The Holy War Continues: Yemen hit back in a big way

Yemen was one of many nations that threw off oppressive governments during the Arab Spring of 2011.  The slim sunni muslim majority (55% of the population) took over from the previous regime, but the shia minority (45%) have seized the opportunity to seek independence against a weak government.  Predictably, Saudi Arabia (a/k/a Saudi Barbaria) backed the sunni regime and Iran backs the shia minority.  With the aid of military weapons sold by the US, UK and France, the Saudis have engaged in a protracted war of genocide, supporting the sunni majority in Yemen’s civil war.  As always, those who support one type of foreign meddling (i.e. US backing of SA’s actions) hypocritically oppose other countries’ meddling in the same situation (i.e. the US opposes Iran’s involvement).

Yemen’s Houthi (shia) rebels have struck a massive blow, crippling Saudi Arabia’s oil production.  The effects will be immediate and worldwide, emphasis mine:

Attacks on Saudi oil facilities knock out half the kingdom’s supply

(Reuters) – Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group said it attacked two plants at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry on Saturday, knocking out more than half the Kingdom’s output, in a move expected to send oil prices soaring and increase tensions in the Middle East.

The attacks will cut the kingdom’s output by 5.7 million barrels per day (bpd), according to a statement from state-run oil company Saudi Aramco, or more than 5% of global oil supply.

[…]

While the Houthis claimed responsibility for the attack, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put the blame squarely on Iran, writing on Twitter that there was “no evidence the attacks came from Yemen.”

Yes, of course we believe you, Mike Pompous.  And the US’s intentional drone strikes on Yemeni civilians is “not terrorism”.

How will the world react to the Houthi’s successful strike?  My suspicion is oil-addicted countries will behave the same way they did about Somalia: focusing on the “pirates” and ignoring the crimes perpetrated by other nations (e.g. fishing illegally and dumping garbage in Somalia’s waters).

How Somalia’s Fishermen Became Pirates

The waters they [Somali fisherman] sought to protect, says Lehr, were “an El Dorado for fishing fleets of many nations.” A 2006 study published in the journal Sciencepredicted that the current rate of commercial fishing would virtually empty the world’s oceanic stocks by 2050. Yet, Somalia’s seas still offer a particularly fertile patch for tuna, sardines and mackerel, and other lucrative species of seafood, including lobsters and sharks.

[…]

Beyond illegal fishing, foreign ships have also long been accused by local fishermen of dumping toxic and nuclear waste off Somalia’s shores. A 2005 United Nations Environmental Program report cited uranium radioactive and other hazardous deposits leading to a rash of respiratory ailments and skin diseases breaking out in villages along the Somali coast. According to the U.N., at the time of the report, it cost $2.50 per ton for a European company to dump these types of materials off the Horn of Africa, as opposed to $250 per ton to dispose of them cleanly in Europe.

Yemen’s bombing of Saudi oil production is a tactic that any other nation would engage in during war or terrorism against another country (e.g. cutting off Nazi Germany’s access to oil during World War II).  The goal is to make life difficult for civilians, to waste resources on rebuilding infrastructure.  When the US blew up the Al-Shifa factory in Sudan in 1998, they knew it was producing medicines, not chemical weapons.  The world’s demand for cheap oil may lead unscrupulous nations to rationalize further support of the Saudi genocide of Yemenis.  If the war criminals in Washington get their way, it will be an excuse for an invasion of Iran.

 

The Clock Stopped: Amazingly, Cheetolini has done the right thing about vaping

Trumplethinskin has said the FDA should ban “flavoured” vaping products.  His “ban”, however, is only against flavoured nicotine packs, not vaping in general.  That won’t be affected, not when Altria (formerly Philip Morris) invested US$1.2 billion in Juul and invested who-knows-how-many millions on republicans.  The FDA has sent out warning letters to Juul and others, holding them accountable for their actions.  Now let’s see Annoying Orange do something about enacting gun control.

The owners of Juul were liars from the beginning.  Their “flavoured” poison was always aimed at children, despite their lies and denials.  Every examination of their advertising confirms this.  They used “barely legal” 19 years olds to market vaping to kids, in much the same way pornographers market “barely legal” 19 years olds to middle aged men.  The FTC has fined google US$170 million for targeted advertising aimed at children and data collection, but the this should include a ban on all nicotine-based products online, the same way all tobacco advertising has been banned from TV, radio and print media.

The number of nicotine addicts worldwide went from five million in 2011 to nearly fifty million today, thanks in large part to advertising to children, and to addicts’ rationalizations of their selfish behaviour.  They say, “I’m not smoking, I’m vaping!” as they smoke in places where it’s illegal or on private property where the owners don’t allow smoking.

“Vaping devices” are nothing more than portable hookah pipes, and the addicts are vaper brains.  It’s still smoking, and it’s still toxic both to the user and the environement (re: plastic waste, batteries).  All tobacco products should be banned since they are a massive contributor to climate change and toxification of farmland. Once land has been used for growing tobacco, you can’t grow food there. It’s single crop farming, not rotational, so the soil becomes depleted of nutrients and desertification begins without massive overuse of fertilizers and pesticides. The tobacco plant is one species that humans should try to render extinct or at least criminalize its use outside of science.

 

 

 

 

Moon Shot: And plenty more pictures than that

Royal Museums Greenwich has announced their Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2019 winners, and some of the photos are spectacular.  Some of the best come from kids.  Let the pics speak for themselves, I can’t do them justice.

I’m including my favourites, the photographers’ names and image titles above the pictures.  There are more below the fold:

“Into The Shadow”, by László Francsics

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When Religion Annoys: Today was Mid-Autumn Festival

Mid-Autumn Festival is known by several names across several Asian countries.  Taiwan often calls it Moon Festival, both Koreas call it Chuseok (“Autumn eve”), Japan calls it Tsukimi (“Moon Viewing”), while both mainland China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other countries have their own names.  Most countries that celebrate it have a single day national holiday, but it’s the second biggest annual holiday in Korea (after Chinese New Year). They get three days off work and school.

This link tells the festival’s origins.  In the video, a woman is holding a rabbit.  Asian countries don’t see a “man in the moon”, they see a rabbit.

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Point Made: Only white cishetero people are allowed to use self-defence

In 2012, 16 year old Jorge Saavedra stabbed Dylan Nuno between eight and twelve times, killing him, after suffering years of abuse at school. The school took no action to prevent the bullying. Saavedra used Florida’s “stand your ground” law as his defence, and was deemed to have “acted reasonably” and faced no prosecution. Saavedra is white and cisgender heterosexual.

In September 2019, Abel Cedeno has been falsely convicted of manslaughter after stabbing two bullies, one of which died from the injury. Cedeno is a Person of Colour and gay. Like Saavedra, Cedeno suffered daily harassment, bullying and assault which the school did nothing to prevent, and may have even encouraged. INjustice Michael Gross, an incompetent and inept judge, refused to treat Cedeno as a child even though by law he was not a legal adult when the incident happened.  The years of bullying were the crime, not the stabbing, so Cedeno was a child.

Gross sentenced Cedeno as an adult to fourteen years in prison. It’s Cyntoia Brown all over again.

Ignoring Pleas for Leniency, Judge Sentences Gay Former Student Abel Cedeno to 14 Years for Fatal Stabbing of His Alleged Bully

Abel Cedeno, who stabbed a fellow Bronx high school student to death and seriously wounded another during a fight in September 2017 after what he said was repeated racist and homophobic bullying over his perceived sexuality, was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Tuesday after being convicted of manslaughter in July. He received a second sentence of eight years for the second assault. The two will run concurrently.

Cedeno had just turned 18 when he fatally stabbed 15-year-old Matthew McCree and seriously wounded 16-year-old Ariane Laboy.

The NYT reports: “The fatal attack was the first in a New York City school in more than 20 years. It drew heightened attention because of the circumstances surrounding it. Mr. Cedeno said he had suffered years of physical and emotional abuse because he was gay and then lashed out in self-defense against students who had been afflicting him.”

What To Do, What To Do….

Moral quandries suck.

There’s a 20-something lesbian TERF in the UK who is terminally ill.  I have never contacted her before, and I shall not name her here.

Do I write and offer commiserations, or do I say nothing?  Do I put arguments aside and show basic kindness, or risk a TERF backlash?

Now is not the time for confrontation and debunking ideology.

Sing Along: “Glory To Hong Kong” is a rousing national anthem

If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to Hong Kong’s new national anthem, “願榮光歸香港” (“Glory to Hong Kong”).  Citizens and protesters have embraced it, with crowds singing it in public not long after it was made.

I suspect part of why it’s being accepted so quickly is not just the lyrics and meaning but also the melody.  It’s a single octave song, much like “O Canada” and “God Save The _____”, easily sung by anyone.  It’s rousing and emotional, just what the doctor ordered.

Listen to the Song That Hong Kong’s Youthful Protesters Are Calling Their ‘National Anthem’

Hong Kong’s protestors want greater autonomy from mainland China, a grievance they’re expressing through a song some are calling their new “national anthem.”

“Glory to Hong Kong” has spread like wildfire: on a quiet Monday night, hundreds of people spread out across four floors of a suburban shopping mall to sing it. The song has been watched on YouTube over a million times, and at least half a dozen English translations, and a Japanese iteration, have surfaced.

The composer is Thomas, a full-time musician in his mid-twenties who asked to be identified only by his first name. He says he recruited performers, as well as people to help with the mixing and arrangement, on Hong Kong’s Reddit-like forum LIHKG, after sharing a demo version last month.

“Music is a tool for unity,” he tells TIME. “I really felt like we needed a song to unite us and boost our morale.”

《願榮光歸香港》正式進行曲版 《Glory to Hong Kong》Formal March Edition:

Monopoly Sucks: And the latest edition doesn’t change that

Monopoly is the worst game ever, bar none.  It’s only fun playing against a computer because you can’t humiliate a computer, and you can rage quit without guilt or embarrassment.

Hasbro “thinks” they are making a social statement by creating a version of the game which gives more money to women and girl players both at the start and each time they pass go. From the USA Today link:

Instead of investing in real estate properties like the classic game, players invest in inventions and innovations made by women, including chocolate chip cookies, bulletproof vests, solar heating and ladies’ modern shapewear.

“We made sure that this felt authentic and was a fun game families could play and learn about these things that they love and are a part of their life that they didn’t know were invented by women,” Boswinkel said.

As I’ve seen asked by others elsewhere, Why is the game still packaged with only white faces?  Why does it not address privilege, redlining, systematic racism?

I want to see other rule changes.  Rules for white players:

  • They start with $1200 and get $100 for passing go
  • They must rent-to-own properties (paying 20% of the value for 20 turns)
  • They are only allowed to buy violet, light blue, purple and orange properties, no railroads
  • Players sent to jail forfeit their most expensive property which is auctioned off
  • Mortgages cost twice the price listed on the card
  • They may not own sets, even if they own all properties (thus no houses or hotels)
  • Two doubles in a row, and you go to jail

Rules for Black players and People of Colour players:

  • Owed rent can be paid up to five turns late
  • Properties can be purchased with interest-free loans, no fixed payment period
  • There is no “Luxury Tax”

You could create other similar rules.  Then make people play in a mixed group.

Sown and Reaped: Falwell knows full well he’s a hypo-christian

Petty hypo-christians and their “christian piety”.  As I’ve said elsewhere, the more publicly prudish, the more privately prurient.

When stories broke this summer about Jerry Falwell Jr.’s “loans” (read: hush money) to poolboys, I was expecting sexual harassment, his wife having an affair, or possibly, Falwell Jr. being a closeted bisexual.  But the schadenfreude of recent days just warms my heart.  First the exposure of their petty fiefdom, and now the full exposure of their hypocrisy and indulgences, telling others how to live while blithely ignoring their own religion’s rules.  Why am I not shocked that Michael Cohen, Cheetolini’s personal fixer, was involved in trying to plug the leaks?

Of all the Falwell family, only John (Jerry’s brother, son of the Richard Paul lookalike) is likely to come away smelling like a rose…unless or until his own personal proclivities come to light.  The latter was pretty much forced out of the university, business and finances, left to run the megachurch.

One might be tempted to ask, “What will it take for fundy christians in the US to finally stop supporting hypo-christian leaders, Trump, republicans?” but the simple answer is nothing will sway them.  They are interested solely in power, nor morality.  Anything that enables and keeps power solely in the hands of white christians is and will be excusable – rape, death camps, theft, war, whatever.  They are the useful idiots, the lynch mob, the trumpenproles.  The outing and shaming of the Falwell family won’t change anything.  If anything, they’ll whine, “fake news!” and claim “the media is anti-christian!” even if it’s Fox Nuisance reporting it.

No, Thanks: I won’t buy apple’s next piece of junk either

We are a week away from apple’s next generation of unusable, unrepairable, unreliable and unaffordable phones, the iphone 11. The iphone and galaxy phones are not “flagship phones”, they are flagging phones (languid, weak, dwindling).

The video below discusses apple and samsung’s primary reason to remove the headphone jack: to force customers to buy overpriced “airpods” or whatever samsung labels them. Apple’s feeble and nonsensical argument is “a lack of internal space” and that headphones are “antiquated”.   Key points from the video:

3:00 – Headphones aren’t just about sound quality, reliability matters. Bluetooth sometimes doesn’t work, 3.5mm jacks always do.

3:20 – If I need mobility, I will play music through the phone’s speaker.  I do that when riding a bicycle so I can hear the traffic.

4:10 – According to Tom’s Guide, the iphone 11 will have THREE camera lenses. Remove two and you have enough room for a jack.

4:30 – This isn’t about “premium phones”, it’s about change for the sake of change and the illusion of “exclusivity” and “superiority”.

6:25 – Only apple makes the US$150 “airpods”.  Dozens of companies make high quality earbud headphones for US$15-25 per pair.

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Service Denied: Where does privilege end and freedom of speech begin?

The video below, from August 2019, asks whether and how websites can be shut down for objectionable content and the actions of their users.

To their credit, website hosting and domain registration companies are genuinely thinking about the consequences of shutting down websites, are trying not to advocated a political position (unlike the pro-rightwing extremism of reddit, fascistbook and twitter).  They are asking for acceptable and reasonable guidelines for them to work within.  If speech that is hateful can be silenced by democratic governments (e.g. 8chan, stormfront), then peaceful speech can be silenced by oppressive governments too (e.g. antifa, environmentalists, BDS).

This is why I like Canada’s laws on hate speech and not the US’s.  There is a well-defined line between acceptable speech and criminal speech, one that doesn’t exist in the US.  The fact that almost everyone who opposes Canada’s laws is a violent political extremist and racist tells me it’s probably a good law.

But…”dextriarchy”?  Talk about biased and ableist language.

About Face: Revenge porn isn’t the only danger

Revenge porn, as most know, is the misuse of private photos and videos to embarrass or shame people publicly.  Distributing personal nude photos and sexual videos without permission is a horrible invasion of privacy (because many societies and countries are still uptight about the human body).  But what happens if people can create fake photos and videos and distribute them as revenge porn?

The “deepfake” app Zao allows people to realistically photoshop their faces onto the bodies of celebrities.  But that’s voluntary – the same could be involuntarily, unethical people placing other people’s faces onto images from porpography.  Who needs to steal privately filmed porn when you can create fake porn and humiliate people?  The company that makes the software has a questionable “terms of use” clause that might let them use people’s pictures in perpetuity – including people whose photos were submitted without their consent.

More below the fold.

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Play Faster: Introducing “Reduced Scra66le”

Excuse the intentional misspelling to avoid copyright searches.

I enjoy a good game of Scrabble, which is a nice combination of skill and luck.  It’s also a fundamentally “nice” game in that everyone plays until the end.  You don’t eliminate players from the game, and the game does not encourage unpleasant behaviour, unlike games such as Monopoly.

But there are three problems with holding a game of Scrabble: (1) finding players, (2) travelling with the game is difficult, and (3) lost pieces can’t be replaced.  There’s not much one can do about the first except meet new people, but something can be done about the game.  Read on….

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Still Alive: COBOL turns 60 years old this month

Depending on your point of view, COmmon Business Oriented Language, or COBOL for short, is either a dinosaur of computing or the backbone of modern business.

It’s both.  Despite advances in other languages in terms of speed, power and functionality, COBOL continues to be used throughout the business world for accounting, banking, and many other systems.  And it will continue to be used for the foreseeable future simply because of the cost of redesign and testing.

COBOL turns 60: Why it will outlive us all

[T]here needed to be an easier language for programming those hulking early mainframes. That language, named in September 1959, became Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL).

The credit for coming up with the basic idea goes not to Grace Hopper, although she contributed to the language and promoted it, but to Mary Hawes. She was a Burroughs Corporation programmer who saw a need for a computer language. In March 1959, Hawes proposed that a new computer language be created. It would have an English-like vocabulary that could be used across different computers to perform basic business tasks.

[…]

Business IT experts agreed, and in May 1959, 41 computer users and manufacturers met at the Pentagon. There, they formed the Short Range Committee of the Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL).

[…]

By that September, COBOL’s basic syntax was nailed down, and COBOL programs were running by the summer of 1960. In December 1960, COBOL programs proved to be truly interoperable by running on computers from two different vendors. COBOL was on its way to becoming the first truly commercial programming language.

COBOL compilers (COBOL 85 and 2014 compliant) are still available and in development, with free versions such as GnuCOBOL, COBOL for GCC, and commercial compilers like NetCOBOL and COBOL-IT, and IBM’s COBOL for AIX.  You can also find tutorials on sites such as Tutorial Ride, Tutorials Point, Mainframes Tech Help, and others.

Businesses still need COBOL programmers, but the average age is a decade higher than your typical C++ programmer, some still in demand even into their 70s.  If you want to set yourself apart (or cripple your career, depending on your point of view) it might be worth learning and mastering COBOL.  It’s not just a mainframe language, it’s a cloud language.

COBOL still not dead yet, taking on the cloud

Common wisdom says that COBOL should have died years ago, but the language that sits at the heart of financial systems is still around, and making moves into the cloud.

“It’s almost impossible for most people, in our day-to-day lives, to avoid a COBOL application,” says Stuart McGill, chief technology officer and general manager of Borland for Micro Focus. “COBOL applications tend to be the ones we can’t really do without.”

Approaching 30 years with the company, it’s fair to say that McGill is familiar with the ins and outs of one of the oldest programming languages around — a language that still sits at the core of the financial world.

“Normally most transactions that we go through everyday would be supported by COBOL applications, still are, have been for 30-40 years, probably still will be for 10 to 20 at least,” McGill says.

My college had VAX 11/780 and 4500 computers, and COBOL was one of the languages we learnt. Even in 1990 it was archaic, but we also knew that millions of lines of COBOL already existed. Businesses weren’t about to throw away something that still worked and would be cost prohibitive to replace.

Besides, it was fun.

Canberra Cowers: First silence, then participation

Silence doesn’t just mean consent, it often means complicity.  Or to quote Martin Luther King Jr., “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

In July, during pro-Hong Kong, pro-democracy protests in Australia, the government and police turned a blind eye to intimidation and threats by propa-Panda thugs.  Physical assault and throwing of fecal matter was recorded on video.

In September, the Australian government is now using protests in Hong Kong as a pretext for unecessary screening and denial of entry to Hong Kong citizens.

If they’re not cowering and kowtowing to Beijing by harassing Hong Kong citizens, it certainly looks like it.

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