27 August 2017

Houston, we have a problem

Hurricane Katrina affected gas prices for a decade.

It looks like Harvey is set to do better; the refineries around Houston are shutting down, and pre-storm predictions had it taking a year and a half to two years to recover from "two feet" of flooding.  Given the presumed height of stop signs, they're getting twice that.  There's about as much rain as they've had still to come, per the NOAA forecasts.

How fast can Houston get a working logistical network, sufficient to allow it to feed and house its population, again?  Harvey's expected to be there until Wednesday, raining all the while.    Right now, the ship channel, the roads, the railroad, and the airport are all unusable.  Certainly there is a monumental order of operations problem waiting once the flood waters go down, and that... when does that happen?  Within three days of the rain stopping?  So not quite a week for the surveying to start to find where the roads are washed out, where the ground under the railbed is too saturated to take the load of a train, where the ship channel has silted up and needs dredging, where there is uncontaminated diesel -- if Houston puts the storage tanks in the ground, everything in them is contaminated -- and where there are working support vehicles for the airport.  And given a significant drainage basin feeding into the region, three days is likely severely optimistic.  (Plus everybody else who hasn't been rained on yet.  Many of the models have Harvey wandering back out to sea, re-intensifying, and coming ashore again.)

It looks like it will require a major effort by the USG to put a working city back where Houston now is.  This is inconsistent with the threatened default over the debt ceiling, which a significant faction of Congress wants and which Trump seems fine with if he doesn't get his border wall.  Not knowing how quickly Houston will be restored to economic function makes the time those refineries come back online even more indeterminate.  (Since nobody was planning for this much flood, the existing flood plans aren't sufficient, so there's going to be large uncertainty there, too.)

So... global recession?  Seems likely just from the storm damage; aviation fuel can increase in price, but interrupted plastic feedstock deliveries just don't happen, and that has cascade effects.  Run the price of gas up in the US and that has cascade effects, too. A month of "how bad is it?" and "is the US going to default?" in combination makes it seem certain.

Wither the Commonweal

Under One Banner is written.  It needs the careful addition of dates to all the chapters.  When I wrote it, the presence of one immutable date in the text was going to give me all the other dates via relative offsets.  Looking at it now, I may have know those relative offsets while I was actively writing it, but I don't know them anymore, so this is going to be an annoying process.

The thing in the way of Under One Banner is The Human Dress, my long-ago attempt at a big fluffy fantasy brick.  Various logistical vicissitudes have attended on it, but primarily that it's about 320,000 words long.  This... slows things down.  I still hope to have The Human Dress out in 2017.  (It's been through pass-one copy edit; I have to turn it around for pass two.)

I expect -- presuming I stay employed and housed, there's an available copy-editor, no rifts in space-time devour Google's servers, etc. -- that Under One Banner will make it out during the second quarter of 2018.  This might well be optimistic of me.

The next one, A Mist of Grit and Splinters, has hit the point where I really need those dates from Under One Banner. It's got a beginning, a middle, and an end; the framework sections are all done.  I've figured out that the original draft involves two viewpoints, and that Slow and Duckling may have certain similarities of outlook but are not the same person.  I maintain a hope of publishing it in 2019.

(The one after that, The Hempen Jig, is going to be something of a horror novel and probably not have any Commonweal viewpoints in it at all, though the viewpoints will be interacting with Commonweal persons.  I have lots and lots of notes for this one.)

13 August 2017

Hate leads to a whole bunch of things

One really unfortunate consequence of the way the Enlightenment happened is a whole bunch of creationist worldview hangovers.  If you, and everyone around you, just supposes that of course everything was created by a perfect divine being, you go all essentialist about types.  This is not a factually well-supported position, but the conceptual hangover goes on and on.  (In part because it's easy; in part because it tends to advantage the people making publication decisions.)

There's a similar problem with expectations arising from patriarchal white supremacy, where a whole bunch of fundamentally economic decisions ("I get to steal that") are justified by reference to a white guy's feelings.  This tends to make everybody being oppressed by the system insist their feelings are important out of an entirely reasonable desire to stop being oppressed.  That leads to a bunch of people going "hate doesn't excuse violence" and "hate leads to hate" and much other moral reasoning that's actively unhelpful.

Hate exists on a personal scale.  On a public scale, it doesn't have meaning.  (Same with moral reasoning; it's like trying to dig a house foundation with a teaspoon, the tool is on an inappropriate scale.)

So, really, if the policy problem is white supremacists or nazis or something distinguishable from those only under a microscope, hate (or not) doesn't matter. (Same with love.  Personal feelings don't scale to policy problems.)

First off, if you strip off the loud, loud feelings being used as deceptive camouflage, the nazis and the supremacists come down to "the story I tell myself about who I am and my place in society gives me much more status than I materially possess.  I think my disappointment is a good reason to hurt people until my status matches what I think it should be."  Which is bad enough; that's fundamentally an assertion that civilization is important, not in terms of what it does (general expansion of accessible choice through an increase in capability brought on by stable currency, wide trading relationships, fine divisions of labour, the rule of law, and broadening political enfranchisement) but in terms of how it makes nazis feel.  There's a lot of rationalization about this out there, but that's what it is.  Then  you can notice the "status" being used is not the status of skill or accomplishment; it's basic primate band status arising from being able to hit who you want and fuck who you want.  That's a level of social organization inconsistent with having roads or towns.  You certainly don't get a civilization using that as an organizing principle.

Massive insecurity management failure.  "I told myself a story and it isn't factual so I'm going to hurt people until it becomes factual" has several material problems.  First off, if you're not dealing with facts, your ability to win a large fight is doubtful.  Secondly, if the thing about the story that isn't factual is your own particular competence, you're not oppressed, you're inept.  Fixing inept requires you to work hard.   (Which is necessary but not sufficient.)  Thirdly, oppressive social hierarchies come into being as a means of apportioning the loot.  (That is, the kind of social hierarchy that has people getting really mad that someone who, to them, has no right to say anything because of their position in the hierarchy being lower expresses an opinion; you can see this all over politics in people having the vapours when non-whites or women say things.  Where you are in the hierarchy is supposed to determine the kind of loot you get.)  Once you're fighting over the basic right of the hierarchy to exist, absent loot, the associated economic system is collapsing and the social system -- as is always the case with social systems -- is trying to perpetuate itself at the cost of steadily increasing extremism.

So what we're seeing is a bunch of people who prefer a general collapse of civilization to admitting that they're not good for much.  (Various people get to nazi nihilism via moral routes but you really don't need to; there's an entirely material observation that, yeah, this does come down to "my feelings are hurt, let's destroy everything".)  From there, you get the cargo-cult "if we impose the hierarchy strongly, our portion of loot will show up as it used to do" without bothering to notice that the main, essential, inescapable thing about loot is that you can only steal it once.

Does it matter if you hate them?  Personally, to you, it probably does.  There's millennia of advice out there about that and I haven't got anything to add to it.

Policy needs to be pro-civilization -- that general expansion of realized choice -- because policy only exists when you've got a civilization.  (The word does arise from "polis", "city", if you wander back through a sufficient depth of time.)  A position that civilization itself is bad and that it is the faults brought by civilization which must be corrected by killing people until no fault can be found isn't inside any civilization; it's not part of the settled peace.  A nazi arguing for free speech and open debate is saying "let me win"; they haven't got an alternative civilization to argue for, they're still pushing for the death of all[1] because the death of all is better than admitting they can't cope with not being special.[2]

The appropriate policy response?  Somewhere between "SARS outbreak" and "voluntary zombie plague".  (Diseases don't have volition, so the analogy is weak.)  Certainly, policy should arise from a position that believes what the nazis say about their intentions.

As an individual, whether you're going to be killed for being a race-traitor, untermenschen, or refusing to volunteer for sex, punching is a mild response.

[1] civilization stops working, everybody dies.  And there's no more waste places to flee to, not in this time and with this population.

[2] "the accusations of what they themselves do" rule holds up very well here.[3]

[3] there's a fascinating lens to look at the Great Patriotic War through in this; the Soviet Union may well have been a civilization, as Nazi Germany was not.