Monday, December 24, 2018

Tossing Bullion in the Trash

The other day I did a minor culling of clothes, discarding a few pieces with small but unfixable (by my standards) flaws such as "The front of this garment has a grease spot the size of a dime" or "there's a tiny hole in one part of the fabric." So I won't donate these items to a thrift store, and I didn't even add them to the ragbag because that's already full; I threw them all away.

Which is no big deal for a modern American (especially one who pays thrift-store rather than retail prices for clothes), but for most of humanity's time on earth, throwing away that much usable fabric would've been as extravagantly wasteful as a person nowadays saying "Yeah, I found some gold bullion while cleaning house, and threw it away because I have no room for it." Had I the skills, inclination and time I could've reworked those damaged clothes into a couple complete new outfits for myself, or a patchwork quilt or part of a rag rug or some handkerchiefs or curtains or [insert list of useful textile items here]. But with today's textile technology, there's no point in me investing the huge amount of time this would require.

Any given yard of textile today is literal orders of magnitude cheaper than it would've been back when every bit of fabric had to be made my hand -- spinning loose plant or animal fibers into threads, weaving individual threads into cloth -- yet if you compare contemporary western standards of dress with those of past eras, it's strange to think that back in the day, a given outfit (at least for warm-weather conditions) required far more fabric than a given outfit today. Thinking about what I'd need to make myself a single summer dress in the 19th century -- today that same amount of fabric would make me an entire long-sleeved shirt and long-legged pants combo, with enough cloth left for some smaller items. Or, if I went with short sleeves and short pants or skirts (as I'd often wear before moving to Georgia and hiding my skin from the sun), I could get two or three complete summer outfits from the fabric needed to make ONE pioneer-woman dress. Seems odd, that back when cloth was vastly more expensive for people, "respectability" standards required a person to wear far more cloth at any one time than you must wear today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Updated Hymns For Modern Christianity

While reading the news today I was for some reason reminded of various hymns I learned as a Christian child. I think this one was probably my favorite:

Jesus loves me, this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
And He loves you the same way
unless you're divorced or gay.
Then, Jesus hates you
Yes, Jesus hates you.
He really hates you
your sex life makes Him cry.

Once I got old enough to join the children's choir, I was expected to learn longer songs with more sophisticated lyrics. This is one I performed practically every Sunday:

Jesus loves the little children
unless they are migrant scum
Red, brown, yellow, black and white
Last one's precious in His sight
Jesus loves some little children
in the world.

Jesus died for all the children
who hail from the USA
and speak English, and are white,
they are precious in His sight.
Jesus died for all the children
around here.

Jesus rose for all the children
from north of the Rio Grande.
All the others can get fucked
Jesus don't love them enough
Jesus only rose for children
just like meeee.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

The Banana Republic of Georgia

This is a personal first: I just-now had an actual political canvasser knock on my front door, and told him (truthfully) that I'd already cast an early ballot. In fact, I voted a straight-Democratic ticket for the first time since ... I dunno, possibly ever? But for all the Democrats' many many many flaws, at least they're not the Openly White Supremacist Party, which the contemporary GOP is. I figure this is no time to cast any libertarian purity-protest votes, not with literal Nazi sympathizers infesting the Republican party. Face it: the libertarians have no chance of unseating any Republicans, whereas the Democrats just might.

Except here in Georgia. To be honest, I rather doubt my votes will even be counted, thanks to Georgia's utterly insane "all-electronic ballots with no paper trail" system, made worse by the fact that our Republican Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, is also the Republican gubernatorial candidate, and (amazing coincidence!) the guy responsible for kicking something like 20 percent of all registered voters off the rolls in the past few years -- by an amazing coincidence, the overwhelming majority of the disenfranchised have "non-white" names. Over 340,000 registered voters were kicked off the rolls not reporting a change of address -- because they didn't have to, because they never moved.

Kemp is also, by yet another amazing coincidence, the guy who recently tried closing seven out of nine voting precincts in a majority-black district, backing down only after getting unwanted national-media attention. And now, just in case such shenanigans are not sufficiently corrupt, Kemp has upped the ante two days before the election. As Richard L. Hasen reports in Slate (hyperlinks from the original text): 
In perhaps the most outrageous example of election administration partisanship in the modern era, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is running for governor while simultaneously in charge of the state’s elections, has accused the Democratic Party without evidence of hacking into the state’s voter database. He plastered a headline about it on the Secretary of State’s website, which thousands of voters use to get information about voting on election day. 

It’s just the latest in a series of partisan moves by Kemp, who has held up more than 50,000 voter registrations for inconsistencies as small as a missing hyphen, fought rules to give voters a chance to prove their identity when their absentee ballot applications are rejected for a lack of a signature match, and  been aggressive in prosecuting those who have done nothing more than try to help those in need of assistance in casting ballots. 

But the latest appalling move by Kemp to publicly accuse the Democrats of hacking without evidence is even worse than that: Kemp has been one of the few state election officials to refuse help from the federal Department of Homeland Security to deter foreign and domestic hacking of voter registration databases. After computer scientists demonstrated the insecurity of the state’s voting system, he was sued for having perhaps the most vulnerable election system in the country. His office has been plausibly accused of destroying evidence, which would have helped to prove the vulnerabilities of the state election system.... what Kemp has done now goes beyond the pale. He’s accused his opponents of election tampering without evidence on the eve of the election, and plastered the incendiary charge on an official state website in the days before his office will administer that election. This is some banana republic stuff.

He's not even pretending to care about lowercase-d democratic principles anymore. Personally, I suspect that if all registered, qualified voters who attempted to vote were allowed to do so, and if all votes were accurately and fairly counted, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams would win. At the same time, since Brian Kemp is the one overseeing the "fairness" of this election, I expect he'll be Georgia's next governor--not because he'll get the most votes, but because he intends to stuff the virtual ballot box. Or, as Richard Hasen put it: "Brian Kemp needs to step aside from running this election. If he doesn’t and he wins, lots of people will now believe the fix was in. Considering these latest actions, that belief will be justified."

I cannot recall ever feeling this pessimistic about the future of my country.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Obligatory "17th Anniversary of 9/11" Post

Nothing to say about today; I only wanted to point out that one year and one day from now, there will be US military personnel in Afghanistan who weren't even born yet on September 11, 2001.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Pointless Pettiness of the POTUS

I genuinely cannot understand why Trump's being so wince-inducingly petty about lowering the flag for John McCain. For far longer than I've been alive, it's been bog-standard bipartisan courtesy that when a quote-unquote "public servant" of his stature dies, you lower the US flags for awhile to show respect and yadda yadda. And if you're the sitting president, then you (or rather, your speechwriters) produce a statement about how this is a sad day for America because blah blah blah great loss to the nation.

(Yes, you can make a "that's hypocritical" argument, but I don't care -- a certain level of polite dissembling and hypocrisy is necessary to keep the gears of civilization greased.) What I specifically don't understand about Trump's mindset is, it costs him nothing to lower the flag, and he GAINS nothing by refusing to do so (until the American Legion and others finally convinced him of it) -- seriously, what the devil is he thinking here? Everything Trump does, he does because he expects to personally benefit by it somehow -- what benefit did he hope to get by being so petty in this instance?

A friend of mine suggested Trump hoped to get revenge for not being invited to McCain's funeral. Which may well be Trump's motivation, but that still inspires massive face-palming: what kind of American politico insults an American soldier solely for having become a POW, for fark's sake? (Don't get me wrong: the Vietnam War was stupid from the get-go, and had I been around then I'm certain I'd've protested it--but you still don't insult American POWs for having been POWs, for fark's sake.)

Even had there been no history of acrimony from Trump toward McCain, the McCain family would still be justified in not wanting Trump at the funeral due to Trump's tendency to simultaneously politicize events and make them about him: "Senator McCain's death was a sad day for America. SAD! Almost as sad as the FBI giving Crooked Hillary a pass! You know what wasn't sad, though? The day I was elected president by the hugest electoral landslide in all history!"

I'm thinking back to when I was in middle school or the higher elementary grades: academically I was "advanced for my age," but socially and emotionally I was arguably below par (in my defense, I had some pretty warped adult role models in you youngest days) -- plenty of things to make me cringe to recall them now -- but for all my terribly immature traits, I at least knew enough to TRY to "act like a grownup" in certain situations. Like, for ordinary Sunday church services I'd be fidgety and bored, but on those Sundays when I was assigned to be the "acolyte" (minister's assistant -- lighting and extinguishing the altar candles, passing out and collecting offering plates, and similar tasks), on THOSE days I made sure to behave "properly." Or -- again at church -- on those other Sundays when I didn't have to attend the sermon because I was instead put on "nursery duty" (helping to babysit the preschoolers who were far too young for the adult service) -- again, even as a 10 or 11-year-old I knew that when I was helping babysit little kids I had to act "like a grownup" in that instance.

Granted, I'm guessing any actual adult who observed me in such situations would've been very amused by some of my attempts at "grown-upness" -- but at least I was trying, and knew enough to try. And if my 10 to 12-year old self were somehow made to change places with President Trump today ... no doubt Young Me would've been just as clueless as Old Cheeto regarding economics and the like -- but I can say with absolute certainty that I'd've been orders of magnitude better than Trump at the diplomatic stuff. Because even as an immature 10-year-old I'd mastered such pathetically basic social skills as "You must at least PRETEND to be sad when someone dies," and more advanced concepts such as "If you're in a position of power -- like say the president of the United States -- comedian-types WILL sometimes fun of you, and you must accept this and NOT publicly get mad at them." 

As a ten- or eleven-year-old in a position of semi-power over inmates at the church nursery, I knew better than to get angry and take it personally one morning when a certain tantrumy toddler called me a "doodoo brain." I've seen nothing to indicate Trump has that level of maturity even today. If anything, Trump's still wont to lash out with toddler-style rants ... except Trump would more likely say "shithead" than "doodoo brain." Because advanced insults are as close to emotional sophistication as Donald Trump seems to get, and his unbelievable pettiness over John McCain shows it.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Unite the Right 2 Showed Why Free Speech is Better Than Censorship

After last year's Unite the Right tiki torch Nazi rally, there were calls for "hate speech" exemptions to the First Amendment: no free speech rights for racists, no free assembly for racists. (Somehow, people making these calls overlooked that the current POTUS and Attorney General sympathize with the tiki marchers -- those "very fine people" -- and convinced themselves that if the government had the power to pick and choose which ideas may legally be expressed, the likes of Trump and Sessions could surely be trusted to only go after the "right" people.)

But free speech ultimately prevailed: that reprehensible Jason Kessler, organizer of Unite the Right, received a permit to hold Unite the Right 2 in D.C. yesterday.

Result? Something like two dozen bigots showed up, outnumbered by the police who were there to protect said bigots from the anti-racist counter-protesters who outnumbered them by orders of magnitude. The bigots ended up bailing out half an hour before their rally was officially scheduled to start.

On the other hand: had authorities listened to the "ban hate speech" crowd and forbidden Kessler from holding his rally, he and his fellow bigots would now be portraying themselves as bold Speakers of Truth suppressed by evil anti-white (((conspirators))), and assuring their fans that, had the rally taken place yesterday, there would've been thousands if not HUNDREDS of thousands of Proud White Men marching through DC in a bold display of racial pride.

Unite the Right 2 is a textbook illustration of why free speech is better than censorship.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Hiroshima and the Purple Hearts

It's the anniversary of the nuclear bomb dropping on Hiroshima, and there's plenty of after-the-fact speculation that dropping the nuke and its sibling on Nagasaki a couple days later was an unforgivable sin, possibly even a war crime. For what it's worth -- given the genuinely evil behavior of Imperial Japan and the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, I always felt Truman made the right choice given the information he had at the time (nowadays, of course, it would be very bad to drop a nuke because we know about radioactive contamination and other aftereffects which Truman did not). 

Here's a semi-related trivia fact: almost every authentic US military Purple Heart medal currently in existence is an antique, at least 73 years old at minimum.

When Army generals ignorant of the nuclear bomb were planning the American invasion of mainland Japan, they estimated 500,000 initial US casualties, and pre-made a supply of medals sufficient to cover it. But then the two bombs dropped and the invasion never happened, so every Purple Heart awarded between 1945 and around 2000 (when the stockpile finally started running low) came from that original cache.

There's a very good argument to be made that the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved far more lives than they cost, American and Japanese both. 
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