Of Course, the Dems Are Likely to Lose

Earlier I wrote (emphasis added):

The Republic is basically dead already. Most don’t know it yet because the corpse has not started stinking yet, but it is dead. Nobody much believes in (or abides by) its core professed principles, and this goes for the Democrats about as much as it does for the GOP. The lack of any meaningful, substantial outrage over 1/6 proves it.

Many people realize that emphasized point on some level. Many pundits do, too, but refuse to say it aloud because of the fear that it will demoralize left-leaning voters. If I were a prominent pundit, I would have that fear, too. It is only because I am a random nobody with a blog of approximately zero national political import that I feel comfortable saying it.

But whether it is said or not, a non-trivial number of people feel it, and it does not take a whole lot of demoralized voters abstaining to change the outcome in a system where power is as balanced between two parties as ours is.

The remedy, of course, is for the Democrats to grow a pair and start using what power they do have to pursue accountability. Conveniently, this will be an exercise in basic law-and-order which will appeal to Never Trump moderates and conservatives approximately as much as it will appeal to liberals and leftists. The logical effect will be to inspire and energize a Big Tent base of support in the coming elections.

In other words, that which is best for world as a whole is also best for the short-term political fortunes of the Democratic Party. The question is: are enough Democrats capable of realizing this, and escaping the comfort zone of their timeworn battered wife role, always blaming themselves for the fact that the opposition never loves them?

My money is solidly on this particular old dog being unable to learn any new tricks, but I certainly hope I am wrong.

The Republic is Basically Dead

Almost three weeks on from the filibuster of the 1/6 commission and there are no signs of the House or the Executive Branch lifting so much as a pinky finger to pursue accountability for instigating the coup attempt.

By any reasonable and objective measure that I can conceive, today’s USA has less commitment to the basic principles of democracy and the rule of law than the Weimar Republic did. Remember, within two days of the Beer Hall Putsch, a putsch that failed to take over a defense ministry because the ministry was so well-defended, the top instigators were in detention awaiting trial. By contrast, it has now been over six months since 1/6, yet nothing.

The Republic is basically dead already. Most don’t know it yet because the corpse has not started stinking yet, but it is dead. Nobody much believes in (or abides by) its core professed principles, and this goes for the Democrats about as much as it does for the GOP. The lack of any meaningful, substantial outrage over 1/6 proves it.

Late last year, I had an estimate that the USA was within a dozen years of completing a transition to an authoritarian fascist state. The lack of meaningful response to 1/6 indicates I was being overoptimistic in that estimate. A far more realistic estimate is that the USA will become fully fascist within five years.

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS: Installing MySQL

This is probably going to be part of a series about the curve balls Ubuntu 20.04 LTS throws at the veteran Ubuntu Linux user.

When you install MySQL with:

apt-get install mysql-client mysql-server

You will get an oddly-configured MySQL server that uses a newfangled thing called auth_socket authentication for the root user. The upshot is that you will not be able to log in to mysql as root unless you are already the root Linux user, and in the latter case you will always be able to log in, regardless of what password you supply, or even if you supply a password at all.

If, like me, you are logged in as the root Linux user (and why wouldn’t you be, if you are doing a system install), then it appears as if authentication is completely disabled, and your mysql server’s root account is wide-open. At that point, you will try doing Internet searches to uncover the cause of the problem, and if you are like me, you will spend hours trying different keyword variations and finding exactly nothing pertinent.

The fix is to change the root user to use caching_sha2_password authentication and set a password for it, e.g.:

ALTER USER 'root'@'localhost' IDENTIFIED WITH 'caching_sha2_password' BY 'iSpQ7U9c8kGz';

(And no, that is not my actual root password.)

Little Shop of Horrors Part III, Cordata Edition

This is a post I was planning to make about a year ago, to complete the ones I made about two other native carnivorous plants of Whatcom County. I had a location all set with multiple herbarium records of it and everything.

I went there, and nothing. I searched for hours in vain. Either it was growing in a remote part of the lake in question, one which I could not readily access, or it had died out. Frustratingly, one of the records was for an easily-accessible dock area, where there were now none to be seen. I made a mental note to try again next year, then forgot about it.

Just this evening, while on a bike ride in my neighborhood, an photogenic clump of tule catch my eye. Hoping to get some shots of their flowers (which are not showy, but still are flowers, and which I have none of in my library of images), I notice something at the base of the clump:

There are in fact quite a lot of them blooming across the surface of this little pond:

This is the plant I was hoping to find last year, the Common Bladderwort (Utricularia vulgaris). Being an aquatic plant, the real action is happening below the surface (they sort of blend in with rest of the leaves, but look carefully, they are there):

Here we see the bladder-like traps that give this plant its common name. They prey for the most part on zooplankton, and are some of the most rapidly-moving plant structures known, capable of acting in under a millisecond and subjecting their prey to forces of 600 G, approximately 200 times faster than the traps of the Venus Flytrap (that link contains a slow-motion close-up action shot of a bladderwort trap in action).

What a treat, finding these in my own neighborhood!

Do Not Prosecute Flynn

Make no mistake, Flynn is a disgusting fascist who did just advocate a fascist coup. If he were still actively serving, he could and should be prosecuted under military law.

But he is retired. Any use of “Gen.” in front of his name has to be followed with “(ret.).” Retired officers are not officers; they are civilians.

There is no evidence that Flynn has any ability to immediately put his coup in motion. As such, what he said lacks the immediacy to pose any real threat of sedition. What he said was noxious, but it still appears to be free speech.

Those who think otherwise should be careful of what they wish for. Prosecuting Flynn will set precedents for prosecuting political speech, and those precedents will soon enough be used by the right against the left.

Deplatforming is, of course, an entirely different matter. Fascists like Flynn deserve all the deplatforming they get. Flynn is free to hold whatever opinions he wants, but other private citizens are free to distance themselves from having anything to do with his opinions. Having an opinion does not entitle anyone to automatic respect or agreement on the part of others.

Kudos to the Texas Democrats

I do not have much good to say about how seriously most Democrats are treating the current situation, but I will give credit where it is due. The Democrats in the Texas Legislature demonstrated a willingness to bring actual guns to gun fights when they walked out at a strategic time and prevented a fascistic vote-suppression measure from being enacted.

When they did so, they rightly announced that this was being done due to the extraordinary nature of what they were opposing, and that such actions would not be suitable to advance the agenda of mere shiny things. The Texas Democrats also tellingly called on President Bidan and other Democrats in Washington to follow their lead.

Whether or not they do may well prove to be decisive in determining if the fascists win.

And yes, protecting voting rights, while not quite as important for those in Washington to pursue as accountability, is still pretty damn important. It is not a distracting shiny thing. I thought I had mentioned this in my earlier post but I had not.

No, the Conspiracy Kooks Were Not Right

The kooks who claimed, contrary to the tiniest shred of evidence, the COVID-19 was deliberately created and released by the Chinese are now trying to crow about being right all along. They were not.

There is a significant difference between what the kooks were claiming, and what the official US government position is, namely: that the Wuhan Institute of Virology might have botched their safety protocols while researching what we now call the COVID-19 virus, thereby letting loose a new disease on the world.

Perhaps this is too subtle for the limited cranial capacity of your average conspiracy kook to comprehend, so let me lay it out the differences explicitly:

  1. The virus has absolutely no signature of being genetically engineered by humans. The conpiracy kook theory claims it was. The alternate hypothesis being put forth by the US Government (and myself, and many scientists) does not.
  2. The kooks are claiming a laboratory was involved. Us non-kooks are claiming one might have been, and that further investigation is needed to prove or disprove the alternate hypothesis.

It still might have crossed over from animals (probably bats) to humans in an unhygienic wet market. This is still a thoroughly plausible hypothesis. The thing is, a lab leak is also a plausible hypothesis.

Suspiciously, China has been uncooperative in the effort to investigate the alternate hypothesis. Such efforts have been quietly made over the past year, only to encounter stonewalling from the Chinese. So now an alternate tactic of public shaming and confrontation is being pursued.

This has actually been brewing for some time, with increasing numbers of epidemiologists getting increasingly vocal about how the alternate hypothesis really is plausible and has not been refuted. This culminated in an open letter in Science magazine advocating that the time has come to get pushy about thoroughly investigating the alternate hypothesis.

And here we are. But the kooks’ theory is still bullshit.

Don’t Get Distracted by the Shiny Things

Pick a pet progressive issue: the environment, indigenous rights, tax reform, welfare reform, police reform, prison reform, health care, student debt, LGBT rights, etc.

It doesn’t matter.

At least, it doesn’t matter in comparison to the imperative to hold those who instigated the coup attempt of January 6th accountable.

That the rubes who fell for the instigation are getting prosecuted is irrelevant. There is a near-endless supply of such rubes. More can easily be found, and when the second coup attempt succeeds, the initial batch of rubes can easily be pardoned by His Excellency, President-for-Life Donald Trump.

Make no mistake, there are only two options for the sort of thing that happened on the 6th: hold those responsible accountable, or set a precedent that such a coup is a valid tactic to use as a means of pursuing political power. If those who instigated the coup are not held accountable, there is a lesson in it: it almost worked, and it had no real adverse consequences. Try again, and try harder. It will probably work the next time.

People who instigate un-democratic coups d’etat are people who believe in ruling by force. Force is what they understand. Asking them to be nice and not do it the next time is both pointless and laughably naïve. There must be consequences. Any political order that fails to act in its basic self-preservation is an order that is doomed to fail, and to fail relatively soon.

The United States has already demonstrated itself to be astoundingly weak and timid compared to the Weimar Republic, and the latter is widely faulted for taking the threat posed by the Nazis insufficiently seriously. Within two days of the Beer Hall Putsch — an insurrection in a provincial capital distant from Berlin — the top instigators had been arrested and were facing treason charges. Four months on, and the American Republic has yet to so much lift a pinky finger in any effort to hold the instigators of our coup attempt — one that happened in our national Capitol building — responsible.

The clock is ticking, and time is running out.

If the fascists win — and they are fascists — there will be nothing but bad news for the environment. There will be nothing but bad news for indigenous people, or people of color. There will be nothing but bad news for economic inequality. There will be nothing but bad news for health care. There will be nothing but bad news for LGBT rights.

There will be nothing but bad news and there will be no hope of there being good news for decades. It took Spain nearly forty years to recover the democracy that Franco destroyed. It took Portugal nearly fifty years to recover from the Estado Novo of Salazar and Caetano.

Accountability is key. There is nothing the Democrats could possibly do that is even one-tenth as important as to pursue accountability. If the Senate blocks the formation of a independent commission, the House must create a select committee and investigate it via that means.

Less dramatically, but no less critically, accountability is key for the other crimes of the Trump Regime as well. The illegal misappropriation of funds for the border wall, hiring of unqualified family members, treasonous collusion with hostile foreign powers, corrupt business practices: all must be vigorously investigated, prosecuted, and punished. None must be spared from accountability simply because they are wealthy or powerful.

After all, Trump himself is no aberration. Trump is merely the logical consequence of a more general failure to hold the most powerful accountable. I knew that someone like Trump was coming the moment it became clear to me that the Obama Administration was not going to punish the war crimes of the George W. Bush administration.

If the Democrats fail to pursue accountability, their craven fecklessness will ensure they go down in history as being co-responsible for the inevitable consequences.

Is the Punditocracy Starting to Get It?

I am generally pretty pessimistic about the survival of the American Republic right now. As an anarchist, I have long been, but this is a more immediate, shorter-term survival I am talking about, and what threatens to replace the Republic is not something freer and more egalitarian, but an authoritarian to totalitarian fascist state.

As such, some faint glimmers of hope have come from growing numbers of the pundit class who are getting the same basic dynamic that I posted about recently. Here is but one example. The choice of terminology differs from mine, but the basic gist of the message is the same.

Make no mistake, it is critically important to get this message out. It needs to become the defining narrative for the 2022 election: freedom versus fascism. Panic must be instilled amongst non-fascist voters about the nature of the enemy and the consequences of their gaining power; anything less, and there will be insufficient motive to turn out in numbers sufficient to counter the fascists.

And if there really are dissidents within the GOP about to start raising a bigger stink than Cheney, Kinzinger, et alia have already done (I will believe it when I see it), then this is good news. Any damage done to the fascist side is helpful, and I am not going to get particularly picky about the actors that are doing the damage.

Upgrading My Wire Strippers

Adam Savage (of Mythbusters fame) came out with a video last year singing the praises of automatic wire strippers.

A little quick research uncovered that such strippers work poorly, if at all, on PTFE (Teflon) and THHN insulation. That pretty much killed the deal for me, as I semi-regularly deal with both such wire types. But it got me thinking: stripping wire is something of a headache, because I always chintzed out on wire strippers. I bought some cheapo strippers many decades ago and have used either them or a knife. Stripping wires has always been something of a fiddly process for me.

Conclusion: I could benefit from owning some better tools, and should spend some of my birthday gift money on them. I opted for the Klein No. 11055 and 11057 strippers (yes, both of them, since I routinely have need to strip wire in a wider gauge range than any one set of strippers can accommodate). And let me say, it has been very nice to finally have a proper set of quality tools to do a task I frequently need to do.

Initially, I had toyed with the idea of getting some European-style wire strippers like these, simply because I thought they might be better than the styles used in the USA, and the “not invented here” principle was stopping their adoption. If that were the case, it should be easy to find glowing reviews from the few Americans who had discovered this style of tool. Quite the contrary, however: no such reviews existed, while there were reviews from Europeans raving about the Klein strippers above.

The morals of the story:

  1. If a recurring task has been a continual annoyance (even a minor one) and there exist tool(s) to make it easier, it is probably best to just can the stinginess and buy the tool(s) already. I should have upgraded decades ago; it would have saved a fair amount of frustration.
  2. Do your research. If I had ordered automatic or European-style wire strippers, I would have ended up disappointed.