chris_gerrib: (Default)
Like the label says, links!

A) The Advantage of Being a Little Underemployed. From the link: Before 1900 the average American worker worked more than 60 hours a week. A standard schedule was ten-hour days, six days a week. The only structural limits to working were lighting and religion. You stopped working when it was too dark to see or to go to church. Or shorter, you worked from "can" to "can't."

B) A bit late, but still good - the story of D-Day on Omaha Beach.

C) Wonder Woman: How real-life athletes united to populate the film's badass Amazon nation.

D) A more humorous take on Wonder Woman - Alamo Drafthouse Apologizes for Starting Manpocalypse With Women-Only Screening.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Various Southern cities are taking down statues commemorating Confederate war heroes. These statues were largely erected by white Southerners from 1890 to 1920, and were explicitly intended to send a signal to the local black population that Whites Were In Charge. They were also intended to hide the fact that the Civil War was fought by the South to protect slavery.

In any event, the statues are finally coming down. Various groups of whites are protesting the removal, and some of them have been heard chanting "Russia is our friend" at these protests. One sees this "Russia is our friend" concept a lot among the Alt-Right and Trump supporters (for whatever difference there is between the two groups). The question is why? Why did we go from a Cold War fear of the Ruskies to "Russia is our friend?"

There are a variety of reasons for this. The simplest is that Russia is ethnically mostly white - even most of the non-Russian peoples in the country are "white" by American standards. The Russian government has obviously done a lot with Twitter-bots and other social media creations to pump themselves up. But I think the biggest reason is Putin.

The American right, and right-wings in general, have always been fond of authoritarians. After all, the original "right wing" were the (absolute monarch) King's supporters in the French Estates General. Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford were both quite okay with Nazi Germany, not changing their minds until very late in the game. As I noted elsewhere, The antebellum South was organized, directed and structured to the benefit of white men, preferably those of property.

This is why the Alt-Right and Trump supporters not only aren't upset with Trump's collusion with Russia, but confused as to why anybody else is upset. We should be working with Russia. (Actually, if and when Russia extracts their collective heads from their asses, they should be natural allies with the US.)

The problem with authoritarians is this - it really matters who's the kicker and who's the kick-ee. By their very nature, authoritarian regimes end up with everybody, even members of the secret police (and there's always a secret police) being scared of their shadows. Anybody can be turned in by anybody for anything, true or not. Authoritarian regimes end up collapsing, because loyalty trumps (pun intended) competency, and the collapse is messy and bloody.

But for a while, while your side is the kicker, authoritarianism feels good. Unfortunately, the good feelings never last.
chris_gerrib: (Default)
Hackers are the new pirates, in more ways than one. First, a history lesson.

From the European discovery of the New World until 1713 (when a treaty was signed) all Spanish-held territories could only trade with Spain on Spanish ships. The other European powers weren't happy about it, but for the most part they lacked the firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Spanish. Even Britain's vaunted Royal Navy wasn't up to the task until the early 1700s, when Spain's military had weakened.

Lacking the ability to directly attack Spain, the other European powers landed on pirates. They allowed criminals (pirates) the ability to operate in their ports, sometimes with a legal fig leaf of a "Letter of Marque" making them privateers, sometimes not, as long as they attacked Spain. This was even more beneficial to the host country in that pirates were self-funding and successful pirates were an economic stimulus. (Somebody had to drink all that rum.)

Now, we see nations such as Russia allowing hackers to operate inside their borders as long as the target of the activity is directed at foreigners. Not only does Russia allow these hackers to operate, but if and when said hacker gets politically or militarily useful information, Russian intelligence will grab it and run with it. This may include monkeying with US elections.

There is nothing new under the sun.

Russia

Mar. 7th, 2017 11:27 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
As I mentioned yesterday, I watched a 60 Minutes interview of French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen. In it, she was asked if she was upset at or worried about Russia. She said no, and said that being hostile to Russia would "drive them into the arms of China." This surprising love of Russia (a love not shared by her closer neighbors - Sweden brought back the draft) is a feature of the "alt-right."

Here's the thing - in the long run, Le Pen is right. Russia will want / need allies against China and possibly India, the two emerging powers that share a continent with Russia.

In the short term, she's wrong. Putin is an autocrat, playing a short-term game to make himself look good. He's doing this by bullying his European neighbors. Putin is the Napoleon III of Russia - a man attempting to reclaim a fraction of the old regime's greatness. Any deal with Putin will backfire, at least in Europe.

Le Pen's nationalism is also short-minded. The European Union is desperately undemocratic, but if Europe wants to play on the world stage, they will need greater unification, not less.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Like the label on the tin says:

1) This Friday, S. Evan Townsend will be featuring me on his podcast "Speculative Fiction Cantina." Link when I have it.

2) This Saturday, an interview with me will be on The IndieView.

3) Over the weekend, I read a great book: Warnings Unheeded: Twin Tragedies at Fairchild AFB. The book is written by the Air Force policeman who stopped a mass shooting by killing the shooter with a pistol at 70 yards. It's about how the mass shooter came to be as well as how, a week later, a B-52 practicing for an air show plowed into the ground doing an unsafe maneuver. No spoilers - both events were preceded by many unheeded warnings.

4) On climate change - our memories can be unreliable. I was in Chicago in 1999 and don't remember a particularly warm February.

5) Why don't many racist people think they're racist?. Answer: Because they probably aren't racist. Saying or doing something racist and being a racist is not the same thing.

Protests

Feb. 16th, 2017 11:32 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
So I remember all the way back to 2009 and the Tea Party movement. They held all sorts of protests, none of which convinced me of anything other then that the movement was seriously clueless. Remembering that, I am reflexively leery of anti-Trump protests. On the other hand, the lack of clues I see is in Trump, not (generally) the protesters.

I think the lesson from the Tea Party is that protest needs to convert to candidates and votes. If that happens, good, if not, they are sound and fury signifying nothing.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Because they go bad:

1) Some historical perspective on our current run of peace in Europe: And yet, when the U.S. was debating entrance into World War I, one state representative rose in his legislature and gave an impassioned speech that, “I was old enough to fight for this Union at 15, and I am young enough to fight again.”

2) Here's an idea - beer caused civilization. I think I'll have a drink.

3) Food for thought: This dog has a guaranteed basic income, and look how eager he is to teach a yoga class anyway.

4) Want to “Take the Oil”? Crunch the Numbers First. Money quote: "In an absolute best-case scenario, where the costs of occupation are minimal and the revenues produced from Iraqi oil exports are maximized, we might break even. In any other, more realistic scenario, the United States loses money."

5) Falklands and Second World War veteran John Vickerson dies, aged 95.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Vox Day, also known to this blog as Wily E. Coyote, SuperGenius at Large, has repeatedly stated that he is not a Nazi, despite what people say. This is technically true, but misses the larger point. Most people think all Fascists are Nazis. No, much like Xerox machines are a type of copier, Nazis are a type of Fascist. VD is a Fascist.

Fascism was invented in Italy by one Benito Mussolini. Hitler styled himself after Mussolini, which was why Italy, a country that had fought against Germany in WWI, fought with them in WWII. Fascism is not inherently antisemitic - that particular trait was a "feature" of Adolf Hitler's personality. Nor is Fascism massively expansionistic - Mussolini before 1939 only invaded two countries - Albania and Ethiopia - places that lacked an ability to fight back.

So what is Fascism? It is:
1) Authoritarian. There is a Strong Leader and we must follow him.

2) Hyper-patriotic. Not "our country right or wrong" but "our country is never wrong."

3) Intolerant of dissent. Peaceful protests or disagreements are seen as threats.

4) Objectively pro-wealthy. Mussolini and Hitler both enjoyed strong support from the wealthy and aristocratic classes in their countries, largely because they followed policies that enriched said classes. For example, both men abolished independent labor unions, replacing them with unions that were little more than clubs for workers to hang out in.

5) Militaristic. They may not want to use the military (see Mussolini) but damn it they want a big and shiny one.

6) Fearful. In a Fascist regime, there is always some group that is just around the corner and just about ready to overthrow the regime. Paradoxically, this group is also seen as very stupid and easily stopped. (In fairness, this "powerful but stupid" enemy is a useful tool in a lot of situations.)

7) Action without thought. We need to build a wall to keep out Mexicans is action, but doesn't look at the fact that most Mexicans drive or fly across the border.

8) Traditionalism. Whether it's a cult-like worship of the Founding Fathers or surrounding yourself with Roman symbols, Fascists look to the past, and usually to some idealized version thereof.

9) Racist. Although this is more visible in Nazi-ism, Fascists are racists in that they see their race (however they define it) as better than other races. In VD's case, he defines the "American" race as people who came over on the Mayflower.

In any event, if you find yourself calling somebody a Nazi, let me suggest substituting Fascist. It's more accurate and harder to dispute.

For another take, see Umberto Eco's 14 features of Fascism.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Like the label on the tin says.


1) A very stunning image of Daphnis, a tiny moon in Saturn's rings.

2) A very interesting article about why England left the European Union. From the article: " it doesn’t want to be just another member of a team."

3) Don't get you hopes up about this very pretty drawing of a flying car.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I just finished reading the novel Outlander. In it, a British woman from 1945, a recently-discharged Army nurse, is magically transported back to Scotland of 1743. Adventures ensue, she hooks up with a hunky Scottish guy, nearly gets burnt as a witch, then has the opportunity to go back to her time and her husband - and doesn't.

That was at about the 3/4ths point of the book, and that's where I set it down. Mine is obviously a minority viewpoint - the book and its seven sequels and various tie-ins hit all the bestseller lists and the series is now on TV, so a whole lot of somebodies liked the story.

In fairness, Outlander is well-written and unstinting on the Badde Olde Dayes, but I think the author (and her character) fall victim to nostalgia. Tying this into Brexit and Trump, supporters of both are audibly nostalgic for The Good Old Days that will be brought back.

Two problems. First, the Good Old Days weren't good! Well, unless you were a straight white Protestant male. Second, much of what made the Good Old Days good for those WASPs were things like strong unions, regulation, and in the case of the USA, the fact that the rest of the world had just gotten the snot bombed out of them, leaving the USA untouched. So, it's a nostalgia for a time that Never Was and can't be again.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
One of the many irritating features of the current conservative movement is that they frequently say American civil rights leaders and the civil rights movement was "communist." Communists ran the movement, funded it and generally got their fingerprints all over it.

Well, yeah. There's a simple reason. When the civil rights movement got started, both mainstream American political parties would not help the civil rights leaders. So, much like Stalin turning to Britain and America in WWII (and us turning to Stalin) the civil rights people went to whomever would help. Staying in WWII for a moment, the Resistance movement in Occupied Europe was started and, until fairly late in the war, ran by the local Communists.

Fidel Castro and Ho Chi Minh, although both arguably left-leaning, went Communist because the US wouldn't help. In Castro's case, he was fighting against an American-backed dictator, in Minh's the US merely said "not our problem." The end result was the same - go with those who will help.

Saying "but they're communists!" doesn't prove anything. "But they're communists" doesn't equate to being wrong.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
H. L. Mencken said that For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong. As we hit the final day of our biannual exercise of democracy, I thought I'd reflect on a situation when America picked the wrong answer: Prohibition.

America in the 19th century and into the 20th had a real problem with alcoholism. There were many more alcoholics back then, and more plain-old drunks as well. This was a problem for a lot of people, but especially women. Given the difficulties of divorce, the lack of a social safety net and the limited job opportunities for women, being married to an alcoholic could be disastrous. It was no bed of roses for a man, either, but women and children were disproportionately affected.

Then in the early years of the 20th century, we got cars. One of the advantages of a horse-drawn carriage is that it's actually quite difficult to make a horse run headlong into a tree, no matter how drunk the driver. In fact, I suspect many a drunk climbed into a carriage, said "home," passed out and came to at their house, the horse having gotten there by itself. Cars obviously don't do that. To make matters worse, the vehicles of the era were completely devoid of safety features, so even low-speed accidents could be fatal.

The clear and simple answer to these problems was to ban alcohol. No booze, no drunks, right?

The real solutions proved hard and non-intuitive, from easier divorce to welfare to jobs for women. They included treatment for alcoholism as a disease, dram shop laws, drunk-driving enforcement and safer cars. Finally, they included a reduced social acceptance of being drunk. Goodbye three-martini lunches, hello iced tea. Most all of this was enabled by government action.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Thought #1 - "A Troubled Loner"

It seems that any time a black or Muslim man shoots somebody he shouldn't, that's proof of terrorism and conspiracy. Yet when a white man with a history of waving Confederate flags at black people shots somebody, we're told that they are "a troubled loner." In the latest case, it would be more accurate to call them a habitual criminal and violent racist.

Thought #2 - Making Water

It's said that necessity is the mother of invention. Israel, the driest country in the world, needed fresh water. So they invented cheap desalinization. Of note in the article - the same drought that forced Israel to make water let to the collapse of Syrian agriculture and the creation of large slums on the outskirts of Syrian cities. These led to the current civil war. Note to libertarians - either government takes care of the poor or the poor take care of government, French-revolution style.

Thought #3 - the Ghost Fleet of WWI

On a lighter note, in World War I, the US started an emergency program to replace merchant ships lost due to U-boats. Like much of our efforts in that war, the fighting was done by the time the ships were built. They were also uneconomical to operate, so they were left to rot in Mallows Bay. The wooden ships have created fascinating ship-shaped islands.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
It's Tuesday, so have some links:

A) My book The Mars Run is featured on eBookSoda. Please share the love.

B) In regards to Black Lives Matter, a great video: Tolerance is for cowards.

C) Point Roberts, USA - An American city stranded at the tip of a Canadian peninsula.

D) Barack Obama on 5 days that shaped his Presidency.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Update

Yesterday I made a one-day business trip to eastern Tennessee. It involved an oh-dark-thirty wake up call to catch the dawn patrol flight to Nashville, an hour's drive, and a late evening return to Chicago. I seriously considered flying in the night before, but that would have meant a night in a chain motel and a dinner at a chain restaurant. In short, six of one or a half dozen of the other. In any event, I'm back in the saddle.

Random Thoughts

1) Via various news sources (use your own Google) former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell is quoted has having said in email that the Benghazi affair was a witch hunt. He was also quoted (a sentiment I agree with) as saying the problem was our Ambassador thought the Libyan people loved him (which they may have) and thus he was safe (obviously not).

2) Again via various sources comes news that the Trump charitable "foundation" was yet another scam. Trump collected other people's money, used same to write checks to other charities while siphoning off as much as possible to pay family and buy junk for himself. The technical term for such conduct is "felony fraud" and usually earns one an orange jumpsuit.

3) Over at Wright's House of Wrong, the proprietor quotes Chesterton on the loss of honor due to the South's defeat in the Civil War. I am gobsmacked to note that the entire just under 2000 word article has not one mention of "slavery" in it.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Thanks to a nap, a solid night of sleep and modern pharmaceuticals, I feel almost human today. Since they've been accumulating, let's have some links:

1) WaPo: Trump Camp Built Up Robust DC Policy Shop, Let It Die Of Neglect I am shocked, shocked I tell you to learn that Donald Trump would hire people and then not actually pay them.

2) I bought and enjoyed a previous anthology from these folks, so I encourage you to contribute: ZNB is at it again with 3 new anthologies with the themes of Robots, Water, and Death! Join us for another great adventure!

3) Presented without comment: The Tree That Was Arrested.

4) I'm told that my grandparents eloped and got married in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Had they been English, they would have gone to Gretna Green, Scotland.

5) Back in Ye Olde Dayes, when you went grocery shopping the clerk filled your order. When I was a kid in small town Illinois, there was still an old-style grocery store that my mother would send me to on my bike to pick up lunchmeat. You can thank Piggly Wiggy for the modern supermarket.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
A couple of thoughts on the occasion of going back to work after Labor Day.

Thought #1 - Dragon Awards

The Dragon Awards were announced over the weekend. Congratulations to the winners listed here. The list is not whom I would have picked, but it's not the first or the last time somebody wins an award I didn't agree with. (Ask me about Hugo-winner The Windup Girl.)

Thought #2 - Why Labor Day

In most of the world, the holiday for labor is May 1. We celebrate Labor Day in September because the Communists had claimed May 1.

Thought #3 - A Good Book

I was a member of the Kickstarter for the new anthology Alien Artifacts. I read my copy over the weekend and enjoyed it immensely. I highly recommend you getting a copy.

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Hugos

1) Nicholas Whyte, the Hugo administrator for Worldcon 75, has a very cogent analysis of last year's Hugo results had all the new rules been in effect. The combination of EPH and 5 and 6 seem to result in a much better ballot.

2) At Wright's House of Wrong, Mr. Wright goes off on (what is for him a short) rant on the poor quality of recent Hugo nominations. My reply:
Mr. Wright: your editor, deliberately and with malice aforethought, loaded the short fiction categories with as much crap as he could. The only reason any award was given in short fiction is because Thomas A. Mays withdrew. As per his statement at the time, he withdrew because of the ballot-loading.

In short, sir, your complaint about the poor quality of Hugo-winners is rather like a man killing his parents and then asking for mercy from the judge because he's an orphan.


ETA: Mr. Wright's response to the above was to call me a jackass in one comment and in a second comment [wallowing] "in the filthy sewer of your sickening dishonesty, still have the gall to address an honest man, much less upbraid him as if I, and not you, have done something wrong."

I'm never in doubt where I stand in his regard.

Sieges

Via Wikipedia, the Siege of Sidney Street. In January 1911, two crooks holed up in a building in Sidney Street, and the London police had to call in the Army for help. A young Home Secretary, one Winston Churchill, a born micro-manager, ended up on-scene and on camera in one of the earliest newsreels. Really quite interesting.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Links of interest to me:

1) The nearly-abandoned town of Cairo Illinois. It's gone from 15,000 people to 2,000, and is fading fast. Soon, we'll have another ghost town in Illinois.

2) A very nice article by Raechel Acks on What's being done to fix the Hugo awards.

3) A fascinating story - A Hit Man Came to Kill Susan Kuhnhausen. She Survived. He Didn’t.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Found via the great system of "dinking around on the Internet" comes this article $3500 shirt. The gist of the article is that, prior to the invention of mechanical looms, cloth was frighteningly expensive. Spinsters (AKA, "women who spun cloth via hand looms") might work 500 hours (that's 62.5 8-hour days or 2 months) just to make the cloth for one shirt! As a result, clothing was expensive, people didn't have a lot of it (2 or 3 outfits) and it was worn until it disintegrated.

The Goode Olde Dayes were not so good after all.

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