A Lot is Going On for 12 October 2019

The president has pulled troops back in Syria, allowing Turkey to invade and attack the Kurds. Most everyone is opposed to this, and yet the Republicans can only be so critical before they worry it will hurt their next primary. Donald John Trump is unfit to be president, and everyone knows it, but only one party can actually say it and act to do something about it.

But speaking of unfitness, you have the likes of Apple, the NBA, Blizzard Entertainment, and ESPN, all trying to appease China’s authoritarian bullshit. Not with chocolate cake, this time, but with various moves to promote their worldview, either against Hong Kong, against Taiwan, or in favor of an unfounded claim over a body of water they share with about five other countries. The preference for short-sighted profit motives does not surprise, but it does prove to be the losing side of things. The day will come when China inevitably democratizes (whether as a whole or as a set of separate states), and those citizens will remember the failure of these companies and institutions when that day comes. They will not remember them fondly.

One cannot imagine a tale of modern international history being portrayed in Chinese cinema, because they cannot tell the truth. They don’t teach it properly in schools, and they don’t portray it in their media. A society cannot be built upon amnesia. As America continues to reckon with its own past, we should recognize that other nations face that challenge, too, and worse, are far less equipped to face it. That amnesia is exactly what these corporations are supporting, for a buck.

There’s no power for chunks of California while the power company out there tries to decide if it’s safe to turn back on. Rather than do sufficient work to clear fuel on the front end, they’ve decided it’s more efficient to not make money for days at a time and hope that the weather changes. It seems better than having major fires, but one would suspect that clearing the fuel around lines would be the easier and saner way to go.

And that’s not even getting to the ongoing impeachment saga. The president continues to deny that he’s accountable for anything. The White House even sent a letter saying that impeachment was contrary to the law. One wonders, given all the times Donald John Trump has received beautiful letters from Kim Jong Un, why the White House never sends beautiful letters (re: impeachment or otherwise).

New revelations continue to come out about various worries officials have had from other phone calls and incidents. One suspects before it’s all over, Trump will claim Clinton won the election and it’s all her fault for not contesting the vote and taking the job. He already tried to pin the blame for the call on Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

On the other hand, we’re finally having another Democratic debate this Tuesday (15 October 2019). Will be good to see the gang back together. Will be good to see Senator Bernie Sanders back at it. If the Republicans could find it in their hearts to ever have this kind of sanity in a group running for their nomination, it would be a great blessing for our nation.

If Impeachment, then Trial.

There’s a lot of questions floating around the journals of late about impeachment. The basic flavor, from both the left in fret and the right in hope, is will the Senate shrug? The majority leader has said they will take them up, but then came suggestions of the inevitable motion to dismiss.

The first thing is that you will never see articles move out of the House unless Speaker Pelosi and her colleagues find them damning enough for four or more Republicans to vote with the Democrats against dismissal on at least one of the articles. Perhaps the only way the House moves on articles without that locked down is if the Senate Republicans signal they have given up entirely on their oaths and take to the Mall to fly kites. At that point, the House would vote articles to place an asterisk on this chapter in American history so that future generations will note how craven a party can become under the poison spell of a filthy fool like President Donald John Trump.

To go through preliminaries—which they’ll need to before they can receive a motion to dismiss—and then accede to such a motion would be disastrous. They would have set the stage for a trial, with the public’s understanding already formed, and then said there’s nothing to be done about that understanding. It would speak against the entire purpose of the separation of powers—that, the executive being unable to properly investigate and indict emself, must have eir actions subject to review by a separate branch. If that separate branch cannot bring itself to successfully review executive actions, we have a whole systemic breakdown.

From the timber of the Trump–Ukraine (now –China?) scandal to-date, at least a handful of Republicans should vote against dismissing some of the articles. Such motions are a low bar in all but the most worthless cases, whether civil or criminal. The fact of the coverup using the code-word NSC system, the fact of the attempts by Secretary of State Pompeo to block testimony, the facts of Attorney General Barr and the citizen Giuliani jetting about and phonecalling to dig up dirt, all point to there being enough witnesses and awareness of the wrongdoing to push this into the territory of impeachment. There was something else…. Oh—the call itself, where the President directly asked a foreign government for dirt on a political opponent!

The other reason that the Senate would want to hold a full trial is that they should want the thing put to bed, either way. If they refused to hold a real trial upon the basis of valid and dire articles of impeachment, the House could simply reissue them again and again, to drive home the point much the way that parents waking their children find particularly grating ways. If the Senate dispensed anything approaching real justice, allowing for the case to be presented, and then decided to acquit, at least history would be served, if not justice.

Which brings us to Chief Justice Roberts. He will preside over any presidential impeachment. He represents the third branch, but the main reason for his presence is that a removal of a president automatically elevates the vice president, which means the vice president has a natural conflict. To obviate the conflict, the chief justice presides in his place. And in that role, he is the presiding officer of the body, including the fact that he may break ties on votes requiring a majority. Under Senate precedents, Roberts will offer preliminary rulings on legal questions before the body, subject to reversal or affirmation by a majority of the body. He also reads out the questions posed by senators, in writing.

All of which is to say that the Senate has that extra reason to behave in the midst of an impeachment trial. They will not want to make Roberts look bad. They will not want to cast a bad reflection upon our judiciary.


A reminder: impeachment and removal are there to fix the government. They are not punishment; any criminal behavior can be prosecuted after removal and punished accordingly. The question of removing President Trump boils down to the fact of his abuse of our standing in the world to seek personal benefits, which is a matter that surely harms our national interest and our security particularly.

For now the matter remains in the House, where the inquiry is getting started. It’s unclear how the House will proceed, with some folks on the right calling for it to be formally voted as an inquiry and held inter partes as the Nixon and Clinton inquiries were. If the House Republicans wish that vote so badly, they are free to push a resolution to that end and vote for its adoption (rather than the feckless resolution they’re seeking on Representative Schiff for paraphrasing the readout of the Trump–Zelensky call). Instead, their entire strategy seems to be more about the lack of any defense for the president’s wrongdoing. That said, one expects a vote at some point, and that the president’s counsel will be allowed to participate, if only to ensure the get a close-up view of the grave position this White House is now in.

This Trump–Ukraine Business

There is a myth in the media about impeachment, that it’s some state of being rather than a particular act by the House. It’s not. Impeachment happens when the House approves one or more articles of impeachment against any officer of the executive branch or judicial branch. That’s it. That’s all impeachment is.

Impeachment inquiries are oversight that someone has decided looks like it will probably end in a vote on at least one article of impeachment.

There are no additional powers unlocked by calling oversight an impeachment inquiry. Those who say there are do not know what they are talking about. The House can empower and entrust committees with additional powers or modify their processes, but that has nothing to do with the constitutional power of impeachment and everything to do with the clause that gives the chambers of the legislature control over their own rules.

Now, this business with Trump and Giuliani and a whistleblower (House Intelligence Committee: 26 September 2019: PDF of IC Whistleblower Complaint) and a coverup and seeking dirt on Joe Biden from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. Is it impeachable conduct, to send your personal attorney under quasi-diplomatic cover to work on getting dirt on a political rival and precondition a phone call with a foreign leader on discussing said dirt, and dangle nearly half a billion dollars and a visit to the White House during that call?

I don’t know. I mean, what is the purpose of government if not to bribe, to conspire to defraud your fellow citizens, to abuse your power? That would be rather boring, wouldn’t it, to have a non-corrupt government that simply did its best to clear away the bullshit in peoples’ lives and let them get on with living? That glowed bright against corruption and stood for justice and democracy? So, yes, obviously it is impeachable. And no, it wouldn’t be boring in the least. It would be a welcome fucking change.

There are those who are afraid the Democrats are moving too fast on impeachment. We’ll see. There are those who worry it will help Trump electorally. Could be, but if we’re going to keep going on with having a country, we have to actually adhere to the law. If the nation decides it yearns for corruption and poison air and all those flavors of hell that so many fought, toiled, and died to stop and avoid, then that’s what it decides. A large number of us will never agree to such regression.

But we’re a country that supposedly cherishes justice, and that means we have to have trust in our executive. We do not have that trust. He has lied at every turn, burned every bridge, and he will be held to account under the law.

So, go ahead and play count-the-votes on your abacus, while the Democrats under Speaker Pelosi try to keep the Republic. They aren’t to impeachment yet. The probability they get there is much higher today than it was a week ago. The new conduct is more damning than anything we’ve seen before.


The charges, as they stand:

  1. President Trump’s administration withheld fund appropriated by Congress from Ukraine to leverage that government to aid Trump’s reelection by gathering or fabricating evidence on a political rival. (He may have also been dangling a White House meeting to further entice President Zelensky.)
  2. President Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, repeatedly sought that same goal.
  3. President Trump conducted a telephonic conversation with Ukrainian President Zelensky that had as a precondition the discussion of working on gathering that political fodder.
  4. President Trump’s administration fraudulently employed the classification system to cover up the call.
  5. President Trump’s administration violated the law by not forwarding the whistleblower complaint and by actively and willfully minimizing it in the face of stark evidence.
  6. President Trump’s administration did not employ proper recusal procedures in evaluating criminal complaints that were forwarded to the Department of Justice.

And that’s just for starters. We do not know the extent of the involvement of some figures, including Secretary of State Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr. We do not know the exact nature of Giuliani’s work—who paid for it, and whether any of it was officially sanctioned by the State Department. We also know that Vice President Pence was blocked from attending Zelensky’s inauguration, and the president has insinuated that Pence’s own conversations with Ukrainian officials may be incriminating, but we do not know any details yet.

To be perfectly clear: the ask for targeted prosecution itself, without any promise of payment, is impeachable. But: due to the relationship between the United States and Ukraine, it is impossible to make any such request without it being a de facto quid pro quo—the United States is obviously in a powerful position compared to Ukraine, and Ukraine is reliant on the United States to help protect it. All the more reason that the USA has a duty to such foreign governments and their people to be an honest broker and not add to the woes of corruption and stressors that they have to deal with. The very fact that President Donald John Trump would attempt to take advantage of that country is dirty and corrupt.


The 2020 election takes place in 57 weeks. Keep following the candidates, as we all have a duty to try to pick the best of the lot.

Thoughts on the Steam Client Library Update

First, what is the update and what is it not? The update covers the Steam library, listing the user’s games and the display of individual games themselves. It’s not a revamp of all the web pages and application views that form parts of the library, like achievement pages or the downloads view. Those will likely be updated in look and feel to match the new styles over time.

The biggest change is the addition of the new home section, which is a jumping-off point to other parts of the library. It adds a new events/news serial at the top, where you can see game news including media and updates to games.

The primary art for games is now in portrait format (600×900). This, alongside the addition of a large banner image at the top of each game page, are the biggest visual changes. The portrait format affords space for text and art with some separation where the old banner style (what Valve calls capsule) really require putting the two together. But the capsule format is still used in at least a few places, including for the most-recently played game and on the downloads view.

The collections system, formerly more like tags, now allows for dynamic grouping. I tend to track several properties of games, like whether I played them yet and what their style of game is, besides noting of they require a EULA or have broken features on Linux (a few games I’ve played required using Proton in order for achievements to unlock).

One downside of the collection system is that if you navigate to a game from the home screen, it will be opened from the first collection alphabetically. It might be useful to let users designate a primary collection that a game belongs to, so that it will be shown as selected from the most sensible category and not one that happens to be first in some old song that lists letters.


On the whole this is a nice update. The most notable thing is that it matches design changes that are happening across the larger digital space. While books developed a fairly consistent design schema a long time ago, the digital sphere is still trying to do so. It still has a way to go, as seen in the choice to maintain website icons as squares (which, far as I can tell, was a change driven by Apple and their iOS choices) while something like the Steam library uses portraits.

In terms of the future of Steam, a lot of this will depend on developers using the new events system and updating their artwork. As of writing, roughly 2/3 of my games have updated art for the beta, with the rest using the capsule-style art with a blur effect to fill the extra space.

As mentioned, other parts of the client experience still use the old capsules. While it takes work to create the separate representations, having the visual differentiation is useful as far as it goes. One wonders whether a compositing system wouldn’t work better, with separate images for graphical logos and backgrounds being able to be adjusted to aspect ratio requirements at display time, with some caching for frequently composited elements. Ah well.

2020 Democratic Debate 3.0

It’s been two minutes since I finished watching and I’ve already forgotten everything that was said.

Just kidding.

Julián Castro has the distinction of the first of the crowd to go into outright mudslinging during a debate. There may be good ways to raise issues of age and style about Joe Biden during a debate. Whatever they be, that wasn’t one. It reminded mostly of those sour 2016-cycle Republican debates.

Sure, the eventual nominee may face Trump in debates, if the president doesn’t pull out. And if Trump does debate the nominee, he’s sure to say some stupid shit and try to take some cheap shots. But the idea that the Dem nominees should emulate Trump seems to miss the point. Trump is an idiot. His gross manner is not useful and copying it will not improve anything. The biggest problem with Trump is that he has ample opportunities to do good and he chooses stupid every time.


If you do want to raise issues of age and the inevitable mental decline we will all one day face, which is an important issue not particular to Joe Biden, nor even to Donald Trump, nor to the executive branch, then do so. Call on the establishment of a standard for disqualification or qualification, not just of presidents, but of legislators and judges, too. Call for better standards for aging family members and business owners, while you’re at it.

Or don’t. Say it should be up to the voters for the executive and for the legislator, and hope that staff and colleagues can take care of the judiciary for us. We should just let the creep of aging catch some off guard and pick up the pieces and let what is a messy problem remain as messy as possible.

But have that conversation, rather than some half-assed insinuation in the middle of a debate where the issue wasn’t even properly raised by Castro or anyone.


On to Beto O’Rourke. Sure, what he said about taking AR-15s and AK-47s isn’t politically correct. It offended a lot of conservatives, including the ones who claim they read gun magazines for the articles. It’s not the way to sell the policy. But at least it is a policy. It’s a perfectly valid reaction to a terrorist attack to say we should take extraordinary measures to prevent it from ever recurring.

The Republicans don’t have an anti-terror policy here. They have a cradled phone they sit by, waiting for the NRA to call Trump and tell him that doing anything at all might be okay, so that Trump can call McConnell and tell him what his policy can be. They aren’t thinking entities in any real policy sense. They are playing the most dangerous game of Simon Says.

Bernie Sanders had to respond to a bonkers question about how his views of socialism differ from Venezuelan kleptocracy. Remember that? That was fun, having a moderator ask a candidate, point-blank, do you in fact not want to be a murderous dictator? I get the fact that folks like Sanders have at times tried to be awfully deferential on foreign policy matters, avoiding criticism of countries that are nominally socialist (or, for the exemplar with conservatives, see Augusto Pinochet). They’re all nuts to do so. Tyrants are tyrants, no matter what books sit upon their shelves.

But it’s another thing entirely to suggest that deference or caginess is somehow an endorsement or adoption of the tyrannical policy. The moderator loses points on that one.

At another point Cory Booker was again asked about his veganism. Somehow it’s taboo to say that we should all improve our diets for the sake of the climate. Just as we should all improve our diets for the sake of our health. I mean, not that the debate had time to cover it, but we have an obesity crisis among our other crises. We should want to change diets. There are (wild-ass guess) billions of dollars made per year on health food and fad diets and books and so forth. It’s a whole industry. Yet it’s something that you can’t say on climate: diet is part of the equation.


Those were the things that stood out to me. If you had others, feel free to leave a comment.

On the whole, not a transformative debate. Which, honestly, we shouldn’t expect. The top candidates aren’t going to take big risks, but it’s still too early for the other top-ten candidates, especially when they’ve already qualified for the October debates. The laggards, well they aren’t on the stage to take a shot.

One suspects after the October debate some more lower candidates will begin to drop out, and the more salient names there may begin endorsing as they do so. It may take longer. Slowly the crowd begins to thin and at the same time the support starts to shift into lanes as it becomes clear who will be around by January and who will not.