The US Empire is Ending

What happened with the recent failed G7 summit is an escalation of a process that began with George W. Bush’s lying his way into a war of choice in Iraq: a series of real-life examples of why it is undesirable to have a sole global superpower in the world. As we are seeing, that superpower might just run off the rails, as countries tend to sometimes do.

It is not necessary to have any deeper understanding of how the machinations of capitalist class society make this inevitable; the lesson can be learnt, in incomplete form, whether or not one is a leftist who inquires into the nature and implications of class society. It is broader than capitalism, anyhow: regardless of the socioeconomic system, any gross disparity of power is fated to eventually prove itself to be the danger that it always was.

It was possible for students (i.e. those in other nations) to dismiss the first lesson as a historical anomaly when Obama won office. It will not be so easy for them to wave off the second, ongoing one.

The US Empire has inflicted a mortal wound upon itself. The wound may not initially appear to be mortal, but in time it will prove to be. It will not go away when Donald Trump goes away. It may even sometimes appear to be healing and the patient on the way to recovery, but such episodes will prove to be false hopes on the part of those making them.

The US empire is not ending in the way most of us on the left hoped it would, but it ending it is.

And It’s No. 2

My prediction was spot-on. As if that’s a huge accomplishment or anything. This was so easy to see.

Something, but effectively nothing. Some sort of agreement that leaves all the difficult issues to be hashed out at some unspecified future date, coupled with many meaningless glad words about a new era.

Everything in this document has been in other agreements that North Korea has made in the past. None of those other agreements ended up making substantive changes to North Korea’s policies, so why should this one?

The only substantive new thing is that for the first time a US president met the North Korean dictator in person and fawned over him with disgusting (and false) rhetoric. And he did so in the immediate wake of repeatedly insulting the prime minister of Canada.

Dealing with CenturyLink Sucks

My current long-distance provider, Pioneer Telecom, has ever since I became a customer with my current line had an issue with the occasional call having a one-way connection: I can hear the other side just fine, but that other side cannot hear anything. This is merely annoying to me, but it sometimes makes the other side temporarily wonder if they are now the subject of intentional harassment.

Inertia makes it a pain to switch, but as time has passed, the issue has happened more and more to the point where their service is now basically unusable. When I first got my land line, CenturyLink told me they now offer long distance service. I can’t remember what the price was, but it seemed uncompetitive, so I decided to shop around and found a better deal. (Well, it would have been a better deal if the call quality was reliable.)

So, anyhow, the time to switch has come, and the first order of business was to revisit what CenturyLink’s pricing is. If it’s simply a little bit more expensive, but not obscenely so, it’s probably worth it to pay more for better quality.

First, I try going on line. There are almost no options for managing one’s existing residential service. I find a page saying such things are under construction and to talk with an agent instead.

So I call the customer service number listed in the front of the phone book. Naturally, there’s a long phone tree. At some point in it, I am encouraged to use their web site instead. Yes, the same web site that is incomplete and which just told me to speak to an agent to accomplish this basic task. Then I get put on hold. After over a minute of waiting, it is clear that I made a mistake in calling on my kitchen phone and hang up.

I go into my office and place the call from my desk phone, the one that has a headset which leaves both hands free so I can do other stuff while waiting on hold for an extended period of time. It turns out, of course, to be an extended period of time.

After too long, I get an answer. It’s a guy in India with a heavy accent who doesn’t understand my English very well and keeps asking me to repeat stuff. This is a sign of total sleaze; it says: “We are so cheap we not only outsource labor, we outsource it to the cheapest people possible.” That’s because there’s plenty of educated people in India who speak perfectly clear English and who have no trouble understanding it when spoken by a native English speaker. (Of course, they cost a bit more to hire than those who barely know English.)

He asks me my phone number, which is a totally unreasonable thing to ask on an 800 number, because they already have that data. All 800 number owners do; such numbers work by reversing the charges, so caller numbers are furnished them due to the long-established tradition that those who pay long-distance tolls are entitled to receive itemized data showing the charge for individual calls. (In fact, CenturyLink’s phone tree already had detected my number and asked me to confirm it was the line this call was pertaining to.)

I ask about the pricing, and get placed on hold for an extended period of time. (Apparently he doesn’t have that information.) When he gets back to me with the pricing it is only a per-minute cost. I have to explicitly ask if there is a monthly fee, and if so what it is, then am placed on hold again while he researches it.

It’s obscene, of course. Why wouldn’t it be? That’s apparently CenturyLink’s business model: to tout the (surprisingly competitive) per-minute cost and sucker customers into getting zinged by monthly charges.

Needless to say, no sale. I’m still researching options.


Most Likely Summit Outcomes

Listed in no particular order:

  1. Nothing at all. One of the two crazy, unstable leaders throws a tantrum and walks out, or quickly reneges on an agreement he just signed.
  2. Something, but effectively nothing. Some sort of agreement that leaves all the difficult issues to be hashed out at some unspecified future date, coupled with many meaningless glad words about a new era.

What’s not going to happen? North Korea agreeing to give up its nukes and welcome US inspectors inside to verify it’s keeping good on its promise.

Tom Nichols Just Nailed It

In this Twitter thread. It’s pointless to try to argue policy with Trumpist true believers so long as they remain true believers.

Instead, I would suggest focusing on reaching out to the unmotivated who sat by and allowed Trump to take power because they didn’t care enough about either side. Then there’s those who were simply too disgusted by both sides to vote for either. On that latter subset of voters: in a world where, as Marx observed, “the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them,” why wouldn’t they be?

Also, focus on the disenchanted; some (not all, you can not count on it being all or even most) Trump voters will, after enough pain, start to question their decision and can be peeled off from his base. We’re already starting to see that with some capitalists and farmers getting queasy about the trade wars Trump is starting.

But there’s going to be true believers that stay true believers. Heck, there’s still Hitler and Stalin fans out there, who believe their idols have been massively unfairly treated by the opinions of a misinformed public. Trying to convert such people with facts and logic is mostly a wasted effort.

Nixon, Reagan, Bush the Younger, Trump: A Continuum

From the standpoint of many Never Trump conservatives it’s politically incorrect to point this out, but there really is not an quantum gap between Trump and the Republican Party from the era of Nixon onwards.

It’s been a party built on lies and bigotry, from Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” to Reagan’s lies about welfare queens driving Cadillacs (no evidence of such a person existed), to Bush the Younger’s lies about Iraq and his acolytes’ expressions of love for myth and contempt for truth, and their dislike for the rule of law.

Trump is merely more crude and blatant (and thus, in a sense, more fundamentally honest) about his fascistic principles; that’s all. For more details, see this Twitter thread.

Job Interview Debrief

It didn’t go as badly as the norm for such things, and they are┬ádesperate to hire new talent, so there’s a chance that I will get an offer. But only a chance, and not much of one at that. The effort to get out of tech work must continue unabated.

The effort must continue unabated even if I do land an offer, because past experience indicates such a result will be at best only a temporary solution to the permanent mismatch between me and where the tech world is today.

At least I got a lunch at an upscale restaurant and a free notebook (with paper that doesn’t bleed with fountain pen ink at that) out of the day’s efforts, so they weren’t a total waste no matter the outcome.

Cactus in Spots You Might Not Expect

Brittle Prickly Pear, Opuntia fragilis, in bloom.

Brittle Prickly Pear, Opuntia fragilis

The above picture was taken by me last week in Lillooet, BC. There were several large patches of yellow flowers by the road, easily enough to get my attention as a passenger. Their size and color indicated they were probably cactus flowers. I alerted the driver so we could go back, stop, and admire them.

Many are surprised to learn there is wild cactus growing in Canada; my fellow companions on that trip were amongst the surprised. Many are equally or more surprised to learn that the same species also grows wild in western Washington, in the most rain-shadowed areas of the Olympic Mountains. Here is a patch I saw near Sequim earlier this spring:

Opuntia fragilis growing near Sequim.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise that cacti are found in either Lillooet or Sequim, as both locations are rain-shadowed. Lillooet in particular is known for being a dry spot, and being well inland often has just the sort of hot, dry summer conditions that cacti love. Plants don’t care about our preconceived biases or political boundaries; they grow wherever the environment is suitable for them.

The winters aren’t hot or dry, but this species is one of the hardiest and most northerly of cacti. It grows as far north as the Peace River Valley in northeastern BC, a region that can see temperatures colder than -40╦Ü in the winter.

Its common and scientific names point to how its pads easily become detached from the mother plant, their thorns embedding themselves in the fur, clothing, or skin of unwitting creatures that brush against them. When removed and discarded, they root and create new plants. In this trait, this prickly pear acts more like a cholla. That’s not a huge surprise, as the chollas (genus Cylindropuntia) and prickly pears are very closely related; for many years both were even lumped into the same genus.

Some of my own Opuntia fragilis are getting ready to bloom. I may be interested in plants, but unlike most who are, I’m not very good at gardening. This cactus was the answer to my question: “What could I plant in those window boxes (preferably a native plant) that I wouldn’t kill by forgetting to water or being away and not able to water?”

Those window boxes in question face south and are beneath eaves that serve to keep most rainfall out of them, the perfect micro-habitat for a sun-loving rain shadow plant like this. It felt a little odd dumping the nice potting soil out of them and replacing it with the gravely glacial till (of which I have plenty in my yard) that our local populations of this cactus prefer.

Another Job Interview

I’m heading into the city for another job interview. We’ll see how well it works out. I would like to say I am cautiously optimistic but honestly I am not. This is not pessimism; it is realism. Everything I have learned in the last few years points to:

  • Overall trends in the computing industry running precisely counter to my own personal needs for a work environment, and
  • Persistent ageism, coupled with how I am not getting younger as the years pass, leading me to being rejected based on appearance alone.

At this stage, job interviews are something I am doing on a non-interference basis to the pursuit of other strategies for financially supporting myself. If I do manage to get lucky and land a job, experience has shown it will prove to be temporary anyhow, and extremely unlikely to last longer than a few years. It will be a means of kicking the can down the road and buying some time for me to complete the difficult process of securing a good alternate strategy to conventional tech work, nothing more.

I’m Back, and Fuck Apple

My iPad decided to randomly demand all sorts of security information (which I don’t have committed to memory and never will, because I have better things to memorize than random bits of data like that). Worse yet, it then decided to demand I boot one of my Macs (which of course I didn’t have with me at the time) to complete the process of allowing me to use it again.

I think this is Apple’s way of punishing me for attempting to use the Internet while in Canada, which they seem to regard as a sign of fraud and theft because (gasp!) it’s a foreign country. Well, yes it is, but Apple should take a look at the fucking map some time: it’s as big a deal for someone to travel from Seattle to Kamloops, BC as it is for someone to travel from Chicago to the Upper Peninsula.

An iPad is a smaller and lighter than a full-featured computer, which makes it significantly more portable than a full-featured computer, which in turn means it is likely to be the device someone takes with them on a trip, while leaving larger and bulkier computing devices behind at home. Therefore it is unrealistic to demand someone follow the process of booting and using another of his computers to re-enable an arbitrarily disabled iPad. This is so obvious that it feels somewhat painful to have to type it.

All of which serves to reinforce the idea that it will be a cold day in Hades before I ever get a smartphone stupidphone. Why would I want a phone that randomly decides to brick itself while I am on a trip?