The Smoke of That Great Burning.

There was a time, a few weeks ago, when I reconsidered my decision to stay out of the US.

Most of you know that I’m banned from entering that country anyway. What you may not know is that, as of last summer, I don’t have to be. There’s a kind of expiration date on my conviction; after five years I can apply to have my record “expunged”. I’ve never bothered, never even explored the possibility. Why would I? Exile doesn’t seem to have harmed my career (such as it is), has actually helped it in a few ways I could name. And the overall quality of my border-crossing experiences has vastly improved ever since that particular boundary got scratched off the list. Why waste effort gaining re-entry into a country which qualifies as third-world along every metric from religiosity to life expectancy?

USA highlighted in yellow. In comparison with 16 other "first-world" nations around the globe.

USA highlighted in yellow. In comparison with 16 “other” first-world nations around the globe.

I suppose it might be nice to be able to prove that my aversion to the US isn’t just sour grapes, that I choose to keep my distance even though I don’t have to; but anyone who’d seriously raise such an argument in the first place would be a card-carrying member of the Dunning-Kruger Club, and not worth the effort. Besides, I got hassled enough crossing that border even before I was on the radar; does anyone really think I’d ever get across the US border again without falling victim to a “random” cavity search, no matter what my legal standing might be?

And yet, just a few weeks ago I was seriously thinking about it. It was during that brief bright window when it looked like Bernie Sanders might have a shot. Think of it: a presidential candidate who didn’t arrive pre-pocketed by the multinationals. A candidate who consistently maintained the same forthright positions for decades, even when they were politically unpopular. A candidate who, instead of  sheepishly apologizing for jumping on the Iraq bandwagon, could say: hey, I voted against that fucking war from the outset.

Talk about making America great again.

I would gladly return to a country that voted for such a candidate. It might even be worth enduring the velvet touch of Andrew Beaudry’s latex-covered hand up my ass. But you all know what’s happened since. The Democrat machine put its foot down, told its bitches how to vote, and— barring some late-breaking statistical miracle— relegated Sanders to footnote status. Further to the right, Trump’s ascension has pretty much sealed the deal. Suddenly the court jester is within a stone’s throw of the crown. Pundits on both ends of the spectrum have stopped laughing. Conventional wisdom is that no sane person has a choice any longer: unite behind Clinton, lest the country burn.

Hey. Could be worse.

I make the best conflagrations.  Nobody makes better conflagrations than me.

I agree with that math. Which is exactly why I so fervently hope that Trump becomes the next US president.

A child-rearing analogy might come in handy here. Some believe that the way to teach a toddler to avoid hot stove-tops is to scoop them up whenever they get too close to the burner, followed perhaps with firm warnings of potential consequence. Personally, I think the take-home message in that scenario might not be Stove-tops are dangerous so much as If I want to find out what’s the deal up on that cool stove-top thing, I should wait until there aren’t any grown-ups around to stop me. If you really want to teach the little darlings to avoid stove-tops— if you want the lesson to stick— step back and let ’em discover that red-hot element for themselves. Once should be enough (or if it isn’t, at least you now know to cut your losses on this one and invest your efforts in any other offspring that might be crawling around.[1])

A Clinton presidency would be tantamount to the interventionist approach. Business would continue pretty much as usual; we’d continue toward the iceberg (or at least, we would if there were any icebergs left), albeit with a stern finger-wagging and whatever teensy course corrections might be permitted by Clinton’s corporate owners. The USA might experience a few more years of what currently passes for “stability”, but the only ones who got burned would be those who always have been. Little would change— except that at the end of it, we’d be that much closer to the precipice.

It’s admittedly a better fate than what might have awaited the world if Cruz had made it to the finals: even ongoing environmental catastrophe doesn’t stack up decisively against the immediate threat posed by a batshit religious fanatic with his hands on half the world’s nuclear arsenal. But Trump doesn’t have Cruz’s focus, or his agenda. Or any agenda, maybe. Trump just seems to make shit up as he goes along— and while both his strategic foresight and his impulse control might evoke images of The Joker, as far as I can tell he doesn’t want to watch the world burn.

The world will burn, though. Or enough of it, at least. If Trump gets in, there are gonna be a lot of screaming toddlers with scorched hands. Shouldn’t take him more than one term to bring that whole damn country down around his ears.

And once the pot has well and truly boiled over— when even the Guccis of the one-percenters are slick with the blood in the streets; when Flint-level infrastructure has spread to every corner of the fifty states; when those damned Mexicans finally build Trump’s wall for him, but along the original Mexican/US boundary— why, the Land of the Free will be just begging for someone like Elizabeth Warren to take the helm.

It might be the only way to return sanity to the US political process, in a world where the Overton Window has moved so far to the right that yesterday’s centrism is today’s radical loony tune. In order to reset the scale to the point where workable solutions are even visible, you might have to shatter that window entirely and start over. Or— if you prefer pendulum metaphors— pushing the bob all the way over to Trump might be the only way to build enough energy to reach Warren/Sanders territory on the return swing.

It sounds grim, but at heart this is a hopeful message. True democracy might yet play a constructive role, even if its voice is dominated by toddlers who thus far have refused to accept the danger posed by stove-tops. So let them prevail, I say. Let them burn. Let them learn the hard way, and the sooner the better.

There’s a nice fringe benefit for the rest of us, too. Once those burns have been sustained, perhaps the toddlers will be so busy trying to stamp out the fires within their own borders that they’ll be less inclined to keep starting them elsewhere in the world. Wouldn’t that be nice.

Maybe I’ll head down south after all, in a few more years. Hang out with some old friends I haven’t been able to visit in a while.

In the meantime I’ll keep playing Fallout 4. Just to get ready.


 

[1] It’s such an obvious— and yet, such a rarely-mentioned— approach that I’m thinking of writing a book on child-rearing, right after the BUG and I complete Nellie the Nephron.

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Monday May 09 2016at 10:05 am , filed under politics, rant . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

79 Responses to “The Smoke of That Great Burning.”

  1. The collective lack of ability of anyone to understand why Trump is popular is absolutely infuriating. It’s not hard to see why people like the guy, not at all. And it has little to do with racism or homophobia or whatever people wanna say the guy is this week. I dislike the fucker, but he speaks to a very large faction of people in this country that have spent the last three decades getting their shit kicked in by basically everyone.

  2. Y’know, just a short while ago, I was wondering about your ban from entering the U.S. I couldn’t remember if it was permanent or temporary. Thankfully, you’ve answered that question nicely.

    Peter, I’d like to convince you that a return to the U.S.A. is not such a bad idea. I know that you wear this conviction as a sort of Badge of Honor, and perhaps, rightly so. But in my opinion, honor has been served. You’ve made your point. We all stood up and screamed bloody murder during your trial. You proven that the machine is bent and misaligned. It’s now time to brush yourself off and start again.

    At the very least, you should get your record expunged. Simply because a clean record is better than the alternative. Who knows what kind of impact a less-than-perfect record will have on a loan application or a new job or a courting publisher? I’m just grasping at straws here, but you understand my point.

    Also, Bernie’s not out. Not yet anyway. Hillary’s STILL under investigation by the FBI and they plan on making a decision soon:

    http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/279077-decision-time-for-fbi-on-clinton

    If she’s indicted, many are saying you can pretty much count her out. Once that happens, Bernie will be ready to step up and FINALLY get the attention he’s been deserving. You never know.

    Finally, there are many among your loyal Squiddies that would joyously welcome a chance to see you at a U.S. based convention. You’ve been absent too long and a great many have offered you beers and a hearty slap on the back upon your return (myself included). That reason alone should be enough to entice you.

    Yes, the U.S. political system is in shambles now, and heading potentially in a dangerous direction. But please don’t let that inform your opinion of ALL of us. We’re not all that bad.

    Hope to see you soon.

  3. Yes, but think of all those stumpy-armed children, wandering around, unable to feed themselves, pissing themselves in public, flailing their stumps around in frustration until they fall down…wait a minute. Maybe it’s not such a bad idea. At the very least, it’s entertaining.

  4. I’m throwing my support behind @ken, above, simply because it’s better to have more options than fewer options. Be expunged.

  5. Think about it as if you were a member of the political right. According to many of them, the last 8 years have been a systematic destruction of the ‘main-street’ US economy, a roll-back of all kinds of family and traditional values, allowing ‘illegals’ to come over by the millions, and threats to take the guns away – all done by someone who hates america and isn’t even allowed to be president to begin with!

    With that worldview, and their media diet to support it, it must be intensely baffling and frustrating to Trump supporters that more people from the Left don’t open their eyes, come running over to the Right, crying “we are sorry, we didn’t know the stove would be so hot.”

    I don’t see how a Trump presidency could cause the Right to run Left. If anything, it will just widen the base assumptions, and cause each side to dig in deeper on their irreconcilable worldviews.

  6. I’m afraid he’ll get elected and send out tactical nukes on batshit crazy whims.

  7. Also, if you know how to get a record expunged for someone going in the reverse direction, Carl would appreciate it. That whole donut escapade from his young adulthood haunts him despite it being expunged on this side.

  8. I understand the impulse to say fuck them, but the phrase “cut off your nose to spite your face” also comes to mind.

  9. Your theory is nice, but I think you underestimate the power of cognitive dissonance.

    Suppose that The Donald does get elected. And suppose that the results are every bit as horrific as we expect them to be. Will the people who voted him in say “Holy hell shit, we made a terrible mistake, we need to rethink everything we believe”? Or will they say “Yeah, we made the right choice, now America’s great again, yee-haw!”, and blame any negative consequences too flagrant to be ignored on Islamo-socialist malcontents who hate our freedom?

    The people who support Trump have already made the choice to deny reality and reject the promptings of whatever common sense they may have. They have voluntarily persuaded themselves that shit is sugar. They’re not going to reconsider their position when all the evidence suggests that they made a disastrous choice: they’re going to double down.

    So yes, I’d be all for us rushing over the precipice if I thought it would administer the kind of corrective that American politics and society so richly needs. By all means, let’s rip the Band-aid off. But I don’t think it will work that way. And history offers us no shortage of examples of what happens when you’ve voted a demagogue into office and everything starts to go south.

    On another note, if we do somehow pull back from the brink and you decide to pay us a visit, I hope I’ll get a chance to buy you a beer.

  10. ken: If she’s indicted, many are saying you can pretty much count her out. Once that happens, Bernie will be ready to step up and FINALLY get the attention he’s been deserving. You never know.

    True, but I do have strong suspicions. I mean, Cheney and Bush openly bragged about committing war crimes— exactly the same crimes that Japanese officers were convicted of perpetrating on Americans during WW2— and they were never even indicted. I would be very surprised if the law applied to Clinton any more than it did to Bush and Cheney, especially over something so relatively minor.

    Nestor:
    I understand the impulse to say fuck them, but the phrase “cut off your nose to spite your face” also comes to mind.

    It’s not my nose or my face I’m worried about. It’s my rectum. Do you really think that Squidgate didn’t put me on some kind of list the low-level thugs circulate amongst themselves? Do you really think they’d take my name off that list just because some higher-up approved an expungey thing?

    Surveys have shown that the US border is reviled as the most unpleasant to cross on the planet, by a margin of 2:1— and those data were collected from business travelers with big salaries and no targets on their chests. Much as I’d love to hang out with friends and colleagues below the 49th, how much in the way of outright assault should I put up with for the privilege? Knowing that the moment I tried to defend myself, I’d be assaulted further and charged once more with Resisting (and this time, they’d even be able to make the “repeat offender” moniker stick)?

    Seriously, I’d love to return. If someone can guarantee me safe passage across the border, I’m there.

  11. But if Trump gets in, we won’t get to see what troublr Billy can get into with all that free time and access to interns.

  12. Planning on making bumper stickers that say, “Trump/Clinton 2016. Either way, you deserve it.”

  13. Peter Watts: Do you really think they’d take my name off that list just because some higher-up approved an expungey thing?

    This may be a long shot, but US Border & Customs have a program called Global Entry:

    https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry

    As a Canadian Citizen, I’m sure you can qualify.

    It’s surely alot of paperwork, fees, and a fair bit of waiting for the paperwork to get processed. But considering that it might alleviate some of your concerns, it may be worth looking into.

    If you decide to go for it, it seems more important than ever that you get your record expunged. Of course, that’s no guarantee that you’ll have ZERO problems – you may still get rejected – but better to find out by mail than at the U.S. Border.

    One caveat – The Global Entry program seems more focused on air travel. I know that you probably like to drive into the U.S., bu I can’t help but wonder if it will work as well on the ground.

    Nevertheless, perhaps this program, or one similar to it, might be just the thing you’re looking for.

  14. Should’ve completed my research before opening my big mouth…

    I think you want to use the Canadian Trusted Traveler service called NEXUS:

    http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/nexus/menu-eng.html

    AND, there’s a provision for crossing the border by land:

    http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/prog/nexus/land-terre-eng.html

  15. Peter Watts,

    Yes, but keep in that that they were protected by the office that they held. At that level, it’s a pretty big shield that you get to stand behind.

    Hillary’s shield is much smaller.

    -BTW, sorry I’m so vocal today. I seem to have an opinion on everything.

  16. For someone that claims that they don’t like the US, you sure talk about them a lot.

  17. ken,

    I think even if he had documents (global entry, nexus, whatever) that make it easier to cross borders, there still would be no guarantee against assholes.

  18. To continue your analogy, I’m not sure the child would get burnt and that would be the end of it. I’m concerned the child might panic and tip the stove over, start a fire that burns down the kitchen, the house and maybe even parts of the neighborhood before it’s contained.

    You might be right that he doesn’t want to see the world burn. But with such an ego and such macho-bravado he displays I’m not sure that it can be tempered and contained if the situation calls for it. So might lead to bigger spills when he can’t back down from his chest pounding displays.

  19. Mr. Watts, as i thinks, you are true west-left-liberal. Of course, every left-liberal considers, if american corporation, is main beneficiar of evil in the world. And every left-liberal, not see real dangerous – femino-fascism, multiculturalism, so loved for you, environmentalism, and of course, muslims. So i find if Tump is not so bad – he can break dominant of left-liberalism on the West.

  20. And i congratulate you, with Day of the Victory!

  21. I believe we have screwed the pooch. There is no sane choice, any way you look at it we’re going to crash and burn. Gearing up for the zombie apocalypse, only it’s politicians, police, and bill collectors that will be in the cross hairs due to political and financial unrest. Damn! Why do you have to be so depressing, big guy? And I’d love to see you, too!

  22. Daniel Millage:
    Planning on making bumper stickers that say, “Trump/Clinton 2016.Either way, you deserve it.”

    I’d buy one, and I don’t even have a car.

    ken: I think you want to use the Canadian Trusted Traveler service called NEXUS

    NEXUS kinda worried me. As far as I can tell it’s basically a way to entice people to pay $50 for the privilege of handing their personal details over to a gummint database in exchange for— well, in exchange for nothing, really. You can still be stopped. You can still be hauled into secondary. If you have anything to declare at Customs, or if you’re traveling with someone who doesn’t have a NEXUS card you might as well used the damn thing to wipe your ass. Basically the only advantage is that some customs crossings have a “NEXUS Lane”, which tends to have somewhat fewer cars on account of only being usable by people dumb enough to get sucked into the NEXUS program. But in my case, even if they gave me a card (which they probably wouldn’t), that just means I wouldn’t have to wait as long to get hauled over into the little white room.

    Kyle Mac:
    For someone that claims that they don’t like the US, you sure talk about them a lot.

    I’m sorry, I’m not seeing the contradiction there. Does loathing connote indifference on your world?

    Docbrain: Mr. Watts, as i thinks, you are true west-left-liberal. Of course, every left-liberal considers, if american corporation, is main beneficiar of evil in the world.

    Just you wait. You’re gonna have a hard time saying that when I become World Dictator.

    Of course, judging by your syntax, you might have a hard time saying pretty much anything.

  23. Rex Galore: To continue your analogy, I’m not sure the child would get burnt and that would be the end of it. I’m concerned the child might panic and tip the stove over, start a fire that burns down the kitchen, the house and maybe even parts of the neighborhood before it’s contained.

    I’d buy that mod— if you in turn will accept the added detail that the toddler is a pyromaniac who’s been setting fires throughout the neighborhood since the day he was born (let’s assume he’s a Bradburian “Small Assassin” baby), and that at the very least his extracurricular arson would be severely curtailed if his house burned down. Still a net win for the global neighborhood.

    Still, I take your point, and maybe you’re right. What gives me slight hope you’re not is the recent history of my own country. We had a complete asshole running the place for a decade; xenophobe, evangelical Christian, climate-change denier, never saw a tar-sands project he didn’t love. Big panopticon fan. Somehow managed to ratchet up the degree to which first-nations people were being fucked over, which many had thought impossible. He kept getting elected, but only as the leader of a minority government. He could never fully let himself off the leash, because the opposition could always take him down with a nonconfidence vote if he went too far.

    Last time he got in, he got in with a majority— and holy shit did the gloves come off. Suddenly the gummint was spying on airport wifi and classifying environmental protesters as terrorists. All those things he never dared do before, he now did with impunity. He’d always fucked us over, but now he did it openly.

    And you know what? We annihilated him in the last election. He had to resign from the leadership of his own party with his tail between his legs; the interim leader who stepped up in his wake had to publicly repudiate many of the policies of her own predecessor. Things are a lot better now (not perfect, by any means— I’m still waiting to see what Trudeau does with C-51 and the TPP). But before things could improve, things had to turn to shit. We had to give Harper the freedom to set fires so big that everyone could see them, and recoil.

    In demographic terms, of course, there are a lot of differences between Canada and the US. Population-wise, we’re basically Arkansas. So maybe our experience doesn’t map.

    But maybe it does.

  24. I dunno – Toronto had Ford, and afterwards went with the blander right wing of John Tory. The aftermath of Trump could just as easily be Mitt Romney seeming like a steady hand to steer the USA forward into that iceberg.

    And as for how Trump happened, Michael Adams wrote a book on it a few years ago; http://www.environicsinstitute.org/michael-adams/books/american-backlash. (TL;DR – democrats and republicans are closer in values to each other than either is to the growing group of angry, disaffected citizens, who at the time, didn’t vote…)

  25. curgoth: I dunno – Toronto had Ford, and afterwards went with the blander right wing of John Tory. The aftermath of Trump could just as easily be Mitt Romney seeming like a steady hand to steer the USA forward into that iceberg.

    That’s a good point. Still, wasn’t Ford largely bluster? He and his brother sure talked like they were gonna tear down the temple, but it didn’t take long for City Council to neuter them in terms of actual legislation; they alienated their own co-governers.

  26. AngusM is on point. Your theory has been floated before, Mr. Watts, and I don’t think it has any validity. If there is one thing the extreme right in America can be counted on to do, it’s double down no matter what the outcome.

  27. […] disagree with Peter Watts’ argument that things need to get worse before they get […]

  28. I’m not sure that Thump would cause all that much damage as president, not like Cruz. I don’t think he cares about the shit he says in his campaign, Trump cares about Trump, not mexicans, muslims or suppressed american workers. He don’t want to make america great (for any definition of great), he want’s to show how great Trump is. Doing something really stupid as a president seems like a huge hassle, and I think he is to lazy for that. Easier to only do minor stupid shit and let the congress run the country.

    I’m quite sure he will change his tone drastically when he becomes the official republican candidate, he will still be playing his game. He will probably/hopefully still be unelectable because he’s a fucking clown.

    Not that the president seems to matter that much, Bush jr and Obama seemed pretty different, but the result was only more of the same.

    Not that I know what I’m talking about, I’m just watching with half an eye and a very raised eyebrow from over here.

    ps
    I don’t think those graphs are all that good. Only one of them shows any real trend that is visualized by having those x/y axis.

  29. Of course, judging by your syntax, you might have a hard time saying pretty much anything.

    What do you mean?

  30. Peter Watts:
    I’m sorry, I’m not seeing the contradiction there. Does loathing connote indifference on your world?

    I never said there’s a contradiction in that. I just find it amusing that you devote so much time and energy into something that annoys you so much.

  31. Ken said: “At the very least, you should get your record expunged. Simply because a clean record is better than the alternative. Who knows what kind of impact a less-than-perfect record will have on a loan application or a new job or a courting publisher?”

    Ken’s argument remains valid whether or not you ever decide to visit the United States. Getting your conviction expunged could save you from (perhaps unexpected and short-notice) future hassles in Canada or elsewhere in the world.

    In brief, it’s better to have an expunged record and not need it than to need it and not have it.

  32. Peter Watts,

    I have to concede that you’re more knowledgeable than me on the political ongoings over there. I’m viewing this with Eurocentric eyes and furrowed brow from across the pond.

    Your xenophobic, evangelical Christian, climate change denying asshat might have screwed you over and been sent running with tail between his legs. But from what I can understand he’s been screwing you Canadians over mostly.

    The last republican president, Bush Jr. didn’t keep to meddling around in Americans’ affairs (though they seem to love to do that to over there too) but also stomped around quite a bit abroad. Something America is renowned/reviled for and little me is a bit worried is a tradition that Trump would take it upon himself to expand upon.

    Being on the other side of the pond I/we might be on the far side of the fallout created by a fire but my mind is drawn to our own closer chest pounding, egomaniacal ruler: Putin. If another crisis like the recent one in Ukraine happens when Trump is at the helm will those two get in to their own match of national-fisticuffs?

    So I’d say the question is how big the neighborhood the belligerent, fire-starting toddler has access to actually is. I quite like my garden without any unexpected fires thank you very much.

    And I second that which several others on here have commented on, the fact that people (the American right wing in particular?) are good at rationalizing away things and if Trump does badly during a term he’ll do what Trump does best and start name calling and blaming everyone else, which I think way to many will swallow whole hearted. “Those darn Mexican, liberal, freedom hating, Muslim, etc, bastards hate us and what makes America great and stops us at every turn”

  33. Kyle Mac: I never said there’s a contradiction in that. I just find it amusing that you devote so much time and energy into something that annoys you so much.

    Far as I can tell, downplaying or ignoring significant threats is one of the main things that got us into this mess in the first place.

    OldMiser: Getting your conviction expunged could save you from (perhaps unexpected and short-notice) future hassles in Canada or elsewhere in the world.

    Actually, I’ve had far more pleasant border-crossing experiences since my conviction than I ever had prior. The only time I was ever pulled out of line was by the Aussies, and they were a delight. Actually chatted with me about literature and our favorite books while they did their background check. Didn’t even bother X-raying my luggage– when I asked them if they weren’t going to, they said “I suppose we could if you wanted us to…”

    And that was the biggest delay I experienced.

    The only border hassles I’ve ever experienced were when crossing into the US. They treated me worse when I had a clean record than anyone else did when I had a felonious one. Besides which, people keep using that word. “Expunged”. I don’t think it means what they think it means.

    During my trial the prosecution dredged up the fact that I’d been arrested back in 1991 for turning right on a red while driving a bicycle through a deserted intersection at 2 a.m. on a Thursday morning, without coming to a complete stop. They cited this to try and have me classed as a “repeat offender”, so they could increase my jail time. The weird thing was, that incident was so minor (I was never even convicted) that we couldn’t even find it in the Canadian records when we went looking; it had been deleted as inconsequential. Somehow, the prosecution knew anyway— about something that minor, in a foreign country, a solid decade before 9/11 gave them an excuse to spy on the whole fucking planet.

    So let’s just say that here in the 21rst Century, when someone tells me the US is willing to “expunge” my record, I tell them I have some farmland to sell them on the Sea of Tranquility.

    Rex Galore: Being on the other side of the pond I/we might be on the far side of the fallout created by a fire but my mind is drawn to our own closer chest pounding, egomaniacal ruler: Putin. If another crisis like the recent one in Ukraine happens when Trump is at the helm will those two get in to their own match of national-fisticuffs?

    And I second that which several others on here have commented on, the fact that people (the American right wing in particular?) are good at rationalizing away things and if Trump does badly during a term he’ll do what Trump does best and start name calling and blaming everyone else, which I think way to many will swallow whole hearted. “Those darn Mexican, liberal, freedom hating, Muslim, etc, bastards hate us and what makes America great and stops us at every turn”

    Yeah, well, that’s the problem with being the token optimist on the ‘crawl. All you realists jump in and kick my dreams to death like dogs in the dust.

  34. Peter Watts,

    Ah, duly noted.
    Just so you know though, I’m actually keeping my fingers crossed your prediction is correct. Wouldn’t mind seeing the battleship of USS USA change course at least a wee bit from the religiously dogmatic, xenophobic, science and reason hating it seems to slant more and more towards lately.
    Bonus points for calling me a realist instead of, as most are want to do, a pessimist.

    But I resent the allegation that I kick defenseless dogs. If anything I cowardly scream obscenities at the dog safely from the other side of a high fence, assured by the knowledge that the big dog can’t bite me where I am.
    Plus, I don’t think you (or thus your dreams) are defenseless against my I’ll thought out and worse worded assails. But call it rough love if you will.

  35. Docbrain: What do you mean?

    He means given your performance in this thread so far, it’s entirely reasonable to read your username as “Duckbrain”.

  36. You are such a goddamn optimist.

    Dunning-Kruger: good find.

  37. For having grown up in an environment where the ‘let’em try the hotplate for themselves’ was SOP in childrearing technique, and perpetuating the cycle myself on my own offspring (with some revisions I’ll explain in a minute), it doesn’t seem as outlandish an approach to me as Peter suggests.

    I’ll make two remarks, though, both of which pretty much boil down to : context matters.

    Pedagogy wise, the practical object lesson works best when a) the subject is informed/forewarned of risks and consequences, and b) the level of actual risk doesn’t extend to the likely loss of limb or life.
    The purpose of cond. ‘a’ being it reinforces the credibility of future remarks and suggestions made by tutors (I lost my fingerprints, that old coot was right, again !), and ‘b’ is a purely practical affair of resources management. Unless you have a relatively large pool of toddlers that may sensible to sort on a crude pass/fail triage model, the amount of work and time spent on a single or a couple small ones makes it smarter to maximize their chances to benefit from their experiences. Crippling them in the process is therefore ill-advised, whilst killing them outright is a net waste (except maybe for the dubious exemplarity value to any survivors).

    tl;dr : we breed to few cubs at once, who grow up way too slowly for brute-force darwinist emulation to be a sensible approach.

    My second remark applies to the transferability of this doctrine to the electorate of the US. The trial by fire approach, when the consequences of one’s actions aren’t readily identifiable by the subjects is counterproductive : through lacking information, willful ignorance of sheer force of rationalisation, the odds of the people collectively learning from their mistakes in this way are arguably no better than hoping for beneficial random mutations (and once again we bump against the limitations in time and number of radical mishaps we can afford before we run into catastrophic failure mode).

    The recent Canuck Heel-Face didn’t happen in a vacuum : by every measurement, the population of Canada is much better educated, less fact-averse and markedly more homogenous in its overall level of information and public education than the US, which as you rightfully pointed has by now turned into a third world country in all but name.
    Starting from widely different gamestates, the same sort of temporary carte blanche given to a crazy leader of the executive branch is unlikely to produce remotely similar results, nor elicit the same backlash/pendulum counter-swing you hope for.

    If anything, the more broken the US gets, the higher the chances it will lash out in desperation, both domestically and outside its borders.
    Whether it would self destruct before it takes down the entire ecosphere with itself is a coin toss.

    With that said, I must specify I agree with most of your premise about Clinton : her winning the general election only contributes to extend just a tad longer the charade of pretend-normalcy when the situation, both social, ecological and military gets more dire. It will only dampen the fever long enough for the inflammation to terminally rot the brains of what remains the largest military power in the world, turning it into a powderkeg of eschatological proportions.

    I, unfortunately don’t have a magic bullet to offer to slay this particular monster ; as you pointed, short of a critical malfunction putting Clinton out of the race and Sanders back in play, my personal remedy is limited to the micro-scale : I can skip a 60 footer, and the tech has never been better for autonomous live-in transportation.

    Cheerio.

  38. The flaw in the Trump as Scourge plan is people connecting cause A to result B. We don’t do that here. We blame small groups who don’t have the money and influence to fight the bad P.R.

  39. In the meantime I’ll keep playing Fallout 4. Just to get ready.

    Majorly odd that you play games. Nice though – hope you play the new survival mode, it’s excellent.

    As a longshot, with your writing resume – please, could you try offering your services to Bethesda? Their writing is embarrassingly bad, and I bet you’d rather chop your fingers off than blatantly rip off an iconic, but idiotic story (Blade Runner)..

  40. Most video game writing is embarrassingly bad, and I have yet to see ANY rise above “mediocre but passable, with the same idea better in novel X”.

  41. Kolbex: He means given your performance in this thread so far, it’s entirely reasonable to read your username as “Duckbrain”.

    Come to play with my penis, please.

  42. Peter Watts,

    As the examples Ken provided earlier (paragraph 3 of comment 2) indicate, the possible hassles from an unexpunged conviction are not limited to border-crossing issues.

  43. Ryan,

    With the sad part being that he is likely to do even more kicking once in office.

  44. Kyle Mac,

    Internet 101, the only thing worth writing about is what annoys you (or worse).

  45. Rex Galore:
    Being on the other side of the pond I/we might be on the far side of the fallout created by a fire but my mind is drawn to our own closer chest pounding, egomaniacal ruler: Putin. If another crisis like the recent one in Ukraine happens when Trump is at the helm will those two get in to their own match of national-fisticuffs?

    Frankly i don’t think there will be a problem, unless Putin fears his own generals more than the fears the west. His moves so far have been damn well better calculated than anything out of DC, Brussels or anywhere else.

  46. Peter Watts:
    Seriously, I’d love to return.If someone can guarantee me safe passage across the border, I’m there.

    Isn’t there an indigenous (first?) nation that straddles the border, could you go through there, sort of… quietly?

    Peter Watts: During my trial the prosecution dredged up the fact that I’d been arrested back in 1991 for turning right on a red while driving a bicycle through a deserted intersection at 2 a.m. on a Thursday morning, without coming to a complete stop. They cited this to try and have me classed as a “repeat offender”, so they could increase my jail time. The weird thing was, that incident was so minor (I was never even convicted) that we couldn’t even find it in the Canadian records when we went looking; it had been deleted as inconsequential. Somehow, the prosecution knew anyway— about something that minor, in a foreign country, a solid decade before 9/11 gave them an excuse to spy on the whole fucking planet.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON

    They’ve been recording everything since the cold war, more or less.

    It actually kind of makes me glad for all the huge volume of shitty content that gets liberally spread around every medium, as in all that noise it may be slightly harder for them to pick out signal… although if you look at what’s being achieved with natural language processing these days maybe that’s a vain hope.

    Ryan: he speaks to a very large faction of people in this country that have spent the last three decades getting their shit kicked in by basically everyone

    Dan Carlin talks about this on his podcast “Common Sense”, I recommend it, particularly for those who are not in the US – he does a good job of explaining what’s going into the situations you see reported.
    He has been posing the question: What will the US electorate do if they’re denied the option to vote for an ‘ant-establishment’ candidate, be it Trump or Sanders (although Trump seems to have it sewn up now) – if you take all the rage that is sloshing around now and give it no outlet for another 5 years, how much worse of a candidate than Trump will people be willing to vote for..

  47. American voters can have:

    1. Trump (Capitalism with the face of a deranged, corporate clown)
    2. Hilary (Capitalism with the face of a hypocritical, corporate shill)
    3. Sanders (Capitalism with a friendly face who will shill for banksters anyway)

    As Emma Goldman said: if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal. There’s a philosopher and system’s theorist called Immanuel Wallerstein. He said that Power perpetuates, and maintains its power, because the questions it poses and the options it provides are always double-binds. Power gives you a kind of contradictory choice, or lose-lose scenario. Power is in power because the options it allows are always impasses and deadlocks.

  48. I voted for Bernie, and I’m disappointed that he has, for all practical purposes, lost. But I’m even more disappointed and angry about this kind of “Trump would be better in the long-run” nonsense that keeps coming from people supposedly interested in a better society.

    It’s funny how the cry of the accelerationist and the purity-obsessed progressive are so similar to that of conservatives. “Fuck you, I’ve got mine” or “let them burn themselves and then bring about the ~real~ progressive revolution” works well enough if you’re white, male, and reasonably well-off. Black? LGBT, especially transgender? Female? Well, sucks to be you when someone’s banning you from restrooms or shoving a probe in your vagina, but that’ll teach you to vote for someone who isn’t 100% progressive. (Except for gun laws, of course, but that doesn’t count Because Reasons.) If you want to see the difference between Republican and Democratic control, look at the difference between the governor of North Carolina and the US Attorney General Coretta Lynch.

    Sitting around and hoping that lots of misery and death will bring about the revolution has worked precisely never. In fact, it usually brings about the opposite of success. Clinton is succeeding in the Democratic primary because she has spent decades working with other liberals, championing liberal causes, and building up a widespread network of support. Think of what Bernie could have done with all this groundswell of support if people had put in that same kind of time and effort over many years, instead of jumping aboard the Democratic boat right before the primaries and then being surprised when it takes more than good principles to win an election.

    Clinton was one of the most liberal members of the Senate and believes in things like climate change and universal healthcare. Even if she is the power-hungry, calculating monster she’s been portrayed as for the last thirty years by right-wing and corporate media, she’s clearly figured out that progressive stances get her that power. If you want her to be better, keep up the pressure, and more importantly get more progressives elected to Congress and at the state level, and start building the foundation for an even more progressive candidate in future presidential runs. Systemic change is how you get real progress on things like the surveillance state and international politics.

    The only thing Trump gets you is disaster, and probably even more Trump and Trump-like politicians down the road as civilization spins out of control.

  49. Peter Watts: The only border hassles I’ve ever experienced were when crossing into the US. They treated me worse when I had a clean record than anyone else did when I had a felonious one.

    US ICE are weirdly zealous.

    They had me unpack my entire stuff 1.5 times. While boarding a flight I had to unpack my entire carry-on luggage. Second time a polite ICE agent watched while I unpacked roughly 120 lbs of stuff and explained that no, having a DSLR doesn’t mean I’m going into the US to practice commercial photography without a license.

    It’s like stuff I’ve heard from old-timers about commie border guards.

    All really funny, when we consider how unsecured US borders really are..

  50. Y.: As a longshot, with your writing resume – please, could you try offering your services to Bethesda?

    Actually, Bethesda is one of the game companies that hasn’t claimed to have been influenced by my work— and even those that have don’t really have any avenues by which an outsider can pitch. I’ve asked a few folks I know in the industry about how a writer might break in, and the answer always seems to boil down to: hope they notice you and offer you a job. At least, every one of my game gigs happened that way.

    slybrarian: Think of what Bernie could have done with all this groundswell of support if people had put in that same kind of time and effort over many years, instead of jumping aboard the Democratic boat right before the primaries and then being surprised when it takes more than good principles to win an election.

    You’re to be commended for voting for Sanders, although I think you’re on thin ice if you’re claiming he didn’t put in a shitload of time and effort over the years. (In fact, that Rolling Stone piece I linked to was specifically about how the NYT systematically and retroactively diminished his substantial past accomplishments.)

    Given your advocacy of the marginalized, however, I’m a bit mystified as to why you’d heap such praise on a woman who voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, The Patriot Act, and the Iraq War— especially since Sanders voted against all those things (back when he was presumably not putting in any of that time and effort you mentioned). I’ll grant you that Clinton subsequently backpedaled on those positions once public opinion had changed. And that is, of course, what we all look for in our political leaders: the courage to follow the herd wherever it may lead. This gives me hope that someday, Clinton may even change her mind about fracking.

    Still. If you’d rather make this all about me being white, by all means: knock yourself out.

  51. Peter Watts: So let’s just say that here in the 21st Century, when someone tells me the US is willing to “expunge” my record, I tell them I have some farmland to sell them on the Sea of Tranquility.

    Nicely phrased and I’ll buy that bridge, ahem, farmland for whatever’s the going price. Basically, “expunged” in most cases is de facto another layer of probabation or parole. It’s a sort of expression of an official position that nobody at this late date seems to quite know how exactly this started in the first place and then got so far out of hand by the conclusion, “it was all just dick-waving, anyway”. Since the government cannot officially admit they were wrong, they can take the position that the offense was not all that bad in the first place, by making expungement accessible and by letting it sail unhindered through the machinery of bureaucracy. Thereafter, viewed through the specialized beer-goggles provided to our law-enforcement and intel communities, it will be read as “he was a good sport about his time-out, sat in the corner for the whole half-hour, pretty sure he learned his lesson” etc etc. Please note that I am not saying that this is how it should be seen by you, but I am hoping that you will try for the expungement and will also hope that you do get it.

    I’ve never been to a Con (I am a timid woodlands creature that does not like crowds at all) but if you were at a Con in the States in my general region, I might be able to brave the cosplay crowd and the lightsabre-vendors just to hear a good panel rant. But I can tell you one thing about any expungement hearings: if they ask you “so, you are a science-fiction writer. What kind of science fiction do you write?”, maybe you could say something like, “well, you know. Space ships and cool stuff like that.” Swallow your mouthful of crow and maybe say something like, “You know, and with weird medical science stuff, sort of, like, well, do you like Robin Cook?” You should sail right through, in however surreal a manner it might entail.

    Re: November’s Election: I am so torn. If it were Bernie versus “the Donald” I’d be flipping coins, lots of coins and lots of flipping. Trump v. Hillary? Ah, let’s just say that I had such great hopes for Mr President Obama perhaps sweeping clean the dusty old halls of Washington, and perhaps even chasing off some of those old hangers-on. “Mais non.” So the last eight years are eight years of progress stifled by the people who had just decided to hang on and lay low for the eventual potentially-successful HR Clinton run at the Oval Office. Obama did a lot that was mean to be claimed by Ms Clinton and it was Progressive Mainstream (center Left) mainstays. “Obamacare” was the bare minimum Progressives demanded and even that has that slick Hillary sheen of selling out the actual Progressive goals to empower and enrich the big money behind the campaigns. There are those of us who are still seething over being forced to pay for a quarter of what the Commonwealth nations get for “free”, taken out of taxes, but at least you aren’t made to jump through hoops to pretend that it’s a choice you make. That shiny wrapper on smelly pelagic ooze is typical of Clinton and why I’d rather see Bernie on the ballot, and he still can be Third Party/Independent if he wants and that might be a way he could win. I strongly support most of his best Progressive ideas, but not when taken to the extremes of “let’s all sing the Internationale”.

    “The Donald”, on the other hand… he would be good for the US in the same way that it’s sometimes good for a mental patient to be taken off of their drugs for a few months. On the one hand, there’s a lot of health to regain after years on heavy tranks. On the other hand, for some kinds of patients, there’s no better way to get them to take their medicine voluntarily than to let them watch hours and hours of video of them behaving beyond badly.

  52. It’s not about you being white, Peter. It’s about you being extremely callous in telling everyone who’s in the Republicans’ crosshairs that the progress they’ve seen under the current administration is an illusion, and that their suffering and deaths will somehow teach other people a lesson in how to vote correctly and result in some nebulous revolution.

  53. Hello, first time poster here.Also not native english speaker, so if something is wrong with my grammar, please, be lenient.
    I kind of wonder why so many people like Bernie.I mean, I don’t doubt his idealism or zeal, it’s just that his record of passing anything vaguely resembling a law through the non-euclidean vistas of the American legislative system is less than stellar.Worse, his stated policies are generally seen as completely unrealistic by most experts(for example the 15 dollars minimum wage, or his claim that he is capable of creating a 5% growth forever just by stimulating demand).
    This gives us an idealistic and likeable candidate who would however face these problems if elected:
    -never could pass anything through a congress which would universally hate him
    -should he pass it, it would not work(you’re of course free to disagree with me on that one, even though some of his opinions go as far against mainstream economics as those of Cruz)
    The real danger of “Sanders wins” scenario is that he can either not pass anything, in which case it will hurt the liberal part of the spectrum, or pass something which will look suspiciously like Hillary’s proposals.If he by some miracle actually passes some of his own concepts, it might end up backfiring horribly, thus discrediting the liberal point of view(example: minimum wage probably should be raised, but not twice.If raised twice, it will result in unemployment.The right will get ammunition for saying that any raising of minimum wage causes unemployment]
    While Clinton is a pretty distasteful creature, I believe she’s enough of a strategist to see the changing climate and to hop on the liberal train soon enough.I mean, she’s horrible, but at least she mostly knows what she is doing.I do agree with most of the ideals of Bernie Movement, but Sanders is a horrible, horrible choice for bringing these about.

  54. Sanders surprising near victory comes after eight years of Obama – not from the ashes of a Trump-like candidate.

    I’ve been horrified seeing so many Bernie supporters say the same kind of thing, that they think Trump will be great because everyone will see how horrible he is and vote the complete opposite next time. And I voted for Sanders.

    Trump’s partial success has already validated the worst aspects of so much of the voting populace.

  55. Trump is nothing special, he’d be your average anxious tinpot dictator. A Mugabe or an Erdogan. Nations fail. To be ruled by aristocrats is the natural state of humanity, we’ve just been going through a post WW-II odd patch. Chaos will restore this natural order, the things holding it back are elaborate and fragile.

  56. I don’t really see Trump doing much of “ruling”.Both parties hate his guts, which kinda limits what he can do.He can still cause a war or two, or at least fuck up American international standing, but he’s not gonna get dictatorial powers.

  57. Some raised the same arguments about the now-governing in Poland, right-wing, nut-job political party. However, so far, 6 months after the elections, it seems that they are here to stay. Moreover, even if the pendulum theory works and the next government is formed by liberal or socialist parties, its going to take years to rebuild people’s trust in public institutions. Current Polish government really loves dividing the society, and it begins to affect areas of life that you wouldn’t expect.
    From the European perspective, seeing that Bernie’s chance of winning are getting really dim, I am glad that the TTIP initiative is crumbling.

  58. slybrarian:
    It’s not about you being white, Peter. It’s about you being extremely callous in telling everyone who’s in the Republicans’ crosshairs that the progress they’ve seen under the current administration is an illusion, and that their suffering and deaths will somehow teach other people a lesson in how to vote correctly and result in some nebulous revolution.

    Oh, I don’t think for a second there’s been no progress under the current administration. Government surveillance of its citizens is far more pervasive than it ever was during the Cheney years, and Cheney himself could only envy the upward climb in extrajudicial drone strikes (even if somewhere between 80-90% of those “targeted” kills turn out to be collateral). The US record on human rights has really reached— let’s call it an “inflection point”.

    I think it was Jesus who pointed out “the poor will always be with you”. Do you really think that if Clinton gets in, cops will somehow get less of a free pass to casually gun down dark-skinned people than they already have? Do you think they’ll get more of one should Trump ascend? With respect, I think you’re presenting a false choice.

    Perhaps you think Trump believes his own vile rhetoric about Mexicans and Muslims. But this is the guy who, back in the nineties, stated on the record that if he was ever going to run for president he’d do it under the Republican banner because “those idiots will believe anything”. I honestly don’t think he stands for anything but himself. I might even push the point and suggest (tongue in cheek, admittedly) he might be better for the world than Clinton, solely on the basis of his opposition to the TPP— a pact that would, among other egregious things, allow corporations to sue governments if their environmental laws proved (or might possibly prove in the future) to be inconvenient to a profit margin. The TPP gives corporations the power to force governments to break their own laws— and Clinton, once again, supported it before deciding she didn’t.

    The fact that I play devil’s advocate now and then does not mean that I’m unaware of, or indifferent to, the shit that marginalized demographics have to put up with. I am not so much callous as angry, and I am not advocating that you break your country. I am saying your country is already broken, and even while the sparks and flying piston rods wreak havoc on the rest of us, not enough of the US believes that it’s broken for anything to get fixed. Trump may have already gone a ways towards rectifying that, given the Republican establishment’s recent hand-wringing and hair-tearing.

    The chance of a “nebulous revolution” may be all you’ve got left, at this point. I don’t know; I throw it out as something to think about (which, apparently, a lot of you have). But Slybrarian (awesome handle, btw), if you really think that Clinton is going to magically re-enfranchise the oppressed— and if you truly believe that anyone who questions that assertion must be indifferent to the social evils at large in the world— then I can only ask what color the sky is on your world.

    Just for the record, I have no wish for the disenfranchised to die in droves to teach anyone a lesson. I would in fact feel a certain grim and overdue satisfaction if they rose up and started killing back. (Although I don’t suppose such an admission would do much to rehabilitate me in many people’s eyes.)

  59. Finx: I’ve been horrified seeing so many Bernie supporters say the same kind of thing, that they think Trump will be great because everyone will see how horrible he is and vote the complete opposite next time.

    I didn’t realize this was actually a popular position. In fact, I brought it up because I thought it was so out in the Oort that no one else would have. My own modest attempt to edge the Overton Window back a bit, I guess.

    Jeremy: Some raised the same arguments about the now-governing in Poland, right-wing, nut-job political party. However, so far, 6 months after the elections, it seems that they are here to stay.

    Damn. I hate it when facts contradict a beautiful theory.

  60. Peter Watts: I didn’t realize this was actually a popular position.In fact, I brought it up because I thought it was so out in the Oort that no one else would have. My own modest attempt to edge the Overton Window back a bit, I guess.

    Damn.I hate it when facts contradict a beautiful theory.

    In EU the whinging about the new Polish gov’t reached epic level with talks of it being a putsch or crap like that. Because the new gov’t had the temerity to fight the previous gov’t unconstitutional theft of 2 judges of the constitutional court – they appointed new people to positions whose term hadn’t yet run out…

    Asked a friend who lives there, he said it’s basically overblown loser rhetoric, so loud because the media, which has a left-wing bias like media everywhere liked the previous one.

    I for one like Poland and their right-wing gov’t. Even though I’m not catholic, but traditionalists are at least one religious group that isn’t actively seeking cultural and demographic oblivion, in the way socially-conscious, refugee supporting, childless western Europeans are.

  61. i. Did you get the name for this post from somewhere other than a certain subchapter title near the end of John Brunner’s 1972 novel THE SHEEP LOOK UP? (I have always wondered whether Brunner invented that title himself or based it on some earlier literary or Biblical source.)

    ii. If you ever write an autobiography, a possible title (or one of the chapter titles) might be “The Canadian Who Made It Almost All the Way Home From the States” (h/t Jay Lake and Ruth Nestvold’s “The Canadian Who Came Almost All the Way Home From the Stars [ https://web.archive.org/web/20060109130529/http://www.scifi.com/scifiction/originals/originals_archive/lake/index.html ]). :-)

  62. Y.,

    You’re right about the 2 judges that were unconstitutionally appointed by the previous parliament. However your friend or you fail to acknowledge that 3 other constitutional judges selected before the elections have not been allowed to join the Constitutional Tribunal (plays a similar role as the Supreme Court in the US, deciding what is and what is not in compliance with Polish Constitution). The current government also decided not to publish one of the decisions of the Tribunal, because they do not agree with it.
    I wouldn’t call them truly Catholic, as they are not very keen on following Pope Francis. One of the reason why they won the elections, was because they incited hate against refugees who may come to Poland (EU was talking about sending a couple of thousand refugees (Poland has nearly 40mln citizens) from countries like Greece or Italy). See here http://www.politico.eu/article/migrants-asylum-poland-kaczynski-election/

  63. OldMiser: i. Did you get the name for this post from somewhere other than a certain subchapter title near the end of John Brunner’s 1972 novel THE SHEEP LOOK UP? (I have always wondered whether Brunner invented that title himself or based it on some earlier literary or Biblical source.)

    No, that was pure Brunner (and I’m glad someone noticed). Although it does have the ring of something ancient, doesn’t it?

    So I did a quick Google, and found that the phrase is also the name of a comic-book episode in the Marvel Universe. Dates from ’78, so I can only assume the writers were also inspired by Brunner.

    It would just be too tragic if it had happened the other way around.

  64. @All: Let’s not forget the stage upon which the poor players strut and fret, eh? A good bit of Washington Post coverage from the US heartland:

    All around him an ideological crisis was spreading across
    Middle America as it continued its long fall into dependency:
    median wages down across the country, average income down,
    total wealth down in the past decade by 28 percent. For
    the first time ever, the vaunted middle class was
    not the country’s base but a disenfranchised minority,
    down from 61 percent of the population in the 1970s to
    just 49 percent as of last year. As a result of that decline,
    confusion was turning into fear. Fear was giving way
    to resentment. Resentment was hardening into a
    sense of outrage that was unhinging the country’s politics
    and upending a presidential election.

    I daresay that it’s a bit difficult to find even a semi-credible newspaper in the States which is more firmly to the Progressive/Liberal side than is the Post, by the way.

    If Our Gracious Host wants to mention that the US is getting pretty far into Third World status, there’s no question about it, and we in the States are at least as aware of it as anyone else. The article mentions, in passing, that the good-student kid in the family under the lens is applying for college and is getting acceptance letters, yet despite years of full-time work the family probably can’t help much with tuition, especially not with their job being shipped south to Mexico… where suddenly the borderlands “maquiladoras” are again more popular, trying to remove in a stroke the uncertainties of shipping prices in this era of volatile oil trade rates, as well as to reduce dependence on the PRC (China) industrial machine.

    This is one of the reasons Bernie Sanders is so popular, he has actually proposed significant reform of the US College Loans system, which may be so alien to non-“Statesians” that they don’t see it for what it is, an immense obstacle to forward progress for our nation. The need to pay back these loans — often around 10-percent when the rest of the banking system is offering one-half-percent for long-term savings — means that university in the States tends to put people on tracks for the white-collar equivalent of trade-school programmes. Probably far less people with talent go into the sciences, as the pay tends to be low and it will take forever to pay off the student loans. No, even if they can barely stand it, they get degrees in accounting or marketing because those pay very well and the loans can be retired quickly. In other countries, from what I understand, you may pay almost nothing to develop your skills into a direction best suiting your talents; people with proclivity to science become scientists and engineers. Although it is known to deform the forward progress of culture and industry, the Student Loan system remains a core of stability in the banking industry. And with the ongoing destruction of the Middle Class, ever more people are forced to take loans from it.

    And of course they do! Otherwise, they end up like these folks… who Trump has promised to lift up, probably far outside his or anyone’s capacity to deliver.

    […] Stride Rite had left Huntington for Mexico at the tail end of the recession; Breyers Ice Cream had closed its doors after 100 years. In the weeks after each factory closing in his part of Indiana, [Union organizer Tom] Lewandowski had listened to politicians make promises about jobs — high-tech jobs, right-to-work jobs, clean-energy jobs — but instead Indiana had lost 60,000 middle-class jobs in the past decade and replaced them with a surge of low-paying work in health care, hospitality and fast food. Wages of male high school graduates had dropped 19 percent in the past two decades, and the wealth divide between the middle class and the upper class had quadrupled.

    “These jobs aren’t the solution so much as they’re part of the problem,” Lewandowski said, and now the result of so much churn was becoming evident all across Indiana and lately in Huntington, too. Fast-food consumption was beginning to tick up. Poverty was up. Foreclosures were up. Meth usage up. Heroin up. Death rate up. In Dan Quayle’s Middle America, one of the biggest news stories of the year had been the case of a mother who had let her three-week-old child suck heroin off her finger.

    “Despair is our business, and business is booming,” Lewandowski said. “Workers have lost all agency in their lives. They’ve based their lives on believing in something that turned out to be a lie. They work when they can, for what they can, for as long as they can until it ends.”

    Now Trump is promising that he can help stem the flow of jobs offshore… that’s about the one thing that the President cannot do. Keep in mind that aside from his discrimination against Muslims — totally contrary to US Constitution Amendment 1 in almost all cases — almost all of his “immigration” promises are already law, and have been law since the final years of the Bush II Administration, where Congress forced passage despite massive resistance from the White House. Most of those laws were passed but not funded, and have not been removed from the books. The Obama Administration has been far more aggressive on “immigration”, especially foreign organized-crime, than any administration since Reagan.

    Bernie Sanders is arguing to regulate against the Capital (“Wall Street 1-Percenters” a.k.a. the “Fat Cats”) Financial sector moving jobs overseas, and when examined closely his approaches all come down to Protectionism, generally ineffective even in the short-term, and the modes where it can be effective are already as developed as they can be. With apologies to Canada over lumber etc etc I point out that the tariffs on Japan which cause them to operate vehicle manufacturing plants in the US are about as much protectionism as can ever work. Yet Bernie thinks he can have more. Still, I would rather have a visionary whose proposals can’t be fully implemented (outside of expanding medical access and decreasing the Student Loan footprint and impacts, possibly more Pell Grant type funding could be applied) than someone who is clearly the servant and figurehead for the “One Percent”, which would be Ms Clinton.

    Trump may have no clear vision on a lot of things, but he does seem to be very well aware that a President’s first mission should be the defense of the nation and the well-being of a nation at peace. An approach of extreme isolationism won’t bring that any more than protectionism will bring long-term economic security. Strangely, I have the feeling that he might be a lot less likely than Clinton to suppress “the loyal opposition” and much more vigilant against risks which would be allowed by Clinton II Administration elements on ideological grounds.

    Still it’s shaping up as the worst November Dilemma in our national history and who knows what could be our October Surprise. We are deeply adrift in the surreal and even the great John Brunner might find this all to be truth far stranger than any fiction he’d dare to submit to publication.

  65. Jeremy:
    Y.,

    You’re right about the 2 judges that were unconstitutionally appointed by the previous parliament. However your friend or you fail to acknowledge that 3 other constitutional judges selected before the elections have not been allowed to join the Constitutional Tribunal (plays a similar role as the Supreme Court in the US, deciding what is and what is not in compliance with Polish Constitution). The current government also decided not to publish one of the decisions of the Tribunal, because they do not agree with it.
    I wouldn’t call them truly Catholic, as they are not very keen on following Pope Francis. One of the reason why they won the elections, was because they incited hate against refugees who may come to Poland (EU was talking about sending a couple of thousand refugees (Poland has nearly 40mln citizens) from countries like Greece or Italy). See here http://www.politico.eu/article/migrants-asylum-poland-kaczynski-election/

    Well, yeah. But I guess the new gov’t idea is that what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right? They wanted 2 extra judges, broke the rules, thus gave the incoming gov’t justification in breaking them again, from a position of power. I don’t like it, but then what should they expect? Messing with established procedures risks fucking them up for everyone.

    As far as diseases .. that is pointless popularity mongering, but I don’t give a shit.
    Migrants would not stay in Poland or Czechia or anywhere else, because these places aren’t rich or exciting(like the migrants leaving rural Germany for ‘true Germany’) and don’t have any native districts to make them ‘feel welcome’. You work in Poland full time with no qualification, you’d feel lucky to make €600 per month before expenses. That is clearly not what they want.
    Only way EC could make them stay east of Germany would be nailing them down, literally, getting all their biometrics and pointedly refusing any welfare to anyone already allocated to a different country. Somehow, I’m sure that policy would end up being painted as racist and unjust. Making migrants stay in Czech Republic, for example, a godless heathen land redolent of roast-pork and beer (world record drinkers, tied with Bavaria, I believe).

    It’s not ‘hate’ to point out that if Turks, the most European-like Muslims out there(after Bosniaks and the like) have not assimilated in Germany in 40 years’ time, how are rural Syrians or Iraqis or such gonna do that? Turks aren’t even that inbred or insular, meanwhile the migrants from Syria or Afghanistan are.

    Also, judging from the behavior of Arabs in western EU, I dare say Poland has very, very good reasons for not wanting to have any significant minority presence of them in their country. It’s common sense, and not ‘hate’, wanting to keep your public transport TATP-free.

    There is not one country with Muslims that doesn’t have terrorism security issues because of them. (maybe some places with immigrant Malays or such perhaps, those seem more relaxed)

    About Pope Francis, well. There’s this new round of jokes going around here. ‘Hey listen, is the Pope even catholic’?

    Really wish they voted in someone more impressive though. Humility and poverty is all fine and good but now is not the time to wash feet of heathen migrants.

    Not gonna bring anyone to the catholic faith, and while I have read opinions that maybe Islam wouldn’t be such a pathetic religion once some dozens of millions of Europeans convert to it,and that doing that would be a sure-fire way of curb-stomping socialists and social progress in Europe, solving the two-income trap and bringing back those old-time family values… I’m not sure if this is what the head of catholic church should be working towards. Unless he is *that* dedicated crypto-reactionary.

  66. Y.: Also, judging from the behavior of Arabs in western EU, I dare say Poland has very, very good reasons for not wanting to have any significant minority presence of them in their country.

    Hell, a hundred and change years ago the same argument could have been made about the behavior of Polack immigrants in civilized countries. And today Romanians and assorted Balkanese aren’t exactly behaving any better than Aye-rabs in the “western EU”. They’re still allowed to move around.

    Y.: Making migrants stay in Czech Republic, for example, a godless heathen land redolent of roast-pork and beer (world record drinkers, tied with Bavaria, I believe).

    I would be in favor of forcing the Eastern European EU members take in more migrants than the developed West. These countries groveled and debased themselves to gain access to EU funds back in the day, only to turn around and say “no” now that it’s their turn to shoulder part of the burden. Also, as discussed before, the alleged inbreeding wouldn’t pose as much of a problem to assimilation in Eastern Europe. It’s win-win all the way.

    Y.: maybe Islam wouldn’t be such a pathetic religion once some dozens of millions of Europeans convert to it

    Last time a large chunk of Europeans converted to Islam, the religion was a beacon of education, science and prosperity (if not exactly equality and human rights). Maybe there’s something to that idea.

    Although I was very disappointed by the newly elected Polish government. Fascists in Europe always seem to fall into the same old boring behavioral patterns, from the fear-mongering aimed at uneducated white trash (substitute local equivalent), to the gradual takeover of mass media, blah, blah. You’d think they’d come up with something new in almost 100 years, not a rerun of the Sanation, or the pathetic Hungarian regime from the start of WW2.

    Peter Watts: You’re to be commended for voting for Sanders, although I think you’re on thin ice if you’re claiming he didn’t put in a shitload of time and effort over the years.

    I feel like many are overlooking how YUGE Bernie’s candidacy really is. The very fact that a proudly self-avowed Socialist is running for President in America, and that his supporters number in the millions, would have been strictly science fiction (more like space opera) a mere twenty years ago.

    How does Fallout 4 compare to Fallout 2?

  67. “The very fact that a proudly self-avowed Socialist is running for President in America, and that his supporters number in the millions, would have been strictly science fiction (more like space opera) a mere twenty years ago.”

    Doesn’t that just make Bernie, Obama 2?

    “Socialism” nowadays, especially in America, means a lot less than it did when Einstein was advocating it back in the 1950s. The hardcore “abolish money”, “abolish capitalism”, “abolish debt slavery”, “abolish banking cartels” socialism has long been replaced with “weak-sauce contemporary socialism”, aka “capitalism with a friendly face and a lot of state welfare”.

    This is as unsustainable as magical-laissez-faire-capitalism, as the state’s either buying it’s “welfare money” at interest from banks, or stealing it from faraway brown people.

    What America needs is Einstein styled socialism. The kind that got Einstein put on a CIA blacklist for being a naughty boy.

  68. Fatman: Last time a large chunk of Europeans converted to Islam, the religion was a beacon of education, science and prosperity (if not exactly equality and human rights). Maybe there’s something to that idea.

    Oh yeah. But not because of anything to do with Islam. You can’t expect a bunch of desert nomad goatherds and cutthroat traders and worse to produce culture or science from well.. what?. Arabs conquered the entirety of North Africa, which included Egypt, which at the time was a major cultural center of the Hellenic world.

    Fatman: Also, as discussed before, the alleged inbreeding wouldn’t pose as much of a problem to assimilation in Eastern Europe. It’s win-win all the way.

    Are you insane? Not pose a problem? Cousin marriage around here is seen only as slightly less icky than marrying your brother. Meanwhile a lot of those people come from places where father’s brother’s son has right of refusal to his daughter, or this rule has only recently been relaxed.

    These people are insular. Women who try to escape are not treated well, and arguably are worse off than gay evangelicals. What do you think causes all those honor killings?

    That the local population has severe antipathy towards Muslims, and them glaring daggers and giving wide berth to anyone who looks like a traditional Muslim would also certainly help.

    I believe resettling Jews here would have a better chance of success, even though ‘spot the Jew’, and ‘Isn’t he Jewish’, and ‘that nose, it looks Jewish’ are still very popular parlor games among the majority of population. (Arguably even more popular than before WWII, cause now after secularization and a lot of interbreeding the games are even harder.

    Fatman: How does Fallout 4 compare to Fallout 2?

    It’s an FPS with RPG elements. Not bad really. There is some mods that unlock the blind-idiot AI so it provides something of a challenge, and on highest difficulty level it’s fairly enjoyably punishing and challenging.. (Arbitration mod iirc)

    Map is too small and it’s all a little too ‘squashed together’, and Boston is about the size of Bumfuck, Indiana. Yeah, and plot is warmed-over idiocy from Blade Runner with newly-introduced aesthetics ripped straight from SyFy’s Ascension TV series (may its creators roast in hell together with the idjits who ruined Galactica). Quests are mostly fairly generic, except for a few story ones.

    You’d get maybe 40-60 hours of decent story-driven content. 140 if you like to explore a lot and want to see it all. Don’t expect the same sort of cleverness as in Fallout 2, or humor.

    Fatman: I feel like many are overlooking how YUGE Bernie’s candidacy really is. The very fact that a proudly self-avowed Socialist is running for President in America, and that his supporters number in the millions, would have been strictly science fiction (more like space opera) a mere twenty years ago.

    Yup. I heartily wish socialism wins in the US, and Americans get to experience good and hard what exactly it means trying to legislate economic conditions.

    Fatman: I would be in favor of forcing the Eastern European EU members take in more migrants than the developed West. These countries groveled and debased themselves to gain access to EU funds back in the day, only to turn around and say “no” now that it’s their turn to shoulder part of the burden. Also, as discussed before, the alleged inbreeding wouldn’t pose as much of a problem to assimilation in Eastern Europe. It’s win-win all the way.

    European Union as a whole did not invite them in. There was no joint decision to help refugees by inviting them all in. That was Merkel. Neither do the migrants want to come to EU. They want to come to Germany, UK and Sweden, because that is where they think the money is.

    It’s a win-win only for gun, barbed wire surverillance systems and jackboots manufacturers. The only way to keep multicultural polities ordered is security and loads of it.

  69. SoftKore: as the state’s either buying it’s “welfare money” at interest from banks, or stealing it from faraway brown people.

    Ahahahaa……
    ……..(sobbing helplessly)

    interest from banks, or stealing it from faraway brown people.

    …brown people are supposed to be poor. Aren’t they?

    And US gov’t is stealing money from the everyone who is dumb enough to hold dollars by inflating them, having money created out of thin air to purchase debt and a host of other underhanded methods.

    SoftKore: What America needs is Einstein styled socialism. The kind that got Einstein put on a CIA blacklist for being a naughty boy.

    Einstein was a genius physicist and a very good mathematician, but that did not make him an expert or even knowledgeable in economic matters. He was convinced that quantum mechanics could not possibly be right, hence his quote that ‘God does not play dice’ (though by god he meant the laws of nature, so he was basically saying that universe cannot be just probabilistic. )

    This is the so called ‘academic’s disease’.

    The mistaken idea that if one is say, an expert on solid state matter, or plasma physics, or rocket science than one’s opinions on politics or economics are vastly more valuable than those of the average cobbler or cashier.

    Such an academician should be asked to humbly reflect on the Gell-Mann amnesia effect and the Dunning-Kruger effect, and maybe on how long it took them to learn their chosen discipline and being able to usefully add to said discipline.

  70. slybrarian,

    Thank you. You said it all much better than I could.

    Peter, I think your bloody-mindedness is getting out of hand.

  71. Peter Watts,

    Peter Watts: I didn’t realize this was actually a popular position.In fact, I brought it up because I thought it was so out in the Oort that no one else would have. My own modest attempt to edge the Overton Window back a bit, I guess.

    Damn.I hate it when facts contradict a beautiful theory.

    “Heightening the contradictions”, is pretty much a Marxist cliché. If the current system is made even worse then the proles will realise that it’s not in their interests, revolt, and establish a communist utopia.

    Personally, I vote for the lesser evil. In the hope that there will be less evil that way.

  72. The problem with a Trump presidency is that he can radically shift SCOTUS to the right, which cannot be reversed for a generation or more. Is that really worth the lesson for the Democratic Party?

  73. I really don’t know. But I’m far from certain that a Clinton victory will prevent that radical shift; more likely it’ll just delay it for a few more years. After all, Trump did not create the hate and the intolerance and the scapegoating of outgroups. He’s only capitalizing on it. And when Clinton leaves office, all the people who hate her will still be there. All the nut jobs and wing nuts and xenophobes will still be there. And Trump (or someone just like him, now that we’ve all seen how successful that strategy can be)— Trump will still be there.

    And it will be even later.

    I feel like we’re down some kind of weird-ass rabbit-hole here. I’m the one who’s supposed to be all over the dystopian scenario, and if someone had approached me five years ago with the suggestion that I write a novel based on a Trumpish administration, I would have laughed it off as too dystopian to be believable. People couldn’t possibly be so fucking stupid in the real world, I would have said. And here we are.

    In a real sense it doesn’t matter whether or not Trump believes his own xenophobic rhetoric (I like to think he doesn’t, that he’s just playing to the sheep— but then again, maybe that’s just me being naively optimistic again). The scary thing is that such rhetoric works so well. And when the only realistic alternative is someone who, at best, is an opportunist who votes with the prevailing wind (or who, at worst, really is a hawk who believes in invading other countries, massive gummint surveillance, and treating people who expose crime as though they were the criminals)— seriously, you just want to throw up your fucking hands.

    I mean, even Yahweh washed the slate clean and started over when things went too far south…

  74. Peter Watts: […] I would have laughed it off as too dystopian to be believable. People couldn’t possibly be so fucking stupid in the real world, I would have said. And here we are.

    In a real sense it doesn’t matter whether or not Trump believes his own xenophobic rhetoric (I like to think he doesn’t, that he’s just playing to the sheep— but then again, maybe that’s just me being naively optimistic again). The scary thing is that such rhetoric works so well. […]

    The thing is, despite lacking your fame and sales 😉 I regularly do try to write near-term semi-believable SF with a heavy US political background. Mostly it’s been about our national failure to take care of the obvious even after it needs obvious taking-care-of… but I digress. My point is that as shocked as you are, I’m even more flabbergasted.

    I can also tell you, looking back to my days on UseNet and elsewhere, Mr Trump is far from catering to the extreme. Outside of his “block all Muslims” declaration his “xenophobic” positions are both already law (but unfunded) in many cases, and many are quite to the center and mainstream through quite a lot of the country. One doesn’t hear a lot of antipathy to, for example, Mexicans, if one is in New England. However, if you go down to the territories that the US seized from Mexico a century or so ago, tensions are high. Yet in places like Houston, nobody seems to mind the Chinese or Vietnamese ethnics and “Tejanos” (“ethnic Mexican” who have been US citizens for generations) are a part of Texas that almost no Texan would deny. Nationally there are a lot of rabblerousers who are having their day in the sun, but their numbers are small in direct proportion to their extremism. The actual white-supremacists are rare. What I find disturbing is the lack of repudiation of supremacists and extremists or even just roughnecks… this has to be the first election in my memory where extremists remain unrepudiated. Even the Democrat factions are throwing real rocks and doing blatant attempts at procedural games at State level conventions and rallies.

    If the US is headed into the Second Civil War, this election might be the hand that pushes us past the cliff’s edge. But, lamentable as we may be in so many ways, we are very stable and I think that stability will not merely preserve the world from one of the worst national meltdowns imaginable, regardless of the victor if they try to get too frisky, they won’t get any farther with it than did the people trying to get a third term for Bill Clinton during that Gore/Bush debacle.

    If I have a point here, it would be that we may be even more confused and alarmed than you-all are.

  75. So, my main counterargument is: when has the United States ever collectively ‘learned its lesson’ on such a long timescale, and why (other than optimism) would one expect it to start now? A Trump presidency, like a Bush presidency, would go on, change some people’s minds, perhaps be renewed by a tiny margin because of die-hards who are opposed to changing their minds, and then *perhaps* lead to a very different politician for one or two more terms — by which point some large number of voters doesn’t remember the second to last presidency and some other large segment is old enough to have become set in their ways in such a way that they are unwilling to put any more effort into a decision than voting along party lines the way they did for the past eight elections. Some small portion — pretty much the people who became of voting age shortly before this hypothetical bad presidency — will have their minds changed. Operant conditioning doesn’t work really well when you delay the response by six months and repeat the training once every four years.

  76. I was hoping for cognitive processes a bit more sophisticated than operant conditioning, but okay. If I’m reading you correctly, your fundamental critique of my model is that it places too much faith in the intelligence of the American voter. You may well be right.

    You can see why I’m not exactly salivating at the thought of going back.

  77. Andrew,

    That’s a load of ignorant
    hogwash.

  78. My problem with this analysis (and it’s a quibble) is not that to elect someone who will fuck things up so badly that things have to change would be a bad thing because it would fuck up people’s lives, because many people’s lives are already fucked (Bernie Sanders isn’t popular because shit’s divvied up fairly), but that Trump being president won’t make things any different than if Hillary Clinton gets the job. The guy’s a fucking bonehead: arrogant, egotistical, clearly an asshole in many ways, able to grow a fortune into one almost as large as it would have been if he’d left the cash in a savings account. But still, essentially, despite bizarro shit like questioning (unceasingly) Obama’s citizenship, a pragmatist. In terms of apocalyptic presidencies, it’s hard to see how W’s (or, as the good Doctor accurately has it, Cheney’s) turn at the helm can be beaten. Right on time for the new millennium we get a guy who fucks up our freedoms not only in the US, but here in Canada, and precipitates the killing of over a hundred thousand civilian Iraqis, 99.99% of whom would have rather just continued selling whatever mundane shit they had to sell and fucking their spouses than experiencing the world of hurt Bumwolney brought down on their asses. As much of a dickweed as Trump is, he’d probably have targeted a country at least fucking marginally involved with 9/11.

    When all is said and done, the only thing that appeals to me is a 45′ Catalina, scoped rifle, shotgun, some fishing line, and the tub and tubes for a still. If I can get that together, my only regret will be that I’m unable to actually sail off the fucking planet.

  79. This implies americans still retain the capacity to learn. The past 16 years showed us that the most talked about president wins, and they’ll get a second term just because.

    24 straight years of mismanagement. Enough time for Rome to burn.