Thursday, August 31, 2017

Odd, poverty driven, disease of the day

I had missed an earlier NPR story about this disease podoconiosis - caused by walking barefoot for years in volcanic soils, such as in parts of Africa - but they have an update to it here.

Never heard of it before, and it looks like it has horrible effects - all for the want of footwear.  

I know I'm not going to catch it if I am a tourist, but the African continent seems to suffer from so many diseases in the water, or insect carried, or even from just walking barefoot, it kind of puts me off ever wanting to go there.  

Just not funny

Just as being under 35 and having at least several gay friends seems a crucial determinant of giving lavish praise to gay written ABC comedy like Please Like Me and The Family Law, each of which I gave an honest try but for which I did not care, I think it takes being in a certain demographic to find the comedy of the two female comedians behind The Katering Show and last night's Get Kracki!n  hilariously funny. 

I've complained about them before - see my comments about The Katering Show, which, after last night's experience with their second project, I think were too generous.

Get Kracki!n takes the key problem of the earlier show and makes it much, much worse.    It is a parody/satire that (to use that mocked explanation from a Woody Allan movie) doesn't just bend the stick, but breaks it, repeatedly, in the way the audience of a University review might find funny, but not the rest of us.

Some women and men of a certain age or background find the completely unrealistic outbreak of "honesty", involving lots of swearing and mock live to air chaos, hilarious.  They probably all love Tim Minchin too.   I beg to differ.

Happily, I see that, despite The Guardian reviewer giving it a 4 star review, most of the comments following indicate that it didn't go over well even with your Lefty biased average Guardian reader, for whom one would think the "women being crude" aspect would not be a concern.

It's basically poorly written comedy by a couple of women who, I suppose I should say, might be good at comedy acting if they weren't doing their own material.

Enough with dragons

I haven't been bothered to actually read the articles, but I take it from various headlines that some people have thought that Game of Thrones has been teetering on "jump the shark" territory in this penultimate season.   I also heard on the radio the other day that a big internet discussion had broken out as to whether an ice dragon should actually be able to breath fire, or ice instead.

This is what counts as entertainment in the adult world these days, hey? 

Yes, yes, that's very snootily elitist of me: someone who is happy enough to see what happens next in the fantasy-ish world of Star Wars.  (Mind you, if there is - what are we up to? 4th? - version of a planet destroying Death Star-ish mega device, I really might have to abandon that too).   But really, I've never been one for anything other than short term engagement with fantasy or dragons, and I don't get people taking seriously a very lengthy violent adult show in which such fantasy beasts play a key role. 

I will be glad to see the back of it in popular culture, just as I was glad to see Tolkien movies peter out in eventual recognition that they gone on too long.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017


American murder

I wouldn't have thought that Houston would have a much higher murder rate than New York, but here you go (from a City Journal article about the flood and why Houston is not an easy place to evacuate)
Before Harvey hit, Houston had a murder rate of about 13 per 100,000 residents. That’s nowhere near as low as New York, with its own murder rate at fewer than four equivalent homicides, but it’s much better than New Orleans, with its homicide rate in 2004, the year before Katrina, of 59 murders per 100,000 people (and 45 today). Houston has also seen its population soar, from 1.6 million in 1980 to 2.3 million today. New Orleans, before Katrina, was shrinking, from 558,000 in 1980 to 455,000 in 2005: thriving municipalities have more civic unity and the necessary service infrastructure to respond to crisis than do cities in decline.
I see in an article from the Economist earlier this year there was this graphic:

And in Australia, we struggle to make it to 1.5 per 100,000 in a year, for murder and manslaughter combined.

Fake news triumphs again

Have you seen the tweets?   There is a very good chance - a virtual certainty in fact - that a significant number of Trump supporters actually believe that Trump is responding better to this hurricane than Obama did to Katrina, despite, well, Obama was not then the President.    (I also saw one that had a go at Michelle Obama for going shopping 3 days after Katrina - probably as a defence of the ridicule Melania got for wearing high heals on the way to Texas.)  

I think the internet might be causing the end of civilisation, but not by those "AI is going to kill us all" freaks who think Google might become conscious and decide to kill us off, but by more mundane method of Facebook and Twitter and its bots empowering the malicious and stupid humans of the world.  

Is this guy still the online editor at Quadrant?

Roger Franklin, apparent friend of Sinclair Davidson and ABC bombing fantasist, shows at Catallaxy (under his open secret identity) that chronological age is no barrier to chronic immaturity and gender attitudes approximately 120 years out of date .   For the sake of women everywhere, be warned:  this manly hot looker:

...would like to rub himself against you.  Here's his explanation of the problem of women in the news workplace

I love women. They are very pleasant to cuddle and rub against, and they have an astonishing ability to spot things that need cleaning and dusting long before the XY eye notices them. I like women in newsrooms as well. Alas, too much of the feminine sensibility screws news judgement. Women, you see, get excited about “issues”, rather than story-specific facts, and if you have enough women at the morning news conference, it is a sure bet they will validate the particular interest and inclination of the moment. Thus have we seen interminable stories about the battered wives of stock brokers and lawyers — there must be days when Rose Bay resembles a scene from the Rape of the Sabine Women — and very little exposure of the fact that, if you overlay a map of DV incidence atop one displaying Aboriginal population densities, they will be a near-perfect match.
Same with “gossip and trivia”. Newsroom women don’t like Trump, so any hint of a squib of a fact to advance that view will be highlighted.
Ah, you say, but what of newsroom men? Well here is where it should be noted that the news business trailblazed the practical application of gender fluidity. Stroll through a Fairfax or ABC newsroom and you’ll certainly see humans who stand up to pee, but mentally they are girls.
I hope this helps to explain Ben Cubby, Peter Hannam, Jonathan Green, Jon Faine…..
One strongly suspects he is a cranky old bachelor who sensible women won't touch with a barge pole.  He certainly deserves to be treated that way, at least.    Sensible women being in short (or no) supply at Catallaxy, they'll go "oh, ah, you're so naughty Roger" and give him a pass.

So, this is the quality of editors working in a conservative publications in Australia today.  It's a joke publication.

It's a gas

People at one of those things the English laughingly call a beach had a chemical gas haze of some kind come and ruin their day recently, and no one can tell what caused it.

Very odd.

It rains elsewhere, too

Yes, I had been meaning for some days to note the floods affecting Nepal, India and parts of Africa, which I think have been getting scant attention in the media.   The poor dying is not as newsworthy as the relatively rich in America having flooded houses.   But the Washington Post does have a reminder today about what is going on elsewhere, flood wise.    (I did recently post about record rainfall seeming to become a routine summer thing in Japan, though.)

One major consequence of more intense rainfall in some regions is the risk of landslides, and we have been seeing quite a few major ones lately.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Count me amused

Here are four panels from First Dog on the Moon's mocking of current Right wing hysteria of the Andrew Bolt/Sky News/Murdoch tabloid/Murdoch broadsheet/Catallaxy/desperate-to-improve-the-polls-anyway-they-can Coalition kind.  Actually, I'm not sure Dog could bear to read Catallaxy threads:  I think they would make his head explode in consternation.  [I can assure you, many of the things these characters are saying could have been lifted straight from Catallaxy, with the only modification the deletion of a few swear words.]

Anyway, you can view the whole thing at The Guardian.

A great post on climate change and that hurricane

I think David Roberts does a great job in this lengthy article at Vox, with plenty of links, that covers a great deal of nuanced ground regarding the issue of climate change and its contributions to floods and hurricanes.

I reckon Jason should read it on the mitigation/adaptation issue too.

The 2 conservative gays who subscribe to Quadrant might have just cancelled their subscriptions

Augusto Zimmerman, who I haven't heard of before but I see that he is an academic and has written for the IPA (never a good sign for sound judgement), has decided to take the conservative line on same sex marriage that I had noticed taken at Catallaxy recently - the homosexual community is disease ridden and largely mentally ill and violent, so of course they don't deserve same sex marriage.   (I don't think I'm exaggerating the gist of his argument at all.) 

He is upset that the AMA came out saying that same sex marriage is a health issue, and it's in the interests of children in same sex households that their parents be able to marry.

Now, I think the AMA is exaggerating here, and to be honest, there is a substantial element of victimhood in the same sex marriage campaign which I find objectionable.   I mean, there are many, many children of unmarried straight couples now who face no discrimination in schooling, at law, or socially because of their parents marital status, and it seems a bit obtuse to be making out that there is a particular concern of the children in gay relationships having issues just because their parents cannot "marry".

On the other hand, Augusto's listing of every possible study indicating health and social problems amongst homosexuals, many going back decades, is pretty ridiculous and gratuitously insulting to a substantial number of gay folk.

First, everyone can agree that acceptance of gay relationships has risen remarkably quickly in the West, and that going back 30 - 40 years ago discrimination (up to an including bashing or killed a suspected gay man just for looking at a bloke the wrong way) was widespread in the community.   Of course this was likely to contribute to mental health issues.   You have to give some allowance for that to have a lingering effect in social studies.

Secondly, I think it fair to say that sexuality studies have always had their limitations and problems, arising from matters such as how participants are selected and the fact that researchers are often reliant on self reporting of conditions.   This works on both sides, of course, with conservatives rightly criticising the way progressives sloppily use the "1 in 10" figure for the size of the gay population, although conservatives exaggerate in the other direction too.

Thirdly, right back to Kinsey, it's a field where the researchers often seem to know what they would like their study to show. 

In short, if people (rightly) think that there is a problem with psychology studies generally, they should be particularly cautious about sexuality studies and what they show.

As for the matter of promiscuity and disease:   of course there is a conservative case that too many homosexuals place hedonism above common sense when it comes to limiting the spread of a dire disease such as HIV.  And I would agree that it is pretty ridiculous to find patently absurd and dangerous fetish practices given a non judgemental nod ("as long as it is done cautiously and safely") by progressive health workers.  (I'm specifically thinking of something starting with the letter "f".)  I also don't think that many people really think that relentless promiscuity over a life time is great for mental health.  

But such concern is hardly a logical reason to say that gay men or women who are conservative in their sexual and relationship practices should not have marriage available to them because of what others sharing their sexuality may do.   You may as well say that straight men and women should not have married during World War 1 while so many of them were catching venereal disease when sent overseas.   (And I have made the point before that it is very remarkable that a dire disease like syphilis didn't stop men using prostitutes when there was no form of protection or cure for it at all.)

On the other hand, I think there is inadequate acknowledgement from the pro-SSM side that many gay men, in particular, just don't consider monogamy in the same way most heterosexual couples do, so that gay marriage is much more likely to be of the "open marriage" variety than in straight marriages.  Does that mean there is a reason for arguing marriage should not be available to homosexual couples?   Well, I think it plausibly does, but of course,  some will say that logically it shouldn't, given that we don't stop straight marriage because we know a certain percent don't care if their partner has an open or discrete affair.  

Anyway, my point is that I don't dismiss all conservative arguments against same sex marriage in their entirety - I've been clear that I don't support it myself, much to my daughter's annoyance. 

At the same time, conservatives like Augusto go completely over the top in listing all harmful behaviour and illness amongst homosexuals as reason why they shouldn't have same sex marriage, and it is embarrassing to be on the same side of the vote with someone as cavalier as him.

I think my preferred choice is just not to participate. 

A review of Japan's economic issues

Seems like a reasonable summary here at The Interpreter.  

Monday, August 28, 2017

Don't mean to sound rude, but...

....I am a bit surprised by the number of people in Houston caught out by a massive flood for which they actually seemed to have a fair bit of warning.   I get the impression that we seem to do precautionary evacuations a bit better than what we're seeing in Texas.

I mean, there would be quite the scandal in Australia if nursing home residents were shown like this:

even if they were all eventually rescued.

I'm reading that Houston is a flood prone city:  perhaps that makes the residents lazy about evacuation warnings?    But then, so is Brisbane, and while you had people caught out in the 2011 flash floods of the Lockyer Valley, I don't know that you had all that many people in Brisbane city needing rescue from their homes as they did have some hours warning.

Update:  Oh yeah, I forgot that I had linked  two years ago to Andy Revkin's lengthy piece about  how Texas and its famously relaxed zoning laws had led to lots of housing on flood plains.   Another case of "Yay for minimal regulations!" [sarc].

What a weird White House

Gee, that new-ish Axios site has proved great for quick, succinct and accurate reporting as to what's going on in the White House, hasn't it?

So, they are noting how Tillerson's "the President speaks for himself" quip on the weekend is certainly indicative of a limited future he has in the job, and Trump already doesn't like him.

In another post, they quote some very specific details from a White House meeting in which Trump bemoans that the globalists are opposing him on tariffs, with Trump saying:
"John, let me tell you why they didn't bring me any tariffs," he said. "I know there are some people in the room right now that are upset. I know there are some globalists in the room right now. And they don't want them, John, they don't want the tariffs. But I'm telling you, I want tariffs." 
Yet, as Allahpundit at Hot Air notes about Tillerson's obvious slight against Trump, it's hard to follow what's going on:
This hard jab at the boss underlines the strange timing of Trump ridding the White House of nationalists at a moment when he’s under fire for his Charlottesville reaction. The one man in the West Wing who loudly supported Trump’s comments afterward was … Steve Bannon, who was out of a job within the week. Sebastian Gorka, another big name among Trump’s nationalist base, left two days ago. The “globalists” are in ascendance — but the “globalists” are the ones most likely to take issue with Trump’s “very fine people on both sides” equivocating. We’re experiencing a weird moment where centrists like Tillerson and Gary Cohn keep dogging the president publicly for how he responded to Charlottesville and meanwhile it’s the populists like Bannon and Gorka who are being ushered out. If Trump flips out and starts canning people like Tillerson for insubordination, who’ll be left?
 In the meantime, as Houston goes under water, Trump's tweets sound hardly Presidential, with Vox's article on this entitled:
President Trump's response to Hurricane Harvey devastation: "Wow"
 An AP report more or less goes the same route:

Donald Trump’s tweets during the hurricane have left people baffled
 A stranger man so totally devoid of the gravitas of the role of President we will never see.   

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Everyone's over the top

Gee, Guy Rundle lets Chris Uhlmann have it with both barrels for his "you have to do deals with the devil, sometimes" defence of our ASIS boss being photographed doing a stupid fist pump of support with the execrable Duterte.   

I think the photo was inappropriate (what, does Duterte start every meeting with "If you don't do the fist thing with me for my photographer, there will be no co-operation"?).   I also think Uhlmann's defence was pretty ridiculously soft on Duterte, who is only referred to in this way:
To confront those threats Australia needs the cooperation of all the region's leaders, even those many find objectionable....

This apparently means he is giving full throated support to the President's brutal policies. 
But then, I also think Rundle sounds a bit over the top too.  Unfortunately, I know so little about the Cambodia story (yeah, sorry, even though it was well and truly during my lifetime) that I am unsure whether his description of what happened is completely fair.

I still don't really care for Uhlmann, though  - I still suspect he is unconvinced of climate change as a serious issue, and was always soft on Abbott as an interviewer on 7.30 when he was hosting.   He is, at least,  right about Trump, so I have to give him credit for that, but it's such an obviously correct response to this gormless President it's not as if it is hard for him to hold that position.

Putin love would be tested

The Atlantic notes:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson this week became the latest U.S. official to say Russia was supplying arms to the Afghan Taliban, calling it a violation of international norms. His remarks, which came just days after President Trump announced a new open-ended U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan, echo those of General John Nicholson, the head of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, and Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of the U.S. European Command. Russia, which has been critical of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, has vehemently denied the accusations. 
The article then goes on to quote experts explaining that this is an easy claim to make, and it almost certainly is true that Russian is starting to play footsie with the Taliban, but it is very hard to verify.

Still, I sort of want it to be true, so I can laugh at the Conservative Right's (and Jason Soon's) mancrushy defences of Putin.  


This is how Alec Baldwin opens when he's spoofing Trump at his Phoenix rally:
“I'm going to give you the hits. Electoral map, ‘drain the swamp,’ ‘lock her up,’ all of them. But first, I want to talk about Charlottesville. As we know, there was a tragic victim that came out of Charlottesville: me."

I always wanted an antenna in my head

Haven't readers of science fiction always liked the idea of having an implanted antenna in their head?  Science makes it possibly closer:
Engineers have figured out how to make antennas for wireless communication 100 times smaller than their current size, an advance that could lead to tiny brain implants, micro–medical devices, or phones you can wear on your finger....

The team created two kinds of acoustic antennas. One has a circular membrane, which works for frequencies in the gigahertz range, including those for WiFi. The other has a rectangular membrane, suitable for megahertz frequencies used for TV and radio. Each is less than a millimeter across, and both can be manufactured together on a single chip. When researchers tested one of the antennas in a specially insulated room, they found that compared to a conventional ring antenna of the same size, it sent and received 2.5 gigahertz signals about 100,000 times more efficiently, they report today in Nature Communications.
“This work has brought the original concept one big step closer to reality,” says Y. Ethan Wang, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Los Angeles, who helped develop the idea, but did not work on the new study. Rudy Diaz, an electrical engineer at Arizona State University in Tempe, likes the concept and execution, but he suspects that in a consumer device or inside the body the antennas will give off too much heat because of their high energy density. Wang notes that the acoustic antennas are tricky to manufacture, and in many cases larger conventional antennas will do just fine.
Still, Sun is pursuing practical applications. Tiny antennas could reduce the size of cellphones, shrink satellites, connect tiny objects to the so-called internet of things, or be swallowed or implanted for medical monitoring or personal identification. He’s shrinking kilohertz-frequency antennas—good for communicating through the ground or water—from cables thousands of meters long to palm-sized devices. Such antennas could link people on Earth’s surface to submarines or miners. With a neurosurgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital, he’s also creating brain implants for reading or controlling neural activity—helpful for diagnosing and treating people with epilepsy, or eventually for building those sci-fi brain-computer interfaces.

Not good

Yes, having it heard it once, I would have to say that I agree with this Slate criticism of Taylor Swift's new song.  Wisely, it even covers the possibility that it is a send up of her media image:  
“Blank Space” worked as a light-hearted tribute to Swift’s tabloid reputation as a man-eating cyclone of drama; “Look What You Made Me Do” is neither fun nor funny enough to make for a satisfying meta riff on her reputation. The narrator sounds more bitter than self-aware and, given Swift’s history of well-placed disses, the story sounds too close to the truth.
And no, I don't actually follow her feuds at all - just as I know nothing about the Kardashian family except for sometimes seeing photos of the ridiculously disproportionate butt of one of them.  But Swift can write some terribly likeable songs, and one can only hope she avoids the self destruction that's so common with pop super-stardom.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Message to Jason

All of the unpopular ideas in that list are unpopular for pretty good reason.

What I find more productive is to look at fanciful ideas of the likes of libertarians - who, for pretty good reason, can be blamed as being behind the large scale destruction of cities and infrastructure later this century and next, all for current greed.

A pretty good unpopular idea, then:  confiscate their riches and use it for clean energy development, and consider sending them into exile in some God forsaken desert.

Here's a hint to JC

My sometimes reader JC hasn't turned up here in comments lately, but I note that he's expressing surprise at the possible rainfall dump from the current hurricane near Texas:
Harvey could be freaking huge with estimates of up to 30 inches of rain, which is unheard of… well rare anyway.
Yeah, well, there might be a reason for that, as I've been noting here for about 7 years or so:

Can you tell your Wingnut Misery Support Club mates, including the chronic whinger (and chronically lonely) Rabz, that this is what was expected under global warming?    (Johanna is right, by the way - he should stop talking and just leave the country if it depresses him so much.)   And, with another 1 degree rise, how bad do you think new flooding is going to get?  

Why (some) mushrooms are "magic"

Ed Yong has an interesting article at the Atlantic, explaining a theory that some mushrooms make hallucinogens to ward off insects:
These genes seem to have originated in fungi that specialize in breaking down decaying wood or animal dung. Both materials are rich in hungry insects that compete with fungi, either by eating them directly or by going after the same nutrients. So perhaps, Slot suggests, fungi first evolved psilocybin to drug these competitors.
His idea makes sense. Psilocybin affects us humans because it fits into receptor molecules that typically respond to serotonin—a brain-signaling chemical. Those receptors are ancient ones that insects also share, so it’s likely that psilocybin interferes with their nervous system, too. “We don’t have a way to know the subjective experience of an insect,” says Slot, and it’s hard to say if they trip. But one thing is clear from past experiments: Psilocybin reduces insect appetites.

Powerline in fantasyland

I visited Powerline to see if they have started to turn on Trump yet (no, of course not, although I would say it is more muted than before), but I note that John Hinderaker tries to defend Trump on Afghanistan by - you got it - blaming it all on Obama:
Barack Obama’s administration was a horrific failure in just about every way, but he has had the press running interference for him for eight years and counting. His lies and broken promises about Afghanistan are a sobering reminder of what a poor job he did as president. So far, Donald Trump has been a vast improvement.
This is where the American Right is stuck - in a ridiculous belief that, against all economic and other evidence, the Obama administration was a disaster.    They have no credibility til they stop believing that.

More on the Brexit reality sinking in

Have a read of Martin Kettle in The Guardian.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nuts for Trump

I had noticed this guy in the background at the Arizona rally.  Here's his story:

Strange story of a 'Blacks for Trump' guy standing behind President at Phoenix rally

The weird Dershowitz show

At last, some background on why Alan Dershowitz has been putting himself out there in support of many Trump views.  

It has been weird, and I could have just put it down to my general theory that most people above a certain age come to have, shall we say, unreliable views.   (Don't worry, I've got at least another 20 years of blogging before you can start to hold this against me.)

The Trump decline

Trump is getting a lot of negative commentary after the Arizona rally, and the Washington Post says that even those attending got bored with his self indulgent (and never ending) complaints that everything is the media's fault.

Yes, it seems the Charlottesville reaction is a true turning point for Trump, and one from which it is hard to see how he will recover, given the "it's everyone else's fault" cycle that he's stuck in.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wives on offer

The issue of marriage as part of cultures is a hot topic at the moment, given the same sex marriage "plebiscite," and it has led to me reading about oddities of some other cultures' practices within marriage of which I was unaware.

I couldn't recall ever having heard anything about marriage in Inuit culture, but I found via Google that the popular topic there is the matter of wife swapping/trading. 

There's a .pdf paper from 1971 (when Inuit were still eskimo) on the topic here  - and it makes for interesting reading, not only for the wife swapping parts, but also the picture it paints of how dangerous it was for an eskimo/Inuit man to meet a stranger in the middle of nowhere.  (Unless the other guy was recognized pretty quickly, it was usually a matter of run away, or kill or be killed, apparently.)   Doesn't sound very "noble savage" at all.

More discussion about it can be found at this 1961 paper.

Both make the point that the half siblings produced by these arrangements felt a special bond - quite a bit different from the "mixed family" issues we see in the West.

For those who can't be bothered following the links, I'll post a brief wiki explanation here:
Among the Inuit, a very specialized and socially-circumscribed form of wife-sharing was practiced. When hunters were away, they would often stumble into the tribal lands of other tribes, and be subject to death for the offense. But, when they could show a "relationship" by virtue of a man, father or grandfather who had sex with their wife, mother or other female relatives, the wandering hunter was then regarded as family. The Inuit had specific terminology and language describing the complex relationships that emerged from this practice of wife sharing. A man called another man "aipak," or "other me," if the man had sex with his wife. Thus, in their conception, this other man having sex with one's wife was just "another me."[36]
None of these studies discuss what the wives actually thought of the arrangement - the implication seems to be that they didn't mind the variety -  but surely they must have been resentful at some of their husband's loser mates visiting and claiming rights.

As for gay marriage, or even recognition of homosexuality, it seems that some modern Inuit thinks it's very un-traditional and against their culture.   I guess the counter to that, for the same sex marriage advocate, is that perhaps a culture that flourished by socially endorsed wife swapping shouldn't really be complaining too much about what others think is acceptable within marriage...

Holding their heart in their hands - literally

What an extraordinary thing: 

An initiative reunites transplant recipients with their former organs for education and therapy.

Vietnam War revisionism revised

Yes, I had noticed how those at Catallaxy who think The Left-Liberals in Politics Have Been And Always Will Be The Source of All Evil and Failure in Society are fully on board with the idea that the Vietnam War was just a failure of American will, not American military power, and if it weren't for those goddamn liberal newspapers publicising leaks about how the Generals weren't always telling the truth about things, it could have all been wound up with great success by 1970.

I've always thought that this sounded like a rubbish argument, and this column today in the New York Times by a historian explains that it's always been a minority view amongst his peers, and he gives some explanation as to why.

The big question is how similar Afghanistan is to the Vietnam situation.

In some sense, I would have thought it's pretty similar - both the North Vietnamese communist leadership and the Taliban are ideologues of the most entrenched kind. 

On the other hand, I think (from what little I know) that the Afghanistan government being propped up is not a corrupt or unworthy government in the way the South Vietnamese one was. 

But back to a similarity:  the locals in Taliban controlled areas are (I think) often sympathetic to the Taliban.  What's the point of winning those dirt poor territories if they are going to resent their "liberation" anyway?

As I was pondering all of this while shaving this morning, a thought did occur to me - surely one big difference is the military supply lines that the North Vietnamese had was not going to stop.  But where does the Taliban get its weaponry from?   Is it just that they don't really need that much to cause mayhem, and a little goes a long, long way?

As for the Jason Soon question raised yesterday - why support Afghanistan at all - the issue of the Taliban/IS taking over most of the country and having nuclear armed Pakistan next door does sound a reason to worry about giving up on it entirely.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Civil war and sex

What with all this talk about the American Civil War, and gay relationships in Australia, I thought it only appropriate that I Google the combination of both and see what turns up.

I think this post Sex and the Civil War is pretty good, relying (heavily, perhaps) on the main book on the topic that comes up.

Anyhow, lots of talk about prostitution and the war, but on the gay side there isn't much to note.

I did like this cross dressing story that would seem improbable in a movie:
Occasionally ordinary soldiers would share their tents with their wives. In the Confederacy, Keith Blalock signed up with “Sam” Blalock, a good-looking sixteen year old boy, actually his wife Melinda. Melinda fought three engagements before she was wounded and found out by the regimental surgeon. Upon discharge from the Confederate army, they continued to soldier on together as Union partisans.
But back to homosexuality, this paragraph is interesting, especially the Jefferson proposal which just goes to show how tough you can still be and call it leniency when the original punishment is death:
Homosexuality was not much of an issue. There are not many recorded, probably because sodomy was regarded as an unspeakable crime. Though some reenactors a few years back “reenacted” a firing squad for two soldiers dressed in pink uniforms for “conduct unbecoming”, in fact there is no record of any soldier on either side being executed for the offense of homosexuality, or for that matter being disciplined for the offense. However, a handful of sailors were thrown out of the navy. Military law did not specifically outlaw sodomy until 1921. But we should not infer from this that homosexuality was previously accepted along the lines of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Keep in mind that at the time of the Revolution sodomy was punishable by death in all thirteen colonies. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proposed a more lenient penal code under which homosexuals would be castrated and lesbians would have their noses pieced with half-inch holes; Jefferson’s proposal was rejected and sodomy remained a capital crime until 1831.
 I don't know how the homoeroticism of Walt Whitman fits into that take on matters, though...

Update:  just went to check - sodomy in Britain only had the death penalty removed in 1861, although the last two executed for it were in 1835.   Their story - executed for activity for which the only evidence was a witness who watched through a keyhole - makes for an interesting Wikipedia entry. Oddly enough, various websites inform me that death was still the punishment for it in Victoria up to 1949 (!).  I did note here in a previous post, though, that the last Australian execution for it was in 1863 in Tasmania.   Took them a hell of a long time to remove the punishment from the books in Victoria, then.

Which way is the wind blowing today, Mr President?

Axios has a post listing the many tweets over the years in which Trump has called for America to get out of Afghanistan completely.

Everyone's expecting that he will shortly announce more troops going in.   Nearly everyone is also expecting that Bannon will blast the decision from Breitbart as a Trump capitulation to the Generals.   I also think that most people would be very surprised to see an extra 5,000 or so troops making a long term difference.   Short term, yes, maybe; long term - no.

To be honest, I don't know enough about the situation in Afghanistan to know what is the best thing to do.  But then, I didn't spend years criticising Obama either for his decisions about dealing with the complex issue.  

Brexit fantasies

I see that Simon Wren-Lewis is very annoyed at the quality of journalist debate about Brexit in the UK.  Interesting.  

American Civil War revisionism

At this time of renewed discussion about what the American Civil War was all about, and the point of statutes to Confederate figures, it's worth reading this 2001 lengthy review of 3 books on the topic, which the New York Review of Books was kind enough to include on their email.  (I have a suspicion I have read it before, but I'm not sure.)

Also, I was quite surprised to read of the "notorious white county" in Georgia in Slate, and how recently there the racism remained on display:
I was raised in Forsyth County, Georgia, one of the most notorious “white counties” in America, and a place where mob violence was the law of the land for nearly a century. After a young woman was murdered there in the fall of 1912, whites lynched a local black man, then waged a months-long campaign of terror that drove out every last black neighbor. For decades after, residents attacked any nonwhite who dared to step over the county line and kept Forsyth all-white throughout my childhood in the 1970s. In 1987, when a group of locals, including my family, marched to protest the ongoing segregation, we were met by an army of white supremacists who vowed to “Keep Forsyth White” and paraded through the streets of my hometown with nooses slung over their shoulders.
As I said here last week, those on the Right who like to pretend that racial issues in the US were all done and dusted because of civil rights reform in the 1960's are rather silly...

More Lewis

I enjoyed reading Shaun Micallef's account of meeting and interviewing Jerry Lewis on a couple of his trips to Australia.

Also, when I mentioned how Lewis had been ill for a very long time, I didn't realise he had a bad heart too since the 1960's, until I read his Wikipedia page.  He was like a walking tribute to modern medicine...

Monday, August 21, 2017

Adding extra centimetres

Japan on Saturday launched the third satellite in its effort to build a homegrown geolocation system aimed at improving the accuracy of car navigation systems and smartphone maps to mere centimetres.

Here's the thing...

Here's my simplified take on Bannon.   Vox writes:
Bannon’s project centered on opposition to what he derisively called “globalism”: the idea of tearing down borders and linking countries through trade, immigration, and international institutions like NATO and the United Nations. He believed that Brexit and Trump’s rise in particular showed the way for a global uprising of so-called “nationalists” or “populists” against the status quo.

“We believe — strongly — that there is a global tea party movement,” Bannon said in a 2014 speech. “The central thing that binds that all together is a center-right populist movement of really the middle class, the working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos.”
But here's the thing:  globalisation has worked well, particularly in terms of stopping the wars in Europe (and, I suppose, the Pacific too if you count the rise of Japan as a proto-globalisation success), as well dramatically raising global wealth, mainly via China's engagement with trade and capitalism.   It has come at an adjustment cost to middle America and parts of Europe in particular, but then again other recent policy issues unrelated to globalisation of trade (poor regulation of banking, nutty policies in Greece, tax reform that benefits the rich, and technological change generally) have played a significant role in the decline of the fortunes of the middle class too, particularly in the last decade.

What's more, with the obvious looming economic and humanitarian problem of global warming, a globalist approach to address that is the only one that makes sense.  

This is why the Bannon project was eccentric and fundamentally misguided, even leaving aside the distasteful, if not dangerous, ethnonationalist aspect. Globalisation does present problems for the West, but given its successes, it's no wonder that the rest of the world, and "big picture" institutions like the Catholic Church - save for its most conservative element, which is engaged in its own war against what might be called the globalisation of ideas - were not on side with the Bannon response.   Throwing the baby out with the bathwater never made sense, and indeed, the same thing can be said about Brexit.  

What's more, an increase in nationalist, isolationist sentiment is hardly the cure for a threat from radicalised Islam:  isn't it sort of obvious that the isolation of countries that already have large Islamic influence would be more likely to increase the Islamic nationalist sentiment in those countries too?   (Sure, full engagement, such as with the likes of Saudi Arabia also has its own problems, but the West seems doomed to play a very complicated dance while it waits for Islam to sort out its centuries old internal civil war on the global stage.) 

The way backwards

From NPR:
When children in Turkey head back to school this fall, something will be missing from their textbooks: any mention of evolution.

The Turkish government is phasing in what it calls a values-based curriculum. Critics accuse Turkey's president of pushing a more conservative, religious ideology — at the expense of young people's education....

Erdogan does not support implementing sharia law. But he has repeatedly been elected by religious voters who felt their beliefs were neglected during decades of enforced secularism.

In a barber shop in the Istanbul neighborhood where Erdogan grew up, a bearded man in a traditional Muslim cap chats with the barber as he gets a shave. He explains how he kept his daughter out of school when Turkey didn't allow girls to wear headscarves in classrooms. The ban was lifted in middle schools and high schools in 2014.

"In school, they taught us humans evolved from monkeys. But that's not true," says Suat Keceli. "I support our government taking it out of biology textbooks. I think it's Satan's work."

In revising these textbooks, the government sought input from a small cadre of religious academics, including the president of Turkey's Uskudar University, a private institution that will host an academic conference on creationism this fall.

"Most Turks don't believe in evolution because it implies that God doesn't exist, and we're all here on earth just by chance! That's confusing," says the university's president, Nevzat Tarhan. "Turkey is a modern democracy, but we should not be afraid to embrace our Islamic culture as well."

Jerry Lewis

He had famously suffered health problems for so long it sort of surprised me he reached the age of 91, but in any case I note Jerry Lewis's death with appreciation for the laughs he provided over the years.

I'm not sure that he was all that likeable in person - he certainly gave the impression of having a pretty high opinion of himself - but perhaps some of the more controversial things he said over the last 10 or 20 years were the result of cranky old age.   But at his peak, count me amongst those who did find him very funny.   It did please me when my kids enjoyed watching some of his movies with me on DVD when they were younger.  Perhaps I should watch Artists and Models again soon.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Nietzsche and the alt.right

Vox has an article with the following heading and subheading:
The alt-right is drunk on bad readings of Nietzsche. The Nazis were too.

 The alt-right is obsessed with the 19th-century German philosopher. They don’t understand him.
It's of interest, but it doesn't really dissuade me from my view that there is likely ittle for me to gain from reading Nietzsche.   I'm happy to go along with his quasi-redemption in the second half of the 20th century as more misunderstood than malicious, but as even this writer says at the end:
Nietzsche was a lot of things — iconoclast, recluse, misanthrope — but he wasn’t a racist or a fascist. He would have shunned the white identity politics of the Nazis and the alt-right. That he’s been hijacked by racists and fascists is partly his fault, though. His writings are riddled with contradictions and puzzles. And his fixation on the future of humankind is easily confused with a kind of social Darwinism. 

But in the end, people find in Nietzsche’s work what they went into it already believing.
Which reads to me like a big warning sign - if it's that much work working out what he really meant, isn't that a sign of a failed philosopher?   What's more, if he was so unclear that he was able to be  adopted by fascists (and, as this writer admits, it's not hard to see how they took parts of his writings as supportive)  there doesn't seem much to me worth admiring about his efforts.

I think I might have said something similar here before.   But nothing seems to have changed.

That's Right - let's harass Brandis for his sincerity

Sinclair Davidson deserves a red hot call from Brandis, if not the PM, personally if he allows this comment by ABC bombing fantasising Quadrant fool Roger Franklin (it is an open secret that he comments at Catallaxy as "areff") to remain on the blog.

Whatever one may think of Brandis' reaction to Hanson's stunt yesterday, there was no doubting its sincerity, and it's really disgusting that Australian wingnuts should be promoting telephone harassment of his office over it.

Update:  there's now a link back to here from SD, indicating he doesn't give a toss - an attitude which doesn't displease entirely, since I assume it helps keep him and his desired policies well outside of any  circle of serious political influence within the entire Coalition.   He'd rather be nuttily obsessed with s18C and run a routinely offensive Australian alt.right supporter's forum than be taken seriously.  Winning.

A President without a clue

It's clear that Trump has high gullibility and doesn't care if a story is true or not - today's example is the tweeting of the "bullets in pig's blood" meme for which (even according to Fox News!) there is no concrete historical evidence:  it's something like a Hollywood "inspired by actual events" movie, with all of the inaccuracy that routinely entails.

But why would Trump repeat it anyway?   Its relevance to tactics to be used in countering do-it-yourself Islamic inspired terrorism which has no real purpose is non-existent.   Just a generic "you've got to treat them ruthlessly" bit of red meat to his dumb base, I guess.

There's a child like quality to the way Trump repeats myth and self serving story.   The use of that snake poem at rallies made him sound particularly childish, and in some sort of irony I only read about today, the family of the black singer who apparently had a hit with it as a song in the 1960's say that he is very unlikely to have been happy with someone like Trump using it against poor Mexicans.

And while I am at it, may I repeat how Trump has repeatedly complained about how his using hairspray in his "sealed" apartment could not possibly cause harm to the ozone layer - again exhibiting a child like certainty, and/or lack of curiosity, as to how airconditioning works, not to mention a selfish and entitled attitude to getting his own way even to the extent of hairspray formulation. 

It is obvious that the guy just doesn't care about truth and reality.   Not a good thing in a President.

Statues and slaves

I think that Hot Air makes some moderate and sensible comments about the issue of statues and slavery in the US.   There is a danger of the issue hurting Democrats in the culture war if black people (like Al Sharpton) keep talking about being upset with the public funding of monuments to Washington and Jefferson.   (Of course, we can also ignore wingnut hysterics like Steve Kates, who is equating the destruction of a Confederate statue with the Taliban blowing up ancient religious monuments.)

If you ask me, the issue of the Confederate flags flying over State legislatures was a much more potent and symbolically important one than statues that, really, no one notices in most settings.  It is truly remarkable that it took so long for that to be resolved in favour of removing such obviously offensive symbolism, and I wonder if some black agitation over all statues of anyone who had any involvement with slavery is now a result of a bit of a rush of blood to the head following the success on the flag issue.

Anyway, what Hot Air says makes sense:
First, on the question of Confederate monuments, I think Leslie Odom Jr. is on to something here. That is to say that while some monuments are about remembering our history—those at battlefields, those at cemeteries—some are meant to be more than just reminders. They are also meant to celebrate or inspire people. And that means that if the people of Charlottesville or Baltimore don’t want a monument of Robert E. Lee, they should be free to remove them. If they want a monument to Harriet Tubman instead, they should be free to erect one. This is America. It’s up to us.

That said, the freedom to choose is not a license for anarchists to go around destroying statues that offend them. Some of the new iconoclasts are so eager that they burned a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Chicago. These are public monuments so decisions about their fate need to be made through local or state governments. If you want a statue removed, make your case to your elected representatives.
It is worth noting that this is what the local Charlottesville city council had done - I saw a local council member (I think) saying that the matter of the Lee statue had been under consideration for years (since 2012) and they had finally voted for its relocation. 

The neo-Nazi rally was therefore one against a perfectly legitimate and reasonable democratic decision, especially for what Vanity Fair calls "a liberal college town."     Gosh, even Rich Lowry at National Review is expressing complete support for "mothballing" Confederate statues.  That Trump can't see that failing to support local, democratic decisions to remove Confederate statues plays into the hands of neo Nazis just shows what a dangerous divisive ignoramus he is.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Poor Jews of Charlottesville

The President of a Jewish congregation in Charlottesville posts about what it was like there on Saturday:
Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, “There's the synagogue!” followed by chants of “Seig Heil” and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn’t know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it’s the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill.
When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups.
This is 2017 in the United States of America.

Later that day, I arrived on the scene shortly after the car plowed into peaceful protesters. It was a horrific and bloody scene.
Soon, we learned that Nazi websites had posted a call to burn our synagogue. I sat with one of our rabbis and wondered whether we should go back to the temple to protect the building. What could I do if I were there? Fortunately, it was just talk – but we had already deemed such an attack within the realm of possibilities, taking the precautionary step of removing our Torahs, including a Holocaust scroll, from the premises.
Again: This is in America in 2017.
The neo Nazis did have a permit, though.   

Kenny has a statue fetish, too

I see that Chris Kenny has gone back to being a conservative hysteric:

The best response to this line of argument I heard on Radio National this morning, quoting Colbert:

Trump: He was a major slave owner. Now are we gonna take down his statue? You know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history, you’re changing culture …
Yes, down a statue is totally changing history. Because the main way anybody learns about history is through statue-based study. That’s how we know that Abraham Lincoln was 20 feet tall and loved sitting down. That’s really all he did.
Colbert is pretty hilarious on mocking other parts of the Trump press conference, too:
And Trump—oh, Lord, help our country—Trump had this defense of the white nationalists protesting in Charlottesville:
Trump: I don’t know if you know: They had a permit. The other group didn’t have a permit.
You—no, wait, no, come on, folks—you gotta give it to the Nazis: They always do their paperwork. Okay? Very punctual, also very punctual. But Trump also reminded us about the true source of racism in this country: Barack Obama.
Reporter: … about race relations in America, do you think things have gotten worse or better since you took office?
Trump: I think they’ve gotten better or the same—look. They’ve been frayed for a long time. And you can ask President Obama about that.
“Yeah, it was a mess. Back then, I remember there was one super-racist guy who kept questioning if Obama was even born here. It was a terrible time. It’s just wrong.”

Bye bye, Steve

Jonathan Swan at Axios seems to think that an interview that Bannon gave is going over so badly in the White House that it could well be the end of him.

While that would be good, it's interesting to note that Bannon is actually pretty much correct on at least one matter:
Bannon undercut the president's stance on North Korea: "Contrary to Trump's threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: 'There's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us."
 OK, well, I would have thought "10 million" is an exaggeration, but as a general statement, it's true.

More post Charlottesville links

*  Jason Wilson, who writes for The Guardian, watched the Charlottesville fights live on the streets, and explains how Trump is wrong in the way he categorised the violence.  (He also makes the point that torch light procession the night before the riot was not authorised at all - in fact I think I have read elsewhere that the only rally authorised was one that was meant to start at midday on the Saturday, and fighting broke out a couple of hours before the official start.)

*  Axios, in some great reporting, notes that Bannon thinks this is all a positive for Trump, even the manufacturers councils being disbanded and the wave of Republicans politicians past and present running to distance themselves from Trump.   Yet it notes that Bannon is still largely on the outer with Trump, although I'm not sure that I have seen it explained why.   (Trump has been telling people he thinks Bannon is a leaker!)

* Quite a few are saying that it's true that Trump's followers will find it a positive - but as we know, that roughly 25% of the population is so consumed by conspiracy think and culture war fretting they have no time for common sense and reason.   As I have taken to repeating, they are too stupid and/or blinded to worry about.  The people who really deserve more condemnation are the likes of Murdoch - a guy who everyone suspects would not like Trump personally but nonetheless is sucking up to him because of self interest and power and money - and establishment Republicans who complain, complain about him but won't do anything more. 

*  Politico notes this:
Another White House adviser said Trump has been telling people privately that he’s watched video of the Charlottesville protests, emphasizing to them that the counter-protesters had weapons as well, and insisting that he’s going to say what is right.

“People have tried to assuage him by saying, ‘You're just not helping yourself.’ He doesn't care,” the adviser said, adding that in some ways Trump would rather that people call him a racist than to say he backed down.
Yes, so much "winning" to be had that way.  The funny thing is, Trump supporters are so clueless as to how history is going assess Trump.   Funny and tragic, I suppose.

*  Update:   here's another article (from Slate) with stories from the "good people" of Charlottesville actually praising the antifa for protection provided.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Trump turning point?

What with Trump voluntarily undoing the marginal benefit of the specific condemnation of neo Nazis and the KKK, I am curious as to who on the Right is supporting him re this disastrous presser.  (After all, as I noted the other day, there was in fact very widespread criticism of him for the original "many sides" equivocation from some of the big culture warrior websites, such as PJ Media, National Review, Hot Air.)

So far, all I have spotted is John Hinderaker from Powerline (a high functioning moron from way back), who even goes so far as to suggest that the body language of Kelly at the press conference wasn't something we should read anything into.  Yeah, sure, you fool. 

But apart from him, well, that's all I've seen so far.   I would assume Hannity will be on the "but he was only speaking the truth" line too, but he doesn't count as anything other than a ludicrous Fox programmed robot masquerading as a person with genuine and thoughtful opinions.

Oh, and let's not forget Fox wannabe Andrew Bolt, who hasn't commented on the latest Trump self inflicted wound, but he's completely on board with only talking about the "alt.left" when the whole weekend started off with a Nazi firelight procession.

I see that Krauthammer, who to his credit was never on board the Trump train, calls the press conference today a "moral disgrace."  Good on him.  

I don't know, but I get the feeling that this example of Trump's complete lack of political common sense and unwillingness to act on the advice of those who do have more moral and political nous may have reached a real turning point over these last few days.  He is clearly someone impossible to work with, and his (so they say) usual chaotic method of business management (involving letting underlings fight it out for dominance) does not translate to politics.  Rumours abound that either Bannon or McMaster or both displease him now and are about to go.   If it's Bannon, I can't imagine he will go quietly.

We just need a some more abrupt resignations/sackings from the White House, and I think its his political end, one way or another.

Update:   I suppose I should mention that Australian Trump Central - Catallaxy (thanks again, Sinclair Davidson for providing an outlet for your nutty mate Kates and Australian alt.right generally) see that there was nothing wrong with Trump's behaviour.  Because Culture War - the Left are evil - people who don't agree with us are communist - why won't my friends talk to me anymore about politics?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

This woeful President

If you, like me, thought that the Trump naming of the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists sounded reluctant and still semi-equivocal (he couldn't resist still referring to "other hate groups" - which I took to be a dig at Lefty groups like Black Lives matter), then you'd be right.   Slate (and AP) note that he had to be cajoled into making the further statement and was very unhappy about it, the fool man baby that he is:
Loath to appear to be admitting a mistake, Trump was reluctant to adjust his remarks. The president had indicated to advisers before his initial statement Saturday that he wanted to stress a need for law and order, which he did. He later expressed anger to those close to him about what he perceived as the media’s unfair assessment of his remarks, believing he had effectively denounced all forms of bigotry, according to outside advisers and White House officials.
Several of Trump’s senior advisers, including new chief of staff John Kelly, had urged him to make a more specific condemnation, warning that the negative story would not go away and that the rising tide of criticism from fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill could endanger his legislative agenda, according to two White House officials.
And then he tweeted specifically:
Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the News Media will never be satisfied...truly bad people!
It's a pity that simple but chronic immaturity isn't grounds for impeachment.

Some serious flooding happening

The Met Office notes:
Torrential monsoon rains over the last seven days have reached life-threatening levels for communities south of the Himalayas from Nepal to Bhutan and northern India to Bangladesh.

Severe floods and landslides have wrought havoc. Already across the affected region communities have faced tragedy, including: loss of life; thousands of homes submerged; extensive crop damage; as well as collapsed bridges and blocked roads.

Further heavy rain is forecast over the next few days and this will extend the zone of flooding downstream to communities lining those major rivers which flow from the Himalayas.
As for whether the amount of rain is unusual - yes, it surely is, in some parts:
The monsoon is a natural part of south Asia’s weather, but this year rainfall in some areas has been over four times greater, when compared with the average between 1981–2010.

Worth noting

Slate explains the Wingnut conspiracy theories swirling around Charlottesville, including those by Trump endorsed lunatic actor Alex Jones.

Apart from him, these are the other 'Deep State' conspiracies floating around:
Alt-right media personality Mike Cernovich, meanwhile, claimed that the violence was being initiated by left-wing groups in order to provoke a civil war. Another prominent alt-right social media voice, Jack Posobiec, said it was part of a “deep state [plot] to remove Trump allies in the WH and accelerate their coup.”
Julian Assange compared the torch-lit rally in Charlottesville to ones that took place in Ukraine in 2014, which he and alt-right voices also claim were Soros-funded affairs meant to foment the breakdown of civil society.

Finally, former Breitbart writer Patrick Howley wrote that by pressuring the president to denounce the racist attack, “Trump’s enemies are clearly hoping to separate Trump from any and all militia groups that could take part in potential acts of civil disobedience if Trump gets impeached and the nation heads into a Civil War-type scenario.”
His old boss, Steve Bannon, is now one of the most senior officials in Donald Trump's government.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Not entirely sure they've got their lines straight

I've been reading around the US right wing commentary about Charlottesville, and there's a bit of a struggle going on with getting their story straight.

First, I don't think I can really say that they aren't critical enough of Trump's lost opportunity of condemning white supremacists in clear terms.  No, to find someone supportive of Trump on this, you have to come to Australian Fox News wannabe Andrew Bolt.  Idiot.

Secondly, there are very few Right wing bloggers and culture warriors who aren't taking the opportunity to personally criticise the neo Nazi, white supremacists in strong terms.  Take Roger Simon:
Nevertheless, the types who surfaced in Charlottesville on Saturday are certainly human beings of the most repellent and disgusting sort, murderous too -- pretty much violent, evil sociopaths.  I wouldn't mind if they were all rounded up, put in a space ship, and sent on a one-way trip to Alpha Centauri.
His article goes on to make a point I actually suggested in another post today:  while terrible that they exist at all in this day and age, people probably shouldn't think that the white supremacist movement has all that large a following in the US based on one riot where the numbers weren't as high as originally feared.  (And compared to the US last century.)

But, on the other hand, they can't help but try to find a way the Left, and the way to do is to blame identity politics for making sad nerdy white guys with trouble keeping a girlfriend fans of Hitler; who, let's face, really knew how to make white folk feel good about themselves.

So it is that Rod Dreher starts with the sort of criticism of Trump that Andrew Bolt can't bring himself to make:
On the Right, the story is fairly straightforward. Neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and their ilk have to be condemned in no uncertain terms, and marginalized. The president’s coy rhetoric, dancing around these people for fear of alienating them, has to end.

He then goes on to note that God would not want people to become white supremacists either, and Churches shouldn't be shy about preaching that.

Good too.

And then, well, it goes off the rails: 
But none of this will matter at all as long as the Left refuses to oppose identity politics in its own ranks. As I keep saying here, you cannot have an identity politics of the Left without calling up the same thing on the Right. Left-liberals who want conservatives to stigmatize and denounce white nationalism, but conservatives who do so will be sneered at by white nationalists as dupes and fools who advocate disarmament in the face of racist, sexist forces of the Left.

When the Left indulges in rhetoric that demonizes whites — especially white males — it summons the demons of white nationalism.

When the Left punishes white males who violate its own delicate speech taboos, while tolerating the same kind of rhetoric on its own side, it summons the demons of white nationalism.

When the Left obsesses over ethnic, sexual, and religious minorities, but ignores the plight of poor and working-class whites, it summons the demons of white nationalism.

When the Left institutionalizes demonization of white males in college classes, in political movements, in the media and elsewhere, it summons the demons of white nationalism.
Um, I 'm no fan of the extremities of identity politics/political correctness, but it's still kind of ludicrous to argue that it causes people to become neo-Nazis and white supremacists (who, incidentally, threw in homosexual taunting into the ring too at Charlottesville too - did you see the video of the mob shout-chanting "F... you faggots"?  I did).

Look, the fact is that major discrimination in American has only been dismantled during the lifetime of someone like me - less than 60 years ago.   Of course issues of  disadvantage and how to address it are still going to live issues at this time.   And yes, there are important debates to be had as to the limits of the response, and that in some cases identity politics arguments are going to be worth criticising.

None of this should be sold as quasi justification for why White Supremacists should feeling more empowered these days.  The blame for that falls squarely on the ignorant President and his enablers, who for political advantage have drummed up populist white grievance and encouraged their self pity and sense of entitlement in matters of race and sex.

Update:   I was tempted last night to refer to blowhard Brendan O'Neill's similar line - he started a tweet with "The events in Charlottesville are the logical consequence of the politics of identity."   Which is, of course, exactly the line to take if you are a white person who wants to be completely dismissive of all attention to reasons why there are obvious race based differences in equality and income in a nation with a history of serious racism only dismantled relatively recently.  

He moved on to a second tweet arguing that Social Justice Warriors and White Supremacists are equivalent in both wanting to audition for social pity.   Again, a completely ahistorical analysis of the matter, which will (of course) actually be taken by (lets be honest and use a SJW term when it is valid) privileged white males as supporting their view that they are being hard done by. 

Evidence for that - look at the enthusiastic response it is receiving at Catallaxy - the last blog in the nation where you go to get serious and nuanced consideration of racism.  

Hilariously, CL takes the line that it is wrong of O'Neill to draw an equivalency between SJW and "moronic" white supremacists - because SJWs are much much worse.   They are communists who have killed massively more people. (A conclusion drawn by bringing in abortion  to the discussion.)    CL's answer to every allegation that the Right is wrong on something is to argue "but abortion!"

And let's end this with another

Shoutout to monty:   Catallaxy is routinely at its worst when matters of race and racism come up, and for goodness sake, you even have JC crapping on about how white men are at some disadvantage.

Furthermore, he claims "The left has won every cultural and economic battle since WW2.", which, given the massive economic growth the world has seen since then, he doesn't seem to realise would actually be an endorsement of the left.

You're dealing with the stupid, and the "routinely offensive when it comes to race" stupid.

I still think you give them encouragement by your appearing there, and should stop.

Another reason the Charlottesville rally was a worry

The armed militia who turned up got some media attention, and probably deserved more.  At Slate, Tom Perriello writes:
Saturday showed us a vision of a dystopian future that is the logical extension of our current gun laws. Not just gun ownership but AR-15s. Not just concealed carry but open carry. And not just the right to open carry even long guns but to dress in full military fatigues with accessories (earpieces, vests, insignias) to blur every line between legitimate law enforcement and a fully armed white nationalist militia. I have spent time in multiple conflict zones and still would not have known at a quick glance if bullets started flying which heavily armed men in camouflage and flak jackets represented law and order and which were armed terrorists. Donald Trump, who claims to be the hero of law enforcement, has issued no criticism of those who blur the line between public and private security forces, who blur the most sacred blue line between violence and force. Is there anything more vital of a commander in chief who claims to care about those who serve in uniform than to condemn those who fake the uniform?
That said, I feel it probably also deserves to be noted by way of balance that the images from the rally may well give a false impression of the numbers of white supremacist support in the nation.  I've noticed that estimates before the rally were that up to 6,000 may attend, but I think the final number ended up in the hundreds, rather than thousands.

Still, with the evening theatrics of burning torch rallies, not to mention the daytime armed  militia, they know how to look as intimidating as possible, and (of course) death and large scale injury was the actual result.

Paging moral midgets, paging moral midgets...

When even the National Review runs an editorial headed "Condemn the White Supremacists, Mr. President", you really have to think about the increasing moral midget qualities of Andrew Bolt, who posts in support of what NR calls Trump's 'thus-far mealy-mouthed “both sides do it”'.

Meanwhile, I expect Tim Blair is busy looking up what Jonathan Green or some feminist had to say about it, so he can respond with a resounding "ha, but he kills foxes, and she's a frightbat" response.

Updateeven someone writing at PJ Media, a right wing culture war site I hardly ever bother visiting any more, says this:
In fact, the sentiments expressed by the president were fine. But his failure to even mention the reason there was trouble in Charlottesville in the first place -- a demonstration by white supremacists -- raises questions about whether he has a real grasp of his job as president.

Trump has disavowed the alt-right and said he doesn't want their support. But they continue to embrace him and brag about how they elected him. The president of the United States does not need the stink of these people's support and condemning them in the most powerful terms yesterday would have cleared the air.
Evidently, Bolt can't see the problem with the omission that nearly everyone on the American Right can see.

The state of libertarianism

John Quiggin's post today about the current state of the US libertarian movement (he notes that one part of it has moved towards the Left - he's referring to the Niskanen Centre) is an interesting read.  The question is, though, how many libertarians are ever going to be inclined to follow that path.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

As I (sort of) expected

What did I say after Trump more-or-less turned a Scout jamboree into a Trump Youth rally?:
Next up:  night time, fire torch lit rallies on the streets of some city or other..

OK, perhaps they weren't burning copies of the New York Times as I forecast, but there's no doubt they support Trump.  (Look at how few women you can spot in all the photos and videos of this event, too.  So far, I have spotted precisely one in that photo above.)

Trump is deservedly getting harsh attacks from all over the place for his woeful use of moral equivalence in response to the death of a counter protester at this white supremacist, neo Nazi rally (one at which, as many have noted, the participants nearly all feel confident enough of the political climate that they don't even worry about hiding their identity.)   The headline at this Slate piece sums it up well:

In Appalling Speech on Charlottesville, Trump Condemns Bigotry and Violence “On Many Sides”

Out of many noteworthy tweets, I'll post this one:

Meanwhile at Sinclair Davidson's Alt Right Supporter's blog, there's a hell of a lot of shrugging of shoulder's going on, and in fact it is only being discussed at all because monty brought it up.   Meanwhile Sinclair himself, showing his chronic moral immaturity (sorry, I can't read it any other way), shares a chuckle about nuclear threats to North Korea. 

Monty - trying to engage with the foolish and offensive is a losing strategy, and participation unavoidably gives the blog a sense of endorsement.  I, once again, think you are silly for appearing there at all.

Friday, August 11, 2017

I can feel my brain starting to hurt

A paper on arXiv:
The conception of reality in Quantum Mechanics

Disputes on the foundations of Quantum Mechanics often involve the conception of reality, without a clear definition on which aspect of this broad concept of reality one refers. We provide an overview of conceptions of reality in classical physics, in philosophy of science and in Quantum Mechanics and its interpretations and analyse their differences and subtleties. Structural realism as conception in philosophy of science will turn out to be a promising candidate to settle old problems regarding the conception of reality in Quantum Mechanics. We amend the analysis of three main interpretations and their relation to structural realism by three well-known informational approaches in the interpretations of Quantum Mechanics. Last we propose an additional class of structural realism supported by QBism.