More Worrying News

Published at 08:02 on 25 October 2021

From this article:

That’s in large measure because Democrats are fighting apathy among their base. The party’s agenda in Washington, D.C., is stalled, Biden’s poll numbers are sagging, and Democrats are sounding the alarm.

What might have changed this, of course, would have been for the Democrats to take the threat to democracy that the Trumpified GOP poses more seriously. That’s right: the Democrats’ institutionalized Stockholm syndrome is not only bad for the country, it is bad for them politically. Truly, of all the major political parties in the world’s nations, the US Democratic Party must rank amongst the most incompetent.

If the Democrats had taken the threat of Trump seriously, it would have dovetailed with some very effective fear-based, get-out-the-vote propaganda. The GOP has long used such strategies effectively; this, coupled with the Democrats’ refusal to use such effective tactics, is part of the reason why the GOP tends to punch above its weight in the political arena.

If it is not already too late to shift to this strategy, it soon will be. Why should voters take seriously any fear-mongering when inactions are speaking louder that words?

A worry of mine in posting many of my recent articles has been that if such a narrative gets traction, it could prove counterproductive; pointing out how useless the Democratic Party has been is not the way to get people motivated to vote for its candidates. Eventually, the logic that well over 99.9% of voters don’t even know who I am, let alone read this blog, persuaded me to just speak my mind. Lack of influence is both frustrating and liberating.

Theory of the Day

Published at 20:22 on 23 October 2021

The political culture of today’s Democratic Party seems an awful lot like a teenager or young adult who grew up in privileged, sheltered conditions. They just think they are special (their parents continually tell them so, after all), and that the normal rules which apply to other people, do not apply to them. Or, in this case, the normal political rules of motion which apply to other nations, do not apply to the USA.

Therefore, many of them really do think that there is not much need for accountability for the crimes of January 6th. Coups d’etat happen to other, less fortunate nations. The USA is special, and it cannot happen here. No unpleasant work needed. That sort of thing is for other, lesser nations that are not special.

Come to think of it, this probably affects many Republicans as well. They just can’t believe that backing Trump could be as risky as some people say, because fascism is something that can only happen to other, lesser nations.

Just like the 19-year-old awakening in the drunk tank with a DUI charge to his name, the Democrats in particular are about to suffer a rude awakening.

Finally Cut the Cord to Leaseweb

Published at 20:12 on 23 October 2021

The subject says it all. Yesterday, I finally cut the cord to Leaseweb. I had moved off their servers some months ago, but were still using their DNS resolution services. As of yesterday, no more.

Leaseweb is neither no better nor no worse than most shared hosting services. It shares the same obnoxious feature of all of them, namely, a laughably (as in at least five and typically closer to ten years behind the state of the art) obsolete software platform. Unless you want to run the most vanilla PHP-based frameworks (and even those typically plead with you to upgrade, which you can’t, because you don’t control that aspect of your service), forget it.

In my experience, if you want the freedom to be the least bit creative, you really need at least your own virtual host, i.e. bare metal or emulated bare metal where you have absolute control over all software from the operating system on up. Anything else leaves you hostage to someone else’s ambition, or should I say the lack of it. Why should they upgrade anything merely for your sake?

So long as their creaky old shared hosts can run a semi-recent version of WordPress, they don’t care. And apparently, neither do most of their customers. Most of them are probably only faintly aware that Python or Java frameworks, or newer PHP frameworks, even exist.

It is made all the worse by how painful (and thus costly to the service provider) it can be to upgrade Linux by a major revision. The last time I tried, doing that, the upgrader made such a mess of things that I ended up wiping it all and starting again from a blank slate.

For all these reasons, shared hosting just seems to inevitably trend downmarket.

The Flamethrowers and the Fairness Doctrine

Published at 09:21 on 22 October 2021

The Flamethrowers

I just listened to the first episode of this podcast, and it begs a question: why did the Left not respond in kind when the Right went heavy into talk radio and it started bearing fruit? Was it simple incompetence? Was it being too chickenshit to fight with brass knuckles when the other side does? Or, more seriously, was it an issue of the capitalists that owned radio stations refusing to air Left content?

The answer is critical to addressing the root cause of the problem, yet it is not explored. Instead, it is celebrated when the Federal government resolves the problem by dusting off the long-disused Fairness Doctrine and putting it to work. That creates a problem, because if your politics requires the support and largesse of government intervention to prevail over natural public sentiment, your politics (or at least your political strategy) is intrinsically weak, and is basically doomed to inevitable decline.

A follow-up question: why this reluctance (both then and now) to delve into root causes? Is it the simple need to tell yourself good things about your side (“we are not the ones with serious flaws that beg self-criticism; they are”)? Or, more seriously, is your whole movement a pro-Establishment scam, and are you unwilling to chase things down to root causes because you fear it will delegitimize the very system whose opposition you desire to contain, manage, minimize, and ultimately render impotent?

The Fairness Doctrine

The hero in the episode, of course, is the beloved Fairness Doctrine, of which liberals are still mourning the demise of, despite it now being cold and dead since 1987.

First, note that year. Reagan became president in 1981; 1987 was towards the end of his eight-year term. The Fairness Doctrine thus did nothing to prevent the political success of the Reagan revolution.

Second is the political context of the Fairness Doctrine. A radio spectrum dominated almost exclusively by capitalists operating on a for-profit basis was not inevitable; in fact, it was deliberately created under the early years of the Roosevelt administration, as detailed in the book Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio. Mind you, capitalists played an important role in running radio stations before then, they simply did not play the clearly dominant one they did afterwards.

The motive behind the Democrats’ corporatization of the media was simple: FDR understood the power of radio, wanted his voice to be carried nationwide, and also wanted to limit how much the fundamental principles of capitalism were questioned. A quid pro quo in which the power of NBC and RCA was magnified by government intervention, and these newly-empowered corporations both refrained from open opposition to the New Deal while carrying presidential speeches nationwide as newsworthy events, was in the interests of both parties.

The Fairness Doctrine then came later when liberals tried to patch up the natural consequences and dangers of the very media monoculture their earlier policies helped nurture. It was, in other words, hardly the principled anti-corporate thing it at first appeared to be. The Reagan Administration’s rhetoric merely portrayed it that way, in the name of scrapping it, and why would the Democrats challenge them? Understand that challenging it meant acknowledging by implication how their own politics had served as a something of a pro-Establishment fraud.

It is as of this stage mostly water under the bridge, anyhow. Broadcast radio is no longer the political force it once was; the Internet and social media are now the real forces to be reckoned with, and a new Fairness Doctrine would accomplish very little overall.

Conclusion

I just wish they had gone at least a little bit into some of these other questions I just raised above. Nothing claimed in that episode was outright wrong, but it was overall missing some important context.

Politically Homeless

Published at 11:41 on 20 October 2021

The evil of the right, coupled with the general incompetence of the left, all conspires to leave me politically homeless, at least here in the USA, where I am typing this at the moment and of which for now I am a citizen. (Canadian citizenship is a years-long process, and while I am starting that process, at this stage I am only just starting it, and who is to say for sure it will ever complete.)

Actually, it matters regardless, no matter where in the world one is (the USA is both a military and an economic superpower), and particularly if you are a nation sharing the world’s longest land border with the USA.

Basically, everything I have seen up to this point indicates that:

  • Virtually the entire US political culture, both the left and the right of it, are irreparably rotten, and must first burn to the ground in order to make way for something better,
  • It will be the right that first burns the left to the ground, and
  • Then the right will burn, either due to its own rot, or due to a new, effective opposition (or both).

Note that this is not to say that both sides are equally culpable; clearly, the right is more culpable. Actively engaging in evil is a worse sin than is failing to oppose evil strongly enough.

Anyhow, with regards to US politics, the only kind I can formally participate in as a citizen, I am at this stage politically homeless. It is probably another reason for my strange affinity with the never-Trump conservatives, who are also politically homeless at the moment, who also recognize the parallels of the current moment with historical pre-fascist situations in other nations, and who are (as I am) horrified by it.

What’s Wrong with the Left

Published at 16:07 on 12 October 2021

Simply put, it is a subculture, not a movement.

Going to any radical left site is a bit like watching Groundhog Day. Nothing ever really changes; it is the same pet issues over and over (and over) again.

It’s not so much that I disagree with the standard issues or stances so much as the inability to process new information. Go to an anarchist site like It’s Going Down or a communist site like WSWS and it might as well be the year 2014 or the year 2008. You’re just not going to see much (if anything) about how weak the current bourgeois democratic order is, how unwilling it is to defend itself against a clear mortal threat from the right.

Yes, yes, I know: bourgeois “democracy” is basically a sack of shit. I actually agree! But, better a sack of shit than a barrel of high-level radioactive waste that will kill anyone in its proximity. It really does matter that we are able to struggle against an order that at least has some concept of civil rights for those who dissent. Doing so is a much more favorable circumstance than being compelled to engage in struggle against a fascist state.

The most simple explanation I can think of for this state of affairs is that the radical Left has become, over the years, ever more inward-looking. We have become ever more concerned with the pursuit of in-group status, and less and less concerned with the issues of the external world.

If you’re already busy arguing about pet issues and pet terminologies, well, you’re busy. You just don’t have time for any pesky new data coming in about democratic decline (and it’s all just bourgeois democracy anyhow, and you can best advance your in-group status by proclaiming that to be meaningless).

In the 1930’s, in both Spain and Germany, most on the Left actually knew the Right posed a profound threat, but were unable to unify against that threat. But at least they acknowledged the threat. Today, we can’t even seem to get to the acknowledgement stage.

A Rotten Political Culture

Published at 07:20 on 11 October 2021

Two days ago, I wrote:

Trump is a noxious individual with loathsome goals, but the one thing he understands in spades is the total rottenness to the core of the whole system [emphasis added], and how utterly and thoroughly ripe it is for authoritarian takeover.

I think I need to clarify that, since I chose some poor terminology when I wrote system. What is rotten is our entire political culture, across the board, whether in government or out of it: the system itself is antiquated and undemocratic, yes, but that wouldn’t matter so much if the actors within it were more virtuous.

Canada, for example, has a horribly antiquated Senate, of the sort the USA reformed and modernized way back in 1913. That Senate could easily help engineer some pretty awful and undemocratic outcomes, but it doesn’t, because the healthier political culture there causes the Canadian Senate to restrain itself.

Or wind the clock back about fifty years in the USA. Nixon, like Trump, was corrupt to the core, yet when Nixon’s corruption finally caught up with him, he was basically shamed out of office. His own party abandoned him, not because the law required it, but because of the political culture of the time. The system was far from perfect back in 1974, but it was capable of preserving a basically democratic order and open, free society.

In today’s USA, the Right is beyond shame, the Democrats have institutionalized Stockholm syndrome, and the radical left is an inward-looking political cult.

It is all made far worse by the disgusting tradition of there being no accountability for the wealthy or powerful. When Trump quipped “when you’re a star, they let you do it,” he was on to something. He’s not very smart; he’s not a political chessmaster. He’s barely able to play a mediocre game of checkers. The trouble is, his opponents have yet to master political tiddly-winks.

I really do not believe this is fixable in any immediate or incremental sense. I had hoped the Democrats might finally start taking things seriously after January 6th.

But, alas. The rot is simply too all-pervasive. It’s like a building whose framing is thoroughly infested with insects and fungi, a building with an overtaxed electrical system whose fuse box has pennies in the fuse sockets, a building whose owners adamantly refuse to consider maintaining. It is going to take a cleansing fire to purge the rot and vermin, and a fire is basically inevitable. Then, and only then, something new and better can be erected.

The “fire” in this case will take the form of an authoritarian takeover that liquidates the Democrats and the Left. It will then be a question of how long it takes for something better to evolve and challenge the fascist regime. In Spain and Portugal, it took fifty years or more.

The Nature of the Conspiracy

Published at 08:35 on 10 October 2021

Now, as we have seen, there is an organized conspiracy in Congress, by members of both parties, to ensure there is no accountability for the top putschists responsible for the events of January 6th. This assertion is likely to provoke rejection amongst a significant portion of my readers: The Democrats are as bad as the fascist Republicans? Give me a break!

As such, I feel an elaboration into the nature of it is required. It’s not that there is a positive desire for fascism amongst most congressional Democrats; far from it. There is simply a very strong desire for politics as usual, for a return to the old status quo.

Acknowledging the nature and strength of the domestic fascist movement would mean by implication acknowledging that the old politics as usual is simply not possible anymore. That is an unpleasant thing to acknowledge, because it means losing one’s long-held world-view and giving up on a cherished goal.

It is a proverbial elephant-in-the-living-room situation. The living room’s inhabitants really don’t want to admit there is an elephant there, so they go around pretending that the elephant does not exist.

Ultimately, however, that distinction does not much matter. Behavior that helps fascism advance is behavior that helps fascism advance, whatever the motives for the behavior. The most likely end result, an authoritarian transition to a fascist state much like Franco’s Spain or Salazar’s Portugal, remains the same.

As Hannah Arendt showed, the roots of great evil are often surprisingly banal. Simply wanting to get along and be liked by the other party, wanting to get back to the old normal, is, in the present political context, an objectively pro-fascist stance.

By the Way, They Knew

Published at 13:42 on 9 October 2021

The committee knew.

They knew their deadline would come on the eve of a holiday weekend. They knew their subpoenas’ recipients would probably ignore the documents. They never planned to enforce the “subpoenas” in the first place (it’s time for quote marks here, since a “subpoena” that is never intended to be enforced is a “subpoena” in name only).

I mean, really now: it is not unusual for me to slip up and forget about this or that schedule conflict, but I am just one individual, and someone for whom time management is not his strong suit as that. Am I to expect that every committee member is as pathetically disorganized as I am? Am I to expect that even if they are, no committee member (it would take just one) would notice the deadline falls right before a long weekend? And that’s just the committee members, then there’s all the staffers! Am I to expect that none of them would notice this, and flag it for attention?

No, it is pretty obvious: they knew. They knew, and they planned it this way. It is no coincidence they had no plans in place to enforce those “subpoenas,” because they were never intended to be enforced in the first place.

It was all a show. The Committee is nothing but a ruse (and a piss poor one at that) to pretend that the system cares about accountability.

Well, it doesn’t. If there’s one thing that’s clear about my fifty-eight years spent in the USA, is that this country has two sets of rules: one for the powerful, and one for everyone else, and that it is damn rare for any sufficiently powerful person to be held accountable for anything.

Trump is a noxious individual with loathsome goals, but the one thing he understands in spades is the total rottenness to the core of the whole system, and how utterly and thoroughly ripe it is for authoritarian takeover.

I am now more certain than just about anything that we will see just how ripe it indeed was in the coming years. The Republic is dead, and the corpse will soon enough start stinking to the point that even the dullest amongst us can no longer ignore this fact.

Oh, and one more thing: the Committee knew that, by the time the long weekend was over, the lapsed “subpoena” “deadlines” would mostly be forgotten by their constituents and by the media. Just wait and watch. You will see.

Moving North

Published at 17:30 on 8 October 2021

In the synchronicity department, the day it became obvious beyond any reasonable doubt that the Republic is dead (and that it is merely a matter of time before the stench of the corpse becomes more than can be ignored), is also the day that my provincial nomination went through.

Canadian provinces have more power than US States do. For openers, they can definitely secede if they want to. None have so far, but Quebec has floated the issue a couple times, and there is widespread consensus that if the Quebecers ever do cast a majority vote to leave, Quebec gets to leave.

Another, less dramatic, aspect is immigration policy. In the USA, it is strictly a Federal issue. In Canada, it is divided between the Federal and the provincial governments. A provincial nomination is an official statement from a province that said province really wants a person to immigrate there, and would the Federal government please give that person’s request special priority and consideration. (There is even a special allotment of immigration slots reserved for provincial nominees.) In other words, I’m basically in.

Not formally in, not quite yet, however. The ultimate permission is still given by the Canadian federal government. I will be applying for that once I get one final bit of paperwork from my new employer.

The job is in Vancouver, by the way. So it’s a little bit of an odd situation: I’m only moving about fifty miles. It really underscores the arbitrariness of borders: I could move thousands of miles east or south, and I would not have to contend with the slightest bit of immigration red tape.