chris_gerrib: (Default)
Scott Adams, the gift that keeps on giving, dashed off a blog post on his lunch hour in which he solves the North Korea problem. Like much emanating from the Alt-Right at the moment, his idea is at best half-baked. Scott, like many of the alt-right, is completely unable to understand what the various groups want. So, he makes an assumption about what they want, then follows that assumption down a logical path. But because he hasn't walked in the other guy's shoes, his understanding of their goal is so far out that his proposal makes no sense.

In this particular case, Scott assumes that China wants a peaceful Korean peninsula. Well, they'd like and would take a peaceful region, but what they absolutely don't want is for North Korea to collapse. That would spark a massive refugee problem and other political and economic heartburn. China also doesn't want a well-armed and Western-sponsored nation on it's border. China likes buffer zones. As a bonus, North Korean antics distract the US, giving China a freer hand in the region. This means China can't and won't push too hard on North Korea.

Scott assumes the North Korean leadership is interested in personal financial gain, so his plan gives them time to move their money overseas to hide it. Maybe, but it's entirely possible that the Kim family are psychopaths who just want people to be scared of them. It's also possible that they think Communism is "right" and the current poverty is character-building. Lastly, something is keeping the army from just taking over. Perhaps if one removes the "threat" of invasion from the South, the army will see that as a green light to take over.

At any rate, the failure of the Alt-Right and Trump to understand this is part of a whole. Somebody once said that for every problem there was a solution that was simple, obvious and wrong. The Alt-Right has a platform full of such solutions.
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)
Let's get right to it.

1) On July 28, 1932, the U.S. Army 12th Infantry regiment commanded by Douglas MacArthur and the 3rd Calvary Regiment, supported by six battle tanks commanded by Major George Patton violently evicted the Bonus Army from their Washington, D.C. encampment. The Bonus Army, composed of unemployed and desperate WWI vets, wanted payment of around $600. It's a reminder that we got the New Deal because it was that or Fascism.

2) The Russians Are Bullying Our Diplomats Too. Remember that when Trump asks his friend Putin for help.

3) Calling American breakfasts what it often is: dessert. Much of American breakfasts, from yogurt to muffins, has the same sugar content as equivalent amounts of ice cream or cake. Please note, South Beach Diet followers, that traditional bacon-and-eggs breakfasts don't have that problem.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has written a series of posts called the brittle grip series. In these posts, he documents "growing calls from the extremely rich to not only be able to use their money without limit to shape the political process but to do so anonymously to avoid being "intimidated" or "vilified"."

I don't think this is just the rich. I think this is modern American conservatism. You see a similar phenomenon in my favorite American conservatives, be they at Simberg's Flying Circus (which I haven't visited for a while), Torgersen's Undisclosed Location or Wright's House of Wrong. In all three (and others) people who exercise their free speech rights in ways critical of the host's actions are accused of wanting to ship the host to a gulag or otherwise forcibly silence them.

To be clear - nobody is silencing the American conservative. Criticism is not silencing.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Excerpts from President Obama's recent remarks in Flint, Michigan.

So it doesn't matter how hard you work, how responsible you are, or how well you raise your kids -- you can't set up a whole water system for a city. That's not something you do by yourself. You do it with other people. You can't hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army. There are things we have to do together -- basic things that we all benefit from.


But volunteers don’t build county water systems and keep lead from leaching into our drinking glasses. We can’t rely on faith groups to reinforce bridges and repave runways at the airport. We can’t ask second-graders, even ones as patriotic as Isiah Britt who raised all that money, to raise enough money to keep our kids healthy.

You hear a lot about government overreach, how Obama -- he’s for big government. Listen, it’s not government overreach to say that our government is responsible for making sure you can wash your hands in your own sink, or shower in your own home, or cook for your family. These are the most basic services. There is no more basic element sustaining human life than water. It’s not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is going to be safe.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Three thoughts on this Good Friday-shortened work week:

1) Ryan Bundy, one of the dudes who took over the Federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, sends a letter. It's typical libertarian BS - no rules at all for me.

2) Part one of a two-fer from Gin and Tacos: Donald Trump and his supporters are absolutely right about one thing when it comes to immigration. Ed, the proprietor, points out that economically, America wants cheap immigrant labor while politically we want to keep immigrants out. Harsh laws poorly enforced accomplish both goals.

3) Part two of the two-fer: The story of Frank Woodall AKA Mary Johnson. In 1908, a woman living as a man got stopped for a health inspection at Ellis Island. When asked why, Frank said, "Women have a hard time in this world."


Mar. 11th, 2016 07:11 pm
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I read Linda Nagata's fairly new book The Trials today. Linda's book is set in a future USA in which various rich people, collectively known as dragons, have subverted democracy and rule the US. Chuck Gannon uses multi-national corporations as a conduit for his Big Bad in his "Fire" trilogy. It sounds far-fetched.

But then comes word that the recent scandal about poor care at the US Veteran's Administration was created largely out of whole cloth by a pair of rich conservatives for personal gain. Sometimes science fiction becomes science fact.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Jim Wright, over at Stonekettle Station, has no use for the so-called 'militias' occupying wildlife refuges. Another blog I stumbled across says "They [groups of self-described libertarians] don’t favor liberty because it promotes the widest possible flourishing and self-actualization of human beings. They favor it because it gives local patriarchs and lords of manors a free hand to dominate those under their thumbs, without a nasty state stepping in to interfere. For them, “libertarianism” — a term they pollute every time they utter it with their tongues — is simply a way of constructing the world of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale by contractual means.

I have to say that I find strong links between the "contractual libertarians" and the "militias" of Stonekettle Station. They both spout the language of liberty, but when you get under the hood, you don't see freedom. You see a desire to prevent government from interfering with their activities.

It's at best (with some of the rancher types) the kind of "freedom" that a 15-year-old wants when they demand Daddy's credit card so they can fly to Vegas for the weekend. That's the freedom to do what you want while getting subsidized. At worst, when the militia types rant against Muslims, it's the freedom to engage in racial and religious persecution, while being protected by the state.

These groups keep using the word "freedom." I do not think it means what they think it means.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Three facts, which should matter but apparently don't.

Fact #1 - Government is not the only force of oppression.

In Ye Goode Olde Dayes, when workers got uppity about things like getting their pay cut, wealthy individuals hired private "investigators" to shoot workers.

Fact #2 - There is no "pause" in global warming

2015 was by far the hottest year on the historical record, beating the second hottest year, 2014. Oh, and 2010 and 2005 tied as #3 hottest year, warmer than 1997.

Fact #3 - Illegal Immigration is falling significantly

Quote: The total undocumented immigrant population of 10.9 million is the lowest since 2003, says the report from the Center for Migration Studies, a New York think tank. The number of undocumented immigrants has fallen each year since 2008, the report says, driven primarily by a steady decline in illegal migrants from Mexico…

And typical illegal immigrant now is much more likely someone who is 35 or older and has lived in the United States for a decade or more.

Source here.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Today is my last regular Rotary meeting of the year. In honor of that, have a couple of links.

A) You may have heard of Airbnb, a service that allows you to rent out spare rooms via the Internet. Well, this guy's dad died because of an Airbnb rental, and he notes, " The irony is that amateur innkeepers who couldn’t be trusted with the banal task of photographing and marketing their properties are expected to excel at hospitality’s most important rule: keeping guests safe and alive."

B) An interesting article on how technology drives culture: Friday Food Post: The Economics Behind Grandma's Tuna Casseroles.

C) In the "the globe isn't warming department, really" comes this: The city of Miami Beach floods on such a predictable basis that if, out of curiosity or sheer perversity, a person wants to she can plan a visit to coincide with an inundation.

D) The publisher Angry Robots is having an open submission period.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Monday Update

Over the weekend I went downstate to visit the parents. Mom's PC needed a bit of attention from me and it was going to be Too Damned Hot to do anything in Chicago except sit in front of the air conditioning. So, since my parents and my car have air conditioning, a quick drive downstate seemed like a good idea.

Saturday night, thanks to the parents' DirectTV, we watched Kingsman. It was okay, in a very cartoonish way. I'm also about halfway through reading Sheri S. Tepper's Six Moon Dance on my Kindle. Tepper can be a fairly inconsistent writer but this one so far is pretty good.


Ed, the head cook and bottlewasher at Gin and Tacos, notes that modern conservatives are intellectually inconsistent. For example, a non-citizen named Francisco Sanchez shot a woman, and conservatives are blaming Obama and San Francisco's immigration policy. Yet when citizens shoot a Congresswoman or a theater full of Batman fans, we were told the sole and only blame was to be found in the gunman's head. Or even worse, when somebody got shot by police, the cop who pulled the trigger was not even a little at fault.

If consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, conservative minds are too big to fit through a doorway. And if you believe that, I have a bridge for sale in Brooklyn. (Serious inquiries only, please.)
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
It's been hot and rainy this week, but today dawned dry and cool. To celebrate, have some links:

A) An interesting article on dinosaur exhibits over time.

B) Tim Akers has an interesting thought on politics by way of Dungeons and Dragons.

C) A Fungus Among Us or St. Anthony's Fire. Ye Goode Olde Dayes weren't really very good.

D) No, my libertarian friends, we won't, nay can't, leave you alone.

E) On a humorous note:

chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I find I have some time, so you (lucky you) get some more wit and wisdom from me.

Thought The First

If a comment thread has devolved into personal barbs aimed at somebody, additional commenting is probably not worth anybody's time. See here, especially #7, #8 and #10.

Thought the Second

Utah found a brilliantly effective solution for homelessness. Money quote: Between shelters, jail stays, ambulances, and hospital visits, caring for one homeless person typically costs the government $20,000 a year. Providing one homeless person with permanent housing, however — as well as a social worker to help them transition into mainstream society — costs the state $8,000. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

May Day

May. 1st, 2015 09:27 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
On this 1st of May, have some links and commentary:

1) A lengthy article on the start of Gamergate. The ex-boyfriend sounds like a full-on sociopath.

2) In certain gun-owning circles, it is an article of faith that the Sandy Hook shootings didn't happen. Tim McGraw begs to differ, which shows how impossible these "conspiracies" are.

3) One of the things which fascinated me about the book Ender's Game is how the author set up his reality such that Ender, a true sociopath, is the hero. This fellow thinks it's related to Mormon theology. Presented without comment.

4) This article about Sad Puppies has been all over the Internet. I link to it because it provides a useful definition of fascism. To wit, one needs all of:
- A charismatic leader
- A call to a (usually authoritarian) past Golden Age (frequently mythical)
- A stabbed-in-the-back narrative, which explains why the present is fubar
- A secret cabal of backstabbers, the existence of which means extra-legal or at least extra-ordinary actions are required
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
A) On the space front, growing food in shipping containers is exactly the kind of tech we'll need to settle in space.

B) Disordered thinking, or, thinking that Muslims have taken over a number of cities including Dearborn, MI and established "no go zones" wherein Sharia law is practiced, why does nobody check if perhaps his collar is a bit too tight? As the author says, it's an easily-disproved delusion, of the type that used to get people locked in padded rooms.

C) An interesting parable about democracy in action.

D) The current director of the FBI requires all new hires to visit the Holocaust Museum. Here's why.

E) Six myths you believe about the founding of America.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
I've always been a bit puzzled by some (many) of the positions taken by such noted "libertarians" as Rand Simberg. Then [ profile] catsittingstill pointed me at this four-part article on last year's Sad Puppies eruption. See, if you think that "taxation is theft," logically any time the government (via police) or an individual kills somebody, you would expect to demand a full investigation. What's more "theft" than to take somebody's life? Yet many "libertarians" seem to be police apologists.

At any rate, part three of the series, So, The Sad Puppies, Then: 3 of 4 — “Libertarian” Authoritarians And Pulp was an eye-opener. The author postulates that a core set of libertarian values are:

Government is the only enemy of liberty, or the only one worth bothering with
“An armed society is a polite society” — guns make people behave
Securing the borders is one of only two legitimate functions of government
“There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” — economics is a zero-sum game, and if you’re giving someone government welfare handouts, you must be taking them from someone else, who actually earned them.

He then points out that the "authoritarian personality" are people who believe authoritarian submission (following leaders, and believing that it’s right to follow leaders), authoritarian aggression (a dislike of the unlike, an aggression towards members of groups designated “other” by the leaders), and conventionalism (adhering to rigid norms and belief that others should follow those norms).

Well, if you believe the above, securing the borders and shooting people are great ways to stick it to the out-group. Since the Federal government has been, since the 1960s, the defender of the out-group via civil rights and anti-discrimination, being anti-Fed makes sense. If you don't think you get government handouts (Social Security and Medicare don't count as "handouts") then it's easy to be against that.

Like I said, the article was a real eye-opener.


Mar. 16th, 2015 10:14 am
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Based on reviews by [ profile] james_nicoll, I bought two self-published SF novels, The Dark Colony and Freedom at Ferona. I will post some sort of review on the usual pages, but I wanted to make a few points here.

The books are set in a near-ish future (probably a bit too near) in which Mars and some asteroids have been colonized. Travel is exceptionally slow (maybe almost too slow for near-future tech) and the colonies are small. Both colonized worlds are under 400 people. In a refreshing break from the typical libertarian-gun-toting-free-for-all asteroids of fiction, asteroid living is largely communal. I think, alas, that Richard Penn, the author, has thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

Travel is so slow that our main POV character, an 18-year-old junior police officer at one of the colonies has never seen a stranger! She finds a stranger - dead - at the start of book one (The Dark Colony) which sets off a number of events.

I have a lot of issues with the books, and here's the biggest one: in a world where Mars, AKA the nearest authority, is just voices and video on a 20+ minute time delay, when Mars tells our heroine to arrest somebody she's known her whole life she does so immediately. Not only that, there's very little local hue and cry about that action.

I'm sorry, but that just doesn't work. Unless one can physically exert authority, and that means boots on the ground (or deck or whatever passes for ground locally) people as a whole aren't going to just jump when somebody calls them up and says so. In short, even libertarians are right once in a while.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
You would think that in a country who's founding document says "all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" that nobody would have to demand that one defend the moral importance of diversity. You would be wrong.
chris_gerrib: (Me 2)
Women; Two Links of Interest On:

A) From the New York Times comes an interesting story of a woman traveling Europe on her own. To avoid getting hassled, she makes herself look like a man.

B) An article on a perennial topic, women at war: Getting Women Warriors wrong. Basically, the matriarch of an Afghan village stepped up to be the war leader, and the (American, female, wealthy) author of the story was badly confused.

Libertarians, One Link of Interest:

C) From David Brin, Competition, Stupid. Brin points out (somewhat at length) that classical economics (Adam Smith and St. Fredrich Hayek, in particular) were right and modern conservatives are wrong.

Classical economics requires free and fair competition to work! "Free and fair competition" is not the slavish devotion to wealth and corporations that we see from libertarians. Brin's money quote:
But in rejecting one set of knowledge-limited meddlers -- 100,000 civil servants -- libertarians and conservatives seem bent on ignoring market manipulation by 5,000 or so aristocratic golf buddies, who appoint each other to company boards in order to vote each other titanic "compensation packages" while trading insider information and conspiring together to eliminate competition.
Go read the whole thing.


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