What Happens Now

 ”Something was different last year, and if I had to put a finger on it, I’d say it’s when we all collectively realized that there may not be a happy ending.  Stupid keeps winning, ignorance keeps winning, racism and bigotry keep bubbling up even as we get traction on gay marriage, the climate keeps changing, the drought goes on, Congress gets more worthless and the media that covers it gets even more so, sports becomes ever more rigged and gimmicked and sports media gets ever more shrill and predictable, and the tech boom shoots money out of a firehose at complete assholes while everyone else tries to scrape by in a world where a suburban 3-bedroom townhouse can cost a million dollars.”

-27 Jan 2015
 
Well, almost two years on, there you have it. Pretty much exactly the no-happy-ending I predicted. We lost containment – stupid has always been mass-produce-able with unskilled labor and we’ve let it out of the box. Couple it with Facebook and Twitter and Reddit and boom, an unlimited supply of useful idiots. 
 
Please spare me the shock at the “fake news.” Shirley Sherrod. The birth certificate. The Clinton Chronicles. Vince Foster. Yellowcake and tubes. We don’t need Russia to feed us fake news and haven’t for decades when we have Fox and the New York Times and forwardable email. It takes a lot of damn gall for the newspaper of Howell Raines and Judith Miller to lecture about fake news. Politics went post-factual twenty years ago and nobody cared because “opinions differ” and “the truth is somewhere in the middle” rather than where the damned facts are. It’s how Hillary Clinton, whose issue positions were largely indistinguishable from those of a sitting president with 58% approval, could lose: not because of ten months of fake news but because of the twenty five years of it previously.

As much as Mark Zuckerberg wants to throw his hands in the air and say “not it,” that excuse doesn’t hold water. Facebook – and the Internet more generally – has a way of giving equal footing to every opinion, and if the Internet is how you get your news, then you’re getting all the filtering mechanisms stripped out. Time was, a major print newspaper or network news broadcast carried a certain weight of credibility, but if a spam site in Macedonia has equal firepower, it’s time to consider than maybe the Internet isn’t a force for good in democracy and informing the public. Which means that I was wrong, Dr. Pride, and maybe nobody owes me a PhD after all. Sorry about that.
 
Look at the world the last 10 years: Prop 8 in California, Brexit in the UK, and now we have this. If there’s one lesson to take away, let it be this: Nothing is unthinkable anymore. We can no longer say “that could never happen” because it fucking well did. If the state that the rest of the country identified with uncontrolled radical liberalism can outlaw gay marriage by popular vote, if the UK can slit its own throat in world markets and set its economy on the precipice, if we can elect a tabloid figure and walking Reddit board President of the United Fucking States, anything is possible. Delete the words “it couldn’t happen here” from your vocabulary. It could. It can. It has already. Stop pretending there are guardrails, that there are cultural barriers and historical precedents that keep everything from going off the rails, because there fucking aren’t. Don’t rely on anyone else to make the case, to do the job, to hold the line. This is not self-correcting. This will not all come out in the wash. This has to be actively reversed, and that takes work. Demographics won’t handle it in 10 years if nobody votes. Senators won’t balk at touching the third rail if it doesn’t shock them to touch it. The good guys can’t win with 48 percent.

So what happens now? Gonna have to fight. Gonna have to push back. To the last man, to the last trench, to the last vote, to the last ballot, to the last dollar, to the last day of the American experiment – we fight. Right now, Hillary Clinton has over two million more votes than the candidate who got elected. Never let that go. Never shut up about that. Never take the light off the fact that this person was elected with fewer votes than his opponent. There is no mandate. There is no moral authority. There is no blank check. For all his caterwauling and conspiracy-mongering, Donald Trump won an election as rigged as the American system can accommodate. Not a day should go by until 2021 that this doesn’t come up, loudly. And the correction of the American political system has to continue apace, such that we never again have a President who got fewer votes than another person running against them. When the popular vote is a loser twice in five elections, the system is broken.

This is disruption. This is what happens when someone ignores the regulations, the accepted standards of behavior, the very rules themselves. If nobody acts to sanction them, they win. As Uber, so Trump. Only difference is, instead of sclerotic taxi companies, this time the pillars of our democratic process got disrupted. Maybe we get them back. Maybe not. Definitely not, if we don’t act. Now, and every day for the foreseeable future.

What are you prepared to do?

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45-34

IF I HAD THE WINGS OF AN EAGLE

IF I HAD THE TAIL OF A CROW

I’D FLY MY ASS STRAIGHT OVER KNOXVILLE

AND SHIT ON THOSE BASTARDS BELOW!!!

 

I didn’t watch the game as it happened. I haven’t watched much all year – largely because I didn’t need the kind of trauma this team has given me the last couple of seasons. I just hosted the holiday party and trusted the guys to handle their business. And amazingly, it all worked out, in a way that I couldn’t have expected when the year started.

3-9 the first year, a disaster. 4-8 the next – almost worse in a way, because there was obvious progress that didn’t translate into results on the field. And when this team limped through the first half of the season, getting blown away by Georgia Tech (thanks for nothing, cuz) and losing three SEC games by a touchdown or less, it began to look like the Dores just couldn’t get over the hump. And then…

Let’s be honest: we probably didn’t deserve to beat Western Kentucky or Georgia. But we certainly didn’t deserve to lose to Cocky AND to GATA AND to UK. So that’s sort of a wash, far as I’m concerned. We shouldn’t have lost to Mizzou but definitely deserved to, we went toe-to-toe with Auburn…and then in these last two games, against two rivals, everything clicked. We didn’t back into it, we didn’t fluke into it, we went out and beat Ole Miss and Tennessee convincingly. Hell, look at the way the UT game went: in the first half we traded punch for punch, went down 31-24 at the half, and then beat them handily in the second half, 21-3. The adjustments were made and they worked and we delivered the goods.

So there it is, in the cold light of morning: Big Six. Lost one of the non-conference games the formula requires, but made up for it with three SEC wins – Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. The steady improvement continues, and now this team will wind up in a bowl berth on the merits instead of needing to leverage the APR loophole. Vanderbilt heads to its fifth bowl since 2008 under the third different coach to get them there.  In that time, of course, they’ve also won two games in the season (twice) and three and four…but since that 2008 season, we have more bowl years than sub-.500 years.

You look at that…and something has changed. After all, we didn’t break the .500 mark once from 1983 to 2007. Lot of 5 win seasons, the occasional fluke over UT or Bama or Georgia (OK, usually Georgia), but mostly a whole lot of blowout losses and “same old Vandy” head-shaking. Sometime in the last decade, the bar changed. Yes, the Brigadoon era was an anomaly at the time, but if you look at the team from roughly 2004 to that 2008 season, you could see the slow progress. And now, three years on, the movement may not be quick but it appears inexorable…hopefully.

After all, on this pace, we’re looking at the SEC title game in five years, right?

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Made the call

I’m putting the war on ice for now. I’m going to be aware, I’m going to make sure nothing slips by, but as of right this instant, I’m going to celebrate the holidays. I’m going to get the tree lit up and the music on full blast, I’m going to switch to my high school ring and celebrate with my actual loved ones, we’re going to milk the fact that it’s only the 23rd and we’re going to give Barack Obama the valedictory sendoff he deserves.  And then, when the Congress is in session and no one’s life, liberty or property are safe, we’re going to be tanned and rested and ready and we’re going to fight like hell for our people and give no quarter.

But as of this moment, the goal is simple and straightforward: have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

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Sic transit gloria Apple

So in the last week and change, Apple has:

* Let go Sal Soghoian, the legendary Apple director for automation technologies – the drum major for AppleScript, Automator and support for scripting technology within Apple products. He is not being replaced.

* Reassigned the engineers working on Apple’s AirPort and Time Capsule routers and backup devices to…something else.

* Released a $300 coffee table book of Apple’s design in the last 20 years, dedicated to the late CEO who upon returning to Apple sent all of its historical memorabilia to Stanford rather than dwell on the past.

 

Something is going on in Cupertino and I don’t care for the direction it’s taking. The new MacBook Pro has come in for more of a lashing than any Apple product in recent memory, and most of the heat is coming from actual professional users frustrated not only by the too-little-too-late of just now shipping a Skylake-based laptop and prioritizing thin and gimmicky over high-end firepower. Made worse, no doubt, by the fact that the Mac Pro – “can’t innovate any more my ass” – literally hasn’t changed in any way since it was introduced three years ago.

It’s difficult to get the impression that Apple is more convinced than ever that it’s a phone-and-tablet company, and that the Mac is not only no longer the bread and butter, but not worth committing high-end resources to. The ancillary technologies that support the Mac, that allow you to easily have an integrated experience – the AirPort line, the Thunderbolt Display – are gone by the boards. The additional technology that helps with using Macs in an enterprise environment is going – there isn’t so much as a rumor around Apple Remote Desktop 4 and Apple has basically relinquished enterprise support and management to JAMF in every way that matters, never mind the absence of a rackable server product since the demise of the late lamented XServe. (Not that I lament picking up those RAIDs, though. Those bastards weighed 110 pounds each fully packed.)

When I left Apple in 2007, it was out of fear that the role I was in was insufficiently technical – my job was six hours a day of scheduling and checking inventory and tasks that could have been handled by a competently-designed database and a few well-crafted scripts, and two hours a day of dockwalloping and forklift-pulling. I wanted to be working on computers and with computers, not just moving them around. The problem is, since 1994, my life has largely been built on the use of and support of the Macintosh. And now, on the eve of my 20th year in the IT sector, it’s rapidly becoming apparently that the Macintosh isn’t that much of a priority for Apple anymore.

On the one hand, fine. I’m about to embark on a career as a JAMF administrator, in addition to my other duties, and JAMF is basically the whole of enterprise-grade Mac management at present. It’s also an iOS management solution, and the perfect bridge to a world where, to be honest, the Apple-made market share in business is greater (the instances of iPhones in enterprise FAR outstrip the presence of Macs). It’s also, insh’allah, a job that doesn’t require as much of a physical on-site presence once things are up and running – the sort of job that could be based in the Bay Area but actually carried out remotely from the Central Coast. Or the Oregon Coast. Or a village in Ireland an hour’s train from Dublin, perhaps. 

It’s also a job doing something that may not have the long-term demand to carry me the rest of the way home. Like it or not, I’m probably only about halfway through my working career. I don’t have a realistic path to retire before 65 – which gets even more unrealistic if they decide to kill off Medicare for anyone too young to be a Trumpshaker – so I’m going to have to be able to do something for twenty more years. And to be honest, modern workstation IT is less than thirty years old. During my ill-fated temp stint before I started my first real job out of school, I was told “the computer has an internet explorer” as if it were an unusual feature. LAN-type setups for anything but printing and maybe some basic file storage were new (hell, when I started at National Geographic, internet access was a function of what floor you were on and whether the switch passed TCP/IP). So to assume that the world of “workstation support” will look anything like 2017 in, say, 2027 – let alone 2037 – is an awfully big ask.

And we’ve already established that Silly Con Valley, as currently constituted, is a bad place to be in your 40s if you’re not already a millionaire VC. It’s definitely a bad place to be if you’ve been in the same job for seven years, which is apparently a red flag about your lack of ambition and never mind how much more you were doing in the same role with the same title by year six of the seven. It’s not the sort of neighborhood where I’d want to find myself looking for work at age 58, let alone 63.

So maybe I try to stick around where I’m at. If I could somehow carve out a niche where “platform engineering” becomes “platform support system administrator” for a little more money and a lot more remote-working, where we could easily go someplace else to hide out from the rest of the world when need be, where I could just punch the clock and let something else be how I measure my life…that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, right?

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Called it

This is what “no future” means.  This is unsustainable. When people are endorsing a candidate on the basis that everything he’s said for the last year and a half is false, and what he said before that is true, and obviously he’ll go back to the way he was, and the people who pushed him to the right will go along with this – that is insane.  If logic doesn’t matter, if reason doesn’t matter, if the words coming out of the candidate’s mouth don’t matter, then there’s no point in even attempting to have a democracy or anything like it.  If truth means nothing, if reality means nothing…well, welcome to everything people bemoaned back when I was in college English. Welcome to the truly and completely postmodern world. If we as a nation actually decide that the truth is whatever you want it to be…well, maybe there’s enough medication and booze to help me see the world that way.

-5 Nov 2012

Forget everything you hear about the “moderate Republicans” or the “grownups” – there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the GOP and the Tea Party, there never was, and the successful laundering of the Republican label in the wake of 2008 while going even further to the right is one of the amazing mysteries of our time….And don’t underestimate the chance of Clinton Fatigue dragging Hillary down to the point where he – or another of his neo-confederate pals in Amen Corner – finds himself in the Oval Office on January 20, 2017…Better days are coming.  They can’t live forever.  The only catch is, can we last long enough to ride it out.

-20 Nov 2014

 

My mistake was in thinking that 2012 really was last call. I was right about Clinton Fatigue, except that Hillary actually finished with over a million more votes than Trump. What I wasn’t really prepared for was that the FBI would sandbag her, or that Russian misinformation would be gladly laundered through Wikileaks and Facebook, or that the press would run with it in a spirit of false equivalence and that we as a nation would just let that go, and that it could be enough to thread the needle in enough states to allow this to happen. 

But this should be the take-home: for the second time in the last five elections, the popular vote winner lost the election. That hadn’t happened for over a century. Now, two out of the last 5. 40% is a bad failure rate for a democracy in the 21st century, and that can’t be left to lie if we want to keep it.

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St Johnny Cash, pray for us

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22 years ago

I woke up on the couch at Tom Weisert’s. Amazingly I hadn’t thrown up, despite all the garbage poured down my throat after the polls closed in Tennessee at 6 PM and they called both Senate and the gubernatorial race all for Republicans at 6:20. There was some sort of raspberry daiquiri stuff. I know this because I drove back to my apartment, turned on the TV, and saw Richard Shelby changing parties from the Democrats who had helped re-elect him two years earlier to the newly-majority GOP. And that’s when I saw all the raspberry daiquiri again.

Two decades and change on, all I drank last night was one bottle of porter. I got in bed between 10 and 11, almost dozed off, received a text message at 2 AM that spiked my heart rate to 122 according to the Apple Watch, finally fell asleep about 4:30 and was awake at 6:20. And when I woke up, the nightmare was still happening.

What started in 1994 ended last night: the GOP, completely Southernized and fully in control of the American system of government. In a way it’s worse than 2000 or even 2004; despite the fact that George W. Bush was the matador for a Southernized GOP Congress, back then the racism and bigotry was at least subtext rather than an explicit selling point. Anti-Semites and KKK weren’t openly celebrating then. More to the point, while there had been the usual amount of dissembling and media incompetence, there wasn’t the complete abject failure of this year. We still haven’t seen Donald Trump’s tax returns. We have no idea what his policy positions are on half a dozen issues, and the ones we do know are horrifyingly comic. We can probably assume that anything and everything the GOP has ever wanted – pipelines, tax cuts, drilling for oil in Yosemite and mandatory cavity search of brown people by TSA – will go through like shit through a goose, including the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice whose seat was held open nine months in absolutely unprecedented fashion for just this opportunity.

John Rogers nailed it: our system is not built to cope with shamelessness. The GOP has no shame about shattering the norms that have kept American politics on the rails for decades – if not centuries – whether it’s the Supreme Court hole, or the unprecedented misuse of the filibuster since 2006, or the notion that a candidate’s finances should be publicly visible. Republicans have culminated two decades of “what are you gonna do about it?” by electing a manifestly unqualified and incapable political novice to the White House, and the only guideline to what he might do is what he has said he will do – which is so far beyond the pale of what has heretofore been American politics that I may as well feed my degrees into a chipper-shredder.

We are through the looking glass. We may not survive this, and if we do, we may not like what we look like at the end. And the worst part, just as it was in 2000, is that on present form, it looks like victory will go to the candidate with fewer total popular votes – and the experienced professional will be cast aside for a rodeo clown yet again. We didn’t patch the hole, and now matters are worse.

We have the government we deserved. We do well to weep for what we couldn’t defend. I didn’t think this was possible five years ago. I don’t know why not. Stupidity and ignorance are infinitely renewable resources, mass-producable with unskilled labor.

I don’t want to know what happens next. I just want to be numb for as long as I can.

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What I Knew And When I Knew It

 

“That’s what drives me up the wall: people can dodge problems by writing them out of existence, defining them off the board, and what can you do then?”

-13 Sept 1994

 

“[T]he great ‘electronic town meeting’…sounds great, especially to economists, populists and other primates. What we as political scientists know is that high participation levels are associated with high levels of ideology. Do we really want a government that consists entirely of a sort of Ron Dellums-Robert Dornan juxtaposition? Yes please, I want permanent gridlock perpetrated by the kind of yahoos who spend their life dialing up talk shows and flaming each other on tired local computer BBS forums…[P]olitics is rapidly taking on the trappings of spectator sport, with C-SPAN as its ESPN and CNN Inside Politics to keep score. Issues get kicked around, but what matters most is who’s ahead…the scorekeeping approach tends to exacerbate posturing and mindless prattling and gives us stupid statements from Bob Dole, who would otherwise be almost reasonable. It forces people to hew to a bad line and encourages rabble like Newt Gingrich. And it turns people off to politics, where anthropomorphic typhoid germs like Ross Perot and Oliver North can pull huge (comparatively) vote totals…”

“Bill Clinton initially made a good run of shaking things up, but…pissed at losing the pennant after 12 years, the Republican party set about to impede everything Bill tried — and since the Democrats take everyone from Dick Shelby and Jim Cooper to Howard Metzenbaum and Kwasi Mfume, there was no united push behind the President. My feeling? The mistake Bill made was to try to stir the imagination of a public that forgot what imagination is. Personally, I blame George Bush. Not only did he subordinate everything to his approval rating, cheapen the concept of patriotism and reduce political debate to name-calling and childish yammering, he spent all the last dozen years IN government crowing about how awful government is. Just like his baseball-owner son, he cheapened and degraded his product for his own game and now the product is damaged forever. Both baseball and government can be brought back…but it will take time and effort and blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice from people who care more about the sport/process than about themselves…is anyone willing to take the plunge?”

-21 Sept 1994

 

“I’ve never seen the universe stand still for nothin’. You read and react, you scramble, you keep moving. I have a lot more sympathy for those with a willingness to try something and go on and admit when it didn’t work, Too many people clinging to failure, or just to the past, makes problems…”

-17 Oct 1994

 

“As long as there is mileage to get from race as an electoral issue, it will be one. If there were no votes to be gained by assailing crime and welfare, race wouldn’t be pushed through such blanketing issues…yes, this anguished sarcasm is my native tongue. It has to be. Look at the last three decades in American politics and you end up like W.J. Cash, shot his own self dead in Mexico somewhere. I’ll be happy when we get something to be happy about.”

-18 Oct 1994

 

“As early as 1991, I had a second Civil War in the USA by 1998 because I expected this intransigence between sides. If you opponent is not just differently-opinioned but WRONG, there’s no space to come to terms…”

-24 Oct 1994

 

“EPIPH: Politics is dominated by assholes. You can either lose, or become an asshole yourself and take your chances…George Will had it right quoting Dr. Elshtain on the ‘spiral of delegitimization’ – it doesn’t matter who wins, the results are the same: a continuing loss of respect for the office and for politics in general.”

-31 Oct 1994

 

“The big consensus from anyone of any brain has been that this was an awful campaign, devoid of any issues other than opposition to tax, crime and the President. I thought 1988 was awful, then I thought 1990 was about as bad as could be, and then 1992 gave us such hope – now we have the worst electoral season on record. What’s worst is that people are being elected – not people lacking ideas, but people who totally abjure ideas and governing. The President is right – how can you expect success and results from government if you go in assuming that you can only fail or do nothing?…Party has become a different sort of cue. Now it’s shorthand for vilification. It’s so much easier to trash your opponent than to establish yourself, and for blank slates with no record or principles, it’s the only option…”

- 8 Nov 1994

 

“1994 has shown that when a minority is motivated, it can win and claim the force of majority whether it has it or not. Another thing we have to worry about is the governance and regulation of areas by people who know little to nothing about the area – best example, quite obviously, is the Internet…The repudiation of “professional politics” opens the way for government by “common sense” (hah!) in the absence of legitimate knowledge. I think this is an easy way back to the anti-intellectual government of the 1950s, bred not by cold war anxiety but by a cultural unease that feeds on itself…”

-29 Nov 1994

 

“I’m not really hopeful about our ability to get along…also, Chris Lipsmeyer is right: what is right and how shall we live together may well be mutually exclusive questions…it should be obvious, but obviously it’s not: a community based on exclusion will eventually have to eat its own because it has to define itself in reference to some mythical ‘other’…

-5 Dec 1994

__

Twenty-two years ago, I was required to keep a journal for my American Political Culture seminar in the fall of 1994, my first semester at Vanderbilt. Every single quote above is taken, verbatim, from that journal.

I would say that I predicted Trumpism and its means and method two decades before time, but I didn’t really. I just observed what was happening around me and said what should have been obvious to anyone paying attention. The road to hell in 2016 was already paved and greased in 1994, but at the time, the Democrats still had a large faction in office that overlapped with the Republicans on ideological metrics and there were still a tiny handful of Gypsy Moth GOPers in the Northeast and fellow-travelers in the Midwest. Hell, when Bill Clinton won California in 1992, it was the first time the GOP had lost the Golden State since 1964.

I would even argue that I nailed the date of the civil war. If you’re willing to consider a Civil Cold War, then 1998 was the Clinton impeachment, which was the Cuban Missile Crisis of our democracy even though nobody seemed to get it at the time. A special prosecutor, appointed on dubious grounds to investigate something that had already been legally pawed over to no effect, kept digging and digging into ever more nebulous terrain until he found something that he could use to question the President of the United States under oath with the intent of drawing him into a perjury trap that could be used as grounds for impeachment. It’s as near a coup as we’ve seen in this country since USMC General Smedly Butler stood up to Roosevelt’s antagonists, and it was driven by a Republican party that was constituted and populated by the same sorts of characters that today offer us a ferret-topped reality show clown as their standard-bearer for President.

And now here we are. Cable news and digital media combined to facilitate a world of politics as tribal sport, with policy as an incidental consideration in the face of the ability to describe and defend one’s own version of reality. Never mind common ground; there’s no common frame of reference or even common agreement on what constitutes fact. When one protestor can hold up a sign, be attacked, someone yells “GUN” and hours later Trump’s campaign is describing an “assassination attempt by Hillary supporters,” what’s the point in even trying to talk about it? Everything I described above adds up to a nation and a politics where that’s not only plausible but to be expected.

I was right. I was absolutely, completely, indisputably right. 

The one thing my professor warned me against was a lack of empathy – that I either didn’t or wasn’t willing to understand the other side, somehow. As if I hadn’t grown up with it, observed it at close range throughout undergrad, couldn’t see what was happening around me. The only thing that I can offer in response from 2016 is a quote from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers: “I had no sympathy…and still haven’t. That old saw about ‘To understand all is to forgive all’ is a load of tripe. Some things, the more you understand the more you loathe them.”

I understand perfectly. I understand the alienation. I understand being trapped in a world you never made. I understand having your politics jerked around by The Other. I understand feeling left behind by history and the culture around you. I understand the technology and the music and the culture and the language running away from you. I get it. I lived it. I live it.

But it’s like seeing a snake. There’s things in this world that will scare you so bad you hurt yourself, whether they were going to hurt you or not, and if you do hurt yourself that way, well, that’s a shame. But when you’re scared so bad you choose to hurt somebody else instead, that’s when you have to be stopped. And there’s a whole lot of people who have let themselves be scared that much. We can’t help that you’re chickenshit, but on God, we aren’t going to let you hurt everyone else because you’re chickenshit.

It’s long past time to decide what kind of country we are going to be, and to live by it, but I guess we’re going to decide Tuesday. And then we have some decisions to make about what that means.

What are you prepared to do?

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Pre-Impressions

(because I need not to think about politics right now)

If there’s a one-shot indictment of the new MacBook Pro, it’s that it isn’t a MacBook Pro so much as a Pro MacBook. The 12” laptop, with its retina display and controversial keyboard and single USB-C port, has been scaled up to replace the entire existing MacBook Pro and MacBook Air lines. Now your choice is basically 12” and one port, 15” and four ports, or 13” and either two or four, with the TouchBar on every machine that has four.

This is, in a word, nuts. Apple has four operating systems for four different devices, and each relies on a mutually exclusive input. The iPhone only has Lightning; you can buy the USB-C to Lightning cable but you can’t plug your Lightning headphones into your Mac. The MacBooks now only have USB-C, which isn’t available on any other Apple device. The AppleTV relies on HDMI and Ethernet, neither of which is built into the MacBooks. The Apple Watch comes with a magnet-to-USB charger which can’t plug into your new MacBook.

Someone else nailed it: Jony Ive has made the MacBook Pro of the future. The only problem is, we need a MacBook Pro right fucking now.  I stand by my assertion that Cupertino’s favorite immigrant has outgrown his skinny britches; this machine is “pro” only inasmuch as it has a bigger display than any iPad (barely). For the foreseeable future, anything at all – your video-out, your Ethernet, your SD card, any of your existing peripherals whether USB or Thunderbolt or whatever – everything needs a dongle now. Everything requires an adapter. Sure, the obvious goal is that everything is wireless and in the cloud and done through electromagnetic magic, just like an iPad—

Let’s revisit that word Pro again. Short for professional.  Short for “I earn a living on this Mac, doing things that demand capabilities above and beyond what Ed Earl Brown and family require for Facebook and Pinterest and Gmail.” Apple has introduced radical shifts before, but – most famously – they did so with the iMac, a product that had no obvious predecessor save perhaps the original Mac. And they did it without shanking the existing PowerMac G3, which in its beige glory retained its ADB and SCSI and 8-pin serial connectors. There is no precedent for Apple taking all the ports out of an existing product line and leaving you with only one new standard; the closest would be the iPhone 7 line and even then, the Lightning port has been standard on iPhones and iPads for four years already.

No previous professional-grade Apple laptop had USB-C inputs. Now they have nothing else. Even that first MacBook with its one lone USB-C port and core-M processor – damned near an iPad Pro Deluxe rather than a MacBook – wasn’t the only laptop you could buy. 

This is a bet. It’s a bet that Apple-using professionals are so desperate for modernized hardware that they’ll endure Ive’s hubris and splash out on a couple hundred dollars worth of adapters and dongles and new peripherals just so they can get a laptop running macOS Sierra that’s only twelve months behind the processor curve. In its way, it’s the inverse of the Windows 8 fiasco, when Microsoft introduced a new OS that had such a radically different UI model – and required new hardware to run – that a lot of people were tempted to say “if I have to learn a whole new OS, may as well get a Mac.” Now, how many people are going to say “long as I have to buy new everything, may as well get that slick new Surface”?

I suspect the powers that be over on One Infinite Loop may not like the answer.

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Apple Eve Again

Well here we go. A colossal botch or just bad timing means that the macOS 10.12.1 release contained graphics showing the new keyboard of a new MacBookSomething, with what appears to be a variable AMOLED strip of “magic keys” and a TouchID sensor. It also sounds as if the new MacBookSomething will have four USB-C ports…and nothing else. No Ethernet, no video-out, no Thunderbolt and certainly no headphone jack.

It’s entirely possible that Jony Ive has disappeared up his own asshole. More to the point, it’s starting to feel disturbingly like 1998, when Apple released the iMac and put paid to every previous input standard of its past. ADB, 8-pin serial and SCSI were all kicked to the curb in favor of USB…and basically nothing else. It was the meteor, the shift from dinosaurs to mammals in the Applesphere. And it was possible because Apple was a drop in the ocean, the company that was 90 days from bankruptcy when its iCEO first arrived, not a meaningful player.

That’s not the case now. Apple makes most of the profit to be made in the personal computing and mobility computing space right now. Depending on what day it is and the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude, they’re the first or second most valuable company on the entire damned planet. They are not so small and insignificant a player that they can engage in that level of self-disruption without consequence.

Or maybe this is Ive’s Keith Hernandez moment. Maybe he thinks they’re SO big, and Mac users have been starved for new hardware for SO long (it’s been over a year since there was so much as a CPU refresh of anything but the MacBook, and the designs themselves are three years old and counting, and the Mac Pro literally hasn’t budged since it was reintroduced in 2013) that the wave of people running out to get SOME new Mac portable that’s not out of warranty will be enough momentum to carry them over the hump. I know I’m in the market, after four years on a cramped and dented MacBook Air at work and another four-ish on a home Mac mini crippled with a 5400rpm spinning drive.

But the fact that it’s been so long – when the MacBook Retina first dropped, the iPhone 5 was au courant – and the change is so radical suggests something else. It is entirely possible that this is another big step toward the Great Convergence when the MacBookSomething is missing an ESC key…just like the keyboard cover on the iPad Pro. It suggests that Apple sees the desktop and laptop computer business as a sideline, a legacy product, something they can afford to play around with because the company doesn’t really depend on it anymore. Take a wild chance on the laptops, no bigs, the money comes from the iOS devices anyway.

And that’s unsettling. Because I’ve made a career for 19 years and counting on enterprise-level IT support for Macs. And I started worrying about getting out of the game three or four years ago because I could see the writing on the wall that said it might not be long before Mac support isn’t a thing any longer. After all, what are the steps in iOS support?  Turn it off and back on, delete and reinstall the app, refresh the settings through your corporate MDM client – and that’s almost all there is. You don’t need support staff for an iPad, by and large.

My two decades of Mac support experience aren’t a lot of use in a world with no Macs to support. And if Jony Ive needs to know one thing, it’s not to mess with a Vanderbilt man’s money.

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