work that way.

8. On a related note, people made a lot of hay about 2016 being a bad year for celebrity icons. I think that’s a combination of the relevance of specific icons and also the age at which some of them passed on – Gene Wilder and Leonard Cohen (both in their 80s) were sad but not too surprising, compared to relatively younger people like Prince, Carrie Fisher, George Michael and possibly even Bowie.

But sorry to say, we’re going to see more of that in 2017 and every year from here on in. The actors, musicians, artists and other heroes whose work meant something to us when we were kids are mortal like everyone else, and sooner or later, it’s time for them to go. Knowing this doesn’t make it less painful when they do go, obviously. The point is that 2016 wasn’t some cursed year – it just seemed that way in the context of all the other crappy things going on.

9. By the way, for the people who have been joking that they hope 2017 is the year that Death stops killing the good celebrities and starts targeting people who “deserve it” (Trump being on the top of the list, followed by Ted Nugent, Scott Baio, Mike Pence, Ann Coulter, etc): not funny. Not to me.

Bring it on,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)

 

It’ll never fly,

This is dF 

defrog: (Default)


Get down,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
And thanks to the holidays, I managed to catch up on my reading and my Goodreads Reading Challenge, in which I pledged to read 60 books in 2016.

I read 61. Goodreads says 62, but they’re counting that Borges book which I actually gave up on, so I don’t think it should count. And of course a couple of the “books” I read were actually short stories or novellas, so it’s all relative.

Which is why next year I’m going to lower the bar for the reading challenge – my reading schedule isn’t going to get any better this year, and a couple of the books in my to-read pile are pretty thick. And actually I dislike feeling pressured to get a book read because there’s a deadline involved. So I’m going to go easy on myself in 2017. I’m thinking 40 is a good safe number.

Anyway, here’s what I spent the last days of 2016 reading.

In Praise of DoubtIn Praise of Doubt by Peter L. Berger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You’d be surprised the things you’ll find at a Christian bookstore clearance sale –like this book from a pair of sociologists (one of whom also has a PhD in philosophy) who essentially argue in favor of doubt as a necessary quality in religion, politics and culture. The book essentially argues that fundamentalism (religious or secular) and relativism are two sides of the same extremist coin, in which a person/group either claims a monopoly on truth/morality or declares that all truth/morality is subjective and therefore equally valid. Doubt is the middle ground that can strike the balance between these two extremes – and without sacrificing moral convictions. It’s hard to do the premise justice in a capsule review, but as someone who didn’t know that much about the sociological or philosophical aspects described here, I learned a lot. And in today’s polarized religious and sociopolitical climate, it’s one of the most sane arguments I’ve read in a long time. People who lean towards fundamentalism or relativism may be less receptive to this book (which is part of the problem, of course). And there are obvious paradoxes and limitations to practical application (which the authors fully admit). But it’s a thought-provoking conversation starter that I’d recommend to anyone with an open-enough mind and a tolerance for philosophical discussions.


The Continual Condition: PoemsThe Continual Condition: Poems by Charles Bukowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been a fan of Bukowski for decades, but for some reason I’ve always been a bit wary of his posthumous books – there’s always the worry that unpublished works won’t measure up. Which is silly, I know. And this collection (which is a mix of unpublished poems and previously published but never anthologized poems) proves it. Here, Bukowski covers all the usual bases – drinking, horse racing, crazy women, low-lifes, writing, misanthropy, alienation, loneliness, the perils of success, wry humor – to the point where I’m amazed that he was able to cover the same ground for 50 years and still make it seem fresh. That said, not everything here works, but even average Bukowski is better than the best work of many, and there are a number of real gems that shine through here. When he nails it, he nails it hard. It’s been ages since the last time I read Bukowski – it was a pleasure to read him again.


CountdownCountdown by Deborah Wiles

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Billed as a “documentary novel” set during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, this is the fictional story of Franny Chapman, an 11-year-old girl just trying to get on with her life as the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war and the country lives in fear of nuclear annihilation. The narrative is punctuated with collages, news photos and quotes, as well as quick bios of FDR, Pete Seeger and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Townsend Hamer (underscoring the racial and social issues also in play in America at the time) – and it’s a nice gimmick for what it is, but not all of it integrates smoothly with the story. And despite the book’s premise of documenting the fear that families lived under at the time, that didn't really come across for me – not until a little over halfway through the story when the Cuban Missile Crisis actually starts. Up to then, Franny spends more time dealing with standard pre-teen family/friends melodrama than worrying about nukes. Which may be realistic, of course, but pre-teen family/friends melodrama isn’t really my thing. So there wasn’t much here for me. That said, I can see this being a good and educational read for YA audiences (which is more the suitable audience, perhaps). So the two stars are more of a reflection of my personal taste than the book’s quality.


Fell, Volume 1: Feral CityFell, Volume 1: Feral City by Warren Ellis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warren Ellis started this as an experimental comic in the sense of compacting a single-issue story into fewer pages to knock the cost down. Apart from that, it’s basically a police procedural comic set in Snowtown, a fictional slum on the other side of the bridge of a major city, where police detective Richard Fell has been assigned – apparently as a kind of punishment or exile. The story follows Fell as he adjusts to the corrupt realities of Snowtown case by case and refuses to compromise his sense of justice just because everyone else does. In a way it’s one of Ellis’ less imaginative works in terms of setting and situation – there are no SF/F or supernatural elements in it. But like a lot of his best work, it’s the characters and dialogue that draw you in, and somehow Ben Templesmith’s surreal haunting artwork serves to enhance them. Sadly, series production has stalled for whatever reason, so I don’t know how long we’ll have to wait for Volume 2. But as for Volume 1, I liked it.


The End of All ThingsThe End of All Things by John Scalzi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The sixth book in the Old Man’s War series, and the second to consist of shorter stories that form a continuous story arc, although this a slightly different format – while the previous book, The Human Division, was structured like a TV series bookended with a pilot and series finale, The End Of All Things is four connected novellas. The previous book focused chiefly on Lt Harry Wilson and his team of Colonial Union diplomats trying to deal with both the CU’s fallout from Earth and the alien alliance known as the Conclave – this one takes the spotlight off Wilson for three of the four stories as the CU finds itself dealing with a new menace: a mysterious group called Equilibrium that is secretly trying to turn the CU and the Conclave against each other in the hopes of destabilizing or destroying both. The End Of All Things is somewhat more focused on the political tactics and challenges presented in the situation, but there’s still plenty of space action to be had, and as always Scalzi is a skilled storyteller who knows how to keep the pages turning. It’s a good and entertaining addition to what has been a reasonably consistent and fun series.


BullittBullitt by Robert L. Pike

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Originally published as Mute Witness, this novel is of course the basis for the famous Steve McQueen film, and I was curious to read the source material. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s very little resemblance apart from the basic plot – when a gangster who plans to testify against his bosses is killed, the cop assigned to protect him must find the killer before the DA learns his star witness is dead. The novel is set in New York, not San Francisco (which of course means no iconic car chase), and Lt Clancy is almost the opposite of McQueen’s Frank Bullitt – hot-tempered, sleep deprived, prone to making bad decisions and not at all cool. Which at least makes it somewhat realistic. However, the same can’t be said for the key plot twist, the success of which relies on certain characters being incredibly dumb and/or lazy – which is not impossible, but still. Anyway, it’s an okay read, but it’s also one of those cases where the film version is an improvement on the book.


The Star DiariesThe Star Diaries by Stanisław Lem

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been awhile since I read Lem, mainly because his books are not always easy to find and they’re often somewhat expensive when I do find them. This one is a classic collection of the interstellar voyages of his astronaut protagonist Ijon Tichy, as he embarks on random Gulliverian trips around the universe that satirize human society in general. Like other Lem books I’ve read, the stories here are fast-paced, wildly imaginative, philosophical and often quite funny – problems with time travel (to include Tichy’s stint heading a group whose mission is to renovate Earth’s past), a civilization that takes genetic engineering to insane lengths (which has a profound impact on religion), evolved potatoes, lost penknives, diplomatic faux pas, rebellious computers, hunting for squamp on a planet where people keep backups of themselves in case of meteorite storms – there’s a lot here, and while the philosophical parts can get a little heavy, it’s Lem’s sense of the absurd that keeps me engaged.

View all my reviews

That’s a wrap,

This is dF
defrog: (Mocata)
We have a new type of rule now. Not one man rule or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decisions. They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of the past. There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers. The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident; inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine that they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which button to push." – William S Burroughs, Interzone

Well, not so fast there, Bill.

It’s not clear when William Burroughs wrote that – it appeared in Interzone in 1989, but that book includes a lot of earlier work by Burroughs, so it could have been written any time between the late 50s and ’89.

Anyway, it’s a quote that’s stuck with me over the years – partly because he recorded it for Dead City Radio, and also because it struck me as the perfect description of how the US govt and Western democracy work. It helped that a college history professor I greatly admired gave a similar assessment – that the real power in Washington lies with the vast bureaucratic mechanism of government itself overseen by career politicians and experts who understand how it works. The President is really just a figurehead who surrounds himself with the experts who understand how the machine runs and how it will process whatever decisions are made. That doesn’t mean the POTUS has no power – just very limited power compared to a Stalin or Hitler. (Whether this is a good thing depends of course on how concerned you are about the balance of power between the elected POTUS and the appointed bureaucrats, the transparency of the process, etc.)

Anyway, it was this quote I found myself remembering when I came across this article on Quartz (written in March before Trump’s nomination, BTW) about the return of authoritarianism – not just in America, where D.Trump has risen to power on a strikingly authoritarian platform, but in other countries that have elected leaders with similar authoritarian qualities in recent years.

Theresa May (UK), Vladimir Putin (Russia) and Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines) are the obvious ones that you hear about the most because of (respectively) Brexit, Trump and Duterte’s policy that if you see someone dealing drugs, you have permission to execute them on the spot. But there’s also Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Turkey), Shinzo Abe (Japan), Narendra Modi (India) and Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel). Meanwhile, in France, Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front has moved from the fringe to the mainstream,emboldened by Brexit and Trump’s victory. The same goes for Geert Wilders and his far-right PVV (Party For Freedom) in the Netherlands.

And even in countries where far-right populist parties aren’t leading the polls, their support is growing.  All of them are pushing the populist line that essentially aims to galvanize nationalist sentiment, kick out the foreigners (by which they mostly mean Muslims), selectively curtail civil liberties (particularly for their critics), and Make [Insert Country Name Here] Great Again.

It’s like Trump opened a franchise, although that would be giving him too much credit. Much of this – even the sentiments that his campaign successfully exploited – has been brewing for years and years. These politicians didn’t just show up out of nowhere and con people into buying xenophobic claptrap they didn’t know they needed. Those sentiments were already there.

The obvious question is: why? And the answer is a lot of complex and nuanced guesswork. You can read the Quartz article, this WaPo piece and this article here for an idea.

Personally, I would add that a lot of it comes down to the rise of fear, uncertainty and instability that many people feel as the world changes at a faster rate than people are prepared to deal with. There are specific things you can point to, like the wealth inequality gap, education quality, social upheavals of institutional norms that people haven't had time to process (gay marriage, transgender washrooms, etc), and the ability of both broadcast and social media to amplify all of these issues to wildly disproportionate levels of hysteria.

But on a macro level, I think it’s really down to people feeling afraid and uncertain about the future. I think this is also why we’re seeing a rise in fundamentalist ideologies – not just of the religious kind (Christian and Muslim), but also sociopolitical beliefs. Fundamentalism by definition does not tolerate any idea or opinion that contradicts its worldview. And I’ve written before about how this election more than any other in my lifetime has been characterized by political debates in which people on the other side of the sociopolitical aisle are branded not just misguided or wrong, but evil and dangerous criminals and traitors who will destroy the country and society as we know it unless they are stopped (preferably at the polls, although if that doesn’t work, well …).

In that kind of environment, it’s no wonder more voters are seeking some kind of strongman (at least a symbolic one) in charge to put everything in order the way they think it ought to be put (i.e. in their favor).

Having said that, I don’t think this necessarily signifies the return of Stalins and Hitlers – at least not to those extremes. As I’ve said before, Trump is no Hitler – at least not yet, and not as long as he stays confined by the constitutional framework, economic infrastructure and diverse media outlets that he has no control over. (Those of you tempted to bring up conspiracy theories about the corporate media being a willing tool of the Republican Wall street fat cat evil bastards who really run America, you go right ahead, but I will shake my head sadly at you and move on.)

If it helps, here are two things to keep in mind for perspective:

1. There’s a difference between an authoritarian state and a totalitarian state – both are dictatorships but the latter is the more extreme version where every aspect of society is controlled by the dictating power (see: Stalin, Hitler, Kim Jong-Un, etc).

2. Authoritarian leadership doesn’t equal an authoritarian state. The latter is a monopoly of political power that can be maintained even in a system that allows some form of democracy. So unless (and until) Trump restructures the political system to prevent anyone other than Trump (or the GOP) from controlling every branch of government (to include state level) permanently, the US cannot be called an authoritarian state. The same goes for other countries where authoritarian politicians have power or are closer to acquiring it.

So to come back to that Burroughs quote up there, I think it's true that there will be no more Stalins or Hitlers – in the traditional sense. Perhaps what we’re seeing now is a mutation of sorts – a new breed of iron-willed dictator who is able to dictate within the constitutional confines of a democratic system with a functional (if inefficient) bureaucracy without radically altering its structure. They don’t need to understand how the machine works – they just need to figure out how to get the machine to do what they want it to do without breaking it. It helps that in the last 50 years (or longer), the machine has already been stress-tested in terms of how far you can quietly erode freedoms and civil liberties (in the name of national security) within the constitutional parameters under which it operates.

Which, again, is probably giving Trump too much credit – it’s reasonably clear he’s in this for the ego boost rather than any actual power, and had no real plan for anything apart from winning the election. And I would argue that Trump isn’t an iron-willed dictator so much as a thin-skinned egotistical blowhard control freak.

Is there a difference? I think so, in the sense that the former generally wants ultimate power to transform the country to his/her ideological vision of purity and will do whatever it takes to achieve it. The latter wants power mainly to stroke his/her ego and make his/her life as easy as possible – if they can institute their policies without breaking the system, then great. If not, then it becomes a question of tradeoffs (as in: will abolishing Congress impact my stock options?).

I may be way off here, of course. I’m guessing like everyone else, and I’m drastically oversimplifying all this. My overall point is that I don’t think the rise of authoritarian leaders means that traditional dictators (i.e. Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, etc) are coming back into style.

What we may be seeing is a shift towards a quasi-authoritarian democracy under which people decide who gets to be dictator for the next term. Given the increased polarization and fundamentalist attitude of political parties, I think we're already at a point where a significant number of people will settle for nothing less than their favored political party achieving solid control over all three branches of govt and refusing to compromise an inch on any given policy idea or legislation. In short, they want a dictatorial govt that works in their favor – but they also want the mechanism in place to change dictators without resorting to a coup de tat (which would mean hard work and sacrifice).

To be sure, I’m reasonably certain those people who want an authoritarian version of democracy don’t think of it in those specific terms. And they are in the minority – for now. But their numbers are growing, and people like Trump are taking advantage of that. Put another way, the problem may not be Trump (or May, Erdoğan, Abe, Modi, Benjamin Netanyahu et al) so much as the voters that put them into positions of power in the first place.

Where this will lead to is anyone’s guess – again, I’m not convinced it will lead to Trump literally doing what Hitler did. But we are seeing a weakening of support for a loyal opposition that is essential for making democracy work. When you rebrand the loyal opposition en masse as the enemy of the state, yr asking for authoritarians to step in and fix them but good – maybe not in terms of purges and concentration camps, but certainly in terms of permanent disempowerment.

In which case perhaps democracy really will be a case of the winners getting the government they deserve – at the expense of everyone else.

We have met the enemy and he is us,

This is dF

REBEL GIRL

Dec. 28th, 2016 12:02 pm
defrog: (Default)
And now Carrie Fisher is gone.

And somehow this pic just seems appropriate.



I don’t know what I can add to everything else being said about her. Obviously she was part of my pop culture landscape with Star Wars – Leia was one of the first female characters I saw onscreen who wasn’t a frail damsel in distress. She was smart, tough and funny.

Fisher was also a good writer (I’ve only ever read Postcards From The Edge, but it’s a very funny book), and a funny person. I also loved the fact that she brought her dog Gary along to interviews.



It’s sad that she’s gone, but it’s good that she was here. Not only did she embody one of the great female icons of my generation, she also did a lot of good works offscreen by talking about her addiction and mental illness issues. (One of my family members is a recovering alcoholic who has also been diagnosed as bipolar, so I’m not a disinterested bystander in the that regard.)

In closing, I’ll honor her request to report that she died the way she wanted to go – drowned in moonlight and strangled to death by her own bra.

A princess in a world full of dragons,

This is dF

EDITED TO ADD [29 Dec]: And a day later, her mom Debbie Reynolds has also passed, because that's how 2016 rolls. 

defrog: (Default)
Well, I can’t post something about George Michal and not do the same for Leonard Cohen, who did a Bowie last month by releasing a great new album on his birthday and passing away shortly afterwards.

The title track is very apropos – not just of Cohen’s passing, but 2016 in general.



It’s a high note to go out on – even this late in the game, Cohen still had a way with words and imagery. Helping things out here are the musical arrangements via son Adam Cohen, which are in some ways the kind of minimalist background typical of a Cohen album, but with some striking variations from the formula here and there. It’s made a lot of Best of 2016 lists, and it will likely make mine as well.

Ironically, when Cohen passed, most of the media focus wasn’t on the new album but his back catalog, specifically that song, which everyone knows thanks to Jeff Buckley’s cover version (which I blogged about ages ago – note that the YouTube links are all busted). I can understand that – after all, Cohen was one of the best singer-songwriters of his time, so it’s only right to focus on the classics that earned him that rep.

My own introduction to Cohen was via – of all things – the Natural Born Killers soundtrack, which featured two songs from his album The Future. I liked the songs, but even then I didn’t realize his songwriting reputation until the Tower Of Song tribute album came out. That album is a mixed bag, but it encouraged me to check out the source, and I’ve been an intermittent fan ever since – I say “intermittent” because to be honest, not every Cohen album is a winner, and a little Cohen does go a long way for me.

Still, if you need a song, he had a tower full of ‘em.

Here’s one my favorites that that isn't that one.



I’m sentimental if you know what I mean,

This is dF
defrog: (45 frog)
And so 2016 gets one more boot in with George Michael.

I have to confess, I’m one of the few people on the planet who wasn’t a big fan. Which is not to say I don’t think he was talented. He was a fine singer and a showman, and I can prove that with this video of him performing with Queen for a Freddie Mercury tribute/AIDS awareness fundraiser.



Sure, he’s no Freddie Mercury, but c’mon, no one was except Freddie. And in many respects Freddie was no George Michael.

That said, I was never really into Wham!, who I found to be a bit silly and pretty to be taken seriously. I’ll admit too that by the time I became aware of them, my musical tastes were more solidly in classic/heavy rock territory. And by the time George went solo, I was firmly in Punkville and turned off by Michael’s ubiquity. So … you know.

Now that I’m older and wiser (okay, older), I still can’t say I’m a fan, but it’s easier to see why Wham! were as big as they were, and why George ended up an even bigger pop star on his own. One thing I didn’t realize in the 80s was that Michael wasn’t just a pretty face being handed pro pop songs to sing – he wrote most of his own songs (both in Wham! and solo), and 30+ years later, his hits are still in circulation – one of them now being a staple Christmas song, albeit one that’s now going to have some extra emotional heft, seeing as how he passed on Christmas Day.

Anyway, here in HK he had his share of fans. And inevitably, one of the classic stories making the rounds here is the time that Wham! became the first Western pop group to play in mainland China.

It’s actually a fascinating story in terms of how they managed to land the gig (to include their manager screwing Queen out of the gig by portraying Freddie Mercury as kinda gay – hmmmm yes …) and how the audience had to be careful not to be seen having an unacceptably good time, etc.

Respect.

Guilty feet have got no rhythm,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
 

Ho ho ho, 

This is dF 
defrog: (license to il)
Recently we lost another bookstore chain in Hong Kong: Page One, whose home base is in Singapore. The last one in Singapore shut down last year. The last one here in Hong Kong shut down last month.

Last week, word circulated on the Facebooks that Page One was having a receivership sale in one of the old industrial warehouses in Kwai Hing, with 40% discounts on everything. Of course I had to go check it out.

Here's what I thought it would look like.



Here’s what it actually looked like.



It’s literally books and magazines piled randomly onto pallets, with barely enough aisle space to walk around even before you fill it with people.

Which explains the crowd-control queue out front when I arrived.



It was not a good experience. I enjoy scavenging for books, but it’s a drag when there’s no logic or order, most of the books are buried and the venue is really crowded, so you basically end up skimming the tops of the piles and go for pot luck.

My expectations weren’t just set by the flyer photo. Years ago, when Borders closed shop in Singapore, I was lucky enough to be in town when they had a similar clearance sale in a rented warehouse space. All the books were arranged in boxes with the spines facing up so you could at least see what they were. They weren’t organized by category, but you could at least see what was available.

That wasn’t the case here.

Anyway, I was damned if I was going to go all the way to Kwai Hing, brave the crowd and come away empty-handed.

So here’s my booty.



The one about Kim Jong Il is actually one I’ve wanted to read for awhile. I’ve read Priest and McCarthy before, but I’ve never read Umberto Eco, and while I do plan to read The Name Of the Rose next year, I thought this book of essays might be worthwhile.

Living in chaos,

This is dF
defrog: (Default)
I was out traveling the world last week, so I didn’t have time to comment on the news that D. Trump managed to create at least two diplomatic incidents with nuclear powers in one week – one with India and the other with China – and he’s not even actually POTUS yet.

I have time now. So:

I’ve been mildly amused by comments from people – even people who hate Trump – who don’t get what the big deal is over Trump phoning up Taiwan as though they were an independent sovereign country and not a part of China.

I’ve been hearing this one for years from Americans who don’t understand the One China Policy primarily because, for all intents and appearances, Taiwan is functionally separate from China – it has its own govt, its own economic system, its own army. It’s a separate damn country, why not just say so? Why are we appeasing a Damn Commie dictatorship by pretending something is real when it’s clearly not? Call a spade a spade! GIMME THE STRAIGHT TALK! POLITICAL CORRECTNESS SUCKS! AND BY THE WAY I’LL CALL ANYONE I DAMN WELL WANNA CALL AND WHO THE FUCK IS CHINA TO TELL ME WHO I CAN AND CAN’T TALK ON THE PHONE WITH WHENEVER I WANT THIS IS A FREE FUCKING COUNTRY AND CHINA CAN GO FUCK ITSELF IF IT DOESN’T LIKE IT AND WANTS TO LIVE IN ITS LITTLE PRETEND WORLD – 

I’m paraphrasing. More or less. But that’s the general gist.

And of course, all of this is technically true. The extent to which it matters depends on to the extent you think that diplomacy is an important component of international relations.  

You can argue that China lives in a little fantasy world where Taiwan never actually left China. One could also argue that the people who think we should call China openly on its bullshit live in their own fantasy world where there are no consequences for breaching established diplomatic protocols in a global economy – especially when dealing with countries who own nukes and who you owe $1.1 trillion.

For those of us who live in the real world, yes, diplomacy does matter in foreign relations – at least if you want to get anywhere near a negotiating table. Trump can talk all he wants about using the One China policy as a bargaining chip for a better trade deal – it won't do him much good if China refuses to talk to him out of sheer spite. 

This is not to say that the One China policy is sustainable, by the way. Foreign policy experts have been saying for awhile now that while the One China policy made diplomatic sense in 1979 (at which time the pro-China KMT party – which has always supported the idea that Taiwan is still technically part of China – had a solid and consistent grip on power), the democratic situation in Taiwan has shifted significantly enough that it’s becoming more and more difficult for everyone – even China – to maintain that particular fiction.

Foreign Policy has a good write-up on this. I recommend reading it. It was written before Trump was a nominee, but it illustrates the problem clearly. It’s a long-term play that will take creative diplomacy and finesse to pull off so that everyone benefits without losing face.

And that’s the problem, of course: Trump does not do finesse. He’s demonstrated repeatedly that the word arguably does not exist in his emotional vocabulary. He evidently plans to run America the way he runs his companies on TV – like a flamboyant tough-talking businessman. It’s possible he made/took the call with President Tsai without understanding the diplomatic brouhaha it would cause. It’s possible he didn’t care. Either way, he’s managed to antagonize the one country that rivals America as a superpower through sheer thoughtlessness and/or idiocy.  

And he’s not even actually POTUS yet.

FUN FACT: For the record, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen, is chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (which also took control of parliament in the election that she won). That’s the opposition party to the KMT that – very much unlike the KMT – has typically advocated stronger independence for Taiwan. Beijing, as you can imagine, HATES the DPP with a vengeance. So you can imagine how they felt about Trump having a friendly phoner with Tsai, regardless of who called who.

Hold the line,

This is dF 

defrog: (Default)
If there’s one thing that America learned in this election, it’s this: a lot of information on the internet isn’t that accurate.

Granted, for many people, “inaccurate” means “this doesn’t fit the narrow hyperpartisan narrative in my brain”. Even now, media companies are getting a lot of flak from some liberals over their inaccurate and dishonest coverage of Donald Trump because they refer to him as “President-Elect Trump” and not “Fucking White Supremacist Nazi Batshit Insane Fascist Motherfucker Who Lost The Fucking Popular Vote Fake Fucking Not My President Trump”.

Anyway, now we’re hearing a lot about “fake news” on social media – especially Facebook –and to what extent this may have influenced the election.

Mark Zuckerberg hilariously tried to pretend the whole thing was overblown, since “fake news” accounts for a tiny percentage of what pops up on Facebook newsfeeds. Then Buzzfeed demonstrated that it’s not about percentages – it’s about eyeballs, and fake news stories on FB got plenty more of them than real news did.

The problem is also likely underestimated in terms of what counts as “fake news”.

Many people point to that kid in Macedonia working for Wikileaks or Vlad Putin, etc. But how about The Onion (which is satire, I know, but you’d be surprised how many people don’ know that)? Or how about stories from hyperpartisan sites like Breitbart or Addicting Info that are so blatantly one-sided that they might as well be fake? Or conspiracy/rumor sites like Infowars and Drudge? And are we including all those political meme graphics with info that usually is at best misleading and at worst completely false (making them the FB/Twitter equivalent of chain emails)?

And so on.

Once you factor all of that in – as well as the statistic that 62% of Americans get their news from social media (to include Facebook, Twitter and Reddit) – then I would argue that “fake news” was indeed a fairly big factor in this election. 

That said, I would add further that I don’t think it influenced the actual outcome. Or at least there’s no evidence of this yet. I do think that at a minimum, it served to reinforce the batshit reality bubbles that the hardcore left/right bases tend to live in already.

Which does raise a valid question: if fake news is the problem, is it the fault of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit etc for not doing enough to flag it, or is it the fault of the gullible and narrow-minded people who believe this tripe and can’t be bothered to fact-check it?

Either way, people are demanding the social media sites do something about it. M. Zuckerberg says he’s working on it.

Interestingly, four university kids claim to have solved the whole problem with a Chrome browser extension called “News Feed authenticity checker” which they whacked together in about 36 hours, according to Business Insider:
 
"It classifies every post, be it pictures (Twitter snapshots), adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, fake news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence.

"For links, we take into account the website's reputation, also query it against malware and phishing websites database and also take the content, search it on Google/Bing, retrieve searches with high confidence and summarize that link and show to the user. For pictures like Twitter snapshots, we convert the image to text, use the usernames mentioned in the tweet, to get all tweets of the user and check if current tweet was ever posted by the user."

The plug-in even adds a tag saying whether the story is verified. The students have released the extension as an open-source project for other developers to tweak.

Certainly Facebook should be able to think of an algorithm-based solution – Google did something similar to deal with webspam content farms. But as this Vox article argues, it’s not a choice between algorithms or humans to vet fake news – you’ll probably need both.

On a side note, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft have agreed to create a shared database that allows them to ID and flag extremist content.

By “extremist” they mainly mean Islamic State and its supporters, but I suppose it could also be applied to, say, white supremacist/anti-Semitic groups who seem to be enjoying themselves at the moment. I wonder how far they’ll take that – does Trump count as an extremist? Does #NotMyPresident count? Will any stories reporting what Trump says be flagged as extremist?

Big fun.

BONUS TRACK:
I wrote a song about political memes being as bad as fake news, you know. Go like this:


Lie to me,

This is dF
defrog: (license to il)
I should probably post something about Fidel Castro, if only for posterity.

Obviously a lot of people are assessing his legacy via their own narrow political filters. For some people on the Left he was a symbolic hero with good intentions who gave Conservative Self-Righteous America the finger for decades – oh, and great healthcare system. For some people on the Right he was an evil, ruthless murderous Commie dictator (just like Obama) and not at all like (say) Vlad Putin (admirable) or Saddam Hussein (not a Commie, great terrorist killer).   

I think it's fair to say that Castro was all of these things. For me, however, Castro was mostly a cartoon character in American pop culture.

For context, I was born in 1965, well after the Communist Revolution in Cuba and the Bay Of Pigs incident. By the time I was aware of “the news” and the existence of geopolitics in the mid-70s, Castro was more a comedy staple than Terrifying Communist Menace On America’s Doorstep. Even with the Cold War still raging, Castro wasn’t an actual threat to America so much as an irritant for right-wingers annoyed that anyone could get away with setting up a Damn Commie regime just 90 miles off the coast of this great nation, etc.

So by the time I was aware of who Castro was, my image of him was more like this.

 

 

 

Of course, as I got older, I learned about the details of his regime, which are far more nuanced and complex than either side cares to admit. But really Castro has always kind of remained a television news character – like Reagan, Yasser Arafat, Mikael Gorbachev and others. So I didn’t take him all that seriously.

Which is probably why by the 1990s – like a lot of people – I thought the US ban on trade and travel with Cuba to be anachronistic and pointless. Sure, dictatorships are bad, and life under Castro was pretty bad for a lot of people.

On the other hand, by then I was very aware that the US govt has always been selective about which dictatorships are bad. And frankly by the 90s it was pretty clear that the US sanctions that were meant to isolate Castro and hasten the demise of his revolution simply weren’t working. At all. They weren’t working all the way up to the time that Obama put an end to them.

I guess that’s why on a purely objective level, it’s hard not to be impressed with Castro a little. He was a genuine cult of personality who started his own banana republic and defied the world’s biggest superpower right up to the end of his long natural life. The US couldn’t kill him (and don’t think they didn’t try). They couldn’t squeeze him economically. Nothing worked. (The going joke now is that the CIA finally got him by getting him to die of old age.)  

Still, yes, murderous dictator, etc. For all of the US’s hapless failings regarding its foreign policy on Cuba, no one should be glossing over the fact that Castro was pretty ruthless and heavy-handed as dictators go. You could argue that his predecessor Batista was worse, but let’s not pretend Castro’s opposition got off light.

Anyway, he’s gone, and now many Cubans are hoping that, with reformist brother Raul in charge, the country can move forward somehow and join the 21st century.

There is one hitch, of course.

Cuba libre,

This is dF 

defrog: (Default)

My daily routine has changed thanks to a new job, so I’m still working out where the all the previous reading time fits into the new schedule. Still, I did get some reading done. Which is good news for the book report fans out there.

MatildaMatilda by Roald Dahl

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Roald Dahl’s classic kids’ novel about five-year-old genius Matilda Wormwood, who lives with her rotten parents and deals with their rottenness by playing pranks on them. Once she starts school, she is pitted against the vicious and abusive headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, who is clearly insane and hates kids. Like many Dahl classics, this book is top-loaded with dark but cartoonish humor and heavy satire that takes a very dim view of both bullying headmasters and parents who don't appreciate how exceptional their kids are (to say nothing of used car salesmen). Even the over-the-top punishments meted out by Miss Trunchbull serve to make a point about how some people manage to get away with outrageous behavior. It’s a bit much at times, but otherwise it’s a well-told tale that deserves its reputation as a classic.


Quicker Than the EyeQuicker Than the Eye by Ray Bradbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a mid-90s anthology of 21 short stories, some of which appeared previously in magazines, with the remainder exclusive to this collection. Bradbury covers a lot of his usual territory – sci-fi, the supernatural, sentimental American nostalgia, dystopian futures, murder, literary tributes and surrealist fantasy. Inevitably, even the best stuff here will get compared to Bradbury’s classic stories and perhaps come up short for many readers. But there are a number of gems here – an apartment complex haunted by the ghosts of Laurel and Hardy, an octogenarian couple gleefully trying to kill each other, an explanation of why people build cities in disaster-prone areas, and a closet connecting parallel worlds, among others. Not everything works perfectly, but for my money, this collection demonstrates that even this late in his career, Bradbury still had the ability to tell a good page-turning tale, and tell it well.


Zero HistoryZero History by William Gibson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the final installment in Gibson’s “Blue Ant” trilogy, which – as is tradition for Gibson trilogies – brings together characters from the first two novels, although the balance here skews more heavily to the second book, Spook Country. That book’s protagonist, ex-indie rock singer Hollis Henry, returns as she is once again hired by mysterious Blue Ant chief Hubertus Bigend – this time, to track down a mysterious designer who makes secret-branded denim clothing. Bigend also hires Milgrim – another Spook Country character, fresh out of an experimental rehab program – to perform industrial espionage. The objective in both cases is the same – giving Blue Ant an edge in winning a govt contract to design military uniforms (which are in turn a leading indicator of fashion design trends, it seems). Things get complicated when a couple of Blue Ant employees defect to another bidder who doesn’t appreciate the competition. At first I had trouble grasping the idea that the marketing and fashion industries are full of this much danger and intrigue. But Gibson makes it work – possibly because, when I think about it, he has always written about the intersection of art, corporate culture, government power, fashion, and technology, but the art/fashion/culture aspects are more obvious when he uses a contemporary setting rather than a futuristic cyberpunk dystopia. Anyway, although Gibson pushes his luck a little by the third act, Zero History is for me the most satisfying episode of the series – perhaps because I’ve learned to recognize the underground territory he’s mapping out here. And it's strangely interesting territory.


The Elephant in the RoomThe Elephant in the Room by Jon Ronson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short Kindle-Single follow-up of sorts to Jon Ronson’s Them: Adventures with Extremists, which was published in 2000 and featured, among other extremists, Infowars’ Alex Jones, who at the time wasn’t really well-known outside of fringe conspiracy theory circles. These days, Jones is a national figure as one of the voices of the “alt-right” movement driving Donald Trump’s presidential run – Trump is on record as a fan of Jones, who arguably started the whole “Hillary For Prison” meme. Ronson reconnected with Jones at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in hopes of accessing Trump. He didn’t, but Ronson did spend time with Jones, Trump advisor Roger Stone and alt-right Trump fans – and this is the result. Like everything else related to the election, your opinion of this will largely depend on how hardcore and partisan your political views are and how much what Ronson wrote differs from what you wanted him to write. Personally, I liked it – as with Them!, Ronson has an uncanny and important ability to get to the humanity of his subjects without painting them as conveniently 2D caricatures of pure evil. (In fact, Ronson argues that the Left has inadvertently empowered and galvanized the alt-right in part by doing just that.) At under 50 pages it’s not comprehensive by any means, but it’s a good snapshot of the influence of the alt-right on Trump’s campaign and the chaos and madness that has manifested on both sides of the aisle.

View all my reviews

Not alt-right in the head,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

A few other random observations about the 2016 election:

1. This is probably the first election in my lifetime where it seemed people went to the polls with virtually no idea what either candidate actually planned to do if elected.

Yes, they knew where Trump and Hillary stood on various issues and each other. But that’s not the same thing as offering details on an actual plan for acting on those positions. Trump went to the wire offering close to zero concrete details on his big plans for the country (“Build The Wall™ and make Mexico pay for it” does not count – that’s a catch phrase, not a plan), while Hillary had detailed plans but no one was talking about them. Everyone was talking about her emails, her pneumonia and her vast global criminal organization that only conservatives can see. If it ever came up during the debates (and I admit I didn’t watch them), the media highlights never mentioned them.

I don’t remember ever encountering this before. I know lots of people who vote for trivial and self-centered reasons and don't pay attention to policy details, but at least some of them usually talk about the issues and what their candidate plans to do about them in detail, especially regarding the economy. Not this year.

2. Another strange detail about Trump’s victory is that he won in part (or perhaps mostly) because he and his supporters are under the impression that America is in the worst shape it’s ever been – or at the very least, it’s worse than it was before Obama took over the dump.

The thing is, by just about every traditional metric we typically use to judge the health of the country under a given administration, the US has actually done okay under Obama, especially when you consider the shape it was in when he first took office (i.e. two wars, an economic meltdown, double-digit unemployment and an escalating national deficit, among other things).

Almost eight years later, the economy is going well, Wall Street is thriving, unemployment is at historic lows, and annual deficits are declining. Even the crime rate is way down. To be sure, the national debt is up 121% since 2009. On the other hand, did anyone even talk about the debt this election?

Anyway, the point is that by the numbers, the country is in relatively good shape, and better than it was in January 2009 – and yet at street level, almost half the country seems convinced that it’s actually worse. That was the whole point of Trump’s MAGA campaign – America has become the worst place ever under Obama, and only Trump can fix it.

There’s a couple of conclusions to draw from this: (1) Trump supporters are completely delusional and living in an alternate reality America – which is possible if they get their new solely from Fox News, Infowars and World Net Daily – or (2) the traditional metrics don’t reflect the reality on the ground for ordinary people – which is also possible (regardless of which reality they inhabit). So it's possible the old metrics don't mean as much to voters as they used to. Someone should do a tl;dr research paper on this, maybe.

3. I mentioned this before, but one interesting fallout of the Trump win is that the GOP has finally given up all claims of being the Wholesome Family Values party.

Which was never a very credulous claim to begin with, I know. I only mention it because I came of voting age at a time when the Moral Majority – and after them, the Christian Coalition – emerged as a heavy right-wing political force in the GOP. Which meant that pretty much every POTUS candidate had to pass a CC litmus test. Consequently, from the mid-80s up to now the political wisdom was that it was impossible for anyone to be a GOP candidate unless they were a devout Christian who not only openly supported Wholesome Family Values (i.e. Christian heterosexual nuclear family with 2.4 kids, no divorces and no fornicating before or outside of marriage), but also lived them.

Donald Trump is of course damn near the opposite of that model. Most evangelicals voted for him anyway, and for a variety of reasons – one being that many seem convinced that there’s a difference between Loud Outrageous Angry Pussy Grab Trump and President Trump. One was just an act, the other is the “real” Trump, or at least a changed Trump.

Another, of course, is that social conservatives in general have not fared well in the culture wars, and with a SCOTUS seat up for grabs, some see Trump at their only shot at regaining lost legal ground, because they’re certainly not going to get that from Hillary.

Anyway, I think that from this point on, the GOP going to have a very hard time supporting Trump and criticizing every Demo candidate after this for not being a clean living Christian monogamist still married to his first wife (who is not a foreigner).

Or maybe not. Never underestimate the ability of politicians and their supporters to harp on the opposition’s shortcomings no matter how many of them they may have in common, and no matter how blindingly obvious this is to everyone outside of their hyperpartisan reality bubble.

4. For people wondering if the results would be different if Gary Johnson and Jill Stein had minded their own business, well, we may never know. The Wall Street Journal says probably not, though of course it depends on how Libertarian/Green voters would have voted in a strictly two-party race (with the caveat that they may well have voted for no one at all).

I would argue that at the very least they kept either from achieving an outright majority, which just muddies the waters further.

5. Also, for people wondering just how Hillary could have blown it against someone as clearly unqualified as Trump, well, everyone has an opinion on that. These stories from Politico and The Atlantic are as good a guess as any.

Of course, some people will tell you she lost because she wasn't Bernie Sanders (and by “some people” I mean “people who voted for Sanders in the primaries and know for a fact he would have won because OBVIOUSLY”).

Yeah. One reason they’re saying that is because polls back before the convention had Bernie at a higher spread over Trump than Clinton did. The thing is, I was never convinced that meant anything. For one thing, the spread wasn’t that big – just a few points more. That might have helped in an election this close, but the other thing is that Bernie was running mainly against Clinton. The GOP barely paid attention to him because they assumed he wouldn’t be their opponent in the general election. If he’d won, you can bet they (and Trump) would have trained their guns on him and let rip, starting with his Socialist Agenda.

Still, maybe he would have overcome that. By traditional metrics, Trump should have lost before the primaries, so maybe that would have worked in Sanders’ favor too. We’ll never know. But since I never really felt the Bern, I can afford to assume that Trump would still be POTUS.

6. Amusingly (or not), Donald Trump is so annoyed at the recount clamor that he’s taken the trouble to tell everyone via Twitter (where else?) that in fact he did win the popular vote – all those extra votes Hillary got were the result of illegal voters.

He didn’t mention how he happens to know this, but by a wild coincidence Infowars – of whom Trump is a fan – ran a story claiming that 3 million people who voted were noncitizens. Their source: one guy who said so without providing any evidence backing up his claim. WaPo has a good wrap-up of how bogus this claim is.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to notice the unintentional irony of Trump alleging voter fraud on a scale that you’d think would justify the very recount he’s annoyed with.

Okay, I'm done.

An explanation for everything,

This is dF
defrog: (onoes)

Perhaps inevitably, we’re back in recount territory. Between Hillary’s pop vote lead now exceeding 2 million, and the fact that the polls all showed her in the lead (albeit barely) – and also supposedly Russians and/or Julian Assange hacked voting machines, maybe – HRC fans are desperately demanding a recount in key states. Even Jill Stein is doing it, and has been raising money to fund recounts in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the latter of which is now underway.

Personally, I’d rather they didn’t, because it’s really just asking for trouble the same way that asking the Electoral College to switch their votes is asking for trouble.

For one thing, it always comes across as sour grapes when the losing side demands a recount and accuses the other side of cheating or hacking voting machines or whatever because HOW COULD WE HAVE POSSIBLY LOST OTHERWISE?

Sure, Stein and others are arguing that it’s not about changing the results so much as proving the results are accurate so that we can all trust the system. On the other hand, if the situation were reversed and Hillary won in the same manner, would Stein and her supporters care nearly as much about the integrity of the result? (And I ask that knowing full well that Stein and many of her supporters never liked HRC in the first place – but I’ll bet many of the people contributing to her fundraiser would much rather see HRC in the White House than Trump and are more interested in proving Hillary really did win the electoral vote and that the GOP cheated.)

To be sure, it’s probably time we had an audit of some kind on the electoral process, and I don’t mind if it uncovers some real issues that need fixing. We’ve been talking about this since at least 2000, but once the election’s over, everyone loses interest and moves on. If we're seriously going to audit the voting process, now is as good a time as any to do it. 

On the other hand, there’s no real evidence that any significant fraud took place, or that voting machines were tampered with – not to the extent that it would change the results. And we already know it’s mathematically possible to lose the pop vote but win the electoral vote without the other side cheating or gaming the system. So it’s hard to know what Stein is really trying to accomplish apart from giving HRC one last shot at the White House.

It should be noted too that the one person not calling for a recount is Hillary – which is probably political savviness on her part. She’s already conceded and resigned herself, and instructed her fans to do likewise – only an idiot would actively demand a recount after that. So I’m sure she knows what she’s in for if she demands a recount and wins (or still loses).

Anyway, it comes back to what I said before – at some point you just have to accept that you lost and move on, because the alternative is an endless cycle of distrust and retribution where both sides become less and less willing to accept the transition of power. And whatever Stein’s personal motives might be, I think support for a recount is mainly from people who want Hillary to be declared the winner – and I will bet good money they won’t accept the recount results if Trump still wins.

Also, if the recount does somehow hand it back to Hillary, you can’t expect Trump and his supporters to take that calmly. Because would you?

Here we go again,

This is dF

Profile

defrog: (Default)
defrog

January 2017

S M T W T F S
12 3456 7
8 91011121314
15 16 1718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Jan. 19th, 2017 12:06 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios