Archive for July, 2021

Radio Silence: a short science fiction story

July 31, 2021

I copied this from a science fiction web site called Creepypasta Wiki.

36,400,000.

That is the expected number of intelligent civilizations in our galaxy, according to Drake’s famous equation. For the last 78 years, we had been broadcasting everything about us – our radio, our television, our history, our greatest discoveries – to the rest of the galaxy.  We had been shouting our existence at the top of our lungs to the rest of the universe, wondering if we were alone. T hirty-six million civilizations, yet in almost a century of listening, we hadn’t heard a thing.  We were alone.

That was, until about five minutes ago.

The transmission came on every transcendental multiple of hydrogen’s frequency that we were listening to.  Transcendental harmonics – things like hydrogen’s frequency times pi – don’t appear in nature, so I knew it had to be artificial.  The signal pulsed on and off very quickly with incredibly uniform amplitudes; my initial reaction was that this was some sort of binary transmission.  I measured 1679 pulses in the one minute that the transmission was active.  After that, the silence resumed.

The numbers didn’t make any sense at first. They just seemed to be a random jumble of noise. But the pulses were so perfectly uniform, and on a frequency that was always so silent; they had to come from an artificial source. I looked over the transmission again, and my heart skipped a beat. 1679 – that was the exact length of the Arecibo message sent out 40 years ago. I excitedly started arranging the bits in the original 73 x 23 rectangle.

I didn’t get more than halfway through before my hopes were confirmed. This was the exact same message.  The numbers in binary, from 1 to 10.  The atomic numbers of the elements that make up life.  The formulas for our DNA nucleotides.  Someone had been listening to us, and wanted us to know they were there.

Then it came to me – this original message was transmitted only 40 years ago.  This means that life must be at most 20 light years away.  A civilization within talking distance?  This would revolutionize every field I have ever worked in – astrophysics, astrobiology, astro-

The signal is beeping again.

This time, it is slow. Deliberate, even.  It lasts just under five minutes, with a new bit coming in once per second.  Though the computers are of course recording it, I start writing them down. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 0…

I knew immediately this wasn’t the same message as before. My mind races through the possibilities of what this could be. The transmission ends, having transmitted 248 bits. Surely this is too small for a meaningful message. What great message to another civilization can you possibly send with only 248 bits of information? On a computer, the only files that small would be limited to…

Text.

Was it possible? Were they really sending a message to us in our own language? Come to think of it, it’s not that out of the question – we had been transmitting pretty much every language on earth for the last 70 years… I begin to decipher with the first encoding scheme I could think of – ASCII. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 1. 0. 0. That’s B… 0. 1. 1 0. 0. 1. 0. 1. E… As I finish piecing together the message, my stomach sinks like an anchor. The words before me answer everything.

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Obedience and rebellion

July 28, 2021

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.

==C.P. Snow

Every tyranny must necessarily be grounded upon general popular acceptance. In short, the bulk of the people themselves, for whatever reason, acquiesce in their own subjection….If we led our lives according to the ways intended by nature and the lessons taught by her, we should be intuitively obedient to our parents; later we should adopt reason as our guide and become slaves to nobody.

==Etienne de la Boetie

Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience. Our problem is that people all over the world have obeyed the dictates of the leaders of their government and have gone to war, and millions have been killed because of this obedience…Our problem is that people are obedient all over the world in the face of poverty and starvation and stupidity, and war, and cruelty. Our problem is that people are obedient while the jails are full of petty thieves, and all the while the grand thieves are running the country. That’s our problem.

==Howard Zinn

The legend of black lawman Bass Reeves

July 27, 2021

Bronze statue of Bass Reeves in Fort Smith, Arkansas

Here’s something interesting I came across the other day.

WHO IS BASS REEVES? July 1838 – January 12, 1910

By Dave Amis

Born a slave in 1830s Texas, Bass was owned by Colonel Reeves, who taught him to shoot, ride, and hunt, but would not let him learn to read.  Bass grew to be a strong, physically impressive, and determined man who ran away at the age of 20 to be free.

Pursued by slave hunters, he narrowly escaped into the Indian Territory where Creek Indian Warriors accepted him into their tribe.  Bass learned to speak Creek, Cherokee and Seminole.  It is believed that Bass fought in the Indian Territory during the Civil War with the Union Indian brigades. ​

The Indian Territory, at this time, was a cesspool of violence.  In 1875 President Ulysses S. Grant named Congressman Isaac Parker, Federal Judge at Fort Smith, with the mandate to “save Oklahoma.”  The “Hanging Judge,” as he was soon to be known, brought in 200 deputy marshals to calm the growing chaos throughout the West.

The Indian Territory, later to include the Oklahoma Territory, in 1890, was the most dangerous area for federal peace officers in the Old West.  More than 120 lost their lives before Oklahoma became a state in 1907. ​

Bass Reeves

One of the first of the deputies hired by Judge Parker’s court was former slave from Texas, Bass Reeves.

Bass was known as an expert with pistol and rifle, stood about 6 feet 2 inches, weighed 180 pounds, and was said to have superhuman strength.

Being a former slave, Bass was illiterate.  He would memorize his warrants and writs.  In the thirty–two years of serving the people of the Oklahoma Territory, it is said he never arrested the wrong person due to the fact he couldn’t read.

Bass had a reputation throughout the territory for his ability to catch outlaws that other deputies couldn’t. 

He was known to work in disguise in order to get information and affect the arrest of fugitives he wanted to capture.

Bass is said to have arrested more than 3,000 people and killed 14 outlaws, all without sustaining a single gun wound.

Bass escaped numerous assassination attempts on his life.  He was the most feared deputy U.S. marshal to work the Indian Territory.

At the age of 67, Bass Reeves retired from federal service at Oklahoma statehood in 1907.  As an African-American, Bass was unable to continue in his position as deputy marshal under the new state laws.

He was hired as a city policeman in Muskogee, Oklahoma, where he served for about two years until his death in 1910, at age 71, from Bright’s disease.

LINK

Was the Lone Ranger Black?  The Resurrection of Bass Reeves by Christian Wallace for the Texas Monthly.  This is the most reliable, most comprehensive and most readable article on Bass Reeves that I found on the Internet.  Many details of Reeves’ life are disputed, but there is no doubt that he was a remarkable individual who should be remembered.

Coffee, the modern world and me

July 24, 2021

The following is from an article called “The plants that change our consciousness” by Sophia McBain in the New Statesman.

It is no coincidence that caffeine and the minute-hand on clocks arrived at around the same historical moment, the acclaimed food and nature writer Michael Pollan argues in his latest book, This is Your Mind on Plants

Both spread across Europe as laborers began leaving the fields, where work is organised around the sun, for the factories, where shift-workers could no longer adhere to their natural patterns of sleep and wakefulness.

Would capitalism even have been possible without caffeine?  The introduction of caffeine to Europe in the early 17th century coincided with the waning of the mystical medieval mindset and the rise of the cool-headed rationalism of the Enlightenment.

Before the arrival of tea and coffee, alcohol was the safest thing to drink – or at least, safer than most water – so perhaps it is little wonder that the permanently sozzled intellectuals of the Middle Ages were prone to magical thinking.  In contrast, caffeine can intensify “spotlight consciousness,” which illuminates a single point of attention, enhancing our reasoning skills.

Voltaire had such faith in coffee’s power to sharpen his mind that he is said to have drunk up to 72 cups a day.  Balzac sometimes dispensed with drinking coffee altogether and instead ate the grounds for a more powerful hit.

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Ivermectin study retracted

July 23, 2021
A report of a clinical study on the benefits of ivermectin as an anti-Covid treatment has been withdrawn.
 
The resport reportedly gave results that were mathematically impossible and differed from the raw data.
 
The retraction does not, in itself, discredit ivermectin as a possible treatment.  There are other studies that support the benefits of invermectin. 
 
But the fact that the Frontline Covid-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC) and the British Invermectin Recommendation Development (BIRD) Group cited it is not a good look.
 
My own opinion remains the same.  I believe the sale of drugs should be regulated.  I don’t think somebody should be able to sell Dr. Quack’s Covid Cure over-the-counter.  But prescribing approved drugs for non-approved purposes is a legal and common practice.
 
Ivermectin is a drug that has long been approved for treatment of parasitic disease and seems to hold promise for treatment of virus disease.  It has been proven safe, and is cheap because no longer protected by patents. 
 
There is no reason physicians should not prescribe ivermectin if in their judgment there is a benefit, especially when vaccines are not available or have failed.  Studies of invermectin should continue, and discussion of ivermectin should not be suppressed.
 
LINKS
 
Why Was a Major Study on Invermectin for COVID-19 Just Retracted? by Jack Lawrence for GRFTR.
 
Huge study supporting ivermectin as Covid treatment withdraw over ethical concerns by Melissa Davey for The Guardian.
 
Joint Statement of the FLCCC Alliance and British Ivermectin Research Development Group on Retraction of Early Research on Invermectin.
 
Ivermectin: Much More Than You Wanted to Know by Scott Alexander Suskind for Astral Codex Ten.  [Added 11/17/2021]

Student debt may be dischargeable in bankrupcy

July 22, 2021

‘The Trillion-Dollar Lie by Matt Taibbi for TK News.  “Universities built palaces and financiers made fortunes in part through a lie: that student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.  But a series of court cases is helping unravel the scam.”

For years, it was believed that .. [the Bankruptcy Act of 2005] absolutely closed the door on bankruptcy for whole classes of borrowers, and one in particular: students.  Nearly fifteen years after the bill’s passage, journalists were still using language like, “The bill made it completely impossible to discharge student loan debt.”

Even I did this, writing multiple features about student loans stressing their absolute non-dischargeability, which is one of the reasons to write this now — I got this one wrong.

In 2017, I interviewed a 68 year-old named Veronica Martish who filed for personal bankruptcy — as I put it, “not to get free of student loans, of course, since bankruptcy protection isn’t available for students” — and described her being chased by collectors to her deathbed. “By the time I die, I will probably pay over $200,000 toward an $8,000 loan,” she said. “They chase you until you’re old, like me. They never stop. Ever.”

In fact, the bankruptcy situation was murky.  Beginning in the 2010s, judges all over the U.S. began handing down decisions …. that revealed lenders had essentially tricked the public into not asking basic questions, like: What is a “student loan”?  Is it anything a lender calls a student loan?  Is a school anything a lender calls a school?  Is a student anyone who takes a class?  Can lenders loan as much as they want, or can they only lend as much as school actually costs?  And so on.

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A vaccination-only anti-virus strategy

July 22, 2021

It seems as if the Biden administration intends to rely on vaccines alone to fight the COVID-19 virus.

The official advice is that once you get vaccinated, it’s safe to do anything you want, including spending time unmasked in poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.

That’s wrong.  Even if you’re vaccinated, you can be infected and you can infect others.  Masking, ventilation and other safety measures are still needed.

It’s true that availability of vaccines has dramatically reduced the death rate from COVID.  The chart above, showing waves of COVID infection before and after vaccines were available, indicates this.

Vaccination, however, does not confer 100 percent immunity.  The vaccines stimulate the immune system, so that, if you are infected, you are unlikely to experience symptoms of the disease and even less likely to be hospitalized. 

But they often fail to kill the virus.  You can be vaccinated and symptom-free and still be a spreader of the disease.

I’m in favor of vaccination. I got two shots of the Moderna vaccine as soon as I could, one in March and one in April.  I don’t take that as guaranteeing perfect safety.

It’s going to be a while before I eat a restaurant  meal indoors or watch a movie in a theater.  I may never take an airplane trip again.  I intend to wear a mask any time I am indoors with people I don’t know.

That’s not because I like masks.  I get short of breath when I wear one for a long time.  Everybody looks like they’re either terrorists, robbers or assisting in surgery.  But I can put up with this minor annoyance in order to reduce my own risk and the risk I create for others.

I understand that not everybody is willing to live as I do, or in a position to do so.  I am 84 years old, retired, unmarried, an introvert and a recluse. 

I don’t have to venture out into the world to earn my daily bread, and my temperament makes it easier for me than for most people to do without hugs and kisses.

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Lab leak or animal transmission?

July 22, 2021

It’s very possible that SARS-CoV-2 originated in an animal and was transmitted to a human being, because that’s how so many virus diseases originated.

But we don’t as yet have any example of an animal in the wild carrying the disease, let alone a specific person getting the disease from an animal.

It’s possible that the virus spread as the result of a laboratory accident, because lab accidents have been known to happen.

But we don’t have any proof that a laboratory accident actually occurred, let alone a specific person being infected.

It’s argued that it is more than coincidence that the virus was first discovered in Wuhan, China, a center for research in coronaviruses. I agree.

A center for the study of a virus in the lab would be a place where people would be most alert to detect the virus. But that’s not proof that the virus originated there. Diseases frequently are first discovered in places distant from where they originate.

It’s argued that the virus must be an artificial creation because it is so tailored to exploit human weaknesses. I don’t have the knowledge to make a scientific judgement one way or the other.

But it seems to me that this argument underestimates the malignant ingenuity of Mother Nature, operating through Darwinian random variation and natural selection.

None of this disproves the lab leak hypothesis, of course.

The lab leak hypothesis is more comforting than the animal transmission hypothesis because it is easier to fix human error that it is to cope with the forces of nature.

China haters tend to like the lab leak hypothesis. Trump haters tend to dislike it.

As for myself, I don’t have an opinion either way.

Why the U.S. failed to avert the pandemic (2)

July 21, 2021

Like Michael Lewis’s The Premonition, Andy Slavitt’s Preventable is a story of how people in authority disregarded warnings and allowed the COVID-19 virus to gain a foothold in the United States.

But while Lewis described the efforts of a number of far-sighted prophets, Slavitt concentrates on just one—himself.

Slavitt is an interesting figure—a political operator and member of the professional-managerial class, who influences policy, moves back and forth between government and the private sector, but would be unknown to the public except for this book.

He was an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, a consultant for McKinsey & Co., and founder of a company called HealthAllies, and then worked for United Health Group after it acquired HealthAllies. 

He served the Obama administration as head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services from 2014, and was a medical adviser to the Biden administration during its first few months.

His power comes from being embedded in a network of politicians, corporate CEOs, wealthy philanthropists and academics, who all answer his phone calls and listen to what he has to say.

Preventable is about how he tried to alert the public to the danger, while also trying, from behind the scenes, to influence the Trump administration to take action before it was too late.

His book is a good overview of the Trump administration’s pandemic response and of the inadequacies of the American medical care system generally.

Much of the criticism of Trump is based on a knee-jerk response to his vulgar and offensive comments on Twitter and elsewhere, which don’t matter, and on a gullible acceptance of charges of collusion with Russian and Ukrainian leaders, which were either bogus or trivial.

Slavitt did a good job of showing the real problem with Trump, which was his inadequacy as an administrator and leader.  Trump refused to face unpleasant facts.  He thought of policy only in terms of public relations, not in terms of consequences, and he failed to think ahead even about public relations.

He calculated that closings are unpopular and openings are popular, so he shifted responsibilities for closings onto governors of states while positioning himself as the champion of openings.

As damning as Slavitt’s portrait of Trump is, it will not change the minds of Trump’s admirers because of Slavitt’s obvious bias and partisanship. 

The only named persons he holds accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic are Trump supporters, members of Trump’s administration and Donald Trump himself.  Democrats get a free pass.

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How the virus took hold in the U.S.

July 21, 2021

The following timeline is from Andy Slavitt’s Preventable.  It shows when there was a window of opportunity to prevent the COVID-19 virus from establishing itself in the United States, and when that window closed.

Nov. 17, 2019.  First COVID-19 case in Wuhan, China.

U.S. total cases: 0.

U.S. total deaths: 0.

U.S. daily cases: 0.

Jan. 20, 2020.  First COVID-19 case in the United States

U.S. total cases: 1

U.S. total deaths: 0.

U.S. daily cases: 1.

Jan. 29, 2020.  White House task force created.

U.S. total cases: 6.

U.S. total deaths: 0.

U.S. daily cases:  1.

Jan. 31, 2020.  First COVID-19 case in Italy.

U.S. total cases:  9.

U.S. total deaths:  0.

U.S. daily cases:  1.

Feb. 26, 2020.  First COVID-19 death in the United States

U.S. total cases: 16.

U.S. total deaths: 1.

U.S. daily cases: 1.

March 3, 2020.  100th U.S. case.

U.S. total cases: 100.

U.S. total deaths: 14.

U.S. daily cases: 50.

March 9, 2020.  1,000th U.S. case.

U.S. total cases: 1,000.

U.S. total deaths: 35.

U.S. daily cases: 292.

March 17, 2020.  10,000th U.S. case

U.S. total cases:  10,000.

U.S. total deaths: 123.

U.S. daily cases: 2,570.

March 20, 2020.  100th COVID-19 death in South Korea.

U.S. total cases:  24,100.

U.S. total deaths: 273.

U.S. daily cases: 6,090.

Why the U.S. failed to avert the pandemic (1)

July 20, 2021

Michael Lewis’s The Premonition tells stories of Americans who foresaw the danger of a pandemic and created workable plans and technologies to fight it, but in the end were brushed aside.

He throws light on U.S. unpreparedness to deal with pandemic disease and how COVID-19 was allowed to take hold when it could have been eradicated.

The stories of his heroes are oddly inspirational, even though they mostly failed in the end.  Their plans and inventions were usually not tried, or tried too late.  They were like Winston Churchill’s in a world in which he was never called to power and World War Two ended in stalemate.

Lewis’s book leaves off in the spring of 2020 when it became plain that a pandemic was not going to be averted.  Andy Slavitt’s Preventable takes up the story at that point. 

Slavitt’s provided a good overview of the Trump administration’s failures, but I learned little that was new to me.  Lewis’s book is more fragmentary, but his insights are deeper and his writing is much more readable.

The back stories of Lewis’s heroes are as illuminating as their responses to the pandemic.  I’ll just give the highlights of one of them.

Charity Dean was public health officer for Santa Barbara County, California.  In 2013. she was alerted that a student at the University of California at Santa Barbara had symptoms of meningitis B, a rare infectious disease that attacked healthy young people and could kill them in hours.  The test for the disease was inconclusive.

She asked the Centers for Disease Control what to do.  The CDC advised her to do nothing.  She didn’t have enough data.  She ordered the university medical authorities to test any student with a low-grade fever four the disease.  Three tested positive.  The CDC still advised her to do nothing.

Instead she ordered lockdowns of the fraternities and sororities and to gave the 1,200 students a prophylactic (preventive medicine).  Over the objections of the CDC, she thinned out the dormitories by sending some students into hotel rooms, shut down intramural sports and administered a vaccine that had been approved in Europe, but not by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

There were no more cases.  Two years later, the CDC drew up a plan for best practices for an outbreak of meningitis B, which included most of the things Dr. Dean had done.

Another time she was faced with the decision as to what to do about a home for the elderly, which was within the path of a possible mudslide that would kill them all. 

Meteorologists said there was a 20 percent chance of such a mudslide.  The medical director of the home said that maybe 5 percent of the 100 residents were so frail to they would die if they were moved.

Based on those figures, she ordered the evacuation.  Seven of the old people died.  There was no mudslide.

A short time later, Karen Smith, public health director for the state of California, asked Dean to become deputy state public health director. 

Dean asked, Why me?  Smith answered, Because you make decisions.

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Eyes on the prize

July 17, 2021

The [red-tailed] hawk is hunting, floating on the wind searching for small prey, its head perfectly still while its body stabilizes around it.  I could watch this clip on repeat for the rest of the day…so cool!

This is not just a thing that hawks do — see also This Owl Will Not Move His Head and The Eerie Stillness of Chicken Heads.  Birds: nature’s steadycams.

Source: Jason Kottke on kottke.org.

Matt Taibbi warns of the next financial crash

July 15, 2021

In this interview, Matt Taibbi pointed out that all the signals that warned of the 2008 financial crash are flashing red today.

A financialized economy based on borrowing.  Check.  Financial manipulation out of control.  Check.  “Too big to fail” institutions.  Check.

The response of the federal government to the 2008 financial crash was to bail out the Wall Street companies whose recklessness and fraud created the problem in the first place.

The excuse was that these financial institutions were so vital to the U.S. economy that their failure would bring down the rest of the U.S. economy.  But the bailout gave the speculators assurance that they need not fear either bankruptcy or prison.

Any company that is too big to fail or too complicated to regulate is too big and complicated to be allowed to exist.  The big Wall Street companies should be broken up so that the failure of any one of them will not jeopardize the economy. 

Instead they have been allowed to grow even bigger by mergers. The huge profits they make draws capital away from manufacturing and the rest of the real economy.  Taibbi summed up the situation very well.

He pointed out that the Federal Reserve System is conducting a more-or-less continuing bailout, pumping money into the economy by buying up assets every time the financial markets falter.

This means that, when the day of reckoning comes, it will be so big that bailouts will be impossible.

Why Trump supporters think 2020 was rigged

July 13, 2021

Last Friday a Twitter user named Darryl Cooper wrote a 35-tweet thread explaining the mindset of Trump supporters who think the 2020 election was rigged.

The thread was read verbatim on the Tucker Carlson show, and Cooper’s Twitter account went almost overnight from about 7,000 followers to about 70,000.

Glenn Greenwald invited him to write a summary of the thread for his Other Voices Substack account.  Although he did not agree 100 percent with Cooper, he thought Cooper’s viewpoint is important to understand. So do I.

Cooper said that for many years, most conservative Republicans, although they disagreed with the direction the country was moving, long had a basic confidence in the country’s institutions – the military, police and judiciary, the large corporations and even the press, which might be biased

This changed with the run-up to the 2016 elections and the victory Trump administration.  Intelligence agencies, Democratic politicians and the Washington press endorsed a conspiracy theory of Russian collusion which, it turned out, was based on opposition research conducted for the Hillary Clinton campaign.  Each of the claims were debunked one by one.

I happen to think Donald Trump was a terrible President.  But he was almost never attacked for the things he actually did wrong (nor was Hillary Clinton, for that matter).  Trump was attacked for his erratic statements, which didn’t matter, and for things he didn’t really do.

Cooper wrote:

Trump supporters know – I think everyone knows – that Donald Trump would have been impeached and probably indicted if Robert Mueller had proven that he’d paid a foreign spy to gather damaging information on Hillary Clinton from sources connected to Russian intelligence and disseminate that information in the press. Many of Trump’s own supporters wouldn’t have objected to his removal if that had happened.  [snip]

Trump supporters had gone from worrying the collusion might be real, to suspecting it might be fake, to seeing proof that it was all a scam. Then they watched as every institution – government agencies, the press, Congressional committees, academia – blew right past it and gas-lit them for another year.  [snip]

This is where people whose political identities have for decades been largely defined by a naive belief in what they learned in civics class began to see the outline of a Regime that crossed not only partisan, but all institutional boundaries. They’d been taught that America didn’t have Regimes, but what else was this thing they’d seen step out from the shadows to unite against their interloper president?

In the run-up to the 2020 campaign, the establishment press abandoned all pretense of neutrality, and, with the help of social media companies, imposed a news blackout on information that would help Donald Trump or hurt Joe Biden.

Is it any wonder, Cooper asked, that Trump supporters do not believe assurances from the Washington press corps and the Biden administration that the election was on the up-and-up?

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From faith to stoicism

July 11, 2021

Kenneth Copp was raised a Pentecostal Christian, but as a young man, he converted to the Amish faith because he thought it represented a deeper spirituality.

Later in life, reading the Bible with a critical eye, he came to disbelieve in the inerrancy of Scripture and then in the existence of an afterlife and of God.

His skepticism estranged him from his family and his community, but he still thought the Amish way of life is a good one and, in his lonely way, he continued to live by it.

The video above tells his story.  For background, click on Award at Camden International Film Festive: The Seeker by Lance Edmands.

(more…)

Procrastination

July 10, 2021

This is from Grant Snider’s Incidental Comics.

The news blackout on Julian Assange

July 8, 2021

Julian Assange is in prison, and may spend the rest of his life there, for the crime of telling the truth about U.S. government atrocities and blunders. 

What’s at stake in the Assange case is whether the U.S. government has unlimited power of secrecy, which pretty much the same thing as unlimited power.

If a government can commit crimes in secret, and make it a crime to reveal its crimes, then there is no limit to its power.  How can the citizens judge or vote on what they are forbidden to know about?

The video above gives background on legal issues in his case.  The articles linked below tell of recent developments, which have been ignored by most of the press.

LINKS

Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law by Chris Hedges for Scheerpost.

The Assange Case Isn’t About National Security, It’s About Narrative Control by Caitlin Johnstone [Added 7/9/2021]

Assange’s Persecution Highlights U.S. and U.K. Hypocrisy by the Courage Foundation.

Key witness in Assange case admits to lies in indictment by Bjartmar Oddur Peyr Alexandrsson and Gunnar Hrafin Jónsson for Studin, an Icelandic magazine.  These reporters broke an important news story that hasn’t been picked up by the mainstream press.

The Weird, Creepy Media Blackout on Recent Assange Revelations by Caitlin Johnstone.

FBI Fabrication Against Assange Falls Apart by Craig Murray.

Desperate to Get Assange, U.S. Promises Prison Time in Australia, not in U.S. Supermax  by Joe Lauria for Consortium News.

UK High Court grants US government right to appeal on Assange extradition by Laura Tiernan for the World Socialist Web Site.

Fair elections depend on canceling the filibuster

July 8, 2021

Democracy is impossible if the election process is corrupted. 

The greatest threat to the election process is voter suppression and other manipulations by Republican state governments. 

The proposed For the People Act provides a way to protect the integrity of the election process. 

But the act may not pass because of a Senate filibuster.

The top priority of the Biden administration therefore should be to get rid of the fiilibuster—both for the sake of the preservation of what’s left of American democracy, and for the sake of the future of the Democratic Party.

LINKS

The For the People Act Filibuster and the End of American Politics by Osita Nwanevu for The New Republic.  This is the key link.  The rest show that the threat is real.

Threats Against Election Officials Are a Threat to Democracy by Sue Halpern for The New Yorker.

Republicans Fall Short in Voting Rights Crackdown While Adding Hassle at the Polls by Ryan Teague Blackwith, Allison McCartney and Mira Roianaskul for Bloomberg News.

The Republican Party Has Turned Fascist And Is Now the Most Dangerous Threat in the World by Patrick Cockburn for Counterpunch.  I’d say one of the most dangerous threats.

Uncovered: Illegal Attacks on 384,000 Georgia Voters by Greg Palast.

Something Extraordinary Is Happening in Texas by Judd Legum for Popular Information.

The new censorship

July 8, 2021

Brett Weinstein’s DarkHorse podcast was kicked off YouTube for discussing the potential of a drug called Ivermectin as a COVID treatment and possible problems with the rMNA vaccines. 

YouTube said its decision was based on consultation with “local and global health authorities.”

If YouTube is exercising censorship based on guidance from government agencies, and these agencies can be captured by private companies, then corporate money can suppress private criticism.

LINK

If Private Platforms Use Government Guidelines to Police Content, Is That State Censorship? by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

The global rich and global climate change

July 7, 2021

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The great economic historian Adam Tooze wrote an eye-opening article about how the global rich (the richest 10%) are the chief drivers of climate change.  What he should have noted is that, at least in the immediate future, they will suffer the least from living on a hotter planet.

Tooze noted that their consumption causes nearly half of the world’s carbon emissions, and the global middle class (the next 40%) cause nearly all the rest.  The global poor (the bottom 50%) are responsible for hardly any, yet they will be the hardest hit.

He said we need to think less about which nations are the chief cause of the problem, and more about the different economic classes.  Global warming has been affected even more by the super-rich (the top 1%) in the OPEC nations and in China than the super-rich in North America.

China accounts for half the increase in global emissions from 1990 to 2015.  One-sixth of the total global increase comes from China’s rich and one third from China’s middle class. 

The betterment of material living standards in China during that period is one of the world’s great positive achievements.  But it also, according to Tooze, is a big contributor to what may be the world’s greatest problem.

It is not just that the richest 10 percent consume so much.  They are the ones who make the investment decisions.  This is true not only of private investment decisions, but of government investment, to the extent that it is financed by borrowing.

Add to that the fact that the richest 10 percent are the dominant political class in most countries.

Adam Tooze did not spell out the implications of this, but they are important.

The richest 10 percent, along with the global middle class, will try to meet the challenge of global warming by investing in alternative technologies that will maintain their material standard of living.

The problem is that making windmills, solar panels or electric vehicles is energy-intensive and uses up non-renewable resources.  Probably there is a net benefit at some point; I’m not qualified to say. The point is, you have to burn a lot of fossil fuels to create the alternatives to fossil fuels. 

What the global rich, and the global middle class, are not considering, is austerity for themselves.  Nobody that I know of advocates giving up air travel, for example. 

(more…)

‘Domestic terrorism’ war planned before Jan. 6.

July 6, 2021

The USA Patriot Act was drafted, and in desk drawers, before the 9/11 attacks that supposedly were the reason for passing it.

The same is true of “war on domestic terrorism” legislation.  It was in the works before the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol. 

Neither of these “wars” were reactions to events.  They were the result of long-term plans.

As Kit Knightly of the OffGuardian reported back on January 8:

Soon-to-be-President Joe Biden promised a new “domestic terrorism bill” back in November, according to the Wall Street Journal.

That is why you’re seeing so much usage of the phrase “domestic terrorism” in the last couple of days. It’s the meme-phrase. The primary talking point for this whole exercise. It was underlined in all the memos sent out to all the media outlets.

That’s why Joe Biden went to such lengths to distinguish “domestic terrorists” from “protesters” in his speech following the riots.

That’s why the Council on Foreign Relations had an interview with a “counter-terrorism and national security expert” published within 24 hours of the incident, in which he spends 4 paragraphs arguing that the people who “stormed the capitol” were domestic terrorists.

That’s why the Washington Post has got an article dedicated to “lawmakers and experts” arguing that the Capitol Hill protest was an act of “domestic terrorism.” And so have Vox.  And Mother Jones.

That’s why ABC had an article about how “domestic terrorism and hate crimes” were a growing problem in America…a week before the riot took place.

And that’s why #TrumpisaDomesticTerrorist is trending on Twitter.

Georgetown University, a well-known spook college, published a paper in September 2020 titled the “The Need for a Specific Law Against Domestic Terrorism,” and op-ed pieces bemoaning the lack of such a law have been dotted through the press going back to last summer and even late 2019.

There was one published yesterday [Jan. 7], in which a “senior FBI official” says “more could have been done” if there had been a “specific law outlawing” domestic terrorism.

Knightly also had an excellent analysis a few days ago of the sweeping nature of the administration’s domestic terrorism strategy.

I don’t have any reason to think that either the 9/11 attacks or the 1/6 riots were anything other than what they appeared to be.

But both events were very convenient to powers that be, for stripping away civil liberties and drumming up support for the surveillance police state. 

And if they hadn’t happened, some other excuse would have been found for the continuing “global war on terror” and the new “domestic war on terror.”

What is the definition of “terror”?  Anything the government wants it to be.

LINKS

Prepare for the new “Domestic Terrorism Bill” by Kit Knightly for OffGuardian on Jan. 8, 2021

Inside Biden’s new “domestic terrorism” strategy by Kit Knightly for OffGuardian on July 1, 2021.

E. B. White on “the meaning of democracy”

July 4, 2021

E.B. White wrote the following in the Notes & Comments section of The New Yorker on July 3, 1943.

We received a letter from the Writers’ War Board the other day asking for a statement on “The Meaning of Democracy.”  It presumably is our duty to comply with such a request, and it is certainly our pleasure.

Surely the Board knows what democracy is.

It is the line that forms on the right. 

It is the don’t in don’t shove. 

It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. 

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. 

It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere.

Democracy is a letter to the editor.

Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth.

It is an idea which hasn’t been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad.

It’s the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee.

Democracy is a request from a War Board, in the middle of a morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is.

Source: E. B. White in The New Yorker

Sheep herding viewed from above

July 3, 2021

I admire the professionalism of these hard-working sheep dogs.

The video was shot from a drone.

Corporate dems oppose Medicare for all

July 1, 2021

Nina Turner, who’s running for Congress in the Democratic primary on northeast Ohio, is under attack by the corporate wing of the Democratic Party for supporting Medicare for All.

Pharmaceutical industry lobbyists are backing her main primary opponent, Shontel Brown.  So are Hillary Clinton and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, both big beneficiaries of donations from Big Pharma.

As my friend Bill Harvey says, corporate Democrats are not “moderates” or “centrists.”  Their agenda is to block the opponents of big business.

LINK

Dems Launch Proxy War on Medicare for All by David Sirota and Julia Rock for The Daily Poster.