20 April 2017

NEW APPLE MACBOOKPRO REVIEW

I recently got a top-of-the-line MacBookPro and I’m not completely happy. My previous MacBookPro was more powerful in many respects, but it died, necessitating this purchase. It had a 17’ screen (the last of its kind) versus a 15” in screen on this one, and had 1TB and 2 TB SSD disks inside (which I added) versus 1 TB total on the new one, with no possibility of expansion since the SSD is soldered to the motherboard. I already had 16 gig of memory, which this one comes with and an  I7 processor, although this one is faster.  Still I resent having to spend over three grand for a new machine that isn’t all that more advanced than the old one, despite the passage of years. But when you fly with Apple you have to pay the price. 

Then there is connectivity, or lack of it. There are only four Thunderbolt 3 ports (I was just getting used to Thunderbolt 2, which is incompatible) and nothing else;  there’s no USB, no Firewire, or Ethernet. so all your peripherals are obsolete. Thus, to physically connect to anything you have to go out and buy adapters or converter cables, some of which are costly, since Apple doesn’t provide any, Otherwise you have to connect wirelessly, which seems to be the prevailing assumption here. The ports do double as USB 3, if you buy an adapter, but I was appalled to find that it was impossible to migrate easily from the old SSD, which I salvaged,  since migration only works with Time Machine, which I don’t use since it doesn’t work well wirelessly over a network. As a result I had to configure everything manually and reinstall all my applications. It does, however, pick up everything from iCloud seamlessly, so that all of your  preferences, favorites, email, contacts, calendar and passwords show up as expected. Worst of all is the power supply, which is enormous and heavy, and connects to the computer via the Thunderbolt ports, so your old power supply is useless as as backup. 

On the plus side it also comes with a new touch bar with contextual menus, changing according to what program you’re using- something basically ported over from the iPad, which has word choices to shortcut when using Pages. I don’t find it very convenient due to the break you make when you remove your hands from the keyboard. It’s also hard to see if you’re using the computer on your lap. The keyboard itself is located in the top half of the machine, while the touchpad now takes up the entire bottom half, meaning your wrists are constantly above it when typing, although it doesn’t seem to have an effect. Once you get used to the new configuration the keyboard isn’t bad, and the huge touchpad presumably has some additional features I haven’t discovered yet. 

There is a security feature on the touch bar that reads your fingerprint, finally with accuracy, as opposed to the nonfunctioning touch feature on the iPad and iPhone. It is situated for right-handers, located on the extreme right, and I had to adjust to it being left-handed. An annoyance is the Siri button that is right next to the security portion of the touch bar, which is easily inadvertently triggered either by that or every other time you reach for the delete key. I find Siri to be useless for most things on the iPad and the same applies here as I often have to stop what I’m doing to get rid of its unwanted help, although it can be disabled. 


Speed-wise the computer is fast, really fast, so that you can work quickly, and even with a limited 16 GB memory it seems able to run multiple tasks without a hiccup. It runs quiet and cool and won’t burn your knees off. This is also the first Apple laptop I’ve had that actually lives up to its official specs in terms of battery life, which does last near 7 hours without a charge. For these reasons, and generally silky-smooth handling, I am warming up to it. For the price I would like to have seen even more power and versatility, as well as easier connectivity, as I wait for more adapters to come online. If you don’t have another working laptop and you need the level of power this provides, I can recommend it, albeit as an expensive purchase. 

30 March 2017

LETTER FROM GERMANY

The thing that impresses me most every time I'm in Europe  (outside of the mostly Orthodox countries that suffered Ottoman occupation), is how cathedrals and churches dominate every city and town. This is a continent that was once steeped in religion, and now is virtually devoid of it. In this region in particular, bloody wars were fought over generations between Christian sects as well as between nations, particularly France and Germany, which have traded possession of these provinces through endless wars. Perhaps war in general has so exhausted the population that beliefs of any kind that once led to war are no longer widely held. Thus there is a palpable feeling of loss of faith, not just in religion but in nationhood itself, as if to say we are no longer the people we were. 

This sense is especially pronounced in Germany, which is most heavily invested in the European project and institutions. On the river boat, (or ship, as they prefer to call it), we are sailing along the Rhine, there is a crew is composed of young Europeans of many nationalities, representative of this European idea. No part of the world is anywhere near as culturally rich, distinct and varied in such a relatively small geographic area, but this is the product of distinct, brilliant nationalities. That is the dilemma of Europe today- everything they are and always have been, all that makes them attractive, is a product of those nationalities, not of some overall nebulous continental identity. As a result, outside of Germany, and perhaps eventually here, there is a growing sense of national identity, for a variety of reasons.

The great cathedrals are today visited mostly by tourists and the occasional class of students, for whom they may be little more than a historical curiosity. Meanwhile the mosques of immigrants are robustly attended, but their capacity for assimilation appears to be extremely limited to the point where their beliefs and way of life are incompatible with western values. A small number of any group can always be absorbed, but once they become a distinct minority discord and trouble are the likely results. Thus it is well that, if only in the interests of self-preservation, the people's of Europe are awakening to this. If this leads to a rediscovery of national identity and perhaps even faith, it is all to the good, because to preserve a culture there must be a belief in it; a living faith. Only then is there a faith in the future and a reason to form families and have children. This does not require extreme nationalism or hostility to others, especially neighbors, and this new revival of identity is not of that nature. It is not territorial, and no one is seeking to redraw borders. It is rather a matter of identity and spirit. Americans can learn from this as well, for these are the very things that leftists seek to destroy, by trashing the culture and it's history and miseducating the young. 

17 March 2017

WHO ARE THE FASCISTS?

“Fascism” is second only to “racism” in the canon of political epithets that get tossed around these days. It has become a kind of catch-all phrase for describing behavior or even just an attitude someone doesn’t like. But who actually are the fascists? At this stage of history one would be hard pressed to find a genuine Fascist anywhere, at least since Il Duce got strung up during World War II. Fascism actually was an Italian social-political movement based on extreme nationalism, corporate statism, improvised claptrap, and black-shirt bully tactics against opposition and in the pursuit of power. It is really only this last tactic that still resonates, and the main reason the term is still in popular use. Thus, when someone says so and so is a “fascist,” the most they can mean is that they are behaving like a fascist. 

Fascism was considered to be of the “right” primarily because of its nationalistic component, but the collectivism, top down organization never was. The Nazis added genuine racism to the equation, but always called themselves national socialists, which tells you something. Strip away the nationalism and these actual movements have more in common with communism, due to things such as dictatorship, party monopoly on power, the use of violence, repression, political and state control of everything, that is characteristic of leftism.  

Nevertheless those on the left still like to perceive themselves as being involved in the struggle against “fascism,” which can include just about anything they don’t like. People they disagree with are categorized as “fascists” in order to dehumanize them beyond the bounds of civilized discourse. But most other people understand it to primarily mean the use or threat of violence, mob actions directed towards intimidation and silencing of political opponents. Now since there is not a shred of evidence that the people so targeted are engaged in any of these tactics, it ought to be crystal clear that these soldiers of the cause are themselves behaving like fascists. 

They are the fascists when they frequently prevent people from speaking on American university campuses. The intimidation, blocking of passage, and physical threats they use are directed against not some fringe right political movement, but mainstream conservatives, and even public officials. They can get away with this because college administrations and faculty are either sympathetic or too intimidated to resist them, and their targets are generally soft intellectuals. They can get away with this because there is currently no countervailing group on hand to deal with them. There has not been a single instance of a left-wing speaker being attacked by a right-wing band of “fascists.” That is a fantasy. 

Thus it is easy to be brave in the struggle against “fascism” when there are no Fascists around. The longer term danger for them is that there is a vast reservoir of people, currently peaceful, who can easily physically overpower them, lean right, and are well-armed. If these people, or even a sliver of them, were ever to become mobilized it would be over for the Left. 

But for now the fascist tactics are being employed by one side with impunity in a playground environment of soft targets. They are having their way in an artificial environment that is out of touch with reality. The time is overdue for the government to begin enforcing standards on pain of eliminating funding from institutions that have destroyed any semblance of a civic culture. 


The obfuscation of terminology should not delude as to who the real fascists are. For as Churchill once predicted, the fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.

02 March 2017

THE RUSSIANS, THE DEMOCRATS, AND THE MEDIA

There was a time when Russia was the enemy, back when the Russian people suffered under the communist yoke. Then opposition to the Soviet Union was the right position, while many on the Left were outright communist sympathizers or treasonous pawns of that evil empire. The Russian people were never the enemy.  The enemy was the odious regime that murdered millions of its own people. But the Soviet Union is long gone and communism belongs in the dustbin of history. 

Russia has come a long way, and today under Putin is anti-Bolshevik.  Is it democratic in the way of the west? No, but it is an infinite improvement over the communist regime. When the Russians were behind the expansion of communism there was reason to consider them the enemy. But the Left instead was reliably anti-anti-communist, ever promoting “peaceful coexistence” and understanding where none could be had. But today the new theme of the Left, and the Democratic party in the US, is anti-Russian. Perhaps they mourn the old Soviet regime and resent its replacement, no longer of the “left,” but one that has restored Russian tradition, culture, and religion. This is not meant as an apology for the Russian government, which in many respects is mismanaging the country to the detriment of its long-term interests, and with its low tolerance of opposition, but these are self-inflicted wounds. 

Today the Democratic party in the United States has gone totally off the rails in its delusions about Russian involvement in our elections and government. At this point it is pure hysteria, not even so much because of anything the Russians might have done but that it might be used to undermine the Trump administration. This is unadulterated hatred seeking a target aided by a compliant and partisan media. 

If you were skeptical of the criticism of the media in the past, the current kerfuffle over Attorney General Sessions supposed contacts with the Russians proves the point. From Democratic operatives the word was passed to the media that Sessions met with the Russians twice and didn’t mention it in his Senate testimony. But what were these meetings? The supposed contact with the Russian ambassador consisted of questioning him with other senators in a hearing, and an otherwise casual and trivial passing conversation at a reception; both routine experiences shared by many Democrats.  To any objective observer this is nonsense, and a truly honest media would have passed it over or concluded that there was nothing there. Instead we have a bogus “scandal” without substance that most people can parse out on their own. The only real offense of Sessions is being a southern white man; talk about prejudice and hatred!

Now they are finding, or rather looking for Russians everywhere under the bed without a shred of evidence. A responsible media would stick to the facts, but they have degenerated into a partisan opposition, relying on embittered holdovers from the Obama administration. 

This Russomania is going nowhere. It is the last gasp of scoundrels who have nothing left in their arsenal. Their only objective is to undermine the Trump administration. It isn’t just the Democrats, but the Bush-league Republicans who failed miserably when in power. These old cold warriors have now made common cause with the new cold warriors of the Left and have lost whatever relevance they might have had. People are tired of the rancor  and can see for themselves what the new administration has already accomplished. In the complete absence of factual evidence and endless innuendo, the net effect of all of this is to drive more and more people into the Trump camp. 

25 February 2017

THE DEATH OF HOLLYWOOD

Once there was a time when Hollywood provided millions of people with an escape from the travails of daily life in America and around the world. The objective was nothing more than to provide mass entertainment to a wide audience without any further pretense. In the days of the great studios patriots like Louis B. Mayer ran a tight ship. But eventually due to ill-advised government anti-trust proceedings and the rise of television the studio system broke down, and in that vacuum power was grabbed by sleazy agents. The glamour days persisted through the 1950s, but eventually the great stars passed on and were never really replaced. 

Hollywood stood for entertainment, and as long as that was the case it was appreciated by everyone. it was something we had in common. No matter what political divisions there might have been in the outside world they seldom were manifest in entertainment, which was there for everyone, despite their differences. In the 60s things started to change due to sharp political divisions, and stars, untethered by studio common sense, became overtly more political. But then there was still some balance, and for every Jane Fonda there was a John  Wayne, but all still behaved professionally. Jane Fonda won her Oscar at the pinnacle of her political radicalism, but even she, when accepting her award, did not go off on a political speech, but instead, to her credit, said that there is a lot the say but this isn’t the time or place to say it. 

How things have changed. Now too many feel the self-indulgent necessity to make political statements, taking advantage of a public moment in the spotlight they were provided only because of their entertainment work, not for their political insight.  It isn’t just the “talent” that feels compelled to behave like this; it permeates the whole industry from the very top, as the industry leadership is of one mind politically. Anyone taking not just an opposing viewpoint, but simply wanting to remain apolitical is subject to pressure and hostility. 


But the end result is that they have killed the Hollywood that once pleased everyone. They have alienated half the audience and have gone a long way towards turning “Hollywood” into something of an epithet by abusing a platform that exists only because of the achievements of old Hollywood, not this pale echo, this decrepit residue, of what once was. The more this goes on the less audience there will be for various award shows, and this will likely be the case with this year’s Oscar ceremony. The decline will continue thanks to these unbridled egos. The Grammy’s at least provide a great deal of straight entertainment. The Oscars are worse than a bore, they are an irritant and I, and millions of others wont’ be watching. 

21 January 2017

EMOTION AND POLITICS

Much of the rancor one sees in political life is basically rooted in emotion, and therefore irrational in its fundamental state. Ideology stems from the same root, which is also not rational, and hence the more ideological things become the less reason prevails and the more susceptible people become to nonsense claims, usually about the other “side.”  Now since the response is emotional it is also personal, which frequently involves projecting personal concerns or deficiencies out onto others, or society. That being the case it can never be ameliorated as long as that false understanding prevails, and so such people are never happy, and seemingly always angry about something someone else is doing. 

There have been many academic studies purporting to explain irrational political behavior, but it is always ends up as characterizing only the right, thus betraying the left-wing bias of their world view, especially in fields like psychology. For while there is an emotional basis for ideology, it applies to both sides, and in fact there is arguably more intense emotion on the left. This is evidenced in the remarks of an actress suggesting that the new President hates “foreigners” among other things, irrespective of the fact that he is married to one, thus attacking a yahoo straw man that does not exist.  It was a perfect example of an emotional argument making absolutely no sense. The angry response was also beneath the dignity of a President, along the lines of: you attacked me so I’m going to attack you.

Nevertheless, the emotional component is far more prevalent among those on the left. They are forever trying to shut up and silence anything they don’t like, or preventing others from speaking. Failing this they will attempt to organize boycotts that never gain any support, and indeed often provoke a reaction that is the opposite of their intent. They will also threaten and blacklist, i.e. entertainers who have the temerity to try and appear at a presidential inauguration. If they can’t get their way directly they will try and get in indirectly, i.e. by trying to boycott advertisers on a medium they dislike. It is true that corporations have folded with this kind of pressure from the left, though whether that will continue in the age of Trump is another question. There is thus a disturbing totalitarian proclivity to shut others down, cause them to lose business, or even to ruin their lives. 

Surveys also show that those on the left are three time more likely than those on the right to “defriend” someone on Facebook over political matters. The reason for this disparity stems from a world view, unique to the left; one that believes that all aspects of life have a “political” dimension, and are therefore fair game for political action. That vast array of activities and circumstances that exist for most people in the private sphere are an inconvenience for them. If something is not perceived as political they will politicize it, and obsessed with symbolism, they will seek removal of the most innocuous  item that offends their sensibilities, even if totally innocent of their mischaracterization. 

This does not necessarily apply to true “liberals,” at least to the extent that they are true to liberal principles regarding freedom of speech and thought, although they are more likely to cave into the hard left when it comes to unreasonable demands. But this totalitarian tendency to threaten or force others to behave or think a certain way or eliminate what offends their sensibilities has to be vigorously resisted. Failure to do so undermines the legitimacy of  liberalism itself. 


Thus the more ideological the perceptions the more emotional and irrational the attitude the outlook and behavior. This does not characterize all emotional responses to things, i.e. empathizing with suffering, a swell of patriotic feelings, listening to music, etc. but rather emotional reactions that underly ideology and that are political in nature. Anyone whose world view leaves them constantly miserable and compelled to make political statements needs to engage in some honest reflection as to why they believe what they believe with such intensity, and the consequences it has for their personal life. It means perhaps recognizing that personal needs are being projected out onto society. Finally it means examining why political perceptions are so intense, and how they can cloud what truly exists in the present moment. Quo vadis.

16 December 2016

THE RUSSIAN HACKS

According to US intelligence services there is little doubt that the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee’s computers. But as President Obama made clear today that is old news, something he confronted Putin about months ago. He further stated that after that it stopped. I share his puzzlement as to why it is an issue in the media now. 

Hillary Clinton now says that this was a factor in costing her the election, though it is unclear how that could have come to pass since there is no evidence anyone tampered with the electoral process itself. Mrs. Clinton seems to be confusing the DNC hack with her own problems with her personal email server, which is a completely different issue. Her negligence in that case, and her violation of various rules is what damaged her, if anything did. The DNC hack produced no information of any consequence, and the Wikileaks buildup was a total bust. Not a single thing detrimental to Hillary Clinton was revealed in the Russia-to-Wikileaks dump so it could not possibly have affected the election. The more salient reason why Hillary lost was the fact that she spent little or no time in places like Wisconsin and Michigan. 

Nevertheless this kind of security break ought to concern everyone, especially in Europe where there are upcoming elections. The US cannot tolerate this kind of interference, or potential interference in our electoral process and measures to correct this ought to be taken. However, in terms of damage or influence, there was none apart from some embarrassment on the part of people whose emails were hacked. Nothing of any real interest to anyone was revealed, so for the parties involved it was a waste of time. Going forward, we need to be prepared to resist this sort of thing, and if our servers are breached at this point it is our own fault.