Monday, January 14, 2019

Ebola in Pakistan?

I ran across a BBC article talking about an Ebola-like virus which had struck refuge camps in Pakistan, during the attack on Afghanistan in 2001.

That seems odd. How would an African virus find its way to refugee camps for Afghans driven from their homes by US bombs?

Remember in 2014, when we were all going to die from Ebola and the US insisted that the stricken countries accept US troops to fight the virus? I do. I was working in the ER in the middle of flyover country in the USA, but we still had to do drills and practice suiting up for when it hit us. Luckily, the affected countries managed to stop the spread with public health measures. (Who would've guessed that public health measures work better than troops, to stop the spread of disease? Maybe our leaders should take some lessons from Nigerian public health officials).

Stratfor also wrote about the virus, pointing out that "Victims of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF) first manifest symptoms of the flu. The virus then quickly breaks down human tissue and prevents blood from clotting. As a result, the infected person "bleeds out," as blood pours from orifices while the body quite literally liquefies. "

But not to worry! "It is also unlikely that U.S. Special Forces and troops, which may be involved in possible operations in Afghanistan, are at risk of infection. Most of the troops already in the region have been deployed into Uzbekistan — on the other side of Afghanistan — and even if operations were conducted near at-risk areas, forces would still have to go into the camps themselves to be at danger."

They also casually mention that there were 30 cases in Kosovo earlier in 2001. Say what? How does an African virus manage to get to such remote places? Kosovo, of course, was where the US built a giant military base, Camp Bondsteel, (now a center of drug running of Afghanistan heroin. But, I'm sure that's just a coincidence) after destroying the nation of Yugoslavia in the 90s, culminating with the bombing of Serbia in 1999, only 2 years before the Ebola outbreak.
Odd that this deadly virus seems to turn up whenever targets of the US need to be removed. No doubt it is another coincidence.
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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Intellectual Property and the War on China

Tthe US is openly talking about war with China, and speculating on the possible outcomes. This article, written in 2016, under Obama, and updated this year, under Trump, links to a number of sources in, or advising, the US government on the rosy prospects of provoking China. Here is an example of the proposal of the Rand Corp. (on why a war with China could be limited to "over there" and not escalate to a nuclear war)….."However, even under such desperate conditions, the resort to nuclear weapons would not be China’s only option: It could instead accept defeat."
Well, then, that seems logical.

The current propaganda is that China is unfairly using the superior brains and technological development of the US to advance in their industrial capacity, especially in high tech areas, which is called "theft of intellectual property rights". (This is hilariously skewered in this satirical article, complete with pictures. )They were supposed to provide cheap labor, not to copy the products they were producing for US corporations.

Who made these rules? And when?

Humans have been around for 200,000 years, and the really big advances of our species are lost in the past, but I think that we can say with certainly that they were not subject to patent or copyright laws. Language, conquering fire, learning which plants were safe to eat and which were poisonous, how to make arrowheads and pottery, etc.

What's more, we know that human advances tend to come around the same time in different areas. And not just the most well-known ones, like electricity, cars and telephones either.

Human agriculture started around 10,000 years ago in places as far apart as Mesopotamia, China, Peru, Central America and India. I'm again going to say that no patents were involved.

Patents and copyrights came with capitalism, a couple of hundred years ago, in the capitalist countries. They were originally introduced as an economic benefit, for a limited time, to allow an inventor to be the sole beneficiary of any profits derived from the invention, or book, but then reverted to the commons for all to use.

That is how we get the stories of inventors in different countries coming up with the same ideas at the same time, but one making it to the patent office first, and the other one losing out on the profits. But the idea that only one human on the planet at a certain time can come up with an invention, and that one human can thereafter claim privileged rights to that invention from then on, is clearly wrong. And that idea is an American invention, as far as I can tell.

By WW2, the story of the brilliant individual who invents a better mousetrap, and deserves to profit from its manufacture, was already outdated. Most advances came from teams, and the really big advances came from government-funded research.

In the US, we the people fund the research, and then any brilliant advances are turned over to private corporations, and then we pay the corporations for what we funded. And we call that the Free Market. We are told that this is an infinitely superior system to the Chinese system, in which the government does not hand over free inventions to the private sector, and that we should therefore prepare for war. (Which our government paid Rand Corporation assures us will be good for our corporations, because Chinese trade will be severely impacted. Well, OK, then).

Most people know that microchips came from government research, but so did microwave ovens. Duct tape, GPS, radar, digital cameras, computers, Superglue, and the internet all came from government research, and now we pay corporations for them. Sometimes, we all told that the trillions we spend on the military is not wasted, because look at the great products we have gained from the research. Insulin pumps and epi-pens were also developed by the military and drug companies are profiting handsomely from that research, as well as other government-funded medical and drug research, which is turned over to the medical-industrial complex.

Corporate charters used to be as limited in time as copyrights and patents, with the proceeds reverting to common use when the charter was up (usually in 5-20 years). Corporations won the right to Eternal Life in the 1800s, and they are now working on keeping human knowledge and creativity as an unlimited source of profits. The Disney corporation is still managing to profit from the Mickey Mouse image, decades after its creator passed into the Great Freezer. The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was passed, in part, to protect the profits of the Disney corporation.

Richard Dawkins invented the word "meme" in 1976 to explain how human knowledge passes, not through our genes, but throughout our societies, passed from person to person. (Apparently he didn't copyright the word).

We are now being programmed to believe that humans have no right to our common heritage of knowledge. Americans can (usually) see that copyrighting the song "Happy Birthday to You", sang for generations to our friends and families, but suddenly seized by the Warner corporation, is wrong. Most of us can see that patenting the neem tree, grown by Indians for centuries, who were then suddenly in violation of patent law for using it, is wrong. There were even people who tried to copyright the two words "Let's roll", when we were told that a passenger in one of the planes on 9-11 said those words, and others decided to profit from it.

Perhaps the push for not allowing "cultural appropriation" is part of the propaganda pushing the meme that an entire society can tell another society that they "own" entire categories. If tacos, dreadlocks and kimonos can be declared off-limits for anyone but those originating from the societies that are identified with them, so can cellphones, right? So how dare China make or improve on any electronic device, since electronic devices are strongly identified with the USA. Clearly, this is cause for war, right? Let's roll!

Or not.

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Friday, January 11, 2019

Pompeo: Ignorant or Baldfaced Liar, or Both?

Secretary of State of the USA, Mike Pompeo, gave a speech at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, titled "A Force For Good". He spewed a lot of nonsense, but here are a couple of doozies....
"For those who fret about the use of American power, remember this: America has always been, and always will be, a liberating force, not an occupying power. We’ve never dreamed of domination in the Middle East."

"When the mission is over, when the job is complete, America leaves."

As someone pointed out, what is next? Does he go to Howard University and give a speech praising the benevolence of the slave holders?

Pompeo is fourth in line for the presidency and he is every bit as crazy as Mike Pence. From Wikipedia:

" In 1986 Pompeo graduated first in his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point ....
In 1994, Pompeo received a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School where he served as one of 78 editors of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy ....
In September 2017, [then CIA head] Pompeo sought authority for the CIA to make covert drone strikes without the Pentagon's involvement, including inside Afghanistan.
During his confirmation hearing, Pompeo said that Russia "has ... invad[ed] and occup[ied] Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nearly nothing to aid in the destruction and defeat of ISIS"
[In 2017] ... Pompeo called WikiLeaks "a non-state hostile intelligence service" and described founder Julian Assange as a narcissist, fraud, and coward.
"... we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us. To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now ....
In February 2016, Pompeo said Snowden "should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence".
In 2014, Pompeo told a church group that Christians needed to "know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world". In 2015 ... "politics is a never-ending struggle ... until the Rapture."

How did Pompeo graduate first in his class at West Point without taking military history or learning where US military bases are stationed?
The US attacked Spain in 1898, using the excuse that they were "freeing" the Cubans. The US still has a base in Cuba, 121 years later. While they were at it, they took Guam and the Philippines (which involved killing 3,000,000 resisting Filipinos). Still there.

And in every subsequent attack, of almost every subsequent country, the US has stayed, like roaches in a roach motel, never leaving, not just in the countries they attacked, but also the allied countries.
And they are now in every country in Africa, save one.

But, yeah, "a force for Good".
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Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Adults In The Room

The USA, which has announced that it is gearing up to fight wars with Russia AND China, is meeting with China in trade talks. At the same time, the US military is provoking China in the South China Sea, claiming that they are upholding a treaty that the US has not signed, to make sure that the Chinese don't shut off the trade routes that they use to ship their goods to the rest of the world. Cause that makes sense.

The Chinese responded with a beautiful statement showing that they refuse to take the bait.
"It is hard to determine if the US is using this provocation as a bargaining chip....If that is the case, the US' strong willingness to reach an agreement is abundantly clear."
I have never seen such a Pollyannish spin on a war provocation in my life, but I find it delightfully amusing. What if they gave a war and nobody came?

We have been told, with straight faces, that Mad Dog ("It's fun to shoot some people") Mattis is "the adult in the room" when it comes to the US government. It seems that the Chinese government has actual adults in the room, which is good for people interested in avoiding nuclear war.
The Chinese consistently refer to "win/win" solutions to conflicts, and speak of negotiating peaceful compromises.
In this statement they refer to the usual US position as "zero sum", but the actual US position is Full Spectrum Dominance. But it is clear that that policy is no longer viable, when other countries in the world have adults leading them, who refuse to bend over and allow the US to dominate them. It is time for the US to use diplomacy and compromise, instead of Smash and Grab.

Are there any actual adults in our government? I guess we'll find out.

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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

War Preparations March On

From 1945 to 1991, the US military-industrial complex used the fear of the Soviet Union to gain Americans support for endless tax money being funneled to the War Machine.

In 1991, that abruptly ended, when the USSR dissolved, stopped central planning, and turned to the "free market" system that the US touted. (Their citizen's wealth was looted, they were thrown into destitute poverty and millions died...but they were 'free').

Americans, flush with the success and joy of destroying the Soviet Union, expected that the billions of dollars being spent on preparing for war, obviously being no longer necessary, could be used to take care of the needs of US citizens, instead. It was called the "Peace Dividend".

Ha, ha, joke is on you, Americans. The purpose of the military industrial complex is to enrich the war profiteers, not to "protect" you. If our ruling overlords were worried about US citizens being attacked by a foreign military, they would have some sort of civil defense system set up. There would be shelters to protect Americans. Instead, as Hawaiians learned in Jan. 2018, US "defense warnings" consist of them texting you that there are incoming missiles, and you should perhaps try to find some safe place to hide. You're on your own, though.

The US military attacked Iraq and Yugoslavia in the 90s, but those countries were pitifully unable to mount a strong defense, so a trillion dollar military was clearly not needed. What to do?

In 2001, the problem was solved, when non-state actors were said to have shut down the entire US military defense, hijacked 4 planes and destroyed, not just 3 skyscrapers in New York, but the actual headquarters of the entire US military, the Pentagon!, which was strangely as undefended as Hawaii in 2018.

Well, if spending trillions of dollars on the military for 60 years was worthless when the US was up against 19 young Arabs and their boxcutters, clearly there was only one solution! More money for the military, of course, to protect against "terrorists". Oh, and throw in a couple more trillion to set up a massive internal repressive apparatus for US citizens, while you're at it.

So, for the next 17 years, the US military was awash in money. They had so much money thrown at them that they lost track of 21 TRILLION dollars. Whoops!

Meanwhile, US citizens, "protected" by having their every communication spied upon, their movements recorded on camera, their police turned into an occupying military force, their bodies groped and their possessions x-rayed if they traveled, only sunk deeper into debt and/or poverty.

Last year, the Pentagon announced that they have changed their enemies again. They are going back to getting ready to attack Russia, but they have added China to the list of targets. Oh, and Iran and North Korea, because...why not?

You're never going to guess the problem! The Pentagon, which has had its budget more than doubled since 2001, and has lost more money than they officially have been given (and how does that happen?) is woefully underfunded, they tell us. It is SO sad, to have to limp along, scraping to get by, on $717 billion, especially when the money just keeps disappearing. Scary, scary Russia is spending almost as much as last year's budget increase, so clearly the US war machine is underfunded.

It's all been planned. It's right there in black and white. So any propaganda you hear against Russia or China or Iran or North Korea? They are just riffing on the general song, the Song of Perpetual War.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

Alexander's Sword

The story of Alexander and the Gordian Knot is used to illustrate the idea that sometimes problems are too complex to be solved by picking at the strands, and it might be better to just cut it off and be done with it.

The US economy is said to be so intricate and complex that only Yale educated economists can understand it. Our role as citizens is just to keep working and paying taxes, while they run the thing.

If the economy worked for all citizens, that might be a wise thing to do, but how many Americans living on the streets and in doorways, how many hungry children, how many elderly fast food workers do we have to see before we realize that the economy is NOT working for us?

Odd that our media tells us that the leaders whose countries we are attacking still have the responsibility to their people to make sure that they are fed and housed, even as we drop bombs on them, but here in the good ol' USA, our leaders have no such responsibility at all to us. There is no one dropping bombs on us, but many parts of our cities look like they have been bombed. There is no one enforcing sanctions on us, but we still have millions going without basic health care. There is no naval blockade, but we still have hungry children.

In the meantime, when Wall Street crashed in 2008, the 1% went running to the government for help, and the government obliged. During Obama's entire presidency, the banks were handed $85 billion a MONTH, all of which was put on the taxpayer's tab. The federal debt soared to $21,000,000,000,000, to be paid off by American workers.

How are we supposed to come up with that kind of money, when even members of the working class who can actually find work are working for such low wages? Over half of US workers make less than $40,000/year, but we are supposed to pay off a 21 trillion dollar debt run up by those who fly their private jets to their multiple mansions to have lavish parties with other members of the global elite?

How, then, can we pay their debt? Oh, that's simple. Our ruling overlords have informed us that they will simply use our Social Security and Medicare funds, (which are separately billed from the federal income tax, to be used only for the stated purposes) to pay off their debt, while we tighten our belts.

Yes, those who have looted the public treasury, stripped and polluted public lands and waters, used the public military to attack and loot other people's countries, are now trying to take over the public pension and health care funds, to further enrich themselves.

Meanwhile, when it comes to maintaining the Empire, the sky is not the limit. They just raised the military budget (the announced part, not the Black Budget) to $712 billion, including projects to extend into space. There is never an outcry about austerity when it comes to bombing other people. Money is no object. Please note, though, the screams of outrage when Trump stopped the war games in Korea during the Olympics or announced that the US will leave Syria. (The occupation of 30% of Syria is so blatantly illegal that any other country would be ostracized for such a war crime of aggression). So, we can't afford health care, education or feeding children, because......where will the money come from? But, no one ever asks why we are dropping million dollar bombs on impoverished peasants if we are so broke?

No. That is enough. Sometimes, as with spoiled children, you have to set limits. Our overlords have run wild, destroying, killing and stealing, but those days are now over. That is, if Americans are smart enough and brave enough to set those limits.

We didn't run up the tab, we don't have to pay it. They can pay it, or declare bankruptcy. We don't need to keep the Wall Street gambling regime going in order to make sure that Americans are fed, housed and educated. Wall Street, the war machine, and the 1% are leeches on the economy, not the economy.

Soon, "the economy" will collapse, which means that the gambling debts will be too high for Americans to pay even the interest, and the banks and Wall Street will fail. At this point, they will throw everyone out of work, and intensify the stripping of public wealth for export.

Either we cut the Gordian Knot of debt, get rid of the leeches, and figure out a way to feed and house all Americans, or watch ourselves fall deeper into 19th century American poverty, (now playing in the 21st Century in Indonesia, for those who don't know what it looks like).

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Before Oil

I was talking with my right wing co-worker one day and she was going on and on about how we don't need any government interference and handouts, and I strongly agreed with her, since the government had just taken part of my land in order to widen the street and let cars drive even faster, endangering my family and animals. Screw that!

She stared at me. "Well, no, the government needs to make roads! How will we get to work?"

I thought that was a bizarre question for someone brought up on a farm. There are people who have it in their living memories around here, of only going to town once a year, to get supplies.

But, apparently, she was too young to know that it used to be different. She assumed that the government should make roads, although it shouldn't make sure that people had food or medical care.

My grandmother lived in a small town in a valley in Utah. There were so few people there that the phone book had pictures of the families, as well as their phone numbers.

The only non-farm work there, when I was a kid, was turkey ranches, but a very old woman told me that she used to ride her horse up in the neighboring mountains. (Which seemed really far to ride).

My dad finally told me that there used to be a coal mine, open only in the winter, called Winter Camp (creatively enough), where the farmers would work after harvest.

So the old woman, when she was just a child, would ride with her father in the fall to the camp, and then bring his horse back home with her. In the spring, she would lead his horse and ride back to the camp to get him.

That is how they did.

When my parents got married, my father took her to meet his family, but one brother was herding sheep up in the mountains (where he stayed for months), so they saddled up two horses and rode all day into the mountains looking for him. Then they next day they rode back. My mom told me she was so saddle sore that she never got on a horse again.

One time, we went over the mountains in a car, to get to a town on the other side. It took us hours and hours, because the dirt road was narrow and rutted, and you literally could not go faster than 10 mph.

But now they tell me that that small town has spread and there are thousands of people living there. That town over the mountain is the one where the NSA data center is, I think, and the government put a paved highway over the mountain.

So these people are considered ''rural'', although they don't herd sheep or grow hay or ranch turkeys. They just live out in the middle of nowhere and expect the government to provide roads and gas and electricity, so they can drive 50 miles to work each day.

That is how they do.
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