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Afghanistan

 
Another black border post.
 

The US again abandons tens of thousands of allies, workers, helpers to their fate.

(Update, border not so thick as it was, see first comment. The US and other countries seem to be trying to help Afghans leave.)

Update, 25 August Black border removed entirely. The US and other nations involved there are working hard to get people out. It is, I hear, one of the biggest civilian evacuations ever. Much as I was down on Biden before he was elected, biting this bullet of US mistakes in Afghanistan deserves respect.
 

Should the US have stayed in Afghanistan on the plea that insanity forced it to keep doing the same failing thing, over and over, year after year? No.

It should never have been there, if that’s all they were going to do.

Is there anything they could have done that would have actually made a difference?

Yes.

Elect Al Gore.

And even that would have helped only if he’d had the courage to do real nation building.

Since it’s a country that throws away half it’s population right from the start, before even inventing ways to exploit the remainder, the first step for nation building in Afghanistan was always clear.

Help women.

Change the laws so they could have their own money, land, and wealth, and enforce it. Make sure girls received educations all the way through high school. Put women’s health and medical care on a serious and effective footing. Provide millions of scholarships for women to study in the world’s great universities.

After twenty years of that, with women therefore becoming more important than testosterone-poisoned defectives in families, workplaces and government, there’d be a different country now.

Of course, no senator could have boasted about bringing dollars home to his district because Blackhawk helicopters got sold to Afghanis. Nobody could have stood on the deck of a naval ship after a couple of years, declaring victory.

The kind of victory I’m talking about takes much longer.

If nobody was going to do anything real victory required, the US should have stayed home.

Biden is right to correct that part of the error. A deathly shame, though, that he thought he could wait for the paperwork before rescuing the women and men who have been betrayed.

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Medicine has been too successful

People have lost their fear of disease. It only took about two generations without major deadly infections. That comes as a surprise to me. I thought people understood cause and effect. But, no. Apparently, if you’re not in immediate and personal danger of dying, it’s Somebody Else’s Problem. And a SEP field, as Douglas Adams astutely pointed out, is the only proven way to make anything invisible.

Years ago, 1990s?, I read an article about attitudes to vaccination. In places like Bangladesh, where they actually had to contend with actual disease, people were overwhelmingly in favor of it. More than 85% of the respondents were incredulous you could have any other attitude. (This was before extremists started spreading paranoia about Western contamination.) It was only in well-to-do parts of the wealthier countries that people had the luxury of fantasizing about what vaccines would do to their precious bodily fluids.

The loss of healthy fear towards something that can kill you has made too many people incapable of understanding where a lethal threat fits into the scheme of things. You see sentences like, “But the extent of the European lurch toward mandatory measures has also prompted unease and questioning over loss of freedom.”

The mind reels. Do they not understand that your freedom ends where your threat to my life begins?

(Rights, unlike people, are not all equal. Some depend on others. Some are a precondition for everything else. There is not one single freedom that can be enjoyed if you’re dead. Of course it’s more complicated than one right always being first. The link goes on about the intricacies.)

 

 

Public health measures to prevent the spread of disease take precedence over people’s convenience every single time.

Mask wearing, social distancing, and temporary lockdowns are all merely inconvenient. There is no, absolutely no, rights-based argument to make against them.

Contact tracing does raise privacy issues. But there again: you can’t enjoy privacy when you’re dead. Privacy is a secondary consideration. It must be respected to the extent possible while the primary public health priorities are achieved. For instance, we’re horrified the government could be using our cell phones for location data to track covid contacts, as they did in South Korea. That is nonsense. Location tracking to save your life is a Good Thing. It should be done from the start to the end of a pandemic. After that the data should be expunged.

What should not be done is using that data to sell us fast food, or to store it forever to target political ads at us, or to deny us jobs based on some AI bullshit model of who we are based on where we’ve been. And yet, we put up calmly with the latter while throwing fits about lifesaving temporary public health tracking. Commercial tracking, which should be illegal, has made us allergic to lifesaving tracking. It’s insane. And I suspect it’s all because we feel powerless against corporations but not the government.

Vaccination is the third major public health measure, and it does intersect with the basic right to control your own body. When two foundational rights conflict — the right not to be harmed and the right to control your own body — then the scale of the harm on each side is important.

Vaccines can cause nanoscale harm. Things like sore arms, a day of lethargy, or even super-rare blood clots which can be effectively dealt with if doctors know they should look for that. Compared to the megascale harm from disease — death, long term disability, sickness for millions — there is no contest at all . The greatest good of the greatest number is the right criterion to apply when the difference is so stark. Vaccine mandates are justified to bring the cost of non-vaccination home to anti-vaxxers. As are mandates that limit them from any place where they could potentially spread the disease they’ve refused to prevent.

There is zero place for any “unease and questioning over the loss of freedom.” [Ed. note: idiots.]

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Example 5,459,738

Consider the section of the Texas Constitution of 1836 below, currently doing the rounds as an example of the foundational racism in the Good Old Days.

Sec. 10. All persons (Africans, the descendants of Africans, and Indians excepted,) who were residing in Texas on the day of the declaration of independence, shall be considered citizens of the republic, and entitled to all the privileges of such. All citizens now living in Texas, who have not received their portion of land, in like manner as colonists, shall be entitled to their land in the following proportion and manner : Every head of a family shall be entitled to one league and labor of land;

[definition from somewhere on the web] A league of land equals 4,428 acres and a labor, 177 acres, combined they add up to 4,605 acres [19 km²]. This was the. amount of a headright (first-class) granted to “all persons except Africans and their descendants, and Indians, living in Texas.” (Convertunits.com, however, says one square league is 7628 acres.)

Either way, that’s a nontrivial homestead. And it’ll obviously set you back if it’s not handed to you and you have to scrape up the cash to buy all that by yourself. Racism, indeed.

Notice anyone missing from that list? So excluded they didn’t even need to be mentioned by name? Notice anyone missing from the current discussion about that list? Unlike “Africans and Indians”, those people are still unseen.

At the rate we’re going, it’s going to be centuries before we understand why disasters keep crashing in on us (You’d like an example? Trump.) from the blind side.

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Oil majors! Working on global warming!

We’re doomed, aren’t we.

ConocoPhillips’ oil project in Alaska calls for inserting giant “chillers” into the melting permafrost, so the ground is stable enough to drill for oil.

Melting permafrost causing houses to topple in Shishmaref, Alaska
“With the ground melting beneath them from global warming, Alaskan lawmakers are calling for more oil drilling to deal with the problem.” (Vox, 2017)
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About touchscreens

This is your future speaking. If you’re lucky, you will grow old. When you get there, your skin will be drier. I’ve had Death-Valley-Desert-dry skin my whole life, and it only gets more so.

Guess how touchscreens react to very dry skin?

They don’t.

It can take me three or four swipes or taps on a phone, after breathing on my fingers to make them moister, before anything happens. By then, because I’m frustrated, it’s usually the wrong thing.

So, what am I saying? That touchscreens don’t work for a whole large part of the population. A part which is getting bigger, not smaller.

Now picture that kind of not-working in a car. You’re driving. The last thing you want to do is study a screen with stupid icons on it. And when it doesn’t turn on the A/C or close the windows, you have to study it again. When you look up, the two tons of metal you’re in are bearing down on a lane closure sign that the car is ignoring because, hey, it’s not moving. (I know. They’ll fix that someday. But then we’ll just move on to the next AI idiocy.)

That doesn’t even get into the topic of tactile feedback and muscle memory and how necessary they are to maintain situational awareness when driving. All those levers and buttons and knobs and steering wheel and pedals allow you to use a different part of your brain for control of the car so that your eyes and ears and frontal cortex are available for the unexpected. It’s called human factors engineering. The electric car makers ought to try it sometime.

Right now I have an old car. So old, you open the windows with one of those little hand cranks. My relationship with my phone is bad enough that I’ve often thought I should give up and get myself a cocktail sausage to use as a stylus. Then I imagine trying to run a car with a cocktail sausage.

Koreans wearing gloves in winter, using sausages on their phones.
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Why Bernie’s BS Matters

Bernie Sanders was talked about a while ago, blathering his usual blather about how there is nothing but class struggle. Racism? Caused by poverty. (In which case, why aren’t poor blacks racist against whites?) Trumpism? Caused by poverty. (But, but, but, his fans give him boat parades. Have you priced boats lately?) Crime? Caused by poverty. (Has he never heard of Madoff? Or, for that matter, Trump?)

Now, admittedly, poverty is tough. People tend to react badly to it and bother their neighbors trying to get out of it. But that’s a whole different matter from poverty causing bigotry. Plus it does nothing to explain centuries and millenia of elites sneering at the stupidity and laziness of their underlings. If only poverty could cause that, elites should be the intelligent, highminded people they imagine themselves to be.

What does follow a pattern, though, is that people make sure they think poorly of anyone they hurt. After all, if the piefaced whatnot didn’t deserve it, they are the bad guys for inflicting harm.

The more harm, and the more baked-into-the-society and structural the harm, the greater the contempt for the underclass who are made to suffer.

In other words, Bernie has it backwards. It’s not poverty that causes racism. It’s the need to justify exploitation. Damaging others causes racism. And sexism.

That means the solution is not to make poor whites richer, to take an example at random. Or to make men more confident of their masculinity, to take another. It’s not to increase the status of the group causing harm.

It’s to remove it. It’s to maintain real equality.

Equals have enough social status to inflict a cost when someone tries to get something for nothing out of them. Without the ability to get away with hurting each other, there’s also no need to label others contemptible enough to deserve it. With real equality the need for contempt to justify bad treatment gradually fades.

Bernie’s BS would make the problem worse, and it sends people hoping for the solution down the wrong road. That’s why his BS is not simply silly.

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Bwahaha

I don’t subscribe to the Financial Times, so I can’t read the article, but the front page shows this:

US women consider parenting alone after coronavirus. By Patti Waldmeir.

And a couple of days ago I saw that the patriarchal fossils running China are so frantic about similar thoughts they are nabbing women and punishing them (how, I don’t know and hate to think) for having such ideas.

The whole point of stuffing women into the sex caste is to use their bodies. For sex, certainly. But also for producing children.

It’ll be hilarious when, after centuries of pretending having families was a terrible burden foisted on them by women, a “ball and chain,” and so forth and so on, suddenly men find themselves on the outside, looking in.

Everything human beings actually care about is on the other side of that glass. And I’m not sure another smash and grab wreckage will be tolerated a second time around. Been there, done that.

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Wrecked but alive: thoughts on Inauguration Day

A few things to remember while we’re boneless with relief that so many of us survived the kakistocracy.

1) This is just back to normal. Remember normal? It’s great compared to being in the grip of a tarantula that thinks we’re food items. It really is. But normal isn’t genius. It’s just okay.

For his whole political career, Biden has just been a white male fossil. He’s graduated to old white male fossil, but he has not, on the whole, shown any particular flashes of brilliance that I can remember.

He may start showing them now, when he’s more concerned about his legacy than his future career in politics. We can hope. It’s a good omen that he’s signed Executive Orders on the first day to turn around some of the Dump’s worst excesses.

The times demand brilliance. Remember climate change? Still there. Inequality? Which corrodes every society it touches? Worse than ever because of the pandemic. Plus the pandemic itself. That’s just a tedious, logistical problem that needs people to follow obvious public health rules. Something that’s totally beyond enough leaders and people to be a disaster.

At least Biden understands government administration. That could count for a lot, given the herculean clean-up job he’s been given.

2) Yes, I’m glad Kamala Harris is in the picture. No, I can’t get over the crushing weight of sexism that gave her the place she’s got.

She should have been President. It’s her slot Biden stepped into.

With a heavy heart, I have to agree with all the millions of people who were pretty sure sexism would have stopped her from winning. We barely squeaked by with the old white male fossil at the top of the ticket, even after four years of the Pile of Garbage trashing the country and the world.

So, yes, her ability to make lemonade out of lemons is a good thing. And it may well set her up to be a future president. But the anger is merely diluted with water. There’s no sugar in it. It’s still very sour.

And that’s especially so because there’s almost no recognition of the gap. Nobody pointing out what’s been taken from her, even if it was necessary when the country is still so drenched in despising women. Almost nobody remembering the idiots who said there’d be no difference between Hillary Clinton and TheDonald. (Just a few differences.) Almost nobody apologizing for the blinding sexism that allows them to let such bullshit pass. Very few pointing out that Clinton was right about everything, and that sexism delivered us into the jaws of the tarantula.

Yes, racism is a huge factor. All the bigotries are limbs of the same monster. It’s the unrecognized limbs that can grab you. You can tell which ones those are by paying attention to which ones are ignored the most. Racism is ignored a lot when it comes to getting rid of it, not just talking about it.

With sexism, we’re barely at the talking stage.

3) Last and most important for fixing the problems in the immediate future: Remember that there would be little to celebrate without the work of Stacey Abrams. We’d still be at the non-existent mercy of Moscow Mitch.

She’s the one who saw the solution was the slogwork of increasing turnout. She’s the one who mucked right in and started working, years ago. She’s the one who inspired hundreds and thousands to take on the work with her. She’s the one who delivered the deciding votes and delivered us from Mitch. She’s the one who made it possible to start walking back from the shitshow of the last four years.

There’s a lot of her influence in the first and vital bill the Democrats plan to present, a voting rights act. It could go a long way to easing the chokehold of minority rule on the USA if it actually gets turned into law.

So the main thing to say on this day is

Thank you, Stacey Abrams!

photo from her web page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stacey_Abrams
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The Coup That Was

There’s an easy sense that internet violence is just some fantasy. Just cosplaying. Just nothing.

I’ve long thought that was a mistake when it came to the vicious threats thrown at women. That regularly bleeds over into real life.

But I wrote off the radical right wing yammering about destroying the government as stupid fantasists full of cosplay.

That’s the transformative power of not being the target.

Well, these goonies with their GoPros and gear and internet messages asking for the snacks are obviously cosplayers. The part I missed was that doesn’t stop it from bleeding over into reality.

Just because they’re clowns doesn’t mean they can’t kill real people.

 
 

They believed the stuff about this being the beginning of the real war which would put them on top. (evidence: all over Parler)

They had a President telling them to go to it. Jenn Budd:

 
“Trump ordered his supporters to come to DC on January 6th. They made shirts that said “Civil War January 6, 2021.” Then once there, he spoke in public to them and told them to march on the Capitol.”
 

They had collaborators inside the Capitol Police (and elsewhere no doubt?). The “Pentagon” (i.e. Trump’s very recently installed Acting Secretary of Defense, Chris Miller) put significant restrictions on D.C. Guard ahead of pro-Trump protests.

 
When help finally came, it was VP Pence who sent it, not Trump.
 

The rioters constructed hangmen’s platforms with rope nooses near the Capitol.

 
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP
 

Their fantasy included the execution of the “enemies of the people.” (evidence: all over Parler)

Some of them carried zipties to handcuff people.

 
from Phil Bird
 

It doesn’t take much imagination to see the people, “enemies,” being led off to those newly constructed gallows.

The President who told them to go to it had a tent with video feeds and drinks and food and cronies where they could all watch the progress of the Glorious Victory.

 
Screenshot from video from Samira Edi
 

Their grip on reality was so pathetic they couldn’t see that their Klown Kar Koup was never going anywhere. But that changes nothing.

They were hoping for a coup.

It won’t be enough to laugh and move on. They were hoping for a coup. It has to be treated like one. The whole mentality that led to it has to be rooted out. That has to start with evicting Trump from the Presidency now. Yesterday. Anything less shows stupidity about the scope of the disaster.

Otherwise this is our last warning. Next time the Klowns will have more than cosplayers. They’ll have a planner or two.

 

 

Update Jan10: Something heartening: Igor Bobic filmed a quick thinking Capitol Police officer, by himself, as he eggs on a mob to chase him (toward his backup…) instead of charging in to the Senate room with Senators still inside.

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