Tag Archives: United States


Even if Trump loses big, the anger will remain. Here’s how the left can address it

E.J. Dionne Jr. at the Washington Post:

The urgent task of progressives in this election is to defeat Donald Trump. But even if we succeed, we have a long-term responsibility: to understand why Trump happened and to face up to how failures on the left and center-left have contributed to the flourishing of a new far right, not only in the United States but also across Europe.

The left, you might fairly protest, has enough problems without being blamed for the rise of a dangerous figure who is, first and foremost, a creation of the conservative movement’s radicalization and the Republican leadership’s pandering to extreme views over many years. When I watch GOP leaders bemoaning their party’s fate under Trump (or belatedly jumping off his ship), I am reminded of John F. Kennedy’s warning that “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”

The left’s first instincts with regard to Trump is correct: Economic fears — realistic economic fears — are the engine driving his support. Bigotry is the fuel. But when economic times are good, bigotry is content to sit on the barstool and spout nonsense.

All sorts of good insights in this article about how the left has failed the white working class.

James Gleick tells an exhilarating history of time travel

Gleick’s “Time Travel: A History,” tells the story of the idea of time travel in science fiction, pop culture, and science. Based on this review by Michael Saler in The Wall Street Journal, it sounds terrific.

Time travel emerged as a big idea at the turn of the 20th Century, as the human race’s idea of the nature of time was fundamentally changing, Saler says. Though most of history (and presumably prehistory), people viewed time as static, and the world as unchanging, Saler says.

That’s not entirely true. People of the past were certainly aware that great empires rose and fell. People were aware that great civilizations had come before them, and fallen before they were born. Even the ancient world had its ancient world; Cleopatra lived closer in time to the invention of the iPhone than the construction of the pyramids.

But as a general rule, your life was the same as your parents, and your children’s lives would be the same as yours.

That changed with the industrial revolution, and H.G. Wells’ “The Time Machine” captured the change in pop culture. Time travel stories continue to fascinate us, along with alternate histories — Saler cites Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle,” which I’ve read, and Kingsley Amis’s “The Alteration,” which I’d never heard of before.

In scientific circles, the nature of time underwent special scrutiny in the late 19th century. By then, findings in geology, evolutionary biology and archaeology had established that the Earth was far older than the long-accepted biblical time scale: Time was now deep. Also, idiosyncratic local time regimes were being replaced by standard time zones, necessitated by the new railways and made possible by telegraphic communications. Inspired by such temporal ferment, the young journalist H.G. Wells published his first novel, “The Time Machine,” in 1895. The book launched his career and made “time travel” a concept worth taking seriously….

Since this work, time travel has become a veritable theme park of playful attractions, which Mr. Gleick explores with infectious gusto. Time travel is a staple in multiple media, from the BBC series “Doctor Who” to the “Back to the Future” movies. Time capsules—an instance of “reverse archaeology”—became a growth industry after the 1939 World’s Fair, when this extreme form of hoarding was first given its name. Works of alternative history, including Kingsley Amis’s “The Alteration” (1976) and Philip K. Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle” (1964), re-imagine the world by changing a key event in the past, resulting in a startlingly different (yet often strangely familiar) milieu from our own. These two books even have nestled within them hints of alternative-alternative history, creating a recursive, funhouse-mirror effect, a ludic attitude to time also adopted by modernist authors.

Dick’s Man in the High Castle is an alternate history where the Nazis and Japanese won World War II and conquered the United States, and much of the novel revolves around the search for the reclusive author of an alternate history where the Allies won — although that work does not describe our own world.

The Alteration” is, according to Wikipedia, set in a dystopian alternate history where the Protestant Reformation and scientific and industrial revolutions never occurred and the Catholic Church dominates the West, which continues in a dark age. That novel features an alternate history novel called “The Man in the High Castle,” by one Philip K. Dick.

Not mentioned by Saler: “The Iron Dream,” by Norman Spinrad, set in an alternate history where Adolf Hitler briefly flirted with politics after World War I, but then emigrated to the United States, where he worked as an illustrator for science fiction and other pulp magazines, eventually publishing a novel that became a cult hit, called “The Lords of the Swastika,” about an empire of true humans that rise up after a nuclear holocaust to rid the Earth of filthy mutants. Most of “The Iron Dream” takes the form of “Hitler’s” novel, with an afterword by a literary professor explaining Hitler’s life story. The real-life book (I have it somewhere in the house) even has a page listing more books by the alternate Adolf Hitler, which include “The Master Race,” “The Thousand Year Rule,” and “Triumph of the Will,” as well as blurbs for “The Lords of the Swastika” contributed by real-life science fiction writers. Spinrad was making the point that much heroic science fiction and fantasy looks a lot like fascist propaganda.

I remember Hitler often featuring in alternate history stories that I read as a teen-ager. In Poul Anderson’s fantasy novel “Operation: Chaos,” where magic operates instead of science, Hitler is shown as the lord of Hell in the final, climactic battle, and in “Gloriana,” by Brian Aldiss, which takes place on an eldritch alternate British Empire, the Queen mentions the peculiar case of a madman named “Adolphus Hiddler” who claims to be the ruler of the world. In both the Anderson and Aldiss, the main characters have never heard of Hitler.

Similarly, Roger Zelazny’s “Roadmarks” is a fantastic short novel about characters traveling on a literal highway that connects the past, future, and alternate histories; Adolf Hitler is cruising the highway in a black Volkswagen, looking for the timeline where he won.

But back to time travel: Scientists are split on whether time travel would be feasible in real life. Stephen Hawking is one of the skeptics; he hosted a party for time travelers and advertised it widely. “I sat there a long time, but no one came,” Hawking said.

How the new telenovela conquered the US

Planet Money, The New Telenovela:

You can probably picture a classic telenovela. It’s dramatic, full of scandal. Cheating husbands. Cheating wives. Sunset romance. Dewy-eyed heroines.

Perla Farías was a telenovela actress in Venezuela, and she was getting bored of the typical story. So when she became an executive at Telemundo in the United States, she decided to try something different. At the time, Telemundo was the underdog in the world of US telenovelas, always in second place behind the giant Univision. But Farías’s shows changed all that. They altered the landscape of Spanish language TV shows—and of all TV shows.

Trump rickrolls cable news into airing 25-minute infomercial for his campaign and hotels

Trump’s promised breakthrough statement about birtherism turned out to be 23 minutes of veterans praising Trump, endorsements for his hotels, and two minutes of Trump saying Obama was born in the United States.

Libby Nelson, Vox: “If Hillary Clinton is late to an event, cable networks don’t uncritically air 30 minutes of her supporters talking about how great she is; they cut away, and they return to airing the event when there’s something happening that’s actually of national interest.”

Here’s how Trump might lose this thing

Glenn Thrush, Politico: 5 reasons Trump might fall in autumn

Most intriguing: “Everything has gone Trump’s way — and he’s still not ahead.”

For the past week or 10 days, Trump can’t do anything wrong and Clinton can’t do anything right. And he’s still behind in the polls.

Another factor that might undermine Trump: Trump himself. Trump sees this election as much as an opportunity for self-expression as for winning the election. When he gets cocky, he starts saying offensive things, and when those backfire he gets MORE outrageous.

And, finally, Trump’s biggest enemy is fear.

Clinton’s biggest problem is that her supporters are a lot less enthusiastic about her than Trump’s supporters are about him. Hell, I’m an unusually enthusiastic Clinton supporter but an objective observer would label my support as “lukewarm.”

However, the prospect of a Trump White House scares the piss out of me.

I was talking with a friend the other day who is an astute political observer — and who, unlike me, hates both Clinton AND Trump. He said he sees it as highly likely that the United States would experience a military coup within a year of Trump taking the oath of office as President.

That possibility had not occurred to me — and I found I agreed with him, and was relieved.

That’s how scary Trump’s campaign is. A military coup seems like one of the BETTER outcomes of the 2016 election.

And, as Thrush notes, in an election, fear is as big a motivator as love.

Of course, that goes both ways. Trump’s racist supporters are terrified that a Clinton Presidency would be the death of white America. And they might be right, too — only what they see as a nightmare scenario, the rest of us see as the culmination of Martin Luther King’s vision and the American dream — of America as a place where a person is judged by “the content of their character,” not skin color, religion, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Even if Clinton wins the election, there’d still be a long way to go to achieve that vision. But this election could be a tipping point. One way or the other.

The data are on Clinton’s side. About half of Trump’s supporters really are deplorable. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic:

We know, for instance, some nearly 60 percent of Trump’s supporters hold “unfavorable views” of Islam, and 76 percent support a ban on Muslims entering the United States. We know that some 40 percent of Trump’s supporters believe blacks are more violent, more criminal, lazier, and ruder than whites. Two-thirds of Trump’s supporters believe the first black president in this country’s history is not American. These claim are not ancillary to Donald Trump’s candidacy, they are a driving force behind it.

Generate a random city or town name for stories and role-playing games

More than five million place names from more than 100 countries. Here are five random place names from the United States:

  • Wewoka
  • Knox
  • Gray
  • Scottsbluff
  • Wethersfield

Five from the Dominican Republic:

  • Guazabaral
  • Borojol
  • Sumbí
  • Charabiscal
  • Cajuiles

Also: Gygaxian anagram name generator: “The GAE utilizes Gary Gygax’s methods for producing character names.”

Tavern Names:

  • The Dryad Arms
  • The Tiny Doe
  • The Juicy Bee Inn
  • The Ronin Inn
  • The Leopard & The Lizard Tavern

Modern City Block Generator, Old West Names, and more!

Emails renew questions about Clinton Foundation and State Department overlap

Eric Lichtblau, The New York Times:

WASHINGTON — A new batch of State Department emails released Tuesday showed the close and sometimes overlapping interests between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state.

The documents raised new questions about whether the charitable foundation worked to reward its donors with access and influence at the State Department, a charge that Mrs. Clinton has faced in the past and has always denied.

In one email exchange, for instance, an executive at the Clinton Foundation in 2009 sought to put a billionaire donor in touch with the United States ambassador to Lebanon because of the donor’s interests there.

These allegations are enormous, pointing to potential criminal activity on the part of the Clintons. Or activity that should be criminal — but, sadly, US election laws have legalized bribery.

In a normal election, this would be the most important issue and would prove fatal to the Clinton campaign. However, this is no normal election — to put it mildly — and I’m currently expecting a blowout victory for Clinton. And this election is so crazy that I expect I will actually be happy about that victory.