On the meaning of President-elect Trump

Well. President-elect Trump. So that happened.

Let’s take a deep breath and begin. This is going to be bad. Okay? Unpredictable, interesting, and even, on occasion, good, in the way that a stopped clock shows the right time twice a day. Enough has already been said about Trump’s character. He is not a good, well-balanced, well rounded person. Civilisation has standards. If civilisation means anything, it means having standards, and Trump does not meet those. He should not be President. He is going to be.

 

So what does it mean? What do we need to remember to understand this situation?

1. Let’s get this out of the way. With the election of Trump, America has effectively abdicated its role as leader of the free world. We cannot look to the USA for leadership because they clearly cannot sort out their internal situation and politics. They cannot run themselves; ergo they can’t run the world.

We have been looking in a de facto way to the USA to provide leadership for years. We can no longer expect leadership from America. We’ve got to grow up and sort things out for ourselves.

Perhaps a bitter pill, but the sooner swallowed, the better.

America has been an empire in decline for a long time and this election just seals it. Their internal problems are now so great they cannot lead the world. They can’t be trusted to. It’s a moral thing. If you can’t sort out your own shit why would we let you try and sort ours?

 

2. Trump is not to blame for the current state of the world.

There is so much that is messed up in our society and way of life. Trump did not cause these things, though he is a mighty symptom and emblem of them.

We (anyone likely to be reading this) are complicit in the way the world is today; and we did not get here overnight. For far too long we have remained idle and comfortable while other people suffered.

3. The Republican Party is more dangerous than Trump.

Tea Party Republicans are the real danger. If Trump hadn’t got the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz would have. He would be a far scarier President. Any other Republican with both houses behind him would be scarier than Trump.

Trump is a wild card. A dude who doesn’t know what he is doing. He started out running a protest vote campaign in the primaries that succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations, and his ego wouldn’t let him quit. He does not want to do the job of being President (eg offering Kasich the Vice Presidency and being in charge of all domestic and foreign policy), or possibly even understand what it entails.

An enormous amount is going to turn on who Trump appoints to advise him, and how well he can be controlled and managed. So far the signs aren’t good.

4. Trump does not have the Republican Party behind him.

This is huge. During the election race, a huge proportion of the Republican establishment turned their backs on Trump. He won’t forget that.

Crucial to remember is that Trump hijacked the Republican Party – a party itself riven between its extremist tea party rump and its old guard. Trump’s agenda is not their agenda. This is going to be one of the most fascinating things to watch play out. In a strange way, Trump and the Republicans become the brake on each other’s excesses.

What this means is that no one is going to get what they want.

5. The President has less power than you think.

Obama said this in an interview late in his second term. The President can make people listen but unless he can get them to agree and cooperate, they have their own power bases, and don’t have to do what he says. Trump is not going to bring people together. He is not a politician or negotiator. He is a billionaire autocrat who makes decisions the consequences from which he is insulated.

6. Trump forces change. Change is always double edged.

Trump forces change. Either he will shake things up radically and get his way, or he will be unable to, in which case the presidency is revealed as irrelevant and powerless, and the powers that be that control the world are shown to be not democratic, which itself demands a revolution from precisely those who supported Trump’s message. (I can actually imagine Trump stepping down in under a year, throwing his toys at not getting his way, calling the whole system corrupt.)

Every action prompts an equal reaction. The fact of Trump forces the left in America to slap itself hard and start engaging with reality in a new way. The fact of Trump forces the rest of the world’s leaders to start leading on the pressing issues of the day, be they wars, climate, or the changing economy.

The fact of President-elect Trump demands a reaction from every sane and responsible human being alive. For we all have power. We just need to own it, reclaim it, and start using it wisely, each and every day. We can and need to do better. And we are many.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

Welcome to interesting times. Are you ready to play?

elections 2016

I think it is important, in a social media cycle completely dominated by Trump hysteria, to remember to vote in our local elections, which, admittedly, cannot possibly be as entertaining or alarming as this year’s US election, yet have more impact on our day to day lives (to the extent that our lives are not solely consisted of posting and reading things on social media).

To that end, I offer this wondrous piece of advertising:

wellington council inspired voter ad

inspired voter ad

In this campaign there are many different ads following this format. I only saw this one once, and am glad I got the photo.

In a world where our defacto world leader America is contemplating electing either a deranged incompetent laughingstock or an efficient woman that will faithfully serve the existing heinous and dysfunctional order, it is nice to realise we live in a capital city within a country that openly acknowledges “Hey, at one end of one of our primary tourist attractions we have this cool tree with a great view that you can climb up in and get high on top of” in the advertising it uses to reach out to local voters.

So vote, yeah?

 

 

reading 2015 part one

Have been very slack at logging reading this year. Does anyone read these or care, anyway? Who knows. But they are useful for me. So here is a recap, glancing through my diary. Feel like I read a lot less than usual this year. I also think I am getting a lot of my mental stimulation from podcasts these days.

 

The Pastel City – M John Harrison

First in the Viriconium series. Oddly angled fantasy, a very different mood and mode, elegiac and austere. Written back in the 70s, maybe? Harrison is a wonderful writer and this is bizarre and neat.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know – Ranulph Fiennes

Autobiography of adventurer/explorer/mad bastard Fiennes. What I read of it was entertaining.

Occupational Hazards – Rory Stewart

Scottish dude ends up running a really large province in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority after the US invasion. Really fascinating insight into what trying to run a country and make things better is like when the country is messy and complex, and the area you are in charge of has its own very distinct history and culture from the rest of the country. Things do not go well. Great read.

Think Two Products Ahead – Ben Mack

Really excellent book about marketing and how to think about marketing and communicate what you are doing by a, well, wizard.

8 Tribes: The Hidden Classes of NZ

That book about NZ being made up of 8 tribes. Meh. It was short to skim. Deservedly forgotten.

What We See When We Read – Peter Mendelsund

Really interesting book by a designer – so there was lots of wild design as a book – who loves to read, about what goes on in our heads as we read, and how we visualise and imagine and interact with words. Definitely worth a look if that sounds like you.

Capital in the 21st Century – Thomas Piketty

Epic tome about inequality and how it isn’t going to go away, and in fact has and will worsen, because of how our economic system is structured. Compelling argument. Necessary to be familiar with at least the introduction.

Ritual – Malidoma Some

West African shaman describes the function, role and importance of ritual in the life of his people, with some eye-opening stories.

Conversation – Theodore Zeldin

Something short and light about the art of conversation, I think.

The Laughing Monsters – Denis Johnson

Novel, gave up real quick, Johnson is great but wasn’t in the mood.

Prophet – Brandon Graham (comic)

If you want some very very weird sci fi comics, this is your jam. Epic scope, weird, mad, fun. The most Metabarons-esque thing since Metabarons.

The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains – Neil Gaiman

Nice short story with illustrations, sort of the darker side of Gaiman.

Autobiography – Miles Davis

Entertaining ride, didn’t get too far. Jazz guys were a pretty wild crew, back in the day.

Money: Master The Game – Tony Robbins

Pretty exceptional book about managing money and investing. Robbins used his access to the most successful billionaire investors in the world to model what they are doing and put it together in a system. Essential.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich – Ramit Sethi

Irritating smartarse Indian teaches you money management and investment. Very sharp, good material, but annoying.

A God Somewhere – John Arcudi (comic)

Random grab from the library. Neat take on someone actually getting super powers and the guy who remains his best friend through it.

The Wake – Snyder (comic)

Ditto random. Award winning comic. Decent.

Neonomicon – Alan Moore (comic)

Alan Moore turns his genius to modernising Lovecraft. Really fantastic, and easily the darkest and nastiest thing I have read by him. So good.

Ecko Rising – Danie Ware

Random genre novel from the library on a whim. Sort of a sf/fantasy mashup. Shades of Thomas Covenant without the prose ability. A heavily implanted hi-tech assassin wakes up in a fantasy world, doesn’t know what is going on but has some special abilities in the local sense. Fast, fun read.

New Spring – Robert Jordan

Never knew this existed until I found it and read it. A prequel to the Wheel of Time, which I read a bunch of when I was much younger, then gave up on 300 pages into book 6 when nothing had happened for those 300 pages. This prequel features Lan and Moiraine 20 years before the first book, and how they got to where they got to at the start of the first book. It was really fun to reconnect with that world, though man does Jordan go on and on. Like, a hundred pages of this book could have been summarised in a paragraph or twp, but the depth of the world is amazing.

What I Learned Losing A Million Dollars – Jim Paul

Really useful book about when to get out, and how not to lose money, and the inner psychological game of money and investing. Biggest takeaway is this amazing question: if you were not already in your current situation, would you want to get into it?

The White Lama – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)

Fun times as Jodo does Tibet.

An Interpretation of Universal History – Ortega y Gasset

This was actually pretty fascinating. Dude takes on Toynbee’s model of history by showing that the Rome Toynbee takes as an exemplar of civilisation never existed on those terms.

Guide to Tranceformation – Richard Bandler

Bandler returns and summarises his life’s work. Best book you could get on NLP.

Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie

Hugo Award winner? Real good for reasons it is difficult not to give spoilers about. Slowly uncovering just who the main character is and their history is exceptional.

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace

Read about 4/10 of it, which is an immense amount of this tome. It is incredible and Wallace is obvious genius and deserving of whatever praise is heaped upon him. Still, too long, eh? Gargantuan, genius, very funny, very dark, very empathic. No wonder the poor bugger topped himself. Sort of hope to get back to it someday.

Radical Acceptance – Tara Brach

Skimmed it. Woo Buddhist positive psychology.

Bold – Peter Diamandis

Very very interesting book about accelerating change and exponential technologies and what that means for changing the world via business. We are living in very interesting times.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Victor Frankl

Classic book by psychiatrist holocaust survivor about the experience of Auschwitz and what separated those who survived from those who didn’t. Incredible, powerful, stark view into humanity, and what is really important. Essential.

Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie

Sequel to the above. Still enjoyable but much less interesting since most of what there is to be revealed has been revealed.

Magic and Mystery in Tibet – Alexandra David-Kneale

Woo. If you only read one book on Tibet, this is the one. French woman travels around Tibet in the early 1900s, spending time with hermits and magicians and in monasteries and documenting her experience and the stories people told her. There was some wild and crazy shit happening in Tibet, and credible miraculousness.

6 Months to 6 Figures – Peter Voogd

Sharp, punchy, entrepreneurial book. I rate it.

The Metabarons – Alejandro Jodorowsky (comic)

Jodorowsky’s masterwork, in a number of ways. A lot of what would have gone into Dune made its way into this. Mindfuckingly epic account of a thoroughly unreasonable lineage as they tear the galaxy apart.

Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Read a chapter, Gaiman doing storytelling, was not in the mood.

Providence

Moore does Lovecraft in Lovecraft era. Still coming out. Nice.

The Death Cure – James Dashner

Third part of the Maze Runner trilogy. Saw the first movie randomly, the second movie is way better and I recommend it, read this cos I couldn’t be bothered waiting for the third movie. A lot must have changed in the second book to movie adaptation. Anyhow. Decent enough. Very YA.

Beyond the Beautiful Forevers – Katherine Boo

Absolutely extraordinary. Pulitzer prize winning journalist gets to know slum dwellers in Mumbai over several years. Writes up an eventful period of their lives as a novel, essentially nonfiction but written novelistically and based on immense interviews etc. Shattering, profound.

Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself – David Lipsky

Lipsky spent a week interviewing David Foster Wallace on the last leg of the book tour launching Infinite Jest, as Wallace was in the process of going stratospheric. Fascinating as an account of a guy coping with the descent of fame, and as an insight into a remarkable mind. A film of it came out, End of the Tour, haven’t seen it.

Hard To Be A God – Arkady and Boris Strugatsky

Russian SF from way back. Russian observer-scientists go to another planet to document the Renaissance happening in a medieval world… except it doesn’t seem to be happening, if anything, a reversion to barbarism is underway. Great novel. I read it cos I saw the insane, incomprehensible film version at the film festival a year or two ago, and wanted to know what the hell actually happened.

The Magus – John Fowles

The first 3/4 of this are an astonishing novel. The end, well, lost me a bit. But hell, the quality of Fowle’s prose, and the intensity and observation he brings to bear, are exceptional, and the dizzying weirdness of the island and the elaborate charade the narrator is caught up in is unforgettable.

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu

Modern Chinese SF, apparently a bestseller there. Very unique take on first contact and Earth being invaded by aliens, through a very different cultural and historic lens. Recommended.

Killer in the Rain – Raymond Chandler

Early novella from Chandler.

Teaching the Dog to Sing – Jonathan Carroll

Recent novella from Carroll, whom I hadn’t read in years. Alright, I guess.

Harvest – Jim Crace

Multi award winning Irish novel of the end of the era of peasant farming before enclosure. Beautifully written.

Blood Meridian – Cormac McCarthy

McCarthy’s most intense and darkest vision of the old West. If it was the first thing of his I’d read it would have taken my head off. Incredible evocation of landscape and nature and random brutality and the ugliness of humanity, in astonishing prose.

A Visit From The Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan

Pulitzer prize winning novel, told through a bunch of different tangentially related characters set over many years, about growing up and the changes time wrings. Really well done.

The King’s Justice – Stephen Donaldson

Fantasy novella from a real master of fantasy. Good good shit.

Beasts of No Nation – Uzodinma Uweale

Novel about a child soldier somewhere in Africa caught up in a cycle of senseless violence and destruction. Short and unpleasant. Weirdly similar vibe to Blood Meridian, come to think of it.

 

Trump vs Sanders 2016: The Battle for America’s Soul

Even having dropped out of deep politics chasing, the US election looms large and wild eyed this year. Something about the truly preposterous nature of the Republican candidature, a rogue’s gallery of lunacy. And the almost unbelievable emergence of what seems an honest decent man from within the US political system, who talks sense, and, on paper as of now, has a shot at becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, and hence President.

As of now, we face an extraordinary potential Presidential election in 2016: Donald Trump against Bernie Sanders.

Let’s take a moment to grok this in all its poetic beauty as it encapsulates the world and its tensions.

On the one hand, Trump. An exemplar of the 1%: a billionaire, full of confidence, bluster and delusion, but doubtless some real ruthlessness and business cunning. An exemplar of the hype and emptiness of American culture: a candidate essentially making it on his celebrity status from The Apprentice. An exemplar of the very particular type of ignorance insularity and success bring: he’s lived in a world where he can have anything he wants, and doesn’t need to engage with reality the way lesser mortals do. A guy who has announced he is willing to nuke Iran. (Hell, nuke anywhere and you are frankly not the same moral species as me.)

On the other hand, Sanders. This clip was my introduction to Sanders. Five minutes of off-the-cuff comments, nailing lucidity and informed sanity. Seriously, it’s like a litany. Long standing independent, tried to get campaign finance reform, voted against Patriot Act, against Iraq War, is against TPPA. Preaches a necessary political revolution to bring politics back into being a democracy rather than an oligarchy and seems to mean it. Is old enough he doesn’t seem to mind if they shoot him for standing up for working people.

YouTube Preview Image
So there we have it. A perfect choice. The fate of a nation’s soul. And, unfortunately, quite a lot of the world.
I love the symbolism. Seven years ago I called that
Barack Obama will, and needs to, win the election to demonstrate to America that they can still be great. Electing a black president just forty years after segregation ended will help wash away the sour taste of Bush.
Today, the choice is even simpler. Does America want a future? Does it want the world to have a future?
Peak oil, climate change, the multi-polar world of emergent China, the festering hotspots of the Middle East. Who does America choose to guide them through this?
Choose death and ignorance, a dream long since turned sick and nightmarish. Or choose life, integrity and sanity.
(Also: if we end up with Bush vs Clinton, again, this in itself is a defacto vote for disaster and the replacement of the West as world leader. Both represent the system, and the system will fail to respond in time. Trump just represents a will to death. Sanders seems legitimately the only hope for the US to have continued relevance (as anything other than a feared maniacal warmonger in the global ‘hood) and reform itself, and it is frankly a miracle he has emerged.
The terror, of course, is that in the US system, the guy with the most money usually wins. And guess who that is.)

the political solution in a nutshell

 

My stand is clear; produce to distribute, feed before you eat, give before you take, think of others before you think of yourself. Only a selfless society based on sharing can be stable and happy. This is the only practical solution. If you do not want it – fight.

– Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.

birthday mutants

 

The mental side effects of travelling into space. Interesting historical survey of the break-off phenomenon.

The myth of AI. Jaron Lanier being interestingly iconoclastic again. Watch or read at the link.

I want to go little deeper in it by proposing that the biggest threat of AI is probably the one that’s due to AI not actually existing, to the idea being a fraud, or at least such a poorly constructed idea that it’s phony. In other words, what I’m proposing is that if AI was a real thing, then it probably would be less of a threat to us than it is as a fake thing.

Retired US army general, author of “Why We Lost”, explaining the truth about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We did not understand the enemy, a guerrilla network embedded in a quarrelsome, suspicious civilian population. We didn’t understand our own forces, which are built for rapid, decisive conventional operations, not lingering, ill-defined counterinsurgencies. We’re made for Desert Storm, not Vietnam. As a general, I got it wrong. Like my peers, I argued to stay the course, to persist and persist, to “clear/hold/build” even as the “hold” stage stretched for months, and then years, with decades beckoning. We backed ourselves season by season into a long-term counterinsurgency in Iraq, then compounded it by doing likewise in Afghanistan. The American people had never signed up for that.

The future of autonomous weaponry – the ethics of bombs that pick their own targets.

 

november mutants

 

just some linkage of things that may or may not matter or be of interest

Putin makes what may be “the most important political speech since Churchill”. Kinda ignored by Western media. Summary here.

6 useful online encryption tools.

Google wants to put everyone’s genome online.

Sliding into the future – app that solves maths photos, just take a photo of the problem.

Fairly jarring article about the frequency of males being sexually assaulted in America.

“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.” – UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, on Climate Change

sunday mutants (or what is going on)

This brief history of Islamic science and invention is pretty staggering and interesting.

New Scientist: Up to half of Earth’s water is older than the sun.

White privilege, explained in one simple comic.

Evolution, the next Silk Road. Where you can buy anything at all.

Bleep, bittorrents encrypted p2p chat is out.

Meanwhile, China is making islands in contested waters. So not everything that matters happens online. 😛

China creating its own Christian religion to suit itself.

China will construct a “Chinese Christian theology” suitable for the country, state media reported on Thursday, as both the number of believers and tensions with the authorities are on the rise.

This interview with Lee Scratch Perry is phenomenal. Just trust me on this. It is short and fabulous.

Millenials reading more books than people over 30. Who would have thought?

 

vote drunk: on engaging youth voters and non voters

 

Is there anything to say you can’t turn up to vote drunk and stoned, and dressed like a clown, or a superhero, or a zombie, or whatever? Not so far as I know. As long as you have ID and can tick a box, who cares?

Maybe to engage youth voters (and the non-voting near majority) we need to go to where they are. Endorse a culture in which voting is a fun way to spend an afternoon. #votedrunk

I guess the challenge is your mates may live in a different electorate. So how about an election pub crawl through various electorates? Make a day of it.

The costume angle appeals. Imagine election weekend sort of like the Sevens but in a good way. Sort of “dress in a way that captures how you feel about the system” as a theme? Everyone dressed up and running around drunk. Or whatever. I mean, hell, how much of an excuse do we need? It’s only once every three years.

Not something I have thought through… but I do like the idea of turning up intoxicated in a clown suit to vote. It captures something.

 

 

late july mutants

Now this is kind of mind-blowing: Global wildlife decline driving slave labor, organized crime.

“Global decline of wildlife populations is driving increases in violent conflicts, organized crime and child labor around the world, according to a policy paper led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.”

Good Amazon: Amazon is making a pilot for a TV show based on Philip K Dick’s The Man in The High Castle.

Bad Amazon: about 900 writers have joined a campaign against Amazon’s treatment of Hachette. This is an interesting flashpoint in the future of publishing.

The times they are a-changing. The editorial board of the New York Times just came out for marijuana reform in America.

“It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.”

Oh and also, California passed a bill to legalise complementary currencies.

This one is probably the must-read of the batch, and one I will return to when I have a bit more brain focus: Evgeny Morozov on algorythmic regulation. Kinda the convergence point of smart-everything, big data, and social control.

What’s New In Social Science? EDGE curated, 10 speakers, 6 hours of video,  58000 word PDF, all free, “focusing on the state of the art of what the social sciences have to tell us about human nature”.

Saw the excellent doco “Jodorowsky’s Dune” yesterday, about the greatest movie almost made. In synchronicity, came across this quote about Frank Herbert and Dune:

Frank went on to tell me that much of the premise of Dune — the magic spice (spores) that allowed the bending of space (tripping), the giant worms (maggots digesting mushrooms), the eyes of the Freman (the cerulean blue of Psilocybe mushrooms), the mysticism of the female spiritual warriors, the Bene Gesserits (influenced by tales of Maria Sabina and the sacred mushroom cults of Mexico) — came from his perception of the fungal life cycle, and his imagination was stimulated through his experiences with the use of magic mushrooms.

Buy your own giant plush Ebola Virus toy. No, seriously.

 

 

 

And Earth just had its hottest June ever, boosted by hottest ocean temperatures.

Hmm. That may be enough for an hour and half of trawling, have a few long pieces queued up to read still…

 

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