A machine made of wood, metal, paint, bone and magic
30961 words

The last chance for us all

If Donald Trump wins in November then this is clearly a disaster for world – whether he wins legitimately or, as seems more likely, by dismantling democracy. His victory will not only be a disaster in itself: it will also accelerate the slide from democracy to authoritarianism elsewhere in the world.

But, well, this has happened before, hasn't it? The free world did succeed, eventually, in defeating the Nazis, and it at least seems plausible that it1 will defeat this latter-day incarnation of fascism. Millions will die, appalling atrocities will be committed, but the world will recover. Won't it?

It probably won't. Because this time is not like what happened in the 1930s and 1940s. By the time Trump and his followers-on are defeated it will be too late: billions, not millions will probably die if Trump wins in November.

Why? Climate change. We have no more than a decade, and probably less, to deal with climate change. If we fail to take serious steps to address it that time it will be, simply, too late. The world will not end in a decade, but if nothing is done in that time then enough warming will already be committed that nothing we can do will prevent catastrophic levels of warming happening later in the 21st century and into the 22nd. This will almost certainly end any recognisably modern civilisation and very probably kill most humans then alive.

Trump and the other authoritarians either do not believe in anthropogenic climate change or simply do not care about it – either because they will be dead by the time it matters or because they believe they can extract enough wealth from their positions to isolate themselves from its effects, as other very rich people plan to do. This means that, if he wins, nothing will be done for at least another four years, and almost certainly nothing will be done until it is far too late.

It is not certain that, if Trump loses, enough will be done to deal with climate change. It is certain that, if he wins, it won't be.

This means that billions of lives are at stake in this election, not millions. It is, quite literally, probably the last chance for our civilisation.


  1. I would like to say 'we', but the country I live in is well down the slope to an authoritarian catastrophe of its own. 

Last post

My first post was on 1st May 2020, so this post marks 5 months of daily entries, most of which were done without faking the dates later.

That seems like enough, for now: it's been an interesting experience, but I don't think I have enough to say to justify a daily entry, and it's becoming repetitive.

20200929

It's just time, now: just waiting for the end.

20200928

Of course he paid his taxes; of course he doesn't owe half a billion dollars to the Russians unknown people, who now control him.

2020927

I really don't think there is.

20200926

Is there anything useful more to say?

Receipts

From A new American Manifesto: a 2020 adaptation of something else.

He is lawless. He has no respect whatsoever for the rules of this country.

He has interfered with state Governors’ abilities to take care of their states in times of crisis, constantly breaking promises and being unreliable, just to wear them down so that they will do whatever he wants and then neglects them even when they do it.

He has abused the powers of the Presidency, leveraging people’s rights for business purposes.
He turns public events into personal campaign stunts, wearing all the rational people down with his antics and erratic behavior.

He has repeatedly fired the heads of critical agencies for refusing to support his illegal and abusive orders.

He routinely leaves these positions unfilled so that Congress doesn’t have a formal say in confirming nominations. This allows him to keep unconfirmed lackeys at the heads of agencies where Congress can’t touch them and they can sabotage and exploit the agencies without consequence, leaving the public without the safety those agencies provide. This causes chaos.

He has imposed harsh immigration laws and is directly attacking the economies of States and cities that allow people he doesn’t like into their borders.

He has rigged the Judicial system, conspiring with Congress to break rules to secure his judge appointments.

He has made shady deals with judicial appointees to influence them.

He is inventing personal secret police squads to terrorize and harass the population.

He has flooded our cities with militarized personnel against the wishes of local populations and their governments.

He glorifies violent law enforcement and elevates them above the rest of the humans in the country.

He has corrupted the Justice Department and Congress, using them to help him create a wholly unconstitutional set of policies.

He pardons and covers for crimes committed by these henchmen and refuses to allow any accountability for their treason.

He has started costly and economically damaging trade wars.

He supports extrajudicial killings and encourages a lack of due process by law enforcement.

He uses tax laws to steal from the poor and give to the rich.

He supports the use of black sites, torture and other brutal authoritarian measures.

He has leveraged the oversized jurisdiction of the Border Patrol to impose their power on areas and people they were never intended to.

He has trampled the rule of law, all protocol and policy. He shows no respect whatsoever for the institutions of government.

He is overreaching with Federal jurisdiction, overriding local jurisdictions with his own teams.

He isn’t protecting America, he’s waging war on us.

He has withdrawn us from crucial environmental treaties, deregulated industry, refused aid for wildfires, and has allowed over 200,000 people to die needlessly from a preventable pandemic.

His federal forces have been stockpiling weapons for use against the civilian populace.

He turns dissidents against each other, threatening them with high crimes if they don’t turn against their fellow protestors.

He starts riots and leverages those brutal, merciless folks embedded in our every community, the police, whose known rules of engagement are 'anyone who’s not a cop can die'.

Get rid of the ballots

Get rid of the ballots and we’ll have a very peaceful – there won’t be a transfer, frankly – there’ll be a continuation.

– Donald Trump

Fundamental to democracy is the peaceful transition of power; without that, there is Belarus. Any suggestion that a president might not respect this Constitutional guarantee is both unthinkable and unacceptable.

– Mitt Romney, Republican senator

Note 7

This was an answer to a Stack Overflow question that got closed.

(define-syntax nloop*
  ;; Nested numerical loop
  (syntax-rules ()
    [(_ () form ...)
     (begin form ...
            (values))]
    [(_ ((variable lower-inclusive upper-exclusive) more ...) form ...)
     (let loop ([variable lower-inclusive])
       (if (< variable upper-exclusive)
           (begin
             (nloop* (more ...) form ...)
             (loop (+ variable 1)))
           (values)))]
    [(_ ((variable start-inclusive end-exclusive step) more ...) form ...)
     (let ([cmp? (if (>= step 0) < >)])
       (let loop ([variable start-inclusive])
         (if (cmp? variable end-exclusive)
             (begin
               (nloop* (more ...) form ...)
               (loop (+ variable step)))
             (values))))]))
> (nloop* ((i 10 0 -3)
           (j 0 3 2))
    (printf "~A ~A~%" i j))
10 0
10 2
7 0
7 2
4 0
4 2
1 0
1 2

Ten thousand

I think that there is a lot to be said for the idea made famous by Malcolm Gladwell, that it takes about 10,000 hours. As with the equally famous idea about walking 10,000 steps a day, this seems to be something pulled out of a hat as well as being a conveniently round number. But in both cases the numbers are actually very reasonable.

For 10,000 steps: well, I walk at about 100 steps/minute and I suspect this is fairly average. So 10,000 steps is about 100 minutes of walking per day. This is easily achievable: walk 30 minutes each way to work, 30 minutes at lunch and do 10 minutes of walking around other than that. 20,000 steps is 200 minutes – more than 3 hours – of walking per day and is hard to square with a normal job (but if your job involves walking it should be easy). 3,000 is 30 minutes and that's clearly far too little. So 10,000, give or take, is a very reasonable number.

Similarly for 10,000 hours: let's say you work 200 days a year for 10 hours a day (or probably more days for fewer hours). So a year is 2,000 hours of work. 10,000 hours of work is about 5 years. And ... that's kind of right: 5 years is about how long it takes someone to get really good at something. 5 years is a first degree and a PhD, with the inevitable lost time due to drink & romance, and that's the point where people are going to make their mark in their field, if they have one to make.

Nature

Our knowledge of our immediate surroundings – of 'nature' – is declining. The reason for this decline in knowledge of the environment (and not just some idealised 'nature': cities are full of fascination as well, if you only take the time to walk through them) is simple: time. A human childhood, to age 15 and allowing 12 hours a day, is about 65,700 hours: the amount of time a child has to spend on anything is limited by the amount of time they have to spend on everything else. In 1913, when my grandmother was six, she spent a lot of time outside because there were few other demands on her time: school, books, playing with toys perhaps, chores. In 1968, when I was six, there was school, books, many more toys, chores, the radio, and TV. In 2013 there are school, books, really a lot of toys, chores, video games, and the vast sink of life that is the internet.

It would be astonishing if a child of the early 21st century knew as much about their physical environment – be it 'nature' or the city – as one of the early 20th, because it would mean that they had somehow stretched time.

Whether this is something to worry about depends on whether you think the physical environment matters, and whether you think the things competing with it for the scarce hours in children's lives matter: is facebook and TV more important than picking blackberries, because the time you spend on one eats the time you can spend on the others?

Clown

28th August 2020:

People will again be encouraged to go back to the workplace in a government ad campaign starting next week.

19th September 2020:

PM considering new restrictions amid second coronavirus wave

Because it obviously wasn't possible to foresee that happening, less than three weeks ago, was it? Well, obviously it wasn't possible if you're an entitled clown with a degree in showing off, guided by a crank.

Bad wolf

The Doctor showed me a better way of living your life. You know he showed you too. That you don't just give up. You don't just let things happen. You make a stand. You say no. You have the guts to do what's right when everyone else just runs away, and I just can't

Conspiracy

The scale of the climate change conspiracy really is breathtaking. The hidden superiors who benefit from the obvious hoax of global warming being real must be an enormously powerful elite.

Consider that they must convince people who work on climate but who aren't in on the hoax and who don't stand to benefit from it -- drones like me and the thousands like me -- to keep earning our meagre wages working 'for the good of humanity' rather than making the financially and socially preferable choice of going back to work for some bank or oil company for three times the money and moving back to a place three times nicer to live. I often wonder if some drug -- a sedative or a hallucinogen perhaps -- might be used to keep us docile and obedient.

For they must walk amongst us: some of the people I exchange nods with when passing in the corridors of my workplace must, of course, be conspirators. How should I recognise them? Perhaps suitable glasses, distributed by the underground cells which I pray must exist, will reveal the grinning alien mask hidden behind the apparently human features? Perhaps they can be recognised by some feature, an unusually pronounced nose, for instance? I have no idea how many of them there might be: am I one of the few remaining humans, shortly to be replaced with an almost perfect copy of myself, or is there still hope?

And it gets worse. The false models which endlessly predict global warming are constructed using the same code as the models which forecast the weather and which are tested against reality daily or even hourly. We know these models are good and improving when used for weather: there must be switches set in climate configurations to falsify the results -- a subtle bump to the solar forcing perhaps. But this cannot be: the drones have access to the sources for the models, as does anyone interested, but nothing has ever been found.

For a while I suspected a compiler trick along the lines of Ken Thompson's famous hack. But this would require the cooperation or coercion of the writers of every Fortran compiler that can build the model, including GNU Fortran. Surely RMS can not be one of them: I refuse to believe people of such exquisite wealth and taste would tolerate him, or even a simulacrum of him.

Simpler, I think, is to assume that the trick is being played on us by the processor designers. With a few billion transistors, surely no-one would notice a few hundred thousand inserted to detect a particular program and subtly adjust the floating-point behaviour of certain critical code paths. And the number of processor designers is tiny -- Intel, ARM, IBM, perhaps Oracle -- and they all, of course, have intimate connections to the deep state actors behind all this.

This, I feel, must be the answer: a compromise at the silicon level is relatively simple when considered from the perspective of the lizard kings. Nevertheless the scale of the conspiracy is breathtaking: some might suggest it was, well, unbelievable.

Cold war

The vast naïvity of the people who declared that the cold war was over, and the west won never ceases to amaze me. Did they learn nothing from history? Did they pay any attention to what happened to Napoleon in 1812 and what happened to the Germans between 1941 and 1945? The Russians are really, really good at retreating further than their attacker thinks possible, taking losses greater than their attacker thinks possible, and then winning. The cold war is not yet over, and the west is not winning.