November 1, 2019

The Kefahuchi Tract: three novels by M. John Harrison

   

This (Light, by M. John Harrison) is an amazing book. The writing is electric, with an authority and mastery I haven't seen since first reading Thomas Pynchon. Harrison is often quite lyrical as well as hep. The book is ultimately ecstatic and poignant both.

There are 3 threads increasing related, one in 1999, 2 in 2400. The latter world is a weird one indeed. The whole book is of a piece, like it all happens at once, all of it happening in every part, similarly but with different players or masks.

Moving on now to the next book in the series: Nova Swing. (main character Vic Serotonin, from Scienza Nuova)


«You sign up for the K-ships in sterile white rooms at even temperatures: nevertheless, whatever you do you can’t get warm. You mustn’t have eaten. They give you the emetics anyway. They give you the injection. They give you the tests, but to be honest that is only to pass the two or three days it takes the injection to work. By then your bloodstream is teaming with selected pathogens, artificial parasites and tailored enzymes. You present with the symptoms of MS, lupus and schizophrenia. They strap you down and give you a rubber gag to bite on. The way is cleared for the shadow operators, running on a nanomech substrate at the submicrometre level, which soon begin to take your sympathetic nervous system to pieces. They flush the rubbish out continually through the colon. They pump you sith a white paste of ten-micrometre-range factories which will farm exotic proteins and monitor your internal indicators. They core you at four points down the spine. You are conscious all the way through this process, except for the brief moment when they introduce you to the K-code itself. Many recruits, even now, don’t make it past that point. If you do, they seal you in the tank. By then they have broken most of your bones, and taken some of your organs out: you are blind and deaf, and all you are aware of is a kind of nauseous surf rolling through you forever. They have cut into your neocortex so that it will accept the software bridge known ironically as the ‘the Einstein Cross’ from the shape you see the first time you use it. You are no longer alone. You will soon be able to consciously process billions of billions of bits per second; but you will never walk again. You will never laugh or touch someone or be touched, fuck or be fucked. You will never do anything for yourself again. You will never even shit for yourself again. You have signed up. It comes to you for an instant that you were able to choose this but that you will never, ever, ever be able to unchoose it.» —Light, M. John Harrison, 2002

«Drawn by the radio and TV ads of the twentieth century, which had reached them as faltering wisps and cobwebs of communication (yet still full of a mysterious, alien vitality), the New Men had invaded Earth in the middle 2100s. They were bipedal, humanoid – if you stretched a point – and uniformly tall and white-skinned, each with a shock of flaming red hair. They were indistinguishable from some kinds of Irish junkies. It was difficult to tell the sexes apart. They had a kind of pliable, etiolated feel about their limbs. To start with, they had great optimism and energy. Everything about Earth amazed them. They took over and, in an amiable, paternalistic way, misunderstood and mismanaged everything. It appeared to be an attempt to understand the human race in terms of a 1982 Coke ad. They produced food no one could eat, outlawed politics in favour of the kind of bureaucracy you find in the subsidised arts, and buried enormous machinery in the subcrust which eventually killed millions. After that, they seemed to fade away in embarrassment, taking to drugs, pop music and the twink-tank which was then an exciting if less that reliable new entertainment technology.

«Thereafter, they spread with mankind, like a kind of wrenched commentary on all that expansion and free trade. You often found them at the lower levels of organised crime. Their project was to fit in, but they were fatally retrospective. They were always saying:

«‘I really like this cornflakes thing you have, man. You know?’»

Light, M. John Harrison, 2002

«Adstreams floated everywhere, their unbearable lightness of being – their simple promise – catching you up: until the crown of butterflies round your head morphed into a crown of thorns and you found you had surrendered your intimate data to some twink-farmer forty blocks away on Pierpoint Street.» —Nova Swing, M. John Harrison, 2006

«She found herself descending steep chalky ground into sweeps of water meadow and low-lying pasture dotted here and there with thistles, dog rose and spreading bramble, where willows lined a small river winding through. This composition was spoiled only by the house that stood to one side of the pasture.

«A four-bedroom new build in the 1990s, assembled from unremitting pale brick and still looking like an architectural drawing, it hadn’t weathered. Its profile was low, yet it was clearly not a bungalow. There was a patio like a hard standing for machinery. The white lattices of security grilles, which from a distance looked as if they had been taped on, divided every window. Sunshine glittered off the clutter of photovoltaic and hot water panels set into the shallowly-sloping roof. The only character it possessed lay at the end of its long asymmetric garden: a few trees inherited from some previous, more authentic dwelling on the site. Something resembling life would be lent it each spring by the energetic scraping conversations of the starlings that nested in its gutters. Otherwise, it reminded Anna of a cheap toy abandoned on a carpet; something unable to age because of the sheer purposive artificiality of the materials used to construct it. If it was familiar, she realised, that was because it was her own house.»

Empty Space: A Haunting, M. John Harrison, 2012

Whereas “Light” was about lost memories, the 2nd book in M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract series, “Nova Swing”, was about the burden of memories, about trying to liberate oneself from their burden – not to forget, but to be free from serving them.

It’s not as mind-blowing as the 1st book, but great story-telling nonetheless, and it sets up the 3rd book, “Empty Space: A Haunting”, which is again (like the 1st book) set in both the early 21st and the late 25th centuries.

The passages in “Nova Swing” set in the “event zone” (overt nod to the Strugatsky brothers’ “Roadside Picnic” (on which Tarkhovsky’s “Stalker” was based)) are quite moving; the whole book before them seems all to have been for those passages.


«For the boys from Earth their arrival on the Beach was a game-changer. Anything could now happen. In the tidewrack of alien refuse, new universes awaited, furled up like tiny dimensions inside each abandoned technology. Back-engineering became the order of the day. Everyone could find something to work with, from a superconductor experiment the size of a planet to a gravity wave detector assembled from an entire solar system. Everything you found, you could find something bigger. At the other end of the scale: synthesised viruses, new proteins, nanoproducts all the way down to stable neutron-rich isotopes with non-spherical nuclei.

«Ten per cent of it was still functioning. Ten per cent of that, you could make a wild guess what it did. Why was it there? All of this effort suggested a five-million-year anxiety spree centred on the enigma of the Tract. Every form of intelligent life that came here had taken one look and lost its nerve. The boys from Earth didn’t care about that, not at the outset: to them, the Beach was an interregnum, a holiday from common sense, an exuberant celebration of the very large and the very small, of the very old and the very new, of the vast, extraordinary, panoramic instant they congratulated themselves on living in: the instant in which everything that went before somehow met and became confected with everything yet to be. It was the point where the known met the unknowable, the mirror of desire.

«It was, in short, a chance to make some money.»

Empty Space: A Haunting, M. John Harrison, 2012

«Projected into the carefully deodorised air of Uptown Six’s human quarters, feeds from fifteen planets showed, in quick succession, all the signs of modern conflict: street demonstrations, agitated financial markets, rows of top-shelf EMC hardware hulking around in parking orbits up and down the Beach. Within an hour all sides were broadcasting atrocity-footage as fast as it could be manufactured. Psychodrama raged. Everyone claimed the minority position. Everyone described their grievances as longer-standing and more asymmetric than the enemy’s. Iconic buildings fell in towers of smoke. Sleeping genes, inserted into entire populations three or four generations in advance, expressed themselves as plagues of ideological change. Up and down the Beach, innocent CEOs, brand managers and celebrities found themselves kidnapped then subjected to sexual assault, at the hands of provocateurs who had no idea why they had begun to act to so illiberally. By noon, exhausted attack ads fluttered up and down the streets of every Halo capital. Gaines studies these indicators with a kind of appalled impatience. Away from the media war not a shot had been fired.» —Empty Space: A Haunting, M. John Harrison, 2012

«All across the Halo, alliances collapsed. Mounting crises in the Pentre De, Uswank and Fran-Portie systems broke into open conflict. Then war was everywhere and it was your war, to be accessed however it fitted best into your busy schedule. Seven second segments to three minute documentaries. Focused debate, embedded media. Twenty-four-hour live mano a mano between mixed assets in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud, or a catch-up of the entire campaign – including interactive mapping of EMC’s feint towards Beta Carinae – from day one. In-depth views included: ‘How They Took the Pulsed-Gamma War to Cassiotone 9’; ‘The Ever-Present Threat of Gravity Wave Lasing’; and ‘We Ask You How You Would Have Done It Differently!’ People loved it. The simulacrum of war forced them fully into the present, where they could hone their life-anxieties and interpret them as excitement. Meanwhile, under cover of the coverage, the real war …» —Empty Space: A Haunting, M. John Harrison, 2012

«‘They’d be one thing when you lost them, another when you found them again. In circumstances like that, you have to understand that your perception is what’s fragmentary, not the space itself. At some level an organising principle exists, but you will never have any confirmation of it. It will always be unavailable to you. Then, just as everyone’s stopped trusting themselves, someone finds their way through a trap, the expedition gets a little further in.’» —Empty Space: A Haunting, M. John Harrison, 2012

«He stopped in front of what appeared to be a section of bas reliefs, which showed three modified diapsids wearing complex ritual clothing. One of them was strangling a fourth, who lay passively on what looked like a stone bier.

«‘These people were a million years ahead of us, but they were still trying to work out how to be rational. I don’t think they ever quite made it. …’

...

«Upper management loved itself at war. In the corporate enclaves – which constructed themselves as little market towns called Saulsignon, Burnham Overy or Brandett Hersham, featuring stone churches and water meadows under blue rainwashed skies, perfect windy weather and ponies on the green – war felt real and grown up, a contingency for which your values and education had prepared you. Although obviously some sacrifices would have to be made.»

Empty Space: A Haunting, M. John Harrison, 2012

« What was the Beach, after all, but a repository of fading memories? »

I finished Empty Space: A Haunting last night – what an experience! It’s a complex novel that draws on the 2 previous novels in the series. Mind-bending, to say the least. A poetic epic exploration of the flux of self-creation and -destruction. The physics-confounding Kefahuchi Tract (around which the Beach systems float) is the mad force driving it all, drawing it all.

September 30, 2019

Microcosm of a postmodern coup

Rashida Tlaib @RashidaTlaib Retweeted Big Boss*:
You are beautiful, A—— A——. You are courageous & strong. You are loved.

You see, A——, you may not feel it now, but you have a power that threatens their core. I can't wait to watch you use it and thrive.

Stay strong.
*Big Boss @escapedmatrix:
Three white boys attacked 12-year-old A—— A——, held her hands behind her back, and cut her dreadlocks.

Second Lady @KarenPence, wife of VP Mike Pence, teaches part-time at #ImmanuelChristianSchool. We will protest in Virginia if this isn't handled.
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Coming from someone with dreadlocks and love for your skin, you are beautiful A—— A——. You don't deserve this. #JusticeForA——
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Pardon me, but @FLOTUS your #BeBest campaign isn't working for black kids. Why am I not surprised?
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.@KarenPence @FLOTUS You're a disgrace to our country, all educational institutions, and our youth in America if you don't immediately address and handle this racism. I'm certain your administration is partially responsible. #BeBestForBlacksToo
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.@KarenPence @FLOTUS Failure to respond will only confirm, you allow and promote hate crimes committed against black kids in school.
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.@chelseahandler I thought the #HelloPrivilegeItsMeChelsea thing was about realizing how you can help black people with your white privilege. Ummm. Help perhaps? #JusticeForA—— #2ndChance
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Now keep in mind, recently a black 6-year-old girl was handcuffed and arrested for throwing a tantrum at school. You would think an actual hate crime would receive the same attention. #EndRacism
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.@BrookeBCNN @donlemon @andersoncooper @maddow We need you all over this. Please amplify #JusticeForA——. #EndRacism
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The leading headline wasn't 'White kids arrested for assaulting black 12-year-old girl' -- even with a clear article about a black girl assaulted, and a video of her crying as she revisited her pain & fear.

This is what white privilege looks like. #EndRacism
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Black girl 'says'... after being assaulted by white kids.

Black boy charged... after a white kid gets hit while playing dodgeball.

Aside from the white privilege, notice how the media always paints blacks as the violent ones. Even when it comes to kids. #EndRacism
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[Notice the muddling of real and fantasy, and confusion of justice versus blind revenge, in the last tweets: The arrest of a 6-year-old girl for a tantrum is outrageous in itself, as is the assault charge against a 10-year-old boy. (And such police-state outrages happen to white kids, too.) Yet the tantrum and the assault actually happened. In this case, in contrast, the girl is reported as merely “saying” she was assaulted, because that is in fact all the information available. An arrest on that basis would only add injustice, however satisfying it may be to some racists. And the media interest in the story, rather than reflecting an anti-black bias, was precisely because it is in line with their narrative of the last 3 years about an existential threat from white racists. And the media reporting of the other cases was precisely to fan the very outrage expressed in these tweets. Also note earlier how quickly this thread became an attack on Trump via Karen Pence working part-time at the school, as if that’s what this is really about.]
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Thank you @RoArquette for using your platform to call out this racism. #JusticeForA——
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#ImmanuelChristianSchool told A—— and her grandmother not to speak about her assault on social media, and to just pray about it. That's something Trump or Pence would say, clear signs of a cover-up.

Our message to them is clear. No justice. No peace. #JusticeForA——
Two days later:
Statement of apology from the family of A—— A—— who now admits she made a false assault allegation against 3 white boys in her class. @nbcwashington
[[[[ o ]]]]

New York Times:
“While we are relieved to hear the truth and bring the events of the past few days to a close, we also feel tremendous pain for the victims and the hurt on both sides of this conflict,” the school’s principal, Stephen Danish, said in a statement.

He continued: “We recognize that we now enter what will be a long season of healing. This ordeal has revealed that we as a school family are not immune from the effects of deep racial wounds in our society.”
This is a microcosm of the reaction to Brexit and Trump. The consultant class has joined with the politicians, both elected and not, and the media to defend and restore the neoliberal globalism and neoconservative imperialism that were clearly repudiated in 2016.

They have done this with a narrative smearing that repudiation as a racist backlash that itself must be repudiated, even to spurning democracy and the law.

And so, just as Hillary Clinton started the refusal to accept Trump’s election and still 3 years later eggs it on, just as all of the Democrats clamor for his removal on imagined and increasing hysterical charges, this poor little girl thought it would be OK to make up a racist assault to get a little attention — because, on the model that the presumed “truth” of Trump’s evil – one’s “lived experience” of it – makes actual evidence and unbiased observation an inconvenience to be kicked aside in this righteous crusade, she has evidently absorbed the idea that the truth of racism is bigger than any truth about anything actually happening.

(There’s also the extra frisson of Karen Pence working at the school — one might start to think that there is more to this than one girl’s personal caper.)

If desired evidence isn’t found or isn’t strong enough, then it must be manufactured, so that the truth can be revealed. The consultant class, the academics and NGOs, whose livelihoods depend on fighting or studying injustice, must ensure that injustice persists. They reveal themselves as courtiers to, not the enemies of, power.

This is obviously immoral and destructive. In the name of defending liberalism, it is fanning the flames of hatred, scapegoating now this group now that group, a mob being easily manipulated as the useful idiots of Wall Street and War. It is as fascist as the Western world has come since the end of World War II.

As everyone is urged to assert their myriad victimhoods against an ever-fungible oppressor, real victims of actual crimes are forgotten. Real overarching hierarchies of oppression and inequity are ignored, because the very purpose of all these charades is to protect and preserve injustice.

See also: How knitters turned nasty

September 21, 2019

Climate Strike

There is so much that is frustrating about this movement, even for those who are sympathetic. Carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions are the least of our problems among the continuing environmental impacts of human life. And “green” alternatives only increase those adverse impacts.

They are all less efficient – diffuse – than “conventional” energy sources and therefore require more resource extraction and land use (industrializing vast swaths of the rural and wild) to provide the same power.

Furthermore, wind and solar are intermittent and variable, so they have to be overbuilt (more resources and land, as well as high-capacity powerlines) – and they still need backup: Natural gas–fired generators are ideal because they can respond quickly to balance the fluctuating power. But operating like that makes them less efficient as well, ie, they would emit more carbon as part of a grid with substantial (even as little as 5%) wind and solar than they would if the wind and solar weren’t there at all.

In short, more resource extraction (mining) and land use (habitat loss) and still dependent on fossil fuels, which would now emit more carbon than before. Brilliant.

Where else might this be leading?

Right now, there is only one energy source that is both more efficient and carbon-free: nuclear. The apocalyptic panic of Extinction Rebellion and Climate Strike seems to be doing all it can as useful idiots to revive nuclear as the only solution to their perception of a crisis caused by fossil fuels (ignoring all the other ways that humans trash the planet, or, eg, the mowing down of rainforests for biofuel plantations).

Convinced that they will not have long to live unless we utterly decarbonize (forget the fact that excess CO₂ stays in the atmosphere for centuries – in fact, current carbon levels may be mostly due to coal burning in the 19th century), this generation may usher in a world powered by nuclear. And the resulting pile-up of waste, leaks, and accidents (imagine hundreds, thousands, of Chernobyls and Fukushimas) are more likely to destroy the planet than everything they are protesting.

September 20, 2019

BAIN: extract, release

Bainim, vl. buain, baint, v. tr., I cut, strip, strike, pluck, dig, lift; with as, I take from, diminish, prime, take away, kill overcome; an chéad-ghábhadh do bhaint as, mar órduigh Pádraig, to relieve the first necessity, as Patrick ordained (saying); b. siar as, I cause a set-back to, disable; bainfead tamall as, it will last me for a time; b. as an leabhar é, I read it from the book; b. as ba reathaibh, I make off at high speed; b. chum reatha, id.; b. as, I force from; b. as bullán, I castrate a bull; bainim cainnt as, I get him to talk; baineann sé fáscadh as mo chliabh, it presses my hear (with anguish); b. ceol as, I play (an instrument); b. chum, I set about a thin; with de, I remove, take away from; créad a bhain díot? what has happened to you? what has brought you to this wretched state? b. de dheol, b. den chích, I wean; b. (with obj.) de, I charge, with a suggestion of extortion; bain sé fiche púnt díom, he charged me twenty pounds; ag baint bárr dá chéile, vying or contending with one another; b. ceart de, I manage successfully (a person or thing); b. sásamh de, I call to account, exact satisfaction from; baineadh dem chosaint mé, I was thrown off my guard; b. póg de, I snatch a kiss from; bhain sé lá díom, it took me a day; b. an croiceann de, I flay, I persecute; with le, I touch, I meddle with, I am connecte with; gach n-aon a bhaineann linn, everyone one connected with, or related to, us; ná bain leis, do not meddle with it or him; baineann sé le deallramh go, it seems likely that; ní fheadar cad a bhaineann le feirg, ⁊c., I know nothing at all about anger, etc., I am completely free from anger, etc.; b. amach, I take possession of, I exact, I eke out, I reach, gain, I rescue; b. amach, intr., I fly, get off (N. Con., U.); bhain sé amach, he made off (Or.); céard do bhain duit? what has happened to you? (Aran); b. do, I am related to (N. Con.), corresponding to b. le (M. etc.); b. do, I affect (N. Con.) corresp. to b. le (M. etc.); baineann do, happens to; ar bhain dúinn, all that happened to usl b. ó, I soothe, mollify, subtract; baineadh na cosa uaim, I was taken off my feet; various uses: a dtoirmeasc ó bhuain ann, to prevent them having anything to do with it (e.g., entering the ecclesiastical state) (Donl.); níor baineadh faoi’n inghin acht ag gol, the girl never ceased from weeping (Don.); buain (bain, baint) fá chéile, to take a partner in life (H.); b. anuas, I take down, cut off, unravel, dismantle; ag baint phrátaí, digging out potatoes; b. (buainim) clog, I ring a bell.

—Foclóir Gaedhilge agus Béarla, 1927, by Patrick Dinneen

Also see entry at: Foclóir Gaeilge-Béarla, 1977, by Niall Ó Dónaill, as well as: cuir amach, cuir aníos, cuir anuas, cuir ar, cuir as, cuir chuig, cuir de, cuir do, cuir faoi, cuir le, cuir ó, and cuir siar as.

September 8, 2019

Biggest military spenders in the world

Bernie Sanders @SenSanders (11:26 AM - 8 Sep 2019):

The world's largest military budgets:

🇯🇵 $50 billion (Japan)
🇬🇧 $53 billion (UK)
🇫🇷 $56 billion (France)
🇮🇳 $58 billion (India)
🇷🇺 $63 billion (Russia)
🇸🇦 $83 billion (Saudi Arabia)
🇨🇳 $168 billion (China)
🇺🇸 $700 billion (USA)

What if—just maybe—we led the world not in weapons and war, but in fighting humanity's common enemy: climate change?

Replying to @SenSanders:

The world's biggest per-capita military spenders:
🇱🇺 $710 (Luxembourg)
🇩🇰 $735 (Denmark)
🇬🇧 $751 (UK)
🇧🇳 $799 (Brunei)
🇰🇷 $842 (South Korea)
🇧🇭 $891 (Bahrain)
🇫🇷 $978 (France)
🇦🇺 $1,078 (Australia)
🇳🇴 $1,320 (Norway)
🇴🇲 $1,389 (Oman)
🇰🇼 $1,738 (Kuwait)
🇸🇬 $1,872 (Singapore)
🇮🇱 $1,887 (Israel)
🇺🇸 $1,986 (USA)
🇸🇦 $2,013 (Saudi Arabia)

World's biggest military spenders as share of all govt spending:
(World 6.3% [SIPRI])
(🇺🇸 9.0% [SIPRI])
🇰🇷 12.1% (South Korea)
🇲🇲 12.4% (Myanmar)
🇲🇱 12.7% (Mali)
🇹🇩 13.8% (Chad)
🇦🇲 15.5% (Armenia)
🇱🇧 15.6% (Lebanon)
🇯🇴 15.8% (Jordan)
🇮🇷 15.8% (Iran)
🇩🇿 16.1% (Algeria)
🇵🇰 17.1% (Pakistan)
🇸🇬 17.2% (Singapore)
🇨🇬 17.9% (Congo-Brazzaville)
🇧🇾 25.3% (Belarus)
🇴🇲 26.3% (Oman)
🇸🇦 30.4% (Saudi Arabia)
🇸🇩 30.9% (Sudan)

World's biggest military spending as share of GDP
(Stockholm International Peace Research Institute):
(🇺🇸 3.2%)
🇨🇴 3.2% (Colombia)
🇳🇦 3.3% (Namibia)
🇺🇿 3.6% (Uzbekistan)
🇧🇭 3.6% (Bahrain)
🇦🇿 3.8% (Azerbaijan)
🇺🇦 3.8% [est] (Ukraine)
🇷🇺 3.9% (Russia)
🇵🇰 4.0% (Pakistan)
🇮🇱 4.3% (Israel)
🇯🇴 4.7% (Jordan)
🇦🇲 4.8% (Armenia)
🇱🇧 5.0% [est] (Lebanon)
🇰🇼 5.1% (Kuwait)
🇩🇿 5.3% [uncert] (Algeria)
🇴🇲 8.2% [uncert] (Oman)
🇸🇦 8.8% [est] (Saudi Arabia)

World's biggest military spending as share of GDP
(International Institute for Strategic Studies):
🇲🇱 3.9% (Mali)
🇦🇲 4.0% (Armenia)
🇦🇿 4.0% (Azerbaijan)
🇳🇦 4.1% (Namibia)
🇯🇴 4.4% (Jordan)
🇧🇼 4.4% (Botswana)
🇷🇺 4.6% (Russia)
🇧🇭 4.8% (Bahrain)
🇮🇱 6.1% (Israel)
🇩🇿 6.3% (Algeria)
🇨🇬 6.4% (Congo-Brazzaville)
🇸🇦 8.9% (Saudi Arabia)
🇮🇶 11.6% (Iraq)
🇦🇫 14.0% (Afghanistan)
🇴🇲 15.3% (Oman)

Note, the above do not include 🇰🇵, 🇸🇾, 🇾🇪, and 🇱🇾 (North Korea, Syria, Yemen, and Libya).

Sources:
World Bank (data from SIPRI): Military expenditure (% of general government expenditure). https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/MS.MIL.XPND.ZS
Wikipedia (data from SIPRI): List of countries by military expenditure per capita. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditure_per_capita
Wikipedia (data from SIPRI and IISS): List of countries by military expenditures. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures

August 24, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez vs. the Electoral College

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @AOC:

I see Fox News is big mad about abolishing the electoral college.

So let’s talk about it.

1) If the GOP were the “silent majority” they claim, they wouldn’t be so scared of a popular vote.

They *know* they aren’t the majority. They rely on establishing minority rule for power.

Replying to @AOC:
And if the Dems were as confident of their advantage, they wouldn’t have to change the Constitution to win.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @AOC:

2) This common claim about “if we don’t have the Electoral College then a handful of states will determine the presidency” is BS.

a. It’s the *EC itself* that breaks down power by state, pop vote decentralizes it

b. The EC makes it so a handful of states DO determine elections

Replying to @AOC:
True, it wouldn’t be by state. A handful of metropolitan areas would determine the Presidency.



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Half of the U.S. population live in just 10 metropolitan areas.
[NY-Newark, LA, Chicago, Dallas–Ft Worth, Houston, DC, Miami, Philly, Atlanta, Boston; link —KM]

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @AOC:

3) LASTLY, this concept that the Electoral College is provides “fairness” to rural Americans over coastal states doesn’t hold any water whatsoever. First of all, virtually every state has rural communities. NY. California. Much of our states are rural.

But very importantly...

Replying to @AOC:
Indeed, rural voters in high-population states dominated by a few big cities usually feel ignored [see map, above]. In state legislatures, the unequal representation in the senate of a bicameral system is an effort to redress that inevitability [as it does in the U.S. Senate, and thence the Electoral College, nationally —KM].

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @AOC:

4) We do not give electoral affirmative action to any other group in America. Do Black Americans have their votes count more bc they have been disenfranchised for 100s of years? Do Reservations get an electoral vote? Does Puerto Rico and US territories get them? No. They don’t.

Replying to @AOC:
The Electoral College is not about any “group” of Americans. It simply gives smaller-population states (whoever lives in them) a slightly bigger voice to help ensure they are not utterly ignored. Calling it “affirmative action” is a scurrilous, offensive mischaracterization.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @AOC:

5) The Electoral College isn’t about fairness at all; it’s about empowering some voters over others.

Every vote should be = in America, no matter who you are or where you come from. The right thing to do is establish a Popular Vote. & GOP will do everything they can to fight it.

Replying to @AOC:
Do you advocate abolishing the Senate as well? Where the <600,000 people in Wyoming have the same weight as the 40,000,000 people in California?
|

It would be abolishing the Electoral College that would empower some voters (those in the largest metropolitan areas) over others (everyone else in the country).
|

A constitutional democracy protects the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority, and that includes the inevitable dominance of the cities. …
|

… “Pure” democracy is mob rule. Compromises such as the unequal representation in the Senate and the EC, are necessary to protect the interests of all citizens.


More:

Chris Hayes, MSNBC: “It’s basically this, do we actually really believe in democracy, right? The question before us now in the Electoral College question is, are we going to actually live up to the promise of one person one vote? ... But I think there’s actually a deeper philosophical thing happening which is the question of what exactly American democracy is for. And the weirdest thing about the Electoral College is the fact that if it wasn’t specifically in the Constitution for the Presidency, it would be unconstitutional.”

A comment: “Where did the premise of “one person, one vote” come from? I don’t think that simple-minded cartoon formula is in the Constitution. Democracy is about consensus (as much as possible), not mob rule. Hence the constitutional compromises of the Electoral College and unequal representation in the Senate (where the <600,000 people of Wyoming have the same 2 votes as 40,000,000 Californians), which is reflected in most state legislatures as well. Hence the mechanisms of filibuster, quorum etc.”



August 14, 2019

Immigration Numbers

Neil Munro at Breitbart News regularly appends the following (with supportive links) to his articles about immigration and labor:

Each year, roughly four million young Americans join the workforce after graduating from high school or university. This total includes roughly 800,000 Americans who graduate with skilled degrees in business or health care, engineering or science, software or statistics.

But the federal government then imports about 1.1 million legal immigrants and refreshes a resident population of roughly 1.5 million white-collar visa workers — including approximately 1 million H-1B workers and spouses — plus roughly 500,000 blue-collar visa workers.

The government also prints out more than one million work permits for foreigners, tolerates about eight million illegal workers, and does not punish companies for employing the hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants who sneak across the border or overstay their legal visas each year.

This policy of inflating the labor supply boosts economic growth for investors because it transfers wages to investors and ensures that employers do not have to compete for American workers by offering higher wages and better working conditions.

This policy of flooding the market with cheap, foreign, white-collar graduates and blue-collar labor also shifts enormous wealth from young employees towards older investors, even as it also widens wealth gaps, reduces high-tech investment, increases state and local tax burdens, and hurts children’s schools and college educations.

The cheap-labor economic strategy also pushes Americans away from high-tech careers and sidelines millions of marginalized Americans, including many who are now struggling with fentanyl addictions.

The labor policy also moves business investment and wealth from the heartland to the coastal cities, explodes rents and housing costs, shrivels real estate values in the Midwest, and rewards investors for creating low-tech, labor-intensive workplaces.

August 2, 2019

ICE protesters – the Koch brothers’ useful idiots

(comments on article by Bob Audette, Brattleboro Reformer, July 30, 2019: ICE protesters won't be 'complicit')

‘A pair of southern Vermont women were among the 20 people arrested and cited with disorderly conduct for protesting at the Law Enforcement Support Center on Harvest Lane in Williston on Sunday.

‘The center is operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and according to its website is "the largest investigative agency in the Department of Homeland Security." ...’


[Photo Provided by Nancy Braus]

Yes, seeking asylum is legal. But working while your case is being considered, not showing up for your hearing, and staying in the country after your application is rejected – that’s illegal.

‘Chapman estimated more than 700 people attended the Never Again Means #ShutDownICE march and protest.

‘The 20 people were arrested after they formed two human chains to block employees of the facility from coming and going into the building.

‘"History clearly displays the horrors of what happens when civilization does not stand up to a government that has fixed on dehumanizing and stripping a select group of people of their civil and human rights," wrote Chapman on her personal Facebook page. ...

‘"It was not right in 1940s Germany, it was not right when the American government put Japanese-Americans in internment camps, it was not right when we colonized indigenous people and kidnapped their children, and it is not right now," [said Karlyn Ellis of Bennington]. ...’

Why the worry now? Nothing like that is actually happening.

‘Ellis said the local police, by arresting the protesters, "support concentration camps by default."

‘"There is no longer any room for nuance," she said. "Any citizen who does not take action against ICE who has the means to is complicit in fascist violence, complicit in the abuse of children."

‘Chapman said she knows she will be subject to criticism for her "lawlessness," but is willing to engage in a conversation with people who don't agree with her or her methods.’

Conversation requires room for nuance, so her engagement would likely be along the lines of this demonstration: not only nuance free, but largely fact free as well.

‘"I would ask them to put themselves in their shoes and imagine if they had to flee to Canada and Canada was treating them the way we are treating refugees and asylum seekers," she said.’

Canada actually enforces their asylum laws: You can’t work while awaiting a decision, they keep track of you, and they deport you and forbid your entry ever again when your application is rejected.

‘... "The economic and political policies of the Trump Administration," reads a statement issued at the time of the Sunday protest, "have devastated Latin America and other parts of the world, driving millions of people to find sanctuary in the U.S. Once here, they have been met with super-exploitation as cheap criminalized labor, racist and xenophobic discrimination, threats of detention and deportation, and now under Trump, incarceration in concentration camps throughout the country."’

Unlike the previous administration and its first Secretary of State (say their names: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton), Trump has not overthrown any elected governments in Latin America. The current surge of migration began 10 years ago, after Obama and Clinton helped oust Manuel Zelaya from Honduras. Corporatists like the Koch Brothers then welcome the cheap exploitable labor they provide to undercut the bargaining power of U.S. workers. Illegal labor is exactly what both Dems and Repubs have turned a blind eye to for decades, as it keeps their investments growing. It is the opposite of compassion that argues for opening the floodgates. (Obama and Clinton also helped overthrow Lula da Silva and then Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and ensured the election of reactionary Lenín Moreno in Ecuador. They also caused the overwhelming refugee crisis in Europe after their destruction of Libya and attempted destruction of Syria.)

‘"Grabbing children and babies from their parents and throwing them in cages without diapers or mattresses is not something we should accept," said [Nancy Braus, who owns and operates Everyone's Books on Elliot Street in Brattleboro]. "We can't live with this level of injustice." ...’

First, thanks to useful idiot denial there aren't adequate facilities for housing families going through the asylum process. Second, if it can’t be proved that the adult (usually just one – who is traveling with one child, separated from their family) is in fact the parent or legal guardian, they must by law be separated. Third, “without diapers or mattresses” – mostly a blatant lie, and again, any shortage is due to useful idiot denial that there is any crisis – the same false compassion that actually protested a company providing needed new beds.

July 31, 2019

‘He horrifies us by not submitting to us’ – Trump and the elite-pandering media

Daniel Jupp writes at Spectator USA:

For three years, we have been told what Donald Trump is. We have been told that he is a racist, a xenophobe, a misogynist, a white supremacist, a demagogue, a Russian spy. The charges vary from extreme, unproven and serious to the bizarrely particular and trivial. We have for instance been repeatedly told that it is important that he has tiny hands, or silly hair, or eats McDonald’s.

Whether or not you agree with the many criticisms of Trump, there is one charge that supporters and detractors admit the truth of: Trump is divisive. But what does that mean? It does not necessarily mean, as the mainstream media always tell us, that he should be hated or considered dangerous. It could just mean that he reveals the deep faultlines in contemporary politics. Ironically, it is the continual vicious determination of his opponents to tell us how to view him that causes these divisions. Anti-Trump invective has had an effect on both sides of the debate. It has hardened the attitudes of supporters and opponents to the point at which Trump is no longer discussed as if we are talking about a human being. To his enemies, he is everything that is wrong with traditional ‘white America.’ To supporters he is ‘God Emperor Trump’, the last defender of an embattled set of American values that are everywhere threatened.

He is not a person, nor even merely a president. He is a symbol.

The US is a nation which from its very inception has had a peculiar genius for turning men into symbols. George III was not merely a king, but for revolutionary polemicists the living symbol of tyranny. George Washington became a symbol of rectitude, endurance, perseverance. Sometimes whole groups of people assumed this symbolic role as personifications of good or evil: the Pilgrim Fathers, the Mountain Men, the Puritans, the settlers, the cowboys and the Indians. When we think of the US we think of a line of human beings elevated into the pantheon of symbols, and this is true whether we are talking about politics (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln), sport (Babe Ruth, Jesse Owens) or entertainment (Elvis, Monroe, Eastwood, Madonna). This is the nation that truly embraced and spread the idea of celebrity, and sometimes celebrity cut adrift from achievement.

Take last week’s outrage over his tweets against the so-called ‘Squad.’ These were reported as racist with no analysis of why that is the case. The outrage only emphasizes Trump’s transition from human to symbol. To huge numbers of people, the tweets represent racism, regardless of substance; that makes them racist. Trump himself seems to have a sense of this process and to deliberately guide it when he can. That is a major function of his Twitter account. He knows that the more hate is directed at him, the more supportive his own base, who have every reason to detest a media and a political elite that despises them, becomes.

The interesting aspect here is the ‘unsophisticated’ Trump voter understands exactly what Trump represents to his enemies, but the apparently sophisticated have no idea of what Trump represents to his supporters. They genuinely seem to think that these supporters want white nationalism or white supremacism, they believe their own fantasies about what the other side thinks. But the truth is that, as hateful as he is to his enemies, Trump represents something entirely different to his fans. He represents freedom.

The US heralds itself as the ‘land of the free’ but like all nations in which a large state is combined with a united political and media class, the lives of the ordinary citizen have become less free. More and more state bureaucracy means less and less individual liberty. The people who support Trump do so because they hate being hectored, bullied, and controlled by an increasingly intolerant ‘liberal’ minority with power. They don’t like being told what to think, what to say, what to do in every aspect of their lives. The instinct for freedom that told their ancestors to rebel against the British survives. Trump knows that.

Mainstream media talks a lot about Trump ‘doubling down’. It has done so in relation to the latest tweets scandal. Doubling down horrifies pundits. He says something that they find offensive, they scream and whine and distort the meaning of what was said, they use their magic attack words like ‘racist’, ‘white nationalist’ and ‘xenophobia’. They demand an apology, the backtrack.

But Trump doesn’t give them that. He denies the thrill of the fanatic, which is to see the chastised submit. Instead, he repeats himself. He points out that some countries are indeed ‘shitholes’. He points out that anyone who hates the country they reside in has the option of leaving. He ‘doubles down’, which is essentially media code for ‘he horrifies us by not submitting to us’. In this way he becomes a symbol of good for everyone who does not believe that he is a symbol of evil.

Trump’s greatest crime, and his greatest triumph, is to become a living example that you do not have to submit. You do not have to apologize. You do not have to back down, or grovel, or confess. You are free unless you accept your chains. What message is more hopeful or American than that?

July 19, 2019

Seacht n-óige na coille, an aeir, na mara, an talmhan

Seacht n-óige na coille: faoisceog, fuinnseog, sciachóg, beathóg, rudóg [roideog], fearnóg, daróg (vars. dreasóg, saileog)

Seacht n-óige an aeir: amhlóg, ailleog, luaireog, fuideog [feadóg], truideog [druid], spideog, seabhóg [searróg] (vars. buidheog [buíóg], uiseog [fuiseog], fionnóg [feannóg], tonnóg [tonóg])

Seacht n-óige na mara: madóg, hadóg (cadóg), luthróg [leathóg], leideog, faofóg [faochóg], báirneog, claosóg [crosóg] (vars. gobóg, crainneog [gráinneog])

Seacht n-óige an talmhan: iaróg [eareog], flanóg [flannóg], cnamhóg [crumhóg], luchóg (incomplete)

(Omeath, List of words, chiefly from Omeath, and Mid. Ulster by Rev. Lawrence Murray)

—from entry for “-óg, -eog”, Foclóir Gaedhilge agus Béarla, Patrick Dinneen, 1927

Seven “óg” names of the forest: filbert, ash, whitethorn, bog-myrtle, alder, oak (briar, white willow)
Seven “óg” names of the air: jennet, swallow, sea-gull, plover, starling, robin, gunnel (yellow-hammer, lark, hooded crow, duck)
Seven “óg” names of the sea: lamprey, haddock, flat-fish, plaice, periwinkle, barnacle, starfish (eel, urchin)
Seven “óg” names of the earth: pullet, stoat, maggot, mouse

July 17, 2019

The misjudgement of history

The ever-tedious columnist at Vermont Digger, David Moats, 2001 Pulitzer Prize winner, invokes a fire and brimstone judgement of history on border detention facilities. He even pulls in 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson to argue how loving and tolerant the Puritans were.

Reader Ruby Bode commented:

Marilynne Robinson’s apologia for the Puritans would appear to be an apologia in fact for the new McCarthyist witch hunt triggered by Trump winning the 2016 election, an attempt to bestow the moral righteousness of, e.g., John Brown (cf. Robinson’s “Gilead”) on antidemocratic sore losers. But she compares two actual governing codes (both from the south, of course [no apologia for those bastards!]) to a “list of proposals for good government written by the Puritan Hugh Peter”. Since the Puritans are indeed “commonly viewed as sexually repressed, witch-burning hysterics” (because they were), it would have been more interesting to explore the differences between Peter’s ideals and the realities of Puritan government.

[That’s exactly what the border issue is about: ideals versus reality.]

Bode also commented:

When you cross any border with a child, you have to have proof that you are the parent or legal guardian. That’s why “families” are separated until it can be determined that they are in fact families. If that weren’t done, there would be an outcry for not bothering to check. Furthermore, it’s rarely a whole “family” coming over. It’s usually just one parent and one child, who has been separated from the rest of the family to be used cynically as a prop to better game the famously laxly enforced border laws of the USA. As to the conditions of detention, Trump has been requesting [from day 1] the needed funding to adequately respond to the surges of would-be refugees, but the Dems (and many Repubs) have refused. One might think they would rather see children suffer so they can have something to grandstand on and beat up Trump about. Finally, there’s a big difference between immigration and illegally crossing the border.

[I would add that nobody among these New Puritans seems to be suggesting any solution other than shutting the whole legal system down, opening the borders (in only one direction of course) and giving anybody coming in full rights of residency, no limits, with no concern for American workers (immigrants recent and long ago) and plenty of profits for Wall St.]

Another reader, William Workman, commented:

Over and over, Democrats have overplayed their hands. They used the outrage over child separations to push catch-and-release of another 100,000 illegal immigrants. Trump blurs the line between illegal immigrants and hardened criminals, so Democrats blur the line between legal and illegal immigrants. Now every major Democratic candidate is on record as supporting decriminalizing border crossings, offering free health care, no deportations even for illegals violating court orders, and a path to citizenship. Now this column, which equates safely and respectfully deporting Vermont’s illegals with concentration camps. As though the law itself were immaterial.

Here’s another comment by Bode, to a commentary by writer Dan Close:

What about everyone who has refused to accept the result of the 2016 election? The elected and other officials who have pursued witch hunts and domestic regime change instead of embracing the workings of democracy? Those, like Dan Close, who cannot be honest about anything concerning President Trump, as if we have not had an increasingly imperial Presidency since Reagan? Trump is actually more lawful, much more transparent, and more progressive (regarding trade to benefit American workers instead of Wall St and war – no new ones, not even an actual coup, so far) than his predecessors, both Republican and Democrat. If any[one] burns down the Reichstag, so to speak, it will be the Dems themselves – after committing to the destructive agendas of neoliberalism and neoconservativism – so they can blame it on Trump. It is dangerous projection.

April 5, 2019

Trump said that wind turbines cause cancer!

Do stress and lack of sleep contribute to the development of cancer, as with other diseases?  Yes.

Does wind turbine noise raise stress levels and disrupt sleep?  Yes.

The World Health Organization has recognized the importance to health of uninterrupted sleep and has recommended outdoor noise limits for wind turbines: <https://wind-watch.org/doc/?p=5227>

It’s very difficult to be definite about any environmentally caused illness, because so many variables are involved. But reports have been consistent since around 2000, when the size of wind turbines increased dramatically, of many people suffering a similar set of symptoms after nearby wind turbines start operating. When they leave the area, they experience relief from the overt symptoms (eg, headache, dizziness, feeling of pressure, stress, depression, irritability). The cause is thus quite obvious.

Pets and other animals are similarly affected.

Dr. Nina Pierpont coined the term “Wind Turbine Syndrome” for those symptoms, which also include sleep disturbance and deprivation, tinnitus (ringing in ears), ear pressure, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia (fast heart rate), irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and panic episodes associated with sensations of movement or quivering inside the body. She attributed these effects to inner ear disturbances caused by infrasound and low-frequency noise (ILFN), akin to motion sickness.

As with motion sickness, people have different sensitivities, which also complicates the epidemiology.

Interested acoustical engineers then began measuring ILFN near large wind turbines and did indeed find that pulsing ILFN is a characteristic component of their noise.

In fact, the phenomenon had been documented in the early 1980s by NASA scientists investigating complaints by neighbors of an experimental large wind turbine (which size was not available commercially until around 2000).

See: “Health Effects of Noise from Large Wind Turbines

In December 2011, Denmark added a 20-dBA limit on low-frequency noise (10–160 Hz) inside homes.

In Portugal, researchers led by Mariana Alves-Pereira have studied longer-term physical changes in the lungs, heart, and muscles caused by ILFN. They called it “vibroacoustic disease” and have documented conditions near wind turbines that are as bad as for the cases they studied of people living near heavy industrial sites.

The science is still relatively new, but the effect of noise, whether audible or infrasonic, is increasingly recognized as a valid concern in siting wind turbines near homes and places of work.

For example, in 2017 Vermont implemented a nighttime limit of 39 dBA 100 feet from any nonparticipating residence with the goal of keeping the interior sound level below 30 dBA. See also: <http://wndfo.net/ords>

[Also see: Wind farms do make you sick” (Irish Daily Mail, 16 Oct 2015)]

March 30, 2019

Where is the love? «Watershed Moment on the Mall» by Bill Martin

Bill Martin writes at Counterpunch (excerpts):

«… reductions that have become extreme in this period: science to technology, art to entertainment, love to sexuality, and politics to power.  All of these reductions are inherent in capitalism (as Marx argued long ago, regarding the reduction of all qualities to quantity), but in postmodern capitalism the reductions become both extreme and commonplace, nothing to even think about anymore.  This is a world where “judgment,” in the Kantian sense, becomes merely wanting or not wanting, there’s no question of analysis or understanding.  To use the Buddhist term, there’s no question of “discernment.”

«The reduction of real politics to mere power machination, which I also call anti-politics, gives rise to virulent hatred as the immediate go-to position when the opportunity arises.  The Washington Mall incident is a watershed in that it solidified the “immediate go-to” stance of the IdPol Left, both in the hatred and the sheer opportunism that was in evidence in this moment. …

«The problem is that, even those institutions that are created to give expression to the creative unfolding of human autonomy can come to stand in for this autonomy; thereby, people come to serve the institutions rather than the other way around.

«In pre-modern times in the West, this was mainly a problem of the Church; in modern times this is the problem of the State.  It seems entirely likely that the problem is especially difficult in the case of the secular state, because then there is not even the presumption of some transcendent basis for values, laws, or the workings of the state apparatus.  Now add to this a “politics” built around nothing more than mere interests and groups defined by the interests of identities, and the result is the sort of noxious brew we know today.

«What had been a fragmentary array of grasping human animals becomes weaponized for the sake of the powers and interests that operate within the State.  Indeed, the efforts of the Democratic Party and the IdPol Left have amounted to an institutionalization of self-righteous hate …

«To summarize, what we are seeing is human grasping ever-more completely molded to the power imperatives of postmodern capitalism.  In “The Fourth Hypothesis,” I argued that we are not seeing, with the Trump Disruption, anything like the truly political response (not reaction) that is needed; perhaps, though, we are seeing a possible bridge, or set of bridges, toward this response.  These possible bridges are what the immediate hateful response is aimed at shutting down: don’t even think for a moment that there is an alternative to neoliberal globalism—in fact, don’t even think, don’t ever think, period.  Just give full reign to your hate, and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re not one of the deplorables.

«(Of course, for white males, your facial expression, your posture, or anything, really, may turn you into a deplorable and an object of hatred at a moment’s notice.  Whatever, that’s cool.) …

«[T]he ruling forces in U.S. society have embraced Identity Politics, as the best way of presenting a “liberal, democratic” cover for neoliberal, finance-capital centered, globalist capitalism.  The “left,” congealed behind the anti-Trump movement and, in reality, the Democratic Party (whatever the left may say or tell themselves), has fallen hook, line, and sinker for this ideology.  In its media and other manifestations, among ordinary people, this ideology appears most often in a merely “reactive” form, and in fact is quite often outright reactionary.  There is no emancipatory content to it whatsoever. …

«Tucker Carlson spoke to those who would pronounce judgment on the Covington boys from on high:

‘What’s so fascinating about all these attacks is how inverted they are. These are high school kids from Kentucky. Do they really have more privilege than Alex Kranz from Gizmodo? Probably not, in fact probably much less. They’re far less privileged in fact than virtually everyone who has called for them to be destroyed on the basis that they have too much privilege. Consider Karen Swisher, opinion columnist from the New York Times. Swisher went to Princeton, Georgetown, and Columbia. She’s become rich and famous by toadying up to tech CEOs. … Is she more privileged than the boys at Coventry Catholic high school? Of course she is. Maybe that’s why she feels the need to call them Nazis, which she did, repeatedly.

‘So what’s really going on here? It’s not really about race. …

‘This is about people in power protecting their power, and justifying their power by destroying and mocking those weaker than they are. Why? Simple. Our leaders have not improved the lives of most people in America. They can’t admit that, because it would discredit them. So instead they attack the very people they’ve failed.

‘The problem with Kentucky, they’ll tell you, isn’t the bad policies that hurt the people who live there. It’s that the people who live there are immoral because they’re bigots. They deserve their poverty and opioid addiction. They deserve to die young. That’s what our leaders tell themselves. And now that’s what they’re telling us. Just remember: they’re lying when they do.’ (Tucker Carlson Tonight, opening segment, 1.21.19) …
«[P]ower either destroys or assimilates what is outside of it, unless prevented from doing so. What seems unprecedented, though, and yet now “typical” and normalized for our “New Egypt” (Weber), totally-administered society (Adorno), society of the spectacle (Debord) is that neoliberal power now has well-ordered career tracks for leftists of various kinds, though especially for those who have attached their leftism or supposed radicalism to various “identities.” …

«Some new kinds of radicalism came out of this diversification, and much of that has been good, too, but there has also been an important element missing in this scene—“diversity” here meant gender, race, and sexuality, but not class.  Indeed, just as the rise of the diversity bureaucracy parallels the rise of the new administrative class in the university, the rise of a more diverse faculty and student body parallels a reinforcement of the existing class structure. This is of course not surprising, since it is one well-established imperative of “higher” education to maintain class structure and to create barriers to any shifting of this structure.

«Again, there is a great deal to talk about here, but for present purposes let us leave it that the diversity bureaucracy, with Title IX and similar administrative offices at its head, has come into existence to manage this new state of affairs, and in a way that actually coopts a great deal of “left” and even “radical” rhetoric of the Sixties, but bends this rhetoric to the maintenance of the neoliberal State and economy.

«The role of State Feminism is crucial here, and we might characterize this non-emancipatory “feminism” as what gets us from Simone de Beauvoir to Hillary Clinton and beyond. …

«Mao Zedong enunciated the idea that revolutionaries need to base themselves on the politically advanced, win over the middle, and isolate the backward. … Who are “the advanced” and “the middle” today? That is a really tough question. What may not be as tough is to identify “the backward.”  Certainly, on the “right,” or among “conservatives,” there are some people who are hardened racists, misogynists, homophobes, and even “fascists” (to the extent this last term makes sense without a mass fascist movement).  I think there are fewer of these hardened reactionaries than the IdPol Left likes to think, and I mean “likes” here in the sick sense in which this “Left” goes on about racism, fascism, etc.  They do like the idea that there are great many hardened and hateful reactionaries out there, especially among the “white working class,” because it justifies what the IdPol Left is about: hating most people, hating the working class, thinking most people are stupid, thinking they themselves are so bloody smart, thinking they are part of some sort of “Resistance” or “anti-fascist movement.”  In their own self-righteous dogmatism and self-aggrandizement, then, I would say the Democrats and the IdPol Left are the backward of this moment.

«This world is topsy-turvy, we cannot rely on the conventional categories of “left” and “right,” etc.  And we have to be especially wary of career- and academic-leftists (and Hollywood-types) who are overly interested in increasing their own power, prestige, visibility, or paychecks, and where their ideologies and even personas are shaped by these interests.

[[[[ o ]]]]

«It’s a resistance that needs “fascists” to make sense of itself. Nothing good will come of it. …

«The overriding theme here, in this whole question of the Washington Mall incident, and in addressing these comments, has to be the readiness of those who presently identity as left to have hate and vitriol as their immediate go-to reaction when it comes to anything they disagree with. …

«[R]eal politics comes from an affirmation that is not simply the negation of a negation.  Yes, the latter is in play, and has to be dealt with, but the affirmation of a creative human act (whether it be in politics, science, love, or art) has to exceed the work of the negative. …

«The IdPol Left (and Hillary Clinton’s noxious “Love trumps Hate” bullshit and the way all the Dems got fired up by it) vastly overestimates—for their own purposes—the amount of hate involved in motivating the so-called “right” and the deplorables.  This is just self-justification for the IdPol Left and liberals to hate even more in return. …

«That the IdPol Left needs “fascism” and “white supremacy” in order to make sense of itself, and that a white male who has been bullied by other white males in his life has an emotional reaction to what he thinks he sees in the face of a white 16-year-old boy is not a basis for understanding anything in the world today.  Indeed, these sorts of reactions ought to make anyone interested in an actual, critical examination of things question this liberal and left narrative.  It’s the sort of need for fascism and these feeling-based reactions that have made the left dupes of the Democratic Party.

«Of course there is real white supremacy in this world, in this society.  But I think there is far less of it in actual white people than what the IdPol Left narrative claims. There is resentment that has been intentionally stirred up in many white people, especially white working-class people, by both the IdPol Left and a handful of truly racist agitators, for their own purposes.  There are many people from the working class who have had it with being told they are deplorable and worthless and simply shit, and now they seem to be told this not only by privileged white liberals and other privileged professionals and academics, but also by this so-called “left,” such as represented by my former Kasama comrades.  Who does all of this serve?  It would be very hard to show that this serves any emancipatory purpose whatsoever. …

«But what good and decent person has the immediately hateful reaction that so many liberals and leftists did toward Nick Sandmann? —and, by the way, it seems that overwhelmingly, the people who had this reaction are themselves white and middle class.»

In this series:
The Christine Blasey Ford Episode: State Feminism, the Worthless “Left,” and Liberal Delusions
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
Watershed Moment on the Mall

February 22, 2019

«The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall» by Bill Martin

Bill Martin writes at Counterpunch (excerpts):

«[T]he “hate-work” of this anti-Trump “resistance” has the “positive” outcome for the resisters of allowing them to puff themselves up with self-satisfaction and self-righteousness, and with a kind of certitude that one would think would be reserved for some truly revolutionary emergence or flowering of a new truth upon the scene. But, of course, a new truth is not only quite obviously not a part of the Lib-Left agenda, they themselves are quite clear on not wanting anything of that sort. They are beyond being anti-revolutionary, they are rabid in their rhetoric and other efforts toward getting back to the stable status quo of the establishment. An extra-bonus for the white middle-class professional and academic males who are rushing to be a part of this ridiculous and horrible mob of hate-mongers, is that their militant virtue-signaling represents a truly toxic masculinity, added to the already obnoxious self-righteousness of the ridiculous, LARPing, social media anti-Trump movement. …

«What the Left has in fact “achieved” is a situation where the previous exaggerations and dystopian fantasies of right-wingers have been brought to life. What were previously absurd or at least highly-exaggerated characterizations such as “feminazi” and “anti-white racism” are now realities. …

«[T]he reaction of the haters has been to accuse anyone who says that we need to look again and think again of “gaslighting.” … [I]t doesn’t matter what happens to any individual in the momentous resistance struggle of the anti-Trumpers (who so bravely put themselves on the line on social media every day!) and, in this great struggle for IdPol justice there cannot be any second thoughts, further investigation, etc.—in fact, there cannot be any thinking or investigation, period, that just gets in the way. So, it’s just a matter of the right word for dismissing any movement toward thinking and investigation—in this case, the word is gaslightling. Of course, then you can have a few more epithets thrown in for good measure, “fascist,” “racist,” etc. …

«This is a wonderful moment for the establishment, when it can all get together on one goal, and have the neocons on board with the neoliberals, and the IdPol Left cheering them on. And it’s a terrible moment for the rest of humanity; what better symbol of this than hatefully beating up on a smiling teenager just because he stood where he was already standing, waiting on a bus back to a small town in Kentucky? …

«It would be the easiest thing in the world to walk away from this, [but] the alternative is back to the neoliberal slow-boil of the frog, along with redoubled effort to make sure nothing like the Trump disruption slips through the establishment’s nets again. …

«Please remember, we are talking about ordinary working people, the working class, for the first time in decades. When the establishment gets back in full charge …, this discourse on the working class will be shut down, and workers of all colors, genders, etc. will be punished, and not just the deplorables. …

«We could say there are three hypotheses and a fourth hypothesis. The first two hypotheses are those that are heard all the time, and represent the two poles of conventional “politics.” The third hypothesis represents the rejection of these politics; it is heard some of the time, but generally drowned out by the loud shouts of those advocating the first two hypotheses. … The third hypothesis is that there are no real and lasting solutions within the system to the basic problems the system is encountering. … And yet the existing system seeks to perpetuate itself come what may. Therefore, the only real solution to the deep and humanly-devastating problems of the system is the creation of another system: a revolution. …

«[T]he idea that they’re fighting fascism and they’re part of some “resistance” … sounds a lot better than just being tools of the establishment, and they’ll hope for some reward when the establishment reestablishes itself fully; there probably will be some reward, on the backs of the ordinary working people, in other words the deplorables, who very likely will be punished. So, it also helps to consider ordinary working people as deplorable, so you don’t have to feel bad for them. As things get back to “normal” and more jobs are sent away, the Identity Politics and State Feminism crowd can just raise a big ol’ chorus of “Check your privilege!” …

«The establishment, with the Democrats and the left (including State Feminism) leading the way, have done a brilliant job, and I don’t mean this sarcastically, of pushing the abandonment of the third hypothesis. All one hears from the anti-Trump movement is either that “revolution is not in the offing for the foreseeable future” or that “there’s never going to be a revolution.” … What is important here is that, if revolution is not in the offing in the near future, it is for the same reason that Trump is not a fascist and is not installing a fascist system in the U.S.—there is no general crisis of American capitalism at this time. …

«There is not a crisis for these institutions of capitalism, but there is a major annoyance for the establishment. This annoyance is all the more galling to them because they had done everything to ensure that their operative would be in the White House. …

«The fourth hypothesis is that sometimes there is an element that arises in the system that is not fully contained or circumscribed within the system; this element can act as a bridge to further action outside the system to bring about systemic transformation. …

«This element—let’s just call it the “bridge”— … exists despite the calculations of the system, and yet it also exists because the system has attempted to do everything it could to prevent the bridge from existing, or perhaps “emerging” is the better word. …

«[W]e have the bright young things of middle-class academia on the one side, and the deplorables on the other. It seems reasonable to assert that the general functioning of the existing system depends on the idea that “neither the twain shall meet.” The experience of radical uprisings and actual revolutions, on the other hand, very often seems to show that people have to cross the lines laid down by the establishment for something really new to happen.

«This crossing of lines happened in 1968, when the workers joined the students of France in revolt. Now what could go much further in France is if the students and more middle-strata people joined the workers wearing the Yellow Jerseys. In the light of what an explosive combination could result, it is not hard to see why the IdPol-Left has to keep pushing the line that the working class in the U.S. is deplorable—backward and reactionary.

«It is more than obvious, then, that the system has every interest in keeping such a meeting from happening. Indeed, the establishment has every interest in encouraging the contradictions among the people to become increasingly antagonistic. Despite there being a real basis in historical social reality for what has been fashioned into Identity Politics (and this basis remains to be addressed in the serious, deep, and thorough-going way that is necessary), sometimes it almost seems as if Identity Politics came together through conscious and less-conscious efforts aimed precisely at deepening the contradictions among the peopleand leaving violent confrontation as the only form of addressing these contradictions. …

«[O]ne thing that is absolutely necessary is to call out the deplorable-ploy for what it is, a way to divide people against each other, with no emancipatory purpose whatsoever—indeed, quite the opposite, and this is how the Democrats have become a completely reactionary organization, no matter what “exciting, fresh faces” they put forward. …

«My other point here, though, is that the left that is under the sway of State Feminism and Identity Politics has come to the place where anything to do with the working class and anything to do with universalist emancipatory goals is just off the table and is met with insults. So, if these things are going to get back on the table, they will almost certainly come from unexpected places, and those of us who really do support the third hypothesis will need to figure out ways to encourage and support the fourth hypothesis.

«To return to the larger point, beyond this crazy campus world: to put things very simply, an uprising of deplorables will be painted as a “race war,” unless there is significant progress in building the kind of bridges that need to be built. …

«The question is first of all the disruption that the election of Trump creates in system, the clarification that this disruption provides, and the experiments that this disruption may make possible. …

«This is the moment when ordinary people Democrats and IdPol Leftists need to break with their hatred—they need to break with this very openly, they need to apologize and criticize themselves for going along with or furthering the hatred and vitriol shown in their reaction to Nick Sandmann and his classmates. You need to strive toward redemption in this moment, and if you cannot do that, then I do not see how your hateful dogmatic mindset and comportment can be helpful to anyone, in any way. I do not see how the Democratic Party built around this sort of thing could even conceivably give rise to anything that is even remotely defensible. … In the meantime, find something better to do than poisoning everything and your own selves with hate. … Even apart from your vitriolic emotionalism, the problem is not that you aren’t “smart,” it’s that you think you already know everything. …

«Here we see why the IdPol Left, and most of what we have called “the left” until now, is in an epistemological rut—they know too much, they know everything, and so when new things emerge, they will not see these things. …

«The deplorable working people of the U.S. need to come forward in a new kind of way, a way that takes up the path in France that has been opened up by the Yellow Jerseys, and a way that deepens the significance of work, real work, for what this society is and could be. There has to be the absolute recognition of the worker, of the working people, as central to this society, as central to any society, which also means the absolute demand that there be work—good work, work whereby people can have a decent life and also expand their range as people, and work that also shows its value in terms of not allowing financiers (and their political representatives) who do nothing that should be termed “work” to steal and control (and often undermine) the value that this work creates.»

In this series:
The Christine Blasey Ford Episode: State Feminism, the Worthless “Left,” and Liberal Delusions
The Trump Experiment: Liberals and Leftists Unhinged and Around the Bend
The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall
Watershed Moment on the Mall

January 25, 2019

On MAGA hats and confirmation bias

"El Rucio" wrote on Twitter, Jan 24:

If a #MAGA hat is inherently aggressive "speech", what is calling "half of Trump's supporters … the basket of deplorables. … irredeemable, … not America"?

In fact, it's that dismissive fear-mongering attempt to delegitimize and punish political opinion (because it repudiates the neolib/neocon paradigm and gives voice to the latter's victims) that excuses all manner of violence against people showing support for their President.

Remember when black men were lynched for "looking" at someone the wrong way? Obviously very different triggers on a deeper level, but the reactions reflect a very similar hateful mob mentality, fearful as well as self-righteous.

Actually, are the triggers so different? The people who "run" things (and the people who think they are intrinsic parts of that system, or at least benefiting from it) are told (and presented with evidence) that they are not doing a very good job. …

… They completely deny it and smear the messenger (the people) in every way they can, even to physical violence.

They entrench themselves deeper and deeper into their own delusions. Reality, reason, even human feeling can no longer reach them.

Also, on Jan 25:

#ConfirmationBias: It's the only game in town, thanks to social media. #Resist it!

January 16, 2019

Rhetorical fallacies: Propaganda in 4 D’s

Ben Nimmo, of Nato’s PR agency Atlantic Council, has simplified the tactics of propaganda to 4 “D”s: Dismiss (ad hominem), Distort (straw man), Distract (tu quoque), and Dismay, the last of which as he describes it is more like “Threaten”, but Nimmo had apparently committed himself to all D’s.

Also, Dismay/Threaten isn’t actually propaganda, let alone a rhetorical fallacy of logic. The examples Nimmo gives are in fact responses of the target to the actions that the propaganda program (the 3 D’s) is in support of.

There is a more apt fourth D that Nimmo chose not to admit to: Doxx. When the first 3 D’s fail, then simply destroy the life of the person still in your way. In fact, that is the implicit goal of the first 3 D’s. Nimmo’s use of “Dismay” – actually the response of the target of propaganda – obscures that final step of the propagandist, instead presenting the victim’s reaction with the implication that it provides the propagandist reason to Destroy him. So Nimmo’s Dismay is there to provide justification when he is driven – by frustration that his propaganda and provocation are not working as hoped – to the ultimate D, Destroy.

Nimmo focuses on Russian PR efforts, particularly in its response to Nato’s actions against her, and others have applied his model to Donald Trump. The 4 D’s apply much more aptly, however, to the work of the Atlantic Council’s own anti-Russian campaign, as well as to the anti-Trump media, the anti-Brexit media, the anti-Corbyn and anti–Bernie Sanders media – the whole machinery working to protect the neoliberal and neoconservative programs of global capital that have wreaked havoc on the world and people’s lives for almost 40 years.

An unspoken fifth D is both the beginning and the end of Nimmo’s cycle: Delusion. Propaganda is a failure of argument. Without a winning argument, and unwilling to accept more persuasive evidence, one may resort to rhetorical fallacies – propaganda – to preserve one’s delusions. If it works, even if only to retain the loyalty or faith of one’s own fellow travelers, or even just to convince oneself, then the cycle only worsens as it becomes increasingly removed from reality.

Nimmo concisely presents the propaganda efforts of such Dead-enders by projecting what is clearly an in-house strategy guide as the nefarious tactics of his perceived enemies.