07 August 2020

75 years since the first H-Day

August 6, 2020

Today is the 75th anniversary of the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the first of only two times a nuclear bomb has been used in ‘anger’. For many years I’ve sent out a “Happy H-Day” to Peter (and sometimes other) on this day. In part it makes fun (gallows humour) but my real point is to remind that the atomic bomb was used to stop a war, and ultimately to avoid the seaboard invasion of the Japanese Homeland at the end of the Second World War.

In making light of the bombing of Hiroshima, I certainly was crass and insensitive. But I also took pains to point out that, while we judge the use of the bomb from a position of many decades of peace, the reality of the decision-making at the time was much different, and the use of the bomb was justified. Casualty estimates were as high as 1 million American dead and 3 million Japanese or more. And with the experience on Okinawa and other islands, the estimates of Japanese deaths was probably very low, even if the estimate of American death is high.

There has been too much discussion about the ethics of using the bomb in the first place. I think that has been misplaced. The ethics of wholesale bombing of civilian populations in the pursuit of strategic exhaustion of the enemy is another topic, of which the use of the atomic bomb is a subset. We now accept as a given (and it should be noted that this has been the case since the first Geneva Conventions) that attacks on civilian populations is a war crime. Yet in a time when ‘surgical’ strikes against industrial capacity were not possible, civilian “collateral damage” was inevitable.

We commemorate August 6th as the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, but we (outside Japan) ignore and if fact do not even remember the firebombing of Tokyo on the night of 9-10 March 1945, which killed over 100,000 people and destroyed 16 square kilometres of the city. That was probably a bigger war crime than Hiroshima, in that incendiary attacks on cities cannot be reframed as anything other than attacks on civilians, as the objective is not to destroy industrial capacity, but destroy entire cities and kill and displace as many people as possible.

But enough of the moral equivalence for just a moment.

The very existence of the ability to produce and (threaten to) use atomic weapons has been a significant contributor to world peace for 75 years. I would nuance that by saying “developed world and European peace”, but only to point out that a new “World War” has been averted. Without the threat of escalation to atomic weapons, it would have been almost impossible to counter the overwhelming military might of the Soviet Union, and with that the defection or weakening of Western European countries in the 1950, ‘60s and beyond. 

Instead of fighting on land, sea and in the air, the world fought an economic war. In the process, countless people and countries saw their standard of living climb, infant mortality fall, and trade increase. And once the “West” (the US) had a dominating economic superiority, they could use that to drive the Soviet Union into an arms race that could only bankrupt the Soviet Union, ending the “cold war” and “defeating” Communism as a global threat.

Instead of attacking entire civilian populations, military technology now enables the targeting of individual automobiles from 10 miles away, using a “Ninja” missile fired from a circling drone that may have been loitering in the area for a day or more, waiting for just that moment. Planners no longer need to factor in estimates in the hundreds or even thousands of civilians killed to reach a particular “target”. They can now estimate how many other people will be in that car. 

Of course, nature, and international relations, abhors a void, and eventually the US, having “won” the cold war, was unable to continue to afford to keep winning the peace. Now the US finds itself on the Soviet Union side of the economic war equation, and the US is losing. This cannot bode well for global security and peace over the next five to ten years, but it is a natural evolution of economics and global power, and the cost of maintaining that position of power.

But I digress.

The use of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and then on Nagasaki the following week, provides a punctuation mark between a pre-atomic era, and an era of much greater peace in the world. No, the world is not at peace and never has been. But the first half of the 20th century was the period in which industrial warfare and the demonstrated and executed strategic destruction of populations and countries was perfected. The use of the atomic bomb was simply the culmination of that evolution in strategic thinking, and in the execution of that strategic concept.

We should be celebrating (and commemorating) H-Day as the day that the world woke to the reality of the trajectory of strategic industrial war, and realised that there must be a better way. “Small wars” to destabilise the periphery, while horrible locally and to neighbouring countries, helped forestall a more general global conflagration. Continued testing of atomic weapons by ‘both sides’ (but of course including eight of the nine current members of the ‘atomic club’) has served as “Beware of the Dog” signs more than deployments for actual imminent use.

We should be celebrating the fact that two cities in Japan taught the world that strategic industrial population destruction is not only unacceptable, immoral, illegal, and repugnant, we should be celebrating that for each of the past 75 years (starting from the 10th of August, the day after Nagasaki) atomic weapons have not been used in anger. We should be acknowledging that the shock of demonstrated capability has, we continue to hope, brought an end of the period of such industrial slaughter. And we should be relieved that the horrendous loss of life that strategic industrial warfare accepted is no longer acceptable even in concept.

Without Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Herman Kahn’s question “Will the living will envy the dead?” would not have been asked. That question, even though his answer is uncomfortable to read and actually provides a defence of the future use of atomic weapons, demonstrated that leaders and peoples had moved beyond victory at any cost (to the enemy of course) to victory within an ‘acceptable’ cost. Specifically, industrial slaughter was, from the 10th of August 1945, off the table. 

May it remain off the table.

Happy H-Day.

27 July 2020

Ammosexuals failed, and thankfully the end is near

So much to think about today (and yesterday, and before).

Norma Lewis holds a flower while forming a “Wall of Moms” during a Black Lives Matter protest in Portland, Ore., on July 20, 2020. 
(Noah Berger / Associated Press) from https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-07-23/worldwide-mothers-protests-against-sensed-injustice
The Ammosexuals continue to demonstrate that freedom is only worth marching for fully-armed if it is the loss of freedom to go unmasked to cheap restaurants in sleazy malls. And of that was worth marching onto and attempting to occupy State Capital buildings. When real tyranny appears in the form of federal agents in military uniforms arresting people off the streets and stuffing them into unmarked vans; when one or two people out of a thousand throw a bottle or push a fence (and very possibly agent provocateurs) then it is a “Riot” and all can be attacked; when Moms form a line to protest police (federal agents now) brutality and are shot in the head; where are the 2nd Amendment Ammosexuals? If these events are not worthy of armed white men (and women) marching to protect the first amendment or the rest of the constitution, when what will be?
Arbys, Mcdonalds, nail salons?

We need to label the Ammosexuals for what they are; spoilt cowards with access to instruments of intimidation and death. Cowards and bullies.

If Biden wins and the Democrats have both houses(from my lips to God's ear), there must be a redefinition of the Second Amendment and a banning of all assault rifle style weapons, mandatory training, mandatory liability insurance, mandatory licensing. If not that, then how about a blanket ban. A "well-regulated militia". What part of a "well-regulated militia" needs Concealed Carry Licenses?

“You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead, fingers”. What bullshit. Ammosexuals have proven that when there is a real ‘fight’ and real tyranny they stay home. They are cowards, and they will refuse to hand in their guns, but they will not wage war to keep them.

Make the fines for retaining the unlicenced guns in the hands of untrained people without liability insurance so punitive that they will ruin a family’s financial stability for a decade. The first few times that people lose houses due to fines for continued un-"well-regulated" gun ownership, that they lose their truck and their jobs and are labelled felons (oh, and take away their right to vote also?) then we will see their wives and mothers lining their men-child-folk up to get licenses, lining up for mandatory training, and displaying their insurance cards along with their NRA membership card. If the NRA continues to exist (investigate them for collusion with Russian in the attempted destruction of the US).

The Ammosexuals had their chance, and they blew it. They could have stood up for freedom and for the Constitution, they didn’t.

Which moves us to the next thing I was thinking about yesterday and this morning; how does this end? Or, more accurately, how do we see that this is turning and the end is in sight?

I’m looking for a specific event.

I’m looking for the video (to come I hope) that shows a Federal Agent stopping, clearly thinking about what they are doing, and stepping out of line and walking across to the protesters' side. I want to see what result that has.

History is made from those moments. Sometimes they lead to complete change while other times they simply highlight the wrongness of what is happening and the bravery of individuals in the face of oppression, and the unwillingness of some oppressors to continue.

The individual guard(s) on the Berlin Wall who suddenly stepped aside and demonstrated that they would do nothing to stop the hammering and beating of the wall.

“Tank man” in Beijing.

Rosa Parks.

As the “Federal Agents” come to understand that what they are doing is wrong, morally and legally, and that Trump probably will not be re-elected and their behaviour will be under scrutiny, and that they may be charged with criminal offences, then they will begin to waver. It takes one, two, five of them with enough morality or enough intellect to see a grim future for them and the country, and this will be over. They will walk off the line, take a knee, hug a protester. And it will be over.

That is one way that this ends.

The other is Kent State. 50 years ago this year, the National Guard fired on anti-war protesters at Kent State University in Ohio. 4 dead and 9 injured, and one President’s war policy demolished. From that point on, there was no realistic prospect of the US remaining in Vietnam. Tet was big and turned American against the war. But Kent State turned America against the government that sanctioned the war and sanctioned violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations.

Will Portland have a Kent State moment?

I’m hoping that one night soon we will see a wave of “Federal Agents” walk across to the protesters' side, or at least put their weapons down and refuse orders to fire on the protesters, with rubber coated bullets or even tear gas.

I’m hoping that there is not a Kent State moment in which some of those agents decide that they have had enough and start shooting to kill, and do kill protesters. That will not end well. Mr Law and Order will face a real uprising.

And if there is any good news out of all of this, it is that we now know that the chickenshit Ammosexuals will stand and bully, but that at the first sign of a “Wall of Moms” and a “Wall of Vets” that they will waver, and then they too will flee.

The end is near, and it as with all culminating points in time, it could go either way. But history is on the side of the protesters.

And the Ammosexuals will sit this one out, demonstrating the frauds that they are and have been all along.

23 July 2020

Market Doom Delayed?

Why haven't the (equity) markets crashed yet, and will they?  After being convinced that we are on the edge of the precipice for the markets, I no longer think that. I think the markets have probably six or more months of happy days ahead. 

From Worldometer.org 23/7/2020
Cases around the world are surging. Yesterday’s was the biggest jump in cases globally to date, with something like 280,000 new cases, up from 240,000 the day before. The global death rate is increasing again, after its earlier peak in April. The seven-day trend lines are not looking good. The US of Amerika continues to lead the world (“USA, #1, USA, #1” I can almost hear them chanting) with over 70,000 new cases, again. Not a record for the US, but still a strong showing. This from the country that was listed as the top, best, first in the world, ready to deal with a pandemic. I think it is time to acknowledge that decades of self-delusion about Amerika’s standing in the world rankings of almost anything other than money and bombs has been a fiction.

Still, back to the pandemic for a moment. Cases are surging, and the US count of 4 million cases, as horrible as that may be, is still ‘only’ ~1+% of the population. And if the numbers are “10x higher” as some are projecting, then that is still only ~10+%, out of a “herd immunity” requirement in the 60% - 70% minimum. So we are looking at a 6x in cases and deaths before the US reaches “herd immunity” (if this is even possible based on the potential weakening of antibody loads after a few months).

Now, the case mortality rate as measured by the ratio of deaths to resolved cases is falling, at least in the developed world, and that is a very good thing. It tells me two things; that there is better identification of cases, many of which will be ‘mild’, and that therapeutics and medical responses are improving as the virus is better understood. That’s the good news.

The UK is an interesting counterpoint to the US of Amerika. The total cases count is at about .3% of the population, officially based on testing. And the number of people tested is running at almost 20% of the population. So I suspect that we can rule out a 10x infected rate because it should have shown up pretty clearly by now.

Conversely, the US of Amerika, where Trump continues to say that “if there were fewer tests, there would be fewer cases”, the percentage of people tested is actually lower than in the UK. This suggests that the US infection rate is higher than the UK (a former #1 shit-show in the Covid stakes) regardless of the number of tests.

And if we accept the premise that case mortality rates are declining due to earlier identification and treatment, then any delays through lower testing rates will actually directly lead to higher mortality rates. Trump is saying that he would rather have more dead people and a lower number of identified cases.

Meanwhile, the US markets continue to coast along and even edge upward, defying fundamentals and any expectation that markets are actually engaging in meaningful ‘price discovery’.

In the past month, I have completely changed my mind. I no longer think there will be the market crash that I’ve (and not me alone by any stretch of the imagination) been predicting. Every morning I look at the markets from yesterday and look at the futures for the coming day. Nothing seems to hurt these markets.

So in changing my mind completely, I’m becoming more convinced and confident in my thinking that the markets will not go down. Certainly, there will be blips, but I think the Covid-Crash is behind us, and that markets will now continue to hover for some time to come.

The Amerikan, and therefore world, markets are bifurcated. There are the equity markets (and luxury goods and property), and there are the corner shop and coffee shop markets.

The equity markets are the place that the Fed induced inflation is happening, with too much money chasing too few goods and services (equities and luxury goods and property). The money that the Fed has created to purchase corporate bonds is not stimulating the economy, it is propping up share prices and balance sheets, most of which are sham constructs waiting for reality to arrive, however slowly.

Government unemployment benefits are propping up the ‘real’ economy and ensuring that rent can be paid (and even then the amount of unpaid rent is staggering), groceries and coffee bought, and the flow of consumer goods and services can continue. That stimulus is keeping enough new money in the system to avoid deflation due to too little money chasing too many goods and services. Supply and demand still rules, and when the stimulus ends, the supply of money in the ‘real’ economy will fall like a stone, and the bottom of the economy will see real price deflation.

But at the top of the economy, the ‘market’ economy, there will still be bucket-loads of money with no purpose and nothing to purchase. So inflation will continue at that end of the market. So as people begin to starve, the markets will stay high, and the Wall Street and Executive Suite bonuses will continue to flow – for some time anyway.

And the Fed will keep pumping. It has little choice. It has limited tools, and cannot tell companies to take the money and spend it on the ‘real’ economy; only the Federal Government can do that. And patience at the Federal Government level is wearing thin. So even if the stimulus continues, it will be at a reduced level, and that will start the process of deflation in the ‘real’ economy.

The rest, well, I’m guessing that the ‘market’ economy will do just fine. For another six months or so? Forever? Who knows? But I’m not betting on it falling any time soon.

22 July 2020

Trump's strategy; childishly inane or cunningly evil?

I do not know what Trump’s strategy is, but it is either very childishly inane or cunningly evil. As he is surrounded by smart (but unethical) people, I’m worried about the cunningly evil option. Is the pivot to White Supremacism an intentional mechanism to retain a disillusioned base who would otherwise stay home? Is White Supremacy the natural backstop belief system for those who originally voted for (and still support) Trump with his "drain the swamp" message to the otherwise left behind?

When a belief system is undermined, it is natural to fall back on another. Why not capitalise on that, especially if it keeps the base voting?

The people around Trump are cynical enough to implement such a program. People like Kelly-Anne Conway, who is a very smart person, but seems devoid of any motivation that does not include self-aggrandisement and accumulation of power and through that a modicum of wealth.

She knows that she is lying and spinning half-truths, and she does it directly and with purpose. She knows very well that what she says will lead to people dying, but she does not care as long as it cements Trump’s hold on power. And through his hold on power, she continues to be in the public eye and retains or increases her access to power. Once Trump is ejected, something she certainly does not want but is ready for, she will pivot to making money as a pundit and former insider. She might even write a book.

If she does not write a book, she certainly will have positioned herself as indispensable to whoever dreams next of taking the White House (from the Republicans or the Extreme Right). Her ability to pick up the phone and ring anyone with money will make her a valued asset, and that will fill her bank account nicely. And who knows, maybe she will back another winner and be back on the White House lawn telling lies for someone else.

And that’s the way it works, for almost all of them. A few, a very few, believe that they are serving the best interests of the nation as they define those interests (that strangely always also seem to fit nicely with their own interests).

Across the rest of Amerika, schools are asking if and how they can open in the face of a pandemic that will not only endanger their students, it will endanger the teachers, and ultimately the virus will be taken home to un-infected families.

Another wonderful example is Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s spokesperson since the end of April 2020. She quite openly and without the least hint of irony, told her first lie as spokesperson when in her first briefing, she said “I will never lie to you, you have my word on that” and then promptly started to do exactly that. This is the woman who, in July 2020 said “Science should not stand in the way of" opening schools. (Yes, she really said it. No, she wasn't taken out of context.)

So the White House has now said that even if scientists and epidemiologists are saying this is a bad idea, it should be done regardless. And in that one statement we have a summary of the entire Amerikan response to Covid-19; one ‘faction’ saying follow the science, and another saying that they do not care about the science, because this is a political decision and a political argument.

It is as if gravity was a political issue and not a scientific issue. We don’t believe that gravity holds us down, and if you believe that, then you must be supportive of abortion also. The linkages are extreme and pointless. Science is. Belief is different, and relies on a rejection (in some cases) of science.

Of course, this is an argument that humans have been having for millennia; probably as long as there has been any creature we can ‘human’. The earliest authorities were those who could convince others that the spirits spoke through them, or that they understood the will of the spirits. “Do as I command or you will be putting yourself against the God(s)”. And said with conviction, enough of the people will either believe, or will see an opportunity for themselves in supporting the spirit-speakers.

And throughout history, there has been a tug-of-war between the shamans and charlatans and those who look at the sky and see stars and not gods, and who let the trees talk to them instead of listening to what the shamans and charlatans say for the trees.

Science progress though, and with each passing century more was learned, more investigated and explores, and with the written word, more was passed from generation to generation. Eventually scientific ‘facts’ catch up with the shamans, whose continued defence of non-science becomes untenable.

In the case of Galileo, it took the Roman Catholic Church only 359 years to admit that he was right, and their suppression of these ideas was the suppression of scientific fact. In 1992 the Church finally admitted that he was right.

In 1633, the Inquisition of the Roman Catholic Church forced Galileo Galilei, one of the founders of modern science, to recant his theory that the Earth moves around the Sun. Under threat of torture, Galileo – seen facing his inquisitors – recanted. But as he left the courtroom, he is said to have muttered, ‘all the same, it moves’.

In the case of the charlatans in the White House, it takes all of a few days or even a few minutes to know that they are telling lies, and that their attacks on science are baseless and political.

But these attacks were and are greeted approvingly by 35% of the Amerikan people; Trump’s loyal base. Even when they know that it is lies, they would rather support the liar than have to accept that there are other choices. It is taking an overwhelming level of deceit and duplicity by Trump and his apostles to eventually drive people away, even at the margins.

His 35% needs something to believe in. Before the pandemic, they needed to believe that there was someone “anti-Washington” and “anti-New York Finance” in charge, looking out for them. They needed to believe that they were not left behind. We can discuss all day if they were left behind, or if they took the easy path and left themselves behind, but that is a different discussion. What is clear is that they believed that Hilary and the Democrats were responsible for their being left behind, and nothing can shake that belief.

Mixed with that is the belief (for they must believe or there is nothing left for them) that Trump, for all his bling and worship of wealth, is actually looking after their interests in the swamp of Washington.

To actively un-believe is a difficult thing to do, especially when surrounded by those who, at least out loud, continue to believe. To un-believe requires reflection and acceptance that you were wrong. And in this case, it requires an acceptance that you supported a conman, and that you were conned. This is not easy. In fact is it probably one of the most difficult things that any of the un-believers will have had to go through; to accept that not only were they wrong, but that they and those they love and share common ideal with are also wrong, and that they too have been conned.

Anger and depression are probably the most common reactions, with anger taking the fore.

And much of that anger then spills over into a lashing out in a final attempt to prove that they were right all along, that they were not conned, and that their ideal and beliefs are indeed correct. That anger feeds off the anger of others like them, and it boils over.

Eventually, acceptance and reflection might happen. But only might.

More likely there will be retreating into a backup belief system, one that may be even more radical than the previous. White Supremacy is a good example. Take away the belief that Trump is actually representing the needs and wants of those left behind, and for many the next backup belief system is one of that supports their victimhood while affirming their individual worth.

So it is reasonable and logical that Trump is now all-but overtly supporting White Supremacy today. It is the logical refuge for his base who are un-believing in the “drain the swamp” narrative.

And here is the "cunning plan" part of the Trump program. If he (and his people) can see that one of the primary fall-back belief systems combines that victimhood of being left behind by Washington and the Democrats, and victimhood of a racial suppression (theirs, not other racial groups) then what better way to ensure that base remains engaged? Cater to their need for inclusion and to be 'heard', without too overtly supporting a philosophy of oppression; dog-whistle loudly and continually.

Confederate generals and monuments serve the purpose of confirming that Trump is indeed the protector of their alternative beliefs. Confederate symbols have little to do with the underlying values of actual of the confederate states. They are symbols now not of slave ownership and oppression, but symbols of a dis-association with the concept of Amerika. Therefore, promises to protect those symbols are equally a promise to uphold the cause of the rejected and the left behind.

He is never going to convert voters to his cause, so he needs to ensure that his existing base continues to be engaged. It really may be his only chance. 

And so all that we see and hear is about engaging that base, whatever it takes. It is a cunningly evil plan.