Friday, February 26, 2021

How did we fall so far?

In answer to Jim Wright’s (Stonekettle Station) cri de coeur on Twitter:


You know, we could be beyond this thing by June. We could. It could be over. Life could return to normal – whatever the hell THAT is nowadays, anyway, but we're not going to be, it's not going to be over, not for a long, long time. Maybe never. Because these ignorant, backward, foolish, selfish, brainless, stupid, fearful, toothless redneck fucks would rather believe insane baseless conspiracy theories from TV pundits and hysterical internet “experts” instead of actual science and actual doctors. That's why.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Democide in Texas


“Democide is any actions by government that cause death by virtue of an intentionally or knowingly reckless and depraved disregard for life” – R J Rummel

 

“The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make; not real new things of its own.” – JRR Tolkien


Despite all Republican and libertarian ideals of freedom, despite all the talk of strength, literal millions in Texas are without power and heat in the bitterest winter in years. There have so far been 13 deaths reported as a result; likely there are more and will be more in the days to come.

How did this happen? Texas is a rich state, an energy producer. It should have no problem maintaining power to its citizens through a cold snap. While global climate change may have contributed to this bitter winter in Texas, it has happened before climate change was so advanced, in 1979 and 2011. Hard winters hit Texas every so often, perhaps every decade or so.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Reflections on the Technology Industry and Its Influence on Society

(In response to https://www.balloon-juice.com/2021/02/13/garbage-in-garbage-out-2/.)

I am an old bird, and I remember when tech was liberatory. We were proud, once, that women were accepted in senior positions in computing. Once, hippies became software engineers, and brought a new openness to technology. Virtual reality. The web itself. (The turmeric laser!) And then, and then…

What happened?

There is a history to be written. Some of the old spirit of liberation survives still: it is in things like showing police racism and brutality for all to see. In this blog. In things like antifa outing white supremacists. And just the plain fun of social media, before it was commercialized and dominated by addiction algorithms. That still survives in the quieter corners of the internet, but it is drowned out by the commercial internet.

But…

Just last night, literally, I responded to a remark on Twitter, “This is why I urge people NOT to think about Bitcoin in political terms. Do NOT view it as an evil libertarian plot to bring down government.” My reply: “Bitcoin is, exactly, a libertarian plot to destroy central banking and taxation. Read the Cyphernomicon. I used to know Tim May, the author of the Cyphernomicon. He died alone in his home in California. No-one noticed he had died for days.” May…May probably had as little empathy as any person I have ever known. He wasn’t violent. His manners were perfectly good (as long as your skin was light and you were male and not disabled.) But…but…he wasn’t capable of or interested in empathy. He was a quiet anti-Semite when I knew him. I have read that he later became a loud one.

To the article you cite. I wouldn’t say that Slate Star Codex was central to anything but Silicon Valley libertarian cranks. Citing David Friedman as a source? I know him, too. He is Milton Friedman’s son, and believes his father’s ideology implicitly. Scott Aaronson? He is famous for blaming feminism for his difficulties in his sex life. (One cannot make these things up. Truly, one cannot make these things up.)

We talk about regulation. I wish I knew what that would entail. I do not see how the current Roberts Court, which shows every sign of being the worst since Taney, is likely to allow effective regulation that would address the old imbalances of power that technology plus powerful sociopaths have brought to the world.

And there are worse possibilities. Consider that China has an intensely regulated internet, all aimed at enforcing conformity and the power of the state.

I…don’t know how to end this. We can talk about this until our mouths go numb. But where is the program that will lead us forward?

Friday, February 12, 2021

Treason!

I think we have to regard the January 6 attack as the first battle of a civil war. This is past sedition, this is actual treason. Trump and his associates organized a group of people to assault the Congress to prevent the certification of an election. That was levying war against the United States.

Whatever Democratic elected women, women of color, and people of color did or didn’t do, it wasn’t treason. It wasn’t even sedition.

I am not in Congress. I am not an elected official. I have no need to be politic in my language. What Trump and his associates did on and leading up to January 6, 2021 was treason and I will say that. I hope other people will join me.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The High Court of the Kingdom of Gilead

The High Court of the Kingdom of Gilead

So, like a corrupt politician seeking to keep a corrupt action out of the news cycle, late Friday night the Supreme Court handed down a decision that has no basis in precedent or original intention. It will kill people.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court decided that two southern California church need not abide by state restrictions on indoor services until all appeals of the case are done, which will be long after the churches have spread the virus hither and yon, leading to many deaths. Amy Howe has a discussion of the decision over at SCOTUSblog, but I want to talk more about the thinking of the justices and the decision’s implications for US law.

The decision is incoherent. The Court’s conservative justices are in disagreement over its rationale. There are three different opinions in support of the decision: Thomas, Gorsuch, and Alito; Alito alone; and Barrett and Kavanaugh. Roberts, though sympathetic to the conservatives, sided with the liberals, commenting that the Court should respect public health officials. Reading this another way, there is no compelling legal argument to support the decision; the Court’s right wing simply decided they wanted to rule in favor of the religious plaintiffs and came up with multiple rationalizations for their rulings.

Kagan wrote a scathing dissent joined by Breyer and Sotomayor pointing out that the right wing had overridden the experts on the matter and also that the incoherence of the order undermines the rule of law; state policymakers will be guessing as to how the Court will rule on public health matters in the future.

As usual with the Roberts Court, the law is the loser. I am left thinking that if Jesus were brought before this Court he would be handed over to Pilate.

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As to the implications, I think this decision and the previous Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo indicate that the Court’s right wing will reliably rule in favor of radical-right Christian churches whenever the conservative justices feel it is possible, regardless of prior precedent or original intent. This is horrific. We do not know what abuses the Court’s conservatives will sanction. The depths of the Pit are the limit; they have after all sanctioned the spreading of a deadly disease.

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This is the high court of the Kingdom of Gilead.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Derek Chauvin has a thing for choking people

 When I first wrote about police abuses, back in June, I wrote the following:

If one watches the video one can see [Derek Chauvin] is calm, even happy, as he murders George Floyd: he has done this before, or at least rehearsed it. – link

And so he has. The good people at the [Thurgood] Marshall Project have found six cases where Chauvin choked people during his tenure with the Minneapolis Police Department. Chauvin apparently has an obsession with choking people.

The judge in the case is allowing admission of only one of these cases into evidence in Chauvin's trial, the one most favorable to Chauvin.