Tuesday, March 23, 2021

On bigotry against Asians

 Asia is the largest and most populated continent. It stretch from the Suez Canal to the Bering Strait and from the Ural mountains to Indonesia. Most human beings on Earth live in Asia. If you hate all Asians, you hate over 4.5 billion people. Since six countries with nuclear weapons have most of their territory in Asia, if Asians hate you back then you have a big problem. Most religions have originated in Asia, and yes, this includes Christianity. Every US foreign war since Reconstruction has involved Asia. Ironically, most of these wars were to protect Asian countries from European countries or other Asian countries.

Most Americans' understanding of world history revolves around the US and Europe, but history literally started in Asia.

Bigotry against Asians is somewhat different than bigotry against other races. White supremacists think they are superior to  black people but they can't help but feel inferior to Japanese. Of course if your first instinct is violence, then you actually are inferior to everyone else. Address the fact that you are an absolute loser, and go from there.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Just get vaccinated

The word "vaccine" comes from the Latin word "vaccae" which means "cattle". I'm sure some anti-vaxxer will find a way to use that etymology compare people to livestock for wanting a COVID-19 shot. But during the 18th century Dr Edward Jenner noticed that people who worked with cows on dairy farms tended to not get smallpox. Instead, these folks were getting cowpox. Cowpox is a somewhat minor illness that is still around, but smallpox used to have fatality rates of 30%. So Dr Jenner intentionally injected pus from a cowpox patient into a young boy. The boy developed a mild fever but quickly recovered. A few weeks later, Dr Jenner injected the boy with pus from someone with smallpox. When the boy didn't get infected with smallpox, Dr Jenner concluded that cowpox could be used to protect people from smallpox. Today Dr Edward Jenner is praised as the inventor of the first vaccine.

Most modern vaccines do not rely on live viruses. A vaccinated person might experience an immune response or other symptoms. But that is a small trade-off compared to being vulnerable to a possibly lethal infection

Now here's some interesting facts:

1. Smallpox is now extinct, thanks in part to Dr Jenner's efforts. The last smallpox case happened during the 70's, so most people are too young to remember how deadly this disease was.

2. Medical ethics have improved greatly over the past couple centuries  so you don't have to worry about new vaccines being tested on your kids. Only after a vaccine has been proven safe for adults will children be allowed to participate in trials with their parents' consent.

3. Dr Jenner did not even know what a virus was. He simply made an observation (cowpox patients don't get smallpox) and formed a hypothesis (infecting people with cowpox can prevent smallpox).

I believe that the 3 COVID-19 vaccines that are being distributed in the US are safe and effective. They have passed months of rigorous and redundant testing. If these vaccines were dangerous, we would be hearing about what the vaccines are doing to the millions of healthcare workers and military personnel who have already received them. I am going to get the vaccine as soon as it is available to me. Should you get the shot? Since I'm not a doctor, you might have reason to be skeptical of any medical advice that I give out. You should also be skeptical of any medical advice that you get from YouTube videos. By all means, make an appointment with your doctor and ask directly if a COVID-19 shot is right for you in particular. Or you can do what actual doctors and nurses are doing and just get the shot.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Dr Seuss and Mr Potato Head.

 One perk of not having kids is that I don't have to care about children's products. Yet suddenly a lot of people who don't post pictures of kids are suddenly posting memes about Dr Seuss and Mr Potato Head. So even I now have the urge to rant about things I don't really have a stake in.

Let's start off with Mr Potato Head. Hasbro is dropped the "Mr" from the packaging. This suits me just fine, vegetables shouldn't have prefixes before their names. Moving on.

Six Dr Seuss books are going out of print. Normally it doesn't make the news when a book goes out of print because this happens all the time. This is usually the result of very basic and boring business decisions. If a publisher can't make money selling a book, then it will stop spending money on printing that book. The book isn't cancelled or censored: if you bought a copy already then you still get to keep it forever. You might even find it in a used book store, or you can hunt down a copy online.

Sometimes there is demand for a book, but the author or publisher doesn't want to sell it anymore. Using his nom de plume Richard Bachman, Stephen King wrote a book called Rage about a student who shoots a couple teachers and takes his class hostage. After a couple of actual school shooters turned out to be fans of the book, King decided to let the book go out of print. He won't let anyone else make new copies. A used paperback copy can cost $28 or more. 

Stephen King made the choice to discontinue one book. Dr Seuss' estate made the choice to discontinue 6 books that weren't selling well.

"Hurr durr, why are Dr Seuss books being taken off the market but Wet Ass Pussy is perfectly fine?" Because Dr Seuss books are a product for children. WAP is a song for adults. Young parents don't want to raise racist kids, and they are the ones who decide what small children are allowed to read.

Ultimately, Hasbro and the Dr Seuss estate figured out a way to get free advertising for their products by making idiots mad. The sales of Dr Seuss books are way up. And it's about time that I found a way to cash in on this shit too. Buy my novel, A Long Way From Tipperary. It's got sex and violence in it too, and it's definitely not for kids. It's on sale until I get my COVID-19 shot. Then I will raise the ebook price to that of a gallon of gas. That way, any time I need to fill the tank, I can just go out and sell 13 copies.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Why are we still talking about the draft? Abolish Selective Service.

Baby boomers were the last generation to be drafted. Generation X and Millennials are now too old to be drafted. I have a young Zoomer friend who is too disabled to be of use to a modern military, but he still had to register at the Selective Service website just so he could be eligible for a driver's license. A very minor inconvenience to be sure, but let's go ahead and have this conversation about forcing future generations to fight for dubious causes.

The ACLU is arguing that the male-only draft is unconstitutional. I would agree. But the ACLU is arguing that only requiring men to register violates the 5th Amendment's equal protection clause. I would argue that drafting anybody violates the 13th Amendment's ban on involuntary servitude.

You can't even claim that there is a compelling state interest for Selective Service. In this age of drones, cruise missiles, and nuclear weapons, no foreign country wants to attack the US. Foreign terror groups are still out there, but they are never able to muster up more than a few volunteers to die for their cause. As of this writing, the chief security threat to the US is domestic terror groups and domestic insurrection. Our top notch military wants only the best men and women to serve. People who lack the will to serve voluntarily won't perform as well.

Right now, the Pentagon is trying to screen out right-wing extremists from it's own ranks. A draft would risk drawing in more of the extremists that the military is trying to get rid of. There are policies are in place to keep neo-Nazis and other fashholes from enlisting, so it might make sense to make them ineligible for the draft. Except that a draft might boost the recruitment numbers of these hate groups: just get a 1488 tattoo and you get to stay home while all your liberal peers have to go through boot camp.

In fact, the first time the draft was employed on a national scale was during the Civil War. The Confederacy tried it first. Slaveowners themselves were exempt from the draft, and poor white men were justifiable resentful of being forced to right for the "right" of wealthy men to own slaves. The Union attempted their own draft, and this led to the New York Draft Riots. Union troops had to be pulled from the front to restore order. The Confederacy lost the war anyway, but the Union suffered a net loss in manpower as a result of the draft.

"But Robert, if young men have to register for the draft, isn't it unfair to exclude women from the draft?" If this country lacks the political will to abolish Selective Service, reforming the obsolete institution serves no purpose either. I wish I was excluded from the draft myself. It would have been one less form for me to fill out, and one less thing to worry about. Life is unfair to men and women in different ways, but on the whole life is more unfair to women. Adding this extra burden to young women is an insult at best. To their credit, women have been more inclined to protest wars than to fight in wars. If women are subjected to the draft, many states would force them to either register for Selective Service, or forfeit their driver's license. Even in the absence of an actual war or an actual draft, this can impact their quality of life if they follow their conscience and refuse to register. There are many men who are suffering consequences for failure to register right now, and extending the draft to women would likely more than double the number of people who experience these hardships.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

McConnell vs Trump

Mitch McConnell admitted that Donald Trump is responsible for the Capitol Riot. Why did he vote to acquit? Because McConnell made a deal with Trump: if you don’t declassify everything and don’t pardon Edward Snowden, then the Senate will acquit you. It was a tit-for-tat exchange. McConnell very reluctantly held up his end of the bargain. Trump no longer has the authority to declassify anything, but he likely remembers something particularly juicy from an intelligence briefing.

If Trump doesn’t get charged or arrested this year, it will likely be due to greymail: the act of blackmailing the government. Greymail is when a person threatens to release classified intel to the public if he is prosecuted for a crime. It’s also possible that a greymailer might still cause so much problems for a government that they try to find a way to deal with them anyway. On the other hand, Trump has very little credibility with most Americans. If he were to say “Oh by the way, here is a picture of an artifact found in orbit around Earth that definitely NOT created by humans,” most people will assume that the picture is fake. Suffice to say, if you don’t have a security clearance, you don’t know what Trump knows and what he might try to say or do. He might make something up. He might give out actual intel and the government will just say that this crazy old dude made it all up.

But now Trump and McConnell are engaged in a great political pissing contest. This goes to show that if you try to strattle the fence to keep Trump supporters happy, they’re still going to turn on you. They demand that you be as committed to Individual One as they are. If you won’t drink their Kool-Aid, don’t go to their party.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Why Gina Carano had to be fired


Gina Carano got fired by Lucasfilm over an Instagram post. After seeing the post in question, I have to agree with the decision that Lucasfilm made. The post contains the following.

“...the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?”

That might seem like a rhetorical question in that post, but it actually has an answer. Hating someone for being Jewish is way different from hating someone for their political views. Most Jews don’t choose to be Jews; they are born that way. Nobody is born with a political viewpoint. It’s not exactly easy to stop being Jewish if you are born to Jewish parents. Some people will consider that person to be Jewish even if they convert to another religion. Lots of people have different political views than their parents. Their political views change from time to time. It is normal and healthy to have different political views, but some of these political views are very, very bad.

And who gets to decide which political views are bad? Everybody! Lots and lots of people have strong opinions about other people’s opinions, and it influences the choices they make in what movies to watch, what music to listen to, and what books to read. The entertainment industry can be very picky about who gets to keep working. There are WAY more people who want to be actors than actually will ever get to be actors. If one person gets fired for being a MAGA sympathizer, that frees up a slot for someone who is not a MAGA sympathizer. The MAGA sympathizer can rethink their worldview, seek out a career that appeals to other MAGA sympathizers, or they can seek out income outside of show business. The show goes on, and the world keeps spinning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

That Impeachment Trial!

 So I’m going to do some amateur legal analysis. I’m not a lawyer, but if you are one, feel free to chime in. My own lawyer dad is taking a voluntary social media break. If you’re not a lawyer either, I’m probably going to mock you if your opinion runs contrary to mine. Here we go!

I think that if Trump were a normal crook, he would be found not competent to stand trial. He keeps changing lawyers and defense strategies. The arguments for his acquittal run around several themes. Here’s the three that I’m going to pick on:

1. The trial is unconstitutional.

2. He didn’t actually incite the riot.

3. The election was stolen.

Now let’s say the police find five bodies in your backyard, and you find yourself on trial for five counts of murder. If it’s obvious that you did it, then a good lawyer would try to work out a plea agreement. But you don’t want to spend any time in prison, so you are going to fight this.

You could try saying that the court has no authority to try you. Some defendants do try to make this argument, but I have never heard of a case where it results in acquittal or the charges being dropped. If you are already in front of a judge, it’s a big stretch to say that he doesn’t have authority. Whether it is fair or not, he is the one with the robe and the gavel, and you’re the guy in an off-the-rack suit that your lawyer picked out for you. It’s best to take the proceeding seriously.

You can say that you didn’t kill those people. Every year, millions of Americans avoid being convicted of murder by not actually killing anyone. This is usually a sound defense strategy if it is true, and the burden is on the prosecution to prove that it isn’t true.

You can say that the killings were justified. This is also a good defense if it is true. But it is difficult to convince a jury that the defendant was justified in killing the victims, and that the defendant didn’t actually kill anybody at all. So usually the defense commits to one alibi and sticks with it. To change the alibi during a case damages the defendant’s credibility and makes him look guilty. That isn’t something that a rational defendant wants.

Now let’s swing back around to Trump’s arguments.

Claiming that the trial is unconstitutional might give some pretext for Republican senators to vote for acquittal. This argument is false, but a Senator still needs to say something to his own voters on why he voted the way he did. This isn’t how normal trials with normal juries work, but it is how impeachment trials with Senate juries work.

Trump can totally claim that he didn’t incite the riot. He can also totally claim that he was secretly a Targaryen all this time and he is the one true King of Westeros. You can believe this if you work at it. He did say the election was stolen for two months, he did say Pence would stop the vote certification (he knew this wasn’t true), and he didn’t seem terribly concerned about the riot as it was happening. Still, I suppose you can wedge some reasonable doubt in there if you are inclined to do so.

But his continued claim that the election was stolen only serves to convince people that he is in fact guilty of inciting the riot. We’ve already had all the court cases that we are ever going to have about the 2020 election. That’s it. It’s done. This impeachment case is about something that happened in 2021. If he keeps on trying to rationalize the riot, it makes more folks certain that he actually had a role in starting it.

So, even if he is innocent, he’s doing a horrible, horrible job of convincing the public that he is innocent. At this point, one possible outcome that I could support is if he checked into a residential care facility and got the help that he needs.