Saturday, February 13, 2016

You Know You Want To Hear My Take On Donald Trump

Preface: When I realized that most government policy is made by bureaucrats who don't answer to the President or anyone else, I stopped taking elections seriously and can now view them with detached amusement. Therefore, you won't find any advocacy in what is to follow.

Elections don't usually revolve around one main issue, but this one does. The issue: should the current economic order continue or be changed? That economic order can be summarized as globalist neoliberalism with bankers and politicians, not producers and consumers, calling the shots. Europe has already had a string of elections on the same theme, and the existing order has pretty much held its own. (France's election appeared to be about cultural issues, but I'll shortly explain why those issues are almost always in service of economic ones.) Will it go that way in the US?

Trump and Sanders are running on platforms of serious economic change, Sanders more explicitly than Trump. Ted Cruz is also plausibly an outsider, but all of the other major candidates promise the same basic policies that have been followed for the last 40 years.

Trump presents a much graver threat to the existing order than Sanders. Why? First I need to explain one important tool, maybe the most important one, that the elites use to keep the rest of us at bay. I have written before about my family's experience in the coal mines of Appalachia. The mine owners may not have invented this particular tool, but they used it in a way that makes its operation obvious.

The mine operators lived in deathly fear of any organized action on the part of the workers. Labor unrest in the early 1900s didn't mean picket lines, it meant people shot and mines blown up. So what they did was this: in all the big mines controlled by outside investors, blacks were brought in from the South and immigrants from Italy and Eastern Europe to mix in with the native white workforce. Having a workforce that diverse created some management and communication problems, but this was a small price to pay for the real goal, which was to keep the workers divided into mutually hostile groups. It is a credit to the native whites that violent racism of the kind seen in the Deep South and in Northern big cities was rare. Still, blacks had to do the crappiest jobs, live in a separate part of the camp, and go to separate and inferior schools.

The strategy of keeping the workforce divided worked very well. It's hard to organize a labor movement when two thirds of your fellow laborers see you as the enemy, not management. So the union stayed out until 1933, when it became protected by a federal decree that owed nothing to grassroots organizing.

That divide-and-conquer strategy today works better than ever, because it now has the added appeal of appearing to advance civil rights. Anyone who opposes divide-and-conquer will be called nativist, racist, homophobic, and will be marginalized not just in conversations about race, but totally. For example, opposing immigration will immediately put you on the wrong side of the establishment, including all the "respectable" media.

You might think you have a way out. Why not oppose divide-and-conquer by working for unity and cooperation among different ethnic groups? How could that possibly get you in trouble? It can and it already has gotten Bernie Sanders in trouble. Ol' Bernie was set upon by the Black Lives Matter movement and he tried to defuse them by saying "We all stand together." That just got them angrier. They weren't about to be suckered into a display of brotherhood, no. They were sent to disrupt and divide, and that is what they're doing.

President Obama is a master divider. A perfect example happened just last week, when he went to a mosque to speak out against "Islamophobia". You say: how is that divisive? Isn't he calling for tolerance? That's the opposite of divisive! But that falls apart when you realize that there really isn't much Islamophobia in the US. Even right after 9/11, it was negligible. So what was Obama really doing at the mosque? He's telling Muslims that their neighbors don't like them; that they have to be on their guard. At the same time, he's telling everyone else to be nice, when in fact 99.9% of them are already being nice, so it's going to stir up precisely the conflict Obama claims to oppose. Divide and conquer.

Some people think Obama is anti-white. I don't think so; he's half white, after all. He's just a very good establishment politician who knows how to divide people, and simple arithmetic tells you that whites are going to repeatedly be on the other side of the divide, because most Americans are white. Obama used to be a lot blacker back when he was on the South Side of Chicago, going to a black nationalist church and all, because you have to be a lot more obvious about it in a place like that. But he knew that wouldn't work for a national candidate, so he left it behind in Chicago. Obama gets called out on his divisiveness more often because he's part black and so comes off as anti-white. It's not fair. What would be fair is if every politician who pulls that crap got called out on it, including Obama.

Another example is the resettlement of various refugee groups. Somalis are being resettled in Maine for some reason. You think this is because the US government wants to help Somalis? No; if they wanted to help Somalis, they wouldn't send them to a place so different from what they're used to. The real reason is that the US Government likes the idea of Somalis and Mainers (Maineiacs? What are they called?) bickering with each other, soaking up each other's energy, distracting them from what is going on in Washington. Divide and conquer.

Some of these stunts are really transparent. One was Clock Boy, the Sudanese kid in Texas who took apart an alarm clock, put it in a briefcase and brought it to school where the teachers quite reasonably identified it as a hoax bomb. They call the cops, Clock Boy's dad (an experienced political adventurer) goes to the media and threatens to sue, and President Obama, immediately sniffing out the role that was prepared for him, invites Clock Boy to the White House to show him his "cool clock." What looked like a spontaneous little science fair was actually a way to subtly embarrass and shame people nervous about terrorism. That's a lot easier than actually doing something about terrorism. Divide and conquer.

The next time you're asked to share a Facebook post about a divisive civil rights issue you've never heard of before (the racial composition of the Oscars voters?), remember the divide-and-conquer strategy. Will sharing the post make you look moral, while antagonizing others? That's a clue. Look behind the curtain to figure out who the real instigator is. Policies that divide people into hostile factions are the ones most likely to be favored by the establishment. They spend a tremendous amount of energy on this because it pays off so handsomely. When your company sends you to diversity training, they know it never achieves its stated purpose of promoting harmony and respect. They're not stupid. They know it does the exact opposite, making employees of all races and creeds suspicious of each other. That is its actual purpose.

Back to Trump. Trump either doesn't care whether he's portrayed as a bigot, or he's working on some higher plane of persuasion in which such portrayal works to his advantage. In either case, if you picture divide-and-conquer as a weapon aimed at opponents of the establishment, Trump has grabbed that weapon and is now beating the establishment silly with it. They fully realize how much more dangerous Trump is to their system than is Sanders. Bernie let himself get schooled by Black Lives Matter, so he's a soft target. The establishment would rather have Jeb or Hillary, but they can certainly work with Bernie. He would expand the federal government in all kinds of directions, and big established businesses just eat that sort of thing for breakfast these days. My instinct is that even if Trump continues to dominate the polls, he will not be the Republican nominee. The interesting thing will be how they'll manage to stop him.

This essay is really about political correctness and its uses. Once you realize how the establishment uses political correctness to keep itself in power, you realize why any real challenger to the existing order must confront it, regardless of his personal views on race or immigration. He must be politically incorrect, publicly and obviously. That is why Donald Trump says the things he says.

Now, I've presented my case as a series of concrete examples with just a little theoretical overlay. But if you're interested in a more highbrow take, nobody can say it better than Jonathan Haidt. He said, referring to the campus disruptions of last summer,

...left-leaning institutions are now cut off from any moral vocabulary that they could use to resist the forces of illiberalism.

Notice the use of the "cut off" metaphor. They were cut off from that moral vocabulary by skilled practitioners of divide-and-conquer.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Zip Codes

I went to the Columbus campus of Ohio State, whose zip code is 43210. The company I work for now has a nearby plant whose zip code is 12345.

Zip codes generally increase from east to west. Because the lowest zip codes are in the Northeast, you might expect the highest ones to be in the Southwest, but they're actually in the Northwest. San Francisco (94xxx) has higher zip codes than Los Angeles (90xxx-91xxx), and Alaska (995xx-999xx) has the highest of all. Hawaii (96xxx) has higher zip codes than San Francisco, but lower ones than Seattle (981xx). Strangely, the lowest zip code on the West Coast of the continental US, 90001, is in Los Angeles, which is neither the northernmost, southernmost, easternmost or westernmost place in California. (The lowest overall zip code is 00501, which belongs to an IRS office in Holtsville, NY.)

Another exception to the geographic trends is the use of zip codes for Navy ships, which have no fixed location. US territories have zip codes, too. Some remote, uninhabited Pacific islands have zip code 96898, which has the "preferred" postal name of Wake Island, HI.

Because zip code prefixes are assigned by state, the two adjoining zip codes that differ by the largest number must be along a state boundary. Most likely they along the border between Tennessee (370xx-385xx) and Arkansas (716xx-729xx). If you figure out which two they are, drop me a line. I tried Googling "two zip codes biggest difference" but to no avail. If someone Googles that in the future, it'll just bring them to this page.

According to the Post Office, there are about 42,000 zip codes. Since there are 100,000 five-digit numbers, that means less than half the available numbers have been assigned.

I wondered about pairs of cities whose zip codes are the reverse of each other. Here's a list of some places I've lived along with the city that has the reverse zip code.

Perry, OH 44081 ---- Easton, PA 18044
Cleveland, OH 44106 ---- Kaneville, IL 60144
Columbus, OH 43235 ---- Milwaukee, WI 53234
Fremont, CA 94538 ---- Riggins, ID 83549
Lakewood, CA 90713 ---- Americus, GA 31709
Niskayuna, NY 12309 ---- 90321 is not the zip code of any place
Westlake, OH 44145 ---- 54144 is not the zip code of any place
Spotsylvania, VA 22551 ----- Bedford, PA 15522

I've never been to any of the "reversed" places. Someone with a lot of free time should write a script where you enter all the cities you've been to, and it figures out whether you've ever been to two cities whose zip codes are the reverse of each other.

Of course, some zip codes read the same forward and backward. If you've been to Romulus, NY (14541), Lanett, AL (36863), or Kettleman City, CA (93239) you've covered both the forward and backward version of those zip codes. I missed a palindromic zip code by just one digit when I lived in Westlake, OH. 44144 belongs to Brooklyn, OH.

In some areas, you can see that the zip codes were assigned alphabetically. For example,

44077 Painesville, OH
44078 Unassigned
44079 Unassigned
44080 Parkman
44081 Perry
44082 Pierpont
44083 Unassigned
44084 Rock Creek

Those places are all within 30 miles of each other. If anyone ever founds a Quincy, OH in the northeast corner of the state, its zip code will undoubtedly be 44083. I wonder why they left two unassigned numbers between Painesville and Parkman. Was the Post Office following a consistent rule based on the frequency of the second letter, or was it just an oversight by a bored employee in a dusty government office back in 1963 when all the assignments were being made? Or were 44078 and 44079 formerly assigned to post offices that have been closed?

Only three zip codes in the whole US are counting sequences of numbers. One is 12345, which I mentioned already; the other two are

23456 Virginia Beach, VA
45678 Scottown, OH

None of the others are assigned. I was thinking Boston, MA was 01234, but then when I sang the theme song to Zoom to myself, I remembered it is actually 02134.

Likewise, there are just three reverse counting sequences. They are 43210 (already mentioned) and

Killeen, TX 76543
Spaceport City, NM 87654 (This one kills me. It's not a real city, but a boondoggle state-funded spaceport that almost nobody uses. Similarly, the telephone area code for Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center is 321. Get it?)

Then there's the totally awesome repeating-digit zip code. There are only 10 possible and of those 10 just one has been assigned. Drumroll, please...

Newton Falls, OH 44444

There was a big tornado there in 1985. They say the wind blew so hard, it jumbled up the numbers in the zip code...