Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - North Korean Edition
There I Ruined It
Just because I seldom see anything from North Korea. Things look pretty good for the party faithful over there.
If the type is too small, Ctrl+ is your friend
For a long time I couldn't understand why someone would buy a house that fronts on a busy road. Now I'm looking at house on a semi-busy road and realize there's no school zone and no 25 MPH speed limits between the driveway and freeway. Not having little kids kind of changes your priorities.
Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine, and the origin of more than 90% seized in the United States - is considering decriminalizing the drug in an experiment to end Washington DC's never-ending "war on drugs," according to the Washington Post.
After just two weeks in office, the country's first leftist government has proposed an end to "prohibition" - in what would become the first government-regulated market for cocaine. Officials would work with other leftist governments in the region via legislation and alliances in order to "turn their country into a laboratory for drug decriminalization."
"It is time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed," said President Gustavo Petro in his inaugural address this month.
How dare Gustavo break ranks with the glorious American hegemony! If Gustavo makes any progress on this I expect we will see a CIA backed coup in short order. Remember that the people making the most money off of the drug trade are the American drug cartel leaders, those gray men who are never mentioned. They are not going to sit still while some South American upstart tries to the shake the foundation of their empire.
|American Land Use|
|Ayaan Hirsi Ali|
Forget Free Speech: Rushdie's Fatwa Is Winning by Giulio Meotti
Islamist killers have murdered a bunch of people and continue to do so. These guys are like your worst nightmare, implacable, relentless and willing to die in the attempt to kill their target. They are like the assassins in a James Bond movie, except they aren't doing their killing for any reason we can accept. I suspect most of them are not too smart. If we catch one alive, we should tie him to a box of dynamite and drop him on Tehran.
"Salman Rushdie is a champion of free speech, bravely standing up for Western ideals when so many shy away from the fight. If only more people could follow his example, instead of taking the path of appeasement in the name of cultural sensitivity, the long years of murder and mayhem wrought by the Islamists on the West might come to an end... I know all too well the threat Islamism poses. After I came out as an apostate, I was forced into a bubble of protection that still surrounds me to this day. I have 24-hour security. I still receive death threats. My friend, the sweet, vulgar, brilliant Theo Van Gogh was murdered simply for making a film with me. His attacker used a knife to stab a letter into Theo's chest: it said that I would be next". - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Apparently there is an army of Islamist assassins running around loose in the world and they have a long list of people who are to be killed.
Good explanation of the situation in Ukraine:
Glenn Diesen: How 'Russophrenia' from supposedly smart people in the West has slowly led us towards a major European war
The author and holocaust survivor, Victor Klemperer, identified two distinct styles of language that defined Hitler’s propaganda against the Jews: either “scornful derision” of the inferior race or “panic-stricken fear” of their threat to civilisation.Anti-Russian propaganda over the past centuries has similarly produced two contradictory positions - disdain for Russians as an uncivilised and backward people, and simultaneously an immeasurable threat looming over Europe. A state of affairs described by one writer as "Russophrenia: the idea that Russia is simultaneously about to fall apart, and also take over the world."
The only problem I see with his explanation is that I don't think our leaders are really concerned about Russia, they are only interested in exploiting the situation for their own personal benefit.
|Coming into Sitka Alaska|
|Benjamin Franklin, the original commie|
IT’S MOSTLY ABOUT THE MONEY A GUEST POST BY CONFUTUS
Title comes from a song by Puff Daddy who is a hip-hop star or something. I listened to it to see if was worth posting, but it's not. I'm not sure it even qualifies as a song. I don't understand the appeal. Sounds like garbage to me.
|Nudie wearing mismatched boots|
|A homeless man sits near the New York Stock Exchange, where many of the world's wealthiest companies are listed [Reuters]|
I took the title from this piece. It's a great line.
Trump and I can agree: The US is a ‘third-world country’ by Belén Fernández
The imperial hubris on display in the use of such lingo towards poorer nations can’t hide America’s own failures.
When on August 8 the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in search of classified documents, the ex-president of the United States decried the episode as “an assault [that] could only take place in broken, third-world countries”. He continued to lament that America had “now become one of those countries, corrupt at a level not seen before”.
Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, chimed in on Twitter with the assessment: “This is what you see happen in 3rd World Banana Republics!!!” Never mind that the FBI’s seizure of secret documents does not fit the “corruption” bill quite as well as some other characteristics of American democracy: say, the fact that non-taxpaying billionaires can be president or that the country is run as a crooked, oligarchic corporatocracy.
This is not the first time Trump has likened the US to a “third-world country”, which was also his epithet of choice when he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden. But Trump & Co are not the only members of the US ruling elite to exercise this vocabulary. The January 2021 attack on the US Capitol prompted a surge in pejorative “third world” and “banana republic” comparisons from everyone from Biden to George W Bush, former US leader and civilised ravager of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Indeed, it is impossible to understate the bipartisan imperial hubris that is on display in the casual deployment of such lingo. By implicitly and unironically mocking underdeveloped nations, the US political establishment appears to have conveniently forgotten the country’s own historical role in creating the “banana republic” phenomenon in the first place — and in ensuring that the “third world” remains, you know, “third”.
The term “banana republic” was coined in 1904 by American writer O Henry in reference to the Central American nation of Honduras, which, like neighbouring Guatemala, was an early victim of predatory US capitalism and corporate exploitation. The economic and physical wellbeing of the inhabitants of such lowly nations was naturally of no concern to the hemispheric behemoth, which ensured its unfettered access to regional resources by backing right-wing coups, bloody civil wars, corrupt dictatorships and death squads — in other words, stuff that was slightly more devastating than an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.
The Cold War, of course, provided a handy alibi for US-backed killing worldwide, from Nicaragua to Angola — while also spawning the “third-world” designation that would go on to accrue patronising connotations. Once the communist menace had been replaced with the terrorist menace as the primary US excuse for lethal international interference, the remaining global superpower continued to extend a charitable hand to the impoverished “third world” — often via a form of corporate neocolonialism cast as “development”.
And while Trump’s recent tantrum about the US as a “broken, third-world” country can certainly be filed under the expansive category of Distastefully Kooky Things Trump Has Said, there is also an unintended element of truth to it. Like it or not, the US fits the third-world stereotype in many respects — and not just in terms of its oligarchic style of governance.
The US advertises itself as being at the vanguard of global “development”, but the nation’s healthcare, poverty and other indicators suggest a policy of wilful counterdevelopment instead. Back in 2017, Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, visited the US for two weeks. At the end of his trip, he issued a statement on how he found the country “exceptional in … ways that are shockingly at odds with its immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights”.
Despite managing to spend more money on “national defence” than China, Russia, the United Kingdom and a bunch of other big spenders combined, the US had some “40 million people” living in poverty amid glaring “contrasts between private wealth and public squalor”.
As Alston noted, the US was also “alone among developed countries” in insisting that human rights did “not include rights that guard against dying of hunger, dying from a lack of access to affordable healthcare, or growing up in a context of total deprivation”. So much for that line from the US Declaration of Independence about “inalienable” rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. It’s hard to pursue anything if you’re dead.
Speaking of death, infant mortality rates in the US are higher than in Cuba, an island that has spent more than 60 years under an asphyxiating US embargo. Trump himself imposed no fewer than 243 new sanctions against the Cubans — as punishment for their crime of pursuing national sovereignty over the “banana republic” model — and, for good measure, threw Cuba back on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Back in the land of the free, meanwhile, homelessness has reached ghastly levels unseen even in many “underdeveloped” countries, and the US has long maintained the highest incarceration rate in the world — although it may have recently been surpassed by El Salvador, another place where US support for “human rights” has involved backing right-wing state terror.
Such is the ironic nature of imperial power, it seems, that the global hegemon responsible for oppressing much of the third world must also keep a significant portion of its own populace in third-world conditions.
As per Trump’s twisted logic, any attempt to hold him accountable for anything is evidence that the US is a “corrupt” and “broken, third-world” country. And while there’s no sense in wasting time on Trumpian delusion, we might nonetheless take the opportunity to recall that old saying about the broken clock — and to acknowledge that the US is definitively broken.
Belén Fernández is a contributing editor at Jacobin Magazine. And just what is Jacobin Magazine you might ask?
"Jacobin is a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture."
|Mass formation of worldwide scale totalitarianism|
Mass formation of worldwide scale totalitarianism40% of the population are awake followers30% of the population constitute the center mass30% of the population are awake individualsAwake followers follow the center mass.The center mass of people are unable to reason or see reality.The awake individuals oppose the center mass.
Prerequisites to mass-formation
1) Social isolation, lack of social bonds
2) Lack of meaning making. No life purpose.
3) Free-Floating Anxiety (FFA). No identifiable cause, no way to deal with it.
4) Free-Floating Psychological-Discontent. Frustration and aggression.Effect of mass-formation
The realization of the totalitarian societal state powered by the allegiance of the mass to a narrative that provides an enemy for their anxiety. Once the narrative becomes a single voice without dissent, the severe atrocities begin as has been seen historically.Solution
The awake individuals must continue to voice opposition to the narrative to prevent the domination of the single voice of the narrative. If this ground can be held long enough, the totalitarian state will destroy itself without consuming everyone.Mattias Desmet
Professor of Clinical Psychology
That the professor offers a solution is hopeful. I hope it's not just a pipe dream.
|ICEYE Satellite Image of Crimea Bridge|
Finnish satellite-imagery venture ICEYE announced on Thursday that it has signed a contract with the Serhiy Prytula Charity Foundation which will provide the Government of Ukraine with ICEYE’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite imaging capabilities. - Defence BlogICEYE is a Finnish company that builds and operates microsatellites. I am surprised that microsatellites can deliver high resolution images. I thought you needed big cameras with big lenses being carried by big satellites. But ICEYE isn't using cameras, they are using radar.
|Google Satellite Image of Crimea Bridge|
Sounds like a bad Bond girl. In case you didn't know, Melania is Donald Trump's wife, and in case you hadn't heard, the FBI raided ex-president Trump's residence in Florida the other day and, rumor has it, they rummaged through Melania's dresser. And we got a meme.
|Two Eurofighter jets perform at the German air force base in Noervenich, western Germany in 2016 [File: Martin Meissner/AP]|
A group of German air force fighter jets were due to arrive in Singapore after a marathon bid to fly them some 12,800 kms (8,000 miles) from their home base to Southeast Asia in just 24 hours.
I asked Google to plot a flight from Berlin to Singapore:
|Berlin to Singapore|
But here we have jet fighters that can travel 3 or 4 times as fast as an airliner taking twice as long to make the trip. One thing that will slow them down is they will probably want to avoid the war zones, so their trip will be a longer distance.
|Berlin to Cairo to Singapore|
I haven't verified whether Hillary actually said this. For my purposes it doesn't matter.
I don't like being the boss. Being the boss means dealing with people. Unfortunately, you don't get to choose just what kind of people you have to deal with. If you can put together a good team of pleasant, energetic, cooperative people, it can be great. But inevitably there is going to be someone who is causing problems. It might be an employee, an important customer, or a supplier who isn't holding up his end of the deal. And when you investigate the problem you find it's some kind of bullshit that wouldn't have happened if the dumb clucks who were supposed to take care it of simply did their job.
Fortunately I found a nice little technical niche where I didn't have to deal with very many people. It was a job so there were people, but the technical work pretty much consumed me. I only popped my head up out of my hole when I had an answer to the problem du jour.
Lately I've been thinking about the electorate, the citizens of the USA who vote. And then I was thinking about intelligence and how half of the population has an IQ that is under 100. I don't know very many stupid people, if I know any at all. I think the reason for that is that I tend to avoid stupid people. It's not something I do consciously. I'm not sure, but I think it depends on whether they exhibit any intelligence in our conversation. Or maybe that conversation has to tick several of my subconscious requirement boxes and intelligence is only one of those.
And then today I tripped over the meme shown at the top. You might be offended or you might be overjoyed by the appearance of that meme, but it doesn't mean she's wrong. It's just a plain fact, the country if full of stupid people and if you want to get elected you need to tailor your message to appeal to those folks who are only playing with half a deck.
We can have all kinds of highfalutin conversations about any number of esoteric topics, but that doesn't mean shit unless you are able to turn it into something you can sell to Joe Sixpack, and then sell it to him.
Now it might be that the intelligence of the average voter might be slightly higher than 100. It might be that people with low intelligence just don't vote. I'm sure someone has done a study on it.
|Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam|
With a planned installed capacity of 5.15 gigawatts, the dam will be the largest hydroelectric power plant in Africa when completed, as well as among the 20 largest in the world. - Wikipedia
They started building it in 2011 and it started generating electricity this year.
I was thinking about putting up a post about this, just because I had never heard of this project before. Seems like I should have heard something about a big deal like this, but no. A couple of days ago I started reading Maelstrom by Peter Watts and somewhere in the first few dozen pages he mentions this dam. Well, I can't ignore a coincidence like this, so this post. I've read a couple other books by Peter Watts and he's pretty great.
Looking for information, I dug up some maps.
|River Nile Map|
Google Maps doesn't do a good job of portraying waterways. Can't say as I blame them, only a small fraction of the population gets out on the water, and the government has a whole army of people devoted to mapping water. So if you want to look at maps of rivers, search for images of maps using your regular browser.
Still, Google Maps is terrific. Here we have two views of the area being inundated by the water being held back by the dam. Both maps are about 14 miles across. First is the map view:
|Map View of Blue Nile Dam area|
No sign of any lake. The black line along the left hand side is the border with Sudan. Now look at the satellite view:
|Satellite View of Blue Nile Dam area|
Update two days later.
|Main Dam and Saddle Dam of GERD (Source: Hydro World, 2016)|
Looking at the satellite view of the lake I noticed a large, curved line in the lower left quadrant. A little digging reveals this is a three mile long saddle dam. The water hasn't reached it yet, but it means the lake is going to get a whole lot bigger in the coming years. The saddle dam is 160 feet tall. Not giant, but still substantial.
|Puerto Varas, Chile|
|Puerto Varas, Lago Llanquihue & Osorno Volcano|
|Murders in the Rue Morgue: Dupin Solves a Gruesome Murder|
my american lit professor went to this poe conference. like to be clear this is a man who has a doctorate in being a book nerd. he reads moby dick to his four-year-old son. and poe is one of the cornerstones of american literature, right, so this should be right up his alley?
WE! DO NOT! TALK ABOUT! THE ORANGUTAN!
People are crazy. Spend time working with anything and you are going to cultivate a set of beliefs about that thing and if you encounter someone who disagrees with your carefully cultivated set of beliefs, well, everybody else better stand back because things are going to get hot.
Via Bayou Renaissance Man who provided a link to a series of screenshots. I don't like this so I decide to run them through an OCR program to extract the text. I'm thinking maybe Google Lens will do this for me, but no luck, so I go dig up an online program that does a reasonable job. I take the extracted text and compile it into one text file . . . and then I realize I could have just searched for the story and probably found the original, or a close relative, and what do you know, I did and here it is.
|China's aircraft carrier, the Liaoning with other ships during a drill at sea. © AFP|
“Buy land. They ain't making any more of the stuff.” - Will Rogers
Moving on to politics we have:
Politics is and always has been a blood sport. If you're not prepared to take it on at that level you have no business getting involved in it. - Karl Denninger
Combine those and you get:
The whole history of international relations is about one side establishing borders and another trying to cross them. Both literally and figuratively. There has been no century when borders have remained immutable, at least in the spaces where international politics were concentrated at the time. And it is clear that redrawing the dividing lines has never been without the use of force, sometimes on a very large scale. - Fyodor Lukyanov
|In the show Long Way Round, Scottish actor Ewan McGregor and relative nobody Charley Boorman (and a cameraman) rode motorcycles from London to New York.|
Adaptive Curmudgeon is preparing for what's coming down the pike:
I haven’t written much about my Quixotic initiative to “get my mechanical shit together”. I’m still working at it.
I don’t like pro-actively fixing things that aren’t 100% fully dead! I prefer to use my equipment ruthlessly until it’s very worn out. When a machine finally gives up the ghost I don’t immediately replace it. I go without for as long as I can.
This year is different. Reluctantly, and with a tear in my eye, I’ve pried my wallet open and bled money to fix shit like there’s no tomorrow.
There’s a reason for this, in the Bidenverse there is no tomorrow. I mean that rationally. Don’t wait for tomorrow because nothing will be cheaper and more convenient tomorrow than it is today. Conditions like 2019 won’t recur for years or decades if at all; so don’t wait for them. You’re in “the good old days” right fucking now! For the next few years the time to do things is immediately and the time to build your savings has passed. (As always, show moderation.)
It’s a fact, or at least a reasoned projection, that shit will cost more in the future. That’s the exact definition of inflation.
Adapative's story explains the connection between inflation and the picture.
|Throwing Money Away|
On September 3, 1783, after nearly a year of excruciating back-and-forth negotiations, all sides had finally gathered together in Paris to sign a historic peace agreement.
It was a pretty important peace deal. Because the Treaty of Paris, as it is now known, is what formally ended the American Revolution, and when Great Britain legally recognized the United States as an independent nation.
The treaty was signed in Paris because France had been a major supporter of the US war effort. And just as soon as the ink was dry, French King Louis XVI ordered his finance minister to prepare an accounting of exactly how much money France had spent on US independence.
The result was nothing short of astonishing—more than 1 billion livres.
To put that number in context, the French Treasury’s entire annual revenue only amounted to around 200 million livres.
So they had basically sunk FIVE YEARS worth of their tax revenue fighting someone else’s war.
Granted, Britain was still one of France’s main rivals. And the French did not care for British King George III.
But the American War was simply too costly, and France had already been on very shaky financial footing well before this point.
Louis XIV had nearly bankrupted the country a century before. His successor, Louis XV, had to drastically slash expenses and could barely hang on financially.
Then, in 1774, just prior to the American Revolution, Louis XVI became king at a time that France was rapidly deteriorating.
You’d think that with so much economic turmoil at home that he would have focused on his own national interests… and, in lieu of money, weapons, and ships, he would have instead sent the royal thoughts and prayers to America.
But no. Lucky for the United States, Louis XVI courageously fought the American Revolution down to the very last French taxpayer.
Only after the war did Louis finally take stock of the situation and realize the truth: America was in a much better position. Britain was bruised but still powerful. Yet his own France was nearly bankrupt and desperately in need of cash. Not exactly a win/win.
Louis XVI was King, but his powers were limited; he was beholden to the legislature, called the Estates-General, and he couldn’t simply decree new taxes without their consent.
The King did, however, control the tax collectors. And Louis made sure they had every authority to coerce, harass, and intimidate money out of French citizens.
French tax collectors had the authority to walk right into people’s homes unannounced, conduct surprise inspections to look for hidden wealth, and walk away with whatever money or property they felt would satisfy the peasant’s tax bill.
This is actually a pretty common theme throughout history: governments that are on the ropes routinely resort to plundering the savings of their citizens.
Several ancient Roman emperors, in fact, from Diocletian to Valentinian III, famously sent ruthless tax collectors to harass their citizens and steal their wealth. Several ancient Chinese dynasties did the same thing. So did the declining Ottoman Empire.
Significantly ramping up tax collection efforts is typically a hallmark of an economy and empire in decline.
Simon goes on to talk about the Inflation Reduction Act and the effect it is likely to have on the US economy (not good). I like his conclusion:
Taxes ultimately represent the government’s ‘slice’ of an economic pie. So when a country is prosperous and an economy is strong, the government’s slice continues to grow because the overall economic pie is constantly getting bigger.
But nations in decline don’t see it this way. For them, the pie is shrinking. So they think the only way to increase their slice is to go after other people’s crumbs.
History shows this is absolutely the wrong move. Raising tax rates, inventing new taxes, and recruiting armies of tax collectors only makes the pie shrink even more.
Their efforts, instead, should be focused on making the pie bigger. But they don’t think that way.
Bear in mind this is all brought to you by the same people who are shoveling your tax dollars out the door to Ukraine $50 billion at a time. It’s very ‘Louis XVI’ of them.
All of these trends—the cannibalistic surge in tax authorities, the anti-productive regulations, the economic scarcity mentality—are all hallmarks of an empire in decline.
The situation is NOT terminal. It is NOT irreversible. But it is reason enough to have a Plan B.
|Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Bucha, Ukraine, April 4, 2022 [Marko Djurica/Reuters]|
Good piece about propaganda, freedom of the press and the war in Ukraine:
Western media and the war on truth in Ukraine by Marwan Bishara, Senior political analyst at Al Jazeera
Therein I found this little nugget:
I didn't want to include a picture of Zelenskyy, but that is the pic that heads the Al Jazeera post and I was too lazy to look for something else. Zelenskyy is either extremely stupid of extremely corrupt, and given the amount of money that is pouring into Ukraine these days, I suspect the later.
Even today, as US Special Operation Command covertly deploys special forces across Africa to fight “shadow wars”, it blatantly preaches “free and transparent press”. One does not know whether to laugh or cry.