Work related posts have been moved.

9 November, 2010

My work and computing related posts are now at

If you have come here from a work-related perspective (computing, semweb, bioinformatics, math). Perhaps you could go there right now and not read the gory personal stuff here.

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The USA and The Poor

24 May, 2023

Let’s talk about the United States of America and The Poor.

But first, let’s talk about The Bible. It’s an easy segue – a lot of americans are christians. Evangelical, denominational. Notional. Heck – 2% are Jews, and we’ll kinda be covering them, too, when we look at the Old Testament.

One of the big things in the OT was the sacrifice system. 10% of the increase of agricultural produce gets offered to God (capital G, we are using the word as a name for a particular person). That’s a lot of grain, a lot of meat. Some of it was burned as burnt offerings, but that was not the majority rare – burnt offerings were for specific sins. No, most of it was simply cooked. The altar, let’s recognise, was a BBQ. The grain was offered as a “wave offering”. They’d just wave it before the altar and that constituted offering it.

So, what happened to all this produce? What happened to the cooked meat? Sure the priests ate their fill, but we are talking about 10% of everything produced by the entire nation. What about the rest of it?

What happened to it was that it was given out to the poor.

We see this in the New Testament, where St Paul discusses if it is ok to eat meat that has been offered to idols. He concludes that idols are fake, so it’s perfectly fine. But why were christians doing this in the first place? Because if you are poor, that was where you’d get meat. The greek and roman religion worked exactly the same way. In India, they offer milk to Ganesha by pouring it over his statue. What happens to the milk? Is it just left to run on the ground? Of course not: the priests collect it.

The church has for millennia been a society’s welfare department. Even up to the early 1900s in Britain the church tax, the poor tax has been a thing. Still is, in some places in Europe.

Why are there church hospitals? Why are there church schools? Because there always have been. For as long as there has been civilisation. While the wealthy and powerful concerned themselves with trade and war, it was the church of the day that built schools for the commons, infirmaries for the poor, mental asylums for the poor, orphanages for discarded children, that registered births, deaths, and marriages of the commons. The government-sanctioned church has always been the welfare department, part of the government, with power to levy taxes, to make laws. Not to say that it always worked, or even worked well. But it was the church that did this stuff.

(Note, incidentally, what a nonsense this fact makes of the evangelical claim that christians ought to tithe to their churches today. The preachers just trouser the money, because there’s no structures in place to do what should be done with it.)

With that context, let’s look at the first amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

And there it is. Right from the very foundations, right in the constitution, the guys in wigs and knee-breeches declare “we ain’t paying for that shit”. It was a young country, with fruited plains, and surely no-one was trapped in poverty. After all – becoming a land owner was just a matter of shooting a few natives. If anyone was poor, it was their own fault.

What I’m saying is: it’s not new. The plight of the San Fransisco drug addicts, the structural barriers to the government doing anything about it, are not new. The dismissal of the mentally ill, the disabled veteran, the pregnant young woman as being any concern of the government is not new.

Most of all: it’s not conservative, in the sense that conservativism is to do with religious values. Quite the opposite: it’s to do with liberalism. Economic liberalism frees the well-off from being obliged to have concern for people less well-off. Right from the very beginning.

It won’t be fixed. It can’t be fixed. Disdain for those that don’t “make it” is part of America’s DNA.

Shipwreck. Game Zero.

19 September, 2022

Well, I won’t be blogging my serpent’s skull game here on wordpress. I like to use custom HTML, css, images, fonts, and the interface is abominable and whatever you write here belongs to someone else.

Oh, and they want more money.

I shall be using a HTML editor and uploading to github. It means I don’t get to automatically push notifications to facebook, etc, but meh. I could probably manage a static rss file.

The Ukranian Kerfuffle

14 September, 2022

(I wrote this a few weeks ago. Things have moved on since then.)

I told you so.

About seven years ago, August 2015.

Russia will not, will not, will not lose control of Svestapol without a fight, and they will escalate as far as it takes, whatever it takes. They are not bluffing. They still have nukes. If they have to, they will march the Red Army south right through the middle of the Ukraine, and to hell with anyone who gets in the way. If Kiev doesn’t like it, fuck them. If anyone wants to help out Kiev, fuck them too.

What I got completely wrong was how the war would proceed. The first and most important part has been running for years. But I’ll deal with that in a tick. First, let’s review what this war is about, for what prize it is being fought.

Russia fights to connect Russian road and rail to its naval port at Sevastopol. It intends and has always intended to take Dontesk, Luhansk, and the eastern side of the Dnepro river to the south. And it has substantially achieved this goal. The result means unrestricted access to the Black Sea, The Mediterranean, and via the Suez Canal to Asia. A (relatively) warm-water port. Shipping via sea is still the best way to transport bulk goods. Yes, at first Russian traffic will not be welcome in the Suez, but false flags and large amounts of money will win out.

There is also an emerging Sino-Russian alliance, whose goal is to connect Russian natural resources to Chinese industry by road and rail. But the only shared land borders are a tiny strip of border in the mountains between Khazakstan and Mongolia (there isn’t even a town there – it’s all mountains) or way, way to the east around the other side of Mongolia. One observes that good fences make good neighbours, and the Gobi Desert is a fine fence. The goal of the next war, then, will be to shave off the northeastern strip of Khazakstan – east of the \rtysh River – to get a decent land route to China. Relatively nice and flat, which is what you need for rail. The route will be Novosibirsk to Ürüqi. Russia might use “terrorism” as an excuse. After all, the USA has set the precedent there. When a population hates you – even if it is for excellent reason – and fights you the only way it can, then that makes it ok to invade them. However, possibly China may secure the route through its usual combination of trade and demographic replacement, which brings me back to the decade-long war that Russia has been engaging with against the Ukraine.

Russia’s Causus Belli has been that The Ukraine has been bombing ethnic russians in Dontesk and Luhansk. Which they almost certainly have been. Horrifying, of course, that the Ukranian government is doing this to its own citizens. But then you have to pause. We are dealing with Ukranians who are ethnically Russian, speak Russian, trade in roubles, and who – and this is of paramount importance – can reasonably expect the protection of the Russian military, reasonably expect that the fellow Russians will hazard their lives, will bomb and kill, to protect them. “Fellow Russians” is nowhere near strong enough – only the word “countrymen” will do. Nothing could be clearer than that these people are not, and never were, Ukranian. What might have been written on their passports and birth certificates is a preposterous lie. These people are simply Russians.

So why were these Russians living in Ukranian territory?

They were colonising it.

It became evident during the Capital Hill riots that the purpose of the Secret Service is not to protect the US president, but to kidnap him if it looks like he is about to do something catastrophic. The Secret Service are agents of the US Treasury Dept. Make of that what you will.

The genius of democracy is that it makes it very, very difficult to defeat a nation militarily. In particular, decapitation doesn’t work. So what if a President or Prime Minister is killed? You just replace them. They aren’t a king or a queen. Most particularly, plopping someone on the throne doesn’t work. There is no throne. It has taken civilisation some time to find democracy’s weakness, which is that power goes to groups that vote as a bloc. The weapon that destroys democracies is group identity among a substantial minority. So to make war on a democracy, you split it into factions, and you move your own people in.

(It also helps if you can ruin the sense of group identity among the majority. A democracy is only ever as strong as its majority citizens are proud and patriotic. But more of that later.)

So, yes, it was quite reasonable of The Ukraine to attempt to ethnically cleanse these woodworms. Families, mums and dads, innocent apple-cheeked children – all loyal to Mother Russia. But turns out that dropping missiles on them in hopes that they will leave across the border didn’t work. What they probably needed to do was to enclose the Russians in ghettos and then ship them by rail to the gas chambers. But, well, the optics are bad. And more likely the Ukranian government never had the organisational ability to pull off such a thing. Ukranians are, after all, wogs – even if the people right at the top are not. It’s no coincidence that Dontesk and Luhansk, populated by Russians, are the industrial and technological parts of The Ukraine, and that the rest is mostly farms.

But lobbing missiles at buildings with families in them is something any military can do, and something that they especially enjoy doing when they are product of a people and culture prone to holding centuries-old grudges.

What I’m saying is that everyone is a bad guy, here.