A repugnant and short-sighted “what if?” scenario

Have you ever wondered how long the US military would last in a war against the rest of the world? Let’s ask a a delusional military fantasist!

What would happen if the U.S. found itself facing off against the rest of the world? Not just its traditional rivals, but what if it had to fight off its allies like the United Kingdom, France, and South Korea as well?

In short, America would stomp them. Especially if it pulled back to the continental U.S. and made its stand there.

I guess we’re going to pretend Vietnam never happened by imagining that we bunker down behind our borders with a wall of steel facing outwards. The author then laughs triumphantly about all our aircraft carriers, our F-22s (What? Not the F-35?), our Patriot missiles that will shoot down their missiles, our wonderful tanks and our superior infantry. It’s kind of disgusting. What he’s proposing is the North Korea strategy: us against the world! Close our borders! Everyone is our enemy, we must destroy them, and we can!

He imagines our forces as they are, except all conveniently concentrated right here at home, and the rest of the world as it is, only generaled by idiots who decide to throw everything they’ve now got right at us, all at once. That’s not how it would happen.

I can believe the first part happening, now that our government has wrecked itself. I can picture an increasingly paranoid, isolationist America bottling itself up and wallowing in propaganda, treating the rest of the world as useless and unimportant. Yeah, we could get that far. Of course, our triumphalist author who is busy counting tanks isn’t bothering to consider economics and the importance of world-wide communication to advancements in science and technology. He doesn’t care that we don’t have the industry to support his military machine without external cooperation and trade.

He also doesn’t consider a realistic response by the rest of the world. They would treat the US like we now treat North Korea, a pariah nation that is going to be confined and allowed to rot within the ruins of its own economy, while keeping a wary eye out for outburst of externally directed violence. If we are a real military threat rather than a bunch of mad-eyed fanatics hunkered down behind our Border Walls™, they’re not going to just throw their currently smaller forces at us. They’re going to build with the resources of a world economy. They’re going to wait for ingrown, decaying nation to spend itself on corruption and waste and stupid decision-making, like the kind that would have put us into this situation in the first place.

Like the kind that allows military day dreamers like that author to play victorious war games in their head. Our security does not rest in more and bigger guns, it resides in greater cooperation and trust. We can’t stand alone, and what I find scary is that there are people who think a bunch of M1 Abrams tanks is all we need to be safe and happy, and that military porn is reassuring.

Bah, humbug

It’s cold and dark. My wife has appropriated my robe and my slippers, so I’ve been shuffling about the house in bare feet. I got up at 5am despite having no kids running about. I’m coming down with a sore throat. Donald Trump is tweeting about his major accomplishment of removing the world-wide prohibition against saying Merry Christmas.

The only good Christmas greeting is

Bah, humbug.

The world is run by fools and venal idiots, and I don’t want to hear about no fucking joy.

Where’s Libertarian Gavin?

The latest company to be shaken up by revelations about corporate culture is Vice Media, maker of edgy documentaries, and a booming 4+ billion dollar organization. It turns out the company is run by assholes. This thread is full of enraging stories from insiders. It was so bad that the founders had to openly admit to it and apologize.

Cultural elements from our past, dysfunction and mismanagement were allowed to flourish unchecked. That includes a detrimental ‘boys’ club’ culture that fostered inappropriate behaviour that permeated throughout the company.

From the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive.

Whoa. It must be awful if the company doesn’t even try denial or making a dodgy not-pology.

Only there’s one thing missing here: I read through the articles in the New York Times and the Guardian, and they mention two of the three founders of Vice, Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi, but they never mention Gavin McInnes. I know McInnes was rather thoroughly excised from the company years ago, but you know he had to have played a part in establishing Vice’s culture. You know, racist, sexist, dumbass McInnes.

McInnes wasn’t a silent, passive cog in the VICE machine, either. While Shane Smith may have become its public face, McInnes is its soul. In the early years, he almost single-handedly wrote entire issues of the magazine, using multiple pseudonyms to make it feel like a fully-fledged publication rather than the amateurish, DIY operation that it was in reality. Smith and Alvi sold ad space and handled logistics. But that snide, facetious tone that VICE is so renowned for today is McInnes’s creation, as is the legendary DOs & DON’Ts column and just about everything else that made it worth reading. Without him, there would probably be no VICE as we know it today.

What I found most interesting about that article on McInnes, though, is the sharp and accurate deconstruction of Libertarianism, a toxic ideology that thoroughly saturates many of the worst people in politics, the media, and social media.

While the Christian right wants to moralize and snoop on people in their bedrooms to prevent them from having anything but very vanilla, Jesus-celebrating sex purely for the purposes of procreation, libertarians rarely tell other people how to live. But this shouldn’t be mistaken for tolerance: while liberals believe in maximizing collective freedom for everybody in society through laws and government policy, even if that means sacrificing a degree of personal freedom, libertarians want to selfishly maximize their individual freedom by eroding the state.

There’s a reason why most prominent libertarians are straight, well-off white men: because they don’t need government to intervene on their behalf. They occupy a default position of privileged dominance that has historically infringed upon women, the poor and minorities.

They like to paint government as an oppressive force, because it has taken away some of their privilege – although they prefer to call it “freedom” for propaganda purposes, in the same way that former slave-owning states objected to the Civil Rights Act on the basis of “state rights,” rather than “white supremacy” – and redistributed it across society. Although its adherents would argue otherwise, American libertarianism is pretty much just run-of-the-mill conservatism only without such actively fascistic tendencies. That’s not to say that those tendencies aren’t there, they’re just not so overt.

Libertarians don’t want to actively discriminate against any particular group, at least not officially, but they do want to dismantle government-imposed safeguards that protect those vulnerable to discrimination and make society fairer – a clear sign that people who drift towards libertarianism do so because they have likely never felt oppressed, marginalized or exploited.

There is no element of Gavin’s libertarianism that contradicts the drugs, the sex, the gay people, or anything else that defined VICE during his time at the publication. In fact, all throughout his 14-year tenure, he was known for making politically outrageous remarks that regularly drew accusations of racism, homophobia and every other sort of indictment that right-wingers contend with on a regular basis.

The articles also don’t discuss Smith’s or Alvi’s politics, but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess they lean libertarian, too. It’s exactly the kind of ideology that allows offenses to run rampant, just as we’re seeing now.

These people are embarrassments, part MCCXVII

Our president, and Stephen Miller, are colossal fucking bigots.

Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.

More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.

Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They all have AIDS, he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.

Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never go back to their huts in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.

If the impeachment doesn’t happen soon, when does the revolution begin? Because, you must remember,
a substantial part of the electorate, the part that voted for him, probably agrees with those statements.

People are really bad at assessing risk

From Statistic of the Year:

It’s disgraceful. We need to do a better job of prioritizing damage reduction. To that end, I’m starting a foundation to lobby for an immediate ban of all toddlers. ALL toddlers, not just the armed ones. You never know when a harmless toddler might pick up a gun and be radicalized.

I might be willing to make an exception for toddlers who are official card-carrying members of the NRA, since you wouldn’t want to penalize the responsible armed toddlers, after all. Send your non-tax-exempt, irresponsible donations to paypal.me/pzmyers, where I’ll see to it that a certain toddler-to-be gets what’s coming to him.

“non-GMO” is a marketing scam, nothing more

So you may have seen this label around, from the Non-GMO project — it’s a kind of seal of approval by unscientific hoodoo artists to declare food “safe”, unlike those foods that were generated by intentional, directed genetic modification. They prefer their crops randomly mutagenized, you know, the natural way, as Herman Muller intended.

Although, truth be told, this whole nonsense began as a marketing scheme by a couple of big grocery stores, who discovered a clever way to slander the products sold by competing chains and set themselves up as an elite source. Slap an orange butterfly on a box and you can sell it for more money!

Now, of course, they continue to spread lies. The latest is the false claim that going non-GMO frees farmers from onerous patents and restores “traditional” farming practices. It doesn’t. The Plant Patent Act was passed in 1930, which gave patent rights to certain kinds of propagated plants, and the Plant Variety Protection Act in 1970 expanded on that. The first GMOs were approved in 1994. 1994 is later than 1930 and 1970.

In the 19th century, we also acquired hybrid seed — where the seed company maintained parental stocks, bred them together, and sold the more productive heterozygous seed. The farmer would not be able to propagate his hybrid stock. These were produced and sold in the 1920s. 1920 is before 1994.

There are lots of seeds that are patented and sold that are non-GMO.

What’s going on with this GMO labeling crap is a dishonest game. It’s false advertising. Food that is GMO is not less safe or dangerous or less nutritious, and food that is non-GMO is not “pure” or “natural” or better for you.

The herbicide tolerant Clearfield canola was bred using chemical mutagenesis, in which plants are exposed to chemicals that induce genetic mutations. Desirable results that occur using this technique, like the Clearfield trait, are commercialized. Products made with crops from the seeds shown in Kucher’s image are eligible for the Non-GMO Project butterfly seal (though the herbicide is prohibited on certified organic farms).

You should be aware of how your food is made, where it comes from, and there are agricultural practices that are bad (overuse of antibiotics is just one of them). But that butterfly seal is a fraudulent marketing scheme that has metastasized into a tool to suppress a powerful and safe technique for producing better food crops. Avoid it. Don’t give these con artists more power over agriculture.

When will people wake up to the truth about Elon Musk?

He’s a PT Barnum. He’s a know-nothing. His latest: Musk thinks he knows more than transit experts.

The fracas began when Wired on Thursday published comments made by Musk at an artificial intelligence conference earlier this month. Musk said that public transport is painful. It sucks. Why do you want to get on something with a lot of other people, that doesn’t leave where you want it to leave, doesn’t start where you want it to start, doesn’t end where you want it to end?

Musk further said that using public transit meant rubbing shoulders with like a bunch of random strangers, one of who might be a serial killer. . . that’s why people like individualized transport, that goes where you want, when you want.

In other words, he rejects society, which requires you to cooperate with other people, that sometimes demands that you make compromises with others. And that’s the motivation behind his absurd proposal to rip up existing infrastructure in cities and replace it with a network of tubes to deliver his cars to places without him ever having to get out and see another human being.

I guess when you get a billion dollars you are expected to automatically become intelligent.

OK, I still think he’s a fraud, but I’m going to back off on the comparison to PT Barnum, since Barnum was a truly horrible, awful person.

He basically bought an elderly black woman.

Growing up in the antebellum North, Barnum took his first real dip into showmanship at age 25 when he purchased the right to “rent” an aged black woman by the name of Joice Heth, whom an acquaintance was trumpeting around Philadelphia as the 161-year-old former nurse of George Washington.

You think that’s bad? How about this:

When she died in February 1836, rather than let her go in peace, Barnum had one more act up his sleeve: he drummed up a final public spectacle, hosting a live autopsy in a New York Saloon. There, 1500 spectators paid 50 cents to see the dead woman cut up, “revealing” that she was likely half her purported age.

I don’t think Musk is quite that bad.