Friday, March 16, 2018

Fake Lies

In south Florida, people are dead after a horrible crime. They never had a chance. Despite frantic efforts, nothing will bring them back. All we can do is prevent the next one.

Do we ban engineers, universities, footbridges or cranes?

Probably not the crime you were expecting. But doing stress testing on a newly installed structure above live traffic is nothing less.

Recently we had a nationwide Walk Out organized (and paid for) by powerful organizations: Soros and Bloomberg to be specific. Having been involved in "grass roots" political efforts, I know exactly how much time, money and effort is required to pull off a Nationwide Day of Anything. It's sustained efforts by hundreds of people with a budget of millions.

You have almost certainly not heard that yesterday was AR-15 Day, or mARch 15th. But there was a huge one day spike in firearm background checks as millions of Americans rushed down to their gun shops and bought firearms in fear of the next wave of newly proposed laws, which will make as much difference as the last set. Zero equals zero. And the newly purchased guns... also zero.

This is not a subject in which facts matter. We have evolved a whole new language of Orwellian double think - "alt facts," "fake news," "false flag" - to hide the underlying fact that we are in a cultural war and truth is already a battle casualty.

I have gone to some trouble to monitor on social media, using exemplars, memes from numerous angles. If you are already on the Left, your feeds were bombarded with variations on "The Teens Will Save Us." If you are already on the Right, your feeds were bombarded with edge cases: students misbehaving instead of protesting, students suspended for refusing to protest, students suspended for pro-2nd Amendment protesting. Note that the truth of any particular story is irrelevant.

My academic training is in social ecology with a strong side of criminology.

Most of what has been said about gun control is crap.

Most of what has been said about guns in schools is crap.

Most of what has been said about active shooter response is crap.

The handful of genuine experts are drowned out in a sea of sepsis. Consider that an unbiased gun control expert is like a tobacco researcher or to use an older phrase, a whore with a heart of gold. The few we have we should truly treasure.

Recently, a reserve police officer and politician decided to teach his high school students disarm techniques with a loaded handgun and committed a negligent discharge. This is almost certainly NOT the story that you have heard. Most media reporting states "armed teacher," some questions the narrative by adding "police officer" but you have to dig deep to discover the depths of stupidity lurking behind the narrative.

Everyone responds to this incident according to their biases. "See, guns in schools are dangerous!" "He should neither be a teacher nor a cop!"

Genuine analysis of the facts on the ground is rare. It doesn't sell clicks and ad impressions. It takes effort to sift truth from lies. It takes local expertise to sort through what he thought he was doing versus what he had the authority to do.

There is a most disturbing trend for social media to start censoring perspectives they disagree with. This is being called a response to fake news. One recent effort involves using Wikipedia, a crowd sourced encyclopedia, to vet postings to YouTube, a video publisher. I could weep but the ocean is made of tears.

I won't have the effort to get past this type of censorship. I'll be lucky to be able to point it out after it happens, because nuking accounts is the primary method.

After the Patriot Act was passed, librarians started putting up signs warning patrons that their library records could be reviewed by government agents and that libraries could not tell them if this had happened. After the first government visit, the signs were taken down, to warn people without breaking the law.

This is my Patriot Act sign.

I am going to continue to try, with limited time and no budget, to share my perspective when opportunity permits. I don't charge to read my views nor do I insist on them. Enjoy or ignore, your choice.

When I go dark, it will either be Author Existence Failure (which I don't plan on any time soon) ... or a Fake News algorithm deciding for you that I am unfit to read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Gulag Norteamericano?

I have been re-reading the Gulag Archipelago as preparation for coming attractions, and ran across some interesting tidbits.

The Russians managed to create a truly massive change between 1920 and 1950 in the fabric of their nation. The peasantry were uprooted (the dreaded kulak), the intellectuals exiled, the brave expended ("It takes a very brave man to not be a hero in my army" - Stalin), and the survivors welded into a shambling zombie imitation of a 20th century industrialized nation.

It only cost thirty million dead. It remains a point of pride with some that the Russians had no formal execution camps and no gas chambers. The Gulag was not so personal as that. A wheezing engine running on human fuel, it piled up its corpses not through deliberate acts but through the most banal of human evils - the desire to make quota, the individual urge to survive pitted against the collective, the Russian prison culture that forbade any thief to work to expand the prison but allowed him to steal a zek's ("political" or Article 58 prisoner) clothes and bread and watch with indifference as he froze in the snow.

I must not discount Germany's contribution to the count, on the battlefield and behind the lines and in POW and extermination camps. But consider this: if you deserted the Soviet Army, you were shot. If you were a partisan and you could not prove your loyalty to Communism, you were shot. (If you could, you were exiled - we need no one with guerrilla training around here!) If you were a Soviet POW and survived, you were imprisoned on your return to Soviet control. (Traitor! Why did you not die?!? You did not do the utmost for Mother Russia! To Siberia with you!)

Generously let us suppose that German operations cost ten million lives.

That leaves another twenty million for ... ahem ... domestic consumption.

It can surprise no one that weapons regulations were a Big Deal in the Soviet Union. Guards became zeks for losing their issued weapons. Confiscation was constant and a single round of ammunition could get you a "tenner" (10 years) -- actually resisting with brandished arms would get a "quarter" (25 years) -- and fighting back would get you shot on the spot. Note that few zeks survived their sentences, one way or another.

Dogs were (and remain) a huge part of the prison industrial complex. Privately owned dogs, however, were not. Dogs are loyal to their owners. Individualism. A dog knows nothing of the State and fears not. Therefore all privately owned dogs which somehow came to the negative attention of the Organs (and what a loaded term that is to describe the not so secret police!) were promptly shot.

What I did not realize is that banning self-defense and encouraging private crime was an essential part of the newly established social controls. Stealing from the state was treason, an Article 58. Stealing from private persons in a country making a taboo of private property was ... trivial by comparison. Six months or a year, if that. But if you resisted being a victim of a crime, there was no right of self defense until _after_ you had actually been injured! Thievery was rampant in both freedom and in the camps. The margin of survival was thin - stealing a man's bread was the same as stealing his life.

Another parallel: a prisoner's life belongs to the State and therefore murdering a prisoner is depriving the State of its property. Administrators and guards were actually punished at times for these deaths. But in fights among prisoners, the murder of another prisoner was a tenner or a quarter -- with the oddity that your new offense started the clock over. If you were on a tenner and had served three years, then caught another tenner (for murder or for not cooperating with Security or for anti Soviet behavior as testified to by an informer), your total sentence was 13 years not 20. So the negative incentive for killing was so low that thieves would occasionally kill someone at random merely to transfer out of boredom or to spend winter in a warmer, larger camp.

An interesting side effect in the late 1940s was that the thieves and the politicals united in hatred of informers. Previously, thieves could be counted on to help keep politicals under control. But suddenly a huge wave of stabbings swept the prison system and while the offender could be a thief or a political, the dead were invariably ... informers. The thief would take their new sentence whistling. The political was less cheerful but at least as courageous. (Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to overcome fear...)

In desperation the administration instituted the death penalty for prisoner-on-prisoner murder. It continued anyway - life was too cheap. There was only one solution. Stalin's death of course helped; the war's end helped; the new need to process millions of people, some battle hardened definitely helped ... but in that decade between 1945 and 1955, the Gulag did the one thing that no zek could imagine.

Improved conditions. Adequate food. Medical supplies. Commissions that reviewed conditions and cases, with power to make changes. Prisoners completing their sentences and being released, either locally ("exiles") or in some cases even back to Russia. An end to 'tenners' and 'quarters' handed out with abandon.

The Gulag wrested back control from the prisoners with the most dangerous weapon of all. Hope.

It is a truism in SERE ("Survival, Evasion, Resistance & Escape") that the best time to escape enemy control is immediately after capture. The enemy's control over you is weakest, friendly lines are as close as they will ever be, you are in the best physical condition of your captivity (even if wounded!) and enemy line troops are least well equipped to control prisoners.

Very few people escaped Gulag, despite such weak internal controls that one man transferred between camps not only had to push his drunken guard ahead of him in a wheelbarrow, but had to take care of his rifle so the guard would not pick up a charge for losing it.

One man was condemned to Gulag for saying aloud, just once, "The Soviet Union is one big camp!" Yet it was so very true - and the truth was worth at least a "quarter." Having escaped, there was nowhere to go!

Once the borders are closed and the camps are built, it is very late in the game. These are factors to watch.

Why am I concerned that it might happen here?

If you have read this far, you probably know why for yourself. But just in case...

There is nothing more dangerous than an idealist who vows to save you from yourself. Greed has limits. Idealism does not.

I don't particularly fear Trump. The Republic has survived cretins before and will again.

I fear the _backlash_ from Trump. I fear the people who will rush forward to build their more perfect world on the bones of the old. And I am nothing but firewood to them. So are you.

Somewhere, someone is sketching out that Brave New World -- and how to secure the borders and where to put the camps. To whoever that is, I have a uniquely Russian phrase. "Yob tvoyu mat!"

I'm too old to spend my declining years picking fruit. But that may be luxury itself compared to other options.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Drewkitty's Fiction:

Drewkitty's Fiction: A broad range of fiction is available at I will eventually migrate a few non-fiction pieces there to here, and mine my various hard drives, posts, Usenet, etc. for fiction to post there. Please don't get confused by some of the fiction I write. My viewpoint characters are unreliable narrators and I rarely agree with any of their opinions. This post brought to you by a nightmare I had recently -- all of my characters versus me in a dark alley, with them knowing that I was the author of their suffering.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

21st Century Challenge: Forests Not Trees

My training is as a social ecologist. That means seeing the flow of energy through systems and processes, or viewing social problems from a holistic, ecologist perspective.

This training is literally worthless. While it has occasional shocking insights into issues such as crime, homelessness, politics, etc. -- there is no money to be made by telling the powerful the obvious. "Speaking truth to power" is how grad students got called out for extinction in the 2018 GOP budget.

This Thanksgiving Day 2018, I am instead going to tell the powerless -- essentially everyone reading this -- some "generally accepted"* basic truths about 21st century civilization. None of this first part should be controversial - this is 'can't see the forest for the trees' type stuff. But I am expecting some knee jerk reactions from ideologues.

-> The carrying capacity of the planet to support human beings, barring truly major technological changes (aka nanotech), is fixed. The human population is growing and will continue to grow absent major war or sustained genocide.

-> The only major ecological variable outside potential human control at this time is the weather itself, whether this is couched in the language of 'climate change' or is seen as changes in global trends over time. Everything else is politics: whether Japanese continue to "research" (read: eat) whales, China industrializes using oil previously sold to America, we exploit oil reserves in the global North or feed the starving South ... we can solve all these problems, we choose not to.

-> The sheer destructive power of weapons available to humanity has exceeded the capacity of humanity to withstand same. The planet will survive; the humans will not be so fortunate. Thus 'proliferation' (unauthorized access to nuclear arms) continues to be a major concern, but compare to the next point.

-> There is little to no effective disagreement between the power blocs that control the world. Trump is Putin is China is Japan. The future is planned.

-> It would be awfully convenient for a lot of people who make money if the population of the planet were to stabilize soon. It would be a little less convenient for a smaller set of people if the population were to radically fall ... but watch this space for updates, as this is a major if hidden goal of the globalist left. There is much internal (and for obvious reasons, confidential debate) about who to throw off Starship Earth, but not much debate that the 'starving billions' (and therefore unprofitable) need to somehow wander off.

-> The complexity of human problems, general and specific, is starting to exceed our ingenuity in understanding and solving them. We have tools for handling very complicated problems -- but those very tools create much more complicated problems we do not have tools for! This 'complexity' dilemma cannot be solved through simplistic actions no matter how anyone tries. The most forward looking organizations realize that they are in a complexity crisis ... others have their heads buried in the sand (or in the case of the US Navy, the mud) ...

Now for my _commentary_ on the above. None of what I am about to say carries any particular truth or weight -- merely my uneducated opinions of the above.

From this point on, I am being political as all get out. I am taking certain positions on the facts above.

-> The weapons of the 20th century war emphasized physical destruction, the burned out building. The weapons of the 21st century war will emphasize intellectual destruction or the literal destruction of your human opponents. Either your enemy changes his mind or you burn out his brain. (Then you loot his stuff.)

-> The major capabilities of X-weapons have yet to be demonstrated. ("X" for "we don't know, it's still classified.) The limits of nuclear weapons, biological and chemical weapons, etc. are relatively understood. But esoteric weapons are another story ... Steve Jackson Games jokes about "Orbital Mind Control Lasers" but a lot of digging at the spot marked X was cut off, like a switch, in the mid 1960s. There is a lot to worry about here.

-> In my professional opinion, major war or genocide will call into question humanity's continued existence on the planet in at least three ways. 1) Massive psychological damage, even to the alleged victors. 2) Chains of retaliation leading to humanity turning away from the potential of peaceful paths. 3) Inability to unite humanity in the future against existential threats, natural or manmade or even alien.

-> Nonetheless, there are members of the major power blocs who continue to flirt with genocide and limited war as methods of population control. One method is 'benign neglect' -- permit natural disaster, and simply do not respond to it ... or respond in punitive ways. I view the introduction of cholera to Haiti in this light, as essentially deliberate biological warfare little different from giving out smallpox infected blankets to starving Native Americans.

-> Given the problem of population control, and respecting that it is real, my own proposed solutions are simple and radical. They must necessarily be grass roots to have any hope of success. 1) Appropriate technology to spread the benefits of advanced technology without the costs of a fossil fuel driven society. 2) Mass deployment of effective basic medical care through patient education, community health aides, and flattening of global health costs. 3) Free birth control on demand and support for do it yourself birth control options globally. 4) A global safety net to discourage having more than two children, probably structured as a regressive tax and a negative income tax (subsidy payment) for not having children.

-> A useful middle step towards the above is to increase the survivability of individuals, villages, geographic areas and particular cultures _through their own efforts_. "If you set a fire for a man, you warm him for a day. If you set a man on fire, you warm him for the rest of his life." On this scale, I am somewhere between passing out matches and passing out flyers on how to make hand bows.

-> Explicitly to make genocide more difficult, I support the spread of appropriate technology and defensive memetics across all human populations in all areas. The alleged gains from genocide are far outweighed by the losses, even if one adopts Stalin's hoary adage that "One death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic." The ideology of inalienable human rights, such as the right to speak a language or to possess weapons, is one such memetic element. Note that these are essentially defensive in application... no one is going to go massacre their neighbors with hunting rifles no matter how many adjectives one applies to them (the neighbors or the rifles).

-> To improve survivability from natural and man-made disaster, I encourage everyone to learn as much as they can about survival and community building. There is the language of the "first responder" (first designated reaction on scene) and even the "zeroth responder" (first trained person already on scene). I am circling in the direction of the "enabled bystander" ... that every person should not only be trained in the basics of emergency response, but able and willing to act within their skill level and training and _work together cooperatively_ to resolve complex incidents through simple safe efforts.

-> We need a major breakthrough in how we solve social and economic problems due to the complexity dilemma. I have ideas; I am open to many other ideas. But any ideas which do not enjoy deep popular support will fail.

I think the solution might be mass but weighted participation in decision making that will make direct democracy look like freewheeling anarchy. The joy of the capitalist system is that it leverages so many different people making decisions into the organization process. Command economies just don't work - not enough decision makers and not enough analysis. Our problems are becoming too complex for mere bureaucracy

This is the kind of stuff I think about for fun. If I could find someone to pay me to think about it, I would leap at the chance. But people who think they know all the answers don't have any use for comments from the peanut gallery.

* "Generally accepted" for planning purposes by major governments, insurance carriers, global capital accumulations, brokerages, etc. Note that this may or may not be a public position statement, but is taken into account in planning.

Friday, February 26, 2010

An Open Letter to Democratic Congresswoman Anna Eshoo

I am writing to express my outrage and contempt for your YES vote to extend the Patriot Act. If it were possible, I would be even more infuriated by the decision by Democrats to attempt to hide the vote within another measure to escape public scrutiny.

This is the second time you have voted on major legislation against your own stated interest and the interests of the vast majority of your constituents. The first was with respect to the bank "bailouts" which are now recognized to have been a loot job of the Federal treasury.

You took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is very specific on this point:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
I am a voter in your district. The Democratic Party will never get another vote from me as long as I live and you, you personally, in your cowardice and hypocrisy in supporting an extension of the blatantly unConstitutional Patriot Act when the Democrats hold the majority and you hold the power to vote your conscience, are the reason why.

"That’s the vote on whether to extend the Patriot Act without any reforms of its abusive spying programs. It doesn’t look like it, of course, but the Patriot Act extension is what’s referred to by “Senate Amendments”. The Senate Democrats sneaked the Patriot Act extension into a Medicare reform bill, and then voted by voice vote to approve the amendment so that no politician would have to have their name attached to this shameless abandonment of liberty. The House Democrats benefited from the maneuver as well, being able to vote on unnamed amendments related to Medicare reform, rather than having it on the record for everyone to see that they voted to renew the worst abuses of the Patriot Act without any effort to protect Americans from their spying powers at all."

"We here at Irregular Times refuse to go along with this underhanded political charade. We’re naming names. "

Posted to my blog.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

January 2010: BOHICA

I am once again getting my electronic act together.

I am drewkitty on Twitter and on Facebook. I am actually set up to tweet from the field now, so feel free to follow along. I can't promise much on Facebook except Mafia Wars posts, but it all depends on how you look at those :)

BOHICA is an acronym which stands for "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again!"

In this case we're talking about the ongoing crash of the American economy, the War Of Terror, and the creeping tide of bureaucracy and corporate greed which race to overcome the unwary.

This is a great time to be ready. Ready for what? Good question. I may blog about it, or I may not. Zombie apocalypse? Probably not. Nanotechnological warfare? Not just yet. Robot assassins cruising the skies? We're there now.

Food on the shelves and gas in your tank? Roof over your head? Hits a little closer to home, does it not?


Saturday, February 2, 2008

Super Tuesday

Ah, too bad. Obama and Clinton want my guns. McCain and Romney just want the rest of my freedoms.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

traitor to America

"[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God,” Huckabee told a Warren, Michigan audience Monday night, “and that's what we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards, rather than try to change God's standards."

Here's our fundamentalist candidate, firmly outed.

He must be defeated so soundly that no one ever tries to monkey with the Constitution in the name of religion again.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

media censorship at work

A decision has been made that Ron Paul is not newsworthy. AP won't write full articles on him, only local newspapers and international media. Fox News even edits Ron Paul's name out of AP news stories that briefly mention him!

Only the writer's strike has gotten Ron Paul any media exposure, his invitation to the Jay Leno show. Otherwise there is an echoing silence on the #5 candidate in the Republican primary, with $20 million in the bank (!!!) and a serious possibility of running a third party bid.

I have heard an unconfirmed report that when CNN broadcast the pie chart for the Republican primary, Giuliani's 9% was labeled but Paul's 8% was not.

Remember what I used to do for a living. The word has gone out, don't write stories on Ron Paul.

(from CNN)


McCain 86,802 37%
Romney 73,806 32%
Huckabee 26,035 11%
Giuliani 20,054 9%
Paul 17,831 8%
Thompson 2,808 1%
Hunter 1,195 0% "Ron Paul" and compare to Rudy Giuliani
Results 1 - 10 of about 31,934 for Rudy Giuliani. (0.31 seconds)
Results 1 - 10 of about 16,713 for Ron Paul. (0.31 seconds)


Reference links (sorry, HTML broken, no time to fix)

Background and reaction pieces

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Contradicting Terrorist Lies

I have set myself the challenge of replying to 'antimedia' only with Web links, so that others can get some use out of this discussion. Wikipedia: Nanking Massacre Pearl Harbor Raid, 7 December 1941 German Declaration of War with the United States: December 11, 1941 Clinton defends bin Laden efforts, rips host

"Claim: The Clinton administration failed to track down the perpetrators of several terrorist attacks against Americans. Status: False." Wikipedia: Osama bin Laden
Executive Order 13099 of August 20, 1998 Prohibiting Transactions With Terrorists Who Threaten To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process [PDF],2933,216480,00.html Clinton's Braggadocio Will Haunt U.S. in War on Terror Al Qaeda-Hussein Link Is Dismissed Wikipedia: Fourth Geneva Convention Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949

"Art 85. Prisoners of war prosecuted under the laws of the Detaining Power for acts committed prior to capture shall retain, even if convicted, the benefits of the present Convention." Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949

"Art. 4. Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."$File/IHL_and_other_related_Treaties.pdf State Parties to the Following International Humanitarian Law and Other Related Treaties as of 5-Dec-2007

Excerpt: "GC I-IV 1949: Afghanistan 26.09.1956 Iraq 14.02.1956 USA 10.04.1975" 10 September 2007 - Maps and Charts to Accompany the Testimony of General Petraeus [PDF] Slides 1, 4, 10 and 11.
Department of Defense Briefing on Humane Treatment of Iraqi and U.S. POWs Under Geneva Convention

"And Article V of the Prisoner of War Convention, it specifies that if there is any doubt as to the status of a person, that person is entitled to prisoner-of-war protection until his or her status has been determined. That determination can be done by an Article 5 tribunal, which is a tribunal, set up by the military to look at the facts and circumstances of the capture and any other information. They then make a determination or recommendation. Our past practice, in Vietnam as well as in the first Gulf War, was that if at any time there remains any doubt, that person will be entitled to prisoner-of- war status." Old war's victims forgotten no longer

"During the War of 1812, Canada was still part of the British Empire, and Halifax served as the Royal Navy's most important base in North America. According to Admiralty records, more than 8,100 American prisoners of war were held at a military detention camp on Melville Island." CIA Flying Suspects To Torture? CIA's Harsh Interrogation Techniques Described Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites",2933,316382,00.html Report: CIA Agent Says Waterboarding is 'Torture, But Necessary' CIA Interrogation Tapes: A Search for Answers Dear Senators - CIA Letter on Torture

"We believe it is important to combat the hatred and vitriol espoused by Islamic extremists, but not at the expense of being viewed as a nation who justifies or excuses torture and incarceration without recourse to a judicial procedure." Signed by 11 CIA, 3 DoD, 1 FBI and 2 State Dept. employees.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What does a "Trillion" look like?!?!?

(excerpted from an LJ comment I made about current budget claims by the Bush administration, which I will not dignify by citing here)

Does anyone have any conception of what a "trillion" dollars looks like?

The last time I looked, it cost about $4.5 billion to buy a modern aircraft carrier (warship) and another $5 billion to buy its aircraft. So call it $10 billion per carrier.

We have about ten carriers, counting two conventional carriers in place of the one nuclear carrier which is typically refueling, in refit, etc. and thus unavailable.

A trillion dollars is ONE HUNDRED AIRCRAFT CARRIERS, or TEN TIMES the US Navy's present carrier fleet. This is enough military power to operate at sea over 7,000 combat aircraft, able to handily devastate any armed power on the planet except maybe Russia or China (and even then, give them hives and fits).

The University of California system plows through something like $8 billion per year. That's right, the entire UC system with its training and education benefits, libraries, repositories of scientific knowledge, cutting-edge scientific research and medical advancements . . . costs less than one carrier. Given all of the long term benefits to society and civilization generally, a cheap bargain for taxpayers despite amazing levels of waste and corruption.

A "trillion dollars" is ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY Universities of California, or a UC caliber higher education system for every nation on the planet.

The UC hospitals cost another $4 billion and provide four (4) Level I trauma centers out of nine hospitals, treating 135,000 inpatients; 240,000 emergency cases and 3.6 million outpatients while training over 12,000 medical professionals.

A "trillion dollars" is TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY UC hospital systems providing First World outpatient care to 900 million people, or four times the population of the United States. Call it buying a hospital system for all of China.

California's state budget is $145 billion.

A "trillion dollars" is the state budget (including schools, prisons and three (!) college systems) for SEVEN states the size of California! In rough terms, this is buying a strong, multi-tiered K through grad school educational system for the entire United States of America -- plus large chunks of a police and prison system, just in case.

A back-of-envelope calculation elsewhere suggested that $1 trillion could purchase enough solar panels to provide 15% of America's electric power.

Best estimate of the Iraq War to date costs range from $500 billion to $1 trillion. This does not include care for disabled veterans, loss of productivity from casualties, or secondary effects of retasking of persons and companies from civil to military work.

A single trillion is a scary amount of power, makes a megawatt look tame.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I am pleased to see that one of my favorite Spider Robinson stories has been posted to the Internet as part of his Lifehouse trilogy.

"God Is An Iron" by Spider Robinson

I can't promise that it's a fun read. But it makes a worthwhile point.

The entire series is quite good. Among other feats, Spider makes a reasonable case for circumstances under which torture is morally acceptable, and a hypothetical (if wildly unlikely) way in which humanity could retroactively invent God.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What Do We Owe Our Iraq Veterans?

Rather a lot.

If you've been reading my blog at all, you know that I am a bit left wing. As a friend of mine puts it, "[drewkitty], you're a moderate, but the country went so far right you fell off the left wingtip about a decade ago."

That said, recent events have caused me to think a bit about what we as a nation owe our soldiers and sailors and Marines and aviators who have gone in harm's way and paid with sanity, limb and life.

My opinion about the Iraq War boils down to "We broke it, we bought it." Having committed to this strategy in the Middle East, we simply MUST see it through. The national security and perhaps the ultimate survival of the United States now depend on a victory in Iraq or a departure that does not weaken us in the eyes of our (more numerous) enemies worldwide.

The members of our armed forces have lived up to their side of the deal. Sign up for dangerous work (that sometimes kills in peacetime), some training, mediocre pay and benefits . . . and receive the indifference of a distracted nation.

What about our side of the deal? Yes, the Iraq War is a stupid and unjust war. So? We called, they hauled. Consider how much harder it is to fight a war under these conditions, when it's pretty blatant that it's an American power grab.

What about military objectors to the war who chose to suffer disciplinary action or courts martial instead of going? Good for them, putting their lives and futures where their hearts and mouths are. Better, that they serve our nation by challenging and helping to define our rules while pricking our conscience. Sad but necessary that they will be found guilty and do their time. We need an armed forces that does what the civilians tell them to do, that goes where directed and stays where needed.

Thank a vet. Be nice to a vet. No matter how you feel about the war, they deserve your respect and your thanks. The Iraq War may have more to do with protecting your SUV's gas tank than the city of New York, but that does NOTHING to lessen what we as a nation -- and those of us who are civilians individually -- owe to those who put their bodies between "home and the war's desolation."

Also we need to do our part. VOTE VOTE VOTE! You don't like America's foreign policy, vote in a President who will do something about it! Unhappy with the Iraq War? Look up your Congresscritter's voting record and decide how much blood is on whose hands, and vote accordingly.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Golden Compass

Apparently, the most coherent objections to the new movie "The Golden Compass" are hidden behind a $5.00 download of an E-pamphlet from the Catholic League. The best Web search I was able to conduct (with limited time on breaks) found five major points of objection.

On the drewkitty scale of morality, we are zero for five! Let's throw down.

* Blasphemy against the Judeo-Christian concept of God

Even if I were devout, this one would be silly. Blasphemy is a religious crime to begin with. If God's a fact, all He has to do is laugh and point and say "Here I am!" If their version of God is a lie, those who call it blasphemy are double liars; triple if they're hypocrites.

* Depiction of Catholic Church as evil, and religion in general as obscurant

No disagreement on either point. If the movie portrays this accurately, more power to them. I have held for a long time that "If the Devil were to set out to create an organization to promote and maximize human suffering, he could do no better than to create the Catholic Church."

* Promotion of the occult

Um, hey, I'm Wiccan.

* Endorsement of relativism as an acceptable system of belief

Depends. If the right to make your own decisions as to what is morally right and wrong is relativist, I'm four square on the side of human empowerment. If the definition of "relativism" is situational ethics or "do-it-if-it-feels-good" then I have a problem with relativism.

* Heretical portrayal of the human person

What the dickens is this supposed to mean?

"Every man and woman is a star!"

If you deny the spark of divinity that is in every person, in my opinion you deny the essence of deity itself.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

LJ "Content Protection Feature"

Back when I was an academic (yes, I know, shameful) I wrote a few papers on issues of content regulation and the Internet. In that research I identified "the default" as a most important variable. Most people can't be bothered* to change their technical settings, so the decision of the program author as to what privacy / security settings are automatic tends to be final for a big chunk of the installed base.

LJ just forced all LJ users into accepting "filtered content" as their defaults, and worse, created a misleading system by which any user who responsibly selected "adult concepts" found their material cut-tagged and blacklisted.

This is a horrible act of censorship. I recognize this and therefore I'm gone. Blogger it is.

* Bothered could mean not knowing how to change the settings (12:00 blinking VCRs anyone?); not having time to read the manual or the fine print; or simply trusting in the program authors to know what is best.

Abandoning Live Journal

The "adult content protection" change on LiveJournal has been the last straw. I went from being a paid user back to unpaid out of frustration with how LJ has been treating its user base.

Now I'm switching to Blogger. I'll read LJ and you'll see my posts there (a little late) courtesy of syndication, but I refuse to contribute another sentence of my copyrighted work (i.e. everything I type) to these pixel thieves.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

the serpent of radical Islam

Why do we nurture the serpent that is radical Islam? Granting them an endless state of war, cheerfully embracing the role of Great Satan (and acting accordingly), funding Islamists behind the scenes in Iraq and Pakistan . . . I fail to see how we could do more to prop up the Caliphate.

Where we should be corrupting fundamentalist Islam with the weapons of wealth, Baywatch and human sexuality, we are instead cementing their world view and paying to do it with the blood of our sons and daughters.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

One Laptop Per Jihad

I recently had the opportunity (at Baycon) to play with a working OLPC ("One Laptop Per Child") unit. |

Any self respecting insurgent wants one. Easily flashable, ruggedized, deniable, small keyboard but sealed, USB ports, small screen not as vulnerable to detection.

Children's mileage may vary. Aside from the very real risk of having an insurgent haul it out of the kid's hand, it is neither self-explanatory nor easy to use.

current status

For the moment I'm going to do most of my public posts on blogger, mostly because I'm peeved at LJ. Friends posts will still be on LJ, but this whole thing motivates me to want to set up my own discussion wiki and/or learn how to use aggregators. Any suggestions?

I can't talk about work, except that we are reaching a decision point after which I will either be far busier, or unemployed. Remains to be seen.

My other major project requires some wiki-support as well. Due to the LJ issue, I need third party hosting for it. It will need to be password protected. Any suggestions?

*hugs* to all. I hope to catch up on sleep this weekend.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

LJ! Dangerbot!

You may know by this time about the great LJ censorship project and about SixApart's cowardice. If not, look around. :)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

what is the habeus in this corpus?

I assume everyone's heard of the Attorney General of the United States saying that habeus corpus is not a right.

>>> The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.

>> In the absence of rebellion or invasion, the courts may require that the executive branch produce a prisoner and bring that prisoner within the jurisdiction of the court, for adjudication of their fate according to law.

>>Impeach. Not fire. High crimes sounds about right.

says LJ-user jordan179:

> I would imagine that Elian Gonzalez would argue that terrorism against America would constitute exactly that ... "rebellion or invasion," depending upon whether or not the terrorist was an American citizen.
> Why would you argue that it wasn't?

Herewith my reply:

The fallacy is treating the individual citizen or non-citizen as if they were a state rather than an individual subject to the power of the state (in the case of non-citzens) or a member of the body politics (in the case of the citizen).

Certainly the government has the power to preserve its own existence, and in cases of rebellion or invasion, a threat to the continuity of government -- however remote -- exists.

In cases of simple crime or even terrorism, no threat to the government itself exists. Therefore, suspending the right of habeus corpus is itself a greater threat to society than a criminal or terrorist act, however horrific.

Treating terrorist crime as a warlike act seems to impute the status of prisoners of war to criminals, or alternatively to create a class of persons who are neither criminal nor POW, and thus placed outside the bounds of civilized law.

Such a class should not exist. Civilization is not something we can set aside for temporary expediency or convenience.

Even if we were to posture that such a class should exist, to suggest that an American citizen, however monstrous (Timothy McVeigh comes to mind) should be stripped of citizenship and placed outside the rule of law ... is itself an attack on the rights of every American citizen.

Further, the right of habeus corpus is an essential part of the checks and balances between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary. In particular, it is the right of the judiciary to assert criminal jurisdiction over an individual person for their actions -- whether accused of a crime unjustly, or ostensibly able to defy the law through control of police and/or soldiers. This is essential to preventing executive officials in particular from breaking the law at whim -- which is exactly what the Bush regime has been doing, by its own admission, for years now. (It is worthy of note that legislators in session are immune from executive action, but not from judicial action, and that immunity for the executive subject to impeachment only extends to making the House into the triers of fact and the Senate into the final judges.)

Elian Gonzalez has violated his oath to the Constitution of the United States and should immediately resign. If he does not resign, he should be impeached and his unfitness to hold an office of trust or profit thereby established. Either he is grossly ignorant (which fails the laugh test due to his considerable judicial experience) or he believes that his executive position gives him the right to run rampant over the rights of any person, citizen or non-citizen, prior to any finding of fact by court or jury.

Even the meanest condemned criminal has the right to pray for justice, and to have that justice meted out by the court. Taking away this right is not just an offense against him personally (which is a small thing in the grand scale) . . . but an offense against every citizen and every person with rights, and a weakening of the judiciary's ability to protect each and every one of us from false accusations, unjust arrest and interrogation, torture and even murder.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

fish sauce, cheap pawns and why "jihadis are good for your children"

The academics have been warning about the threat of Muslim extremism since at least the 1970s. The destruction of the towers was not only the second attack on the towers but also the second Al Queda plot involving hijacked aircraft! So 9/11 was a wakeup call only to those who didn't know.

I believe that The Powers That Be are setting the Islamic jihadis up as the next "Great Enemy" and that in fact, to make it a worthy struggle, we are quietly pumping them up behind the scenes and doing all sorts of things that only boost their numbers, their finances, their arsenal (an enormous chunk of which is being sold to them by the USA and Europe!!!) . . . and certainly causing our allies to desert us in greater numbers. Iraq has certainly worked well for this purpose.

It's a race between the cultural assimilation of the radical Muslim (the positive factor that will end the War of Terror) and the use of terror by fanatics on both sides to enrage and blind the West as well as the East. Gitmo and Abu Ghraib (and by extension, most of what we've actually done in Iraq, if not the invasion itself) are stupid moves . . . unless, of course, you're recruiting for Al Queda. Failing to clean up Afghanistan and Pakistan . . . goes beyond tragic. Always remember that Pakistan is a nuclear armed power!

Iran can see the writing on the wall, and while they don't particularly want to be cast as the Great Enemy, they certainly don't want to go down without a fight the way Iraq did. Ironically, with a little quiet effort in supporting Iranian opposition parties, we could actually have a counter-revolution in Iran. The fact that we're not trying this seems proof to me that we don't want a weak Iran, rather the opposite.

I think a lot of American soldiers are beginning to realize that they are being used up like cheap pawns in a war we don't really want to win. (Sound familiar . . . is that black pyjamas and tire sandals and fish sauce I smell?) Unfortunately, many of them are being encouraged to blame "leftist" Americans instead of the neocons who are doing it to them.

We are about to live in Interesting Times.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

regarding the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC)

Summary: the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project desires to sell $100 laptops to developing country governments, with which to educate their children into 21st century digerati and close the gap between global North and South.

I'm pessimistic. Herewith my commentary, as posted within

The Cult of the Individual and the OLPC

I have been following the OLPC project with some interest. I've read through chunks of this Wiki and various public articles. I've also read the article in the MIT Quarterly publication.

I fear that the OLPC team will come up with a great technological achievement that will be a dismal failure at deployment time.

The sociocultural baggage carried by the OLPC ("One Laptop Per Child") may well get in the way of the project's own objectives.

OLPC is essentially individualist. Empower the child through access to advanced information technology . . . and get out of the way.

However, in the bulk of the world, children are not seen as individuals and, just as important, do not see themselves as individuals. The essential social relation is that of the family and NOT of the individual. The poorer the family, the stronger the family bond, as long as the family itself has hope of survival. Children are expected to contribute, and do contribute, to the survival of the family. Children also represent the investment capital of the family -- to the extent that children go to school, it is in order to improve their skills and earning power to support their parents in their old age.

An African proverb sums this up best: "Me against my brother; me and my brother against my family; me and my family against my village; me and my village against my tribe; me and my tribe against my country; me and my country against the world."

The involvement of the family group in the OLPC project is essential. Will the older brother watch the cows so that younger brother can spend more time on the OLPC? Does Father's need to keep his small business books on the OLPC override his son's need to learn to read? Will the OLPC end up used primarily as a backlight so that Mother can keep sewing into the evening?

To introduce the OLPC into the family without considering the effects on the family -- and the village, and the tribe -- is to add yet another destabilizing influence. From the perspective of the individual (and of the Western 'cult of the individual') this is a positive factor.

From the perspective of the actual gatekeepers and stakeholders in the OLPC process, from Ministers of Education through regional train-the-trainers, local schoolteachers, village elders, heads of household and their families . . not necessarily so.

No one in authority feels that they will gain from something that diminishes that authority, no matter the apparent good that "other people" might derive from it.

I am concerned that the local petty authorities will -- correctly if the technology is haphazardly deployed -- see the OLPC as a disruptive, destabilizing influence and either "lose" the OLPCs, sell them on what will clearly be a hot black market, or (perhaps worst) lock them in a closet and only let kids handle them when a dust plume from a visiting inspector's vehicle is seen on the horizon.

The alternative is to use the OLPC as what sociologists call a "change agent." Make the OLPC accessible and usable by the entire family group. Tackle the equally arduous challenge of adult literacy at the same time as educating the next generation. If the parents get X amount of good out of the OLPC, they will be more likely to support their children in getting exponentially more good (X to the Y) out of the OLPC, even if they never quite understand the benefits themselves.

To misquote Shakespeare, my advice to the project team is "Get thee to a sociologist, quick!"

In all seriousness, the initial deployment in each major cultural grouping (which may be several per country!) should include a researcher with local language skills and some exposure to ethnographic techniques and/or anthropology, tasked to get feedback not only from students and teachers but from the communities in which the OLPCs are deployed.

Social facts are exactly that -- facts, which the outsider ignores at the very real risk of failure.

[drewkitty] M.A. [degree], University of California, Irvine (I am no longer affiliated with UCI and my opinions are my own.)

Monday, December 25, 2006

How To Win The War On Terror

Let's assume that a War on Terror is a good idea. This is a huge assumption. I've written oodles on the idea that declaring "war" on anything is a recipe for utter failure and disaster, for reasons ranging from reification to the government agency budget cycle. The utter success and minimal cost of the War on Drugs certainly shows that "Wars" are a great way to solve embedded sociological problems. NOT.

Now, let's go back to the dictionary.

War. 1 a (1) : a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations (2) : a period of such armed conflict (3) : STATE OF WAR b : the art or science of warfare c (1) obsolete : weapons and equipment for war (2) archaic : soldiers armed and equipped for war . . . 2 a : a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism b : a struggle or competition between opposing forces or for a particular end a class war a war against disease

Terror. 1 : a state of intense fear 2 a : one that inspires fear : SCOURGE b : a frightening aspect c : a cause of anxiety : WORRY d : an appalling person or thing; especially : BRAT. . . 4 : violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands insurrection and revolutionary terror

Let's go with War 2(b) and Terror (4) to get a definition for the War on Terror.

"a struggle . . . between opposing forces or for a particular end [against] violent or destructive acts [ . . ] committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands"

I see several ways of achieving this.

1) Identify and destroy the terrorist groups. This implies a working intelligence apparat with the necessary tools (i.e. SpecOps) and national will (i.e. politicians with balls). The latter, America has. The former, we do not.

2) Harden populations and governments so that terrorist demands will be ignored and never granted. This requires that the majority of governments around the world actually be in tune with their populations. There are some problems with this:

a) Most of our "allies" in the developing world are NOT popular governments. The population and the government do NOT agree, and the latter stays in power because of activity by the security forces largely financed by the United States and Europe.

b) Many of the terrorist demands that are made, seem reasonable to a chunk of people around the world. Palestinians, fanatic Muslims, the governments of Syria and Iran, etc. are in agreement with certain terrorist goals.

We must either change their minds, or kill them all. In a "War" there is no middle ground. Direct occupation of Islamic territory is ruinously expensive (c.f. Iraq) and massacre is not only morally bankrupt, but likely to have very negative long-term effects for the so-called victors.

Any weapon can be used in two ways. You can use a weapon to kill and destroy. You can use a weapon to change a person's mind, temporarily, by threatening them with it.

I submit that there is no threat that will permanently change the mind of a religious fanatic.

So if threats do not work, how about bribery?

Don't laugh. Paying people to not commit acts of terror is a popular tradition of the Western liberal democracy. We call it by various names: public education, food stamps, student loans, welfare, the GI Bill, etc. What it is, however, is direct payments to those people who do not presently support themselves by work, that feeds them anyway.

I'm not fond of the idea of paying Danegeld. But this is what we do now when we purchase oil from the Middle East. The problem is that a tithe (literally) of the money that goes into the gas tank of your SUV, pays for the training camps and the IEDS.

Let's do a Marshall Plan for the Middle East. The goal is to consciously and deliberately corrupt the Islamic world. Broadcast not only Voice of America, but the BBC and CNN in hundreds of languages. Put up a few satellites over the Arab nations for the express purpose of giving satellite links to schools, Internet cafes, opposition groups, etc. Air-drop AM and FM hand-crank radios to every village in Asia and Africa. Develop a solid curriculum for education to the American high school level, in all the languages of interest (Arabic, Farsi, etc.) and start broadcasting it for free. Use the Chinese village satellite pack (two solar panels, a deep cycle battery, a TV, satellite dish and receiver, with inverter) and start giving them away. Pop! Instant high school in a box.

Baywatch is already the ideological Marine landing on the beachhead of the Islamist. Crank up the tit power and start broadcasting free hard-core porn, mixed with a bit of street level education about freedom of speech and democracy. Focus at first on Saudi Arabia, where the locals are already so obsessed with porn that they dial up into AOL in the United States over cellular links to evade national-level censorship.

We can't do anything about Ahmed the terrorist. We can do something about Ahmed's brothers and sisters and cousins, and the opinion of his community.

Today: "Celebrate! Ahmed has gloriously given his life to fight the American infidels! He will eat and drink in Paradise! Who will take up the fight against the evil of the Westerners and their heresies?" (Me! Me!)

Tomorrow: "Oh, the poor Ahmed family. They are so ashamed. Ahmed was killed by Americans when he tried to bomb a convoy. He should have known better. The Westerners and their ideas are everywhere. Life in the villages has become so much better since the Americans dug the new well and installed the satellite dish. We see that the Americans are people, just like us."

Sunday, December 24, 2006

LJ-Cut tag functionality

I am consciously giving up one thing in the move from LJ to blogspot -- the illusion of privacy in posting "friends only."

I don't want to give up the usefulness of the LJ-cut tag. However, implementing this is beyond me on a Christmas Eve.