Tags: politics

Me 2

Afghanistan - More Thoughts

More thoughts about Afghanistan.

1) Is our evacuation really a disaster? As noted here, we've pulled 40,000 people out of Afghanistan for zero losses.

2) Also noted here, the people we put in charge of the former Afghan government seem to be calmly negotiating with the Taliban.

3) From this post by an American who has been living in Afghanistan for over a decade and speaks Pashtu, I (re)learn that:
a) The Afghan government has been corrupt for decades and the US has enabled that corruption.
b) Our nominal ally Pakistan probably created the Taliban and are apparently providing key support (read "money, training and people") for the resurgent organization.
c) Hamid Karzai, the man the US put in charge of the country after we took it, is probably playing a key role in enabling the current Taliban takeover.
d) Self-delusion, mostly by US civilian leadership of both parties for decades, was a major factor in the rapid collapse.

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Me 2

Afghanistan

As I'm writing this, I'm listening to Congresswoman Liz Cheney criticize the US pullout from Afghanistan. Unless you've been under a rock, the news is wall-to-wall video of the collapse of the US-backed government in Afghanistan. I rarely if ever say this, but Trump was right. (Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.) We needed to leave Afghanistan. If after 20 years, 3000 American dead and a trillion bucks, the US government can't last a month, then we're doing it wrong.

As Biden said, "One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” he said on Saturday."

So far, I've seen not a peep about this pullout from the various conservatives I follow. Sometimes, the right thing to do is obvious to all.

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Me 2

Billionaires in Spaaaacccee!

The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy called and wants me to post on the recent trend of billionaires in space. After I suggested they might want to fix their payroll issues, I agreed to post the following.

First, I am not at all upset that Bezos and Branson, AKA The B Team, launched themselves into space. I *would* be upset if, after their launches, they announced that they were done with space. They did not. Both individuals are attempting to build businesses of flying people into space safely and at a less astronomical cost then charged by NASA. (Pun intended.) This is overall a good thing for humanity. We will sooner or later want to be able to support large numbers of space travelers.

Second, it is entirely fair to dump on The B Team for not paying their fair share of taxes. A significant increase of taxation on either individual's firms or personal income would not reduce their spaceflight efforts in the slightest. They would still have more money than they knew what to do with.

Finally, yes the Blue Origin vehicle does more-than-vaguely resemble a flying penis. (I do remember when I was an junior high!)

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Me 2

Ransomware and Piracy

A thought hit me - various nation states (cough *Russia* cough) are using criminal ransomware gangs much like nation states in the 1600s used pirates. First, a bit of history from your friendly local historian.

In the 1600s, England did not yet rule the seas. Spain did. England, France and the Netherlands were competing for second place. As a way to harass Spain, those other countries allowed pirates to operate from their overseas possessions. "Allow" is doing a lot of work there - one English pirate, Henry Morgan, became a baronet and Lieutenant Governor of Jamaica.

From the English point of view, piracy was a good tool. It was self-funding (maybe even a profit center - pirates had to buy their cannons from somebody) and if an individual pirate was causing too much trouble, disavowing him was easy. The pirate attacks were rarely big enough for Spain to justify going to all-out war over them.

Does any of this sound like the recent spate of ransomware attacks? Self-funding, easy to disavow, and not yet serious enough for the US to launch cruise missiles? It's also being undertaken for the same reasons. Russia is not nearly strong enough to win any sort of protracted war with the US.

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Me 2

The Filibuster

There's a great deal of discussion about trying to abolish the filibuster in the Senate. Now personally I am opposed to rules in a democratic institution that prevent the majority from actually ruling, so I support getting rid of the filibuster. Having said that, the real problem with the Senate isn't their rules; rather it's that the institution exists at all.

The Senate has been a problem since the beginning of the Republic. Prior to the Civil War, keeping the Senate 50 / 50 slave vs. free led to a number of political crises. After the Civil War, keeping the Senate safely Republican led to other machinations. These included splitting Dakota into two states, then admitting both plus Montana and Idaho despite none of them having the then-requisite population to be a state. We took a bit of a break from Senate shenanigans in the 20th century, only to fire up again this century with the filibuster.

The fundamental problem is this - any institution that weighs voters from Montana 30 times as much as voters from California is simply wrong. In every other country I'm aware of, they either don't have an upper house at all or if they do, the upper house's power is greatly limited. Eliminating or weakening the Senate would be a great thing to do. Alas, I have no idea how we would do so.

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Me 2

Israel and Hamas

As the author Patrick S. Tomlinson ([profile] stealthygeek) said, Hamas and the current Israeli government need each other. Hamas needs Israel to bomb them, thus proving Hamas is needed and providing an excuse for the lack of services provided by Hamas. The current Israeli government needs Hamas to provide cover for West Bank settlements and Netanyahu's corruption scandals.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. We've been trying to get peace talks moving while funding the Israeli military for decades. We're not getting different results. We should phase out funding of Israel's military.

We can do that without jeopardizing Israel's security. Egypt and Jordan aren't interested in attacking, while Saudi Arabia's not interested in funding a war. Syria is too fucked up to invade anybody and will be for a while, and Iran (or Russia, for that matter) lack the expeditionary capacity to attack. Even if they do get a wild hair and decide to attack, we can easily shut them down.

I don't know if our withdrawal of support will change the situation in Israel or not. But what we're doing now is clearly not working, so a change is called for.

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Me 2

Baen's Bar and Series in Fiction

Baen's Bar

There is an ongoing brouhaha about people in the online forum Baen's Bar. More than a few posts are of people calling for violence in support of their right-wing politics. Given the recent insurrection at the Capitol, these types of remarks are getting more attention. Sadly, I find my give-a-damn is busted. These posts only happen on days that end in -y, and have been ongoing for years. Any blame that attaches to Baen Books and editor Toni Weisskopf attached years ago.

Series in Fiction

I mentioned that I stopped reading Rachel Caine's latest (and alas last) series after book 3. This got me thinking about series in general. At the end of any book or movie, what happens next is practically unlimited. People who enjoyed the work can imagine almost anything. However, each follow-on work involves authorial decisions. These decisions limit the possibilities, and sometimes that limit means people will drop off.

Even series that hit the reset button have this problem. I recently watched Season 1 of the TV show "LA's Finest." At the end of the season, they hit the reset button. Season 2 is sitting on my Netflix and will probably not be watched. In short, change and lack of change can cause people to abandon a series.

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Me 2

Endings

My October 14 post about Trump claming that Nothing in his Administration will become him like the leaving of it has not aged as well as I would have liked in the wake of Wednesday's coup attempt. I admit, I did not anticipate him sending a mob to lynch Congress.

Although I'm not sure how much of Wednesday's mob action was planned by Trump. First, he's just not much of a planner. Second, he's personally a coward. I suspect his "plan" for whatever values of planning actually occurred was for the Congress to be intimidated by protestors, possibly including "protestors" roaming the halls of Congress. (Think the various right-wing anti-mask and anti-lockdown protests in statehouses of late.)

This does not absolve him of the blame for the coup or the deaths. If you play with matches and gasoline, the fire is your responsibility. It does point out that Trump is more symptom than problem.

There are large groups of Americans who are angry enough to resort to violence for political ends. That's the problem. And no, they are not, by-and-large, "blue collar" people. We've seen CEOs of companies and people who chartered private jets to fly into Washington in order to attack the capitol. We've also seen some people in the mob who clearly came to lynch politicians. (Dudes with zip ties and flak jackets - Google it yourself.)

Fixing this will require a lot of work, and not just by politicians. Some, most of the work will have to be done by society. It will start by shaming those who engage in violence, much like we've shamed those who are openly racist. Yes, some people are without shame, but the goal is to keep the number of people we need to worry about as low as possible. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/750350.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

Coup

I'm glad to see that the Republican Party is the party of law and order. Blue lives matter! (That's sarcasm, for those unclear.)

Calling Trump's coup yesterday half-assed is an insult to half-assedness, which is par for the course with Trump. And yes, it was a coup attempt, and even after half-assed coups you need to remove the coup plotters.

You see, if you plan to overthrow the government by shutting down the legislature, you need to do three things. One, send in a mob. Two, make sure that, imbedded in said mob, are some people who can take out key targets under cover of the mob. Three, be able to show up on a white horse and restore order. Fortunately, Trump's too stupid and lazy for steps 2 and 3. We got lucky.

In related thoughts, I whole-heartedly agree with John Scalzi when he says Trump is the worst President ever. From Scalzi: James Buchanan allowed the country to fall into the Civil War because he believed (erroneously, in my opinion) the principles of the country could not stop it from happening. He was wrong, terribly wrong, but at least there was a principle behind it. Trump, it is now perfectly and unambiguously clear, would be delighted to have the country fall into a civil war, not for principle, but simply for ego. He would destroy our country and democracy because he can’t abide what he now is: a loser.

Lastly, we've seen police can be polite to rioters, as long as said rioters are white. Good to know. This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/750121.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Me 2

People vote, not cows and cornfields

On my Facebook page, somebody pointed out that Trump won more counties than Biden. Here's my edited comment to that.

Here in the US, people vote, not cows or cornfields. Here in the US, people live in cities and suburbs. Making an argument about how many counties somebody won is stupid.

For example, Biden won DuPage County, getting 281,000 votes. That's 3 times more votes for *Biden* than total ballots cast in Champaign County (96,185). (BTW, Biden won Champaign County with 57,067 votes.)

There are a lot of really empty counties in the US. The least-populated county in Illinois, Hardin County, only has 4,300 people. The least-populated county in the US, Loving County in Texas, only has *86* residents.

(You can do your own Google for these numbers) This entry was originally posted at https://chris-gerrib.dreamwidth.org/748903.html. Please comment there using OpenID.