Junk Statistics

The article alarmingly titled Study: Only two-thirds of Millennials fully believe the Earth is round is junk news. Why? Just look at the question and the choices for answers offered:

Do you believe that the world is round or flat?

  • I have always believed the world is round
  • I always thought the world is round, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts
  • I always thought the world is flat, but more recently I am skeptical/have doubts
  • I have always believed the world is flat
  • Other/Not sure

How would someone who has a good childhood memory (such as yours truly) answer this question? “Other/not sure” in my case: when I was a young child, I believed the Earth to be flat, because to such a child it obviously does appear to be so. Later on, I learned otherwise, then learned the mountains of evidence that indicate so.

It’s the only accurate answer available. I have not always believed the world to be round, I have certainly not become skeptical the earth is round recently, I have not recently become skeptical the world is flat, and I have certainly not always believed the world is flat. It’s an elementary process of elimination (as arriving at any “other” category must be). I doubt I’m the only one who arrived at “other/not sure” this way.

Lesson from France: Ecology – Class Consciousness = Failure

The gilets jaunes protests were touched off by Emanuel Marcon’s new carbon tax on fuel. These taxes were structured to fall hardest on the lower and middle classes, and they came in the context of taxes on the wealthiest having been recently cut.

Marcon is not a leftist; he styles himself as a centrist and a self-professed “economic realist,” in the typical centrist’s sense of “reality:” the duty of those on the bottom to realize that they deserve to be on the bottom, and deserve to get the short end of the stick while those on the top of society deserve more privileges (and any questioning of this sort of arrangement constitutes questioning “reality”).

It is worth pointing out that carbon fees and taxes have been enacted in other jurisdictions, where they generally have not proven so controversial. This makes it fairly obvious that the problems in France are happening because of how the French government chose to do things, and not because of anything intrinsic to charging for carbon pollution itself.

Capitalism and Imperialism Helped Cause the AIDS Pandemic

In honor of World AIDS Day, Time magazine recently ran an article on the subject, from which I quote:

Exactly how it spread continues to be studied. A 2014 study said the strain originated in the 1920s in Kinshasa, in the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo. The 2011 book The Origin of AIDS by infectious disease doctor Jacques Pepin argued that one might be able to trace the virus’ spread to bush-meat hunters who handled chimpanzee blood, and a surge in prostitution that took place among the disorder of the decolonization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the ’60s. Many of the bureaucrats sent there to establish order came from Haiti, and one or more of those workers may have brought it back to the island. As for how the virus went from Haiti to the U.S., he theorizes that it may have involved another combination of factors, ranging from an unsanitary handling of samples at a plasma center to Haiti’s reputation at the time as a sex tourism destination.

That sugar-coats some truly ugly culpability. That euphemistically-worded “disorder of the decolonization of the Democratic Republic of the Congo” was in no small part fomented by the the CIA, Belgium, and foreign capitalists, who acted to undermine the rule of the democratically-elected adminsitration of Patrice Lumumba, the first president of that nation (then simply called the Republic of the Congo). And I haven’t yet mentioned the genocidial imperialism there whose death toll is estimated at about ten million. That’s right, ten million.

Haiti, too, is a victim of imperialism. Conditions are so bad there (poverty, environmental degradation) in no small part due to evil done by the imperialist nations of the First World. France refused to acknowledge Haiti’s independence, imposing crippling economic sanctions unless the slaves who rebelled repaid slave-owning French capitalists for the “theft” of the “property” they considered the rebelling slaves to be. The entire rest of the “civilized” First World, including the USA, took France’s side in the matter and refused to trade with Haiti until it capitulated.

That was in 1804, and it was not until one hundred and forty-three years later, in 1947, that the debt was repaid. During that time, Haiti’s progress was horribly stunted by its repaying of those onerous reparations. And it was in the resulting festering cesspool of poverty (the worst in the entire Western Hemisphere) that AIDS was so easily able to spread and grow when it arrived in the 1960s.

World AIDS Day

This is a day that I’m usually pretty quiet about, because it’s a puzzle to me how to respectfully respond to it. You see, I’m a queer guy (not a gay guy) in his mid-fifties. Personally, and for reasons I won’t get to in greater detail here, that difference between queer and gay is a huge part of the reason why I managed to both avoid that HIV bullet myself, and avoid the experience of having most of my close friends die, despite being the “right” age to have experienced both.

Therefore, I can’t really relate any sort of the personal horror stories that most gay men of my age can, nor do I really feel in any way like a survivor (or have any consequent survivor’s guilt). So I’ll just have to say that while I haven’t personally experienced much of the impacts many of my friends my age have, I understand that many of them have, and that it must have been terrible.

I will say that I have had the pleasure of meeting many unassuming people who were fierce warriors during the era when AIDS was a crisis in the First World. That latter part is important; in many parts of the Third World, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS is still a huge crisis today. It is due to AIDS that many African nations have a lower life expectancy today than they did 30 years ago.