What if there's code in your future

Photo by: Jens B'ttner/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

A weekend that started expectantly for liberals was dampened by the realization that the standoff may start all over again in 3 weeks.  Donald Trump agreed to temporarily fund the closed parts of the federal government without a guarantee of border wall funding from House speaker Nancy Pelosi . “The stopgap spending bill President Trump signed into law on Friday night gives leaders in both chambers until Feb. 15 to devise a bipartisan resolution to their impasse over the president’s demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall.”


But some were indignant at Trump’s unwillingness to surrender unconditionally. “Progressives especially are feeling emboldened and do not like the idea that Mr. Trump is once again tying the debate over border security to a threat to shut down the government.” Having taken the crest of the hill they were horrified to discover a reverse slope position.  They were in negotiations all over again.  It was a reminder that in political trench warfare and there will be no quick knockout blows, just defense in depth and attack and counterattack.

Democrats have moved closer to Mr. Trump’s $5.7 billion price tag. Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, told reporters this past week that lawmakers in his party were prepared to spend that much on a border security package that would include what he called a “smart wall,” featuring drones, sensors and more Border Patrol agents.” …

“I think it’s offensive, even to some of the centrists and moderates, that he links his program on immigration with the functioning of government,” said Representative Ro Khanna of California, a leader of the House Progressive Caucus. “The vast majority, not just the progressives, will say not a dime goes for the border wall. And that’s especially true because we just won this fight.”

As if to underscore the long-term nature of the struggle the media industry was hit by another wave of layoffs.  The phrase “learning how to code” has become the most offensive phrase of 2019 because it means that everyone has to take lumps.  There is no monotonically good political news for either side.  As one Tweet noted ‘coding’ has become a jibe for everyone.


In the past, when blue collar workers suffered layoffs, bloggers and journalists would write articles telling them to “learn how to code”. Now that bloggers and journalists are being laid off, they are getting mad at people telling them to “learn how to code”.

“We just won this fight” ain’t what it used to be.  ‘Learn to code’ is especially ironic because the developers of Google and Facebook –not Trump — bankrupted the newspapers.  The fall in newspaper ad revenue was snatched up by an increase in social media advertisement. “The amount of money spent on advertising on social media is set to catch up with newspaper ad revenues by 2020 … the rapid expansion of social media platforms on mobile devices, as well as faster internet connectivity and more sophisticated technology, has triggered a huge shift in the way many people get their news.”

“And who’s moving in right now to pick through the scraps? Hedge funds. They’ve destroyed several papers, and are working their way through some biggies like the Denver Post,” wrote Jeremy Littau.  The newspapers were destroyed, not by the alt-right but by the internal contradictions of the system itself: the greedy publishers, the greedy social media companies, the greedy hedge funds. The papers were torn down by some of the most reliable donors of the Democratic Party.

A system premised on big institutions is often its own worst enemy.  Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, bankrupt, his credit used up, is making his last stand around the Russian supplied ironmongery of the state. “Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro oversaw a display of the army’s Russian hardware on Sunday, with anti-aircraft flak and tank rounds pounding a hillside to show military force and loyalty in the face of an international ultimatum for new elections.”


Yet it was the vainglory of the state that brought him down in the first place.  Bloomberg pointed out in 2016 that bloated government choked what was once the richest country in South America. “Venezuela has more than 4,000 generals, compared with fewer than 50 in 1993. This kind of runaway [bureaucratic] inflation is every bit as pernicious as the economic variety, which also afflicts Venezuela — in fact, they have to be addressed together.”  An article in The Atlantic observed “It is no coincidence that there are more generals in Venezuela today than in NATO or the United States.”

Few progressives can resist viewing more government as a victory.  It is no coincidence either that Adam Johnson of the Nation considers every attempt to shutdown “nonessential” government services a “right-wing coup” and may naturally regard every expansion as a gain.

Just as they did in October of 2013, the media are uniformly calling the selective starving of government by Republicans in Congress a “government shutdown.”…  What we are really facing is a liberal government shutdown—which is to say programs designed to help the vulnerable and poor are gutted, while institutions designed to serve the rich and powerful remain unscathed. …

A more precise term would be to call it a “soft right-wing coup” or simply a “right-wing coup.” If that seems too loaded, “Republican government starvation” or “attacks on liberal programs” would suffice. All of these terms are, by their very nature, fraught with subjective input, but so is “government shutdown”—a label that necessarily creates a tiered system of “essential” and “nonessential” functions based on the reactionary principle that “property” is an axiomatic good.

There’s the broader ideological coup as well. As Michael Zuckerman noted in The Atlantic in 2013, by calling it a “government shutdown” the left runs the risks that many Americans will not notice their lives change in a clear way as the months roll on. The ROI, or “return on investment,” of liberal government–education, science, children’s health–are not noticeable in an immediate and demonstrable way. Each day the “government shutdown” rolls on is another day the far right achieves another propaganda victory by giving the public the impression that government must not be very important if its wholesale closure has no impact on people’s lives.


Liberal government programs, not property, have now become the axiomatic good. As Elizabeth Warren tweeted “this billionaire NFL owner just paid $100M for a “superyacht” with its own iMax theater. I’m pretty sure he can pay my new #UltraMillionaireTax to help the millions of yacht-less Americans struggling with student loan debt.”

Never mind that the expensive degrees for which those debts were incurred may have all the value of Maduro’s generals.  Have them we must.  There is no awareness of the likelihood — even the possibility — that these liberal victories may ultimately poison the lifeblood of the left itself.  But it does; which is why every time progressives are of certain permanent victory it always encounters another obstacle to its front.

Below: ebb and flow and defense in depth as shown in “All Quiet on the Western Front”.

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Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America, by T.J. Stiles. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in History, this book paints a portrait of Custer that demolishes historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person — capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years). The key to understanding Custer, Stiles writes, is keeping in mind that he lived on a frontier in time. In the Civil War, the West, and many other areas, Custer helped to create modern America, but could never adapt to it. Stiles casts surprising new light on a near-mythic American figure, a man both widely known and little understood.


Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger. We have a strong instinct to belong to small groups defined by clear purpose and understanding or “tribes,” a connection now largely lost. But its pull on us remains and is exemplified by combat veterans who find themselves missing the intimate bonds of platoon life at the end of deployment and the high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder suffered by military veterans today. Combining history, psychology, and anthropology, Junger explores what we can learn from tribal societies about loyalty, belonging, and the eternal human quest for meaning. He explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved even in today’s divided world.

For a list of books most frequently purchased by readers, visit my homepage.

Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
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