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. 

Monday, July 16, 2018

So What DOES Putin Have on Trump, Anyway?

My friend Ed Brayton, trying and failing to understand Trump's mindset as sane people are wont to do, said today that:

I have been dismissive of the notion that Putin has blackmail material on Trump and that's why he does the things he does. My reasoning has been that so much negative has already come out, what could he possibly have that would do any real damage to Trump? Even if it's the infamous, speculated "pee pee tape," does anyone think that would actually matter? He isn't going to be impeached over that and he knows it. But his behavior has now become so bizarre, so slavish toward Putin, that I'm beginning to doubt that. And if it's true, it has to be something huge, something that scares the hell out of a guy who thinks he's pretty much invincible. I'm having a hard time even imagining what it could be.
Here's my speculation – and I'm honestly not sure how much of this is my own sincere belief and how much is purely a devil's advocate hypothetical, because where Trump is concerned I really don't know what's “reasonable” to expect anymore – it could be that whatever has Trump so scared is actually not such a bad thing, by normal-person standards. 

Consider: people have accused Trump of being “shameless” or being completely unaware of the very notion of being ashamed, yet his behavior clearly shows the exact opposite is true: Trump is obsessed with shame, and with using (or attempting to use) ut as a weapon. Insulting people (especially women) for being “fat” or “ugly” or otherwise failing to meet conventional beauty standards; calling people “loser” or “SAD!!!” as a default criticism; inventing insulting and demeaning nicknames (Little Marco, Lyin' Ted, etc.) for his enemies... his goal is to make people feel ashamed or embarrassed, but instead of finding more “age-appropriate” ways to do that, his immaturity and general lack of self-awareness leads him to rely on techniques more appropriate for an elementary or middle-school student.

Point is, the man does have a very deep awareness of “shame” and “shamefulness”; it's just completely different from the standards most normal adults have. He clearly didn't mind being caught on tape boasting of committing sexual assault, and I doubt he'd be bothered by a sex tape showing him committing adultery – but I wonder how he'd feel about an attempted sex tape showing him unable to get it up? What about a tape where his toupee falls off to expose a cueball-shiny head? Or – given that he has yet to release any recent tax returns – it could be something as relatively petty as “His net worth is measured 'only' in tens of millions of dollars, not hundreds of millions'.” Or even worse (from Trump's perspective): “Barack Hussein 'the Kenyan' Obama has a bigger net worth than Donald Trump.”

By now, I would not be surprised to discover “Trump's bizarre behavior is because he knows Putin holds some very egregious dirt on him” …. but I'd be equally unsurprised to learn “What Putin has on Trump is actually incredibly petty, compared to all the other bad things we already know about him.”

Monday, June 18, 2018

Concentration Camps For Kids

I expected things to get bad under Trump, yet have not lost my capacity for surprise over just how bad things are getting. Among other things, the man who pardoned Sheriff Joe Arpaio is fine with warehousing innocent children in tent cities in the desert. Meanwhile, ProPublica took audio recording of wailing children inside one of our new prison camps for children (warning: it's very difficult to listen to).

For all that I've long fancied myself a bit of a misanthrope, it turns out I did, in fact, have considerable faith in humanity left to lose .... because I simply cannot fathom how people can be capable of such wanton cruelty. Anecdote: for a few months in my late teens I worked part-time as an assistant in an at-home day care, and I remember one kid --perhaps a "new" kid, who started at the day care after I was already there -- anyway, I think it might've been the kid's first time away from Mommy (and with strangers, as opposed to "an afternoon at Grandma's" or whatever). I don't remember the exact context; what I remember is having to help pry a screaming unhappy toddler off her mother's leg -- with the mother's permission and assistance, and the knowledge that this genuinely was necessary, not in any amoral "I'm just following orders no matter how evil those orders might be" kind of way, but in the sense that Mommy genuinely did need to go to her job to earn money to support herself and her family, and furthermore I knew (even if the toddler did not believe) that this separation was only temporary, and Mommy would return in a few hours and the little girl would sleep in her own bed that night -- yet hearing the child's screams and knowing I was partly responsible for creating them still absolutely shredded me inside.

What kind of wretched person can take and keep a job pulling kids away from their parents when they know NONE of those mitigating factors are in play? What kind of wretched government creates jobs for such people? What kind of wretched country has such a government in place?

Wait, I know the answer to that last question: my country does.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Anthony Bourdain, Rest In Peace

I was horrified and downright depressed to hear of Anthony Bourdain's suicide yesterday. I learned quite a bit from watching his shows and reading his writings, including this bit of sushi-bar etiquette: if you want to compliment a sushi chef, you do not talk about the quality or taste of the fish (because the chef has no control over that); instead, you should rave about his rice. And I ended up benefiting by (or suffering because of) this lesson last night.

Jeff and I went to one of our favorite local buffet restaurants (Hibachi Grill on Jimmy Carter Boulevard in Norcross, for any Atlanta-area locals reading this). Their midweek sushi selections are okay, but on weekends they are spectacular (especially considering it only costs $11.50 per person, plus tips).

As usual, I ignored the hot-food tables and made a beeline for the sushi buffet. On my first trip there, before grabbing a plate I fumbled in my purse until I found my wallet and took out a dollar to put in the tip jar; the chef noticed and said thank you. Second trip to the buffet, I put in another dollar (which I already had in hand, so I did not have to dig for my wallet). I did this again for my third and final trip -- I know from experience that if I show up hungry, three [small, buffet-sized] plates of sushi is exactly the right amount for me to eat without getting uncomfortably full -- and this time the chef asked if there was anything in particular I wanted him to make. "No, it's all good," I said. "I love the sushi here! I rave about it to my friends." Then, thanks to Bourdain, I remembered to add: "I don't know what you do with the rice here, but it is AWESOME."

I took my plate back to our table, where Jeff was eating dessert, and commented how, when I was a kid, I never would've believed anyone who told me that when I grew up, I would regularly have the chance to gorge on ice cream and cakes, but would refuse in lieu of eating raw fish.

No sooner did I finish saying that then the sushi chef came to our table with a plate holding six pieces of sushi (three each salmon and tuna). "Oh! You didn't have to do that!" I exclaimed, and when he left I told Jeff ,"I swear, I did not ask or even HINT that he should do that. I'm kind of embarrassed."

"You shouldn't be," Jeff said.

"I don't know if he did because I tipped him on every trip, or because I complimented his rice."

There was no polite way to reject the chef's offer -- or if there is, I couldn't think of it -- and since it's a buffet I couldn't take any leftovers home. So for politeness' sake I ate four plates of sushi in lieu of my usual three, and ended up painfully full. But after I finished eating, I staggered back to the sushi bar to put a couple more dollars in the chef's tip jar and thank him. On the drive home, after approximately my three dozenth John Belushi-sized belch, Jeff laughed and said "No good deed goes unpunished."

Rest in peace, Anthony Bourdain. You deserve a far better memorial than the one I gave you here.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

If Humanity Evolved in Georgia ("Sweating Made Us Smart" Edition)

We're fast approaching the two-year anniversary of my moving to Georgia (a.k.a. "the sweatbox that pretends to be a state"). For my first couple weeks here, I lived a lifestyle scarcely different from that of a criminal under house arrest: I'd only go outside long enough to collect the mail, dispose of garbage or run necessary errands, and the rest of the time stayed in air-conditioned environments to hide from heat and humidity far more ferocious than anything my northern-acclimated self was accustomed to handling. (And I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in coastal southeastern Virginia, where the summer climate isn't exactly clement... unless you compare it to Georgia's.)

However, staying indoors all the time isn't healthy for one's psyche or physique, so after awhile I got into the habit of going out for daily walks. I also learned not to even bother taking a shower before said walks, because no matter how spotlessly clean I was upon leaving the house, after more than 30 seconds outdoors I'd be a sweaty, slimy, thoroughly disgusting mess.

And on one of these daily "for my own good" trudges through the neighborhood, a random thought occurred to me: how different would human biology be, if we, our close primate cousins and our pre-homo sapien ancestors had evolved in the southeastern US rather than the African savannas? Humans (at least in theory) cool down via perspiration -- horses are the only other non-primate animals to cool through sweat, rather than via panting, having blood flow through thinner body parts to let body heat radiate out (as do those elephant species with very large, thin ears), or similar things.

This cooldown method gives us far more stamina than other warm-blooded creatures: so long as we have water to keep hydrated, we can keep going FAR longer than any pant-to-cooldown animal can. I recently read about "persistence hunting," which our savanna ancestors are believed to have practiced: though animals such as cheetahs, gazelles and other creatures we presumably used to hunt can definitely outrun us in the short term, in the long term we actually overtake them: not by running, but simply by following and tracking them at an easy walking pace. They'd beat us in any hundred-yard dash, but we'd beat them in a marathon. Hours later, when the prey animal has to stop and pant to cool down, those sweaty human hunters would still be chugging along after them. From the animals' perspective it would've been like us being chased by zombies: they're slow and sluggish and you can outrun them easily in the short term, but sooner or later you're going to get tired, and meanwhile that slow sluggish monster chasing after you still keeps on going.

Anyway, the process "perspire, then the sweat evaporates and draws heat away as it does" presumably works very well in the arid savanna (provided you drink enough to replace the water you lose -- even if that drinking water is as warm as the surrounding air). But it completely backfires in humid Georgia heat, where sweat won't evaporate until you step indoors where it's air-conditioned. Persistence hunting would NOT work here. Even ordinary "sweating to cool down" doesn't work in the natural environment here: when I'm outside, the only thing that cools me down is sips from the ice water bottle I always carry, and ice water on 90-plus-degree days does not exist naturally in Georgia; THAT requires technology barely a century old. But "sweating" on its own won't cool you off on a typical hot-n-humid day; at best it merely makes you feel gross and at worst it actually makes you hotter, since you end up simmering in your own juices.

So had our primate ancestors evolved in a humid-hot rather than dry-hot environment, we would not have evolved the tendency to perspire. Maybe we'd pant to cool down, or we'd have enormous-n-thin elephant ears, or our ancestors would only have been able to live in places where they could submerge themselves in water (or cover themselves with mud as pigs do) several times per day. They couldn't have engaged in persistence hunting, which would've limited what animals they could've hunted, unless they/we evolved some other method of hunting: the ability to run very fast for short bursts of time, perhaps? But with more energy directed toward things like stronger leg and heart muscles -- whatever actual biological changes would be necessary, for the average person to be able to short-term run as fast as the average "fast" animal -- that would leave less energy available to nurture the growth and development of our super-big, super-smart brains.

The only disadvantages of sweating compared to other cooling methods (again, assuming a climate dry enough for sweat to evaporate) is that it requires far more water, and presumably more salt to replace what you sweat out, than a similarly sized mammal which does not perspire. Everything else is a biological advantage: provided you have the water to drink, you can go a lot longer without a cooldown break compared to the panters, can work harder and generate more heat than the radiant-heat losers such as big-eared elephants, and have more freedom of movement compared to animals which have to stop for a dip in water or mud to cool down.


So I wonder: how many of the evolutionary traits which eventually led to modern homo sapiens require perspiration? Persistence hunting on the savanna requires it, but did persistence hunting come before or after intelligence? Homo erectus is known to have had fire, and homo habilis made stone tools (hence its name: "handy man"). Our pre-human, pre-"homo" ancestors walked upright before they got intelligent (certainly there's nothing to indicate the australopithecenes were very bright); the first advantages of walking upright was that our ancestors could see further, and I also read speculation that it kept them cooler (with only the top of the head under direct noon sunlight, rather than the entirety of the back); only after the earliest hominids were used to having those two limbs not used for locomotion did they start evolving the intelligence to do useful things with them. And a meaty protein diet also contributed to larger brain development; if we couldn't sweat, and couldn't persistence hunt, would our pre-human ancestors have been able to get enough meat to evolve those big brains, or would we always have been omnivores who mostly ate plants, with only the occasional insect, small animal or scavenged corpse to provide protein (but not enough to evolve big brains)? Would we even have developed enough intelligence to reach the primitive stone tool/homo habilis level, without sweating -- without having an environment dry enough for sweat to evolve in the first place, in other words?

How much of the evolution that made us "human" would have been impossible, if instead of "sweating" as a cooldown mechanism, our pre-human ancestors had to either pant, radiate heat, or physically dunk their bodies into cooler substances?

Something to think about, as I leave the house for my daily exercise trudge and the possible root cause of human intelligence soaks through my lightweight linen clothes. 

Thursday, May 10, 2018

More Landlord Troubles:Threatened Lockout

My psychotic landlord is at it again. Today, May 10, I went out for a walk and got home around eight p.m.; found nothing on my door. Three hours later, Jeff came home from an outing with friends and found a note on our front door -- a note dated May 8 -- which reads as follows:

Dear Resident(s):
Please be advised that per your lease the office MUST have a key to enter into your unit. This will be the FINAL NOTICE that you will receive in regards to the office not having keys to your unit. You have until the close of business on Friday 5.11.2018 to give us a copy of your key or we will find you non-compliant and your locks WILL BE CHANGED. 
Thank you
Management 
Kehoa York


Yes, I'm mentioning the manager's name this time; respecting her privacy is clearly pointless. And frankly, if any future would-be employers Google her name, there needs to be a record of her appallingly unprofessional behavior; this woman is both dishonest and dishonorable, and cannot be trusted with anything remotely resembling "authority."

Let's dissect the problems with this message:

First, we received a "final notice" without first getting any prior notices.

Second, despite the date reading May 8, we did not get this until well after the end of business hours on May 10, ordering us to produce a copy of the key by end-of-business next day. (Indeed, had Jeff not gone out, we would not have found that message until we left our house tomorrow.) As with that slanderous "illegal drug violation" they stuck on our door, they gave us a threat which could only be resolved by taking time off work, if we had a regular nine-to-five schedule.

Third, why is it our fault if they lost their copy of our key?

UPDATE, May 11: Turns out Ms. York had a copy of our key all along; apparently EVERYBODY in the apartment complex got a copy of that threat-letter. No apologies for the inconvenience, the threat of being locked out of our own home, or anything else, of course.
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