Thursday, January 19, 2017

Expect the Unexpected

You may have heard: a new U.S. president is being inaugurated.  You know who I'm talking about.

Many confused people and a lot of confusing pundits have been pouring out endless verbiage trying to predict the future under this new guy.  We all have a burning desire to know what he's going to do before he does it.  We need predictions NOW!

What, we ask over and over again, can we expect from the next four (or, more likely, eight) years?

The easy answer is, of course: "expect the unexpected."  That's exactly what we should have done during the election and history repeats itself, don'tchaknow?

Except, I hear you reply, that answer is unsatisfying and unhelpful.  Douglas Adams, in his Mixed Meters-approved The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, agreed with you. "This advice has annoyed many Hitch-Hikers in that it is ‘A’ - glib, and ‘B’ - a contradiction in terms." he wrote.

Okay, try this instead: "expect the worst".

We liberals know that things are not going to be pretty under the new administration.  And the good guys, by which I mean the Democrats (who are the best good guys we can expect these days, such as they are), have been left nearly powerless to fight back.

What's the best way to oppose the new president?  Sorry, I have no clue.  If you're reading this hoping for suggestions on how to persevere during the coming dark times, I apologize in advance.  Nothing useful will be found below.

Also, a word to the wise, don't expect this essay to end on a hopeful note.

There are some things I confidently expect will happen in the U.S. during the next four (or, more likely, eight) years.  For example, we need to expect that racism will be come much more obvious.  And hatred.  There you go . . . expect racism and hatred.

Also discrimination.  Expect racism and hatred and discrimination.  And bigotry.  Racism and hatred and discrimination and bigotry will become conspicuous throughout America under the new administration.  Just like it was, for opposite reasons, in the previous administration.  Bigotry, I sadly predict, will seep from America's pores.  It will ooze from orifices we forgot existed.

Expect that the new president and his administration will in large part be responsible for this reemergence of American racism, through sins of either commission or ommision.  Expect the new federal government to fight racism with half a heart (or less) and one hand tied behind its back (or more).

Expect that his racist supporters will respond to being called racist by calling their accusers racist.  Expect schoolyard name calling.  Expect that pretty soon everyone will have been called racist by somebody.  Expect Barack Obama to be blamed for everything.

Expect dog whistles, a lot of racist dog whistles.  Expect all their deplorable dogs to howl on cue when they hear the whistles.  When accused directly of whistling for his dogs (i.e. saying stuff that invites intolerance), or when actual blatantly hateful stuff comes directly out of his mouth, expect the new president to feign offense.  Expect him to tell us, over the sounds of baying hounds, that he never intended the thing he said to be interpreted that way.  "I never meant it like that" will be the new presidential plan for promoting equality and tolerance.

That's one thing to expect.  There are others . . .

Expect wealth transfer.

We need to expect that the rich, and only the rich, will get richer.  Expect to hear constant repetitions of the Republican dogma that tax cuts for the wealthy will trickle down in the form of jobs for average Americans.  (This dogma is pure bull shit of course.  It will not be seriously challenged while Republicans rule the roost.)

Expect billionaires to run the government for the benefit of their friends.  Expect kleptocracy.   And nepotism.  Expect tariffs.  Expect trade wars.  Expect deficits.  Expect cutbacks at the SEC.  Expect Wall Street and big banks to make out like bandits.  Expect another market crash.

Expect earnest sermons explaining that the free market will solve every problem.  Expect government rules designed to protect average people from rapacious capitalists to become a mere historical curiosity.

Expect the economy to get much worse for most people.  Expect that 99% of Americans will get screwed and half of those people will have no idea who is doing the screwing.  Expect increased inflation, unemployment, homelessness and hunger.  Do not, under any circumstances, expect to see his tax returns.

Expect Republicans to continue being wrong on every single issue facing America today.

Expect the Republicans to screw up.  

Expect kakistocracy.  Expect incompetence.  Expect infighting and confusion.  Expect mistakes.  Expect a long period of on-the-job training.  Expect lots of turnover in the cabinet.  Expect royal fuck ups.  When these fuck-ups finally get corrected (or, more likely, are papered over) expect the president to take full credit for fixing problems he himself caused.

Expect lots of Republican men to get caught in troglodyte-style sexual scandals.  Expect lots of grabbing of things which shouldn't be grabbed.  Expect decreasing moral standards.  Expect their ends to justify their means.  Expect those caught red-handed to chant hosannas of "I have sinned but now I'm saved.".

Expect heads in the sand.  Expect many cans to be kicked down the road.

Expect tweets.

Expect a growth industry in explaining his tweets.  And doctoral dissertations on his tweets.  And university courses.  And scholarly books and articles.  Finally, expect "The Collected Tweets", hardbound and softcover, self-published.  Also, expect Twitter to crash and burn as a company.

Expect double talk, shitloads of double talk.  Expect explanations that make no sense.  Expect pre-formed, think-tank-tested rote talking points.  Expect misleading answers to complex questions repeated over and over again.  Expect to hear the President of the United States talk at a fifth-grade level.

Expect narcissism.  Expect him to take offense.  Expect revenge.  Expect an enemies list.  Expect the IRS and FBI to harass his enemies for him.  Expect him to gloat when he wins.  Expect him to testify in civil lawsuits.  Expect many presidential vacations.

Expect incomprehensible shifts in foreign policy.  Expect him to favor those foreign countries where lots of blonde people live.  Expect to hear an awful lot about Vladimir Putin.  Expect that our president will be easy to provoke.  Expect some wannabe Osama bin Laden to attack unexpectedly.  Expect innocent people to die.  Expect knee-jerk reactions.

Expect that it will become increasingly difficult to distinguish real news from fake.  Expect that you won't be certain what the real facts are on countless important issues.  Expect half the population to use Snopes as a swear word.  Expect his press conferences to be a joke.  Try not to think about his State of the Union address.  Expect him to redecorate the White House.

Expect the polls to be less and less accurate.  Expect him to pay careful attention to his ratings.  Expect him to take credit he doesn't deserve and to announce imaginary accomplishments.  Expect reality television to become reality.

Expect him to be all over the map, literally (as in being the globe-trotting pomp and circumstance world leader of the world's most militant super power) and figuratively (as in saying whatever contradictory shit pops into his head the moment he thinks of it).   Expect his speeches to make early-symptoms-of-Alzheimer's Ronald Reagan look like a university physics professor cogently explaining string theory so well that even you can understand it.

Meanwhile . . .

Expect the Democrats to screw up too. 

Expect permanent outrage from the Dems.  Expect futile gestures.  Expect a circus of ineffectual protest.  Expect them to say pretty much anything to disparage those damn Republicans.   Expect them to tell us that everything his government does is dangerous and threatening.  Expect irrational expectations.  Expect bubbles.  Expect to hear predictions that he won't finish out his term until nearly the end of his second term.  Expect great disappointment.

Don't, under any circumstances expect the Democratic party to come together over issues.  Or at least be very surprised and relieved if they manage that trick.  Instead, expect them to waffle on the issues while they play petty politics.  Expect contradictions.  Expect double talk, shitloads of double talk.

Which issues will the opposition party ignore? Here are a few: protecting the environment, a living minimum wage, universal healthcare, income and wealth inequality, making college affordable, protecting the rights of minorities, women's rights.  I'm sure there are many more.  Expect that promoting positive issues aimed at improving the lives of average Americans will be the only way to defeat him, you know who I mean.

Instead, expect to actually hear the Democrats talk a lot about how Russia stole the election.  Expect to hear about how the new president is a really bad dude.  Expect to be reminded endlessly that he lost the popular vote.  Expect that all that may actually be true, if irrelevant.

Don't expect anyone to mention that we live in a republic not a true democracy.  Expect that negative talk will not change anything.  Sadly, expect that you have not heard the last of Hillary Clinton.  Expect neo-liberalism to retain full control over the Democratic party.  Expect Wall Street and big banks to make out like bandits.

Expect eventually to face facts.

Expect that realism will be a late-comer.  Like it or not, if you're a U.S. citizen, he is going to be president and that means he'll be your president.  We only get one president at a time and you're going to get used to him somehow.  Expect normalization.  Expect massive normalization.

I know you're saying "Nope.  Not me.  No normalization for me."  Good luck with that.  Expect your hopes to die.  Expect to be unhappy all the time.

Expect that the liberal hatred of the new president will not last as long nor be as intense as the conservative hatred of President Obama.  This is because the right wing confirmation bias is better funded by billions of American dollars spent by the evil Koch brothers and their ilk.

Expect bad news every day.  Expect a steady stream of new, gob-smacking, face-slapping, out-of-left-field news items about him and his sycophants and the stupid things they say and do.  Expect shocking, disgraceful, scandalous, dreadful, appalling leaks about his personal life.

Expect him not to care that he's a laughing stock who makes no sense to a majority of Americans. This is because his fans, the Deplorables, will always forgive the stupid things he says and does.  Expect them to ignore the most bizarre presidential behavior as long as the high court gives them freedom of public hate speech.  They mostly care about Supreme Court justices who are younger, handsomer and more conservative than Antonin Scalia.  They want a justice system which allows open expression of intolerance, racism, sexism, hatred, discrimination and bigotry to be an American right.  Expect them to get it.

Expect to hear the most horrific awful things about gay wedding cakes and transgender people who need to pee.

Expect a cult of personality.  Expect all the news will be about him - every news item, story, cartoon, movie or television show will remind you of the guy with orange hair and tanning salon skin.  Expect everything, every fuckin' thing on the planet, eventually, will turn to trump.  Yes, I'm using the phrase "turn to trump" as a euphemism for "turn to shit".

Expect all predictions will be wrong, including these.  Expect that there will be no comforting way to predict the future.  Expect that you won't know what to expect next.

In other words . . . expect the unexpected - which, as glib and contradictory as Douglas Adams said, is still the safest prediction.

Finally - - expect him to be lucky.

Reflect on the fact that this man, the one who will be the leader of the free-market world, has had a lifetime of lucky breaks.  He was lucky to be born blond and wealthy.  He was lucky to became a billionaire despite six bankruptcies.  And he nurtured his uncanny, almost supernatural talent for hucksterism and publicity all the way into the Oval Office, a place where, by any reasonable standards which I can fathom, he simply doesn't belong.  To me that story seems really really lucky -- fantasy-story lucky.

And here's a surprising suggestion:

I suggest that you pray for his luck - although I have no clue who or what you should pray to.

Yes, you read that right.  Pray that his epic personal luck holds.  Believing in prayer is no more or less irrational than believing in luck.  What have you got to lose?

He's never going to be a qualified president.  You might as well at least pray that he'll be a lucky president.  His election to the presidency turned his luck into our luck.  And we, as a nation, will need lots of luck while he's the president.  The less real harm he does, the luckier we will be.  If he screws up, everyone will suffer, so we'll all be lucky if he doesn't screw up.

Meanwhile, expect him to screw up.  When that happens, expect the worst.


One more (I can't resist):  Expect lots of baby boomer pop stars will die of old age.

Douglas Adams suggestion "Don't Panic" was good advice.  Douglas Adams was a smart guy.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Wine Bottle Sizes

I have a hard time throwing things away.

Today I've been spending time trying to sort through piles of papers in my office in hopes of finding some empty desktop space underneath - actual empty physical space.

In one pile I found this small piece of paper clipped from a Wired Magazine - dated November 2012, more than four years ago.

I saved this because I thought it would make a nice subject for a blog post.  I tossed the rest of the magazine and have since stopped my subscription to Wired.  There's just so many articles a guy can read in one lifetime making the point that computers and the big businesses they inspire will save the world.  (It's not true no matter how futuristic you think you are.)

Anyway, here's that scrap of paper . . .

And here's the same list in list form:

Containers for wine and spirits (by liters):

  • Magnum: 1.5
  • jeroboam: 3
  • flagon: 3.785
  • rehoboam: 4.5
  • Methuselah: 6
  • Salmanazar: 9
  • Nebuchadnezzar: 15
  • rundlet: 68.2
  • tierce: 159
  • barrique: 225
  • hogshead: 239
  • firkin: 318
  • butt: 477

Only "rundlet" fails Google's online spell checker.

Most bottles of wine and booze in the stores around here are 750 milliliters, or half a Magnum.

Why, I wonder, are some of these items capitalized and others not.  If only names are capitalized, who is Magnum?  Here's an actual picture of Nebuchadnezzar that I found on line.

And here's our cat, Spackle Puss inspecting the magnum of beer - oops, excuse me - the Magnum of beer gifted to us on New Years.

We also had a Magnum of champagne gifted to us on Thanksgiving.  I guess Magnums are the thing now, huh?  Thanks to Mark and Peter for the magnanimous gifting.

Now that the clipping from the magazine is safely preserved for eternity here on Mixed Meters, I've tossed the physical paper into the trash.  A very very small amount of empty space in my office has thus been created.

Here's an MM post with a picture of a skunk hunt.  Same deal - the picture got tossed in a cleanup after it was preserved in online pixels.

And here's another post called Desktop Stilllife - with pictures of cats and a video with music.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

A year, a parade

This New Yorker cartoon by Paul Noth made me guffaw even before I read the caption.  I share it with apologies to any relevant copyright legislation.

The humor here for me is a Pasadena thing.  Pasadena marks the solstice with fantastic flower-covered flat beds and horse patrols and pretty girls and marching bands and minor celebrities moving inexorably down the middle of our main drag.  Maybe the coffin has a minor celebrity in it.  (This page has a list of all the grand marshals - how many can you identify?)

In 2017 the parade is on January second because New Years Day falls on a Sunday and, you know, the Christian god has his rules.  Parade goers start marking their territory at noon on the day before the parade and some of them bring signs to show us where their heads are at.

For example, this guy.  I snapped him about 2:00 today.

Here's the text on his sign with links:
Lucifer is the original divider.
And the angels which kept not their 1st estate, 
but "left" their own habitation. . . (Jude 6)
One third of the angels under lucifer fell. (Revelation 12:4)
- Rules for Radicals - Alinsky was dedicated to Lucifer.
And on the T-shirt:
Make America Great Again - Revelation 12:24-28

Dire.  Crazy. Frightening.

Meanwhile, here's a musical theater reference to lighten your mood:

And the lyrics go on from there:

You are 16 going on 17
Baby it's time to think
Better beware
Be canny and careful
Baby you're on the brink

You are 16 going on 17
Fellows will fall in line
Eager young lads
And rues and cads
Will offer you food and wine

Totally unprepared are you
To face a world of men
Timid and shy and scared are you
Of things beyond your ken

You need someone
Older and wiser
Telling you what to do
I am 17 going on 18
I'll take care of you

Sounds like perfect Republican paternalism to me.

Anyway, happy new year if that sort of thing makes you feel better.

Mixed Meters has covered the Rose Parade before.  Never with much enthusiasm.  Click here to see all MM posts marked "parades".

And view this video to see more sign carriers (starting at about 1’45”):