And Here We Go

The baseless accusations against the counting (and, in Florida, recounting) is already well underway. Now Trump himself is getting in on the game.

I told you so, and it’s probably only going to escalate.

Part of it is going to unfortunately help distract from (and establish a false equivalence with) the place where there almost certainly has been an actual fraudulent election: Georgia. This is unfortunate, as there is no equivalence between bogus election fraud and actual election fraud.

I certainly hope Stacey Abrams realizes this and refuses to give a standard concession speech to Brian Kemp. By choosing to use his role as Secretary of State to compromise the election, Kemp forefit any entitlement to a gracious concession from his opponent.

Setting the Screen Width and Height for BlueStacks on a Mac

There’s no way provided to set the screen width and height for the BlueStacks Android emulator. In fact, there’s no settings menu at all.

There’s write-ups how to get around that problem on Windows, but not on the Mac. Hence this post.

  1. After installing BlueStacks, edit the file Library/Preferences/com.BlueStacks.AppPlayer.plist in your home directory. If the file isn’t there, try starting then quitting the BlueStacks.
  2. Make sure BlueStacks is not running.
  3. Open the file in your favorite text or XML editor.
  4. Locate the <key>FrameBuffer</key> element. Everything you need to change is in the dictionary below it.

The items to change are Width, Height, WindowWidth, and WindowHeight. The first two parameters control the size that the Android apps see. The second two control the size of the window displayed on your Mac.

Sherrod Brown

First let’s start with two tweets, one from a conservative, the other from a progressive:

Original here.

Original here.

This is initially what caught my attention. One almost never sees such agreement. If a Never Trump conservative offers unsolicited advice to the Democrats, it is virtually always of the “concern troll” variety, reminding the Democrats that they must triangulate rightward to be politically viable. And, of course, those of us on the left advise the Democrats to move leftward.

Of course we both do. If you are an activist, of whatever stripe, you want the world to move in your direction. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; in fact, a huge amount of human progress has happened because of activists and revolutionaries trying to move (and eventually succeeding at moving) society in a new and better direction.

What one must be careful of, however, is letting ones own goals and emotions get in the way of being able to see the world in a factual and objective manner. Strategies based on self-delusion almost never turn out well. As Bertrand Russell once observed: “Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.”

Sherrod Brown, for those unaware, is the Democratic two-term (soon to be three-term) senior senator from Ohio. Earlier this week he easily won reelection, despite being from a state that:

  • Voted for Trump in 2016,
  • Has elected (and reelected) a Republican for its other Senate seat,
  • Has had a Republican governor for many years,
  • Just elected a brand new Republican governor after its existing one got term-limited out of office, and
  • Also just elected Republicans to the statewide offices of Auditor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and Treasurer.

In other words, all Ohio statewide races, other than the one Brown ran in, this year were won by Republicans.

By pretty much all measures I’ve managed to take, he’s on the left of his party. He opposed corporate globalization during the Clinton Era, and he’s continued to oppose trade deals that shaft the working class. He opposed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act. He opposed the Iraq War. He’s stuck his neck out in support of LGBT rights (he opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996).

Some months ago, I claimed here that Sanders could have won the 2016 presidential election. I based that claim, not on the assertion that the majority of American voters are leftists, but on the assertion that a huge swath of them are not centrists but rather nonideological pragmatists who are open to persuasion from a broad swath of the political spectrum.

And lo, it turns out that the most successful endorser of candidates this election cycle was none other than Bernie Sanders! A larger fraction of Sanders-endorsed candidates went on to victory than those endorsed by other celebrity politicians. The trick is selling your ideas to the nonideological pragmatists.

So, Brown’s success is no surprise. (Neither is Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity in the UK, which came as a complete shock to the chattering classes.) Leftist policies can be sold to the masses provided they are marketed in the right way. Messaging matters a lot.

Most people’s votes are primarily motivated by emotions, not rational analysis. (If it was the latter, not just left-of-center but radical-left politics would already have prevailed pretty much worldwide.) Fans of reason and logic (myself amongst them) might find that frustrating, but that’s just the way the world is. To prevail and actually have a chance of changing the world, we must prevail in the ugly, imperfect world that actually is—not in some hypothetical alternate world that might possibly some day exist.

Appeal to people’s emotions in the right way, and you have a fair shake at persuading them. Rub them the wrong way and it matters not how solid your logic is nor how firmly grounded in facts you are: you will lose.

Summing things up so far, Brown’s success is no surprise to me, and neither is Greenwald’s endorsement of Brown. What is a surprise is Bill Kristol’s endorsement. It comes not from some nonideological pragmatist but from a lifelong movement conservative, someone whose own emotions are strongly biased towards counseling the Democrats to run rightward.

That latter fact is, I think, highly significant. In Sherrod Brown, evidence seems to indicate we have an individual who is not only by any objective measure on the left of his party (and thus at the left of what is presently achievable via electoral politics), but also someone uniquely well-talented in the art of marketing himself politically. So well talented that he’s apparently managed to persuade not just many nonideological pragmatists, but an ideological adversary.

None of this means that a Brown presidency would make Establishment politics stop being Establishment politics. Of course it wouldn’t; revolutionary politics is still important. It’s just that there isn’t really much of the latter in the USA at the moment—and what there is, is more an inward-looking subculture than a movement. Trumpism needs to be dethroned as soon as possible, using whatever means are presently up to the task. Like it or not, that probably means replacing Trump with a Democrat via the mechanism of electoral politics.

Brown should be encouraged to run for president. If he chooses to run, the Democrats would be the biggest fools in the history of American politics if they didn’t run him against Trump.

Will the Democrats Become a Party of Principle?

The Democratic Party has not in my adult life been a party of principle. It has been a party of compromise, a victim of a sort of institutional Stockholm syndrome. It once was a party of principle, during the New Deal and Great Society eras, but I was only a young child during the latter (preschool age) so of course politics was beyond my comprehension at the time.

By contrast, the Republicans have been the party of principle: unafraid to plainly state what they want, stick to the message, and unabashedly pursue it. That is, they were until Donald Trump came along. Then most of their old principles got thrown out the window and replaced with the fascist principle of complete devotion to the leader.

The prior state of affairs always really annoyed me. I often said that the GOP was the only party of principle, but unfortunately its principles were generally repugnant to me, so I was stuck with the party of compromise.

That was bad enough when it caused the decades-long erosion of the working and middle classes at the expense of the rich. Now the crises has reached an entirely different level: compromise with fascism will be vastly more tragic than compromise with conservatism.

Ironically, now is the time for a measure of compromise with conservatism of the never-Trump variety, provided those conservatives are willing to reciprocate. It took a Popular Front in the form of an alliance between the UK, the USA, and the USSR to defeat fascism. My guess is it will take another Popular Front to do so today to defeat Trumpism.

But I digress. To reiterate, we simply can not afford any compromise with Trumpist fascism.

Nancy Pelosi probably did for political reasons have to give her “We’re hopeful we can work with them, but we will be exercising our power of oversight” speech today. Well, that game is now up. Trump let it be known in no uncertain terms that anything other than total submission to his will is utterly unacceptable to him. It is the standard position of any fascist leader, after all.

There is simply no reasonable response to such an attitude except political warfare. Is the party of compromise capable of rising to the occasion? I certainly hope so, but given its history I have my doubts.

It is here that the never-Trump conservative wing of the opposition might prove a useful asset. As refugees from the old GOP, they have experience in the realm of principles and standing by them, experience that most Democrats lack. Encouragingly, David Frum has already penned an excellent editorial basically calling for such political warfare against Trump.

Can the Democrats rise to the occasion? We shall soon see. For all our sake, I certainly hope they will.

A Victory for the Pollsters

What happened today is basically what the polls were in aggregate saying would happen: the Republicans kept the Senate and the Democrats took the house. The projected number of House seats that flipped is still (even as more are getting settled) right around the number of 35 that the polls had converged on in the past fortnight.

A lot of my friends are expressing disappointment and saying otherwise. That’s more their fault than the pollsters’. A cherry-picked subset of rosy outlooks (what many of them were going on) is not representative of the overall data set.

The anomaly that happened in 2016 when the polls failed to predict the Trump win seems more and more likely to have been a one-off anomaly. For a horrifying hour or so, it appeared that might not be the case. The earliest results had the Democrats doing significantly worse than forecast. Thankfully, those districts in the Eastern US (then the only time zone where polls had closed and results were available) were themselves an unrepresentative sample.

As to what happens now, caution is advised. Remember my recent post about refusing to accept or honor election results. That hasn’t happened so far. But wait a bit; there’s no telling what Trump or Fox News might say in the coming days and weeks. Even Evan McMullin (a conservative, not a leftist like yours truly) is predicting things are likely to get ugly.

New Internet Service

I’ve gotten a few mailings from the phone company advertising DSL internet service. The prices seemed very attractive (about one third the existing cost I’m paying the cable company). So I called to investigate, and found out that there was basically no bait-and-switch; it would be that much cheaper. It’s not as fast as the cable company’s service, but my calculations indicated it would be fast enough.

The vastly cheaper rates aren’t even the best part. That’s being able to finally sever my relationship with Comcast, which has a very well-deserved reputation for being the most hated company in the USA. Mind you, I’m replacing them with the phone company, which is it’s typical bureaucratic and inefficient self. I’ve had to call and go through phone trees for things that there should be self-serve options online for.

But, it’s still vastly better than dealing with Comcast. At least Century Link’s service options are simple, up front, and understandable. Want phone service? Order phone service. Want internet? Order internet. Want TV? Order that. Order more than one service and get a volume discount. No special “packages” that make it cheaper to order TV service you don’t need for 12 months (then you have to negotiate another deal, and it’s always confusing, and you can never just pay for what you want and leave it at that). No commitment in advance to subscribe for a minimum period of time.

Tomorrow I call Comcast and tell them goodbye. Can’t happen soon enough.

Political Hypersensitivity, a.k.a. “Political Correctness”

A bunch of people are flying off the handle at Sarah Lawrence College in suburban New York because one of the professors there happens to be politically conservative (or at least not liberal or leftist) and penned a mildly-worded op-ed in the New York Times. This basically proves that left-wing political correctness on campus is not a total myth.

The off-campus reaction to it further proves that right-wing political correctness isn’t a myth, either. Cue Reason magazine, which claimed “Abrams’ office door was vandalized” in response to the op-ed, but furnishes absolutely no evidence of this claim. They do show pictures of an office door covered in signs and notes, some using strongly-worded (but still nonthreatening) language. Sorry, taping notes and signs to a door is not “vandalism” by any stretch of the word.

It is still an overreaction, however. If Prof. Abrams had opined that LGBT students or students of color had no right to expect fair and equal treatment (he did not), and as such should basically like it or lump it (again, he did not), then plastering his door with notes that he should shut up or leave would have been appropriate. It would have been giving an intolerant bigot a taste of his own medicine.

It’s not the first time Abrams has penned such an op-ed, and it probably won’t be the last. If your ideology (wherever it falls on the political spectrum) is so fragile and weak that the only way it can prevail is if competing ideologies are not allowed at all, then your ideology is basically useless. There’s no way it can prevail in the big, bad world off campus.

What would have been a fair response? Prof. Abrams’ most recent op-ed contains a bunch of claims about statistical sampling Abrams has done, without divulging anything about how the sampling was done. Skepticism is certainly in order here: Abrams should be challenged to show his homework and furnish evidence that the sampling he did was conducted in a rigorous fashion. And if Abrams refuses the challenge, he should be dismissed as a hypersensitive right-winger with a persecution complex who is prone to blow smoke.

But, as it stands, his critics are the ones that have done the most to demonstrate hypersensitivity.

Israel Is Not Jewry; Opposing Netanyahu Is Not Antisemitism

That should be obvious, but Netanyahu’s apologists find the conflations useful, aggressively promote them, and manage to sucker all too many into falling for them. That, despite how the Netanyahu regime has grown increasingly corrupt, nationalistic, and distant from the norms of a free society over the years.

It’s not just hardcore right-wingers that fall for it, either. The more moderate right does, too: Jennifer Rubin and Max Boot recently reiterated the meme that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement was nothing but a left-wing version of antisemitism in the wake of the shootings in Pittsburgh. It’s not just those on the political right, either: Cory Booker has fallen for it as well.

The conflations are easier to make than they should be for those who believe Israel can do no wrong, because feigned concern over the plight of the Palestinians is a trope sometimes employed by actual antisemites. That anti-Israel views can be motivated by antisemitism does not imply that they are necessarily motivated by it, however.

Furthermore, there is a difference between being opposed to the Netanyahu regime and being opposed to Israel. It’s entirely possible to support sanctions against Israel as a form of tough love.

The converse to the subject of this post is true as well. Supporting the Netanyahu regime is not the same thing as supporting Israel or supporting the Jewish people as a whole. In fact, the USA’s most rabid Netanyahu supporters tend to be fundamentalist Christians. Their support is motivated by the Book of Revelation, which prophesies a restored Israel as a prerequisite for an Armageddon and Second Coming that sees Israel being destroyed and the Jews condemned to eternal hellfire. Concern for the Jews has nothing whatsoever to do with their support for the Netanyahu regime.

1933 or 1914?

Tom Nichols recently tweeted:

I just visited the World War I museum in #KansasCity and it filled me with dread, because I feel like we’re in danger of heading toward another disaster fueled by ignorant nationalism. I have always been less worried about a reply [sic] of 1933 than about a mad rerun of July 1914.

First, when people talk about history repeating itself, they don’t mean that entire complex scenarios literally go into a scene-by-scene replay. Nobody named Adolf Hitler is going to be appointed chancellor of Germany, repudiate the Versailles sanctions, rearm, and start a new war. No archduke is going to be assassinated in Sarajevo and trigger a series of complex, interlocking, secret mutual defense pacts into touching off a world war. When “history repeats itself” it happens via a theme happening again in a different context, not as a whole complex context replaying itself.

Second, there’s a false dichotomy here: it’s not either/or. The resurgence of fascism is a real thing, as are the attacks on the multilateral internatonal institutions that emerged after World War II (fascism is nationalistic and opposed to that order). It’s entirely possible that we could be headed for a repeat of both 1914 and 1933. In fact, if we get a repeat of 1914, it will probably also involve the 1933 elements.