A small automotive pet peeve

As a self-described car nut, I read a lot of blogs and sites about cars. One of my regular daily visits is to Bring A Trailer.

Frequently, I'll see a comment about a steering wheel wrap on an older car:

IMG_2360.PNG

I suppose that most of this stuff is written by people younger than me, who don't remember anything before the Clinton Administration, so I'd like to clue them in:

It was common practice in the 1950s and 1960s to install a wrap or cover on the steering wheel, because the materials used back then got extremely hot in the sun in the days before window tint and reflective windshield covers, especially in warmer climates.

In fact, it was basically a necessity in southern California in the summer. It definitely doesn't mean the buyer is necessarily trying to hide something, although it's a possibility.

Now you know. And be thankful for modern steering wheel materials.

An angry mob

I’ve been thinking some more about this election, and what’s really happening in terms of our system and our democracy.

It’s been a common theme on the left to decry the rise of Trump as the rise of fascism, which to some degree it is. Certainly, he’s followed the script left by fascist leaders of the past—tacit condoning of violence, oblique calls for the assassination of his opponent, scapegoating of minorities, and the use of the Big Lie technique of repeatedly lying until the lie becomes perceived by his followers as the truth, among others.

It’s an imperfect analogy, though. It’s missing legions of uniformed followers in colored shirts (the black shirt of the Italian fascists, the brown shirt of Hitler’s SA, the blue shirts of the Spanish Falange, etc.), as well as any coherent ideology. Even fascists usually believe in something, even if it's wrong.

I’m beginning to think it’s something even worse—the first stirrings of a transition from democracy to mob rule.

Democracy follows rules. Democracy requires people to abide by certain norms, and a written or unwritten constitution. Democracy requires a basic understanding of how government works.

Mob rule requires none of that.

Mob rule requires only that a big enough, angry enough mob seize the reins of power and impose its will on everybody else. Mob rule can be easily manipulated by someone authoritarian enough to promise to give the mob whatever they want, whatever the cost, the rules be damned.

Build a wall, kick out the Mexicans, keep the Muslims out. The enthusiastic support of the far-right, white-supremacist fringe should be a warning.

That's what we're seeing with the Trump campaign. That's what the Republican Party has allowed itself to be seduced by.

That's what must never be allowed to happen. Because it's a lot harder to step back from the precipice once you've gone over it.

Rochester, New York, and the America of today

I recently read the following article, which appeared on the website of public radio's Marketplace, on the decline of manufacturing and how it affected Rochester, New York, and the people who live there.

Before reading any further, go read it:
http://longform.marketplace.org/can-manufacturing-save-america

Did you read it? OK.

As it happens, I have connections with Rochester, and I shared it with someone who spent a couple of decades living there, working for a local company. He had this to say:

It’s a good article. The real message is that manufacturing as it was – manufacturing that made the middle class – is gone. What manufacturing does come back will not provide enough jobs for everyone.

Too bad they didn’t examine my company too. They would have seen that we not only sent manufacturing offshore, but we also outsourced white-collar engineering and I.T. jobs to India and replaced them with minimum wage call-center jobs.

The lady in the last paragraph of the article hit the nail on the head.

This is the lady he's referring to:

“You didn’t even have to go to college. You got out of high school and went to Kodak, Delco, Rochester Products, Xerox, Bausch and Lomb and you made $20 an hour. Back in the day, you got out of school, and you could be 18 and move off on your own into an apartment.
Today? These kids today? If you don’t have college, those top companies are just not here anymore. My youngest daughter did it the hard way. She found out without college here, there’s only $13-an-hour jobs. If that. She’s still at home, 31, but back to school now to get that degree to get out on her own. There was an article in the paper this past weekend, ‘Oh, middle class America, so many jobs are coming back,’ $12 to $15 an hour. Like, what are you gonna do with $12 to $15 an hour? You cannot live on your own.”

That's hard to argue with. This is the world we've built over the last few decades. And if you want to understand why so many Americans are frustrated, angry, and losing hope, ready to vote for someone like Bernie Sanders, who promised a revolution, or Donald Trump, the Big Man who promises to make everything better (without specifying how), you need look no further.

And pray that somehow, we find a way out of this mess.

How I decide on ballot initiatives

One of the constant joys of living in California is that every two years or so, you're presented with a list of ballot propositions on which to vote. As a lifelong Californian, I have opinions about this.

While the initiative process in California has its origins in the Progressive era (once again: learn your damn history, people) and was intended to give the people a bigger voice against the once-domineering Union Pacific Railroad and Crocker Bank, it's devolved into an excuse in many cases for 1) the legislature to punt controversial issues to the people (because politicians are cowards), 2) crackpots who can't get a hearing any other way to make a big splash, and 3) special interests and big money to do an end run around the legislature.

The question, therefore, is "How do you make decisions on all these things?" Flip a coin? Spend hours poring over research in a dusty library somewhere? If you're a Californian, you quickly get used to making snap decisions about them. While this is not ideal, and can lead to some idiotic laws getting passed, it's how a lot of people do it.

For me, I've narrowed it down to a list of questions:

  • Is it something I feel strongly about? If not, I'm not inclined to pass yet another law.
  • If it's something I feel strongly about, how do I feel about the way it's being set up? I see no reason to amend the state constitution to fund day care. Our state constitution has been amended too many times for too many minor things already.1
  • Who is supporting it? Is it bipartisan?
  • Follow the money—who's bankrolling it?
  • Is it a bond measure? Bonds have to be paid back eventually—how is the payback structured? Is it something that is appropriate or inappropriate for a 30-year bond?
  • Who stands to benefit the most if it passes?
  • How are the ballot arguments written? It sounds silly, but I've seen some egregiously badly written statements, and rightly or wrongly, I do judge people by the quality of their writing when it comes to stuff like this. If you can't take the time to properly structure your argument, why should I think you've thought through your ballot measure? This is our state government. It's important. Have someone proofread it, for God's sake.

And that's about it. Once you reduce it to its essentials, you can get through a fairly big list of propositions pretty quickly. This year, there are seventeen. A little closer to Election Day, I'll be posting my thoughts on this year's crop.


  1. That said, there are times when a constitutional amendment is justified; I'm not completely opposed to doing so.

No longer at App.net

Now that everyone I want to be in touch with is available somewhere else, there's no reason for me to be on App.net. I've deleted my apps and won't be checking in there.

If you follow me there and want to keep in touch, I suggest you contact me on Twitter, on 10Centuries, or use my contact form.

New home for the blog

I've completed migrating my blog from Posthaven to 10Centuries. This means two things:

  • Different address formats means old URLs and bookmarks are broken. Sorry.
  • You'll need to update your bookmarks/RSS feeds accordingly.

The DNS has been updated, so the redirection of the root domain larryanderson.org is in full effect. The new address for the RSS feed is http://blog.larryanderson.org/rss.xml.

The Star Trek metaphor for this election

It just occurred to me that the two scenarios below are the perfect illustration of the difference between the Clinton and Trump campaigns, as well as their supporters' attitudes.

First, Clinton:

Now, Trump:

Personally, I'd rather live in the United Federation of Planets than the Terran Empire in the mirror universe, so…

The last summer night

On the last night of summer, I just walked out my back door and heard the voice of Vin Scully broadcasting a Dodger game.

You probably have to be an Angeleno to truly understand, but it makes me sad that I won't hear that sound for much longer. I'm not even a baseball fan, but his voice has been the soundtrack of summer my whole life.

Somehow, that makes it feel not just like the last night of summer, but the last night of an era.

A special message for the App.net community

Hi, everyone. I wanted to put up a special post just for the ADN community. This is not visible from my blog, only from the link on ADN.1 This one's for you.

Do you remember what App.net was like when it first began? Do you remember the excitement, the sense of community, the friendliness, the respect 2 on all sides?

Do you remember when the founders used to post and interact with us? When they were actively developing the place?

Yeah, I do, too. There hasn't been much of that on ADN lately. There hasn't been much of anything there lately.

I've missed it. It just hasn't been as much fun. And ever since the State of the Union post, the membership has been quietly slipping away. It's now common for an hour or three to slip by without anything new in my stream. It's weird.

And then there's the slowdown in the entire service. Cracks are starting to appear, things are slowing down, and while Berg is fixing stuff when it breaks, there's a difference between proactive maintenance and fixing stuff after the fact. This place is still alive, but it's anything but healthy.

Seems like we've all been looking for the new App.net. A few people have declared their intention to build it.

One of them has succeeded.

Right now, there's a small and growing community of ADNers (current and former) at 10Centuries.org, built by our very own @matigo. It's based on the same principles that ADN was—no advertising, paid membership available, mutual respect, and owning your own data. This time, there are no VCs involved to pressure the owner into compromising the service. If you check it out, I think you'll find it impressive. And you can blog and do podcasts there, too.

I like it so much I'm spending most of my social media time there, which brings me to the reason for this post.

There's not much keeping me on App.net these days, and while I'm not deleting my account, I won't be around as much. I'll be checking in periodically, but irregularly. I've already turned off notifications and PMs. At some point, I'll probably delete Riposte and Chimp.

ADN will always be special to me, because it's where I met so many of you wonderful and fascinating people. There comes a time, though, when you have to acknowledge that once was is no more. And that's OK—that's how life works. And this is a part of my life—a bigger one than I ever thought a social network could be.

I hope you'll join me over at the new place. I think you'll like it. If you'd like an invite code, just ask—you can reach me at larryanderson.org/contact.

Thanks for listening.

All the best,

Larry

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  1. This was true of the original post on Posthaven, but the copy here is visible globally.

  2. For the most part, certain individuals who shall remain nameless notwithstanding.

Communicating securely with me

This is not something that comes up a lot, but it does come up occasionally, and it seems time to clarify how you can communicate with me securely, if that's something you're concerned about.

First off, I'm of the opinion that Internet privacy is a fiction. That's why I don't normally use PGP encryption—that, and because normals don't know what to do with it. And frankly, it's a pain in the butt that I'd rather not deal with, as well.

That said, if you have a need to communicate with me securely, the following options are available:

WhatsApp
Telegram
ProtonMail

I do have an account on Keybase, which I use primarily on the desktop. I deal with almost all my email on mobile, so this makes it a pain if you send me encrypted email. It's your job to make it easy for me to read what you send, so don't be surprised if I don't respond in a timely fashion. Or at all.

For ProtonMail, it's easiest if you have a ProtonMail account yourself—then the encryption/decryption happens behind the scenes and takes no effort on my part. And it's readable on mobile that way, too.

For WhatsApp and Telegram, you'll need to know my phone number or my username.

To find those out, or for anything else, you can send me an email via my contact form at larry.im/contact.