Unbidden Bits—May 30, 2024

I’m in Arizona, in the checkout line at Walmart, clutching something I need today that was two days away by Amazon.

I look around at the patriarchal beards, the camouflage cargo pants, thinking idle thoughts about the carnival barkers on Fox News, Samuel Alito’s wife, how temporary the privilege of calling Trump a felon will probably turn out to be.

It comes to me then: A people camping out in the ruins of their own civilization. I pay for my indispensable, cross the parking lot, head back home.

I throw my car keys on the kitchen counter, hearing Hillary the imposter’s earnestness, her arrogance, back in 2016. It was way too late even then, and now….

“Going forward,” as the Wall Street pundits are so fond of saying, it’s not what we do with them that will matter. It’s what they’ll do with us.

John Gruber Gets It

For an old Mac guy, John Gruber, bless his heart, has always done his damndest to be fair in his judgments about tech. After several days of watching some of my favorite tech columnists lift their legs on iPads in general, and the new iPads in particular, reading his review of Apple’s M4 iPad Pro pretty much made me jump for joy.

I’m typing this on my new M4 iPad Pro with a nano-textured screen, and I don’t care what anybody says—the little girl in Apple’s “What’s a computer?” ad of 2017 got it, and John Gruber, prince of the grumpy old Mac diehards that he is, also gets it. He’s made my day….

Full disclosure: I’m 30 years older than John, and far grumpier, but the iPad still has the power to make me want to live another hundred years. That little girl—and John—speak to me, and for me, and I suspect I’m not alone.

Unbidden Bits—May 6, 2024

What if the panpsychists are right, and somehow even sand fleas and vegetables can feel pain? Makes the Christian doctrine of humankind’s essentially sinful nature even more soul-destroying to contemplate than it already is. Listen, I’m conscious enough of my very traditional transgressions, I don’t need to start worrying about how many carrots I’ve murdered in my eight decades of blissful predation. Either panpsychism or Catholicism, or better yet both, have to go. Meanwhile, I just don’t wanna talk about it….

Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar*

*Human dignity is inviolable (The first sentence of Article I of the postwar Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany)

If we actually wanted any further proof of Santayana’s contention that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” we’d need look no further than the current resurgence of fascist sentiment in Europe and the United States, and the rising support worldwide for authoritarian governments devoted primarily to exclusion, punishment, and degradation.

The Germans, of all people, should know better. They did know better in 1949, when their remarkable postwar constitution was written and enacted in the western half of their still divided country. If the strutting members of the AfD have already forgotten what motivated their great-grandparents to enshrine Article I as the only article which by law cannot ever be amended or repealed, there seems little hope that any of the rest of us will remember our considerably more ambiguous commitments to the same principle.

There are reasons why the Nazis are back in Germany, why a paranoid and vicious authoritarianism is once again the shiniest of political baubles everywhere in the world. As comforting as it might be for those who dread what’s coming to think so, none of them are solely attributable to the historical blindness of the generations born since the end of World War II. The truth of the matter is that neither democracy nor capitalism, as practiced by our supposedly enlightened postwar governments, has ever been overly concerned with the dignity of all human beings.

It should surprise no one who’s been paying attention that in the nearly eighty years since the end of World War II, the distribution of wealth and power in western democracies has gradually come to resemble that of some of the worst hierarchical societies of the past. The disenfranchised, dispossessed, and disenchanted armies of the underemployed and unrepresented are back with us, and they will absolutely not be mollified any more easily by our well-meant homilies about human dignity than they were in 1933. As right-wingers in the United States like to say, the die is cast. It’s hard to see how there’s any good news in that for anybody.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

Apple is certainly guilty of at least some of the transgressions it’s been accused of by Margrethe Vestager, the principal finger-wagger of the European Commission. Arrogant corporate behemoths are a tax on the general welfare, right enough, but so also are vengeful bureaucrats whose principal complaint seems to be that Americans got to the future before the French and Germans had a chance to certify it.

There are lots of smart people on both sides of this unfortunate culture clash, so I suppose it’s possible that some sort of quasi-equitable justice will eventually be done, but I’m not optimistic. I mean, c’mon people, really—does anyone at this late date actually want a cell phone designed by the European Commission?

Just Sayin….

“Das wird immer einer der besten Witze der Demokratie bleiben, dass sie ihren Todfeinden die Mittel stellte, durch die sie vernichtet wurde.”

“This will always remain one of democracy’s best jokes, that it provided its mortal enemies with the means by which it was destroyed.”

Joseph Goebbels, Reichsminister für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, 1935

Yeah, probably ain’t gonna happen here. Almost everybody says so. No harm considering what it’s gonna take to stay out of the cattle cars if it does, though.