The Facile Conflation

Ariella Barker was a Sanders supporter who tried and failed to get the Sanders campaign to take seriously her concerns about what she called the campaign’s “disability outreach failures,” and problems she saw with Sanders’ policies around disabled issues. In the process, she saw Sanders a little more clearly, and now supports Clinton. She writes:

His speeches never change for a reason. It isn’t because, as his supporters allege, he’s authentic and always on the right side of things. It’s because he doesn’t care to adapt, to research issues other than income inequality and the environment, follow up on his lofty ideas with solid policy initiatives or to make any compromises to achieve his goals. Rather, he just plays the blame game, pointing out everything that’s wrong with this country and proposing no specific plans to achieve his goals. He prides himself on being so honest and trustworthy while lying to the electorate about his concern for our well being and Hillary’s lack thereof. In reality, I see now that he doesn’t care about anyone’s well being but his own ability to rise to power.

I don’t actually believe that Sanders “doesn’t care about anyone’s well being,” but I think it’s clear he’s either lost sight of what’s important about this election, or perhaps never really understood it.

Sanders clearly doesn’t know how lucky he is to have been who he is, where he is; to have had Burlington, Vermont as his launchpad into electoral politics. There, he had the luxury of running as an insurgent, in a tiny state that is only rivaled by Texas in its sense of independence from national norms, complete with its own secessionist movement. It’s a place where, frankly, a batty old socialist with no party affiliation could become a U.S. Senator.

So this might be why Bernie thought he could ‘insurgent’ his way through the Democratic primaries, and then to the White House. It might be why he thinks he still can, even though he can’t. It might be why he thinks he’s been somehow robbed of the nomination by some chicanery or conspiracy, which he hasn’t.

(A side note to this: I don’t doubt for a second that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the DNC are and have always been in the bag for Clinton, and they certainly scheduled the debates as they did in order to make this as easy a process as possible for her. But I also have no reason to believe that there’s been any malfeasance as is often asserted by Sanders supporters.)

His answer to how he will accomplish all of his goals is always the same: “political revolution.” That’s not a plan. It’s not politics. Freddie deBoer wrote a while ago what he says politics actually is:

Right now I just think there’s this fundamental problem where so many people who identify themselves as being part of the broad left define their coalition based on linguistic cues, cultural overlap, and social circles. The job of politics, at its most basic, is finding common cause with people who aren’t like you. But current incentives seem to point in the opposite direction — surveying the people who are just like you and trying to come up with ways in which that social connection is actually a political connection.

DeBoer is a Sanders supporter, and this was written in late 2015. But this critique I think nails the current state of the Sanders campaign, a campaign that reviles everything outside the moral circle of Sanders’ rhetoric. What the Sanders crusaders seem to be against in principle is “finding common cause with people who aren’t like” them. That not only means no compromise with Republicans, but with other progressives.

Andrew Sullivan, in his big New York Magazine piece about Trump and the threat of fascism, wrote:

Those still backing the demagogue of the left, Bernie Sanders, might want to reflect that their critique of Clinton’s experience and expertise — and their facile conflation of that with corruption — is only playing into Trump’s hands.

This facile conflation has dogged actual politicians since time immemorial. It’s what disappoints the left about Obama, and what made Republicans uneasy about Romney. If you actually practice politics, you run the risk of being labeled a shill by those who speak in short sentences made up of little words.

I have no reason to think that Sanders isn’t sincere. I believe he wants to make things better, and that he believes that what he’s doing — as well as how he’s doing it — is absolutely necessary. That doesn’t mean that he’s not also wrong. And now he’s just making things worse.

Apogee Apology

So I’ve moved the blog again.

I have a blog at the Patheos network, iMortal, which I have not written in for weeks. I’m not entirely sure why, but I wanted to get some distance from a site where I am set up for disappointment. I never earn sufficient pageviews to come close to qualifying for compensation (which is a pittance to begin with), and I find myself feeling shitty about being ignored, feeling shitty about not getting any promotional support from Patheos (I am one of approximately ten-bazillion other bloggers on the atheist channel alone), and feeling shitty about never making any money for my work.

I really wanted to be on Patheos, because I thought it would be a real leg up on some sort of legitimacy as a blogger, but it’s simply not panned out. I haven’t outright quit iMortal and Patheos, but for now I think I will only post there when I have something that I suspect would really do well there. Otherwise, it will remain dormant until such time as I come up with something to put there, or they kick me off. (They’re good people there, especially Dale, who’s a truly great guy.)

So I thought I’d go back to my personal blog, this one, which only yesterday was hosted at Squarespace. Well, Squarespace isn’t free, and it was time to pony up for another year. So I canceled it, and looked for a new home. I tried a lot of alternatives, briefly, but moving almost 800 posts proves too much of a burden for most homebrew blog-import utilities, so that removed Tumblr and Blogger as options. So I’ve imported everything into this WordPress.com site. It’s not pretty, but it’s something. Whatever, it’s free, and it displays the words I type.

(There will as a result be a lot of broken links in these posts, until I fix them, if I fix them, as anything that pointed to one of my posts at the Squarespace site will just hit a wall.)

I’m trying to care less about my online metrics, my pageviews, likes, retweets, and the rest. I have cordoned off notifications and analytics on my devices, and I am trying not to seek these numbers as often as I used to. I need to stop feeling like I need to be validated by other people’s eyeballs and clicks, most of which are the result of algorithms and social forces beyond by control.

They say that if you do really good work, the audience will find you. Well, maybe my work just isn’t that good, and maybe that’s not the end of the world.

Romney’s New Game, House Rules

Mitt Romney is not an idiot. He knows that he can’t possibly win a presidential election as an independent candidate. And that’s even assuming he could get onto the ballot in enough states in time, which he can’t, having already missed Texas’s deadline. No Republican/conservative candidacy can win without Texas.

But I still give credence to this Washington Post report about his and Bill Kristol’s recruitment efforts for an anti-Trump candidacy, and it all comes down to this single paragraph:

One related objective is to prevent both Clinton and Trump from clinching a majority in the electoral college and thus throwing the presidential election to the House of Representatives, under the provision of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution. This scenario played out in 1824, when Andrew Jackson won a plurality of electoral and popular votes but was defeated in the House by John Quincy Adams.

I don’t think this is a “related objective.” I think it’s the only objective. A presidential election decided by the House of Representatives is the only path to victory for Mitt Romney who, as I have noted, still desperately wants to be president. When he positioned himself as a fallback/draft candidate back when Trump’s victory was not yet assured, he must have known then that his chances were slim…slim but feasible.

And so it is here. It’s still pretty damned unlikely that a Romney independent candidacy could win any electoral votes, let alone enough to throw the election to the House, but it’s possible. He’d need to rack up electoral votes in states where he could plausibly squeeze out plurality wins against Trump and Clinton. The most likely places for that to happen, however, would be states that Clinton is already going to lose. So to make this plan work, Romney needs to eke out wins in a few blue states, and that’s really where this falls apart.

It’s not impossible. If we start with the 2012 race as a starting point, and, for example, give Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Michigan to independent-Romney, the election goes to the House. This assumes that Clinton doesn’t flip any ’12 red states blue in the mean time. You could also have a scenario where, say, Trump wins Iowa from the Democrats, but Romney wins Virginia. You get the idea. Not impossible, but very unlikely.

But “unlikely” could be enough as far as Romney and the anti-Trump GOP forces are concerned.

Of course, there’d be one more enormous hurdle, which is actually winning an election by the House. It’s not a majority-vote situation there. If the presidential election goes to the House of Representatives, each state’s delegation gets one vote. So the question then becomes whether Romney could convince a majority of Members within each state’s delegation to vote for him. (Oh, and the Senate would pick the vice-president. Fun, right?)

A deadlocked Electoral College vote going to the House would normally be an easy win for the GOP in a two-person race, because of the party’s vast over-representation in Congress. But two “Republicans”? I wouldn’t begin to know how to predict that. But I can say that it represents a glimmer of hope for Romney’s quixotic, last-ditch effort in his decade-long quest to become president.

It’s Just a Computer

Paul Miller uses his smartphone without the phone part, and it’s not so bad:

A smartphone doesn’t die without an LTE connection. Much to the contrary, the first thing I notice about airplane mode is my improved battery life. And then, of course, there’s Wi-Fi. I have Wi-Fi at home, I have Wi-Fi at the office, and I have Wi-Fi at my primary evening hangout spot. It’s almost like having an iPod Touch, except my iPhone is newer and better than an iPod touch … So, basically, my phone still works. … And I can call people just fine over FaceTime or Google Hangouts. I prefer it, in fact. FaceTime Audio sounds way better than a regular phone call, and both Hangouts and FaceTime can add video chat to the experience.

With the deep resentment I feel toward wireless carriers, and my own consistent lack of being rich, I’ve long desired to opt out of them altogether, and just rely on Wi-Fi.

But shit happens out in the open world. The advent of plain old dumb-phone cell phones saved my butt in innumerable situations in the aughts, situations I was painfully aware would have been disasters had they occurred just a year or so before, when I was one of those people who thought cellphones were ostentatious and unnecessary. 

And I have kids, and I need to be available, period. So there’s that.

Miller again:

I think there’s something else going on here. When your smartphone isn’t a phone anymore… it’s just a computer. And that’s kind of beautiful to me.

Yeah, I much prefer to think of these things as computers rather than telephones. Telephones are conduits for obligations. Computers are, well, everything.

Accomplishments

The challenge today was to be alright with accomplishing nothing. Which turned into something else.

I’m parenting solo with only one of the kids, my 3-year-old daughter, as my wife and 6-year-old son are on a whirlwind trip to visit friends in far-off places. I am enjoying the chance to spend solo time with my daughter, though as my wife will attest, I already exist in a state in which I am constantly wrapped around her little finger. Nonetheless, it’s nice.

The week had been productive in a number of ways, not just from work, but in the restarting of my podcast after a brief hiatus, beginning to noodle with music once again, and most impressive to me, my having installed a dishwasher with no help, and no errors. 

But then I had my weekend with my daughter. Saturday was all about catering to her. Her brother was going on an adventure, and she was not, so this was a day to spoil her a bit, and that took the bulk of the day. Today, Sunday, was more or less a normal Sunday, with stuff to take care of around the house, and a kid to occupy (usually it’s two of them, and I have a partner in parenting). 

We played with her stuffed animals, we played doctor and patient (I needed a shot of course), and we spent a good amount of time on this beautiful, cool day at a playground. She loves the swings. She could stay on the swings all day. And of course, she must be pushed.

I could feel an anxiety rise in my chest. The work week was about to start back up. Nothing had gotten done in the house. I needed playtime to last as long as it could in order to fill time, and yet I worried over the time that was ticking away. For…what? I didn’t know.

I tried to be still. She was in a kind of state of blissful sublimity on her swing, time having even less meaning than it usually does for a 3-year-old. I wanted to join her, at least a little, in that state. It didn’t have to be bliss, but I could at least reject the concerns for Things to Be Done, for time filled purposelessly. I could, maybe, just be okay with being there, for as long as it went. 

I don’t know that I quite got there, but I got closer.

And then I thought, well, I’m not actually “doing nothing,” even though I am working toward being content with exactly that. I am doing something absolutely crucial.

I am raising my daughter.

Raising a child isn’t something that is “accomplished.” It is not a task. It is a (hopefully) lifelong series of moments, overlapping and tumbling and grinding and slipping by. It is a long line of fractions of seconds, in which I make connections of varying degrees of strength and meaning with my child. It is both glacial and ephemeral. 

It is each push on that swing. 

I didn’t accomplish much today. But I did push my little girl on her swing for as long as she wanted. I accomplished a lot today.

“Every stupid thing Samsung does makes Android better.”

Jerry Hildenbrand is the deep thinker of the Android blogosphere. While the default response to everything Samsung does with its phones is to express exasperation, Jerry has a different perspective. In his review of the Galaxy S7 Edge, he says:

I want Samsung to never stop messing around with Android and making it their own. The open source part of Android is made better by companies doing stuff to it and changing it. That’s how open source software works. I wish more of what they do was available to everyone at the code level, but the ideas and the critical changes that improve Android make their way back to Google. They then make their way to everyone. Every good thing Samsung does makes Android better. Every stupid thing Samsung does makes Android better.

I can take 20 minutes and strip away the stuff I don’t want. I can disable or uninstall some of it. I can hide most of the remainder. Buh-bye Milk Music. Adios Gear Manager. Go away forever Flipboard Briefing. You can do the same things to the stuff you don’t want.

It’s the Apple ethos to presume that there is some platonic ideal for a given product, but Google’s has always been about inviting tinkering and elaboration. Despite this admittedly overly-broad distinction, the common wisdom is that Android is best, and indeed only really acceptable, when it’s pure, stock Android straight from Google. 

But that’s Apple thinking. There’s nothing wrong with Apple thinking, it’s resulted in some of the most beautiful and popular products ever made in any category. But it’s not the idea behind the Google ethos…or at least its mythos. 

Hardware companies going all-out to make Android work as well as it can for their devices is the right idea. It happens, alas, that very often (more often than not?) they go too far, or simply do it poorly. The most acclaimed versions of Android tend to be the most untouched, like Motorola’s or Nvidia’s. LG, HTC, and especially Samsung are berated for loading Android up with gimmicks and bloatware.

But just as Jerry says, some of those gimmicks aren’t just gimmicks, but valuable new features. And sometimes gimmicks evolve into valuable features. And sometimes, a variation on Android suits the device in question so well, it’s a revelation. Many will point to Motorola’s ambient display, which was quickly adopted by many other manufacturers. But my favorite is Samsung’s S Pen for the Note series. The precision and usefulness of the stylus is unmatched by almost any accessory I’ve used for any phone.

And that’s because of Samsung’s software, that’s “TouchWiz.” 

So yeah, keep at it, Samsung, and all you other guys. I mean, try to keep it sane. You know, have some mercy. But keep at it.

The Mystery of the Too-Perfect Screen Protector! (Or, Paul is Stupid)

I am either very stupid, or something strange is going on. I’m leaning heavily toward the former, but, nonetheless, mark me.

I have never liked screen protectors on phones. It used to be that they clouded the display and reduced the sensitivity of the touch sensors. Plus, they were and are extremely difficult to apply without misaligning them, getting air bubbles that won’t push out, or dust trapped underneath that can never be unseen. Eventually, too, they would fray or peel. In other words, a total shitshow.

But clearly they have vastly improved since the time I avoided them, circa 2011. Now there are brands that are robust, invisible, and have no effect on touch sensitivity, and they come in both a kind that is sort of plasticky film as well as hard tempered glass. I once bought a used tablet with the screen protector already applied, and it convinced me that these things were now up to snuff.

Nonetheless, I could never get one on myself to my satisfaction. With each attempt to install one on my phone, with either the film or glass kinds, I would screw it up to the point that the protector became unusable. Usually, even when all other things had been done right, there would still be some dust or crap I’d discover, taunting me from beneath the transparency. Away would go to the protector.

But then a few days ago, I took one last shot with a Spigen Crystal screen protector, of the plasticky film variety, which came in a pack of three. I made sure I did everything very carefully, but not so intensely carefully that I’d make a mistake by overthinking. And after I pulled the front cover off the the screen protector, I was amazed: Perfectly straight, no bubbles, no dust. I smiled from ear to ear. And it looked and performed perfectly.

After a few days, though, I thought that maybe it was too perfect. I found that I couldn’t even tell it was there. Not as in “oh, you’ll just forget it’s there,” but as in, “wait a minute, where are the cutouts around the speaker and the home button?”

I stared and rubbed and scraped and could not for the life of me find the borders of the protector. Was I going mad? I took out the unused protectors from the package to compare, and seeing their cutouts I was convinced.

There was no screen protector on my phone.

What on Earth was going on? I had done this phenomenal job of perfectly applying a screen protector for the first time in my life, and now it’s just gone?? How could that be?? I retraced my use of the phone as best I could until I remembered back to the installation itself – that perfect installation. Was is too perfect?

It dawned on me. Perhaps, oh god perhaps, when I peeled off the protective front layer of the screen protector, I had also unwittingly peeled off the protector itself, and simply never noticed. Could I be that stupid? Could I really make myself believe that I had done a perfect job of installing a screen protector when in fact there was none there at all? And there I had been, using my phone with less concern about scratches on the screen, thinking there was a layer of defense that was all in my head. I am fortunate I didn’t perpetrate any horrors upon its glass.

I am capable of some epic idiocy, but this seemed too much even for me.

And yet, I am forced to conclude that it is the most likely explanation. The only alternatives I can think of would be that someone intentionally peeled it off (and who would that be? My kids? I never leave this phone where they could get to it), or it came off by itself, perhaps in a pocket. But how shoddy could this product be that this would happen a mere day or so after installation? Neither of those explanations seem plausible.

So in all likeliness, I am just extremely stupid. Perhaps you knew this already.

If there is a silver lining, it is that I made a second attempt with another one of the protectors, and I did it pretty much perfectly, again for the first time. There’s a little bit of a “halo” around the very edges where the phone’s glass curves a smidge, but it doesn’t bother me. Otherwise, nicely straight, no bubbles, and no dust. And, again, it performs just fine.

And I have learned something, something about the depths to which we can fool ourselves, and believe things that are not so, despite was is literally right in front of us, in our hands, and under our fingertips.