Standing on principle
squiggleslash
I'd like to think that a critical difference between the right and left is that the left has people who are genuinely disappointed when someone they supported commits crimes like promotion of needless war, torture, kidnapping, cover-ups of corporate and governmental crimes, etc. After all, I've right-wing friends who put their fingers in their ears, or even try to justify it, when you say those are the things that made the last administration positively evil. And there are plenty of liberals right now opposed to what Obama has done.

I'd like to think that, but I think I'm wrong.

There seem to be an awful lot of Obama supporters who find it inconceivable that anyone would refuse to support Obama because Obama does those things (or maybe they think, despite all evidence to the contrary, that he just doesn't), especially if they originally supported Obama because he promised not to do those things.

I cannot fathom either of those mentalities. I'm not tribal - I believe what I believe because I believe it, not because I'm a liberal. I am a liberal because I believe in liberal concepts. I support Amnesty International. I support the ACLU. I am generally anti-war, albeit not to any extreme (countries have a right to defend themselves after all.) And as such, my support for someone has to do with their actions, not whether they promote themselves with a label.

And that genuinely confuses me. Is it pride? I know it was utterly humiliating to see a person I promoted as someone who'd undo the excesses of the Bush regime do a 180 when he got into office and continue, and even escalate, the cover-ups, the kidnappings, and even the wars. But humiliating or otherwise, you can't just sit there and claim black is white.

It might be a "lesser of two evils", but frankly there's a difference between seeing virtually no difference between the major parties on, say, drug policy (which I also think is rotten, but that's another story) but seeing slight differences in tax and spending policies or whatever as making one "less bad" than the other, and seeing both engage in policies of utter evil, and then using differences in other policies as some how making a difference. Besides which, the "lesser of two evils" argument doesn't wash: the complaint is never "Oh yes, Obama may have expanded the CIA's kidnapping program to include wholesale murder or assassination, but at least you know he, uh, cares about, uhm... high speed rail?", but "Are you nuts? You're just a hard left Obama hater who..." (and similar language was used by the fingers-in-the-ears right about Bush - complete with "hard left" "insult" too, FWIW.)

I just plain don't understand it. Obama is as bad, or worse, than his predecessor. That's objectively true: the worst excesses of his predecessor are continuing, or being escalated, by St Obama, and Obama was voted in specifically because people didn't want that out of government any more (which is why Wikileaks is so successful right now. Nobody would have given a rat's behind about anything Wikileaks was doing if Obama had actually held people to account.)  Bush was at least doing what his supporters voted him in to do.
If things are ever going to change in the US, it's going to require a willingness to accept that you can't support someone simply because they have a (D) or (R) by their names. That mentality, alas, is too ingrained to go away any time soon. But what Obama has done already disqualifies him from liberal support - you cannot be a liberal, and support unnecessary wars, kidnappings, imprisonment without trial, extra-judicial executions, the hounding of whistleblowers, and cover-ups of corporate and governmental crimes. I say that not using some "true scotsman" definition of liberal, it's just the term "liberal" kinda loses all meaning if you define any of those things, let alone all of them, as compatible with liberalism. And I cannot figure out why anyone would support Obama as a result.

Amazon and Wikileaks
squiggleslash
Lots of companies right now are getting stick for what they did to Wikileaks, and with some justification. I have to admit to a certain degree of sympathy for some of the companies involved, however. It's one thing to pull support for organizations on narrow-minded political grounds, but when you're under pressure from an out-of-control US government, well, right now that's another matter. The US government has proven itself to be more than capable of dirty tricks against those businesses that do not bow under pressure: see, for example, Qwest's decision not to take part in warrantless wiretapping and the consequences it, and its directors, paid - and what was being demanded of Qwest, and what it refused to do, was blatantly illegal.

But I question Amazon's handling of the fall out. In particular, it justified its decision by giving credence to a lie about Wikileaks, something it didn't have to do. This is from Amazon's statement on its actions:

Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments.

Taking the above at face value, you have to assume (because otherwise it wouldn't be relevant) that Wikileaks was using Amazon's services to disseminate all 250,000 classified documents, unredacted.

But this is false. At the time, and as of now (and with no reason to believe they'll change this policy), Wikileaks had only the small subset of cables vetted by various respected news organizations published on any of their websites. This is exactly because of what Amazon says above - that Wikileaks could not possibly redact 250,000 classified documents and that it would be irresponsible to publish all 250,000 for that reason.

Amazon's statement contributes to the propaganda against Wikileaks, and I'm failing to see why this statement is still up without correction at Amazon.com's website. The fact they amplify such a major lie undermines their credibility - and the fact they feel the need to resort to bolstering propaganda in a statement supposedly distancing themselves from the claim that Lieberman pressured Amazon into dropping Wikileaks suggests that, in actuality, the Lieberman claims are correct, that Amazon bowed to political, and not legal, pressures in making its decision.

This is not right. It's one thing to avoid risking your business in a climate where you're accountable to a demonstrably rogue government that has abused its powers against businesses that don't play its game, it's quite another to actually voluntarily spread damaging misinformation about that government's opponents.

Word of the year: "Frustration"
squiggleslash
The Wikileaks fiasco, in my opinion, probably wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for two things: the Cheney Doctrine of government, and Obama's actions since taking office to accommodate, and continue, that doctrine.

When Obama was elected, he had an overwhelming mandate to undo the excesses of the previous regime. And by mandate, I mean he was mandated to do that. Obama ran fundamentally on change. His election campaign, arguably, started in 2004 with his speech to the Democratic convention arguing forcefully against the war and the abuses that went with it. Throughout his term as Senator, he challenged the abuses, teaming up with civil libertarians like Russ Feingold to, for example, attempt to end warrantless wiretapping. Obama went into the elections in an environment in which a significant number of people were up in arms about the actions of the Bush administration, as a leader of the movement against Cheneyite government, and promoting a slogan of "Change", whose meaning was questionable if it did not mean a move away from the evils of the Bush administration.

And after being elected, Obama did a 180. Virtually every extremist policy of the Bush administration remains in force. People, even those known to be innocent, are being held without trials and the Obama administration is defending its "right" to keep them like that. The war in Afghanistan has been escalated, and the war in Iraq continues despite a bizarre pronouncement that it had been "ended". In some areas, Obama has gone further than Bush, promoting policies of extrajudicial executions against ideological enemies abroad.

Obama almost certainly thought this wasn't an issue: obviously, we know now, that he didn't believe a word of what he said in public before he was elected, and right-wing democrats have always believed in a concept called "Triangulation", whereby one's own supporters are sidelined and their interests ignored because, well, who else are they going to vote for?

If there is a lesson to be learned this year, it's that triangulation is "fucking retarded", to use the same language a White House proxy used against those who elected Obama. Democrats keep losing because liberals don't bother voting: they don't bother voting because when, once in a blue moon, the people they vote for get elected, they sideline them and act like the other party.

This year, I sincerely believe that reached boiling point. The left expected a government that had acted like a third world dictatorship to be reined in, had elected a person expected to do that, and seen the exact opposite happen.

And so liberals sat on their hands at this election.

And so some on the left went a little further. The actions of Wikileaks would have had little impact had the Obama administration actually changed anything, as their leaks would have been less newsworthy, and they'd have had no effect whatsoever if we'd seen the truth commissions and transparent government policies an Obama election appeared to imply.

But Obama's wholesale adoption of Cheneyism has changed the parameters. The avenues left open have been gradually closed. Democracy had failed - the person everyone had rallied around turned out to be exactly the same as his predecessor. The media continued to cover up the extent of the extremism, in part because they were a part of it. What was left that a movement that traditionally eschews violence could do?

I don't know how successful, in the long run, Wikileaks will be, at shining a light into government that, ultimately, ought to end governmental abuses. What I do know is that it's been disruptive, disruptive enough for an international campaign of vigilantism by everyone from right wing hackers to the major credit card operators, to spring up against it. In the meantime, it's good that the President will face an opposing party determined to investigate every scandal against it for the next few years. It's unlikely they'll ever challenge the civil liberties abuses, but an impotent Obama administration appears, to me, to be an improvement, at least until we can replace him.
Tags:

Some questions for the pundits and wonks
squiggleslash
Question 1: "Ordinary Americans" lay awake at night worrying about what? (as opposed to merely having an opinion about something.)

1. The national debt.
2. The President's sex life.
3. Their ability to afford the roof over their heads, and cope with unexpected emergencies.

Question 2: "Ordinary Americans" care deeply about what aspect of politics?

1. The ability or lack of ability of the two parties to work together, of bipartisanship.
2. The image of the Presidency and/or the Federal government
3. That the decisions they agree with that are important to them get made.

Question 3: "Ordinary Americans" vote (as in step out of the door, as individuals, and actually put a cross by a candidate) for what reasons?

1. To send a message to government.
2. They're sick and tired of partisan infighting
3. If the party they support gets elected, it will implement policies they agree with and/or if the party they oppose gets elected, it will implement policies they disagree with that the party they support will not.

Question 4: "Undecideds" and "Independents" are voters who have not aligned themselves to a specific party or made a decision on who to vote for. What reasons do people have for putting themselves in that column?

1. Their politics are exactly mid-way between the policies expressed by the Republican Party, and those expressed by the Democratic Party.
2. They want to send a message to government and are sick and tired of partisan infighting.
3. Their politics are probably not represented by either party, and will probably vote on the basis of "the least of two evils" or some other factor unrelated to support for the policies of any party.

Question 5: Why would someone see either party as not representing their politics, y'know, if that ever happens?

1. This just can't happen: both parties represent a broad spread of public opinion, and everyone can find a home in one or the other.
2. Both parties occupy far ends of the ideological spectrum, with real, Ordinary Americans, being somewhere in the middle.
3. The two parties actually have largely overlapping policies in practice, regardless of what they may state in public, reflecting the requirements of the existing establishment and the very rich, and these policies are frequently repellent to large sections of the population whose moral views do not fit within the narrow confines of the areas the Democratic Party and Republican Party cover.

Question 6: Subjectively, what could be described legitimately as being "Above the partisan fray"?

1. Adopting some of the policies of an opposing political party.
2. Obtaining 61 or more votes in the Senate by getting members of the opposing political party to support your policies, perhaps through political bribes.
3. Getting broad, cross-spectrum, support for your policies from the people who will be affected by them ("Ordinary Americans"), regardless of who they voted for (or whether they voted at all) at a prior election, by making a case for your policies and listening to all sides.

Question 7: What part of the country is more important and represents better the nation as a whole?

1. The South, and Texas.
2. New York and California
3. What. The. Fuck?

Question 8: What was ACORN?

1. Anyway, moving on, can Linsey Lohan make it in Hollywood? We'll have pictures, right after this.
2. A giant liberal conspiracy to deprive Republicans of votes by having prostitutes pretend to be Mickey Mouse on election day.
3. A low-income housing advocacy group, whose primary work revolved around ensuring low income people had roofs over their heads, that made the mistake of running a program to help a traditionally Democratic-leaning group of voters (people in dire poverty) register to vote.

Question 9: Issues like Gun Control, Abortion Rights, and even The Right to build a Mosque, can be divided along the following lines:

1. Liberals vs Conservatives
2. Republicans vs Democrats
3. Various segments of the population against other segments of the population, which in some cases is a segment divide disproportionately reflected along the lines of the two major parties.

Question 10: The opposite of Fox News is:

1. The Liberal Media
2. MSNBC
3. Truth.

But will they learn?
squiggleslash
Update: also this.

Apparently the new meme amongst wonkish Democrats is that I'm supposed to be grateful that the Democrats passed a "Healthcare Bill" because they had a majority and this was the only chance they had to do it. The meme goes along the lines of "Sure we lost, possibly even because of it, but that's what majorities are for, to pass the things that need to be passed."

The problem is that if that's true, then why the hell did they pass an Insurance Industry Bail-out bill in place of an actual Healthcare Bill?

And yes, I know there were a few things in it that were sops to the left, but they came at an extraordinarily heavy price - a mandate to buy insurance whose prices are effectively uncontrolled, and, due the effect of a blind tax-payer's subsidy on some low income policies, are almost certainly going to rise in costs.

The Democrats didn't pass a Healthcare Bill that has any chance of standing the test of time. Either it will be repealed - and those claiming it will not by clutching lamely onto the positive provisions and refusing to believe anyone would repeal them forgets that none of those provisions have come into force yet, and will not for years - or it will become immensely unpopular as people find themselves paying higher and higher premiums, unable to even opt-out of the process, with the demand for the government to end the mandates increasing day by day.

Progressives have a habit of blaming so-called "Blue Dog" (right wing) democrats for the fact the bill wasn't all it could be, but they forget that the same veto they gave the Blue Dogs on the bill could also have been exercised by them. The original proposal was a compromise to satisfy the Blue Dogs - no single payer, but the availability of a government plan of last resort, in the form of the Public Option, that would ensure an affordable plan, run by an honest broker, is always available. The moment the compromise was terminated by those who demanded the option be removed, was the moment the bill became untenable and unworkable. Progressives should have stood their ground.

The other big joke, of course, in all this is that the current plan is immensely unpopular, supported by only a third of the population, but around 50% of its opponents dislike it because of what I just wrote, because of the lack of a government plan. There's little reason to believe that the 30% of the voters who liked the bill would suddenly oppose it the moment an extra choice, run by the government, became available to them. So doing the right thing would have resulted in one of two scenarios: either no bill passing, which would be better than a bad bill, or a popular bill would have passed that actually encouraged the Democratic base to come to the polls.

So no I'm not grateful and I think, with respect, those who make the argument that the Democrats were right to pass a bad bill, one everyone knew at the time was a bad bill, but supported solely because they thought they'd win the mid-terms if they passed it (read what people like Steven Benen were writing at the time), are f---ing retarded.

Democrats need to learn the right lesson from this election, and thus far they're failing. Democrats lost the election not because their policies are unpopular, but because they continue to exercise a complete failure to execute and follow through on them. A decent HCR bill would have been popular, HCR is not, in itself, unpopular at all, quite the opposite. The government taking concrete steps to prevent future governments from going down the ugly fascist road the prior administration traveled in respect to surveillance, secrecy, war, injustice, and torture would not have been unpopular even if acknowledging the truth in public may have been unpleasant. The government passing a stimulus bill that actually matched what economists were asking for, rather than a half-way between those who wanted a stimulus and those who didn't, would have at least had a chance to work, and shown Democrats doing what they believe was right, rather than been a guaranteed failure.

Democrats do not follow through. They say one thing, and they do the opposite. They insult their base, pass weak, unworkable, "compromises" that satisfy neither their critics nor their supporters, and then blame everyone except themselves when liberals fail to vote for them. They have two years to reflect on that, and decide whether or not they want to chase the 25% of the US population that always votes Republican anyway, or keep the 25% of the population they already have, and maybe attract others - as Obama did in 2008 - who would not normally vote, but are willing to support a party that promotes sane policies, and actually intends to implement them.

A medley of explanations (Updated)
squiggleslash
A friend and I have been emailing each other different explanations as to how a woman with a cellphone ended up in a 1928 Charlie Chaplin film. These are my contributions...

The Voyage of Commander Connor

“Ah Commander Connor, Sit down, sit down”, said General Ripper. “I trust you know everyone here?”

Cameron Connor looked around the room. There was Professor Richard Solomon, acting strangely as usual. Professor Herbert Werstrom was looking bad tempered as usual, and Harry Seldon, the brilliant mathematician, was playing with a pencil.

“What is all this about?” said Cameron.

The General motioned to a flunky to turn down the lights. A small reel to reel projector was started up. After a flickering countdown, a silent movie from the 1920s appeared on the screen.

“I would expect you’re probably all aware of this, but to bring you all up to speed. This movie was recently brought to our attention by a collector in Europe. If you watch it closely...”

General Ripper waited until the precise moment, and then excitedly exclaimed “There! There! Did you see it? That woman! She’s clearly talking on a mobile phone. But this movie was filmed nearly ninety years ago!”

“I don’t see it”, said Cameron. The General sighed and motioned to the flunky to rewind the projector. “Slower this time!”

The film flickered into view once again, and this time General Ripper banged on the screen with his cane. “There! You see her! Right there! Stop the film on that frame!’

The room collectively gave an “Ah”.

“Are you sure it’s a phone?” said Professor Solomon. “It could just be a hearing aid, they kinda looked like that in the 1920s…”

“I inspected the film myself”, sighed Werstrom. “It’s clearly a cellular phone. There is no other explanation.”

“I can’t see how this is possible”, interjected Seldon. “Time travel is… well, no scientist has been able to determine the solution to the paradox problem, where your very presence in the past would affect your future.”

General Ripper cut Seldon off. “We’ve done it. We built a time machine. This is not about the impossible ladies and gentlemen, this is about someone abusing our technology. We must find out who this is, and make sure they don’t create a paradox.”

“I’m still confused”, said Solomon. “There wasn’t a cellular network in the 1930s, how could she have been talking on a mobile phone, even if she did travel into the past?”

“That’s what we need to find out”, said Ripper. “I’ve asked Commander Connor to join us because…. Because you, Commander Cameron Connor, will be tasked with the job of finding this person, and making sure she doesn’t cause a paradox.”

“That’s going to be awfully difficult without a time machine”, said Cameron.

“Oh, I know”, said General Ripper. “Which is why we’re going to send you back in time. We’re going to send you back to a few hours before this film was made, and we’ll need you to go to the set and find this person!”

“You’re sending me back in time?” exclaimed Cameron. “Is it safe?”

“Well it must be”, muttered Seldon, “I mean we have a movie of a woman holding something black to her ear and talking, that proves time travel is safe!”

Ripper glared at Seldon. “It’s perfectly safe. I completely trust the people who built our time machine. As I was saying, we’ll send you back in time, you’ll communicate with us using this.”

Ripper held up a black mobile phone.

“We’re going to open up a hole in time and space so that your phone can communicate with the current time’s mobile phone towers.”

“I’ll need a change of clothes”, said Cameron, “I’ll stick out like a sore thumb wearing 21st Century battle fatigues.”

“Our disguises department already has an outfit, fitting the period, ready for you to wear. It’s not merely contemporary, but it’ll also help hide you.”

“Great.” said Cameron.

“You'll leave right away!” said General Ripper. The General tapped his pencil against his lower lip. “This time machine may have cost us billions to develop, but it’s definitely worth its weight in gold when we have mysteries like this one! It's worth its weight in gold.”


Back in 60 seconds

“Well, the client wants one, and he’s prepared to spend a lot of dough”

Sway could hear the desperation in Randall’s voice. “I understand that, I understand, but where the hell am I going to find such a thing? In LA at 3am in the morning? A museum?”

The sound of a keyboard clattering could be heard over the phone, and moments later Randall’s voice came back. “Maninder says there’s one in Hill Valley, registered to an Emmett Brown. I’ll text you the address.”

Sway sighed and pressed the End button the phone.

Sway found herself in a leafy suburb on the edge of LA. A house with an unkempt lawn was in front of her, and the car the client wanted was parked outside.

“The client’s not going to like this”, grumbled Sway as she stepped in. She dialed Randall, held the phone to her ear with her shoulder, and began pulling the wires underneath the steering wheel.

“Randall? Sway. Look, I found the car, but listen! It’s a pile of junk. The owner’s made a lot of modifications. There’s something looking like a rocket or something on the back, and the front is covered in custom dials and stuff. This is going to stick out like a sore thumb.”

“We’ll fix it, just get it here.”

“Aren’t there any others?”

“At 3am in the morning? Just get it here, we’ll do the rest. Cover yourself up so you don’t get photographed by a speed camera driving it here.”

Sway fiddled with the wires and suddenly the engine roared into life. She dropped the phone, adjusted the wires until the engine settled down into a smooth burble, and pulled at the shift. The car shot out of the drive way, and within 60 seconds, Sway had hit the interstate and was on her way back to Randall.

Sway looked at the speedometer. 80mph. Perhaps Randall was right about the cameras. She pulled a large black blanket from the passenger seat and covered herself up. But as she did so, she became aware of blue flashing light coming from behind her.

“Gosh darn diddly it”, she muttered to herself, and pushed down on the gas pedal. “I’ll lose them. C’mon girl, you’ve done it before.”

But the speedometer barely moved. 81mph. 81.5mph. Sway grabbed her phone.

“You still there Randall?”

“Where are you?”

“Got the fuzz on my tail, or whatever it is you young people use to describe persons of a law enforcement nature organizing a rendezvous to discuss a matter of concern.”

“You can lose them!”

“Not in this pile of crap! I’m barely pushing 82mph!”

“Keep your foot on the gas and just don’t stop” said Randall, “We’ll think of something.”

The car shot around a corner, and then started to climb an incline. The speedometer began to fall.

“no no no no!” exclaimed Sway, frustrated. She felt a bang as the police car behind her crashed into her, giving the car a temporary boost. The car moved over the incline, and began to speed up as it shot down hill.

“80mph!” said Sway. “C’mon baby. Use the hill… use the hill…”

She glanced outside, and refused to look at the speedometer for a moment or two. “Give me some speed”, she cried. “Come on!”

Sway glanced again at the speedometer. The car had sped up! 85mph! Now 86! Now 87!

“How are you doing Sway?” said Randall. “You…”

And then there was a flash. The phone was silent. The skies were suddenly light and the car was plowing into a city park.

“What the hell just happened?” exclaimed Sway. “Did I pass out?”

She climbed out of the DeLorean, and, in a daze, staggered through the park, the black blanket still wrapped around her.

“Hello?” said Sway. She glanced at her phone, the screen had frozen. She held it up to her ear again. “Randall? Are you there?”



The Great Terminator

“I’ve come to protect you”, said Kyle.

Sarah gasped and struggled, but Kyle held on tight.

“Let go! And who is your friend?”

“That’s no friend of mine. That’s a robot. From the future. It has been sent to kill you, because unless it does, you will save mankind.”

“You’re insane!”

“No, I’m perfectly sane. I’m from the year 2011. Two years before I left…”

Kyle let go briefly and put his head in his hands, and sighed, and looked back at Sarah.

“Two years before I left, there was an awful, awful, movie. It was called Avatar. And it did really well at the box office. It was 3D, and all of a sudden all movies were in 3D, and they were all just awful too.”

“What does this have to do with me? Why is that robot after me?”

“It’s quite simple. You’re the one who invents time travel. You will send yourself back in time to kill Charlie Chaplin.”

“How will that help?”

“Chaplin will be unable to make Modern Times, and that will have a ripple effect, ultimately causing George Lucas to make an entirely different film instead of Star Wars. James Cameron will never see Star Wars, and so will never be inspired to make movies, and as a result will never make Avatar and destroy cinema in the process!”

“But I liked Star Wars!”

“It’s for the greater good. Look, if you want a future in which every movie has to have something flying out of the screen in it, whether appropriate or not, with the audience wearing uncomfortable glasses and feeling queasy every time they watch a so-called movie, you go ahead, you selfish ass. And in any case, I’ve seen the movie George Lucas made instead of Star Wars and it was pretty good. Not his best work, but quite honestly, meh, it’s George Lucas. What do you expect?”

“OK, but what do we do about the robot?”

“We just need to lure him to where I can say something he’ll hear… stand up a moment.”

Sarah stood up. The robot stopped in its tracks and turned to look at Sarah. Immediately, Kyle Reese stood up.

“Hey, Terminator! If you go back in time and kill Sarah, how are you going to find out you need to go back in time to kill Sarah? Didya think of that? Huh? Huh?”

The Terminator stared at the time traveler, cricked its neck, and collapsed onto the ground.

“They said it was indestructible”, said Kyle, “but it could be defeated merely by describing a plot hole. Tsk.”

Sarah looked at Kyle. “So… how do I go back to 1928?”



Busted

“Travel through time. Kill Chaplin, prevent Avatar or any sequels from being made. Also has side effect of preventing IBM PC success. Got it.”

Tigra nodded her head. Inside she was nervous, but Professor Bun'ni’s plan certainly made sense, and she’d never failed her before.

“Good luck Tigra, we’re all counting on you”, said the Professor, and pulled the lever. The world around Tigra began to spin, and lights flashed around her. The world faded in and out of view. She caught glimpses of things as they flew by – a flickering CRT screen with “World Wide Web” written in large, blocky, Times Roman, then Steve Jobs with hair, and then women wearing leg warmers with big hair, and then men wearing white flared pants, followed by a blaze of coloured stripes and patterns with a smokey smell that reminded Tigra of her old school’s staff room.

People were wearing suits now, and suddenly this gave way to marching, goosestepping soldiers and the sound of “Seig Heil” and the whistle of dropping bombs. And suddenly there was peace, but everyone was in rags and living in shanty towns. The machine started to judder and Tigra held on tight. The flashing became more pronounced, and suddenly the reality stopped, and Tigra was thrown out of the machine, crashing into a 1920s car.

“Why! Get off young lady!” snapped the driver, and Tigra climbed off, apologizing profusely. The car started to move, and Tigra heard the car backfire a couple of times before the driver hooted his horn and moved on. “The car went boom”, said Tigra to herself, admiring it as it left.

“OK, kill Chaplin” said Tigra. “Where would he be? Oh, I know…”

Tigra boarded a streetcar, and handed the conductor a nickel, hoping the conductor wouldn’t look closely enough at it to notice the 1978 year stamped on the coin. The streetcar winded through the city, and finally started to approach Hollywood itself. And as the streetcar passed a park, Tigra spotted Chaplin in the middle of shooting a movie.

“My goodness!” exclaimed Tigra, “This is perfect!” She got off the streetcar, and wandered behind the soon-to-be-famous director. Tigra pulled a small package out from her bag, and slipped it underneath Chaplin’s chair.

“I better get out of here before it goes off” said Tigra. She pulled her timephone out from her pocket.

“Everything ready?” asked Professor Bun'ni.

“I’ve set the bomb”, said Tigra, “This can’t fail, he’ll be dead in seconds. I need to ge…”

“He’s not dead”, said Bun'ni. “What the hell’s going on? Why do you think he’s dead?”

“Maybe your stupid bomb doesn’t go off.”

“Impossible!” said Bun'ni. “In fact, I have the timeripple monitor right here, it says it’s going off in 15 seconds from now. Major explosion, going to kill everyone within a five mile range.”

“But Chaplin’s right here”, exclaimed Tigra.

“Who?”, said Bun'ni.

“Charlie Chaplin, you know, the guy who inspired the creation of Avatar.”

“What the hell are you talking about?” said Professor Bun'ni, increasingly frustrated. “Chaplin died in 1928. Buster Keaton is the one who did all those things. Why else would I have sent you to kill Buster Keaton?”



Returnarola

Jenkins sighed and opened the doors to the conference room. The lawyers were already there, of course, and the room looked oppressive, especially with the large, stylized, metallic “M” on the wall at the end of the room, hanging there like a poster of Big Brother. And the President of Motorola, Heywood Jabloemy Sr, was sitting right there, underneath the M.

“I came as fast as I could”, said Jenkins. “What is this about?”

Jenkins sat down, glancing at the picture of President Ronald Reagan on the wall.

“Mobile telephony”, said Jabloemy. “We think it’s time to dust off this technology and try it again.”

Again? Ever since the talk of breaking up AT&T had started, Jabloemy had become very excited, convinced there was some way to take advantage of it and the new excitement about personal  microcomputers to make Motorola the leader in electronics. But mobile phones? Everyone – well, everyone at Motorola – knew the consequences of the technology, had Jabloemy forgotten?

“Sir, I don’t think it woul…” started Jenkins but Jabloemy cut him off. “I’ve been discussing this matter with my lawyers, and we think it’s about time. Just about everyone has forgotten the technology, and we just… we just came to a little product placement agreement with our friends in Hollywood, in exchange for them scrubbing every reference to mobile telephony from their movies prior to this year. And I’ve had my lawyers resubmit the Edison patents under your name – even the Patent Office has forgotten these ever existed.”

“But… what about the risks? The lung cancer and mesothelioma? The accident in Siberia?”

Jenkins voice reached an urgent whisper: “Pearl Harbor? The Titanic? The great influenza outbreak of 1917? Heywood, please!”

One of the lawyers cleared his throat. “We don’t think it’ll be a problem.”

Jenkins looked up and the lawyer continued. “We don’t think it’ll be a problem. People are convinced there were other causes to all of these issues, to the point that if anyone tried to litigate, or even draw a connection, they’d be laughed out of court.”

Jenkins started “That’s not what I meant!”, but Jabloemy picked up.

“Besides, we think the technology is safer now. Why, the CIA tells us that the commies already have a functioning cellular network, some place called Chernobyl. It’s been working there for months. Not a single problem.”

Jenkins looked at Jabloemy with horror.

“That’s not enough time to draw a conclusion! And besides, what about people before WW-II? Are you sure the “chemical warfare” agent really did scrub everyone’s memories?”

“Anyone who claims there are mobile phones prior to 1939 will be laughed at”, said Jabloemy. “There’s just no evidence left, nobody has one, and we can market the hell out of the things as if they’re totally new. I’d like you to take a look at the prototype.”

Jabloemy opened his briefcase and removed a large box-like handset, over a foot high and four inches thick. Jenkins, all too aware of the dangers, instinctively pushed back in his chair.

“That’s huge!” said Jenkins. “The originals were never that large!”

“That’s part of the marketing”, said Jabloemy, “and you can relax by the way, this is a non-functional dummy. You don’t think I’d be foolish enough to actually have an actual mobile phone with me, do you?”

“Marketing?”

“We’ll start with huge phones, and over a decade reduce them to the original size. It’ll make them appear to be a radical new technology that’s in constant development.”

“You’re insane!” muttered Jenkins. “I’ll have no part of this.”

“Then you’ll be missing out on the greatest thing to hit Motorola since… well, since our founding. Over the next twenty years, we’ll push and push and push this technology, and thanks to the Edison patents, we’ll get a cut of every phone made.  By the end of the Century, there’ll be coverage everywhere. Why, by 2001 I expect they’ll have a  cellular tower on top of the World Trade Center!”

“It’ll all end in…” started Jenkins and then he muttered “What’s the point? You’re going to go ahead anyway. But I’m going to find the evidence that this is wrong! I’ll find evidence that mobile phones existed prior to 1939! There’s got to be a reference to them somewhere, in a book, in an old film, there’s probably a crowd scene in a Charlie Chaplin film you’ve missed; you can’t have scrubbed everything!”

Jenkins stormed out of the room.

The room went silent for a moment, and Jabloemy tapped his fingers on the desk. Finally he looked over at the nearest lawyer and spoke.

“Kill him”.



24 Hours Ago

7:23

Boop. BOOP. Boop. BOOP. Boop BOOP

Jack (into Cellphone)
                I need schematics on this thing. Chloe, can you tell me what it is?

Chloe
                It’s some kind of time travel device. Listen Jack, I don’t know how much longer I can help, the President has just ordered your arrest!

Jack
                A time travel device? Isn’t that a little unlikely? Does that technology even exist?

Chloe
                Let me double check. I’m hacking into a civilian broadcast satellite… got it, zooming in on your location… let me just enhance this reflection from the coffee mug behind you. Right, I’m running the signal through a material deconstructor matrix.

Jack
                I don’t have time for this Chloe!

Chloe
                Just hold on a few more seconds. Damn, the file contains 1024 bit Triple DES encryption, it’ll take me a few more seconds to break it, let me just prove p != np.  Pulling up a list of names of people who watched the 1973 World Series. OK… I’m certain it’s a Time Machine. I’m downloading the file to your PDA right now. Jack, I don’t know how much longer I can hide the fact I’m helping you. At least let me talk to Buchannan.

Jack
                There isn’t time! I saw Muhammad Lopez enter the machine moments ago. I’m going to need to follow him. Can you still reach me on this thing once I’m on the other side?

Chloe
                If I just reconfigure the quantifier matrix and decode the analog outputs… OK Jack… Jack?

Jack hears doors being kicked in in neighboring rooms. He crouches below a large wooden crate, grabbing a blanket and a hat, attempting to disguise himself.

(Voices)
                Jack Bauer: We’ve been sent by the President to arrest you at a really awkward time in your investigation. Come out where we can see you.

Jack
                Chloe, I’m going in.

Jack moves into the machine’s frame, and at that moment the doors are kicked in of the room, and troops storm in.

Soldier1:
                There he is! Take him!

Jack (in funny voice)
                No, no, I am cleanink lady. I clean warehouse yes?

Soldier2
                I think that’s a cleaning Lady Sir!

Jack fiddles with the controls

Soldier1 slaps Soldier2 upside the back of the head.

                You idiot!

There is a sudden flash, and Jack disappears.

Boop. BOOP. Boop. BOOP. Boop BOOP. Didilydidilydidly.


It's not the Republicans' fault.
squiggleslash
There's a lot of whining going on, but one of the themes amongst the wonks has been that Obama would have gotten clean away with everything he wanted to do if it wasn't for those dastardly conservatives.

The conservatives, you see, were being unreasonable. They were being partisan, damn it. They would pretend to help and then withdraw at the last moment. They'd use procedural technicalities, like the filibuster, to damage the poor President's agenda and they shouldn't have done that.

In a word, bollocks.

Here's what actually happened. The Republicans did exactly what they were supposed to do: act like an opposition. I don't agree with 90% of the arguments they made, but they were right to make them, and they were right to use the means at their disposal to block the Democratic agenda.

What Obama, Reid, and to a lesser extent Pelosi, did wrong was the following:
  • They conflated bi-partisanship with reaching across the aisle. If you want Republicans forced to vote for your agenda, you don't do it by negotiating with them, you do it by reaching out to their supporters. If you feel (as Obama should have done) that a bigger stimulus was necessary, you address the nation and you make the case. The last people who you should try to convince are the party of opposition, because their job is to oppose you, not agree with you, and the only way you're going to persuade them to support you is if you make it politically impossible for them not to do so.
  • They forgot that two can play at that game: the only deterrent to over-use of procedural technicalities is the risk that the party you're fighting will make use of the even more powerful technicalities available to it. In other words, reconciliation shouldn't have been used as a last resort, it should have been threatened and then used as soon as the Republicans started threatening filibusters over just about everything. Reid, in particular, made stupid, idiotic, comments that encouraged the Republicans to continue, claiming that use of such procedures (to block filibusters, from reforms to reconciliation) would somehow harm the integrity of the process and of the Senate. But the damage was already done, you can't stop violence by letting the other side punch you in the face over, and over, and over again, claiming that even putting your arms in front of your face would make you look stupid.
  • They took the view that the entirety of politics is done in the Capitol. Which is why they're losing support, because the people who decide who works in the Capitol didn't have their views and concerns addressed. There was no attempt to make the case to us, and as such, the real "deciderers" are rejecting the Obama agenda, from both the left and the right.
  • They failed even try to do the right thing, preferring to "succeed" in doing the wrong thing. Sometimes it's OK to lose a battle, if winning would guarantee you lose the war. If Obama and his advisors had been British Generals in WW-II, Dunkirk wouldn't have happened - but only because Britain would have realigned itself with the Axis powers, so it could make sure it doesn't have any embarrassing defeats.
So they're going to lose, and they're going to lose despite the fact that the loudest voices in the GOP right now, the ones people are using to judge the sanity and rationality of that party, are stark staring mad. Liberals aren't going to bother turning up, for the most part, because there's nothing to fight for. Conservatives will, because they see an opportunity to smack down a bad President, even if most aren't entirely happy with their own side right now.

Those who blame the conservatives for Obama's lack of progress in his first year and a half are barking up the wrong tree. The conservatives aren't merely not to blame, they're the group that did exactly what they're supposed to do. The Democrats were too scared to do the right thing, and they're going to pay for that.

CyanogenMod CM6
squiggleslash
I installed CyanogenMod CM6 (Froyo) on my Slide.

Well, you might ask "So? You're a nerd, of course you're going to root your phone and replace the OS. The only question I have is why you didn't do that on your Nokia 2170 from eleven years ago", to which I respond "Phpppppppt". Actually, in general, I don't replace the OS on my phones, phones need to work, and hacking them risks making them not work. There are certain devices you hack, and certain ones you leave alone, at least until you no longer use them.

With the Slide, it was desperation. The sodding thing would crash if I tried to make a call with the slide open. HTC released an update, and it still did it. Bluetooth was unusable (the aforementioned crash would kill BT until the next reboot, and in any case you couldn't use the phone handsfree, you had to use it to confirm who you were calling, and I don't think it even used the headset for the voice calling feature.) I couldn't find a working tethering solution. And with T-Mobile allegedly planning to release a cut down version of Froyo for the Slide, always being two weeks away from doing so, I felt it was time to give Cyanogen a chance to provide his distro. I went here and followed the instructions.

And, well, it works. I've had one crash since I installed it (the phone froze for no apparent reason) but otherwise I haven't had a single crash - no force closes or anything.

Now, here are the things I found in case anyone else is considering doing this:
  • The installation process was actually relatively straightforward. Just follow those instructions.
  • Some of the defaults are wrong, for example the browser is set up to not reformat wide pages. You can change that in the settings, just be aware it's a setting, not a bug.
  • There are themes for ADW.Launcher (the "desktop") that'll make it have the clean bubbly look of the Slide.
  • The Gallery app is kinda ugly. I especially don't like the thumbnail thing it does. Sliding from one picture to another is as fast as the Slide's original OS, but each time you slide you see an enlarged thumbnail, which a few seconds later is replaced with a high resolution image. Ug.ly. Why not make the "thumbnails" 480x320, if they really are necessary?
  • Also the Camera's aspect ratio is wrong and doesn't match the screen.
  • Virtually all the apps that come pre-installed on the phone are either in the Gapps package you install anyway, or in the Market. The Market has all the T-Mobile ones. BUT...
  • ...NO SWYPE! I'm using a so-so clone of it downloaded from the Market, whose name temporarily escapes me, but I guess until Swype comes out of beta there's no way to get it back.
  • Bluetooth is not working for calls at all. I would consider that a major, major, issue if it wasn't for the fact the Slide's official OS's implementation is so buggy it's unusable (see above.)
  • Tethering is USB only. But it works. The phone actually appears as a network interface under Ubuntu (like Ethernet or Wifi, I mean, as opposed to like a modem.) Very clean and slick, plug it in and go.

All in all, it's more stable and has better features than the stock Slide operating system. Looking forward to them enabling the Bluetooth functionality however.

In which squiggleslash realizes that there's no place like home.
squiggleslash
...or some other sickening homily.

Anyway, I got a job. Been at it for a month. Was headhunted for it, actually, the headhunting starting before I was made redundant but, due to the bureaucracy and stuff at the new place nothing was approved until just over a month ago.

So that's good. Also the consultancy I started deposited its first check today. For $7,000. Funnily enough, it was my old employer.

So things are positive. Getting used to not working for the company I was with for 15 years, but, well, by the time I left it wasn't that company any more anyway.

In which squiggleslash experiences the downturn
squiggleslash
A little over three months ago, after some rushing around as our department attempted to knock up a prototype of our "next generation" system, our department head sent some of us some meeting requests for a Friday morning. He's in the UK, we're in the Florida office, the call would be over the phone, and everyone assumed this was a discussion about where to go with the prototype. And I felt fairly good about it, I'd proven myself to be a thorough "team player" on the job in question, going above and beyond to try to get some good ideas presentable that could go into the product, so it didn't sound like there was anything to worry about. Got a message that morning that the meetings would be held in the Florida office's director's office, and that was to be expected to.

And when my time came, I walked in, and knew there was a problem, because the head of HR was in the room.

They were giving me three months notice. Two others got the same deal, a fourth got five.

Now, to be fair on them, they were up front, they asked me to perform some transition work during the three months and made my severance dependent upon me doing it, and it turned out they were totally honest and on the level about it - I did what they asked, they were fair about what they asked me to do, when deadlines stretched they told me to just document what needs to be done, and last Thursday I was told I did a great job, and I'd be getting my severance. I'm screwed over in the sense I don't have a job, in an economy where it's difficult to get work, and that my employer really didn't need to lay people off and is doing itself no favors at all (as in, it'll probably end up losing business because of the people they're laying off, they're losing skills, they weren't exactly underworked, etc), but the company was honest, it did what it promised, and while I'm anxious about finding work, I know that with the severance I've been given, I can probably survive at least a year, possibly longer, without finding permanent, full time, work.

Today was my last day.

I've worked at, well, I want to be honest in my journals and writings, and that's why I've always posted under "squiggleslash" rather than my actual name, because it'd do nobody any favors to say "XYZ Corp screwed me over, firing me in a depression when they had no reason to! They suck!", but I've worked at the company that became my employer, for fifteen years. A little over, indeed. I moved to the US thanks to them, I met my future wife there, and while there have also been very negative things that have happened, I have to say I feel somewhat weird about what's happened and what's happening.

What am I doing? Well, one thing that's keeping my anxiety under control is a pill called Sertraline. I'm not generally a pill popper, but soon after the redundancies were announced things got seriously bad, I got angry, and I ended up feeling that the right thing to do was to go to the doctor and see if anything could help me through this. Pills and bottling up emotions are not good things, but you have to do what you have to do.

A second thing that's keeping my anxiety under control is a friend who's been trying to headhunt me anyway the last few months - the only problem being he's having trouble getting his employer (my theoretical future employer) to actually commit to anything. This, apparently, is SOP there, so I shouldn't read anything into it. Still, actually having a job offer is kinda important.

A third thing that I've done is to set up a business. My former employer has said they may have some contracting work for me, and so that, at least, is a source of revenue, and I can work on getting the contacts needed for other contracting or consulting work. I've set up a Google Voice number as the official business phone number, and I've also set up Google apps to manage the email, calendar, and web site. I have to say I'm fairly impressed by all of these, it's a very nice system and the fact it's all free and quick and easy to get going is a huge advantage when you don't know for sure if anything's going to come in moneywise.

Now I have time I'm going to work on selling myself, get my resume looking perfect and generally I'll work on what I can to ensure that if the thing with my friend falls through, I have options. But, well, I'm unemployed for the first time in fifteen years. I'm not happy about it, but I could be a lot more upset than I am.

?

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