01 January 2025

Where to get my books

There are two options; Google Play, or the Draft2Digital publication targets. Google Play isn't available globally (though they intend to be, based on how the publisher interface sets up billing regions!). So you might need to try one of the Draft2Digital targets. Kobo seems to be a good fallback choice for availability though not for avoiding DRM.

Title Google Books2Read
The Human Dress on Google Play via Books2Read
The March North (Commonweal #1) on Google Play via Books2Read
A Succession of Bad Days (Commonweal #2) on Google Play via Books2Read
Safely You Deliver (Commonweal #3)                  on Google Play via Books2Read
Under One Banner (Commonweal #4) on Google Play via Books2Read
A Mist of Grit and Splinters (Commonweal #5) on Google Play via Books2Read

My current best understanding of how to download the EPUB file from Google Play.

Update 2019-01-29:  Amazon changed their agreement with Draft2Digital to require a whole lot of information transfer to Amazon.  I have removed The Human Dress from sale at Amazon. Still up everywhere else it was available.  (And has been added to a bunch of library services.)

10 January 2021

Canada had a grip on COVID-19 before schools were opened

So Statistics Canada has this sadly laggy weekly excess deaths chart.  (The link is the real thing, which is somewhat dynamic and has all the data; below is a screen grab, taken 2021-01-09.)

Presuming their 2020-10-17 number isn't real -- they haven't got the provincial reporting yet -- it looks like there was a general grip on COVID-19 transmission until various provincial governments insisted on reopening schools.  (September is too soon for winter to start forcing people inside.)

On the one hand, hurrah for the diligent public servants at StatsCan, who are carefully tracking the one metric that really matters when evaluating a public health response to a pandemic.  On the other hand, our political leadership could do with a couple brisk whacks from the Haddock of Remonstration so subsequent contact by the Salmon of Knowledge has a chance to register in useful degree.

07 January 2021

The centre cannot hold

I really don't understand why anyone is surprised about the Capitol mob or the general tenor of insurrection.

White supremacy is a construction of virtue.  And, apparently, much as a lot of white supremacists just assume everyone else really is utterly reflexively racist and pretends not to be out of a sort of point-scoring public hypocrisy, a lot of people assume white supremacists know their axioms are wrong, and just keep going out of sheer meanness.

That's not an accurate understanding.

Somewhere between five and eight thousand years ago, you start seeing this bottleneck in Y chromosomes in human populations.  This is correlated with the rise of patriarchal forms of social organisation, but of course we don't really know what happened.  We can see the results of the selection event, but not details. (Five thousand years, given twenty-five year generations, is two hundred generations.  Twenty generations is more than sufficient to domesticate foxes.  OF COURSE selection happened, and probably quite a lot of it.  Can we tell what?  No we can't.  We haven't got the start state.)

So; humans are subject to selection.  Some of it's obviously genetic -- you can see that Y-chromosone bottleneck in the data! -- and you can tell what it is (a really small proportion of male lineages are siring almost all the kids, and this is generational; a successful sire's sons are frequently themselves successful sires) but you can't tell _why_ it is.  There's no way to distinguish between strongman harem systems and "only a very small proportion of men were calm and peaceful enough to live in the fixed settlements that arose with agriculture". (It could be both.)

Somewhere around five hundred years ago -- twenty generations, still enough to domesticate foxes; can't hardly bet that isn't enough to alter humans in the brains -- the pirate kingdom starts; you get this maritime marcher state building on the loot-sharing customs of longbow armies, and virtue becomes _obtaining_ loot.  (As distinct from the holding or the earning of land, and it's not much of a jump, considering how either of those happened during the transition from feudalism to god-king autocracy.)

There are a couple-three things to note about this.

One, it works.  Look at where people speak English today.  Look at the British Museum or the Smithsonian.  Look at the two solid centuries of thalassocracy.  Look at what didn't happen to that mob in the US Capitol.

Two, status is part of the loot.  And in a very basic way, that's _primate_ status; I can hit who I want and fuck who I want, status.  It's not nice-gold-watch-at-retirement status, or respect-of-your-peers status.

Three, white supremacy is a highly derived loot-sharing agreement.  It's much more complicated than counting out the cattle in the herds you stole or the gold doubloons from the Spanish Main.

The modern white-supremacist coalition has three main threads.

There's mammonites, who sincerely believe money is the material love of god and that they, personally, should have all of it.  This is the party of loot, very broadly defined; they won't tolerate any limits on theft. It's important to remember that their beliefs about money are entirely false to fact and that most of them have a niggling awareness that if they stop lying so fast about money some finance minister somewhere might notice.  And generally they're the sort of person who can loot a billion dollars and feel broke; their insecurity is boundless.

There's the active supremacists; generally people who have little else.  They're useless, they know they're useless, and it makes them extremely insecure about status.  This is (by far) the most numerous group, and it won't tolerate any limits on violence.  (Their insecurity management is directly contrary to their best interest; prosperity arises in cosmopolitan cities.  No amount of wanting status will allow them to tolerate those, though, so there's this feedback loop that prevents them from having any other source of status.)

There's the aristos; this is the group who are certain they should be in charge.  It's not that far off the born-to-wealth-and-power version of the xenophobes, only it's not that they can't stand seeing people who don't look like them, it's that they can't stand people who do not reflexively obey them, ideally out of such fear and deference that they put a lot of effort into figuring out what the aristo wants and delivering that without the aristo having to do anything so lower class as to say what they want. They inherited money; they have inherited connections, status, and power.  The important thing is still having people do what they say because they said it, because their own ability is certainly not sufficient to accumulate the money or create the connections, status, or power.  They won't tolerate any limits to their authority, and it's mostly structural authority, so they're opposed to change unless it makes things better for them, and better for them is worse for everyone else.

Are these three groups using each other?  Absolutely.  Do they want the same things?  Not at all; the xenophobes would certainly like money, and the mammonites want all of it.  (There's probably a name for the idea that god loves only you, but I don't know what it is.)  Are they a cohesive, evolving response to keeping a loot sharing agreement working in a world that's run out of loot?  Absolutely.  Do they think they're doing what is mete, right, and their bounden duty?  Also absolutely.  They're generally upset that they have to; the people lower down in the hierarchy should know their place, after all, and the government should know that it exists to make it easier for them to do whatever they want.

(Consider the dreary list of destructive acts in national parks during the most recent government shutdown.  Consider the blithe indifference to death in response to a pandemic, as long as it's someone else's death.  There's a clear worldview and strong expectations involved, along with the complete disdain of facts or society.)

All of what we've seen with Trump is the expected continuation of a long-term "I shall have loot as it was in grandfather's day" political movement. It's a mutant white supremacy which was itself a mutant patriarchy, and it never has made any material, factual sense.  ("I'm easily sunburned so I am obviously so morally superior I can declare anyone or anything mine" is the kind of thing you're severely disappointed when a five year old comes up with it.  It's abject nonsense.  This has never mattered, and does not matter now.)

How do you keep that cohesive system from copying itself into the future?

There are three traditional approaches.

You make adhering to the belief system fatal.  (This is why you've never met a Cathar.)

Ethnogenesis; something like the rise of Islam produces a new definition of who people are and new relationships among them.  (If you want to get rid of the idea of whiteness, this is the minimum ante.)

Outside context problem.  Bronze Age collapse, pretty much every civilisation in the Americas and then alien diseases showed up in the Columbian interchange, water empires when the rainfall moves; lots of examples.  (if you think climate change isn't an outside context problem you need to go read some of the science.)

So, no, "status quo ante" isn't going to work.

Saying "we will all be Americans", without the outside context problem, didn't work last time, but it won't hurt much.

Saying "we will all be Americans and no one can be all that rich" (because money is agency and most of the problem is a small number of extremely rich people determined to rearrange society to minimise their insecurities rather than doing the work themselves) would be a start; it might be enough to get people up in favour of it.  (Liberal democracy is stone dead; the time and context (and planet to loot) necessary to its existence have passed, and are with us no more.  We're picking the least-bad alternative future.)

Saying "we will all be good neighbours to everyone who will be good neighbours to us, no one can be rich, and open-loot extractive capitalism ends; we will live here forever, and must care for what we have borrowed from our descent" didn't work last time, either, but there weren't all that many people trying the first time.

But! don't think the work can be avoided.  Reconstruction didn't happen.  (Truth and Reconciliation didn't happen in the Canadian example.)  If we want to keep anaesthetised dentistry (and we so do), we've got to pull of ethnogenesis during an outside context problem, and we've got to create a different industrial civilisation to do it, AND we've got to win the fight with the mammonite white supremacists while we're doing it, because they're complete against. Death before responsibility; death before they give up the right to loot.

This is a hard task; this is the kind of excessively difficult task that makes it so much easier to descend into moral dithering, pointless moral taxonomies, and claims that everyone would be fine if....

People aren't going to be fine.  This is probably the decade agriculture fails.  And all these would-be heroes are managing to care that people fear them, because then they feel better.  There is no possibility of doing actual work; any real striving is an opportunity to fail, and they've already failed.  That's what they're fleeing; there's no more loot, the world is worse than it was, and they made it that way.  They can at least club together and pretend that nothing important can, has, or will ever change.

02 January 2021

An observation

 It seems painfully clear -- three orders of magnitude clear, measured in corpses -- that the difference between successfully handling COVID-19 and failing horribly in handling COVID-19 is the willingness to enforce a quarantine.

To enforce a quarantine, you have to be willing to both feed and house people.  If you won't, the quarantine can't and won't work.

It seems clear that various mammonite governments in the Anglosphere absolutely will not do that; given a choice between feeding and housing people, or a massive recession brought on by a large increase in excess deaths, they're picking the corpse pile because feeding people is wrong.

11 December 2020

Constructions of socialism

 You know how there's this rhetorical trope of calling things socialism where [they] are in no way socialism?

What the folks doing that mean is "some political system that isn't (some mix of) keep-the-loot mammonism and patriarchal white supremacy".

That's it; it's a perfectly consistent (if galling binary) usage.

29 November 2020

Misattribution of sincerity

There's an increasing concern for disabled people; it's clear that they don't get any additional support despite the pandemic and it's worrying that "you should die for the economy" rhetoric is solidly mainstream.  It's not very far between that and "we'll kill you for the economy", especially since that's what various governments' COVID policy amounts to in functional terms, just a little more random.

This tends to focus on "a drain on society" and the (entirely obvious from a disabled perspective) "I'd contribute more if you'd spend more", either on making economic contribution possible (e.g., the refusal to allow work from home prior to the pandemic; lots of folks could have a job if they can work from home, and not if they have to commute) or on providing basic support (e.g., public provision of mobility devices).

There's a couple-six tactical mistakes in all this.

Firstly, "drain on the economy" in "you cost more than you pay in taxes" terms isn't answerable; that's why the frame is used.  (Generally by people who seek to lower their own taxes to zero; presenting in complete seriousness a plan to cull oligarchs as unproductive might be a useful rhetorical response.)

Secondly, mammonism tries hard to present itself as factual, but isn't in any way; it doesn't accept falsifiability of anything, never mind its axioms.  No amount of pointing out material error will do anything because no mammonite is the least bit interested in being correct.  It's a sort of distributed mystery cult.

Thirdly, most people sincerely believe that it's OK to kill you for not being normal.[1]  Their entire childhood was structured around social norms where you hurt people until they acted normal, they were themselves certainly hurt for not acting normal, and their conviction that you must be normal is axiomatic, irrational, and close to absolute.  (And immutable; success with gay acceptance, such as their was and what there was of it, rested on "I don't want to kill someone I know fairly well" squeems.  There was no general expansion of normal and there was no refutation of "OK to kill you for not being normal".  There were a bunch of personal exceptions and an agreement that you should be allowed your personal exceptions if you were normal, since, well, yeah, having to beat someone to death when you kinda liked them would be icky.)

Fourth, no one (aside from a few marginalised economics hobbyists) wants to optimise productivity, economic participation, or any general measure of contribution; they want to optimise how much money they have.  Even when people aren't outright mammonites; what you hear repeated becomes true, and the degree of repetition of mammonite axioms is well past saturation.  Security arises from wealth, you must obey greater wealth, and there are no permissible collective forms of organisation save those which reinforce the gradient of wealth.  (why, yes, that does describe a slave society,and yes, they do mean that as a constraint on laws.)

So what do they want?

They really do want to kill you for not being normal.  It's a construction of virtue, in part because the people doing the construction derive their social power and standing from participating in the definition of normal.  (Every time you see complaints about "kids these days" and novel communications platforms?  The base complaint is "they're getting their construction of normal from a source that isn't me".  It's a real threat to the existing general social construction of power if the source of the definition of normal shifts.)

Everything else is a rationalisation for how they can want that and be a good person.  None of it is any more falsifiable than any other faith statement or any other rationalisation; no amount of pointing out that money is an entirely profane collective rationing system for agency that doesn't function without a state guarantor makes a dent on mammonites, because they know that money is the materialisation of the love of God and you can't have it, and you certainly can't have any of theirs.  (When it's not and can't be your money; money is inherently and inescapably socialist.  Agency isn't; agency is inescapably and particularly your agency.  That difference in scope is where much of the problem comes from once, structurally and socially, money and agency are equated.)

Is there a more helpful frame?

I think so; removing friction.  All this implicit difficulty in stairs and curbs and narrow stairwells and so on is a cost, and just like the deaths that lead to carbon monoxide detectors being required, it's a cost there's a general social motivation to reduce.

Places where ramps come in, splitting stairwells, the ramp gets a lot of use by people with roller luggage, garment racks, and so on; it perfectly straightforward to point that out as general utility.  Perfectly straightforward to point out that current escalator design optimizes the wrong thing.  It's not normal to want to make regular daily life more difficult, is it?

(Well, yes it is; it provides display opportunities, and thus status.  Trick is to move the basis of status.)

The city engineer should be seen about towing a little instrumented cart, and public roads rated by where the greatest force is required; places of business should be rated by the ability to move a volume frame around in them.  You get the fire marshal and emergency services to do that one; can we get the stretcher to you? stuff.  Only you make sure it's one of those scissor-lift gurney things in current use, not an old-school pole stretcher.  If this coincidentally improves mobility devices, and if there are much less-publicised mobility device requirements, well, the point is to make the regulation harder to argue with.  It's normal to want them to be able to get the stretcher to you.

(This general idea of not making things difficult can and should be extended all over the place.)

From there, there's the idea that there's a general public responsibility to expand possibility.  Not for the worthy; not for immediate, direct, economic reasons, but because that's what it is normal for a society to do.  A society which pretends to prosperity by denying opportunity is both weak and a lie. [2]

(One could, in past times when some people believed in being judged after death, sometimes get somewhere with notions of duty and obligation; pretty much everybody getting hurt by COVID in the Anglosphere is that way because of government failure, and the successor government acquire an obligation thereby.  Nobody actually believes this today.)

So, yes, there's an immediate need to worry about all this and to care for the stricken in the specific and in general; insisting that it's wrong to measure people's worth with money won't work, because to a first approximation no one here in late capitalism believes that.  Pick a value of normal people want and advance that.  It might work.  "This is cruel" won't work; it never worked when they were kids, after all, and now they know what virtue is.

[1] it is OK for drivers to kill people if the people aren't in cars because driving is normal; walking and riding a bicycle aren't.  It is entirely that simple, which is also why it's so wretchedly intractable.

[2] "medical technology unable to free you from specific constraint is insufficient, and should be improved with the goal of attaining sufficient capability to free you from your specific constraints for all the values of you in society"  would be a controversial statement. (in large part because people correctly suppose that corporates would get the tech first, and make being able to edit you a condition of employment.)  It's still the appropriate social goal, and one where part of the goal has to be a social and systemic context where it's possible to have the capability as an increase in general possibility; your agency is increased by this, not decreased.

22 November 2020

Utility of legitimacy

One of the obvious things about COVID-19 has been the clear demarcation between "people will act collectively" and "people won't act collectively" societies; the former do vastly better handling infectious disease outbreaks.


People ascribe legitimacy to a government which, minimally, does not frustrate their purposes.  Ideally, it will advance their purposes, but in generally it's sufficient that it not frustrate their purposes.

I think it's obvious that societies where people won't act collectively don't ascribe much legitimacy to their governments.

There's three reasons for that.

  1. Illegitimate purposes, all of which reduce to enforcing a prescriptive norm.  People who derive social standing and personal power from defining the prescriptive norm detest the ability of a central government to prevent them from doing so, and even though this is much more de jure than de facto at present, both the mere idea and the apparent strong demographic swing against the practice of having prescriptive norm at all have produced a war-of-extermination response among the people used to have that social power.
  2. Information contamination, where people who recognise their loss of agency under conditions of mammonite wage slavery social organisation then blame the wrong -- frequently fictional! -- actors, rather than those actually responsible.  Any government not suppressing the fictional bad actors is obviously in favour of the loss of agency, and therefore illegitimate; it's frustrating the purposes of the citizenry in general.
  3. A complete absence of even the pretence of uniform justice.  The justice system is utterly mammonite to the point of creating and enforcing caste systems.  Since the great majority of people do not have enough money to get anywhere near the mammonite elect, this also frustrates their purposes.

All of these things are systemically fixable; it's possible to get back to a general legitimacy of collective effort, which we are certainly going to need.  Nobody is going to do any better on climate change than they did with COVID-19, and COVID-19 isn't an existential threat.

None of these things are fixable in a mammonite social context.  And since the mammonite elect have effectively all the agency, this does present serious logistical challenges.

Less than agriculture breaking without a backup plan in place, though.