November 16, 2019

Yarn heard from a burntlander in Panama

«Back when the Fall was fallin’, humans f’got the makin’ o’ fire.  O, diresome bad things was gettin’, yay.  Come night, folks cudn’t see nothin’, come winter they cudn’t warm nothin’, come mornin’ they cudn’t roast nothin’.  So the tribe went to Wise Man an’ asked, Wise Man, help us, see we f’got the makin’ o’ fire, an’, O, woe is us an’ all.

«So Wise Man summ’ned Crow an’ say-soed him these words: Fly across the crazed’n’jiffyin’ ocean to the Mighty Volcano, an’ on its foresty slopes, find a long stick. Pick up that stick in your beak an’ fly into that Mighty Volcano’s mouth an’ dip it in the lake o’ flames what bubble’n’spit in that fiery place. Then bring the burnin’ stick back here to Panama so humans’ll mem’ry fire once more an’ mem’ry back its makin’.

«Crow obeyed the Wise Man’s say-so, an’ flew over this crazed’n’jiffyin’ ocean until he saw the Mighty Volcano smokin’ in the near-far.  He spiralled down on to its foresty slopes, nibbed some gooseb’ries, gulped of a chilly spring, rested his tired winds a beat, then sivvied ’round for a long stick o’pine.  A one, a two, a three an’ up Crow flew, stick in his beak, an’ plop down the sulf’ry mouth o’ the Mighty Volcano that gutsy bird dropped, yay, swoopin’ out of his dive at the last beat, draggin’ that stick o’ pine thru’ the melty fire, whooo-ooo-ooosh, it flamed!  Up’n’out o’ that Crow flew from the scorchin’ mouth, now flew with that burnin’ stick in his mouth, yay, toward home he headed, wings poundin’, stick burnin’, days passin’, hail slingin’, clouds black’nin’, O, fire lickin’ up that stick, eyes smokin’, feathers crispin’, beak burnin’ . . .  It hurts!  Crow crawed.  It hurts!  Now, did he drop that stick or din’t he? Do we mem’ry the makin’ o’ fire or don’t we?

«See now, said Meronym, riding backwards on that lead-ass, it ain’t ’bout Crows or fire, it’s ’bout how we humans got our spirit.»

—Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell, 2004

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.
Coming from someone with dreadlocks and love for your skin, you are beautiful A—— A——. You don't deserve this. #JusticeForA——
Pardon me, but @FLOTUS your #BeBest campaign isn't working for black kids. Why am I not surprised?
.@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
.@KarenPence @FLOTUS Failure to respond will only confirm, you allow and promote hate crimes committed against black kids in school.
.@chelseahandler I thought the #HelloPrivilegeItsMeChelsea thing was about realizing how you can help black people with your white privilege. Ummm. Help perhaps? #JusticeForA—— #2ndChance
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
.@BrookeBCNN @donlemon @andersoncooper @maddow We need you all over this. Please amplify #JusticeForA——. #EndRacism
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
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
[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.]
Thank you @RoArquette for using your platform to call out this racism. #JusticeForA——
#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% [Stockholm International Peace Research Institute])
(🇺🇸 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
(🇺🇸 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).

World Bank (data from SIPRI): Military expenditure (% of general government expenditure).
Wikipedia (data from SIPRI): List of countries by military expenditure per capita.
Wikipedia (data from SIPRI and IISS): 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.


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.


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.”