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They say delay is a sign of depression

(Updated below)

You have to admit, I have plenty to be depressed about. The rule of law has been dead in the US for years. Now, with the killing of al-Awlaki in Yemen, they put a marker on it, a great big gravestone.

“…[T]he Obama administration had compiled a hit list of American citizens whom the President had ordered assassinated without any due process, and one of those Americans was Anwar al-Awlaki. No effort was made to indict him for any crimes (despite a report last October that the Obama administration was “considering” indicting him). Despite substantial doubt among Yemen experts about whether he even had any operational role in Al Qaeda, no evidence (as opposed to unverified government accusations) was presented of his guilt.

“…[T]he U.S. Government has seized and exercised exactly the power the Fifth Amendment [of the Constitution] was designed to bar (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”), and did so in a way that almost certainly violates core First Amendment protections (questions that will now never be decided in a court of law).” (Greenwald, Sep. 30, 2011)

And, as far as I can tell, most people here see that as a good thing. That’s the real death. Tumors are just a symptom of cancer. The cause is all the immune system cells, not enough of whom can tell right from wrong.

Update Oct 6: Now I read that there was another person, also a US citizen, Samir Khan, who was killed as collateral damage together with al-Awlaki. The government isn’t even pretending he committed a crime. All he did was write a pro-Al-Qaida blog. And have what my grandmother would have called “bad friends.” Meaning al-Awlaki. But I gather killing Khan is okay because he committed thought crimes. Or something.

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Obama in 2012: the best of all worlds for Republicans

It all fits.

The Republicans need to neutralize the Tea Party. With those loonies deciding the primaries and nominating knobs, the Republicans will never win another general election again.

The 2012 election is a made-to-order opportunity to put the Tea Party back in its basket. Those wingers hoist an unelectable knob. The knob goes up against an incumbent and loses. It’s all the Tea Party’s fault, and the Republicans beat them into jelly. The way is clear to run a real candidate in 2016.

Meanwhile, back at the White House, the Current Occupant pushes Republican ideas beyond the Republicans wildest hopes.

A total win. The Republicans get their own base in line while they gain on the policy front. And by 2016 everyone is so fed up with poverty-while-Democratic that Republicans win in landslides at all levels.

The good news is that if the Republicans miscalculate and we actually get President Knob, the Democrats may well win big in 2016. On the other hand, considering what the Democrats have become, maybe that’s not good news.

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Whose Fault is Obama? (A response to Glenn Greenwald)

First of all, this:

The same White House behavior shaping the debt deal — full embrace of GOP policies and (in the case of Social Security cuts) going beyond that — has been evident in most policy realms from the start. It first manifested in the context of Obama’s adoption of the Bush/Cheney approach to the war on civil liberties and Terrorism, which is why civil libertarians were the first to object so vocally and continuously to the Obama presidency, culminating in this amazing event from mid-2010….

No, Glenn. It first manifested in Obama’s sexism, which was why feminists objected so vocally and continuously long before he was President. (See multiple posts at, e.g., Reclusive Leftist, MadamaB, Electric Blues (now closed), The Confluence in 2008, and yours truly at Acid Test.)

It was only those who think womens’ rights are a special interest who couldn’t see the problem. Time to look in the mirror, and see whose sexism has contributed to the current situation. Acting on the available information could have done some good. In 2008.

Then there’s why the Obama Administration thinks it can continue to get away with betrayal:

In other words: it makes no difference to us how much we stomp on liberals’ beliefs or how much they squawk, because we’ll just wave around enough pictures of Michele Bachmann and scare them into unconditional submission. That’s the Democratic Party’s core calculation: from “hope” in 2008 to a rank fear-mongering campaign in 2012. Will it work? The ones who will determine if it will are the intended victims of that tactic: angry, impotent liberals whom the White House expects will snap dutifully into line no matter what else happens (even, as seems likely, massive Social Security and Medicare cuts) between now and next November.

Liberals are impotent only if they continue to go for the scam. “The other guy will kill more hostages” is not a platform. It’s blackmail.

It’s irrelevant whether more deaths happen under Republicans or whether the gentlemanly blackmailers are Democrats. They’re both working the same situation, so it’s the same scam, even if they’re not working together.

I’ll say up front that if paying off the extortionists actually saved lives, I’m enough of a pointy head that I can see the argument for doing it.

But that’s not what these hostage-takers are doing.

They’re saying that they’ll go on killing people but we better vote for them, because otherwise even more will be destroyed.

Sorry, folks, but that’s not The Deal.

You’re killing everything you were elected to save. And your concept of how to get my support is to scare me with some other set of criminals? Doesn’t say much for you, does it? Even the Mafia running a protection racket did better than that. If the money was paid, you didn’t get beat up.

The take home message is vote for anyone but Democrats. Don’t give in to bullies.

Individual, actual progressives who happen to have a “D” label might be an exception, if they’ve been voting on the progressive side all along.

If all you want is for the schmucks to lose, vote Republican, vote goat, whatever. If you want to send a message, vote for any progressive party out there, Greens, Peace and Freedom, anybody. Just do it.

Time to stop being part of the problem. Time to stop taking abuse.

[Edited to add: Lost in the shuffle, so posted Jan. 15, 2012.]

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Cure for viruses. This is HUGE.

I just saw this, and I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. This is like being there at the discovery of penicillin.

MIT researchers have found a way to cure viral diseases, any viral diseases, from common colds through dengue and up to HIV. (Press release, PLoS One research article.) This is one huge, massive, “Wow!”

Rider drew inspiration for his therapeutic agents, dubbed DRACOs (Double-stranded RNA Activated Caspase Oligomerizers), from living cells’ own defense systems.

When viruses infect a cell, they take over its cellular machinery for their own purpose — that is, creating more copies of the virus. During this process, the viruses create long strings of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA), which is not found in human or other animal cells. …

Rider had the idea to combine a dsRNA-binding protein with another protein that induces cells to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell suicide) — launched, for example, when a cell determines it is en route to becoming cancerous. Therefore, when one end of the DRACO binds to dsRNA, it signals the other end of the DRACO to initiate cell suicide.

And here’s the result:

results of antiviral DRACO in infected and uninfected cells

What that shows is DRACO did not damage healthy cells at all. That’s the top row of each set of images. Infected cells, the bottom row, died without treatment (the lower left images in each set), and were indistinguishable from healthy ones with treatment (the lower right images).

Can you imagine? We could just laugh at viruses! Ebola? Hahahaha! (As I say, I’m a mite over-excited.)

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Solar Power: Take Two

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: solar energy and efficient use could solve all our energy problems. Nothing else can. And nuclear energy is worse than useless.

The intervening three years since the earlier posts have brought new technologies that make solar cheaper, faster, and better (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11). They’ve brought more tragic proof that nukes can never be the answer (12, 13, 14, 15, 16). They’ve brought more data showing the worsening of climate change (17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23), the mushrooming of oil wars, and the hideous hidden price of fossil fuels.

Just a couple of examples:

Rooftop solar could supply around 780 GWh of energy every day, over 280TWh per year. That estimate does not include advances that allow window surfaces (11 above), roadways and parking lots (6 above), to be turned into photovoltaic generators. It uses restrictive assumptions for solar: only 4 hours useful sunlight per day, 15% efficiency of panels, and a very narrow definition of usable space. The whole southern half of the US, from California to Virginia, gets more like 6 usable hours of sunlight per day, and in the desert Southwest, it’s closer to 9 hours.

And then there’s the image below, showing that 55% of energy produced is lost before use. (“Rejected” energy in the graph.) That’s mainly heat loss during production and transmission losses, both of which are much, much, much, much lower in distributed sources close to the end-use point. (End use suffers from its own inefficiencies. Their elimination would reduce the need for power even more, but that’s a different topic.)
chart showing proportion of fuel coming from mainly fossil sources, and 55% loss before use

The years have also brought new calculations of transition costs and feasibility. The Stanford study by Jacobson and Delucchi (2011) shows just how straightforward it would be, technically and financially, to switch to a rational energy policy.

The only real hangup is that Big Oil and Big Nuke own the government.

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Fools and their money

Fools and their money are said to be soon parted, so Google must think that if they make fools of their customers, they’ll get the money.

How else to explain their new Chrome OS laptop?

If you buy the thing straight up, as a consumer, the cheapest one will be $349. That’s for a machine whose hardware equivalent can be had for around $170.

It runs only Google applications on Google servers. That’s something you can do on any computer any time. Except that on a normal computer you can also run other software if you want.

The “chromebooks” have wifi. The high end Samsung model, for $499, also has 3G (i.e. cellphone) connectivity. With a two year contract with Verizon, Slashdot says 100MB of data per month is included. That some 3.3 megabytes per day.

The proud boast about the chromebooks is that they don’t access the Web, they are the Web. They’re cool and cloud-based and everything that’s done on them uses connection bandwidth — wifi at home, work, or the cafe hotspot, 3G otherwise. If all you did was use the machine for a while when away from wifi, if you worked on some photos, or played a game, or worked on a newsletter, or checked a news site with a few flash ads, you’d reach the limit pretty fast. So there’s yet another hole to pour money into.

You could, of course, use some of those Google apps in offline mode. But, um, you can use any computer in “offline” mode, and you can do it cheaper, faster, and better.

Google, after making a big deal out of using open source, is moving toward totally locking its chromebooks down. It’s working on tying the OS to the firmware. That prevents installation of another Linux-based OS on the chromebook. Depending how Google restricts the operating system, it could prevent you from installing anything at all on the computer.

Note that Chrome is a (somewhat crippled) Linux operating system. If one Linux OS runs on a netbook, many other flavors will too. Something like Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and some others, are no scarier these days than Windows (or Chrome). Plus they let you run whatever software you want. To Google, that is obviously a bug, not a feature.

Google is also offering a special for business and education. For low monthly payments — the cheapest is $20 per month for three years — you have a wonderful $170 netbook for $720. Such a deal! Assuming a $349 price, that’s only an effective annual interest rate of 27%. Hurry, before this never to be repeated offer ends! The only catch is that they’re selling in lots of ten or more, so individuals can’t get the deal.

What’s supposed to make it attractive to institutions is that Google will provide support. Really? Has anyone ever seen Google support any of their products? Anyone? Nexus customers? Google is also making a big point of how you’ll have no viruses. That has nothing to do with Google. That’s (currently) a feature of Linux. Once it’s a bigger target, more crackers may try to attack it, but for now viruses are not a problem for Linux users.

What makes me want to scream is that it is easy as pie to have all of the benefits with none of Google’s red, blue, or yellow zip-tie handcuffs. If you’re able to pay $350 for a laptop, there are some quite good ones out there. If you’re willing to pay $500 — the price of the Samsung chromebook with wifi and 3G — there are some very good ones. My personal favorites at the low end are the Lenovo S-series Ideapads, both for build quality and hardware specs, but there are plenty of others too. (No, I have no relationship with Lenovo except owning three of their laptops.)

If you want a fast, virus-free Linux operating system on the machine, it’s as simple as downloading a desktop “live CD” file from Linux Mint or Ubuntu. (For Ubuntu choose the second option in the dropdown menu, the Long Term Release, version 10.04 Lucid. More stability and less upgrading.)

To make a LiveUSB (=bootable USB) use Unetbootin (Windows or Linux) or Startup Disk Creator (under the System, Administration menu in Ubuntu Linux). You’ll need a USB with at least 2GB of space. Downloading the file and installing it on a USB are as hard as the process gets.

After that, plug the USB into the netbook, start up the machine, and test drive the new operating system. There’s a desktop icon if you want to install, which lets you follow on-screen instructions. You can put the new OS next to the old one (“dual boot”) or replace it. It takes about fifteen or twenty minutes. That’s it. You’re done.

More software is available for free with one-click installs from repositories. They work like app stores, except that the idea is a free community to which everyone contributes what they can. Some people program, some answer questions on the support forums, and some do nothing at all. It’s up to you. The quality of the established software, like Firefox or LibreOffice, is often better than the equivalent commercial products. (There are tens of thousands of people contributing to the open source projects, most in small ways, but it adds up.)

So don’t be suckered just because Google uses bright primary colors. They stopped being a bunch of nice guys who don’t wear ties long ago. Now they’re just guys who don’t wear ties. They’re after your money. Spend it on yourself instead of them.

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We’re living in hell

I think this is the saddest story I’ve read. Amy Ernst writes about the rare Congolese men who stand by their wives, despite rape.

My mind’s eye sees these headlines, too: “Man’s family says he’s not a loser, even though his son was murdered.” “Grandparents adopt child, even though parents abused him.” “Sister gives brother a place to stay, even though his house was destroyed by war.”

And people are glad to hear about such generosity and kindness.

 

?

 

I’m not wondering about the rare men. They’re taking steps away from horror. But in what universe does the most basic smidgen of humanity sound like an accomplishment?

We live in hell.

 

(Go read all of Amy Ernst’s writing, also on her own blog. There’s one story in particular about one of the planet’s most amazing fighters and heroes, Maman Marie.)

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Taking the bin Laden Way

Is it good that he’s dead? I don’t see what difference it makes.

Is it good that the US killed him?

No.

Civilized people live by laws. Bin Laden was the one who thought he could kill at will.

He has now officially won.

It’s time for sackcloth and ashes. Anyone celebrating a victory is on his side.

Update, May 23rd. The following news has been out for a while, but real life prevented me from updating. It’s too relevant not to add, though. The Cost of Bin Laden: $3 Trillion over 15 years. When the US did its best to bankrupt the old Soviet Union by forcing them to spend too much on weapons, that was hailed as a victory. I wonder how Al-Qaeda views the achievement of getting the US to squander $1,000,000 for every measly $1 they spent.

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An Open Letter to the Left on Libya, Seconded

I’ve been trying to articulate why the intervention in Libya against Qaddafi is a good thing. And why the reflexive rejection of it as an imperialist oil grab is just that: some kind of reflex, not thought through.

Luckily, Juan Cole has expressed it much better than I could have, and on the basis of a much broader and deeper knowledge of the situation.

From his closing paragraph, after he’s laid out all the reasons why:

I would like to urge the Left to learn to chew gum and walk at the same time. It is possible to reason our way through, on a case-by-case basis, to an ethical … position that supports the ordinary folk in their travails in places like Libya.

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Nuclear Insanity

It’s insanity to try the same failed thing and expect a different outcome. So the pro-nuclear crowd seems to be trying a variant. They’re not crazy, calling nukes a success, because Fukushima’s reactors aren’t failures.

I’m seeing stuff like: “Oh, but it’s only in earthquake zones that nuclear can be a bit of a problem — and then only a teeny tiny one!” “Oh, stop bellyaching about radiation. There’s less of it than flying cross-country.” “Oh, yes, some of the fuel melted, but it was only a teeny tiny bit. And look! It didn’t turn into the worst disaster imaginable! Nuclear energy is a success!”

Um, how should I put this politely? If nuclear energy is so disaster-prone that an absence of catastrophic failure can be construed as success, then we really, really, really don’t want to use nuclear energy.

Anti-nuclear as I am, I would set the bar for success higher than that. If everything goes right, nukes can produce energy for a few decades without blowing up. It’s also true that if everything goes right, little radiation escapes.

If everything goes right.

Reactors are hugely complex technology with hundreds of potential failure points. Whether it’s an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, rust, power failure, human error, terrorist smuggling, or poor interface design — there are hundreds of different cascades of events that can destroy multiply redundant backup systems and end in disaster. What will fail in any given case will be different.

The important issue is not whether there could be an earthquake here or an erroring human being there. The important issue is that such a hugely complex system has hundreds of ways to fail. It can never be safe.

Sometimes, when there’s no other way to do something vital or fascinating, it’s worth doing despite the risk. The space program is one example.

Nuclear energy, on the other hand, is an expensive way to run vast risks that are totally unnecessary.

There’s an expanded list of the points below, but here’s the summary. ■ Useful uranium stocks will run out about the same time as or shortly after oil. ■ The plants take so long to build, it’s physically impossible for them to be an actual solution to energy shortages. ■ They will, however, provide a waste problem forever.

These things are all facts of the simple, do-the-math variety. Uranium is finite. Plants take ±five years to build. Half-lives of radioactive elements are known to the femtosecond.

And then comes the biggest fact of all: NUCLEAR ENERGY IS NOT OUR ONLY CHOICE.

For 2% of global GDP (pdf) we could switch over, by 2050 (pdf), to efficiency, solar, wind, and other sustainable, renewable, and clean energies. And that’s for ALL our energy needs. (Nuclear, in contrast, has no realistic chance of even maintaining it’s current contribution, as you can see in the details below.)

Two percent of your income, if you make a median per capita US income of about $24,000, is $480. That’s less than many people in the US spend on phone bills.

For less than the yearly cost of a phone, we could have a world that’s not going to hell in a handbasket. So the choice is obvious, right?

Let’s all pile into the handbasket.

If you’re like me, you boggle that anyone supports a total loser proposition like nuclear power. What is wrong with these people? Are they nuts?

Well, yes and no. Remember that it costs some $10 billion to build a reactor. That gets paid to somebody. That somebody is getting that huge pile of money, risk-free, courtesy of taxpayers. What’s not to like?

The radioactivity? The waste? The unnecessary risks? The small amount of actual power produced? Somebody else’s problem. The billionaires pushing the boondoggle don’t plan to live downwind.

For the sake of raking in megabucks now, everybody else in time and space can be damned.

Is that insane?

Yes.

+ + +

This repeats what I keep pointing out (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Although newer information shows that nukes are more expensive than I’d read before, and the Stanford and UN studies linked above provide even more proof that a rational energy policy is both doable and affordable.

  • Nuclear reactors don’t get built unless taxpayers pick up the financial risk and the accident risk. That should tell you something about how safe reactors are, financially and physically.
  • It takes about five years to build a gigawatt reactor, and costs some $10,000,000,000 — ten billion — each.
  • To replace the current US stock of aging reactors, all 104 of which will need to be phased out before 2050 means a new reactor has to be built every four to five months for the next fifty years.
  • To get more energy via nukes than they provide now, more plants must be built. To get just one seventh of the energy needed in 2050 from nukes means a new gigawatt reactor would have to be built every month.
  • If we actually ramped up nuclear energy production to that extent, we’d run out of recoverable uranium in fifty to one hundred years. (In what universe is trading one expensive, polluting, nonrenewable resource for another one a sane idea?)
  • No, breeder reactors are not a solution, including the new ones that go by cuter names. They generate more total waste, and much more dangerous waste. And they’re much more vulnerable to weapons proliferation issues. How many Pakistans do we want in exchange for radioactive, non-renewable, and insufficient power?
  • No, fusion is not a practical or current solution. It’s not even working sustainably in labs yet, forget production facilities. It has its own radioactive waste problems.
  • The waste from reactors needs to be carefully stored and avoided for many times longer than all of human history. Somebody will be paying that price in wealth or health long after nuclear power isn’t producing any usable energy.
  • The worst reactor waste, the spent fuel rods, is now stored in “temporary” pools on site because nobody wants the permanent storage anywhere nearby.
  • None but the very smallest and earliest plants, those that could be disposed without taking apart the reactor vessel, have been decommissioned. Estimates (when not from the nuclear industry) are that decommissioning may cost even more than building the things in the first place. There’s also nowhere to store that waste. (See previous point.)
  • And, finally, nuclear is not our only choice. We don’t have to suffer. There are alternatives. The alternatives are cleaner and cheaper. The only ones who lose are the billionaires deprived of short-term taxpayer-funded pork.
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Are we living in the Soviet Union?

News of the protests in Madison is so absent, everybody is starting to notice. I worry about the protesters, I wanted to know how they were doing. I checked Saturday on CNN, NYtimes, and a string of other web sites I don’t remember. Nothing noticeable. That’s odd, I thought. You’d think this would be the biggest story in the country. We devoted a lot of time to Egypt.

Sunday I knew there was a deadline to evict the protesters from the Madison Capitol. I was anxious how that would go down and tried to find out.

Nothing. That was more than odd. That was bizarre. “Showdown at the Capitol” had to be newsworthy for our infantile media. But apparently it wasn’t. That made no sense.

So I started searching around. I discovered First Draft, reporting from the ground. It was sounding more like Egypt every day, in the organization of the protesters and the sympathy of the ones behind the guns. Susie Madrak noted a march, 100,000 strong, a hundred thousand, had taken place on Saturday in temperatures well below freezing. Huh? And that hadn’t been anywhere near the front page? What was this? A conspiracy of silence?

And then more and more people pointed it out. Corrente, Digby, also here. Now Krugman pointed out how much this feels like the media chorus leading up to the Iraq War.

This is a chorus of silence, but it’s also a chorus of misdirection, just like that earlier massive failure. They say, “It’s about money.” No, the unions agreed to the outrageous pay cuts to finance tax cuts for Governor Walker’s campaign contributors. They’re refusing to give up collective bargaining rights. It’s about rights, not money. “It’s about greedy unions.” No, it’s not. it’s about greedy Governors and their millionaire beneficiaries. We either hear no news, or we hear the wrong news.

As I mentioned a while ago, I come from a Russian family. I visited the Soviet Union back in the day. Friends there told us how you had to crouch over the faint voice of the BBC on a shortwave radio to get any news. That, or perhaps you’d hear something in letters from friends or the occasional leaflet. And now, here we are. The only difference that I can see is that the Russians all knew they were being lied to.

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Your children’s keepers

These are the people who work for your kids. Teachers. Go read one of the most powerful essays I’ve seen on any topic, anywhere.

Brandi Martin, Learning from the LuminousPage:

I Ruined Everything (& Why It Was More Work Than You Thought) @INTERNETTAXTROLLS

To earn this $20k I taught art on a cart to 850 kids at 3 different schools every week. Almost every kid was on free lunch. My budget was $1.50 per child per year. … We made puppets, paper mache, tissue snowflakes, and lots of chalk and tempera paintings. I loved going to work every day. I loved festooning each little school with the happy art.

I feel less and less that way when I read angry tweets and newspaper comments about my profession. Maybe I shouldn’t read what angry tax paying trolls write and say on the internet, but I’m so appalled I keep checking to see if it’s still there. I’m told I’m ungrateful. I read that I am greedy, or a tool of greedy union bosses. I am a selfish son of a bitch, one guy informed me, when I was trying to explain the details and the facts of current legislation. I read that everyone’s life is going down the toilet, because I am breaking their backs. I have ruined everything. Everything is ruined.

Please know it did not feel like ruining everything. It felt like sitting in a tiny plastic chair at a tiny table, cajoling an autistic preschooler into brushing watercolor across a white wax face i had pre drawn, then watching him laugh at the big reveal. It felt like receiving a drawing as a gift from a talented little boy who drew like an adult, but suffered crippling arthritis in his hands and for whom i had arranged free classes at SAIC. … It feels like a 6’2 kid standing up from his computer animation to announce loudly “I AM AN ARTIST”.

After you take every tool and incentive and support away from me, and millions like me, you won’t suddenly have anything great that you don’t already have. And then you will be terribly disappointed to find out that this isn’t a scam after all.

Go read her post and see how it all comes out in the end. Really. Go.

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Women Don’t Need Their Own Revolution

Mary Rogers [2015: link broken. article reposted here.] has made one of the saddest statements I’ve read on the horrible treatment of CNN’s Lara Logan. The gut-wrenching sexism of some of the commentary is sad. One more reminder that we’ve indeed “come a long way, baby.” A long way backward. That such commentary is considered normal — crude, but normal — is sadder. We should, by now, be in a place where it’s unacceptable to think such crap, let alone say it. But the saddest thing of all is a sentence in her article about the crime.

She knows the situation.

If you are a woman living in Cairo, chances are you have been sexually harassed. It happens on the streets, on crowded buses, in the workplace, in schools, and even in a doctor’s office. … 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed. [That’s the number who would acknowledge they’d been harassed.] … what happened in 1994, shortly after I moved here. … A man walked up to me, reached out, and casually grabbed my breast.

In a flash, I understood what the expression to “see red” meant. … But the satisfaction of striking back quickly dissipated. By the time I walked away, I was feeling dirty and humiliated. After a couple of years enduring this kind harassment, I pretty much stopped walking to and from work.

Of course, harassment comes in many forms. … At times it can be dangerous. … I was walking on the street, when a car came hurtling towards me. Aiming for me!

… women who have been sexually harassed here have been too afraid or ashamed to speak up.

Any woman who’s not in denial doesn’t need to have the situation explained to her. For those men who don’t get it, try this thought experiment. You live in a world where you’re only allowed to go outside naked. No way to hide erections. No way to hide the fact that you’re male. Then, because you’re male, it’s an understood thing that anyone on the street can grab your ass, or poke an umbrella between your legs, or laugh when you double up in pain.

That is not sexy. That is not normal. That is not women expressing their hormones.

It’s a power trip. That’s all. It’s saying, “I’ll put you down because I can. And if you don’t hide, I’ll do it again.”

So, like Mary Rogers, you stop walking to work. You may have rights on paper, but you can only go where you’re allowed to go or people can grope your penis any time they feel like it. (No, you can’t just beat them up. The uppity sometimes get their bits sliced off.) Without freedom of movement, your whole world is limited. There are jobs you can’t do, raises you won’t get, recognition you’ll never see. The price of hiding is that nobody knows you’re there. The price of being a target is that you have no actual rights, no matter what it says on paper.

And don’t forget, being a man, you have to tough it out and pretend none of it matters. If you stop hiding, the humiliation will get worse. Much worse.

One more thing: being a man, you represent half the population.

With all that in mind, I come to the saddest thing Rogers said.

A law regarding sexual harassment will have to wait. The country has greater concerns now — forming a new government; writing a new constitution….

Greater concerns? Greater concerns than the basic human rights of half the human race? Say what?

What chance is there anyone’s going to get it, if even people who aren’t in denial can’t figure out which way is up?

Until people understand what human rights are, they can write constitutions till they’re blue in the face and it’ll just be sound and fury, signifying nothing. After the next round of kleptocrats, they can do it again, and it’ll still signify nothing.

The headline of Rogers’ article is “Egypt’s harassed women need their own revolution.” No, they don’t. The people who need it, of any gender, are the ones who think human rights don’t matter enough to put first.

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Congratulations to Egypt! … But …

Now comes the hard part.

Mohammed El-Baradei talked about the “joy and happiness of every Egyptian at the restoration of our humanity and our freedom.”

Unfortunately, no. The regime is out. The restoration is yet to happen. If the Egyptians manage that, too, then I’ll be really exhilarated. Maybe then they can show us how to do it.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping and hoping that the parking on the left doesn’t just turn into parking on the right.

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Publishing Ebooks: Pointers and Problems

I feel like starting this by saying “Once upon a time” because it turned into a saga for me, a quest, and a struggle with dragons. Unfortunately, unlike the better class of fairy tales, the dragons are winning. So far.

The first step is the content. It took me two years to write this particular book (Re-imagining Democracy). That was the easy part. Then I tried to find out how to turn it into an ebook. I keep seeing offhand comments on the web from authors who posted their opus in a matter of hours. It sounded like a minor matter.

Hah.
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