Sunday, July 8, 2018
I've been hampered by another, quite maddening, computer problem
this week. It helps to understand that every program has its own
private piece of screen buffer memory, updating the entire image
whenever it wishes to change what you see. Whether you actually see
the changes depends on the layering of the windows. You usually see
all of the current (active focus) window, but other windows may be
partially or wholly covered by the top window, or by other windows
in an overlay stack. This means that every possible view of every
window is stored in memory somewhere -- either the main computer
memory, or dedicated screen memory on a video controller card. The
computer (or the video card) keep a display list of everything that
is to be shown. What's happening on my computer is that this display
list is getting corrupted, so all of a sudden I'll see some screen
chunk appear when it shouldn't.
The result is very disorienting. For instance, while I've been
writing this in an emacs editor window, the screen to my window's
left has decided to show a big chunk of a Pitchfork review that I
closed from my browser a couple of days ago. I can make it go away
by moving the mouse over it and using the wheel to scroll whatever
the proper window there has in it (a Wikipedia page). I'm able to
work around the problem by using little tricks like that to force
proper screen updates, but it's a trial, a real nuisance. This
started happening a week ago when I was experiencing heavy load
problems. I cut down on the loads by installing an ad blocker and
rebooting. That did indeed help on performance, but within a day
I started experiencing this phantom screen ghosting (not a technical
term, but that's what the screen fragments feel like; just happened
I'm guessing that the problem is in the video card, and hoping it
will go away when I replace the card (new one on order). Before I
installed the ad blocker, I ran into another serious problem: I kept
hearing random pops from Napster (although not from Bandcamp, which
also plays through the browser, or from VLC, which is a separate ap).
No such problem with the ad blocker installed, so that problem was
clearly due to the added overhead of processing all those annoying
ads. Good riddance to the visual distraction, as well.
I've been working on a side project this past week. I started this
last year, spent a couple of days on it, and let it sit, moving on to
other, seemingly more urgent, tasks. The idea is to collect all of the
political notes from my
online notebook. This starts back in
2001, before I started my blog, and continues to archive all of my
blog posts from 2005 on. Originally I was thinking of one file for
the whole roll, but as I got into 2006, I realized I need to split
it into multiple volumes: one for the Bush years, a second for Obama,
and probably one for Trump as long as is necessary. Prime determinant
was length, but it also makes more sense subject-wise.
Of course, the writing will need a lot of editing to turn it into
anything useful. And it's not clear even how it should be organized:
day-by-day, or sorted out into subject areas. Good news is that compared
to the jazz guides, this one is going pretty fast. Unless the computer
situation deteriorates further, I should finish the first pass compilation
up to 2008 this coming week. Currently have 465,000 words, up to Feb.
2007 (930 pages of 12 pt. type).
I'd like to say a few things about the material I've been reviewing,
but don't have much time and the circumstances aren't conducive. Suffice
it to say that the one clearest lesson is that nearly everything we've
found so galling and appalling about Trump had previously appeared as
a big problem under GW Bush. For instance, I have a lot of material in
2006-07 on North Korea. I have a report on a mass demonstration against
ICE excesses. I even have a disgusting story about the president and the
Boy Scouts. It's not that nothing never changes, but it is very much the
case that Trump's agenda is a direct continuation of the shit Bush tried
to pull until he flamed out in 2008, leaving the economy in shambles.
Some scattered links this week:
Umair Irfan: Why Scott Pruitt lasted so long at the EPA, and what finally
did him in. Irfan also wrote:
Scott Pruitt is leaving behind a toxic mess at the EPA, and
Scott Pruitt gave "super polluting" trucks a gift on his last day at
the EPA. Pruitt's successor at EPA will be coal industry lobbyist
Andrew Wheeler. See:
Alexander C Kaufman: Scott Pruitt's Replacement Is Even Worse.
One thing I'm surprised we haven't seen yet is calls for a special
prosecutor to look into Pruitt's numerous scandals. During the
Clinton administration a half-dozen or more special prosecutors
were appointed to look into various cabinet-level appointees. One
might argue that was excessive and wasteful, but none were accused
of anywhere near as much wrongdoing as Pruitt.
Paul Krugman: Big Business Reaps Trump's Whirlwind.
Jedediah Purdy: Trump's Nativism Is Transforming the Physical Landscape.
Matt Taibbi: Why Killing Dodd-Frank Could Lead to the Next Crash, and
We Need a Financial Transactions Tax Before It's Too Late.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: The Capital Gazette Shooting and the True
Valule of Local Newspapers.
Alex Ward: We need to talk about the fact that Trump seriously
considered invading Venezuela. Little known fact here:
"Trump's increased use of the military in part led to at least
33 US military deaths in war zones in 2017 -- the first time
US war zone casualties rose in six years."
Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump, the resistance, and the limits of normcore
politics: No "big poitical stories" summary this week. Here he coins
the term "normcore politics" to refer to critics who think that the major
problem with Trump is that he routinely violates established norms for
political discourse and conduct. Those critics are usually centrists, and
their focus on norms gives cover to an agenda that is as much anti-left
as anti-right. (However, you sometimes find echoes of normcore coming from
the left; e.g.,
Gary Younge: Despite all the warnings, we are normalising Donald Trump.)
Yglesias makes a couple of important points. One is that we tend to take
a kinder view of the past than of the present, so what we think of as
norms today are simply whatever we wound up accepting in the past. The
other is that Republicans for decades been have playing fast and loose
with rules and conventions whenever it suited their agenda, even if on
occasion that meant they were the ones accusing Democrats of violating
norms. As outrageously bad as Trump has been since 2016, he's been doing
pretty much the same things that his Republican predecessors have done,
at least as far back as Nixon. Going back and re-reading my notebook from
2001-07 I'm finding the same stories, the same ploys, over and over again.
I won't deny that there are differences: Trump is cruder, less devious,
easier to embarrass, more shameless. But those aren't just personal traits.
They're characteristic of the party Trump adopted and now leads, one which
responded to the Bush disasters by doubling down, by only getting meaner,
greedier, and nastier. On historical memory and aging, Yglesias cites:
Corey Robin: Forget About It; e.g.:
When Bush left office in 2009, he was widely loathed, with an approval
rating of 33 percent. Today, 61 percent of the population approves of
him, with much of that increase coming from Democrats and independents.
A majority of voters under thirty-five view him favorably, which they
didn't while he was president. So jarring is the switch that Will
Ferrell was inspired to reprise his impersonation of Bush on Saturday
Night Live. "I just wanted to address my fellow Americans tonight,"
he said, "and remind you guys that I was really bad. Like, historically
Robin goes on to note a corollary trend, where some liberals manage
to find each new event even more shocking than previous ones -- examples
include Ezra Klein and Philip Roth. On the latter:
The truth is that we're captives, not captains, of this strategy. We
think the contrast of a burnished past allows us to see the burning
present, but all it does is keep the fire going, and growing. Confronting
the indecent Nixon, Roth imagines a better McCarthy. Confronting the
indecent Trump, he imagines a better Nixon. At no point does he recognize
that he's been fighting the same monster all along -- and losing.
Overwhelmed by the monster he's currently facing, sure that it is
different from the monster no longer in view, Roth loses sight of the
surrounding terrain. He doesn't see how the rehabilitation of the last
monster allows the front line to move rightward, the new monster to get
closer to the territory being defended.
I feel like adding that, based on re-reading notes I wrote on the
deaths of Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, that I have managed to keep
a pretty level and consistent perspective over my lifetime.
Other Yglesias posts: