Hey, Democracy! Why Do You Bother to Vote?

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Uncle Volodya says, “The best government is a benevolent tyranny tempered by an occasional assassination.”

“There are no nations, just large corporations
Flying the flag of the day;
From dawn of creation to civilization
Please don’t take my music away..”

From “Joe Fabulous“, by Bad Company

A quote which goes, “If voting actually made any difference, they wouldn’t let you do it” is often attributed – apparently incorrectly – to American humorist and author Mark Twain. Snopes doesn’t know who actually said it, or if anyone ever did, although there are various close versions. For instance, this rant by Robert S. Borden, from the Lowell Sun in 1976:

“Has it ever dawned on the editors that the attitudes of the 70 million projected non-voters may be very consistent with the reality that the concept of voting and electing representatives is basically dishonest and fraudulent? If voting could change anything it would be made illegal! There is no way any politicians can legally represent anyone because he was elected on a secret ballot by a small percentage of voters. He then claims to represent the people who voted against him and even those who wisely chose not to participate in such criminal activity.”

The sentiment was around long before 1976, so he certainly wasn’t the originator. But even without attribution, the notion that voting is just a pointless, slightly pathetic activity which provides the zealous and the patriotic with the illusion that their participation somehow informs and guides national leadership has been around for a long time, and has grown like jimson weed in the fertile ground of government brainlessness. More and more, the electorate is fed up with going dutifully to the polls, only to see another scion of a privileged family up there under the lights giving the clasped-hands victory sign. They see the national leadership forget all his/her promises before the air has even cooled where they were just standing, or within a couple of months when they acknowledge by God, it is going to be tougher than I thought.

Who would ever have imagined Justin Trudeau, poster-boy for quirky LGBTQ issues and social-justice causes – and eye-wateringly incompetent social-hand-grenade at everything else – would morph into an hysterical tyrant, yelling that you don’t have to get vaccinated, but don’t think that if you don’t, you will still be able to get on a plane or a train beside decent folks, and shed your COVID cooties all over them. All right, I might be paraphrasing a little. What he actually said wasIf you don’t want to get vaccinated, that’s your choice. But don’t think you can get on a plane or a train beside vaccinated people and put them at risk!

As the author of the linked reference piquantly pointed out – how does your unvaccinated proximity threaten the vaccinated? If you are vaccinated, aren’t you immune?

Perhaps this would be a good place to highlight the CDC’s latest venture into revisionist history; I’m sure everyone recalls their earlier below-the-radar reinvention of ‘herd immunity’ so that the new text made no mention of the possibility it could be acquired through natural infection and recovery – nope, it was the product of vaccination. Well, they’ve done it again; this time, to ‘vaccine’. See if you can spot the difference. Old definition.

Vaccine: A product that stimulates a person’s immune system to produce immunity to a specific disease, protecting the person from that disease. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but can also be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

New definition.

Vaccine: A preparation that is used to stimulate the body’s immune response against diseases. Vaccines are usually administered through needle injections, but some can be administered by mouth or sprayed into the nose.

Did you spot the difference? Yeah; a vaccine no longer has to confer ‘immunity’, only ‘protection’, which is open to a much greater degree of interpretation. Given it mitigates your symptoms if you do get infected, isn’t that ‘protection’? The brighter among you may have noticed the definitions of ‘vaccination’ and ‘immunization’ have also been modified to remove any reference to ‘immunity’. The buzzword now is ‘protection’.

Talking of the redefining of herd immunity, let’s just take a closer look at that. Because the government keeps holding out the prospect – if only a few more people will roll up their sleeves and take the gene-jab – as if it were a realistic goal. Is it? You tell me. I’ll let math-boy sum it up, because, as Geoffrey Rush said in the character of Cap’n Barbosa of “Pirates of the Caribbean”, there were a lot of big words in there; we’re nobbut ‘umble pirates.

“So, to achieve herd immunity we need to make sure that at least a proportion of $1-1/R_0$ of the population is immune. For an $R_0$ of 2.5, the higher end of the estimates for COVID-19, this means that we need to get at least a proportion of $1-1/2.5=0.6$ of the population immune. This translates to at least 60%…How do we do this? Well, ideally we would do it by vaccinating at least 60% of the population. In the absence of a vaccine, we can hope that this level of immunity will be achieved naturally, by people becoming sick and then immune. But because a lot of people die of COVID-19 we can’t just let the disease wash over the population, confident in the knowledge that more infections mean more immunity. “

Fair warning; the referenced site is sympathetic to herd immunity being achieved through vaccination, although at the time of writing, none was available. It has since become fashionable to pretend this is our goal through vaccinations, and that if some of those crackpot conspiracy-theorist anti-vaxxers would just think of their community for a minute, why, we’d be there. Continue reading “Hey, Democracy! Why Do You Bother to Vote?”

Look Out the Left, the Captain Said: the Capture of Roman Protasevich

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Uncle Volodya says, “He wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it.”

Star bright, star bright, you got the lovin’ that I like;
Turn this crazy bird around…
Should not have got on this flight tonight

From “This Flight Tonight“, by Nazareth

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.

Noam Chomsky, from ” Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World 

When news happens, there is a rush on the part of the press to get it out there, hopefully so that their paper or reporter is the one to bring it to you first. This race to be your headline eye-candy king is greatly simplified by having a preformed narrative bias – if we did it, or one of our close allies did it, it was either good or it was an honest mistake; you have to laugh, really, our intentions were so good and look how it turned out. If our enemies did it, or even those who are in arrears on their friendship dues, it’s because they are rotten to the marrow of their wicked bones, and of course there was the basest of evil intent behind it. The story almost writes itself, you just need to plug in a few assumed facts here and there, wind up with a bit of soulful off-the-cuff analysis, maybe a reasonably-safe prediction (“there will be consequences”, said a government source who cannot be named…), et voila!

I usually don’t like to do that. Well, partly it’s because I am often too busy to sit down and write the moment I hear something; I just don’t have the time. But also, I like to give it a couple of days – often, there are major changes in the original storyline, which I often heard entirely one side of anyway, and sometimes there is a complete and embarrassing reversal, in which I would have been complicit had I jumped on the bandwagon.

This story is not like that. There have been some major revelations and mitigations, but we are still left with a lot of questions. Let’s start out with what we know, or think we know. The description of events lifted straight from TASS seems to me to describe the ‘known knowns’ – to borrow from legendary cold warrior Donald Rumsfeld – as well as any I have seen, or at least it more or less encapsulates what I know;

Protasevich was detained on May 23. On that day, a Vilnius-bound Ryanair plane that took off from Athens made an emergency landing at Minsk International Airport after a reported bomb threat. After the landing, the plane was inspected and no bomb was found on board. Among the passengers on that flight was Protasevich who was wanted by Belarusian authorities. Protasevich was detained by law enforcement agents once the plane had landed in the Belarusian capital. Russian national Sofia Sapega was also detained together with him.

However, there is a great deal more to the story than that, and you can usually make a fairly safe bet that when an immediate western pile-on ensues – given its typically lackadaisical organization where domestic and international affairs are concerned – there is something about it that plays directly to its interests, rather than the non-partisan by-Jove-we-will-have-fair-play-wot-wot that it pretends.

And there was a lot of that; a lot of fist-shaking and blustering about ‘air piracy’ and ‘hijacking’, a lot of hyperbole by sources who would pretty much be living on government assistance programs if hyperbole was not allowed. Serial fabricator and English gasbag Luke Harding, for instance. He has more or less abandoned journalism altogether in favour of waiting for major events to fall in his lap, and simply stringing together a series of comments on them. Here’s a fine example:

Friends have wryly noted that the thunderous and very public manner of his arrest is in keeping with his outsized career and personality. “Everything he does is loud,” Nicolai Khalezin, who has known him for a decade, said. “The riot police came and arrested me. Roma got a fighter jet.”

Anyone with an ounce of journalistic integrity, and a brain that exceeded roughly the same deadweight, would know a couple of things which would have precluded putting one’s real name to such tosh. One, the riot police do not patrol or execute offsite arrests; they provide security at events which have the potential to turn into riots, and when they do, arrest people who showed up; therefore, Khalezin has attributed ‘came’ to the wrong authority. If he ‘came’ to a protest and it got out of hand, perhaps the riot police arrested him there. If he was arrested somewhere other than at such an event, it probably was not by the riot police. But that’s semantics. What I particularly wanted to point out is that escort of civil aviation which is making an emergency landing, owing to a potentially dangerous situation onboard, by a military aircraft is standard procedure since the momentous events of 9-11. The polite and peaceful Canadians go so far as to suggest sending two fighter planes is ‘an appropriate response’.

Maj. Holly Apostoliuk said NORAD officials don’t have time to verify a threat is genuine before responding. “Considering the time available when information is received about a potential threat to an aircraft, one does not have time for a full investigation, and neither would anyone want us to do so,” Apostoliuk told The Canadian Press. “The point is, based on the information, to do all we can to ensure a safe landing of the aircraft.”

Quite. This would seem to be affirmed by Air Traffic Organization policy guidance in the event of a bomb threat received while the aircraft is airborne.

  • When information is received from any source that a bomb has been placed on, in, or near an aircraft for the purpose of damaging or destroying such aircraft, notify the supervisor or facility manager. If the threat is general in nature, handle it as a suspicious activity. When the threat is targeted against a specific aircraft and you are in contact with that aircraft, take the following actions as appropriate:
    1. Advise the pilot of the threat.
    2. Report the threat to the Domestic Events Network (DEN) Air Traffic Security Coordinator (ATSC) via (202) 493-4170. If unable to contact the DEN ATSC notify the Transportation Security Administration/Transportation Security Operation Center (TSA/TSOC) directly at 703-563-3400.
    3. Ask if the pilot desires to climb or descend to an altitude that would equalize or reduce the outside air pressure/existing cabin air pressure differential. Obtain and relay an appropriate clearance considering minimum en route altitude (MEA), minimum obstruction clearance altitude (MOCA), minimum reception altitude (MRA), and weather.

NOTE − Equalizing existing cabin air pressure with outside air pressure is a key step which the pilot may wish to take to minimize the damage potential of a bomb.

    1. Handle the aircraft as an emergency, and/or provide the most expeditious handling possible with respect to the safety of other aircraft, weather conditions, ground facilities, and personnel.

NOTE − Emergency handling is discretionary and should be based on the situation. With certain types of threats, plans may call for a low-key action or response.

  1. Obtain and relay clearance to a new destination, if requested.
  2. When a pilot requests technical assistance or if it is apparent that such assistance is needed, do NOT suggest what actions the pilot should take concerning a bomb, but obtain the following information and notify the supervisor who will contact the DEN ATSC or TSA/TSOC as explained in a2 above.

Continue reading “Look Out the Left, the Captain Said: the Capture of Roman Protasevich”

The Near-Global Collapse of Critical Thinking

Uncle Volodya says, “When an honest man speaks, he says only what he believes to be true; and for the liar, it is correspondingly indispensable that he considers his statements to be false. For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false.”

“Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.”

– Glen Cook, Shadow Games

“The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven’t got it.”

– George Bernard Shaw

I’m lazy. But vanity constrains me from admitting that, so I call it ‘busy’. However I choose to label it, I haven’t written anything new in a long time. It’s not writer’s block, because I had a couple of topics in mind; if I had to blame it on anything, I’d blame it on the comments section. We don’t really have any rules here, or not many (there are a couple of people who can’t comment, but that’s because they cannot be trusted to not instantly return to old habits as soon as they are allowed), and things routinely drift off-topic to whatever is going on at the time. Current events; yes, that’s the term I was looking for. So when new things are happening, we tend to discuss them in the comments section, instead of my writing a new post dedicated specifically to that issue. It’s the primary cause, I’m afraid, of important comments you would like to be able to locate because they contain hard-to-find sources or just the information you need to settle an argument, because they are not linked by subject. Obviously I prefer the unregulated format, or I wouldn’t use it, but it does have its disadvantages.

Anyway, the silver lining that comes with being late to discuss a particular current event is that you get to talk about the filtered version, after the ferment has settled down and often new facts have presented. So it is with the teapot tempest of Alexei Navalny, vaulted to international fame virtually overnight by becoming the latest victim poisoned by nefarious Soviet-era deadly nerve agents that, in their known application, have a success rate of 16.67%. A funny statistic has emerged from the absurd times we are living in – a viral infection, the ‘novel coronavirus’, more commonly called COVID-19, has the world shivering with terror like frogs in a glass cage with a big snake, even though its Infection Fatality Rate (IFR) compares with the annual influenza bouts we have lived with all our years. Yet an engineered nerve agent reputed to be ten times as deadly as the most toxic poison the west could come up with – one which, I might add, has a known survivor list among the exposed of zero point zero – has never killed the individual it was intended to kill, and managed to incidentally slay one innocent bystander who was also an alcoholic and drug abuser. As John Lennon remarked in “Nobody Told Me”; strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama.

I meant to do a post on Navalny – more correctly, my patience with the ridiculous statements made about his latest adventure finally evaporated – after reading this amazingly cheeky tapestry of fabrication; “The Kremlin, predictably, says it didn’t poison Alexey Navalny. So what can the West do?”

I looked it up so as to have an electronic link, so readers could get the full effect. But I initially saw it in the newspaper, the Canadian Globe & Mail (British Columbia edition), in which it was headlined a little differently – “Why nobody has power to make Kremlin come clean on poisoning”. So far as I can make out on initial examination, the body of the article is unchanged. Both pieces – well, the same piece with two different headlines – are by Mark MacKinnon, who is The Globe & Mail‘s senior international correspondent, based in London, UK. He’s quite highly-regarded by his employers, is a seven-time winner of the National Newspaper Awards (for creativity, perhaps, although they don’t say), and the author of…”The New Cold War: Revolutions, Rigged Elections and Pipeline Politics“. Gee, that sounds like it might be about a particular country; let’s have a dekko at the writeup.

“When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed two years later, liberal democracy was supposed to fill the void left by Soviet Communism. Poland and Czechoslovakia made the best of reforms, but the citizens of the “Evil Empire” itself saw little of the promised freedom, and more of the same old despots and corruption. Recently, a second wave of reforms — Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine in 2004, as well as Kyrgyzstan’s regime change in 2005 — have proven almost as monumental as those in Berlin and Moscow. The people of the Eastern bloc, aided in no small part by Western money and advice, are again rising up and demanding an end to autocracy. And once more, the Kremlin is battling the White House every step of the way. Mark MacKinnon spent these years working in Moscow, and his view of the story and access to those involved remains unparalleled. With The New Cold War, he reveals the links between these democratic revolutions — and George Soros, the idealistic American billionaire behind them — in a major investigation into the forces that are quietly reshaping the post-Soviet world.”

Because western-imposed liberal democracy has been such a star-speckled success in so many places – Libya. Iraq, Venezuela…anyway, the above author information is offered to sort of set the tone for the type of worldview you might expect. And to introduce a premonition, before you even read his material, that Mark MacKinnon just might be exactly the sort of guy who would smirk with revulsion at the mention of Putin’s name, and have a big ol’ man-crush on Alexei Navalny. I’m not implying anything untoward, here; Mr. MacKinnon is a realist. An ideologue, yes, but a realist. Continue reading “The Near-Global Collapse of Critical Thinking”

The Ceaseless Lies of Eva Bartlett; or, The Partisan Scrubbing of Western Consciousness.

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Uncle Volodya says, “The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass-communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely, to impose necessary illusions, manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena.”

“Popular culture is a place where pity is called compassion, flattery is called love, propaganda is called knowledge, tension is called peace, gossip is called news, and auto-tune is called singing.”

Criss Jami, from “Killosophy”

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

Noam Chomsky, from “Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda”

I don’t think you would get anywhere by arguing that living in a democracy means your leaders always tell you the truth – and let you and your fellow voters decide, based on that truth, whether you want to go further down the road under their leadership or come to a parting of the ways, and go forward without them. There is no written promise that leaders will not lie, just as there is no statement of ethics which forbids a free press from lying to its readers, whether deliberately or because it was itself deceived by liars.

Nonetheless, the obvious repugnance and disgust expressed by generations of western journalists for the manipulative propaganda of Nazi poster-boy Goebbels and the overly-motivational exhortations of the Communist Soviet Union’s five-year planners strongly suggested the west at all levels disapproves of lying in order to manipulate public perception.

Can we agree, then, that western philosophy – by which I mean the propounded creed of NATO and various western temporary and semi-permanent alliances over the years since the Second World War – encourages a belief that the creation and dissemination of propaganda is wrong? That western journalism strives for an impression that propagandists are also liars, and that an informed populace can handle the truth?

That’s pretty much what I thought. Continue reading “The Ceaseless Lies of Eva Bartlett; or, The Partisan Scrubbing of Western Consciousness.”