Categories
society

The Ways of Republican Decline

At least from the 2012 autopsy, and realistically far earlier, Republicans have been on notice that they should work to broaden support, and yet they have only done the opposite, including by supporting Donald John Trump. While demographic shifts may not be swift, they are brutal if Republicans do not change their methods and policies to be applicable to more people. Here are a few scenarios.

Marginal States Change, Solid States Stick

In this scenario, some states, those that have faster demographic and cultural shifts, see their state parties reject the national party’s policies. This is what happened prior to the Civil War, where Northern Democrats could not afford to be full-on abolitionists, but also could not afford to fully embrace expansion of slavery. There were several flavors of Democrats who were sufficiently distanced to be quasi-third-parties.

The main question here is whether those Republicans in such states hang on to national standing at all. The House being smaller than it should, thus each member representing more constituents than they should, makes it harder to not slip into obscurity as a party in such states. On the other hand, state politics and gerrymandering can help keep people relevant when and where they shouldn’t be.

There will probably be some states where there are new RINO-style politicians who diverge from the national party.

Meanwhile, states that have entrenched Republican majorities will continue to embrace the same draconian flavors of insanity. They won’t change. They will have diminished power, but only go harder on their whining and conspiratorial nonsense as a result.

Precipitous Crisis

There were several in the lead-up to the Civil War, with the war largely a result of the reaction to Abraham Lincoln’s election. If some kind of left-wing figure akin to the insanity that is Donald John Trump were elected, perhaps a full-on Marxist with a nose ring, then the deep-red states might again attempt to detach themselves from the nation. If the Democratic party were not the core of the country, Donald John Trump’s election just might have triggered secession attempts.

There are other sorts of crises imaginable, including particularly bad rulings by an out-of-step Supreme Court, which could lead to a fast failure of the Republican party. In the SCOTUS case, a ruling bad enough that it drives key departures of legislative members in order to enact changes to the law, which would be calamitous for the Republicans. That break-away group would typically be the same subset from purple states who would otherwise shift in the first scenario.

The Right Thing

This scenario has Republicans simply choosing, by and with consent of the AM dial, to shift their policies toward workable solutions where they’re currently not and creating new policies where none exist (things like environment and healthcare). They simply choose to be a moderate, right-leaning party again. They stop their voter suppression efforts and other racist modes. They choose to assimilate to American culture and norms.

(Haha, only serious:) Because, let’s face it, the Republicans in this country have a problem adjusting to the culture. They speak their own language (crying about things they don’t like as fake news rather than simply saying the truth scares them, for example). They wear their own garb (socks with sandals, open-carry of guns as fashion accessories). They are immigrants to our country far more than most immigrants are anymore.

The Current State

This gets overlooked, but underneath all the Donald John Trump bullshit going on, a lot of Republicans are mulling. Some are opposed to the president, others are still floating along in that stream but are looking for a branch sticking out into the flow, or looking for a calm to swim to shore, and more than will admit are watching ahead for rapids. All of that is doubly true for the business-class Republicans that are primarily involved because it builds and maintains a client base, it sustains their business.

What’s doubly true is that many Republicans already have deep problems with at least some of the orthodoxy of the party, whether it’s on the environment or abortion or the hypocrisy on federal spending or doing absolutely nothing about firearm safety. This is a very vulnerable party, and the worst part of it is that they are largely cornered by their own isolated media apparatus that makes it very difficult for any real movement to occur on policy without hardcore reaction from the bedrock of the party.

I continue to believe that over the next decade or two, the Republican party will either make a dramatic shift toward mainstream policy or they will cease to be a functioning party altogether. No number of judges on any courts in any land will do anything to change that, except perhaps to act as a catalyst to speed it up.


A periodic restatement: I am not a Democrat. I am generally opposed to parties, but tend to vote for Democrats because they, as a party seeking a broad coalition, represent a median position that attempts to move forward on a variety of important policy issues. The Republican parties of the past might have been able to earn my vote in some cases, but the modern Republican party has repeatedly and intentionally shown themselves to be supporters of scoundrelry.

That said, and my opposition to parties notwithstanding, if parties there will be, there needs to be a minimum of two viable parties. And if the Republicans pulled their heads from their rears, sobered up, they could again be one of those. But they have shown no symptoms of recovery. And for that, I oppose them utterly.

Categories
society

Government and Organizational Bandwidth

The idea of bandwidth in computing is how much data can move between two points in a given period of time. Usually we measure that in bits per second, but either of the measures can be any volume, depending on the application. For example, human knowledge might be measured in some large measure of bits per decade or century.

As our country has grown, part of our government has as well. The executive branch has ballooned in size, and not just official workers, but contractors. Meanwhile, the other two branches have not grown nearly as much. While there are somewhat more staff in Congress than in past decades, and while staffing can do a lot in helping legislative bandwidth, it can’t do as much as more members of congress and the senate can.

The same goes for the judiciary. While the Supreme Court can mostly limit its caseload artificially, doing so does not make the law better and only makes the caseload manageable for so few members of a court. The subordinate courts, meanwhile, have their own bandwidth issues.

For any organization, there is only so much that bandwidth expansion can do. But when there is an obvious bandwidth problem, adding more people is the solution. Expanding the Supreme Court and generally improving the organization of lower courts, without regard to the current political issues with Republican court-packing, makes sense. The court should be bigger, to allow for more cases to be heard.

But wait, if you add more justices won’t they all ask questions and all have to sit and vote and learn all the ins and outs of every case? Not necessarily. Each case could be assigned to a subset of justices. A full court would hear cases of original jurisdiction, of course, but those are rare. For appellate cases, some mixture of justices would hear arguments and vote on the outcome, and, when warranted, vote to pull in the full court on issues of particular weight or that were highly contentious.

Similar efforts already work in the legislature. The committee-to-body legislative and oversight efforts are well known and have worked well. The full chamber doesn’t have to drill down on an issue, but relies on a subset of its membership to do so and report back.

The Senate is a strange case, as expanding it would require amending the Constitution. But it could be done, keeping equal suffrage among the states, while increasing the number of senators per state to three, four, or even five. The larger number of members would be able to create more committee work with a better understanding. And more members means lobbying power is diminished, as they would have to lobby even more members.

In the House, expansion serves another purpose, which is to bring the members closer to their constituents. Each member serves an increasing number of citizens, who have less and less voice with their government as population grows. By expanding the House, more concerns can be heard by more representatives, which will help to make a more responsive government that serves the people.


The election is in about three weeks.

Categories
society

What is Our Government?

It’s a hard question, because history requires a lot of context and it often contradicts itself because mankind has been long confused and remains so. And I don’t write very long pieces on here.

Suffice it to say our government, under any president, any congress, and any judiciary, is imperfect. At times it has been less imperfect, and others, more. It has been a government ignorant of many problems, working according to a set of mostly amoral principles in opposition to the rhetoric and design of its founding. And when a problem came to light, it was promised it would be solved, with mixed results and a pattern of amnesia. In other words, a nation of humans behaving as humans.

The American government was founded on two basic ideas:

  1. Inalienable rights to enshrine individual (and therefore collective) liberty.
  2. Government designed with an immune system to defend itself against the corrupting spirits of power. (Commonly called separation of powers.)

But per expectations, the corrupting spirits ever since have tried to undermine good governance, and often they have succeeded. But they have never succeeded in demolishing that foundational belief that such corruptions should be beat back, wherever they arise. And so, despite evil’s triumphs, it remains an endangered species in the halls of true democracy.

Which brings us to now, with something larger-than-reasonable portion of the country inviting evil to nest in Liberty’s bosom, for various reasons. The reasons are varied. Some are outright corrupt, but many are merely misled, putting some pet issue ahead of their common sense.

And the rest is most of us, determined that liberty shall give no quarter to corruption. But this majority of us, we know that the wicked do lurk in lobbying lunches, in contract bids, in packed courts. We know that the tarnish on the foundation is hard to scrub, that anti-labor actors and anti-suffrage politicians ever do try to build that nest.

So America is both things at once. There is America, the plan. The plan to build a nation inhospitable to the corrupt. A plan that flexible government responsive to the people would make good choices and learn from its mistakes. And there is America, the reality. The reality that corruption has festered, allowing all of us to be inundated with robo-calls from scammers, with bum deals where taxes aren’t balanced, all these petty problems that trip us up. And those small problems bring bigger ones, like our inability to deal with people being abused and even killed by the justice system, or our failures to act swiftly to stop climate change.

And every election, we must vote against reality. We must vote for the plan. To make America an eyesore to the corrupt. To make the enemies of liberty, those who feed off of neglect and indifference, feel unwelcome and foreign in our lands. Those who would apply pricing formulae to suck as much money out of diabetic persons, or who would take for a ride the family of the incarcerated, who just want to say “Merry Christmas” pay through the nose for that luxury.

All around these forces work against us. In many cases, we ourselves are enlisted by them in one industry as we curse them in every other. But it’s no way to live. The plan rejects it. The plan says to hell with it and fuck that noise. There’s a better way. To elect those who will regulate, who will watch and act to stop pollution, to educate children, to mend those who commit crimes so they will make our nation stronger. People who will help us all extinguish our prejudices and bad ideas, while raising up our moments of humanity and our smart thoughts.

We have the plan, we just have to keep rehearsing, working out the kinks, and be mindful of the gap between the plan and the reality, and make sure we remember which is which. We have to remember the one we want to see happen.

Categories
meantime

Justice Ginsburg’s Vacant Seat

As I wrote back in 2016, I believe the Constitution requires a president to nominate (not just for SCOTUS, but for all appointed positions) within some period of time. Congress should designate that period, but 90 days seems appropriate barring statutory guidance. Donald John Trump has repeatedly failed to fill positions in our government, or to fill them through the constitutionally-required process.

But this one he will not fail to fill. And the Senate, by the same shared shall in the Constitution, is required to offer its say on any nominee. They, again after some reasonable time, have a duty that they failed to undertake, that they were derelict and contumacious in failing to perform, to vote up or down any nominee for any appointed office. As such, I believe that calls to not hold a vote, or to obstruct, are misguided.

The call should be to vote down any nominee until the results of the election are known, and if there be a change in officeholders, whether in the Senate or the Presidency, then the new members should bout it out to finality and confirmation of whoever is fit to fill the seat.

I make that call: vote down whomever Donald John Trump nominates, until such time as we know what the people say.


More generally, the bulk of Republican leaders, certainly nationally, and in some states, seem to not care what the people say. They work to suppress the vote. They work to hide the truth. They put themselves forth as foes of the right and good, as degenerates. And so, we may have a six–three court, a Republican-packed court. For a time, anyway.

And women’s rights may suffer. And minority rights, voting rights, the rights of those suffering in the penal systems, speech rights, human rights… God knows. And those of us who do not support the lowest star shall do what? Route around the damage. Vote with our wallets, our feet, our raised cries against it. And vote with our ballots.

The cooling saucer has become an icebox, with no COVID bill of any worth. The icebox will not renew the Voting Rights Act. They will not act on any matter of justice, and instead priority for them is to place a padlock on the Judiciary, their last, best hope to maintain power and supremacy over a people who deserve better.

But Americans have long fought off masterdom by anyone. In time, Americans have bested every tyrant before it. And so we, the people, will fight off these latest mutants to claim mastery of our lands and of our people. Of that I have no doubt.

The matter at hand is not if, but as always when? And right now, you can help make that when be very soon, by registering, and by voting.

Do it for Justice Ginsburg. Do it for the dead. Do it for your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your gal-pals, your female manager, coworker, customer. But also do it for your homeboys, fathers, brothers, sons. The government runs on elections, it is the fuel of that engine. Every citizen who votes fills up that tank so it can run better.

Categories
entertainment

How I Track Games to Buy

One year I made a spreadsheet, but it was a pain to update/maintain. Before (and after) it was just a text file listing. But for a few years now, I use bookmarks in Firefox. The URL of a game’s store page is the closest thing to a key value, and having the minimal data associated with it in the title is quicker than trying to manipulate it in a spreadsheet and flip between that and the browser.

When I see a game I might be interested in, I bookmark it into one of the following folders:

  1. Buy it.
  2. Conditional on price or possibly whether ProtonDB gives enough reports it works (for non-Linux games). I distill that information into something like: “p? (<$20; w+) TITLE” where p? means “does it run okay on Proton?” If a game does run okay on proton it gets p+ instead. This also now includes games that had exclusivity on another store (w+ means wait a year, explained more below).
  3. Unreleased games that look promising. I’ve never really done preorders. (This is for truly unreleased games, not ones in early access; I don’t have a problem with early access games, if there’s enough content and stability to them to buy them in their current state.)
  4. (Rare, but there) VR-exclusive games that maybe I’ll buy and play someday. For now I lack the necessary reality hardware.
  5. (For those that graduate through the system) Bought games, which are nested inside of a dated folder to track when they were bought.

For the ones I do buy, I add the price I paid (though it happens when I’m deciding to buy them, as I use it to figure out how much I’m spending before purchase). After I’ve played them, I also add a prefix of up to three exclamation points for titles I thought were really good buys.

About 30% of the games I bought last winter got at least one exclamation point. More of those came from the conditional set than the definite-buy group (though the conditional group was slightly under twice the size). On average, for conditional games, the sale prices were slightly below my cutoff price (within a few dollars).

The conditional price is based on several signals, including reviews, particularly negative reviews. If a game is noted to be shorter or lacking in some specific way that makes me wary of buying it, but it seems salable at a lower price (often, reviews note that: “wait for a sale”), that becomes the condition.

The Proton condition is generally less relevant: by the time I play a game it probably works in Proton/WINE. But some games have notes from players for how to avoid crashes or increase framerates, so ProtonDB is usually worth checking for non-Linux games.

The wait condition is because of the store exclusivity some games have now. I disagree with that practice, so I make a point not to buy a game that was exclusive for a full year after its exclusivity expires. There are a ton of games to buy and play, and while many great games get exclusivity, a far greater number do not play such games with their customers. If you want to play games with your company’s reputation by making exclusivity deals, expect to be judged for it. Maybe the money is worth it, but that doesn’t mean gamers have to respect the decision.

Why not use Steam’s wishlist feature? While there is some convenience to that feature, it doesn’t allow for annotations as my bookmarks system does. There are also some privacy implications to wishlisting, but I’m not sure what call I’d make if the wishlist system were more comprehensive.

A few statistics: I currently only have one unconditional game in my list (likely more reflective of not having reviewed my conditional list and promoted some out of it). There are 41 conditional games, and about a third are holdovers. Some didn’t meet my price last time, and others I might decide against getting. There are also 19 unreleased games I’m looking at.

In terms of satisfaction, some combination of luck and effectiveness I didn’t really feel like I had any duds in the latest set of games I bought and played. On the other hand, I don’t necessarily remember all of them from their titles. I remember most, though, and the ones I don’t couldn’t have been particularly bad, because I definitely remember the games I’ve bought and felt like they were a waste—some because they’re just bad, but others because they’re not for me.

That last grouping is particularly interesting to me. Even for games I don’t buy or even consider, some sound like they’d be cool if I enjoyed that type of game. Others feel like if they had a different concept or changed the gameplay (akin to what I discussed recently about Cortex Command), they would be really awesome. There are some games that really nail an aesthetic, but the gameplay just isn’t there.


(You can stop reading now unless you want to hear some brief thoughts on Firefox’s bookmarks system.)

The biggest problem with the system is the lack of polish for Firefox’s bookmarks system. They still don’t have a tab-based bookmark browser, for example. They’ve tried to get that done (getting so far as to even have a version hiding behind a preference at one point, if I recall correctly), with some good work put into it, only to have it skim off the atmosphere before it could land, and now it is bitrotting as it drifts through space. Oy.

To try to look up a game quickly, the easiest way (if I recall its name) is to prefix my lookup with an asterisk in the awesomebar (which restricts it to bookmarks). E.g., “* Amnesia” would show Amnesia: Rebirth, a currently-unreleased game I’ll look at once it’s released (I enjoyed SOMA by the same folks, but while I have played at least a half-dozen horror-style games, I still have mixed feelings about the genre in terms of the gameplay mechanics involved and the lack of player agency beyond run-and-hide).

But if I don’t remember a title, or just want to browse, the bookmarks menu is cumbersome when you’re trying to get into folders inside folders inside folders in a cascading menu. A basic iconized file browser would feel much nicer.