Newbs. Am I Right?

I was a little more annoyed with Reddit and r/atheism than I thought I was.

I don’t do TikTok. Or YouTube. Or Instagram, unless it’s pictures. I don’t do video and I don’t talk on camera. It’s a phobia that I’ve dealt with for decades.

I don’t find short videos interesting, I find them maddeningly abbreviated and too quickly replaced with another distracting thing that tries to make me laugh. So I was kind of surprised to be emotionally resonant with this TikTok persona:

tiktok.com/@iblamebill

If you force a religion on people, then they get to own it too. If you shove it down their throats, they get to write a review about the taste. Because that is the other side of the coin. You don’t get to go out and make disciples of the nations and then cry foul when you’ve made critics too.

I’m not attacking anyone else’s culture, I’m criticizing my own. This is my lane.

@iblamebill

I’m punching up when I attack christianity as well. I don’t do it very often because the harm I’ve experienced was small, but the potential harm for other people in this day and age is massive and tending towards growth.

Christianists are moving out and attempting to force their ideals onto the rest of society and the rest of the world and I am no more inclined to allow them to do this than I was inclined to allow Islamists to overrun the countryside in Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.

It was in this spirit that I wrote:

It was a reaction to Christianists insisting that “atheists deny god.” We deny god, so we are guilty of believing something about god. We don’t deny shit, we insist on proof; and there is no proof that the god of the Holy Bible exists. The rules that the universe obeys exclude that kind of power from existing.

I was kicked off of r/atheism for posting a link to that atheism article. I told them that I wouldn’t be impressed with the power of their authority unless I was permanently banned from the forum, and so they obliged me. Fuck authority. Fuck authority in the open market of ideas that is the internet.

In the moderator’s defense, there is a rule on r/atheism about posting links. I happen to disagree with Reddit’s sense of self importance on this issue, but the rule is there for me to read if I was inclined to kowtow to authority. Unfortunately for everyone involved, I don’t tend to kneel before power. Power of any kind.

Writers do not write for you, Reddit. Writers/creators should not write for any platform’s benefit, they should write/create for themselves. Had I been interested in observing Reddit’s war on bloggers I would have cut and pasted the 10k plus atheism article into as many 10k limited posts as it would have required to get the content in front of the members of r/atheism just to make the point. I wasn’t and so I didn’t.

I accept my punishment with pride, in the same way that I have accepted ridicule for telling believers that their God could not possibly exist because the universe doesn’t allow for wish granting sky-men. It is the principle of the thing that matters. My ideas live here not on Reddit, Facebook or Tiktok. If they want me and my ideas, they know where I am.

Facebook Featured image: everywhereist.com

Ukraine. A Russian Civil War?

if the Russian leadership does not want to sit at the table with us for the sake of peace, perhaps it will sit at the table with you. Do Russians want war? I would very much like to answer this question, but the answer depends on you, the citizens of the Russian Federation.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy – Feb. 23, 2022

I’ve never been a fan of a foreign leader before. I have a fanboy crush on Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Who doesn’t these days?) I think I have to reveal my crush right up front in this article because I’m not thinking clearly right now. Or maybe I’m finaally thinking clearly for the first time in years. Who knows? What I know is that I love Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Despite all the odds, he stood up to Vladimir Putin’s aggression and has defined courage for the world in the current European crisis:

I need ammunition, not a ride

cnn.com

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…and inspired the citizens of the world to come together in support of his country. I love the guy. If I was 20 right now I’d get on a plane and fly to Ukraine to fight beside him in defense of him and his people and their homes. His is a profile in courage.

Stonekettle asked the collective consciousness of Twitter back on February 19th:

twitter/Stonekettle

That is the essential question here; should we support Ukraine or not? We being the United States in this question means that there is no easy answer. Each individual can make that choice for themselves, certainly. However, this isn’t a question that can be answered with a single word, positive or negative when it comes to the participation of outside groups in what amounts to a regional power struggle.

Modern warfare is evil incarnate and this makes it hard to justify any action that isn’t self defensive in nature. Is it in our own defense to save Ukraine from Russian aggression? That is a difficult question to answer with anything other than a regretful no or a twenty page essay explaining why it should be yes but can’t be.

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What follows will probably a twenty page essay. We’ll start with a grammar lesson. It is Ukraine not the Ukraine. It is a country, not just a place, no matter what Vladimir Putin says. You don’t go around saying “we’re going to the Texas” unless you’re going visit the battleship museum. It’s Texas or Ukraine. It is the name of a country or a state.

The United States of America is a union of states or nations. That’s why it was historically referred to as a union or The Union. The United States was never supposed to be the name of the country. They argued about the name for a long time, just like they argued about what to call the office of the president until just giving up and referring to him as the President (a practice that has spread widely) they gave up on giving the collection of states or nations another name, and just used the kludge of a name that was on the Constitution itself.

It’s quite possible that this was a signal of the imperial aspirations of the founders. They knew that there was a lot more land out there to conquer to their west, not to mention to the North and the South, before they ever needed to worry about the phrase of America in the name on the founding document.

Both the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and the European Union (EU) were styled after the founding ideals of the United States; principally, the enrichment of the powerful inside those unions, clothed in the garb of caring for the general welfare of the masses of its residents. Neither of those Unions bothered with popular direct elections for representatives for those bodies. The powerful within the United States have come to regret including those provisions in their documents.

Providence, Rhode Island is a city, county, state and nation all at the same time. Let that understanding sink in for a minute. All fifty states are nations tied together within a federal structure, yet retaining independent laws and governing structures. The only interests of the various states that were ceded to the federal government were the issues of interstate trade and the relationships with foreign governments. Everything else was and in a general sense still is an internal issue to be settled within the state itself. This arrangement has the advantage of hiding from view most of the politics that matter for governing inside the United States.

You don’t get a view of local politics unless you dig for it; ask any resident of any decent sized town whether they care more about their local infrastructure or their federal government’s policies. Anyone with an understanding of just how precarious our system is will know that the politics that really matters is local politics. It determines the priorities of all the levels above it that can interfere with its operation.

When that power structure is reversed the result is almost certainly catastrophic. Case in point; the recurring lack of preparation or understanding on the part of the whole state of Texas has led to individual suffering on an unprecedented level all across the state. Power outages, healthcare unavailability, etcetera. The city has to be able to act to protect itself or it becomes the victim of charlatans and demagogues. Governor Greg Abbott submitted as exhibition A for the court’s perusal.

All governmental requirements radiate out from the needs of individuals that go unmet; whether those requirements are more doctors or more police officers. More housing or more jails. Federal mandates almost always miss their targets because federal mandates almost never take the needs of the suffering into consideration. That level of granularity is almost beyond grasping from the distance of the White House whether the White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or 1010 Colorado Street.

The problem of Ukraine being frequently referred to as the Ukraine is easily understood. I’ve done this too, refer to it as a place by putting “the” in front of it. This was a forgivable act when Ukraine and Ukrainians were inside the USSR or just a key part of the Russian empire. The Soviet Union was largely a face-saving measure designed to mask the hands of Vladimir Lenin and then Joseph Stalin controlling the daily lives of millions of Russian people directly. That was their desire. The leader of the Soviet Union couldn’t call himself a Czar and get away with it. After all, the whole revolution had been fought to get rid of the Czar, hadn’t it?

So Joseph Stalin took a different title after he arranged his ascension to power, but he held pretty much the same power as the Czar; and life went on in the USSR under different management, the lot of the common people possibly worse than it had been under the Czar but nobody being willing to say anything about it. Ukrainians no different than Poles, no different than Czechs no different than Kazakhs, Tajiks or Tatars. All suffering equally under the yoke of the new leadership.

Ukraine was a country though. The primordial Marxist state that Lenin and his Bolshevik’s created out of the ruins of the former Russian Empire engineered a compromise to maintain control of those lands. Granted them all a measure of cultural autonomy within the bounds of the Soviet Union’s authoritarian political control. Stalin gave the Crimea to Ukraine. That’s how Crimea came to be part of Ukraine (Crimean war, anybody? 1856 too far back in history?) Then Stalin died and not too long after he died his empire crumbled as empires tend to do without the leaders that created them.

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Throughline – Ukraine’s Dangerous Independence – March 10, 2022

What the Bolsheviks and Lenin did really for the first time, they created a separate state, a separate institutions and a separate territory for Russia, which became known as the Russian Federation. Separating, at least symbolically, for the first time Russia proper from what used to be the Russian empire. Before that, there was no such separation.

Serhii Plokhii

Russia was a creation of the Bolsheviks, not Ukraine. What is the true Russian state? That’s a good question. A better question is, can there be a true Russian state and why does it have to be just one state?

As a typically educated person in the middle of the American West I was shocked and outraged while watching all the maps I had spent so much time trying to learn and understand change overnight. So many more countries to try to keep track of. Gone were the days when the Northern half of the Eurasian continent was engulfed in a sea of red with a yellow hammer and sickle on it. What was most puzzling to me, as an outsider, was the breakup of what I had thought of as traditionally Russian countries. How could there be three Russian governments?

That is what also seems to puzzle Vladimir Putin. He has done his best to preserve as much of the historical Russian empire under some semblance of Moscow control since he took control of Russia in the 1990’s. Crushing rebellions here, subverting elections there, the kinds of things that a leader with imperial aspirations engages in.

It seems like we’ve been on tenterhooks over the subject of Ukraine forever here in the United States. I know I’ve written several articles on the subject dating back to the release of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense podcast #270 Poking the Bear in 2014. When Putin-backed insurgents shot down a civilian airliner over Ukraine later that year, I was done listening to anyone who was sympathetic to Putin’s empire re-building effort. It was Obama’s reaction to Putin’s aggression in Ukraine in 2014 (too strong or too weak? it’s hard to say) that put us on the course to where we are now in history.

It was obvious to me then, just as it remains obvious to me now, that if the United States is a free country then its citizens can and should go where they like and agitate for change that some governments may or may not approve of. Even take up arms against governments against the sincerely expressed wishes of the United States government. If we are free, then we are free to do these things, too.

It is virtually impossible to discern the difference between a non-government organization (NGO) working for democracy and economic reform for its own unique purposes, and NGO’s that have been infiltrated by the CIA or any other nation’s intelligence service. If the intelligence services are doing their jobs properly, ALL OF THEM have been infiltrated by all of the intelligence services, and the various NGO’s should take this fact into account when they go about doing the business they are doing.

However, there remains a difference between acting in accordance with your government’s wishes, and acting on the orders of your government’s officers (where Buchanan’s predictions fail) Putin has had NGO’s working in the United States for every bit as long as any American NGO has been working in Ukraine, and it never started American’s thinking that Russia was trying to control its citizenry. We let Russia Today (RT) run unfettered promotions of Donald Trump for a year and never even thought to ask why RT loved Donald Trump so much.

The results of the NGO’s and the US government’s combined campaigns in Ukraine, stamping out corruption, un-rigging the electoral process, were that Viktor Yanukovych lost the Ukrainian Presidential elections that were called in 2014 after he acted against the expressed wishes of the Ukrainian people. In a huff, Vlad the Corrupter invaded and annexed Crimea, his preferred summer vacation spot. Queue the outrage from everyone who thought that Ukraine was Russian all along. Add to it the fearful outrage of people who will do anything to avoid a confrontation with Vladimir Putin on the international stage. Queue my exodus from Dan Carlin’s listening circle due to his clueless insistence that Pat Buchanan was some kind of a reputable psychic, as if that phrase isn’t an oxymoron in and of itself.

Vlad the Corrupter then sits and waits for the resulting storm to calm, rigging foreign elections and screwing up other governments all the while in hope of being allowed to do what he is doing right now. The invasion has taken longer to happen than I expected, that is the only surprising thing about it.

The Russian interference in the the 2016 election that put Donald Trump into the White House was one of the responses to the sanctions that President Obama imposed in 2014 after Putin annexed Crimea. We know this because Trump promised to get the sanctions lifted and then had to backtrack on the promise when it became public (the idiot never could figure out how not to say the quiet parts out loud) Fast forward to 2018 and Donald Trump’s attempt to blackmail Ukraine into playing dirty tricks in the 2020 elections lead to his first impeachment.

thebulwark.com

Ukraine just can’t seem to leave the front page. I’m sure they’d like to. Fast forward again to 2022. Putin continues his aborted invasion from 2014. He was always going to do this just like the United States was always going to invade Iraq under a Republican president. It was always the plan. Invading Ukraine was what he planned when his puppet (Paul Manafort’s buddy, Viktor Yanukovych. You remember Paul Manafort, right? Trump’s campaign chairman?) lost his election.

It is a sad historical truth that Ukraine was stupid to have ever given up it’s nukes. The preservation of Ukraine’s independence that all concerned parties signed onto (including Vlad himself) in exchange for Ukraine giving up the nukes stored inside of its national borders was just the initial move in an undeclared war. If Ukraine still had nuclear weapons we would not be seeing this invasion live on screens today. Is it really any wonder why Iran wants nuclear weapons? It should be obvious by now. If you have the ability to destroy life as we know it at your fingertips, people take you seriously. Weird how that works, isn’t it?

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Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994, Zelensky said, in return for a security guarantee signed by the U.S., the U.K., and Russia. What happened to those guarantees? Ukraine had been told that the doors to NATO membership remained open, but Ukraine had never been invited inside. Because the Ukrainians are not members of NATO, they know they cannot count on allied forces to come to their support. And as for those “lessons of history” that Baerbock and other German politicians have referred to in recent days, Zelensky wondered aloud whether they had been learned: “I just want to make sure you and I read the same books.” And then, in defiance of everything that everybody else had said, he used the word appeasement, to describe not Munich in 1938, but Munich in 2022.

Anne Applebaum – theatlantic.com (gift subscription for the blog author still greatly desired)

At the end of the day, it’s going to be the Ukrainians and their bravery and their dedication to this very old idea, the idea of sovereignty, the idea of freedom. It will be their dedication to that that determines what happens.

Anne Applebaum – Rachel Maddow – Feb. 21, 2022

The fog of war has descended now. Nobody can have all the facts any longer and yet facts still remain facts and facts are generally indisputable.

Here’s a fact; Putin is behaving like a new Hitler. Hitler’s bullshit excuse for claiming the Sudetenland and starting World War Two is exactly the same language that Vladimir Putin used to claim his right to invade and occupy Ukraine. There is no other conclusion that can be made when looking at that speech made by Vlad the Corrupter. He is Hitler, and he is bent on a reconquest of historically Russian possessions with majority Russian speakers.

That is what it looks like from the UK, it’s what it looks like from France and Germany and from the Balkan states that are right now very, very thankful that they joined NATO. Putin being a twenty-first century Hitler is what it looks like when you see any Ukrainian being interviewed; whether they are in the UK worried about relatives or in Kyiv worried about what’s going to happen next. If they are being interviewed on the BBC, maybe the BBC has an agenda, maybe they don’t, but they are interviewing ordinary, regular people; people who probably would be sitting at home watching TV at that precise moment and would prefer to not be interviewed by anybody except that a lot of shit is happening right now. Shit that has forced two million Ukrainians to leave their homes in fear.

(h/t to Stuart Surridge)

Ukraine was recognized as an independent state by Russia more than 30 years ago. The Charter of Paris, signed in November 1990 by the United States, Russia and 30 European countries, established essential principles for a post-Cold War era based on international law and global norms. Subsequently, Russia, the United States and Great Britain guaranteed the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in 1995 in the Budapest Memorandum.

Moscow has no more legal basis to insist on any portion of the territory of Ukraine than Germany has the right to demand the return of Alsace and Lorraine from France. If the West accepts such Russian claims, it will not only undermine the sovereignty of all countries but also invite other nations to seek territory through military force.

nbcnews.com

I would prefer that there was never another war but that has no bearing on whether Putin is an aggressor or that Volodymyr Zelenskyy was heroic when he chose to stay with his people and fight to the bitter end. If the US had supported a real leader during our fiasco in Afghanistan the Taliban would not be in power there now. Volodymyr Zelenskyy is a real leader.

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Ukraine has been an independent state for thirty years. It’s President will likely give his life for his country as will many thousands of it’s men, women and children. It is time and long past time to start treating it the way we do every other country; and with Ukraine, Belarus and Russia now being separate governments today, separate governments and distinctly unique peoples, it is long past time to admit that there is no longer a Russian empire. There are just the three countries who were once the core of the empire, two of which are lead by the same cruel little spider, Vlad the Corrupter in Moscow.

All of this is aside from the fact that we, the United States government, cannot be allowed to be seen as starting a war in Europe, which is what it will look like if we were to interfere in Ukraine directly now or in the near future. What is going on in Europe is a Russian or Eastern Slavic Civil War, no different than all the other uprisings that Vlad the Corrupter has put down in the former Soviet Republics. He saw all of them as the unwanted intervention of the United States and its allies and accomplices in strictly Russian affairs. Up to this point, he has been allowed to do what he wants with these places.

spotifyCommon Sense 323 – Gas Up the Cold War – March 1, 2022

I don’t like any of this in terms of how it worked out because I don’t want a more militarized Europe, I don’t want another cold war, I don’t want the massive defense spending, I don’t want everything that this is going to entail; but I’m not the one that invaded Ukraine. Sometimes it’s not up to us what we want.

Dan Carlin

If you grew up during the Cold War you can understand why most people don’t want to return to those years, and resuming hostilities with Russia because of Vlad the Corrupter’s actions feels a lot like the cold war is starting back up again. However, this isn’t a return to the cold war if we can keep Ukraine independent and opposed to Russian control.

…And we want to avoid a return to the cold war almost as much as we want to avoid a nuclear Armageddon. That outcome would be a setback for world peace and our need for mutual cooperation on limiting climate change. The world-wide antagonism that comes with a return to a cold war footing that might as well be read as the end of life as we know it on this planet, much the same as an all-out nuclear war will spell the end of life.

It isn’t a nuclear exchange that I fear. We are already in WW3 as far as I can tell and it may well end in a nuclear exchange for all that any of us can tell. What I fear is capitulation to Russia on the one hand and the resulting rise of authoritarianism around the world that would follow; as opposed to the standard American military response that will end in a nuclear exchange at some point.

On the other end of the spectrum from Dan Carlin’s handwringing about potentially starting a nuclear war we have this:

We must not only stop what’s happening in Ukraine, we must stop it before it happens here. 

Stonekettle

We cannot go into Ukraine and fight Russians directly. That is the conflict that every nationalist everywhere has been primed to fight to the death over. Being in the war should not equate to “running the war.” We must avoid that impression at all costs if we want any chance of victory for democracy and Ukraine. This has to be, first and foremost, Ukraine’s war against Russian aggression. Against Putin’s aggression, his denial of their own separate personhood as a nation. As individuals who don’t want to bow down to his criminal organization.

The United States needs to figure out how to assist Ukraine and the wider European theater of operation without making the conflict all about us. It ain’t about us. It’s about Ukrainians not wanting to belong to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. IF WE RUN THIS WAR we will lose this war. There is nothing that Russians want more than to make the United States suffer after all the suffering they’ve been through, suffering they’ve been told is at our hands for more than seventy years now.

We can not be the center. Ukraine has to be the center. More to come.


I get most of my news from NPR:

spotifyNPR – State of Ukraine

Even though I don’t link any of their podcasts in this article. Most of what they broadcast is transitory. The feeds mount up and the information becomes stale and the attempt to narrativize the information becomes unwieldy very quickly.

There Are No Sides in Public Health

I said this the first time to a close friend of mine that I hadn’t contacted since before the pandemic started. To be honest, I’d pretty much stopped talking to him since Trump was elected. We’d gone to see a few movies in the intervening years, but it was clear that my road and his road had diverged at some point, and he has never been willing to tolerate differing ideas. I’m not exactly the tolerating type myself. In both cases this intolerance can probably be chalked up to too much Ayn Rand and not enough social conscience.

We were having a conversation about architecture that strayed into the subject of plague avoidance and that is when he said “looks like we’re on opposite sides of the coin about covid.” There are no sides to public health. It is regrettable that Republicans have decided that there are sides.

The wife chastised me about this exchange when I related it to her later. “Don’t you want to have friends?” Sure I want to have friends. I’d like to have family too. I’d prefer they were friends and family that had a clue about public health and critical thinking, but I don’t appear to have a lot of choice these days when it comes to friends and family.

There isn’t a side when it comes to public health. This isn’t a controversial statement; or rather it shouldn’t be controversial if what you value is science and health and you want to conserve those two things. If what you value is instead capitalism and unfettered freedom, then what you will get is the kind of plague spreaders that are running rampant around us today in the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joe Rogan is the poster child for these magical-thinking, plague-spreading zombies around us all today. This bit of news trivia showed up in my inbox the other day:

Spotify said on Wednesday that it had begun removing [Neil Young]’s music from the streaming service, two days after he briefly posted a public letter calling on Spotify to choose between him and Joe Rogan, the star podcast host who has been accused of spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines.

Young’s challenge to Spotify has become a high-profile, if unexpected, flash point in the battle over misinformation and free speech online. It also raised questions about the power of performing artists to control where their work is heard.

In a statement posted to his website on Wednesday, Young called Spotify “the home of life threatening Covid misinformation.” He added: “Lies being sold for money.”

nytimes.com

I hate to break it to Neil Young, the choice was always going to be clear to Spotify. Neil Young is a great artist, but he’s not as popular as Joe Rogan. Spotify would be feeding its rivals if it were to abandon Rogan’s podcast. He’d still have the podcast available on public feeds everywhere and it would only be a matter of time before some other audio platform would snap his content up. Sure, they shouldn’t have given him a million dollars for exclusive first rights to new podcasts, and many skeptics of the plan said this at the time. That’s water under the bridge now, that million dollars is gone like our chance to stop COVID-19 from becoming endemic in the population is gone. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I’ve listened to several episodes of the Joe Rogan Experience over the years. The title of the show is itself an unwanted finger jabbed in the metaphorical eye since it is a ripoff of one of the all-time guitar legends the Jimi Hendrix experience. The content of the podcast is basically the ramblings of a drunken buffoon and whatever guest that he’s invited onto the show to get drunk and embarrass in front of his audience. Everyone laughs and the audience loves it and he has millions of subscribers, I just don’t happen to be one of them. If I want to listen to drunken ramblings, even above-par drunken ramblings, I can just get drunk with friends or family and the ramble occurs naturally.

It is a common refrain of mine when asked why I don’t get autographs from stars when I go to conventions that the signature doesn’t mean anything. Now, if I could sit down across from whoever it is and have a cup of whatever to drink while we talk, that would be an experience that I would relish. I want to have those conversations though, I don’t want to listen to Joe Rogan have those conversations. It is a pointless exercise in jealousy to listen, thinking I’m part of that conversation. It would be like watching football thinking you are part of the game. You aren’t, but feel free to think you are anyway.

Joe Rogan just wants to be an entertainer, he doesn’t want to be a source of information. I think we’ve heard that line a few times now. Joe Rogan may not want to be a source and yet he is a source of disinformation especially when he has people like Robert Malone on the show. He just wants his conversations to be interesting, following a standard media model of interviewing the people on the fringe of accepted norms. He may not know it, but he’s using an editorial algorithm that renders the result of giving the platform for the world’s largest podcast audience (millions of streams) to the people most likely to be wrong; and not just wrong, but people who are wrong and actively seeking to spread their wrong ideas to more people. (SGU #865, Neurologica)

With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE, which is hosted exclusively on Spotify, is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence,” the letter reads. “Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, though the company presently has no misinformation policy.

An Open Letter to Spotify from Health Experts

Joe Rogan’s guests are just asking questions about COVID? They don’t buy the bullshit? They think public health isn’t important? They don’t understand public health and how it keeps all of us alive day in and day out. Public health information is where you get your understanding of what kinds of foods are safe to eat, unless you are one of those brave souls picking mushrooms for yourself in the forest. Public health is how you understand to wash your hands regularly. Public health is the reason to clean sidewalks, mow parks, spay and neuter pets, etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitum. Public health is how we get access to the vaccinations that have saved countless millions of lives.

The difference with COVID-19 is that the federal government has not chosen to write laws that would mandate enforcement of public health guidelines. This problem should be rectified immediately as far as I’m concerned. Mandate the COVID vaccine. Mandate staying home if you are sick. Mandate masking up if you go out during elevated public health alert times. Put it down in law so that there isn’t room to argue about it anymore. Do it or stop pretending you are doing anything to help the current crisis we find ourselves in.

In the meantime, devoid of convictions or leviable crimes, Joe Rogan can’t justifiably be removed from Spotify’s streaming service unless Spotify itself deems it prudent to distance themselves from him. Considering the growing artist boycott, they might want to think seriously about that. The one thing that would make me stop using Spotify would be not having the music there I want to listen to. I go somewhere else for my podcasts anyway. If there was government enforcement of public health guidelines then Joe Rogan might have a problem. So long as there isn’t enforcement and he continues to entertain the masses, he’s safe in the general sense. Highly liable to die from a preventable disease, but otherwise safe, apparently.

Conspiracy Fantasies

These are arguments that were thrown at me as counters to the observation that there are no sides to public health.

  • Coronavirus was created in a lab/leaked from a lab – The lab leak theory was and is racist if the person saying it (like Trump) is a racist. SARS-CoV-2 didn’t leak out of a lab. It might have been contracted and spread by a lax technician gathering samples. It definitely was not created in a lab.
  • Masks won’t stop SARS-CoV-2Masks are effective. Some masks are more effective than others. The confusion about masks arose from public officials who didn’t want to alarm the public by saying the virus was airborne. They did more harm than good with their foot dragging. Saying masks aren’t effective is misinformation. There is no legal penalty for spreading misinformation. Yet.
  • The vaccines don’t stop COVID – The vaccines will stop the spread if everyone gets a vaccine. The vaccines have saved millions of lives. Getting all your vaccinations will save your life unless you are in the 0.01% that are adversely affected. Only medicine can inform you of this physical deficiency. Your pastor can’t do that for you. Saying that vaccines don’t stop COVID is misinformation.
  • There absolutely is more than one side. The official narrative has changed so much, it’s head-spinning to keep up with their nonsense. Sane people realize this. – That is a faulty or hasty generalization and a thinly veiled ad hominem. It isn’t an argument I can take seriously. The title remains uncontested.

Some of this was written on Facebook first. Featured AP image found here

Facebook Polls Broken?

I’ve been trying to get polls to show up with blank options after the first few required options, and I can’t get the blank “add an option” box to show for me. I can’t get it to show for the Wife, either. This is what the polls look like for me and for her:

I’m not the only one confused by this problem. All over the internet there are questions and responses that go through the frankly obvious method to get a poll to show up in Facebook. It’s not rocket science. None of the answers that I’ve run across discuss this specific problem, or give me a way to get around it.

I’m not the only one that can’t see the additional option boxes. After a member of one of my groups offered up that she could see the additional option box, and sent me a screenshot to prove it:

Several other members piped up that they too could not see the add box. I haven’t yet found a solution to this problem, so I’m creating a blog article simply to illustrate the problem for feedback purposes. I will update this article when/if I find a solution.

Addendum

The polls appear to be fixed as of Feb 1, 2022. I can’t tell if it’s just me or if this is true for everyone. Fingers crossed?

Migrating To a New System

I ran across a request for technical support on Facebook today. It seems that there is still a shortage of technical nerds in the outlying provinces of the country. This is understandable to me. Why would you live away from decent healthcare and a wide variety of shopping opportunities? It’s cheaper to live out in the boonies for very good reasons. It pays one to understand what the tradeoffs are for that relaxed country living.

There are no computer outlets in Rotan, or pretty much anywhere USA that can be navigated by referencing the one stoplight in town. This means that if you want your computer upgraded you will have to DIY it or you will have to go somewhere USA that features more than one strip mall. I’m a cheapskate even if I do pay through the nose to be near places that can do stuff for me, so I tend to DIY most things before calling someone to fix the mess I’ve made.

In this particular instance, the person was inquiring about getting their programs and data onto a new system. I’ve done this countless times with my own data and with other people’s data. It’s a pretty straightforward process. First, find everything that came with your old system. This is the justification on my part for keeping every stray bit of garbage that ships with my computer systems and other technical doodads. There is an entire garage full of useless empty boxes that can attest to this tendency of mine.

Hopefully you’ve tossed all the installation media that came with the original system into the empty shipping box, along with every other program you installed over the years that you’ve used that system.

Without the original installation media, it will be hard to make the programs work if you transfer to a new hard drive or a new windows installation. My suggestion would be to track down the programs you know you will need to re-install, first. Then make a decent backup. There are several pay systems out there that will back up you data for you, but you can also DIY that yourself with a series of DVD’s, or just get a separate backup drive and make a backup on that drive (this is something everyone should be periodically doing, and virtually no one does. Until it is too late) make a backup before proceeding further.

Crack the case open on both systems and see if the drive cables are the same type. If they are, then try to move the old drive to the new system. There may be some fiddly BIOS settings you will need to do in order to boot to the other drive, so you will probably have to get into the BIOS at startup to make that work. There should be a visible prompt on the screen advising you of how to get into the BIOS. Nearly every computer does this.

If the old drive boots in the new system, you are golden. No worries. You can reformat the new hard drive that came with the system and use it for data storage. Like backing up, putting your personal data on a separate drive from the operating system is just good computer hygiene. If the OS craps out on a separate drive (the most frequent problem) you can just reformat that drive and reinstall the OS without disturbing your personal data. Be careful to reformat the right drive! Can’t tell you the number of times that error has been made. Even I have done it.

If the old drive doesn’t boot in the new system, or if it is a different type of hard drive, then you are going to have to re-install the programs yourself or pay someone to do it for you. At least you will have the media to install from because you found the media before starting this process. Then you do the opposite of what I described above, and remove the old OS folders from your data drive, placing your data where you can find it again somewhere else on that drive.

The process is not easy. I will not say that four letter word willingly on any subject. However, it is doable by anyone with the patience it takes to carefully go through the steps I’ve outlined above. I hate dealing with hardware myself. I’m always convinced I’ve just made another expensive paperweight every time I crack open a case. The number of times that has been true has been less than double digits, and I’ve cracked open somewhere near a hundred different computer cases over the years.

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Regression to the Mean

Republicans:

facebook.com/Stonekettle

They have made their way for so long on the mantra of resistance and regression that they can’t comprehend a change that is necessary for thier own survival. They would rather die than admit that a tradition was wrong.

The tradition in this case being that the individual is paramount. There can be no such thing as a legitimate public health concern if the public is subservient to the individual. This is the error in accepting individualism as your only ideology.

Vaccine mandates are how this civilization will survive this crisis. It is the only way we will survive and not be swallowed up by the other societies who are instinctively capable of subsuming the individual to the will of the group.

We either force the insanely individualistic to submit to majority will in this instance, or we will devolve into small islands of localized authority that will be gobbled up by the next society to gain dominance in the new reality. The new reality that Donald Trump and his Republican party have made necessary by failing to stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from spreading across the world.

This isn’t just about vaccine mandates, either:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has signed a bill that aims to stop social media companies from banning users or nixing posts based solely on political opinions — the latest salvo by Republicans, who claim that these tech giants are censoring conservative users.

cbsnews.com

The Trumpists that run the Republican party are intent on seeing that their particular brand of insanity can’t be removed from the public arena. They have now given up on the idea of businesses being allowed to go their own way, the unbridled worship of the free market. Businesses must now strictly conform to Republican views or they will face dire consequences:

If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said in Tuesday’s statement. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.

Kevin McCarthy via politico.com

This is terrorism, no different than the terroristic threats issued by violent extremists and dictatorial governments elsewhere in the world. Republicans have proven themselves over and over again to be the kind of vicious bastards that would do the things that they threaten to do. Which is exactly the reason why the United States government should act to protect itself now, not wait for the next Congress or the next President to be elected from the Republican party to act in the manner they have already promised to act, and then have the gall to feign surprise at the promised retribution being delivered.

They are threatening us with violence, have been threatening us with violence for decades. These are the same people whose grandparents and great-grandparents joined the KKK and terrorized minority communities in order to get their way. The same people who filibustered against civil rights legislation and voting rights legislation before they switched parties and became Republicans.

They are the direct descendants of terrorists, and we cannot allow them to compete for power in this country any longer unless they are willing to renounce terror as a method of governing. Either they submit to the current government and its completely legitimate concerns for public health, for civil discourse; or the government should use its equally legitimate control of the use of force to ensure that they comply with the needs of society.

Enforced compliance, up to and including the disenfranchisement of the Republican party itself in favor of a party-less system that makes no allowances for party affiliation in the rules of government. The way that representative government in the United States should have been arranged for in the first place. The least amount of party interference in active government that can be achieved; through conscious, objectively designed rules that minimize factional disfunction in favor of just getting the necessary shit done.

The House passed a bill Tuesday that would both prevent a government shutdown and suspend the debt limit in a step toward preventing possible economic calamity.

The chamber approved the plan in a 220-211 vote. All Democrats voted for it and all Republicans opposed it.

As the bill heads to the Senate, Republicans are threatening to block it, which could leave Democrats scrambling to find another way to avoid a federal funding lapse — or even a first-ever default on U.S. debt. Worries about a looming default and the economic damage it would cause contributed to a U.S. stock market drubbing on Monday.

cnbc.com

Conservatism has now resumed it’s traditional place in the United States. It has regressed to its mean; blind support of tradition for tradition’s sake. Pursuit of power for power’s sake. The Republican party has ceased to function as a party that can govern and so consequently should be relegated to the back bench. We should allow some other party to take its place, or allow a combination of parties to vie for the prime opposition spot.

We cannot allow public health to be treated as just another thing that we should expect the government to argue with itself about. The average American just wants to be allowed to live their life, and enforcing minimal public health standards will let that happen. Can we all just be allowed to go outside again, please? Get your damn shots.

Repairing Pandemic Damage Not All That is Needed Now

To repair the damage done by these people in these times will not be easy. I may not see the wounds mended in my lifetime. It may take a generation or more. The social damage of the pandemic itself, the fear of our old social lives, in bars and restaurants and dance halls and sports stadiums, will take time to heal (although a percentage of people seem to know no fear already). We will hug and kiss again. But will there still be movie theaters? Will there be bookstores? Will we feel okay in crowded subway cars?

wapo/salman-rushdie

I would say that the lack of workers volunteering to die for minimum wage across the United States today in what is rapidly becoming a post-pandemic world says volumes about the actual rethinking that is going on right now. Whether we will turn these things we’ve learned about ourselves and our world into real world changes remains the question. I will say that if we don’t make the changes, heal the breaches in our lifetimes, those ills will fester and re-emerge the next time society hits a breaking point.

It wasn’t the name of the black man that police killed that made last summer’s protests a fulcrum to leverage change. It was simply the fact that the policeman killed another black man while the rest of the world was forced to watch him do it. The pandemic made change possible by forcing the entire world to become passive observers of what the rest of the world was doing in their lives and in their essential work. Essential work that appears to include killing random black people in every corner of the United States.

The next time we are strapped down and stretched thin like we were last summer, there might be some other breaking point that appears and fulminates the last great war, rather than just a call for the equal justice we all were promised. We really can’t afford to keep kicking the can down the road. We need to step up and make the changes now while the motivation is fresh and our intentions pure. I’m becoming deathly afraid that we don’t know how act of pure intention anymore, or even act at all.

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Salman Rushdie: I’ve seen dictators rise and fall. Beware, America.

These “audits” don’t have to find anything; the fact that they exist at all is enough to do what they are designed to do: undermine voters’ faith in the system at the same time they indicate that no election result that elects a Democrat is legitimate.

heathercoxrichardson/june-3-2021

Anti-Vaccination Agitation

One way to look at it is this – a small minority now has the ability to hijack public health policy by waging their own shadow campaign on social media. They are accountable to no one. They can force the expenditure of limited public health dollars just to minimize the effect of their own campaigns. This is also an asymmetric campaign, because it is much easier to spread fear than proper information. At the very least it is reasonable to filter out their harmful misinformation from private platforms. Panels of experts can be used to provide the filter, and fair processes can be made available for appeals. At the very least these options need to be explored.

Sciencebasedmedicine.org
Sciencebasedmedicine.org

This article was about Gardasil. The vaccination worked, but social conservatives hated it because it gave women permission to be promiscuous. Think about what that means. They wanted people to suffer and die from a preventable cancer rather than vaccinate them against the cause of that cancer on the grounds that sex outside of marriage is bad and should be discouraged. They used vaccine fear to wage a war against this vaccine, and this isn’t even the first time, nor was it the last.

facebook/Stonekettle

That is the Conservative-Republican-Trumpist line now about the coronavirus vaccine:

Oh, we’re not anti-vax. We just don’t think vaccines work.

…Strangely, it is the same argument they offer about their obvious racism. What their resistance is about now is still religion. Their religion of conservatism. Their invented Republican Jesus, the one who loves capitalism and profit more than he does the poor and the sick. Their belief that government can’t do anything good in the world.

I’ve heard this pushback from dozens of sources now. They just object to this one vaccination, not the general idea that vaccinations work. Either the science is real, or it isn’t. Either we have stopped Small Pox, Polio, etcetera through vaccination, or the entire business is a sham. A con job. Pick one side people, because it can’t be both sides at the same time. The vaccine works. It works and you should get it.

Postscript

This was originally posted as a quote on January 11, 202o and I have advanced and appended the quote with the current coronavirus crap. I have cut ties to family members now over this subject. When I found out that some of them had not gotten the vaccination recently, I wrote and then sent them a link to the recently published WWBD? A humorous dig at their reticence, their refusal to admit that medicine works.

I had not realized how deep the science denial goes in my family. One of them promptly stopped speaking to me. The other one sent me this article:

From recent reports it looks like this new variant we call Omicron, but I prefer to call #Moronic, will likely replace the Delta variant here and across the world IF it continues to spread like it has in South Africa. Good news is that in the about 3 weeks since Omicron made the news, there have been few hospitalizations and only one death as a result of Omicron which we are not sure if it was FROM Omicron or WITH Omicron.

therealdrstevenhorvitz

When I tried to explain to them that they had fallen prey to the same kind of snake oil salesman that had hoodwinked my mother all her life, that had me talking about waking up the sheeple for more than ten years, they promptly stopped talking to me as well.

Steven Horvitz D.O. is definitely coming right out of the same libertarian vein that most of the “I’m free to do whatever I want so fuck you” mentality that I was a part of during my early political activism. It is too early to say anything about the Omicron variant aside from noting that it spreads like wildfire and will soon overtake the Delta variant just as predicted. We won’t know how deadly it will be until long after that point, so the good doctor’s feigned knowledge on the subject is 99.9% bluster. (Dr. Steven Novella on Omicron)

Which is fine. If I can’t convince them to save their own lives, I’m not going to waste energy trying to save them from themselves without their begging me to help first. Since they’ve rarely had more than ridicule to vent at me for most of my life, I see little chance of them begging me for anything until long after Hell freezes over.

Mandated Vaccination

facebook.com/Stonekettle

The Atlantic & WNYC – The Experiment: The Crime of Refusing Vaccination – MARCH 25, 202

The Jacobson v. Massachusetts decision made clear that the government could mandate vaccination, arguing that collective good sometimes outweighs individual rights. But the line between the two is blurry. More than two decades after Jacobson’s case, the Court used the same logic in another decision, one the historian Michael Willrich says is among the “scariest U.S. Supreme Court decisions of all time.”

The episode of The Experiment that is embedded above illustrates how easily we can be manipulated into thinking something that is good for us is bad, and it illustrates that the converse is also true. It is illegal to refuse vaccination when that vaccination is mandated by government, that is a basic public health criteria. This isn’t about you and your vaccine fears anymore than it is about me and mine. this is about keeping everyone in the population as healthy as we can, and the way to do that is to make sure that we achieve and maintain herd immunity through vaccination for easily communicable diseases.

This is why you should get your influenza vaccination as well as all the other vaccinations on the list of required vaccinations. Get them because you care about the people around you more than you care for yourself. If you can’t find it in yourself to do it for other people, do it so that you don’t get sick from an easily preventable disease. Wish for a vaccination for every communicable disease that you might casually be exposed to so that you don’t die from that disease, either (I see you hiding over there, Malaria) I do, and I hate needles more than anything else I encounter in day to day life.

I have little doubt that Stonekettle is right in the article embedded above. There is too much bullshit out there circulating for this to not be something that Russia is trying to seed throughout the United States in order to weaken us. That other shoe will drop eventually (if we can’t just take past actions as proof in and of itself) and then we’ll know for sure who is spreading the anti-vaccination bullshit this time around aside from the anti-vax idiots in our midst.

There should be a mandate to get the COVID vaccine just as there is for all the other vaccinations we undergo. The influenza vaccination should be mandated as well.  What form that mandate takes is the only real question left to answer. Do we just pass a law making refusing a vaccination a crime again, or do we try to nudge people in the direction of doing the right thing without holding guns to their head to get them to do it? Americans can’t seem to get away from doing everything that they can at the point of a gun. Maybe we should try something different for once.

Eliminating GIGO

When I wrote:

…I think I got the most volume and some of the most varied feedback I’ve ever gotten for any post I’d ever written before. It ran the gamut from “this is easy to do and Facebook can’t seem to do it, so they must not care” or “Facebook is in bed with X group, their behavior demonstrates this.” to “Any attempt to moderate speech violates my freedom of speech.” When I queued up this episode, one of the first things that the guest says on mic is that she figured that the Facebook Supreme Court was just a way to get Facebook out of the crosshairs for making the decisions that need to be made, content-wise:

Radiolab – Facebook’s Supreme Court – February 12, 2021

…and by the end of the episode I was where Jad was “we have to ban Facebook, don’t we?” But then I thought some more about the varied responses to the tests that were put forward to illustrate just how hard it is to make judgements about what is or isn’t acceptable on social media, and I started to realize that what Facebook will ultimately achieve, if it succeeds, is some form of internet protocol for allowing the greatest amount of speech possible without misleading the populace or allowing for the targeting of segments of the population. I wish them luck with their supreme court experiment. Hope it all works out.

Tangentially, there were two more episodes later in my podcast feed that dealt with the same conundrum. Speech, the freedom and limitations of:

Amicus With Dahlia Lithwick – First Amendment Fallacies – Feb 27, 2021
What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law – Deplatforming and Section 230 – 02.27.21

If I were to craft a tweet for this episode of Trumpconlaw, as I have tried to do for it’s 49 brothers (failed at a few) It would run something like “Section 230 allows your internet to serve you the porn you want on demand, it does not enable Facebook to silence your god-king, no matter what he says about it.” The #MAGA remain MAGA no matter how many times they mash their faces against the screens, though.

…which reminds me. While #48 about pardons was largely a rehash of the previous pardon episodes of Trumpconlaw, #49 speaks explicitly to the title of this article because:

What Trump Can Teach Us About Con Law – Incitement – 01.30.21

Incitement is by definition GIGO that should be eliminated. “Trump’s behavior since the November election proves that his intention was to incite violence on January 6th. He would have caused more violence on January 20th if he had not been deplatformed.”