Some Points on Iran

US Might be in the Wrong

Consider what happened in 2016. The Navy apparently has a policy of running right up to the very edge of Iran’s marine borders, and sometimes messes up and strays across them. If the latter happens, Iran is completely within its right under international law to deal with the intruders, like it or not.

Beware of Bolton

He’s a first-class, grade A, number one warmonger. Trump probably doesn’t want war with Iran but Bolton probably does.

This is Only to be Expected

  1. Trump is dishonest, incompetent, and incoherent; he’s the last sort of leader anyone would want to manage a war. Iran knows this.
  2. Trump has done virtually everything within his power to alienate Europe from the USA, which further weakens the US’s hand in any conflict (fewer allies). Iran knows this, too.
  3. Tearing up the Iran nuclear deal taught Iran that deals with the West are pointless exercises.
  4. Not attacking North Korea (which had nukes even then) after 9/11, while attacking Iraq (which didn’t), taught Iran that possessing a nuclear deterrent is a good idea.

AOC and “Concentration Camps”

First, yes, they are by any reasonable definition “concentration camps.” A concentration camp is any prison camp, usually a makeshift of flimsy one, in which people are detained en masse, often in substandard conditions, for an indefinite period time, and without any sort of formal process of criminal conviction. A concentration camp is not necessarily an extermination camp. Germany built its first concentration camp, Dachau, shortly after Hitler took power. It wasn’t until approximately eight years later that the wholesale slaughter began.

Second, the whole brouhaha over AOC’s (factual) claim shows what a shrewd politician and effective propagandist AOC is. In making her claim, she has successfully managed to shift the public dialogue to talking about the camps. Every time a Trumpist snowflake takes umbrage over AOC’s politically incorrect language violating his safe space, its point is being served: the camps are being talked about.

Corporate America is Losing Faith in Empire

It’s been obvious for some time that the US empire is on the decline, and the recent announcement by Facebook of the Libre cryptocurrency underscores how the belief in such decline is no longer restricted to those on the political margins.

There’s the proximate reasons being offered, such as Facebook’s desire to diversify its revenue stream, but the bigger one is that Facebook believes there will soon be a demand for a cryptocurrency. (Else, they would have chosen some other lightly-exploited field to venture into.)

The most logical explanation for why such a demand would materialize is a loss of faith in the US dollar. In turn, that’s not likely unless there is a widespread loss of faith in the empire which created and backs up that currency.

A Shrewd Move on Barr’s Part

The Democrats have so far refused to launch impeachment proceedings against Trump or Barr, despite multiple incidents of impeachable conduct by both. What lesson does any bully take when his victims refuse to stand up for themselves? The obvious one: bullying works.

Past history has demonstrated that in all likelihood the Democrats will cave to Barr, so why shouldn’t Barr act like this? Just because it’s nice? It is to laugh.

So Much for the Schoolmarm

Her refusal to appear on Fox News has demonstrated that her lapse of judgement in letting Trump troll her on the Pocahantas issue is not a one-off.

Facts do not care about your feelings, Ms. Warren. Like it or not (and, like most on the left, I most assuredly do not), Fox News is the No. 1 most-watched news channel in the USA.

Only a fool too incompetent to campaign properly would turn down a chance to market her platform to an audience that size. Especially when you consider the not-insignificant number of voters who voted for Obama twice (and/or for Sanders once in the primary), and decided to either sit the 2016 general election out or vote for Trump. There are, in short, persuadable viewers on Fox News; Ms. Warren decided to write them off.

This is not a center versus left thing, either. Both Sanders and Buttigieg got it, and decided to accept Fox News’ invitations despite their personal dislikes of that network’s overall politics.

It is also not purely campaign realpolitik. If Warren’s gut reactions get the best of her when it comes to Trump’s trolling or Fox News’ editorial record, odds are gut reactions will get the best of her as president when she has to quickly respond to crises. That’s the last thing we need.

Buh-bye, Schoolmarm.

Intellectual Property Stupidity

So, I recently modified two existing software tools a bit and connected them together with a shell script to make a tool to extract individual TrueType fonts (.TTF files) from a TrueType font collection (.TTC file).

And the Property Rights Über Alles crowd immediately took offense, because this is a tool for “piracy.” Purportedly, simply because I am extracting files from what amounts to an archive I am creating an unauthorized derivative work, in violation of the copyright on the fonts.

I say bullshit. The fonts were in TrueType format before my extractor operates on them, and they are in TrueType format after it does. All that changes is what was a single file becomes multiple individual files. That’s it.

Really, now: If this “violates” the “terms of the license,” then you can’t even install software (including fonts) legally in the first place. Because how do installers work? By extracting files from archives, that’s how!

On top of that, just how are glyphs rendered? By reading the information in font files, copying it into memory, and doubtless in many cases normalizing it into a standard form in the case of software that supports multiple font file formats. That, too, is the dreaded and forbidden act of extraction. Worse yet, it is followed by the modification of the extracted data, producing an unauthorized derivative work (according to the property rights über alles crowd)!

It gets worse: the internal coordinate system in font files has nothing to do with the coordinate system on a screen or a printed page. Multiple scaling (multiplication) and offset (addition) steps must be performed in order to render text at the desired size and place. And if you print the text, or render it into a PDF, yet more transformations are performed on that raw data. And I haven’t even gotten into all the transformations that must happen if you send your text to a printer.

The biggest difference really is, the files from my extractor linger indefinitely on the filesystem, instead of being fleeting data in main memory somewhere. Even that’s not completely unique to my case, however: PDF documents contain stored fonts in a persistent and transformed form.

PDF documents must contain font data, in order to serve their intended purpose of being “softcopy hardcopy” that remains true to their intended format everywhere they go. If they didn’t have embedded fonts, they would fail in this purpose on any computer that didn’t have the needed fonts present. The fonts in PDF documents are transformed both to save on space, and to limit the utility of the embedded fonts for piracy.

As in the case of PDF documents, my extracted font files shouldn’t matter, and I doubt it does. Unless I distribute the extracted fonts (and I don’t plan to), they are private, internal data used by a few applications on my computer, nothing more.

That so many people are apparently incapable of seeing this just points to how divorced from reality the status quo has gotten when it comes to property rights.

Nonideological Pragmatists, Revisited

About a year ago, I made a post which claimed that many of the voters labeled “moderates” do not in fact have any strong ideological commitment to moderation or any other political principle. They are what I labeled nonideological pragmatists, willing to entertain ideas from across the political spectrum, provided they are presented in a convincing way.

Today, I ran across a Twitter thread by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez which anecdotally illustrates this point.

No Surprise

In the least surprising news development since the Sun rose at the forecast time this morning, it turns out that Alexa and Siri are, in fact, home eavesdropping devices.

George Orwell was an optimist. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, everyone had a telescreen in their home because the government forced them to. In today’s USA, people agree to it because advertisers have convinced them it’s personally convenient.

The Danger of a Centrist Democrat

(Yes, this means you, Biden and Buttigieg.)

The danger lies in the reality that capitalism is failing more and more people, and that no centrist is capable of squarely addressing this fact. The latter is for the simple reason that doing so will require a degree of confrontation with capitalists that no centrist is likely to possess the personal constitution for. Just for openers, it will endanger said centrist’s access to the campaign cash that he or she needs.

A centrist is capable of winning the election. All that takes is the correct amount of the correct sort of propaganda, and (thanks to the capitalist class) any centrist can reasonably expect to be rolling in the campaign cash necessary to procure the needed propagandists for that exercise. (It would amount to a snow job, of course, but since when have snow jobs stopped politicians from winning?)

The problems start after the hypothetical centrist Democrat wins. The economy is only going to get worse (there will be a recession; recessions always happen sooner or later). And it doesn’t even take a recession for a centrist’s tone deafness to hurt him: witness what happened to Marcon (now polling below 30% in public support) in France.

In France, that’s not necessarily a big tragedy. That nation has a multi-party political system, and parties on the left seem to be successfully capitalizing on Marcon’s deficiency of class consciousness. Then you have the energy in the streets, and a long and time-honored tradition of a populace being willing (and sufficiently organized) to exercise it.

In the USA, it’s rather different. The centrist will be president under the Democratic Party label, and will taint the rest of that party with his stench. There are no viable third parties. There is no viable radical movement with a history of semi-regularly making its presence in the streets known.

There is only a Republican Party that has discovered how compatible fascism and the bourgeois state can really be. And odds are the next fascist to lead the Republicans will be significantly more competent than the current one. (The odds have to be such, given how low on the competency curve their current standard-bearer ranks.)

And all the above is assuming the centrist will win in 2020 in the first place. That’s hardly a given, particularly if the candidate simply runs on not being Donald Trump and nothing more.

None of this is to say that a liberal or left democrat is guaranteed victory, or that the concerns of non-leftist voters can be ignored. For example, there is a real pitfall in pushing for Medicare for all in a way that immediately abolishes private insurance, because it will alienate many economically privileged voters who might otherwise vote Democratic to get Trump out of office.

It’s just that this street runs both ways: you can’t ignore the concerns of the less-affluent voters, the ones who have lost out big in recent decades, either. At least, you can’t ignore those concerns unless pandering to wealth is more important to you than preserving the future of a free society.

Biden Looks Like a Horrible Candidate

If his 3-minute campaign kickoff video is any indication, Biden looks like a disaster in the making. I am serious. Just consider:

  1. He’s apparently trying to run as the Not Trump candidate. There is no other message in that video. None.
  2. Hillary ran as the Not Trump candidate—and lost to Trump.
  3. A variety of Italians ran as the Not Berlusconi candidate when Berlusconi was PM—and lost.
  4. A variety of Venezuelans ran as the Not Chávez candidate—and lost.
  5. An opposition victory only happened in Venezuela when the opposition ran as something more than just the Not the Current Guy in Power candidate.
  6. By then it was too late; opposition control of congress did not matter because Venezuela was already a dictatorship.
  7. The opposition never managed to win an election on their own in Italy; the E.U. forced Berlusconi out by threatening to not bail out Italy’s debts unless he resigned.

Be very careful, Democrats: this is not a test, and the consequences of getting this one wrong could be truly dire.

Update: I’ve taken a look at his campaign web site, and it’s better than his kickoff speech led me to believe it was (it’s not nearly so Trump-obsessed, and it mentions stuff about “rebuilding the middle class”). Yes, the latter isn’t terribly class-conscious, but dream on: you never were going to get that from Mr. Establishment in the first place. At least he’s putting forth positive reasons to vote for him. The question is, can he stay on that message, or will he continue to be Trump-obsessed in his speeches to the point of distracting from it?