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Good Writers Do Not Have to Be Good People

2016 November 10
by Ian Welsh

I recently read a column with this quote from Neil Gaiman (who is a decent writer of novels and was a great writer of comic books):

“Bad fathers are bad writers are bad people.”

There is no relationship. None. Zero.

You can be a terrible person, and a terrible father, and a great writer. Most wonderful, good people are terrible writers.

No relationship.

I will suggest that the one moral virtue that is related to good writing is truthfulness. Not truthfulness in strict detail, but in describing the world as the writer understands it. The writer may be wrong, but the writer is truthful.

Even this, I offer hesitantly. But humans who don’t act believably in fiction do (usually, not always) detract from the experience; and in non-fiction, if the writing is not true to the world, it is deformed.

Great skill in almost anything does not translate into being a great person. One can be a great therapist and a horrible father. One can preach a great sermon and be a terrible person. Many surgeons, who have saved many lives, are horrible people.

There are certainly professions which make it hard to be a good person: politician, say, or salesperson, but even in those fields there are good people.

And being a good father doesn’t make someone a good person. Plenty of people are wonderful to their families and then go out and do horrible things to other people. The archives of the Nazi death camps are full of guards who were wonderful to their families. Many politicians are great to their families then do horrible things to other people.

This sort of vapid confusion of morality, skill, and interest is immensely harmful. A claim on goodness is always followed by the question: “Good to whom?” I have had many friends who were basically assholes, but who were good to me.

A bastard, but my bastard, is a very real thing. Wonderful to his family but a genocidal maniac is also a very real thing. A great friend, but an asshole to people he doesn’t know is another real thing.

Good to whom?

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post test two

2016 November 10
by exiledsurfer

still testing. duplicated issue of post not appearing though published in back end.

testing plugins



Ok folks, we don’t what is causing new posts not to show for some time, but we’re closer to it. It’ll get fixed, but probably not till the weekend.

Stuff does show up on the RSS feed, so click the RSS feed button on the right to see the recent posts (you don’t have to subscribe, it just shows an up to date list). Clearing your browser cache will help slightly (stuff an hour or two old seems to show, but not the most recent.)

My apologies for this, but I’ve got someone with technical chops going to it, and one way or the other we’ll get it fixed.

Post Test

2016 November 10
by exiledsurfer

There are reports of new posts not appearing to some users.

If you are one of these users, please leave a comment with:

  1. which browser on which device running which OS you experience this with.



Whistleblowers vs. Democrats?

2016 November 10
by Ian Welsh

I believe Assange when he says that if he had material on Trump he would release it. An institution like Wikileaks is dependent on what it receives from whistleblowers.

That said, there’s an edge to Wikileaks with reference to Clinton which is undeniable.

I think it’s also understandable, if you understand that Clinton was part of the Obama administration and agreed with Obama’s policies towards whistleblowers.

Consider that Manning has tried to commit suicide twice. She is kept in strict isolation, which is known to cause the same sort of brain damage as active torture. Effectively, Obama is torturing her, and his administration (and no, don’t tell me the administration didn’t have discretion) threw the book at her.

When Snowden fled, the Americans were so desperate to stop him they had France force down Evo Morales’ presidential plane. Snowden wound up in Russia, one of only two countries in the world which could protect him if they chose to do so (the other being China, where he tried to flee the first time).

Obama has been far worse on whistleblowers than Bush. He has gone after them relentlessly and thrown them in jail. He is the worst president on whistleblowers in history.

Whistleblowers believe that they are releasing information that the public should know, that what they do is like the Pentagon Papers release; because it is information the public should know, it is journalism, and they should not go to jail.

Obama does not agree, and there is every reason to believe Clinton does not agree either.

You start going after people to throw them in jail, and effectively torture them, and you expect them not to do what they can against you?

Idiot mythologies about Democrats being better aside, the FACT is that the last Republican president was better to whistleblowers than the current Democratic president.

So, yeah, I don’t imagine Assange wanted Clinton in the White House. Again, I believe him that he would publish anything he had on Trump, but if he doesn’t like Clinton or Obama, that’s perfectly understandable.

If you go after a class of people who have the means to fire back, expect them to do so.

And, as it happens, I think that Obama was absolutely wrong in how he treated whistleblowers, and if misplaced gratitude makes President Trump treat them better and pardon some of them (and I wouldn’t count on it), then that would be a good thing.

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Mandos on Trump’s Victory

2016 November 9
by Mandos

1. Even if you’re getting that 1933 feeling, Trump is (probably) not Hitler.

2. I waffled on prediction, because prediction is crap. But please note that reporting a 30 percent chance of victory is not the same as 0 percent. The model used is not necessarily wrong, it’s merely that, given the inputs, n percent is still n percent — i.e., possible. In general, you shouldn’t “call” anything until the outcome has more than a 95 percent chance of being true, is a good rule of thumb.

3. The worst aspect of this is the validation of the alt-right narrative. That’s the most Hitleriffic aspect of this. I think it’s still likely that there’s a lot of projection, from both sides — Trump saw them as a lever and happily used them, but whether he really believes in white nationalism is another matter. But their organization (via instrumentalization) is the most dangerous outcome of all of this. At the very least, it means that the possibility of creating cross-racial economic solidarity recedes further into the future.

4. I think that Trump is unlikely to solve the economic problems of the white working class, but if he does so, it will naturally have to be via public spending and protectionism, something that he seems inclined to do. The problem is, especially on the spending file, his own party has a large congressional delegation that has made much of their careers on the ideological rejection of public spending. If he can get around that, he has a chance at a second term. If not, not. If he breaks the current system without having an economic replacement, he will simply make the economic insecurity of his voters worse.

read more…

Why Trump Won

2016 November 9
by Ian Welsh
Donald Trump

It’s 10:50pm, EST and, as of right now, it looks like Trump will probably win. The Senate and the House will be Republican as well. Let’s lay this out.

Trump sold hope, Clinton sold the status quo.

Trump’s motto was “Make America Great Again.” Clinton’s said “America’s Already Great.” That told anyone who wasn’t doing well that Clinton was not their candidate.

Trump made the election about what he would do, Clinton made it about her.

“Make America Great Again” vs. “I’m with her.” Clinton’s entire campaign was predicated on “I deserve this, this is about me, you should identify with me.” Trump’s campaign was about what he would do for America and Americans.

Running Against Russia Was Foolish

It isn’t the cold war any more. A majority of Americans actually want better relations with Russia, not worse.

The Recovery Never Touched a Lot of People

Clinton and Obama told those people they didn’t care about them. All this bullshit about the unemployment rate when the percentage of jobs available compared to the population never recovered, and when only one year of Obama’s reign saw general increases in income.

Trump Ran Against Iraq

Clinton did not. He won against his fellow Republicans on this issue. Hillary wasn’t just a vote for Iraq, she was the Democratic Senator who rounded up other Senators.

The Greens Did Not Make the Difference in Florida

The polling I’m showing right now has them at .7 percent. That is less than Trump’s  margin of victory. Johnson got 2.2 percent, but Libertarians seem to take evenly from Republicans and Democrats, with a slight nod to Republicans.

Third parties were not the difference. (Edited: 7:35 EST 09/11/16 to reflect Libertarian party being about an even split.)

This Has Been Coming for Years

Various people, myself included, were warning that a huge populist backlash was coming, and that in the US, it would probably be right wing. We were saying this as far back as the early 2000s. Others were warning of this in the 90s, or even the late 80s, because they saw the inequality data and knew where it was leading.

read more…

Trump Pushes Hope While Clinton Pushes Fear

2016 November 8
by Ian Welsh
Hillary Clinton Secretary of State Portrait

(Back to the top, given how well Trump is doing. Contrary to what many say, hope beats fear pretty often. Election open thread is below.)

I know. It’s not what you’ve been told. Hold still, and read.

Clinton’s storyline is as follows: “I will be an historic woman president and I am supremely qualified, competent, and tough. I know what can be done and most left-wing things are impossible, but I’ll do what I can within the constraints of the system.”

Or, as some wag put it during the primary, “No we can’t.” Add in: “I have ovaries” and “I’m tough,” and you have Hillary’s storyline.

Donald TrumpHere is Trump’s: “I know the system is corrupt because I won in the corrupt system, but I’m rich and owe no one, so when I’m President I’ll work for you.”

Jobs: “There aren’t enough good jobs because of bad trade deals and immigration. I’ll re-negotiate trade deals, slap on huge tariffs, and bring America’s jobs back while reducing illegal immigration with a wall.”

Terrorism: “Terrorism is caused by Muslim immigrants and I’m going to stop those immigrants from coming to the US until we can figure out who the bad ones are.”

Read what I’m about to say next very carefully: I am not talking about the platforms or policy proposals (which mean little anyway), I am talking about the message the candidates and their main surrogates are pushing.

These are their positive messages.

You may disagree with either message, but the simple truth is that Trump has a stronger positive message. Trump is saying: “America has problems, I can fix them, and here are my solutions.”

Clinton is saying: “I’m competent and I deserve this.”

read more…

US Election Day

2016 November 8
by Ian Welsh
The Course of Empire by Thomas Cole

Ok, we’re here.

This is the first presidential election since 2000 where I haven’t endorsed a candidate.

While the polls suggest Clinton will probably win, it is close enough that Trump certainly could win if the polls are off at all, as they were in Brexit or in numerous other cases.

Johnson is showing at 5 percent in at least some polls, which is the cut-off for federal funding. Sadly, Stein is not, which is ridiculous, since there are plenty of states the Democrats simply can’t lose, but most “left-wingers” are too frightened and conventional to consider voting Green.

Feel free to use this as an open thread for topics related to the election.

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Trump’s Logic Is Not Crazy

2016 November 8
by Ian Welsh


Okay, so this chart has been going around (though I can’t find the original source). The problem is that people have been acting as if this chart is crazy.

Three parts are just fact:

The idea that “elections are rigged” is also true. It is more true for Republicans vs. Democrats, but it is also true that the DNC rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders and for Clinton.

I do not believe that the system cannot be fixed democratically, but the point is at least arguable. It is also noticeable that Trump is actually trying to fix it democratically.

The problem with this chart is not that it is bollocks and lies, rather, it is that much of it is true, and that only Trump is willing to say the truth. If everyone is pretending everything is fine, and only the “crazy guy” is telling the truth, a lot of people will go with the “crazy guy.”

As for only Trump being able to fix it, well, he’s the guy running, who can win, who acknowledges these problems, isn’t he?

The only bits with which I don’t agree, other than getting Trump to “fix it,” are the “crack down on Muslims, deport millions.” BUT here’s the zinger: The US has already deported millions and cracked down on Muslims. Mosques and prominent and non-prominent Muslims are under constant surveillance, and millions of Hispanics were, in fact deported by both Bush and Obama. (Obama deported more, including per year.)

As for the wall—it’s just an extension of what has already been done in places. There are already hundreds of miles of wall.

This logic isn’t crazy at all, it’s more true than Clinton’s meta-message, and it doesn’t suggest doing anything that doesn’t make sense (after a fashion) or isn’t already being done, even if I don’t agree with all of it.

People who think this logic is damning need to get their heads out of their asses.

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Parliamentary Primacy

2016 November 7
by Ian Welsh

UK judges have ruled that Parliament must vote to leave the EU.

There has been much anger in the pro-Leave press in the UK.

This is not hard:

  1. The judges are right. Parliament is supreme and must vote.
  2. Parliament should not ignore a democratic referendum result.

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