Is Mélenchon another Chávez? Another Trump?

Probably not. He’s never tried to stage a coup d’etat in the name of the people (Chávez), and unlike Trump he does actually have some prior political experience.

But, really, “better than Chávez” or “better than Trump” are very low standards to set, and the guy just has a tawdry air around him. He’s certainly not shying away from using ethnic bigotry (against Germans) for his own personal gain. His promise to tax all income above above €400K is unrealistic (no such massive income redistribution can be successfully imposed by government fiat; it would take sustained social pressure from civil society over many years). His apparent admiration of both Castro and Chávez is both foolish and sickening (though not terribly surprising for an ex-Trotskyite).

On the latter fact, it’s important to consider that self-professed communist candidates that are freely elected have never turned out to be totalitarians, despite their delusions about those who share their political label in less free societies. Cyprus had an elected communist as head of government for a few years. On the local and regional level, parts of Italy and India have long had communist governments.

To sum up: no, he’s probably not another Hugo Chávez. He’s definitely not equivalently awful to Marie LePen. But he’s hardly the dawn of a great new era, either. Mostly, he sounds like a garden-variety faux-populist gasbag out to capitalize on popular discontent.

So, What Happened?

I think this:

  • Trump wants to be chummy with Russia. He (or others on his campaign) may well even have colluded with Russia.
  • Fascists admire Putin and want to be chummy with Putin, too.
  • Trump wants to pander to fascists.
  • But Trump’s ideology is mostly about promoting Trump. He has no firm commitment to fascism. He just pandered to fascism because he needed their votes in the election.
  • Fascists (and even fascist sympathizers) with significant policy experience are rare, meaning Trump has been compelled by circumstances to hire many conservatives.
  • Conservatives are not fascists. Trump was never very popular with conservatives. They just learned to eventually accept Trump because at least he’d probably appoint judges they’d like.
  • Moreover, Trump may be losing patience with the fascists. Bannon’s advice hasn’t exactly served him well. This doubtless explains Bannon’s recent demotion.

End result? An administration packed with conservatives who went into orbit when Assad launched that gas attack and automatically started denouncing it. Yes, I believe at least some of them started denouncing Assad before even consulting their boss on the matter. Reason: they wanted to strongarm their boss into seeing things (or at least professing to see them) their way.

But Trump still wanted to be chummy with Russia, so he told Russia first and launched a deliberately ineffectual attack. But it’s looking increasingly like that didn’t work. Putin paid for his lapdog, and he’s apparently quite upset that he hasn’t gotten what he paid for.

This is where things might start really getting interesting. For openers, if Putin does really have kompromat on Trump, he will almost certainly use it, given how upset he seems to be. Don’t expect that shoe to drop until after Tillerson leaves Moscow. If it doesn’t, the kompromat probably doesn’t exist.

On the subject of Putin and his wished-for lapdogs, expect Putin to be particularly livid at Assad for launching the attack and setting off the whole mess in the first place. The Russians are doubtless already searching for someone better to back in Syria, and as soon as they find him, Assad will be dumped.

The lesson here is that ruling elites are not the master manipulators that conspiracy theorists believe them to be. They hold great power, but they also work with limitations and imperfect circumstances in an unpredictable world.

A Strange Missile Attack

First, yes, Trump indeed told Russia about it first. I mention that not because there’s been any shortage of such mentions, but that they have, so far as I have been able to tell, mostly been one liberal blog citing another. My link is to a Time magazine article that quotes a Russian official by name confirming the notice.

Second, the runways were left alone. Add that to the point above, and it’s no surprise that that planes (which Russia and Russia’s ally Syria were able to move to a safe place thanks to the deliberate warning) used the (still intact) runways to launch sorties from.

Before closing I’ll point out that there is a bit of truth that came out from the White House, namely, that attacking the runways with missiles wouldn’t have accomplished much. No, it wouldn’t have. But that’s sort of beside the point I’m making, which was that a deliberately symbolic attack, with only limited military significance, was made. In other words, it was for show.

Go (the Computer Language) and Fads

I’ve been looking at the Go programming language recently, because (a) it’s started showing up a lot more in job descriptions, and (b) it combines the interesting attributes of both being compiled to machine language and being garbage-collected.

Unfortunately, it also falls victim to what I regard as an unfortunate fad amongst programming language designers in recent years: the decision that full, preemptive threading is something that programs don’t need and that some sort of ersatz (cooperative) concurrency is good enough.

Well, sorry, in my experience it’s just not. Maybe I’m atypically biased, because of my recent experience writing web crawlers, which have to parse pages as part of the job of finding new links to crawl. That’s a computationally complex task that in certain pathological cases can take indefinitely long. The solution is to run the parsing in a thread, and to kill that thread and proclaim the page unusable if it fails to parse in a reasonable amount of time.

This only works with true preemptive threading. The parsing is taking place in some third-party library that’s stuck in a loop someplace. I don’t want to recode the parsing library and clutter it up with dozens of yield statements. I shouldn’t have to recode it. But absent genuine threads, there is no alternative.

Maybe I’m being unfair here; maybe my experience with concurrency is highly unrepresentative. I don’t know, exactly. I can’t imagine I’m the only person who’s tried to make calls into a computationally complex library routine from a multithreaded program. So color me skeptical about the whole “ersatz threads are good enough” mindset.

I’ll note that C# has both full preemptive threading and the ability to be compiled down to machine code (by default, it’s just byte code, but there is what the C# world calls “ahead of time” compilation, which is just what I described). And C# is not a Microsoft-only thing; there’s Mono.

(Electronic) Wire-Wrapping


I’m working on my on-again, off-again digital clock project, and one thing I learned before I broke off before is that the number and density of connections made soldering very impractical. So wire-wrapping it was. Some basic points:

  1. Wire-wrapping is spendy. Just getting a batch of sockets, a spool of wire, and an entry-level tool cost me around $100.
  2. Because of that, I can’t consider it worthwhile for less-ambitious (read: less complex) projects.
  3. You’re on your own, basically. There’s no instructions with the tool I ordered. I presume that’s typical for most tools.
  4. There’s an incredible variety of tools and wires out there.

So, with all that, here’s what I’ve learned so far.

Get a Less-Expensive Tool

Unless you’re really going to get into wire-wrapping, don’t get one of those gun tools. The base price is spendy enough, and they’re even more spendy than that! The gun tools (both electric and hand-powered) require both a bit and a collar, and both of those items are costly as well. Expect to spend $200 to $300 or more just to get a tool capable of making connections. Ouch!

Instead, opt for a “screwdriver” type tool. I’d recommend getting one made by a well-known name brand, because you are going to be making hundreds of connections on the typical project, given the size and complexity needed to make wire-wrapping make sense.

Use 30 Gauge Wire

Specifically, 30-gauge, Kynar-insulated, silver-plated wire. It’s basically the standard. (Just to make it interesting, they sometimes call Kynar by other names: PVDF, polyvinylidene fluoride, or polyvinylidene difluoride.)

Get the Right Tool

The tool you need is governed by both the wire gauge and the style of wrapping you’ll do. You already know the gauge; the wrapping style I’d recommend is the “modified” style that involves wrapping about a turn of insulated wire around the terminal posts before the bare wire starts. This provides a degree of strain relief, which minimizes the chance of things breaking while you wire your project.

Taken together, the right tool is the Jonard WSU-30M. It’s not much larger than a small screwdriver and costs over $30. Cheaper than the guns by far, but still, ouch! It’s a name-brand tool, and it’s well-known enough that there’s (incomplete, but still better than no) instructions for using it on the web.

An added plus is that the WSU-30M can remove connections as well as make them, so you don’t have to order a separate removing tool. The latter is a must, as Murphy’s Law says you will sooner or later make a wrong connection.

How to Use the Tool

There’s some instructions here. Alas, they’re missing one of the most important things: how much wire to use to account for wrapping and slack between two terminals. After some frustration, I arrived at the distance plus 7 cm (sorry, I’m not going to convert that to inches; I prefer working in metric because the math is easier).

A Gem of a Quote

As I am wont to do at times, I’m delving into a subject deeply for no apparent reason other than a friend mentioned it and it sparked my interest to read further on it. The subject in this case is the Chilean Revolution of 1970-1973 that was brutally cut short by a US-supported coup d’etat against the democratically-elected government of Salvador Allende.

I’m not quite old enough to qualify as “old” yet, but this still resonates with me:

“[T]here is no generation gap–there are young old people and old young people, and I place myself in the latter category.” — Salvador Allende

This comes from a little-known (in the US) speech that Allende gave at a university in Mexico:


Well, THAT Didn’t Last

And really, could anyone doubt that it wouldn’t?

That speech that some foolishly gushed over looked good only in comparison to the general standard of awfulness that Trump has set. If any other president had uttered it, proposals like the Naziesque one to track and publicize immigrant crimes would have inspired the horror and revulsion they deserve.

Trump has done that before: His “I am your voice” acceptance speech was actually far better than his norm, too. He’s given up tweeting before, too. Neither has lasted. The leopard has proven time and time again that he cannot change his spots.

Well, the Democrats Did It

They managed to successfully ram through a Clintonite to be the next head of their party. This shows that enough Democrats are either terminally clueless and cannot understand the mechanics of the Trump victory, or terminally craven and think risking a further slide into fascism is a price worth paying for continuing to appease the oligarchs.

Either way, I have no stomach for working closer with those bastards. Yes, I realize that there’s an argument to be made for perseverance, one that is basically not refutable (since it depends so much on unknowable future events). It’s just that the chance seems so remote to me, and the need seems so profound for more revolutionary politics, that I cannot in good conscience squander my precious life energy on working within the Democratic Party.

It bears revisiting the point that the Establishment left does not exist to liberate people from capitalism; it seeks to placate people with reforms so that they don’t get uppity and threaten the rule of the elites. As such, the reason that Ellison wasn’t voted in is that he serves no useful purpose to the Establishment. There simply isn’t enough viable threat of social revolution to sufficiently motivate serious attempts at reformism at the present.

So the conflict between following my heart and choosing the most practical route turns out to be illusory; focusing on radical politics is the most practical route.

US Imperialism Could Be Worse

It could be explicitly guided by the principles of white nationalism, and could be totally unmoored from any standards of decency, instead of only partially unmoored from them. It could, in other words, be much like President Bannon desires it to be.

Which means that despite all his faults, someone like James Mattis is exerting a beneficial influence by retarding such new directions and clinging to historical patterns. In turn that means that if Mattis (or some other more Establishment figure) leaves, particularly if he is forced out, it’s time to get really worried.

The Deep State Versus Trump

It’s real. Trumpists are whining about it and Establishment liberals are cheering it on.

What’s the ramifications in this for anarchists? I think this discussion on Reddit captures many of the points. First, the Deep State, like any part of the State, is not the friend of anti-authoritarians. But second, the pre-Trump status quo is far better for anarchists than the sort of fascism Trump could easily unleash. In this, the Deep State serves much like Stalin did against Hitler: not necessarily a Good Guy, but someone who can be much more easily lived with and coped with than the Bad Guy both of us have in common.

Currently, the Intelligence Community seems to be fighting Trump in the least harmful way remaining available to them: by leaking damaging facts about his regime. That allows the influence they wield to be moderated by public opinion and lawful processes. Exercising influence via leaks is greatly preferable to doing so via more overtly forceful techniques such as blackmailing, assassinations, coups d’etat, etc.

The leaks are still unlawful, of course. Classified information is being released to the public without following the legally mandated formal process of declassification. But the law isn’t prefect; in fact, it’s already failed mightily by letting an authoritarian demagogue (precisely the sort of person it has intended to keep out of high office) into the White House.

The crisis, in other words, already exists. By choosing to deliberately leak, the Intelligence Community is responding to an existing constitutional crisis, not creating a new one.