Monday 9 November, 2020

Quote of the Day

”To see what is in front of one’s nose requires a constant struggle.”

  • George Orwell

Musical replacement for the morning’s radio news

Pete Seeger – This Land is Your Land


Just right for today. Thanks to Janet Cobb for suggesting it.

Long read of the Day

The town that went feral Wonderful review essay by Patrick Blanchfield on A Libertarian Walks Into a Bear: The Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and Some Bears) by Matthew Hongoltz-Hetling. Raises the question of how often it happens that a review is almost better than the book — thought in this case the book seems pretty good too. The resulting enjoyment is an emergent property of the book+review system.

Thanks to Alina Utrata for alerting me to it.

Joe Biden and me

Yesterday’s post about the fact that Joe Biden’s ancestors came from Ballina, the town where I was born, prompted a flow of satirical comments in the WhatsApp channel of my extended family across the Irish Sea. The one I enjoyed most was this:

Trump may be leaving the White House, but he will always be with us. Alas.

Anne Applebaum explains:

While you watch Donald Trump’s presidency stagger to its ugly end, always keep in mind how it began: Trump entered the political world on the back of the “birther” conspiracy theory, a movement whose importance was massively underestimated at the time. Aside from its racist undertones, think about what a belief in birtherism really implied. If you doubted that Barack Obama was born in the United States—and about a third of Americans did, including 72 percent of registered Republicans—then that meant you also believed that Obama was an illegitimate president. That meant, in other words, you believed that everyone—the entire American political, judicial, and media establishment, including the White House and Congress, the federal courts and the FBI, all of them—was complicit in a gigantic plot to swindle the public into accepting this false commander in chief. A third of Americans had so little faith in American democracy, broadly defined, they were willing to think that Obama’s entire presidency was a fraud.

That third of Americans went on to become Trump’s base. Over four years, they continued to applaud him, no matter what he did, not because they necessarily believed everything he said, but often because they didn’t believe anything at all. If everything is a scam, who cares if the president is a serial liar? If all American politicians are corrupt, then so what if the president is too? If everyone has always broken the rules, then why can’t he do that too?

Applebaum’s argument is that while Trump’s current behaviour may seem pathetic or oathologically erratic, it is in fact part of a longer-term strategy:

Even if Trump is forced to make a grudging concession speech, even if Biden is sworn in as president on January 20, even if the Trump family is forced to pack its Louis Vuitton suitcases and flee to Mar-a-Lago, it is in Trump’s interest, and a part of the Republican Party’s interest, to maintain the fiction that the election was stolen. That’s because the same base, the base that distrusts American democracy, could still be extremely useful to Trump, as well as to the Republican Party, in years to come.

Certainly these voters can be used to discredit and demean Biden’s presidency. Just as Trump once helped convince millions of Americans that Obama was illegitimate, so he will now seek to convince Americans that Biden is illegitimate…

Sorry to make you choke on your muesli, but there might be something in this.

On the first news of a possible vaccine, what happens?

First, Pfizer makes the announcement. Then,

Zoom shares fall like a stone.

Other, possibly interesting, links

  • Zoom lied to users about end-to-end encryption for years, FTC says. Democrats blast FTC/Zoom settlement because users won’t get compensation.Link

  • Biden has a plan for tackling Covid-19. Link. Trouble is, he doesn’t yet have any authority to act.

  • Danny Kuo’s Staircase. How to build storage vertically. Clever and functional. Link

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