Archive for November, 2016

Trump … wins?

November 9, 2016

I remarked on at least a couple of occasions that I almost wanted to see Donald Trump win the U.S. election because it would be funny to watch all the heads explode.

There are a lot of heads exploding this morning.

I could make that comment because I am utterly convinced that Donald Trump will neither save nor destroy the United States. There’s just too much inertia in a political system that big for any real change to happen in that short a time. Some of his policies sound like bad ideas, but even with the Republicans taking Congress on a lot of them he’s not going to get support from the Republicans.

The stock markets are falling based on the uncertainty, and things are indeed uncertain. I don’t think anyone really knows what Trump will do as President. Heck, I don’t think Trump knows what Trump will do as President. But, as with Brexit, I think the stocks will quickly return to normal levels. To be honest, these drops almost seem more like political commentary now than like anything even remotely resembling real economic analysis.

I’m interested in seeing the reaction from progressives. When those on the right lose and act out and protest, the left is quick to talk about how terrible they are and how they’d be so much better. Well, this is their chance to prove that. I’m not expecting them to do that, but if they do, then I will gain much respect for their side of the aisle. Heck, if some progressives do act out in negative ways and prominent progressives chide them for it, I’d be impressed.

As I said on Monday, the Democratic Party and progressive side in general ran a more negative campaign than a positive one, and it led to an utter disaster for them … in an election that they absolutely should have won. I hope that they learn from this, and understand that despite their constant crowing about how the Republicans are a dying party, in order for them to survive they, like the Republicans need to start listening to the people again. Otherwise, they will reflect this (altered) Babylon 5 quote:

“They are a dying party. We should let them pass.”

“Who — the Democrats or the Republicans?”

“Yes.”

On Clinton herself, I predict that it will soon be revealed that she’s had serious medical issues throughout the entire campaign. In light of that, Obama or Trump will pardon her on the basis that trying to prosecute someone that ill isn’t really in the best interest of Americans, and that she’ll fade from public view fairly quickly.

To sum up my thoughts on this, I think this sort of outcome was what America needed, where someone outside the establishment comes in and has surprising success, hopefully leading the establishment to note that they at least have to appear to appeal to the people to win elections. I wish that the person who had done that was not Donald Trump, or like Donald Trump. I wish it was someone less bombastic and less controversial. However, no one other than Donald Trump could have done this. It had to be someone well-known publicly, someone forceful, someone controversial who could draw media attention just by showing up and saying things, and someone wealthy enough to not be beholden to the party so that they became subsumed under it, maintaining the status quo. In Canada, because we aren’t really a two-party system we could get the same results with a Conservative majority and an NDP minority, which hopefully has woken up the Liberal party into realizing that they can’t just say “We’re the Liberals! Vote for us!” but in the U.S. two-party system the only way an outsider can have an impact is if they take over a party and run the table. Trump, love him or loathe him (which seem to be the only two options), did exactly that.

Oppressive Democracy …

November 8, 2016

So I recently read this post by Benny Vimes, that reflects an anti-democratic sentiment that I’ve been seeing more and more recently. Essentially, it’s the idea that people ought not vote for the candidate that they most want to see elected or that they think best represents them, or the policies that they most want to see implemented, and instead should vote on some semi-objective criteria to produce the “right” results. First, Vimes talks about Brexit:

When the effect of an action is increased power for a majority group and negative consequences for oppressed groups, it doesn’t matter what the purported reason for that action is. If your policy, action, or vote has racist, sexist, or ableist impacts then it doesn’t matter what your intention is – you are responsible for the oppressive impacts of that action. It doesn’t matter that pro-Brexit voters think of themselves as not being racist, they supported a racist action with racist impacts and that is what matters.

So, if people really did think that Brexit was better for Great Britain for reasons that themselves weren’t racist, they shouldn’t have actually voted for it because some of the reasons or effects might be racist? There is a point to be made here that people who vote have to own up to all of the consequences of their choices, and so all of the reasonable consequences of that vote, but a) that doesn’t include what other people do in response and b) might well include them deciding that, for them, the benefits outweigh the detriments and so, even with those negative consequences, the right decision for them is to, in fact, vote to support the policy. Remember, democracy is based on people voting for their own self-interest, and for what they would like or what they would most like to see, which means ultimately what they think most benefits them. Because otherwise there is no reason to give people a vote at all; the only thing that any person can be seen as being more qualified to assess than the policy-making experts is, in fact, their own self-interest. Sure, one can argue that instead of just acting on simply self-interest they should really advocate for the society they want to see, and racist/sexist/whateverist society is not one they should want, but all that means is that they should be Enlightened Egoists, not that they should be altruistic in their votes and put groups other than theirs and people other than themselves first. And in most Constitutional democracies, the smarter move is, in fact, to just vote how you want and let the legislative bodies and Supreme Courts decide if the policy is, ultimately, unfair to a particular “oppressed” group, and thus oppressive itself.

But a case might be made for direct action, where your vote explicitly supports a specific policy or candidate. Yes, you are responsible for the consequences of that decision. But Vimes goes on to include more cases than that:

Tomorrow the United States will finally conclude a long election process. A Donald Trump presidency has the potential to be the most actively oppressive presidency in memory. A vote for Hillary Clinton is the only action that can have the effect of avoiding that future. Any other action – voting third party, refusing to vote, or writing in a candidate – has the effect of increasing the risk of an oppressive future. While Clinton’s policy positions and record may not match yours, or my, preferences perfectly, it is the EFFECT of our votes that matter. A third party vote, for example, may have the effect of putting into power a fascist demagogue no matter what the voter’s intention may be.

So, Vimes includes deciding that you simply cannot support any candidate, as well as deciding to support the actual candidate that you would like to see as President of the United States! Democracy is all about each individual deciding what they can and can’t support, and voting accordingly. Vimes here is insisting that if a voter decides that they’d rather vote for someone else than the Democratic candidate that the problem is with them rather than with the political party that couldn’t give them a candidate that they feel that they can support! This is a recipe for political parties always denying that they need to actually represent the people, but instead merely winning through — valid or not — fear-mongering about how bad the other candidate is, which was a major factor in the Presidential campaigns this year, as both sides spent as much if not more time saying how risky and dangerous and scary and corrupt their opponents are as opposed to talking about how good they were going to be.

If you think that a third party candidate is better for the country — even if they won’t win — and if you think that you simply can’t support any of the candidates, that is not your problem, and voting according to those principles is not you doing something wrong. Voting according to those principles and assessments is the heart of what democracy is! Don’t let anyone tell you that you have to vote according to their conscience and not yours. Democracy is all about you voting on the basis of your own views, and arguments like this seek to take that away from you slowly, insidiously, until you end up voting based only on what they say you should consider, instead of based on what really matters to you.

(Note: if you are really worried that Trump will be very, very oppressive and think that voting for Clinton is the right thing to do to prevent that, and you can live with the things that she will do other than just being Trump, that’s perfectly acceptable. Just don’t let anyone tell you that you’re the one who’ll be responsible for a “Trump win” if you don’t. You won’t be. That will go to those who vote for Trump, and the Democrats for not running a viable alternative to Trump.)

Road to Tyranny …

November 7, 2016

So, tomorrow is Election Day in the United States. And anyone who lived in any nation that deals at all with the United States has heard lots and lots about this election. Yes, I caught discussions about it on Canadian news, British news, Russian news, and even Chinese news (and I only ever watch the business news on that last one, because there’s really nothing else on at 4:00 am). And one of the repeated themes from Hilary Clinton supports is that if Trump is elected there is a real risk that he will turn the United States into a dictatorship, along the lines of Hitler in Nazi Germany, riding at least semi-popular support and racial scapegoats to a complete dictatorship. And much of that came before he stated that he’d get Clinton arrested and wouldn’t say that he would accept the results of the election.

I’m not claiming that any of that is an actual risk, mostly because a) I don’t think Trump really wants that b) even if I’m wrong, there are more than enough safeguards in place in the American system to prevent it and c) it would only work if Trump had a political party that would go along with that to work with … and he doesn’t. What I do want to talk about is a key important point that those who fear tyrannies keep ignoring, which is that it’s not only the purported allies of those who take power that end up being complicit — even unintentionally — in the dictatorship taking power.

Dictators and tyrants taking power where popular support — ie elections — is a major component of the coup always has to involve a significant percentage of the populace siding with them, at least at first. Laurence Olivier — yes, that Laurence Olivier — narrated in “The World at War” that many people believed that Hitler needed the extremists to gain power, and that once he was secure he would get them under control, not realizing that Hitler was actually as if not more extreme than those they feared. But, then, if it wasn’t the extreme views that got him support, what did? Hitler played on existing animosities towards the Jews, certainly, which gave the people a scapegoat, but he couldn’t have done that if the German people hadn’t felt a need for a scapegoat. And in addition to finding them someone to blame, he also talked about lifting them from the struggle they found themselves in, giving them jobs and food, and as again noted in “The World at War” at least giving the appearance of equality, that rich and poor were encouraged to come together and eat the same meals, and work together. A lot of the Nazi success came from them at least being seen to be attempting to solve real problems … and winning successes that had real, tangible results, like retaking Alsace-Lorraine, which was more important as a symbol of Hitler standing up to the major powers and winning than it was as a territory for Germany to hold.

So, in addition to those who allied with Hitler at various times to give him power, the government in power that Hitler overcame was also complicit, for allowing those problems to exist mostly unaddressed. While it can be argued that the economy in Germany, for example, was already recovering before Hitler and Hitler merely took credit for it, Hitler clearly took advantage of issues and sentiments among the people that the current governments weren’t addressing to the satisfaction of the people. It would be reasonable to posit that one of those was the loss of face and power that came from not only Germany losing WWI, but also the terms of the treaty that some might say crippled Germany. The government was blamed for signing it — even if they had little choice — and blamed for not doing anything about it afterwards, and when Hitler claimed that he would do something about it and actually succeeded, he suddenly became the man who was listening to what the people wanted and doing something about it … unlike those he opposed.

The Democrats in the United States seem, to me, to be in this position. They crow about winning the White House twice in a row, and blame dirty tactics — like redrawing electoral districts — for their loses in Congress. Certainly, that does have an impact, but that always strikes as more grumbling that the other side cheats better than they do … especially given how they take an explicit pro-immigration stance — especially towards non-white immigrants — while crowing that the shifting demographics away from the population being mostly white means that in the future they’ll win more elections, because blacks and Hispanics, for example, vote Democrat more. And yet, for the most part they win their support not by promoting policies they support — many of these are socially conservative, for example — but instead by appealing to the fear that the Republicans will be terrible for their specific grouping. In no way do they really give them what they want. This election cycle, they had a mini-revolt with Sanders from their own liberal and progressive supporters who wanted them to act more progressive and less conservative. And in the primaries, or even after, did the Democrats change their policies to incorporate more of what Sanders was saying and thus to appeal to these voters? It doesn’t seem like it to me.

Even this campaign reveals these sorts of cracks. How much of the rhetoric from the Clinton campaign is talking about how the Democrats are going to do wonderful things? How much of the messages from Clinton supporters is about how great she is? And, to contrast, how much of it is nothing more than rhetoric about how bad Trump is and that everyone needs to come out to vote to stop Trump? The more positive messages — like “Make America Great Again” — are coming from Trump. His whole strategy is essentially that they are all corrupt and are killing the country, and he’s going to lock them up and fix everything.

So, in my admittedly shallow view, in order to prevent tyrannies you actually need to listen to the people and try to do what they want you to do … or, at least, explain to them why that’s a bad idea. Telling them that they’re bad people for what they feel are valid concerns and ignoring their actual concerns leaves discontentment, and discontentment is something that can be exploited … and if that discontentment is aimed at your party, it’s not going to be you that exploits it. If you leave yourself vulnerable to a surge of popular discontentment, don’t be surprised when someone you don’t like exploits it. Instead, listen to the people, don’t dictate to the people. Or else you risking having a real dictator in power.

What to Watch?

November 4, 2016

So, as I’m sure you’ve all heard me mention on a number of occasions, I’m insanely busy with work right now, a situation that isn’t likely to change all that much for at least another month. Because of this, I radically reworked and simplified my schedule to try to get work, housework, and other things I want to do in, which involved relying on, for example there being sports on TV on so that I could watch them while playing a game. And then I decided that maybe doing other things in that timeslot was as if not more important, shuffling things around a bit.

At any rate, all of this schedule shuffling left me with one issue to resolve that I’ve been kicking around for at least the past two months: what should I be watching in those brief moments when I have time to watch TV? Originally, I planned to use the time to watch some things on Shomi … at which point they promptly canceled the service. But I’ve been cycling through a number of DVDs in an attempt to find something that fits, which has been … unsuccessful.

The issue is that I have to balance differing time blocks with different requirements. My current main TV watching time is from about 7 pm – 8:30 pm in the evening, and it was this that I originally planned for. I started with shows like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, but there’s an issue with half-hour shows: I don’t want to have to select the next episode every 20 minutes, but if I put it on “Play All” in the evening time block I end up falling asleep and ending up waking up half-way through an episode, and not really wanting to stay up later to finish it. So, “Play All” is out. Except that the other main time block is when I’m playing games, and for those cases I really want to put it on “Play All”, so that if I’m engrossed in the action in a game when the episode ends I don’t have to remember to go to the next episode. So for the evening I want to select the episodes individually, and for playing games I want it to run automatically. But if the two don’t align, I might end up with, say, an episode left on the disk when I sit down to play games, which means that I’d have only one episode to get through before being forced to get up and change the disk, which isn’t ideal. And, also, if I’m half-way through a disk the “Play All” would require me to either watch the episodes I just watched again, or else skip ahead to the episodes that I haven’t.

So, ideally, I want a selectable, hour-long show in the evening and something that I can do “Play All” on for playing games. There’s also potentially while I’m eating, but that tends to have similar requirements to the evening selection, except that my time is definitely more flexible there. Now, in the past I simply had a different DVD for my evening watching and for when I’m playing games, but that was when I had more time to watch TV than I do now. Based on my current and future work schedule, it would take me months to get through one series, let alone two. I’m likely to distract myself with something else before finishing anything. On top of that, I have vacation time coming up in December, and there I might play games a lot more than I can or will watch TV in the evening, which would mean that watching that would dominate my watching … or maybe not. Still, it’d be really nice to use the same series when my TV watching is going to be so sporadic.

I’ve tried/considered:

Yu-Gi-Oh: The duels are what’s interesting, and thus falling asleep during episodes meant that I often missed the best part.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Needed a “Play All”, which meant I fell asleep in the middle of episodes, and it wasn’t interesting enough to just watch, which is nice for the times when I don’t feel like reading anymore but don’t feel like going to sleep.

Get Smart: Fell asleep in the middle of episodes.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Doesn’t have a “Play All”.

Charlie’s Angels: Got distracted by something else. Don’t really want to have this be the only thing I’m watching for six months.

Buck Rogers: Got distracted by something else. Not as generally good as the other options.

Smallville: Nine seasons are too long.

Sliders: Could work.

Quantum Leap: Could work.

Married … With Children: Thanks, TV Tropes! But it’s a half hour show.

Angel/Buffy: No “Play All”.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: No “Play All”.

New BSG: Repeat episodes are annoying in the evening, and would shift the episode list too much.

V: Too short.

Old BSG: Too short.

Friday the 13th: The Series: Alhough I was enjoying it, I didn’t want it to be the only TV I was watching for the next few months.

Right now, considering that I was likely going to be watching this through December as well, the current choice is … Babylon 5. Because, heck, I might as well go back to my Christmas tradition, hope to get through it by the end of the year, and then figure out a new schedule when things are back to normal in January. We’ll see how this goes.

Thoughts on X-Men: Apocalypse

November 2, 2016

So, I recently watched the latest X-Men movie, and as a long-time X-Man all I can say is that I was very, very disappointed in it and it might well be the worst of the X-Men movies, at least in my opinion.

Since this is a relatively recent movie, my thoughts on it will be below the fold:

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