Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Conversation with a Gazebo

Anon: Dave, I was reading your blog...

Me: Thank you.

Anon: You wrote a blog post about a gazebo.

Me: Yes.

Anon: Was it about me?

Me: Not specifically, no.

Anon: It's about me.

Me: It could apply to you.

Anon: It's hurtful.

Me: It shouldn't be.

Anon: Of course it should! You're calling me deluded. Who wouldn't be offended?

Me: First of all, it wasn't written about you specifically. But you went looking for it. You read it. You called me to ask if it was about you. It wasn't. You pressed it. You were looking for offense. People usually find what they're looking for.

Anon: I think you should apologize.

Me: Why?

Anon: Because you said I was deluded!

Me: I already know why you're offended. I mean why do you think I should apologize for that?

Anon: ...

Me: Look, the post isn't about you or even people like you. The post is about tolerance. It's about the fact that we don't have to agree with someone else to get along. Instead, we can accept that what someone else thinks is their world view, disagree with it, and continue to be civil and kind human beings anyway. I'm interested to know if you can give me any convincing reason I should apologize for that. It doesn't mean you'll get an apology, but I'm interested to hear your reason.

Anon: But you do think I'm deluded, don't you?

Me: Absolutely.

Anon: You're not qualified to say that. You're not a psychiatrist. I deserve an apology.

Me: I don't need to be, and no you don't. Look, you say you're a woman, and you're not. A delusion is a firmly held belief that contradicts the superior evidence of reality. That's pretty close to the clinical definition. Look it up. Now, if I were to accept what you say at face value, and if to be fair I do the same for others, then I would have to reject objectivity itself or be a hypocrite. No observation, no evidence would ever be enough to refute whatever wild statement somebody wants to say. Skepticism would be dead. Credibility would be dead. The very concept of proof would be dead.

Anon: Well, "Mr. Logic", you're using slippery slope, and that's a fallacy.

Me: Not if there's evidence. Understand your fallacies before you start claiming them. There's at least one adult out there who says he's a six year old girl. There are people who claim to be cats. They can only do that because no one challenges your claim. And if they can do that, why can't a pervert simply claim to identify as "not a pervert" and demand belief? It's more plausible than the cat-girl. What would perversion even mean? You stand there with a dick and you say you're a girl, and yet you laughed at Trump for saying he had the biggest inauguration crowd ever. Maybe he just "identifies" as being the most popular President ever. Personally, I think that's bullshit. So I demand proof.

Anon: So do I.

Me: Sorry, but you don't have the street cred to demand proof of anything from anybody. I DO. You're lucky you have me and people like me around you or you'd be hosed the minute somebody turned your own belief system against you.

Anon: I'm lucky to have you...?!

Me: You have one friend that you know for a fact isn't bullshitting you or just saying whatever you want to hear. I call that lucky. You call it what you want. So no, I'm not apologizing. I'm doing what I will always do. I let you think whatever you're going to think about yourself, I let you be what you want to be, and I don't chase you down to tell you up is down, left is right, and demand apologies for screwing with my sensibilities. I treat you like a human being... like a friend. I use one pronoun for you, and it's "you". And I'm not going to stop that. And I'm not going to change what I am just because you don't like it.

Anon: I didn't chase you down.

Me: Well, it sure felt like it.

Anon: I'm sorry.

Me: Accepted.



Names and identifying information withheld. I almost feel guilty about posting it, but I'm not going to apologize..



Postscript: In response to some off-line feedback, I have to make something perfectly clear. First of all, this conversation wasn't nearly as adversarial as it looks in print. My friends have a sense of humor or they wouldn't be my friends. But thing you should understand above all others is that I don't berate "my friend the Gazebo" or any of my friends for any of the things that they ARE. Homosexual? No problem. Transgendered? No problem. Desirous of wearing dinosaur suits and grazing in vegetable gardens? Yeah, sure, whatever.

But I'll give you an example of something I'm not in favor of, so maybe you can frame this from my point of view: I can't condone, support, or enable stolen valor: the despicable (and now illegal) practice of (for instance) claiming to be a Purple Heart recipient when you would merely like to have been. You can't tell me that you "identify as" a military war hero and expect to be treated as though this were in fact the case.

Likewise, stating that you are "a man" or "a woman" when you are not has nothing to do with your gender. Tell me that you are homosexual, trans, gender-fluid... fine. But there's just enough feminist in me to be severely put off when you promote as fact such fantasies as that a privileged male athlete can put on a dress, take some hormones, keep his penis, and still be a better woman than 100% of the capable natural born women on the entire planet who might have been chosen "Woman of the Year". It is analogous to stolen valor, although not as deliberate or malicious. Nevertheless, your own struggles and accolades are sufficient. Take a look in the mirror, take a look at your genes, and find the courage to face the truth. I already accept you as you are; you should, too.



Thursday, February 02, 2017

"No Law"


People, this is a slam dunk.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." 
Note that this clause of the First Amendment applies to Congress. Just Congress.

"Congress shall make no law". That's quite possibly the clearest thing in the entire Constitution. These days we extend that through the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, so that State lawmakers can't do it either, but the point remains the same. This is a restriction on what our government can do.

It is not a restriction on what you as a citizen can do. Not even if you're a preacher. It never has been. Somewhere along the line, some people chose to twist "Congress shall make no law" into "Preachers will keep their mouths shut." And that's just wrong. It's obviously unconstitutional. Obviously. Nevertheless, Congress jumped up and wrote a law, (the Johnson Amendment to the 1954 Tax Code) and prohibited the free exercise of not just religion, but speech as well, which is also supposed to be protected by the First Amendment.

The courts, if they were doing their jobs, should look at such a law, no matter who it applies to, and say, "Oh, for fuck's sake... it's a LAW!" and strike it down while pointing at the First Amendment. Because that's what one properly does to unconstitutional laws.

So Trump has stated at a prayer breakfast that he would "destroy" the Johnson Amendment. Well, good. It's exactly what Democrats said they wanted in 2012:


That was perfectly OK, but only because it was a Democrat who said it. When a Republican says it, even when it's applied across the board to everyone equally and is to their own benefit, then it's suddenly the worst thing evah. I think people think I'm joking when I say that there isn't spit difference between the two parties. But there really isn't. They can't even remember their own positions.

The organization called "Americans United for Separation of Church and State" does remember their position, and have rung the alarm. Says their executive director Barry Lynn, "President Donald Trump and his allies in the religious right seek to turn America's houses of worship into miniature political action committees." Except that this has always been the case. The thing is, we've been very selective about how we apply it.

The fact is, the 1954 Johnson Amendment was and is unconstitutional and should have been struck down long ago. There is no justification why a charitable organization cannot voice opinions or support candidates. If you hold the First Amendment as that justification, it's just because you haven't read it. I'll give you another shot:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." 
See that? It's addressed to Congress. Not you.

Barry Lynn's organization is misguided.They think that shutting everyone else up will give their own words power. But if a preacher and his whole congregation wants to stand up and shout to the heavens of their moral and religious imperative to speak up on political issues and endorse candidates... well, so what? They should have the freedom to do that, as supposedly guaranteed by the the first article that enumerates what are supposed to be our rights. Should an Atheist have a right to political speech, but a Baptist be denied? The government of these United States does not "grant rights"... it is granted authority by the citizens whose rights are inviolable. Acknowledge the rights of the Baptist and everyone else, so that Jeremiah Wright can continue shouting, "God damn America!" and so that Satanist churches have the privilege to shout whatever they want. And if you don't want them using your money for that, then don't give them your money.

We don't need a law to tell us that.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hope

I'm a "Consulting Technologist" by profession. Sometimes I'm a project manager; sometimes a technical consultant; sometimes a programmer; sometimes a QA tester; sometimes an electronics hardware repairman. I've pulled wire, installed alarms and telephones, and repaired radios.

Once I managed a large Y2K project.

For those younger readers who don't remember or have merely heard of it, "Y2K" was the Year 2000 date bug that appeared in most software written before the turn of the last century. To save space on early computers, only the last two digits of the year were saved, and this meant that the year 2000 was sorted earlier than 1999. This, the world was warned, would have dire consequences. Banking interest would be calculated incorrectly, equipment would malfunction, records would be improperly deleted, etc. Planes would fall from the sky. Prison doors would fly open. There was much discussion and gnashing of teeth.

And when the year finally came, banking interest was calculated correctly, few devices malfunctioned, and nearly all records remained intact. Planes did not fall from the sky. Prison doors remained secure.

Since then I have heard oh so many times that Y2K was a "non-event".

Except that it wasn't. None of those dire things happened because a great many people like me spent a great many hours, on the order of years, in a great effort to repair and upgrade the software and devices before they failed. While a few fools dug bomb shelters and stocked them with 20 years worth of dried beef, we simply analyzed the systems, found what was wrong, and fixed it.

Y2K was a non-event ONLY because we prevented it.

--==//oOo\\==--

In 2012, on this blog, I wrote a post called "Gun Control Conspiracy Theory in a Nutshell". In it, I discussed the purported efforts of the Left to eventually criminalize individual gun ownership. I showed how a conspiracy theorist comes to his conclusions, and why they seem so strong an incontrovertible to him. Written in 2012, it indicates that conspiracy theorists fully expected that the Obama administration would "pull the trigger" on this theory in his second term.

When that came and went, I have heard oh so many times that this was a "non-event".

Well, I said at the time that it was. But that doesn't address the conspiracy theorists' beliefs, because -- like Y2K -- they fixed it. In this case, they removed from Congresssional control the Democrats who could have effected such a thing. Whether or not such a conspiracy was actual doesn't really matter for the purpose of this illustration. If it did exist, then it would have been prevented by the 2012 elections. Thus it's not possible at this point to deflate the conspiracy theorists' argument. If you ask them, the Second Amendment wasn't taken away ONLY because they prevented it. It's still a great conspiracy theory. It's still bullshit, but a great theory.

But it's also something else. Like Y2K, it's a reminder that undesired consequences can be prevented with diligence, foresight, and effort... even when you think they're inevitable.

--==//oOo\\==--

The Three Graces:
Faith, Hope, and Charity
(Indianapolis Museum of Art)
Today many people think that the worst is inevitable. Worse, they feel that the worst has already occurred and we just haven't started feeling the effects. That's a bit of hysteria, I think. Even those who aren't hysterical are troubled. I relayed some of the following to one such troubled friend, in the hope that he would not lose hope. But it's edited, because this isn't for him; it's for you.

But before I get started, I should point out that I don't think a different ideology is in itself reason for alarm. As I said, I'm Libertarian. That doesn't mean that I'm an anarchist or that I don't believe in caring for other people. It's not about "I got mine, now you get yours". Rather, it's that charity is personal. I don't need a government to make me be tolerant, or reasonable, or kind, or giving. I feel extremely sorry for the people who do. I think they've received the wrong education. And I feel sorry for those think they don't, but everyone else does. I think they lack the empathy they would force on others.

I'm for small government, but I've grown used to never seeing it. And I think there are plenty of cases where the government should simply say, "it's not my business". And in those cases, there should be no law.

"No law" is the kind of thing that the founders intended for religion. And yet we have plenty of laws determining what organizations are or are not religions and whether they should be taxed, and under what circumstances, etc. Instead we could have no law as instructed, no exemptions, and simply treat everybody equally and fairly. I think of marriage as a religious institution. But beyond that, what conceivable interest does the government have in my marriage? In anyone's? And yet, some people want to make some marriages "legal". Others would would make some marriages "illegal". Both are horribly misguided. "It's not my business" means there should be no law.  It's of literally no interest to me who you partner with so long as all involved are of age and no one is forced.

I think the Left sucks. I think the Right sucks. I think they both want to force things that are none of their business. I think the very worst comes when they try to legalize or criminalize certain thoughts. I don't even like to categorize positions as "Left" or "Right" because they're so often interchangeable. I think both sides are generally blind to their hypocrisy.

I say this so you know where I'm coming from.

--//--

Trump was not my candidate. Neither was Clinton, but it was Trump who got the lion's share of criticism on this blog pre-election. Being Libertarian, I'm used to "not my candidate" winning.

There will be quite a bit of "suck" that comes from Trump, just as there was quite a bit of "suck" that came from every President prior to him. These comments address whatever you might think that "suck" will be.

There are a number of things that keep me hopeful. Many are rooted in our Constitution.

One thing is that the children of immigrants, legal or not, are citizens. They can't be deported, and it's not in the best interest of the US to deport the millions of parents who care for them. Had I a young student with immigrant parents I might console her with that.

Another is that while Trump is a callous jerk, he's a pragmatic one. So (for instance) while he campaigned on support of torture, now that he's in office he will "defer to the advice of his generals". My hope and expectation is that we will see a lot of that. He will re-interpret some promises or ignore them completely so as to claim delivery. I don't care, so long as the final result is acceptable. I hope and expect that when we look at what's actually delivered as opposed to media coverage or election promises, that discrepancy will be apparent. For instance, the media loudly reports a "ban on Muslims entering the country". There is no such thing.

Another is that his party doesn't like Trump. They know he's a loose cannon, and Congress faces election more often than the President. I hope and expect that they will not allow Trump to ramrod stupid legislation through because they have to face the voters at home. I intend to be vigilant and remind my Congressmen of that. I expect them to adjust legislation in committee and open debate, exactly as the legislative process requires, so that they don't pass stupid laws. Frankly, I also intend to ignore stupid laws. I can choose to be tolerant and kind and rational without instruction from the government. No signature can force me to do otherwise.

By no means the last reason for hope, but the last I'll list today, is people. I have to admit, they've been letting me down lately, but I hope and expect that this will not continue. When someone is intolerant, the response should not be more intolerance. When someone is hateful, the response should not be more hate. Fear of violence does not justify violence. All of those things drive reasonable people away and improperly validate the opposition. I think that people gravitate toward tolerance, love, and peace when they see the real thing. What we need is more of the real thing. To effect change, we have to be the change. More people used to believe that, and then many lost it. Neither Gandhi nor MLK threw a brick in anger. It's neither racist nor appropriation to remind people.

Our country has faced far worse than this guy. We survived a civil war, and surviving this Presidency doesn't require another one.

I may be a Pollyanna. I like Pollyannas. Honestly, I think if we had a few more, we'd be in much better shape. When faced with Bad Ideas, we should simply be able to calmly say, "Mmmmmm..... No." In politics, that's a lot better than responding in kind or turning away. And when Good Ideas come from unexpected quarters, we should be able to recognize them without allowing ourselves to be respond according to programming. "Block everything" isn't rational. It's not about which team "wins".

I hope to be able to recognize Good Ideas without chagrin, and say "no" to Bad Ideas with civility, and accept the reality that disagreement does not equal hatred.

I hope the same for you.



Monday, January 02, 2017

How Quickly They Forget

Recently brought to my attention: a 2014 article on Forbes.com, by James Conca:

It can power your car or your body.
The article points out that corn ethanol has no environmental ("green") advantages over petroleum with regard to emissions. Not only does it require you to burn more of it to release the same energy as petrol, but the production relies on a fermentation process that of itself releases additional "greenhouse gasses".

The article goes through a lot of math; and for the most part it's pretty good math. But in my assessment, the math isn't the most important thing.

WHAT'S MISSING

Tasty, and it can run an engine
What's not addressed in this article is that the initial big push for creating corn ethanol in the first place had nothing whatsoever to do with the environment... at least, not in the public consciousness. Now, I'm no chemist. But I was in high school in 1979. One of my projects in my senior year was creating bio-fuel out of cane sugar. As rum goes, it wasn't terrible (true). Also, it could run a lawnmower for a short time before ruining it, so the "proof" (pun intended) was good enough to get me an 'A' grade. And I do remember why I did it.

It was done in the 1970s in the wake of the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and the later oil crisis of 1979. Fuel efficiency and alternative fuels were heavily pushed at a time when we were told of scientific predictions of a global freeze. It's fashionable today for climate change enthusiasts to argue that 1970s concerns about global cooling were a "myth" by noting that the numerous popular articles of the time were not peer reviewed and therefore don't count. This ahistorical thinking ignores the fact that global cooling was the broadly disseminated view to which the public was exposed and upon which they made decisions. Even if there were a broad consensus of climatologists in the 1970s who quietly argued for eventual global warming, their views didn't make it into the public consciousness at that time, and had non-measurable effect on the subject of alternative fuels, which were championed not because the technologies were "green", but in order to reduce dependency on foreign sources of energy.

NOTE that I'm not arguing for or against climate change. This isn't about climate change. It's about the information that the people of the 1970s used to make decisions. They used the information available to them then... not now... and what they saw then was this:

A decade of expectations:
RadioTimes (Nov '74), TIME (Apr '77), TIME (Dec '73)
TIME (Dec '79), Science & Mechanics (Dec '69)

Often vilified, but still history. The point is, people make
decisions based on the information they have.
What people saw then gave them no reason to worry about CO2 levels. Even the EPA was far more concerned with smog, which was more a quality-of-life issue then than now. Retractions printed decades after the fact are irrelevant to the current discussion.

Furthermore, although peak oil was and is a valid concern... someday it seems likely that the wells will run dry... It wasn't the case that ethanol was pushed in the 1970s because there was an actual imminent "shortage of oil". There were a number of other more compelling reasons, all of which were financial and political.

In 1971, America's reduced production was as a result of production capacity. The oil industry had been "skating" without making new investments, thus foreign imports had been steadily increasing. These were decreased by OPEC in the wake of the Yom Kippur War: the US was being punished by Arab-dominated OPEC for being allies of Israel. As a result, in 1973-4, pump prices that had been hovering around $0.36/gallon jumped up to over $.50/gallon overnight. And we were stuck with it. As was repeatedly pointed out at the time, new refineries take years to build.

In 1979, the fuel prices were as a result of decreased production resulting from the Iranian Revolution that deposed Shah Pahlavi. That pushed pump prices to over $1.00/gallon. Pumps weren't even made to register prices that high, and a leading "1" had to be painted or taped to the pumps. Even if Iranian production hadn't tanked, the new regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini would not have been eager to sell the oil to us... they were holding 50 US hostages at the time, taken from our embassy, as they blamed the US for providing sanctuary to the former Shah.

The further push for ethanol in 2007-8 once again had the impetus of rising fuel prices. Of course, this time, "green technology" was added to the list of rationale. I think that rationale is spurious.

THE REASON FOR ETHANOL
Ethanol was initially pushed as a means of lowering dependence on foreign oil. It provides a renewable resource in place of an exhaustible fossil fuel. The "green" angle was tacked on years later. And hey, why not? Corn is a growing, natural, living thing, right? It made intuitive sense that it would be green in every sense, if you didn't care to ponder the math. This is why you see pictures of sunshine and corn cobs on fuel pumps without any mention of fermentation and distillation and chemistry. This is about as informative as putting Tony the Tiger on a box of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, and serves the same purpose.

It's only when you do some chemical accounting that you realize there really is no such thing as a free lunch. You only get out what you put into it: every calorie must be accounted for. The fact remains that biofuels were less efficient simply wasn't a major concern for those who were more concerned with the immediate choke on foreign oil sources and the expected eventual achievement of peak oil production. The word 'sustainable' wasn't used; 'renewable' was.

the carbon dioxide cycle in ethanol production
via Researchgate 
It has always been known that ethanol production, whether from corn, or any other biomass, requires the release of copious quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Only a part of it is released when burned. The bulk is released during fermentation and during harvesting and processing. This carbon dioxide is chemically the same no matter the source. It will stimulate plant growth no matter the source. Concern over "carbon emissions" is not something that can be addressed with ethanol. Its "green" status is a rather effective selling ploy. Despite that, ethanol must be economically competitive on its own merits. Social engineering is not required, and as with any product it should adhere to truth in advertising.

So you won't find me agreeing with this headline, although I broadly agree with the article itself. Corn ethanol is NOT "of no use". It has a very specific usefulness, in which climate control plays a negligible part. Rather, it is an alternative fuel supply, closely compatible with existing petroleum technologies, that can be used in the event that petrol sources run dry.


WHY DOES THIS FEEL LIKE NEWS?

The Forbes article is from April of 2014. Isn't it strange how it still feels like "news" because the underlying facts have not been broadly publicized? Instead we still see friendly, happy sunshine logos on fuel tanks and propaganda from people who really just don't like uncomfortable math. This is marketing, not science.

As to why I'm responding to it now... this blog is about stuff that interests me. 'Nuff said.




Sources:
  1. Memory. I was there.
  2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/04/20/its-final-corn-ethanol-is-of-no-use
  3. https://history.state.gov/milestones/1969-1976/oil-embargo
  4. http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2013/10/15/234771573/the-1973-arab-oil-embargo-the-old-rules-no-longer-apply
  5. http://inflationdata.com/articles/inflation-adjusted-prices/inflation-adjusted-gasoline-prices/
  6. Sources of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis
  7. Sources of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1979_energy_crisis
  8. Sources of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_Revolution
  9. Sources of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran_hostage_crisis
  10. Sources of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil
  11. http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-peak-oil-predictions-haven-t-come-true-1411937788
  12. https://skepticalscience.com/What-1970s-science-said-about-global-cooling.html
  13. http://notrickszone.com/2016/09/13/massive-cover-up-exposed-285-papers-from-1960s-80s-reveal-robust-global-cooling-scientific-consensus/#sthash.lTVEvfWx.dpbs

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Bigotry and Bad Memes

Let's start off with a picture of this man:


Martin Luther King famously said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

That speech, delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC on the 28th of August, 1963, contains much more worth hearing, and nothing worth discarding. I urge you to listen or read the transcript yourself. [Transcript] [Audio]

--==//oOo\\==--

I wanted that up front because I want the words of Dr. King to be fresh in your mind when you consider this meme that is being passed around:


People should be judged on their own merits and failings, that's for sure. And the guy pictured, Timothy McVeigh, was unquestionably guilty of a heinous act.

That said, this particular line of reasoning is faulty and is unlikely to convince anyone. Here's why. Suppose someone told you,
"This pipe bomb is really dangerous. It kills a lot of people. It doesn't have a trigger. It doesn't have a sight. It doesn't have any bullets. It's a COMMON WATER PIPE. Think on that before spreading anti-gun BULL on social media."
You don't get to the end of the quote before realizing that the two examples aren't in any way connected. The fact that one thing is dangerous doesn't mean that the other thing isn't. It doesn't mean that all pipes are as dangerous as all guns. You know from experience that there's nothing "common" about that pipe. It doesn't even convince you that anti-gun statements are bull. The intended point... that guns are safe... doesn't follow from the argument. All this argument says is that the guy who wrote it should have followed his own advice and thought on it. If he had, he'd have avoided this kind of logical fallacy.

Again, people should be judged on their own merits and failings. But just as all members of a group cannot be automatically judged guilty for the misdeeds of a few, all members of a group cannot be automatically judged innocent even when they're not. Both extremes are bigoted.

Judge not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. 

If you intend to calm those people who fear violence perpetrated by Islamic extremists, there are effective ways to make the intended point. This isn't one of them. While doing that, you must address the fact that those fears are not without foundation, but that's a discussion for another day.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

News Flash: PEOPLE DIE

According to United Nations data, approximately 6,800 Americans die each and every day, or almost 2.5 million each year. At various times all of my grandparents and parents were among them, and I fully expect that one of these years I will be among them, too. As it turns out, exhaustive research indicates that not even one single country escapes a massive turnover of roughly one generation every generation. FIFTY FIVE POINT THREE MILLION people in this world die every year. It's global.

I've decided to refuse to feign shock or disgust that death also happens to celebrities. I note their passing with respect and gratitude for their accomplishments, and do not blame the Universe or this particular year.

Sorry if I sound crotchety, and I'll explain why, but it starts with the fact that somebody just notified the world that the Heat Miser died and they were just heartbroken.

The Heat Miser.

For the record, his name was George S. Irving, and he was in many movies, some of which I've seen and most of which I haven't. He was 94 years old. Personally, I'm not going to begrudge anyone his final rest when he's 6 years shy of a century on this Earth. Nevertheless, he voiced a cartoon character once, so his death tears a hole in the millions of hearts in which he had taken up residence. So we're notified that they were devastated and officially ready for 2016 to end, presumably taking Death with it.

See this guy? He's not really a person. He's not going anywhere with 2016; and for that matter, 2016 isn't going anywhere either. It's a constant, unstoppable flow of Time. '2016' is a label we've arbitrarily assigned to one otherwise undistinguished part of it.

I'm not bitching here to be heartless and cruel, evil, mean, wicked, bad and nasty. Quite the opposite. It appears that nobody ever told the kiddies that people actually die. They need to know this lest they carry on as if it's a surprise in 2017 and beyond.

Every last one of us is going to kick the bucket, and frankly, I don't think it enhances anyone's memory to go virtue signalling over it, wailing at the Universe and the personification of Time about the unfairness of it all.

It's perfectly fair.

So yes, I'm tired of people being tired of people dying. It's pointless. We're all dying, and that's OK. Everybody gets a turn; some sooner, some later. So let's stop griping about '2016' and how torn up we are, and how we're sadder than sad. Let's look fondly on their work, and how amazingly privileged we are to have recorded it so we can continue to enjoy it for decades to come. And let's stop having grief competitions over celebrities so we can spare a moment of similar fond recollection of some of the other 55.3 million people for whom we aren't privileged to have recordings. They were moms and dads and kids. They had talents you didn't know, and stories you never heard. We can allow ourselves just one moment to consider that when we lost them, we truly lost something, forever, 55 million times over. And then realize that in spite of that we can carry on. That's a real miracle.

Carry on.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

What do you EXPECT to happen?

I keep seeing people wishing for faithless electors to abandon Trump when casting their votes. Actual quotes include prayers like "Please, please, please".

At this point I'm 100% positive that most of these people have not schooled themselves in how an American presidential election actually works, and have no idea what it is they're asking for. At one point I thought that pundits actually did know, and were being devious, but the more I hear, the more I realize that they're just ignorant, too.[1]

At first this was fueled by simple sore losing.  Democrats could not believe that their gal didn't win the election. Surely it's illegitimate, they cried, because Trump lost the popular election. That was shot down immediately in that people know we have an Electoral College, and they've seen it at work before. Some Democrats felt right clever about remembering that electors can choose to vote for anyone they like. These "faithless electors" would surely "save" the country. 

They posted a petition. Petitions mean nothing to the electoral college. The electors who are voting for Trump are Republicans. They're a completely separate group of people than the ones who would be voting if Clinton had won their state. It wasn't enough to decry Trump as the new Hitler, a racist and homophobe and every other mean, Grinchy thing imaginable. His supporters didn't buy a word of it, and largely that's the doing of Hillary Clinton herself. When she called his supporters "deplorable", she forgot that they know their own hearts. They knew it wasn't true of themselves, and her party lost credibility.

So they needed to up the stakes. They needed a boogeyman... one that Republicans could get behind. "Russian hacking" of the election is that boogeyman. Surely the Republicans still have a Cold War grudge against the Russians! So the story is now that the Trump presidency is illegitimate because the Russians stole our election. They manipulated and modified, they hacked us. They hacked John Podesta's emails to discredit the Clinton campaign. Oh, boy, they tricked the people into voting for Trump, and somehow the whole country should overlook the content of those emails because we're just so darned incensed about being hacked.

The "Russian hackers" are a transparent excuse to de-legitimize the Trump presidency. Perhaps in this last-ditch scare-fest, they might get the Electoral College to vote their gal in after all. And the fact that they're attempting this proves to us that they don't know what they're doing.
The problem is several-fold. 
  1. Wikileaks.org has a 100% track-record regarding the authenticity of the documents they publish. Even if the Russians had obtained the information, they didn't write the contents. And here, the content matters.
  2. Julian Assange says the Podesta emails on WikiLeaks didn't come from the Russians. Craig Murray claims he personally got them from Democratic insiders. Again, they've got a 100% track record. So even if the Russians independently hacked the organization, they aren't the ones who leaked it, and they didn't affect the election.[2]
  3. The Cold War is over. The Democrats seem to have a problem understanding that old, worn out memes expire.
  4. The electoral process doesn't work that way.
We don't do election "do-overs". We conduct an election once. Sometimes we re-count the votes. Even then, that doesn't mean the recount means anything. For instance, we know for a fact that more votes were counted than cast in precincts around Detroit. The original counts stand anyway. So if an official recount that give you an actual corrected vote count doesn't change the results, what do you expect from a nebulous accusation that the Russians swayed the election, with no proof, no measurable effect, no indication of how it was accomplished?

Every American knows why they voted the way they did. Do you know of anyone at all who claims to have been swayed by Russian influence? No? How about this... do you you know anyone at all who claims they would have voted differently if they knew the Russians leaked the Podesta emails? Me neither. So how about this... do you know anyone who would have been royally pissed if they had NOT heard of the Democratic corruption, cheating, and manipulation until after the election was over and their votes were cast? I can find more than a few of those, yeah; in both parties.

--==//oOo\\==--

So it wasn't the Russians, and even if it had been, it wouldn't have mattered. But if it did matter, what do you expect to happen? Seriously, let's think it through...

Remember that Republican electors are Republicans. Do you think you'd be able to convince them to vote for Hillary Clinton? That's a pipe-dream. Blaming the Russians wouldn't do that. You'd have to convince them that Trump was at fault. They'd have to vote against Trump. Why would they do that? Not because the Russians did them a favor. They won the election, and they'll take it.

What do you expect to happen?

But just imagine you could find enough electors to vote against Trump to put him below 270 votes. Will those votes go to Clinton? Again, no. That's not even a pipe-dream. It's not going to happen. Those votes would likely go to a different Republican... Cruz, maybe; or Paul Ryan. So let's imagine that happens (and you'll notice we have to imagine quite a lot of people doing things against their self-interest to get this far).

If no candidate gets 270 votes, then it goes to the House of Representatives, and they elect the President. They don't get to select just anybody, though. They have to choose from the top three persons with electoral college votes. So let's imagine that this is Clinton, Trump, and anybody at all. And the Republicans hold control over the House, but not by much. So there's a chance that you could entice a few of them to vote for Hillary Clinton, right? 

Oh, puh-leez. They'll have two Republicans to choose from, because they're limited to the top three vote recipients. And the Democrats aren't going to give up enough Hillary votes in the Electoral College to make sure that third choice is another Democrat.

But WAIT. In this election, it's not one-Representative, one-vote. It's one-STATE, one-vote (look up the 12th Amendment). So all of the Representatives in a State have to pow-wow and decide how their State is going to cast its one vote. Now it's important to look at who's got representative control of each individual State.  

  • The Republicans control the following 33 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
  • The Democrats control the following 14 states: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
  • The following states are tied. Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey
The winner needs 26 votes. The Republicans control 33. Congratulations. The Republicans win again, in a narrowly controlled House, by a landslide. 

What do you expect to happen?

Now... would it be Trump? Honestly... yeah. If the Republicans voted otherwise it would de-legitimize their own primary process. They don't like that he was elected, but now that he's their candidate, they've made the political investment of getting behind him and defending the process that put him there. So yeah, he'd still win. As everyone in a state's delegation would have to vote to prevent it, the minority opinion would be overruled. One state, one vote.

--==//oOo\\==--

There is absolutely no way whatsoever that this will break for the Democrats. The Democratic leadership, unlike the unwashed masses and delusional pundits, know this for a fact as well. So WHY do we see them blaming the Russians?  We know this will not change the election.

Changing the election outcome can't be their goal. But they can de-legitimize the Trump presidency in hope of regaining the House in 2018. And one of the ways of doing that is to make sure he has some insurmountable problems that have to be "fixed" by electing more Democrats. So they're trashing international relations with the Russians. They want you to remember the vision of Donald Trump collaborating with Russian spies. Instead you'll remember that this was Obama's "WMD" moment, when he tried to force an international incident because he didn't get his way.
Basically, the Democrats know they can't win, so they're shitting all over the carpet before they leave. But this President-elect is not having it. Hell, he's already making phone calls to foreign leaders. I believe that both he and Putin know what's going on, and everybody on the planet knows that Executive Orders are the only power Obama has left. Anything he does with that power will be undone the nanosecond that Trump assumes the office. And instead of an international incident we get something that's easily undone with a handshake.

Literally, at this moment, best thing the Democrats can do is shut up and wait.




[1]  Let me be clear: I don't like Trump. Lord knows I said so often enough on this blog, and spend more time talking about his faults than I ever spent on Hillary Clinton's. But this was an election, and the results weren't a "mistake". The voters had actually spoken, and such recounts as were done confirmed it. So it's the time to stop posturing, be Americans, and make the best of it.

[2] Note the radical difference between political posturing of those who expect this to change the outcome of the election and the Congressional investigation aimed at the prevention of future cyberattacks. In the latter case, the legitimacy of the election is not questioned, though the security of our systems is. This is, however, properly the purview of those who were hacked, and not the Federal government.

How to Re-write History

History is often re-written by those who purport to "set the record straight". And I'm talking about Snopes, Politifact, etc. How it's done is an interesting sleight-of-hand.

I see a scenario playing out here with the "Russian intervention" in our recent US Presidential election (and I may get to that in a minute), but I first would like to address something that came up in an unlikely place: "The Vault of Retro Sci-Fi 2.0".

Someone posted a picture of Barbarella... the one I'm posting here.  Now that's perfectly on-topic for the group... Barbarella was an over-the-top sci-fi heroine of the 1960s, portrayed on-screen by Jane Fonda.

The reactions were interesting, though. Half the comments were predictably about the fact that she was hot (and she was), but the other half were reminders of her role in the Vietnam War as "Hanoi Jane".

Just as predictably, someone appeared to declare that the "Hanoi Jane" was debunked. Specifically, they wrote, "All you idiots still going on about the false story over Vietnam...its false people.. Do some legit research and reading"

That "legit research" is the subject of this post. Let's start by noting that this fellow believes that there exists "THE false story", when in fact there are many stories, some of which are false. But "the false story" to which he's referring is one regarding a photo of Jane Fonda sitting at a North Vietnamese gun, taken on the last day of a trip to North Vietnam during the Vietnam War:


Fonda herself says that she was tricked into the photo-op, and that it was only afterward that she realized it would look as though she had been operating the gun. You can listen to her own account as related on "Oprah's Master Class" (right).

Note that she believes this photo-op to be her "one unforgivable mistake". One. And this, along with a story of Fonda turning over notes from POWs to their Vietnamese captors is what is "debunked" every time that the record is "set straight" by sites like Snopes.

Except... that's not the story.

Snopes gets this right:
In July 1972, during the waning days of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, actress Jane Fonda incurred the enmity of untold thousands of Vietnam veterans and their families (as well as service members for generations to come) when she arrived in Hanoi, North Vietnam, and began a two-week tour of the country. Fonda visited North Vietnamese villages, hospitals, schools, and factories damaged in the war, weaving her comments about what she observed at those sites with denunciations of U.S. military policy in recordings broadcast as propaganda to U.S. servicemen via Radio Hanoi; met with international visitors and reporters who were also in North Vietnam; spent about an hour chatting with seven U.S. POWs at a meeting arranged by her North Vietnamese guides; and posed for photographs at an antiaircraft emplacement set up in a rural area just outside Hanoi.
They go on to brush this aside because that's not the story they're debunking. The problem with relying on this sort of reference is that the servicemen's ire wasn't because of one stupid photo-op on a gun. And nobody believes, then or now, that she was actually operating the gun. Nor did she turn over messages from POWs to their captors. These are embellishments (as Snopes says), but if one is to set the record straight on those details, one can't forget the actual factual core. That is, if you are debunking the embellishments, that doesn't in any way debunk the facts.

Jane Fonda earned the name "Hanoi Jane" (the form of which is in imitation of famous war propagandists like "Axis Sally" and "Tokyo Rose") because at least 10 times she broadcast on Radio Hanoi, addressing demoralizing messages directly to our troops... specifically calling them "war criminals". Here are some transcripts [LINK]. Note that these weren't simply comments that were recorded during her visit and played over the radio. These are on tape, were not coerced, were done at her behest, and were directed at the troops themselves. Furthermore, as she has stated on-camera for "60 Minutes", she does not regret them.

Some apologists note that relatively few troops heard her broadcasts. That doesn't change the fact that she made them, and that within hours everyone knew of them, as did the people at home. This was at a time when counter-culture was still new. The veterans of WWI were still alive; the veterans of WWII and the Korean War were still in their prime. They were well acquainted with admonitions like, "Loose Lips Sink Ships". It was still usual for citizens to trust the government. And this ire at Jane Fonda was not as politically polarized as one would think when looking at it from today's perspective. Both WWII and the Korean War were carried out under Democratic administrations (FDR and Truman, respectively), and the vast bulk of the Vietnam war was pursued under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. This was not party-driven; it was generational. The people at home were incensed, even when magazine and news editors avoided printing it. Vietnam was the first televised war. War has always been horrific, but rarely were the American people acutely aware of it other than those who fought. Fonda thought she was making a necessary statement, but her location and timing could not have been worse.[1]

History is what it is, and Fonda did what she did. "Explaining" that she was tricked into the photo doesn't change the broadcasts. Debunking the stories of her turning over POW messages doesn't change the broadcasts. The troops heard what they heard. They didn't like it, and acted accordingly. You are certainly free to disagree with their reaction, but that doesn't make it "false". And whether you agree with her reasons is completely beside the point. "Agreement" is merely exercising the privilege of 45 years of hindsight, and it's no way to understand history. For that matter, this isn't a matter of ancient history for which reading is sufficient research. There are still witnesses. There are recordings. For my part, it was current events. I'm old enough that I have friends and family who were there. She's still "Hanoi Jane", and she still earned the title.

And YET... it is now ingrained in some minds that there is ONE story, about that photo, and it is "thoroughly debunked."  How?

Simple. When somebody mentions "Hanoi Jane", you just reference the photo. Only the photo. You nonchalantly say, "Oh, that old story", and "do your research." Point only to the discredited pieces. Ignore the meat of the story, always. After a bit of repetition, this becomes the only story, and it's "thoroughly discredited". And if anyone happens to mention anything else approaching the core truth, then simply brush it aside with, "Everybody did X" (in this case, propaganda). Unabashedly ignore the fact than no, not everybody wrote propaganda for the enemy and then broadcast it live to one's own troops from behind enemy lines.

--==//oOo\\==--

The same process is used in every case where the facts are "inconvenient". An easily-handled or lesser controversy is substituted for the one of substance. Through constant repetition it becomes "the" controversy.  We see it played out over and over again. For instance, regarding the 2012 Benghazi attack we were told by Hillary Clinton's State Department that the violence was caused by a tasteless Internet video (this one). First the video, then the lie about the video, was "the" controversy. In reality, the controversy was much more severe: a CIA weapons-smuggling operation to arm rebels in Syria (these rebels reportedly became what we now know as ISIS). Eventually Hillary Clinton asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "what difference, at this point, does it make?" She then brushed aside the State Department actions that actually led to the violence, claiming that it was more important to retaliate.

Regarding the ATF gunwalking scandal (aka "Fast and Furious") we were told that "the" controversy was a witchhunt aimed at Obama and Eric Holder, with the defense that "Bush did it" (referring to a similar sting, which the Obama administration continued). This was to deflect attention from more serious focus on the amateurish implementation, which had no chance of success, as the US had provided no way of actually tracking the weapons; and the heinous consequences when the guns found use in numerous crimes including 69 killings; and issue of cover-up when the executive branch refused to fully cooperate when Congress exercised congressional oversight.

More recently, regarding the 2016 Presidential elections, we are notified of "the" controversy surrounding alleged Russian interference in our election process. This is despite the fact that there is no evidence that the Russians were the ones that hacked James Podesta's emails, and Julian Assange of Wikileaks flatly says that the Russians were not his source (video). This faux controversy is intended to deflect focus from the larger issue of the actual content of those emails, and the very genuine corruption that the DNC employed in the Democratic primaries.

This last has resulted in the bizarre situation where the Democrats have pretzeled themselves into opposing the things they support. In 2009, Hillary Clinton presented the Russians with a (poorly translated) "reset" button symbolizing a renewed relationship. And why not? We have no territorial disputes or serious trade disputes with Russia. Despite the fact that the current Russian Constitution is a Democrat's wet dream, US/Russian relations have since deteriorated into language describing another "Cold War". Following the election, the Democrats have found the Russians to be a convenient boogeyman. They have only scaled up the rhetoric, leaving the next administration with a dangerously damaged foreign relations mess to clean up. Their desired outcome is poorly thought out (and that's the subject of my next post), but their tactics are clear. It's the same decades-old practice of constantly repeating falsehoods in hopes that the will become "the truth".




[1] I would argue that although it's axiomatic that the Vietnamese were better off without war than with it, they would have been better off yet if the South were not fighting under rules of engagement that made it effectively impossible to win. I point to South vs. North Korea for an example. Rather than making war more humane, these rules dragged out the horror for at least a decade.

References:
  1. The photo on Facebook that got me thinking.
  2. "Jane Fonda's Unforgivable Mistake" (YouTube) - Jane Fonda's account and explanation of the photo-op.
  3. Jane Fonda, Radio Hanoi (web) - contains quotes of Fonda's broadcast, taken from the book Citizen Jane (ISBN:0-8050-0959-0)
  4. "In the words of Jane Fonda" (YouTube) - Contains debunked elements and incendiary language, but included because it also contains recordings of Fonda's broadcasts from North Vietnam. They verify the quotes from Citizen Jane.
  5. Jane Fonda Betrayed American POWs (Snopes) - Debunks a specific email regarding a specific story.
  6. "Jane Fonda: Wish I Hadn't" (cbsnews.com) - 2005 interview with Lesley Stahl in which Fonda expresses regret for the photo shoot and that alone.
  7. http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2016/09/russia-pushes-reset-button-mocks-hillary-releases-health-record/ 
  8. Russian Reset (wikipedia.org) -  Describes Clinton's failed "reset" of Russian relations.