Saturday, March 18, 2017

Looking back at Heinlein's Future History - coming true before our eyes.

This one is so pertinent and important, I tried to find a more public venue for it. But one of the tragic consequences of the Trump Era is the decay of op-ed journalism -- everyone recycling the same whines. I'll speak more of this, at the end. But now -- this just can't be put off, any longer.  Prepare to go wide-eyed!

== A chilling forecast: accurate down to the last detail ==

You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic. – Robert A. Heinlein, Revolt in 2100

Robert A. Heinlein’s 1953 "Future History" collection, Revolt in 2100, vividly portrays citizens rising up against an authoritarian theocracy which has taken root in America. A succession of fundamentalist despots have ruled for nearly a century, dating back to the First Prophet, Nehemiah Scudder. John Lyle, a graduate of West Point and now a member of the Prophet's elite guard "Angels of the Lord," joins an underground revolt when he finally begins to question the society under which he always lived: 

"I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy ... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked; contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything -- you can't conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him." (If This Goes On-- Chapter 6)

Does that sound familiar? Oh, but you ain't seen nothing, yet. Prepare to be amazed.

Sure, Heinlein's voice is different than mine. But he largely raised me, and I deeply resent it when some folks lazily dismiss RAH as a "right winger" or even "fascist." Sure, there are ways in which he reads rather retro, today. And he yelled "get off my lawn!" at hippies who came to pay homage, after Stranger in a Strange Land.

But he truly saw himself as a champion of equal rights and equal opportunity, even if his characters can seem cringeworthy, through modern eyes. His libertarianism is of another, Jeffersonian-Adam Smithian variety, and while he passed through a phase (the way many college sophomores do, today) saying good things about Ayn Rand, he later outgrew that fetish, when he realized it stood not for open competition, but for selfish solipsism, a trait his characters often spoke of despising.


Of course, our chief overlap is seen in that extract, above. Heinlein and I both portray light as the cleanser and liberator. We must all see as much as we can handle, and then more. It is a citizen's duty to look! And yes, to re-examine things we had been comfortable believing.  Transparency is key to reciprocal accountability, which we use to be both free and smart. It is the miracle tool that enables us to question the lies of monsters.


== Amazing prophecy! ==


Is it ironic that the author of a novel about false prophets nailed the future so well? Oh, but it gets much better. Especially the paragraph in bold, below.


Here, I’d like to quote extensively from Revolt in 2100's afterword, “Concerning Stories Never Written,” in which Robert Heinlein takes an incisive look at a possible dark future for our country:

As for ... the idea that we could lose our freedom by succumbing to a wave of religious hysteria, I am sorry to say that I consider it possible. I hope that it is not probable. But there is a latent deep strain of religious fanaticism in this, our culture; it is rooted in our history and it has broken out many times in the past. 

"It is with us now; there has been a sharp rise in strongly evangelical sects in this country in recent years, some of which hold beliefs theocratic in the extreme, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, and anti-libertarian.

“It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics. This is equally true whether the faith is Communism or Holy-Rollerism; indeed it is the bounden duty of the faithful to do so. The custodians of the True Faith cannot logically admit tolerance of heresy to be a virtue.

“Nevertheless this business of legislating religious beliefs into law has never been more than sporadically successful in this country – Sunday closing laws here and there, birth control legislation in spots, the Prohibition experiment, temporary enclaves of theocracy such as Voliva’s Zion, Smith’s Nauvoo, and a few others. The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other.

“Could it be otherwise here? Could any one sect obtain a working majority at the polls and take over the country? Perhaps not – but a combination of a dynamic evangelist, television, enough money, and modern techniques of advertising and propaganda might make Billy Sunday’s efforts look like a corner store compared to Sears Roebuck. 

"Throw in a Depression for good measure, promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negrosim, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home, and the result might be something quite frightening – particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."

Jiminy!  Heinlein wrote that in the early 1950s! Is there anything he did not hit right on the head? Heck, he even nailed the dominionist "Prosperity Gospel" so popular among Ted Cruz types, promising fervid followers that their "material heaven here on earth" will come by righteously seizing the property of unbelievers. (Late note: a prosperity gospel preacher keynotes Donald Trump's inauguration.)


Seriously, read his last paragraph (above) again.  Then recall that Heinlein portrayed Nehemiah Scudder taking the White House against the will of a majority, in 2012.  (He also spoke of America sinking into "The Crazy Years.") 


As for you blithe judgers who dismissed Heinlein as a 'fascist'? Shame on you.  He was fighting the good fight before you were born, far more persuasively and effectively than you'll ever be.

Oh, but back to his essay. It gets even more amazing:


“I imagined Nehemiah Scudder as a backwoods evangelist who combined some of the features of John Calvin, Savonarola, Judge Rutherford and Huey Long. His influence was not national until after the death of Mrs. Rachel Biggs…. who left Brother Scudder several millions of dollars with which to establish a television station. Shortly thereafter he teamed up with an ex-Senator from his home state; they placed their affairs in the hands of a major advertising agency and were on their way to fame and fortune. Presently they needed stormtroopers; they revived the Ku Klux Klan in everything but the name – sheets, passwords, grips, and all. It was a “good gimmick” once and still served. Blood at the polls and blood in the streets, but Scudder won the election. The next election was never held.

“Impossible? Remember the Klan in the ‘Twenties – and how far it got without even a dynamic leader. Remember Karl Marx and note how close that unscientific piece of nonsense called Das Kapital has come to smothering out all freedom of thought on half a planet, without – mind you – the emotional advantage of calling it a religion. The capacity of the human mind for swallowing nonsense and spewing it forth in violent and repressive action has never yet been plumbed."

Give Heinlein's Revolt in 2100 a read (available for Kindle.)  

Are the parallels with our present situation perfect? Well, no. For one thing, there is the spectacular hypocrisy of U.S. fundamentalist Christians gushing their fervid support for a man who is - in every conceivable measure of action or character - the diametric opposite of Jesus. Even Heinlein could not have written that.  


No, this has to be a clarion call. Members of the American center and moderate-left must get past their clich├ęs... like the insipid stupidity of calling old-fashioned Jeffersonian libertarians like Heinlein "right-wingers." For one thing, anyone who loves science, nowadays is, by definition, no member of that cult.


We must be welcoming of fellow citizens who flee the rising, confederate madness. Soon, these will include waves of 'retiring' U.S. military and intelligence officers, potential allies of stunning value in our task of saving civilization! So do not listen to fools on the far-left, who would spit in the faces of such refugees. The far-left can be as crazy as the entire-right has become. Especially if they would reflexively spurn powerful allies, just because they have good posture and sport crewcuts.


Or powerful inspirations, like the science fiction author and American, Robert A. Heinlein.


Honor the legacy of Heinlein and Pay It Forward! Support the efforts of the Heinlein Society -- which promotes education, blood drives and provides books to veterans.

== Addenda ==


Oh, you don't believe that there is a nationwide cabal of fundamentalists who aim for precisely the scenario that worried Heinlein? Read this. An escapee from the "christofascist" network describes how a million or so children at any time are not only being homeschooled, but indoctrinated to think of themselves as holy warriors, battling a satanic republic. And this is the central goal of Betsy DeVos, our new Secretary of Education.


And yes, central to their belief system are not the words of Jesus, but the diametrically opposite and hate-drenched Book of Revelation.  With hand-rubbing delight, they anticipate the torture and death of you and your loved ones and our nation, followed by eternal torment and damnation, plus an end to all democracy, science, ambition, curiosity, questioning, exploration and every other thing that makes us human. And... oh yes, a violent end to the United States of America. And I did not exaggerate a single word. Every single one of those outcomes is directly and explicitly what they pray for, daily.

Finally... A Scottish newspaper listed coverage of the Trump Inauguration as a Twilight Zone reboot: "The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have often dabbled with alternative history stories... It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible..."

== The meta problem, here ==

I had saved up this posting, offering it to every venue I could find (or shortened versions, eliminating my personal voice.) It is interesting, effective and different. But there is the rub.

Look, there's one more factor at work now. Fear. When that emotion reigns, even the side that believes in openness and originality shuts down psychologically. At the very moment when we need a wide stance and originality, mass media have circled the wagons, allocating op-ed soapboxes to pals who re-word the same whines, over and over.

Like the latest wave of ill-considered reactions, screaming about the Trumps' increase in military spending, as liberals fall for a baited trap, reflexively shouting hate at the Military Officer Corps, spurning another set of victims, another fact-centered profession. This is the stupidest thing we could possibly do, right now.

It's not that they are wrong in opposing this tsunami of Confederate madness! Their mistake is a belief that the Union can win this phase of civil war with "resistance" alone, pushing back with grunting sumo.  Again and again I cry - as Heinlein did - that this is a time for agility.  For judo.



365 comments:

1 – 200 of 365   Newer›   Newest»
frank j Zbink said...

Your right about RAH having a differnt writing style, he not my favorite writer.He dose make some good points in his starting. Having said that I do like his view points on many of his stories. I thought He was very liberal on some of his views and very conservative on others. Over all I find my of my own beliefs where in line with his.

Louis Shalako said...

Heinlein was great. Anyone who read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress would see his anti-authoritarian tendencies.

Gary Barnhard said...

David, thanks for putting in the time and thought to write this piece.

As I see it and think Heinlein would, we must be prepared and engaged in questioning everything, embrace fact-based reasoning even when it is out of our comfort zone, and be willing to own our own choices.

We are making the future . . .

Gary P. Barnhard

Tom Crowl said...

RE:

"We must be welcoming of fellow citizens who flee the rising, confederate madness. Soon, these will include waves of 'retiring' U.S. military and intelligence officers, potential allies of stunning value in our task of saving civilization! So do not listen to fools on the far-left, who would spit in the faces of such refugees. The far-left can be as crazy as the entire-right has become. Especially if they would reflexively spurn powerful allies, just because they have good posture and sport crewcuts."

I strongly agree with this!

I also wish that those moderates would be reaching out to those 'crazy' Sanders supporters.

He's still the MOST popular politician in the country...

He believes in science...

He believes businesses should be able to make a profit...

Though he recognizes that healthcare is NOT a typical market (which other nations seem to have recognized)... and that at some level of technical/social development at least for basic services in belongs as a public function much in the same way as we think of roads and airports.

Practicality MIGHT suggest that some Establishment support (like from the DNC) COULD help build the kind of coalition to fight the Luddites currently in control.

Now I'm no acolyte of Sanders or anyone else... but he's the guy in best position right now and I see no others on the horizon.

He's a hell of a lot closer to the FDR we need than Hillary Clinton was... and likely would have won.

D.G. Hudson said...

I really enjoyed hearing about Heinlein and his predictions. I've read a few of his books. There is definitely a surge of bible-thumping and revival tents, and even Trump brandished the Bible frequently when on the campaign trail. Have you seen the sizes of the churches in the southern Bible belt? They're huge. It's a scary thing to see for thinkers and those who believe in science and evolution. Only two bloggers dissented from the attaboys being given to a post recently by a pro-Trumpian voter boasting on why it's the rest of us 'liberals' that have the problem . . . So many sheep just follow along.
Thanks for all you do.
Do you think Bernie would run again?

Ed Haines said...

For those convinced that "it could never happen here," it is important to point out that the Nazi party never won a majority vote. The highest was about 37 percent. He was appointed chancellor as a means of ensuring the other right wing parties kept power. He then moved rapidly through use of violence, antisemitism, nationalism, racial purity appeals, and propaganda to ensure there would be no further elections
Our own nation now faces increasing nationalism, anti-Muslim, increasing right wing partisanship (and left wing partisanship also), more common partisan violence than in recent decades, and fear of racial dilution by immigrants (yes, I know that is not how they express it at this moment). The ecumenical religious zealots may not realize just how they are participating in endangering our nation but their actions are empowering those who desire oligarchy and repressive governance.
Heinlein consistently spoke loud and clear against strong governments and at least as vigorously against any form of religion in government.

David Brin said...

Ed Haines good insights. Except you leave out that Heinlein spoke even more strongly and consistently against the threat of returning feudalism based on corporate or aristocratic wealth.

Sure, he fretted over a paternalistic state and wanted it scrutinized. But no dummy, he also knew that inheritance oligarchy killed freedom in far more nations than were every harmed by... bureaucrats.

We are in an era when unions and socialism and all that are very weak, while oligarchy skyrockets in power, back toward levels of 1789 France. Over a long term... keep your powder dry in criticising government over-reach! But in the near term, the aristocrats and feudal lords and bossy priests are making their big move.

Tim H. said...

Excessive political correctness cuts many off from Heinlein, they're unwilling to look past the language of the past to see the still relevant lessons, many seem to be put off by his enthusiastic sexuality. On a brighter note, the "Fundavangelical" types dislike each other nearly as much as they dislike sinners, one could easily substitute denominations for ethnicities in Tom Lehrer's "National Brotherhood Week". Just a question of how much damage they do before they go for each other's throats.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin said, "Except you leave out that Heinlein spoke even more strongly and consistently against the threat of returning feudalism based on corporate or aristocratic wealth."

Heinlein was one of the few writers who figured out why Jefferson and Madison considered the greatest threats to freedom to be churches, corporations, aristocracy, and the people themselves. He understood that for freedom to exist, the power of those four entities had to be constrained, if not nullified. He liked to invent systems where a sort of anarcho-libertarian sensibility existed, but without exceptions they were rural outposts of new colonies: as RAH himself noted, "When a society becomes complex enough to require ID cards, it's time to move on."

Revolt in 2100 always rang true to me. There's a streak of religious malignancy in America that makes it particularly susceptable to the Scudders, the Huey Longs--and the Donald Trumps.

What is in doubt is the concept that free men will revolt. American desire for freedom has been effectively neutered by many years of propaganda, to the point where a solid minority cheer the end of freedom.

I can only hope that in the end, Heinlein was right about that, too.

LarryHart said...

On morality/legality from the previous thread...

Unless one is willing to claim that the actions and policies of the Gestapo or the Soviet Union were de-facto moral, the assertion that morality equals legality is absurd.

It seems to me that locumranch considers morality to be "that which society is justified in compelling," which is at least a good working definition of legality. But morality seems to me to be a more personal decision. In fact, morality is often a countervailing force to law. Morality compels violation of law by abolitionists, civil rights activists, and yes--anti-abortionists. Does that mean, as loc would have it, that one is free to assert that his own morality condones segregation or slavery? Of course, you're free to claim that, but you (and only you) know whether you really believe that or if you're just being a dick. Each individual really does define his own morality, which guides the course of his life. What that does not mean is that anyone else is required to agree.

As individuals we and persuade each other, consensus blending into a kind of community standards of morality, which can often be codified into law. But "that is a different thing; in fact the opposite thing," for essentially the same reason that "collective solipsism" is a different thing from solipsism. Law is what society is allowed to compel its members to follow. Morality is what ones own conscience compels one to do.

I recall my brother and myself as teenagers doing a complete 180 from our original smug agreement that "morality" was a meaningless concept that had no bearing on decision-making to the diametric opposite position that morality is the sole determinant of a proper course of action. The weird thing is that I don't recall exactly what changed our minds on that subject, but it was a clear change and we were in complete agreement on both sides of the change. Probably had something to do with comic books.



LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

American desire for freedom has been effectively neutered by many years of propaganda, to the point where a solid minority cheer the end of freedom.


That solid minority believes that freedom (they prefer the word "liberty" though) means the power to limit the freedom of others. What they are cheering for is the end of everyone else's freedom to act in ways they themselves don't want.


What is in doubt is the concept that free men will revolt.


Actually, here I think some of that American character will work in our favor. It's the Cliven Bundys of the world who will revolt the strongest once (inevitably) their ox is the one being gored.

Bonnie said...

Dear Lord, RAH would show you the door for this claptrap. More, he would laugh at you. For those of us who really read RAH and understood him, you are more than a fool. Go back and read his works again, and try for God's sake to understand them this time.

locumranch said...



There are striking similarities between 'Revolt in 2100' & current events, I agree:

We are all overshadowed by an unquestionable religion, ruthlessly enforced by media censorship, intolerant of both dissent & public criticism, the difference being that our type of religious fundamentalism is secular in nature. Feminism, we call it, and it possesses an army of pussy-hatted fascists to defend its authority.

These soft fascists (aka 'Pink Shirts') take to the streets at the slightest provocation, chant nonsense phrases about how oppressed they are as they sip at expensive sacramental coffee drinks & mischaracterise their opposition as monsters, rapists & misogynists. Their erstwhile leader HRC, currently in exile, still repeats their hateful catechism of "Human Rights are (solely) Women's Rights" while the dehumanised western male is not even considered worthy of mention.

Their chief weapon (one amplified by a fictional prosthetic in Heinlein's novella) has been shown to be spectacularly effective in the subjugation & enslavement of the sexually repressed male. They weld this like a velvet glove on an iron hand. Shakespeare called this weapon a 'purse', but the modern women prefers to refer to it as a pink-lipped 'hat'.

Then, there is the MSM's obsession with Trump's wealth, business interests & tax returns that eerily echo the advice of the resistance propaganda specialist: "Emphasize the wealth, the costs & the excesses of the administration to provoke envy & hatred among the impoverished plebs" (I paraphrase).

Heinlein even predicted our female-dominated Education Indoctrination Complex:

“It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics."

He was a prophet of first-order.


Best
_____
Morals are based on laws, Zepp, although some prefer to call them commandments. No laws equal no morals.

Tony Fisk said...

"You can sway a thousand men by appealing to their prejudices quicker than you can convince one man by logic." -RAH

Aristotle knew the difference in effect between appeals to logic, emotion, and belief.
I tend to view 'logos' as a shield, best used to fend off thrusts by 'pathos'. Point(!) being you will persuade no one by logic alone, partly why Mr. Spock was only First Officer (note how that character developed over time, though). Ethos is best left to the experts, but is probably where ju-jitsu moves can have the most effect. (as in "OK, if this your belief, then that means I am with you because...")

[Prosperity Gospel] "...promising fervid followers that their "material heaven here on earth" will come by righteously seizing the property of unbelievers."

Is this what underpins the licentious legislation recently drafted in Arizona that decrees anyone associated with a demonstration turned "riot" may have their property confiscated?

Marshall Boice said...

Locumranch

OMG that explains a lot! He's a Red Piller! Mgtow! As David Futrelle over at "We Hunted the Mammoth" has noted, they have been turning more and more towards the alt-right crowd! Gross!

Tony Fisk said...

Hmm, I think Locum may be getting morals and ethics confused.

Ethics are a moral framework, and are often formally defined in a 'legal' manner.

Morality is a sense of right and wrong in a more 'gut feel' sense, and derives from evolutionary pressures.

David Brin said...

Ah “Bonnie” is back. As usual, whimpering and snarling without a scintilla of actual evidence or argument. Oh! Oh I am so wounded! Hey imbecile. Half of the words in my posting were DIRECT quotations from Heinlein. Live with it.

But not as loony as Locum’s desperate yowlings. Oh! Pink-wearing emasculating women! Might it ever occur to you that women can smell fear, and you exude so much of it - and hallucinate such a tsunami of grudges - that you bring it all on yourself?

To read RAH’s words in this posting… especially the paragraph in bold… about anti-furriners and anti-intellectuals and hatred of science and the re-rise of Klan-type confederates... and then turn around and declare the OTHER side to be what he was talking about? Gawd you are desperate.

Slim Moldie said...

So I've been rereading "revolt in 2100" this last week and I just got to the part where Bonnie & Locum drive the car over the cliff.

Joking aside, I actually have a dog-eared copy of the book on my nightstand. And I'm actually reading it. And, what impresses me as one of Heinlein's finest skills is being able to tell his story from the point of view of a character, who begins fully accepting the status quo of the disstopia that Heinlein philosophically opposes. No, I don't think he would laugh at David's blog posting. I want to reread "6th Column" too.

Dr. Brin, I'm sorry that you could find a publisher to pick up the piece. Perhaps society as a whole is still unwilling to look at science fiction as anything beyond escapism entertainment...and they can get more clicks with a cyber toilet tissue fartickle like "10 shocking events this 50's sci/if hack predicted."

They are waging war on art as well as science. Now I'd like to hear about some judo moves.

Slim Moldie said...

Oops...sorry that you could not find a publisher.

Jumper said...

Religious views of Hitler
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_of_Adolf_Hitler

Rhoda said...

locumranch, you don't find your own words ruthlessly enforced by media censorship, intolerant of both dissent & public criticism relevant to Trump then?
Or this?
“It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law ,if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics."

I can't understand a lot of what you say, locumranch. I don't know what you mean by MSM, or "pussy-hatted fascists", or a "pink-lipped 'hat'." What is this chief weapon?

Best.

Rudy said...

I agree he sometimes needs to be put back into context. Every time I read Starship Troopers I am simultaneously moved and repulsed and I never seem to reconcile that.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Rudy
What do you find repulsive about Starship Troopers?
I'm curious
To me it seems like a society distorted by some huge wars - but still maintaining a sensible core

LarryHart said...

Slim Moldie:

They are waging war on art as well as science.


Ayn Rand actually nailed this correctly in "The Fountainhead". It was the bit where Peter Keating realizes that (paraphrasing) "Calling Holcrombe a genius is not so much an elevation of Holcrombe as it is spitting on the concept of 'genius'."


LarryHart said...

locumranch:

We are all overshadowed by an unquestionable religion, ruthlessly enforced by media censorship, intolerant of both dissent & public criticism, the difference being that our type of religious fundamentalism is secular in nature. Feminism, we call it, ...


Although you've never heeded this advice before, I strongly recommend you find the collected trade paperbacks of Dave Sim's "Cerebus" epic and read them, especially the later volumes. You will take great comfort that at least one other human being shares your worldview (and spells words the Canadian way).

Or at the very least, start with the five "Tangent" essays here. You'll thank me later:

http://www.cerebusfangirl.com/artists/tangentindex.php


LarryHart said...

Rhoda:

I can't understand a lot of what you say, locumranch.


Loc doesn't use words the same way you and I do. Caveat emptor.


I don't know what you mean by MSM, or "pussy-hatted fascists", or a "pink-lipped 'hat'."


MSM is right-wing speak for "mainstream media", with the connotation that the major sources of news are one big left-wing echo chamber taking their orders from George Soros.

"Pussy-hatted fascists" implies that the millions who marched against Trump on Jan 21 are equivalent to Hitler's Brownshirts.

I don't get the hat thing either. You're on your own with that one.


What is this chief weapon?


"Our chief weapon is..." is a reference to a funny Monty Python skit about the Spanish Inquisition.


locumranch, you don't find your own words ruthlessly enforced by media censorship, intolerant of both dissent & public criticism relevant to Trump then?


In locum's world, that Trump does bad things is hardly worth mentioning as the entire media/news/entertainment complex reiterates His Illegitimacy's failings on an hourly basis. What (he thinks) needs pointing out is that the left does it too.

Jumper said...

That's potent purgative, Larry. The masculinist self-emasculators are stunning in their blindness. The are sort of Bizarro world Ellen Jamesians.

Paul SB said...

Rudy,

I would agree that every author needs to be put into historical context, and this is especially important when you are looking at a novel that was considered controversial. How much more important would it be when you know the novelist was an exceptionally intelligent person. Starship Troopers was published in 1959, on the heels of the McCarthy Era. If you don't read it in that context - and read between the lines - it is easy to see it as a thinly-veiled piece of right-wing, anti-Soviet diatribe. That is what he was modeling (and what Verhoeven seemed to be emphasizing in his film adaptation. I've only seen it once, and way back when it was in theaters, so I'll admit my memory is murky.) But the book is full of hints that it was actually making the opposite point. He constantly alluded to the idea that wars between various human tribes could always be solved and ended one way or another, but the insect-like aliens humankind was up against were genetically programmed for war in a way that humans are not.

Russians aren't bugs.

One detail I remember from the book that was left out of the movie stood out in my mind. At the very end, the main character chants something in another language, and when asked by the noncom with him, tells him that he was saying a prayer in Tagalog. Nothing else in the book suggested in any way that the central character was not a regular, beef-fed, blue-blooded American, meaning that of course he must have been Caucasian, like the blond-haired, blue-eyed actor who played the role in the movie.

Unlike a whole lot of Americans both then and now, Heinlein was not a racist. He probably picked the Philippino bomb at the end of the story because he would have worked with Philippino people resisting Japan when he served in the Pacific Theater. That little shocker could probably have been forgiven by McCarthyites because this is, after all, America, a nation of immigrants where we are supposed to believe in equality and opportunity for all, regardless of ethnic origin or any other circumstances of birth (I would add sex to that, knowing our regular pig will be reading this. No one chooses what ethnicity they are, what sex they are {even with reassignment surgery that reworks the plumbing but not the upbringing}, even religion is more a matter of how you are raised than personal choice for most people.)

So yes, read books in context, and if you find yourself discussing Heinlein with the kind of fools who don't or can't, you might just turn some heads. Hopefully they won't be fixing you in their crosshairs.

On that cheery note ...

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I don't think locum, or any right-winger, for that matter, wants to point out that, "the left does it too." That would be admitting that their team is not without sin. The more typical pattern is to redefine the sins of their team as saintliness. It is a matter of denying the sins committed by their team and defining all actions of the other team as sinful. Thus anyone who is not both male and Caucasian who wants equal rights under the law, and wants the law to be enforced fairly, gets labelled "fascist." Anyone who is both make and Caucasian who argues that those laws should be enforced gets the same label, along with labels like "sheep" and "traitor to the race." This is hardly new or unique to this country, either. The Hindi majority in India do the same to ethnic Kuli or Karens, Anglo Canadians do the same to French Canadians, the Mexica in Aztec times treated their ethnic minorities in exactly the same way. I could give examples all day. The battles between cosmopolitanism and parochialism are as old as human civilization. Our right-wingers think that their beliefs are "natural" and that people who believe in equality are some kind of aberrant freaks are playing out an old pattern, but old does not mean inevitable or even "natural" in the sense they mean it - which is to say, good and just. It annoys the hell out such simple-minds to point out that feces is natural, hemlock is natural, arsenic is natural, the radiation that causes skin cancer is perfectly natural. Natural does not mean good, right, just, or even conducive to survival. Factionalism between different groups that each claim to be more "natural" than the others has brought many a civilization to its knees.

So no, I don't think either side is arguing that the other side commits the same sins. They argue that their sins are "natural" but the other side's sins are serious.

- Beast

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Starship Troopers was published in 1959, on the heels of the McCarthy Era. If you don't read it in that context - and read between the lines - it is easy to see it as a thinly-veiled piece of right-wing, anti-Soviet diatribe.


That sounds similar to "The Crucible", which ostensibly portrays the Salem witch trials, but evokes McCarthyism in the specifics of its dialogue and plot points.


One detail I remember from the book that was left out of the movie stood out in my mind. At the very end, the main character chants something in another language, and when asked by the noncom with him, tells him that he was saying a prayer in Tagalog. Nothing else in the book suggested in any way that the central character was not a regular, beef-fed, blue-blooded American, meaning that of course he must have been Caucasian, like the blond-haired, blue-eyed actor who played the role in the movie.


Arthur Clarke pulled a similar confounding of expectations in "Imperial Earth", which I'm certain was intentional on the author's part. I was several chapters in with an established mental picture of the Titan resident Duncan Makenzie before the narration deigned to mention that he was black, and that his skin was actually darker than that of the more-homogenized black people on 23rd Century earth.

Anonymous said...

Admittedly it has been awhile since I read RAH as a body of work, but his predictions of corporate states always resonated. - Lucy Hester

Bob Neinast said...

You've been touting "The Postman", so since I hadn't read it for quite a while I got out my old copy. Heinlein's not the only prophetic one. The following is from chapter 13 in the "Cincinnatus" section, discussing how Holn got so many followers:

"How did he get away with pushing a book like this? How is it anyone ever believed him?"

Gordon shrugged. "It was called 'the Big Lie' technique, Johnny. Just sound like you know what you're talking about--as if you're citing real facts. Talk very fast. Weave your lies into the shape of a conspiracy theory and repeat your assertions over and over again. Those who want an excuse to hate or blame--those with big but weak egos--will lea at a simple, neat explanation for the way the world is. Those types will never call you on the facts."


Re getting this published, John Scalzi just got something into the L.A. Times (where he has a continuing gig). Maybe you could use some SF connections with him to see about getting this piece there, too?

See The Double Bubble.

Anonymous said...

Little to nothing to be wide-eyed over here; one could just as well go wide-eyed over "The Machine Stops" predictions by E. M. Forster or those by your favorite historian Oswald Spengler: that Caeserism would uptick in about 100 years (he was writing round about World War I) that industry would leave the industrialized nations and that Hilter was no Caesar and would make a mess of things. Prescient, no? But I guess you could cherry pick Heinlein (again)...

Joan in Limbo said...

Thank you, Mr. Brin, for posting this. Like you, I could say I was raised by Heinlein (as well as by my SF-reading father). From the beginning of the current administration, I have been thinking of "Revolt in 2100" and shuddering.

LarryHart said...

Y'know how Chinese fortune cookies are more humorously appropriate when you add "in the sheets" at the end?

Likewise, anything having to do with #IllegitimatePresident is more humorously appropriate if you substitute "Trump University" for any mention of Trump. Thus, the "Trump University administration", or "Trump University Steaks", or "TrumpUniversityCare" most accurately characterize those things.

raito said...

Paul SB,

The movie version of Starship Trooper is wretched. Verhoeven admits to never having finished the book, and that he wanted to make a WWII movie. One of the actresses apparently made it through the book, then contended it was a shame that the Skinnies weren't in it -- because they were the main bad guys!

And Verhoeven didn't even put in the one thing that would have been very easy to do. He didn't put Rico's father in as sergeant. It's not like they didn't already have the actor. It would have been a completely opposite spin on the book, though. There, Rico's father changes his mind because the war has become personal. In the context of the movie, he'd have been won over by the war machine doctrine. Or so I think.

There's numerous other stupidities there, completely aside from the deviations from the book, which are many.

And while I do not agree with locumranch's apparent definition of religion, I'm more than a bit amused by his satire. Or maybe I'm just sensitive for being attacked for not toeing the far left line on occasion. In any case, part of what I think we need to do is to sail between the extremes. Right now, the current is taking us closer to one side, so naturally we ought to tack towards the other. Finding the correct balance is always difficult.

locumranch said...



For those historically ignorant youngsters among you, prepare to have your minds blown.

Heinlein was as PROGRESSIVE as they come. He promoted aggressive gender & racial equality; his works featured protagonists of all ethnicities & orientations; and his plot lines screamed inclusion & equality. And, yet, by modern cultural & linguistic standards, most consider him a hate-filled fascist misogynistic dinosaur.

What happened was this:

Ever so slowly, the West has shifted to the political left, much in the manner of frog-boiling, leaving those of us with functional memories at the marginal right. Did we all choose to become fascist women-hating nazis one morning? Quite the opposite. We haven't changed at all; we went to sleep one night secure in our liberalism; and we woke only to discover that our sociopolitical world had moved left overnight, leaving us reviled as the closest thing to an extinct conservative patriarchy.

I could tell you details of my personal involvement in the "Mondale-Ferraro' campaign, but this would mean nothing to most of you. Instead, I'd like to talk about Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged', a work that has become the political Bible of the patriarchal far right US Conservative party.

It is perhaps the most FEMINIST tome ever written. It tells the celebrated story of Dagny Taggart, a proud single independent sexually-promiscuous career woman who repudiates marriage, children & traditional morality in the pursuit of 'Eat Pray Love' style self-actualisation.

That's what the Far Right US Patriarchy has become: It's the prequel to 'Sex & the City'.


Best

Paul SB said...

Raito,

Like I said, it has been a long time since I saw the movie, and I don't remember much about it, aside from how gory it was, and that the uniforms were old Wehrmacht uniforms in sci-fi dressing. It was that detail that made me think Verhoeven was going with the standard interpretation of Heinlein as right-wing fascist. That was pretty much what most Heinlein fans I grew up with thought, and they loved him.

As far as balance goes, I'm with you on that one. I get labelled left-wing looney by right-wing fascists and right-wing fascists by left-wing loonies. Reality isn't with either side entirely, but I do know which side is more prone to both blatant dishonesty and outright, witless violence.

I was going to say something about the problem with defining things too rigidly, but my train of thought just derailed. Head hurts, going back to bed.

Too loose a definition can be as bad. It's important to be clear, or we end up talking around each other. Am I being clear? I'm not too sure.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing article!

I do have one small quibble. What is your evidence that Heinlein despised Ayn Rand? I've read quite a bit on Heinlein and I've seen mostly moderate praise. From the Wikipedia article "When Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead was published, Heinlein was very favorably impressed, as quoted in "Grumbles ..." and mentioned John Galt—the hero in Rand's Atlas Shrugged—as a heroic archetype in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress."

And within MIAHM itself, Professor De la Paz says (page 83) "I can get along with a Randite."

I am not a Randist myself, just a Heinlein fan and a librarian and am looking for additional information.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Ever so slowly, the West has shifted to the political left, much in the manner of frog-boiling,


Naaaahhhh, it's more like we've turned on the heat in our freezing cold house and slowly warmed to a nice, comfortable temperature. Pity for the melting snowflakes though (the ones who are white, cold, and would shut down the public schools).

Seriously, though, I believe you are only a little older than my 56 years. No need to assume that others here don't know about Geraldine Ferraro or the like. I have actual memory of LBJ, was alive when Kennedy was president, and Watergate is not just something I saw in that movie.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Instead, I'd like to talk about Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged', a work that has become the political Bible of the patriarchal far right US Conservative party...


Now here, I agree with you. Rand was not considered a conservative in her day--they hated her as much as the liberals did. She was her own thing, and proudly so. The right-wingers who embrace her as their icon today would be horrified if they were forced to acknowledge her uncompromising atheism.

Ironically, I see those right-wingers unconsciously miming Mr Thompson after John Galt's speech:


"Do you want them to think we agree with that?"

"Do you want them to think we don't?"

David Brin said...

I wish anonymous folks would sign even with fake names, to reward me for allowing anonymous posting!One of them was clearly our usual snippy-snarker, who glossed over the stunning specificity of Heinlein’s paragraph (in bold), accusing me of vagueness. Moron.

Another anon applied evidence-backed citokate upon me about RAH and Rand… good for you! Though I do recall reading elsewhere something critical by him, you have certainly shot down that assertion of mine. Bravo.
I find it dissonant, of course. Completely separate from all political matters is Heinlein's love of compassion and life. While he never procreated, his characters do and take responsibility for their progeny and the children of others.

Indeed, Rand’s books are the most anti-life I’ve seen. Not one major character in any book, at any level or in any way procreates and takes responsibility for a new generation. And her fans never notice! I dissect her ruthlessly here.

http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/aynrand.html

Likewise, while Heinlein preached for a loose society that allows maximum creative eccentricity, he also criticized the cheating and toxicity that come with too much economic power concentrated in a few hands.

locumranch’s latest was… a somewhat SANE and interesting one. In fact, not all things he said were even... untrue!

David Brin said...

Bob N thanks I may post that postman passage. As for Scalzi, well, John is hot right now.

RAH was three things, in order. American. A science Fiction Author. And libertarian. The SF author meant he loved to twiddle and experiment. He took an idea in STARSHIP TROOPERS… that anyone who wants citizenship must earn it with a limited span of sacrifice, within his or her abilities, and ran with it. In that case the thought experiment was so strong that he barely mentions America and the concept pushed back against other libertarians.

I liked the Verhoeven flick! Almost every word spoken by the characters was from the book! And he shows (the shower scene) that e’ve gotten over nearly all our hangups vs each other. TheHigh Commander of human forces is a dumpy black woman. But Verhoeven then uses symbolism and the camera to suggest that we are still assholes, smug and eager to push our wight around, outwatd.

DOUBLE STAR was similar. While it contains some libertarian micro rants, it is about the core nobility of … politics! And politicians! And expansion of horizons to include the alien. All of it consistent with mild-reasonable libertarianism, but utterly rejection of Ayn Randism.

Farnham’s Freehold is attacked as his right-wing, fascist rant. It has its grumpiness, and it took a daring move by showing the future dominated by blacks who enslave whites. It’s discomforting in many ways. But he makes clear the lesson should be “you whites: you may get comeuppance, so how about treating people right?” Interestingly, though is is a weird and disturbing and flawed book, Farnham’s Freehold maintains its action till the end, instead of petering out into blather, as happens in most Heinlein books. (There’s loads of blather in the 4th 20%, though.)

Yes Slim Moldie! RAH’s greatest genius was to plunge you into the POV of a character who teaches you about the strange world by taking its strangenesses for granted.

Elsewhere I have gone on and on about RAH’s prescriptive utopia, BEYOND THIS HORIZON. He maintains his pattern of great POV establishment, followed by great action and then a blather-filled second half. Only in this case, the first, action half is idiotic… and the blather half is utterly fantastic and wonderful.

Doug said...

Costco usually has a good sale on extra thick aluminum foil, FYI. I figured you might want to know, after reading this screed.
Did you ever think that Trump won BECAUSE your average citizen was filled up with the slop the authoritarian Beltway crowd spewed?
It was the thought of Hillary winning and pushing 4 more years of stinking garbage that resulted in a Trump presidency.
I'll say this for him -- he is following up with a lot of the promises he made; and that in itself is enough to gain him a following. Not his morality, not his tweets, not his screeching against any group you might name.
And by the way, David: you might consider actually reviewing his actual EO's instead of just parroting what the Democratic leadership says. They are often quite wrong.

Dylan W said...

Sanders was very effective in that town meeting in West Virginia last week before a group that probably mostly voted for Trump. He could act as an antidote against Trump's campaign in 2020 by shadowing his campaign appearances and holding similar town meetings in order to debunk and refute what Trump said.

David Brin said...

Hey Doug. You are a loon. There are no levels by which the GOP won except by cheats like gerrymandering, voter suppression, rigged (no audit possible) voting machines and earlier cheats like splitting Dakota into two states with extra senators and electors.

Oh, and weaponized propaganda, much of it Russian: https://scout.ai/story/the-rise-of-the-weaponized-ai-propaganda-machine

Can you name for me one profession of high knowledge and skill that’s not under attack by Fox/Trump &cohorts?  Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. Thirty years ago, 40% of US scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 4% and plummeting. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-mistrust-of-science?linkId=25842187

And now? The US military and intelligence officer corps! Yes, this is not your daddy's conservatism. When your screeches of hate are directed at every fact-profession... and every fact-checking service is automatically "politically biased" because they keep finding your side "pants on fire" crazy... it has started to occur to us that we do not need to play sumo with you - pushing our web pages against yours.

Oh, you ignore the core point of the posting you are ranting against. That Robert Heinlein would likely have ripped a confederate traitor-fanatic like you stem to stern. He saw your cult coming. All I did here was point to his own words.

David Brin said...

Dylan W Bernie cannot crisscross every single county in the US. We need emissaries to do that and for that we need not a socialist grampa, but 3000 retired colonels.

Jumper said...

Heinlein gets wrongly called "fascist" I suspect because he was militaristic. I don't recall him beating his drum loudly on compulsory service, but he proffered it as a strong suggestion often.

locumranch said...


There's an old piece of Golden Age Science Fiction, set in a future of alien conquest when humanity has retreated to caves & tunnels to avoid extermination, where some humans survive in an environment of total darkness.

Hearing muttered tales of this 'darkness', a young protagonist seeks out the oldest surviving human, asks him what the term 'darkness' means and reduces the old sage to fits of screaming, leaving the young hero to conclude that the old man is 'cray cray' (I paraphrase):

"It's horrible", screams the old man, "It's all around you, smothering you, choking you, but you can't recognise it because it's all around you everywhere. You don't know what you've lost, the horror you've made me remember, darkness, horrible darkness"(1).

And so it is with Feminism.

Like fish in water, we are immersed in it, accepting it thoughtlessly, taking it for granted, being unable to recognise what surrounds & enfolds us for an apparent eternity, so much so that we assume that such WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) social aberrations represent global normalcy.

David intuits this when he declares that "Rand’s books are the most anti-life I’ve seen. Not one major character in any book, at any level or in any way procreates and takes responsibility for a new generation", yet even our so-called Tradcons cannot recognise this creeping Randian-Feminist subtext of sterile yoni worship, entitlement, narcissism & demographic replacement that hides in plain sight.

RAH saw this cult coming, too (2), and so he was cast-out, marginalised by politically correct WEIRD-os everywhere.


Best
____
(1) Kudos to anyone who can name this tale's author & title.
(2) RAH's 'Friday', female protagonist escapes from earth-bound insanity, starts popping out babies.

Treebeard said...

This is a great point locum is making. Westerners swim in a sea of leftist propaganda and assumptions, such that what was an unthinkable perversion a few decades ago becomes mandatory today. It's this invisible leftist ratchet that the real conservatives are naming and attacking; it's this story we are targeting. It's the centuries of inversion, subversion and perversion that calls itself normal but is in fact a total global aberration, that we wish to overthrow. The Left may not look that politically powerful, but they target culture and education and excel at conquering institutions, and politics is downstream of culture and education. See for example your recent soviet-style PC science fiction awards or the "Diversity" propaganda at a recent demonstration of scientists, which liberals cower before as the ratchet works is magic. This is straight-up Stalinism, and dinosaur old white liberal males like you guys are little more than useful idiots to them. These are subversive totalitarians whose goal is POWER and who will shut down all opposition if they can. Try posting stuff like this at Charlie Stross's blog to get a taste of how these people operate. Can you say insta-ban for incorrect thought, comrade? These Stalinists are your allies?

Feminism in particular acts like Round-Up on the roots of society. As diverse people like the honorable Sheikh Imran Hosein, Julius Evola and Martin van Creveld have explained, feminism feminizes men and masculizes women, resulting in people who fail at the most basic tasks like reproduction, family formation and winning wars. I have seen close-up the kind of people the hardcore blue agenda produces and it isn't pretty; totally feminized snowlakes, faggots, self-haters and other assorted degenerates who can hardly be expected to win the struggle for life going forward. History demonstrates repeatedly that such regimes of degeneracy eventually get overthrown my masculist, Spartan regimes. I'm sure this will happen to the West at some point, possibly soon, and it won't just be Christian theocrats who do it. Masculist traditionalists, whether pagan, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Shinto, racialist, etc. who all burn with a similar revulsion for the regime of elitist Anglo-faggotry that is the modern liberal West and could join forces to drive it into the sea. We number in the billions and hail from every region, race and religion; you are a small gang of propagandists, geeks and freaks found almost entirely in Western coastal enclaves. How can you possibly prevail?

David Brin said...

Back to using the shortened "locum" for this drivel. It starts pretty good, with a well-expressed allegory. Yet, the irony of his message is the standard human reflex: "Who ME crazy? No, I am one of the few who can SEE!! It's my opponents who are Crazy and Delusional!"

Thing is, a sapient person knows this about humanity, and tries to compensate with rituals of openness to surprise, to refutation, to the sacred mantra that is taught to all scientists: "I might be wrong." (Note above how I graciously accepted refutation of my assertion that RAH hated Rand.)

The confed-cultists know that scientists have this mantra, which has made science spectacularly creative and powerful and that is spreading through the first human civ to make criticism and citokate strong habits in law and in culture. Indeed, this is why Hollywood promotes SoA (Suspicion of Authority) and why we got competitive news media.

They know this, so they have concocted a counter mantra that "scientists betray their own own principles! See these anecdotes where some scientists caught other scientists fudging? That PROVES they are all cheaters too!!!"

No. It proves that science systematically and competitively ferrets out its own mistakes. But note how the confeds can only attempt to use science's own standards as a weapon against it.

Desperately, they ignore the fact that all fact-using professions have fled their cult and that facts systematically wreck almost everything they recite. Take the simple fact that Heinlein's own words in this posting so spectacularly eviscerate confederatism that they must be painful for locum to read. Hence he must screech "they mean the opposite!!!!!'"

Sorry fellah. Gather what little courage your fear-drenched persona can summon and actually read every word of cited RAH prose. Aloud. Or buy a copy of the book! Or talk to any scientist about climate change. Or compare ACTUAL OUTCOMES from periods of GOP vs DP rule, and show us why your cult never mentioned one past leader except Reagan, at the recent RNC.

Seriously. If you do not, right now, scroll up to the Heinlein posting and actually read aloud his written words, instead of the pain and fear drenched quick skimming you did, then you are openly admitting cowardice. READ THE WORDS, ALOUD! I dare you.

No. Knowing Trumpism is insanity, you have fled to the mantra "Liberals are worse!" Concocting a vast, feminist conspiracy that kinda falls flat on the ears of our majority-male community, a majority of whom (I'd guess) are happily married to non-emasculating women. Or at least know plenty of the latter. And who know that it's a better world in which girls can grow up to be really, really interesting partners.

But your missive focused on one thing. Perception. When you are in water every second you cannot notice it? Cute. But sorry fellah. I have known plenty of disgustingly bullying, rabid hyper aggressive lefties in my day, including man-haters. I make allowances for the fact that at least the direction they are pushing is a needed one... and that many of them probably suffered worse crimes at the hands of bad males than I will ever suffer from their denunciations. Still, yes, some of them are horrid harpies and I have been damaged by a few. So?

Any man whose masculinity can be diminished by a few screaming fools had real problems, in the first place. But here's the deal: I NOTICE THE WATER. Or your "darkness." There's plenty of range and contrast. I can choose which wing of feminism seems reasonable and which do not. I can navigate this range and spectrum, so your allegory is of little pertinence...

...except to you. Because, you have your eyes screwed tightly shut. So yes, you are surrounded by darkness. It is of your own making. Wake up.

David Brin said...

Oh but the fungal-ent comes in to make it explicit. Assertions! Incantations! No facts because facts are liberal plots and enemies! PROVE SOMETHING, fool!

Prove to us that statistically liberals make worse parents! Values? Shall we try values? If we subtract outliers like Utah and Detroit & Chicago, name a metric of moral and healthy living that is not worse in Red America, from teen sex, STD and pregnancy rates to obesity, dropouts, divorce and domestic violence, gambling and so on. Name... one... exception. 

The Greatest generation, virile and potent by every standard, had pictures of FDR on their walls and joined unions and taxed the rich for reasons. Have we boomers been fools? Yes! For listening to wave after wave of feudal oligarchic propaganda from ditzo slaves of plantation lords, like TB.

Compared to what, loon? Every single time, I ask you to name a feudal civilization that was one-ten thoudsandth as good as ours at ANYTHING of value. You're a marroon. But the good news is that the Union has awakened.

Treebeard said...

I should've added as a good example of what I'm talking about Robert Heinlein, who is now deprecated by the Stalinist cultural ratchet-turners. Heinlein is a fascist, sexist and racist, haven't you heard? This is the Stalinists' game: rewriting history to make our heroes into villains and vice versa, and proscribing writers and artists who are no longer sufficiently PC. If these people get their way, people like H. P. Lovecraft and many of your mid-twentieth century favorite SF writers will be removed from libraries and vilified as racist, sexist enemies of Progress. Such a regime is deeply anti-cultural, pathological, rootless and surely will lose its war on history. If liberals can't show some backbone and oppose these people, then they are Stalinist-enablers, cucks and cultural suicides, and deserve whatever they get from the PC crowd.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

Masculist traditionalists, whether pagan, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Shinto, racialist, etc. who all burn with a similar revulsion for the regime of elitist Anglo-faggotry that is the modern liberal West and could join forces to drive it into the sea.


Yes, you love the Jews so much, right?


LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

We number in the billions and hail from every region, race and religion; you are a small gang of propagandists, geeks and freaks found almost entirely in Western coastal enclaves. How can you possibly prevail?


I dunno, but we kicked your ass in '45.

Maybe because you fascists inevitably require new victims among yourselves. Now you tout ISIS and Boku Haram and Jews as fellow masculinists, but how long does that coalition hold together?

David Brin said...

Imbecile. He is raving on a "liberal" site that just PRAISED Heinlein and disparaged that fanatics who have mischaracterized him, for PC bully reasons.

I have fought far-lefty flakes vastly more effectively than the fungus (he's not even an ent) will accomplish across his entire life... and I fight those morons WHILE openly avowing that the non-fanatic liberals are generally right in the direction of greater tolerance and diversity, and while aiming my main ire at a maniacal and treasonous cult or the entire right.

I am agile, as are most liberals and those libertarians who remember Heinlein and Adam Smith. The fungus is a slave to dogmatic screeching who cannot even be logical in his own context. As his caudillo would say: sad.

Anonymous said...

I am afraid the moral right are taking your and Heinlein's argument to their own camp to rally the troops. They feel the liberal administration of prior years has quashed people's right to say anything "unpolitical",and has erroded fundamental values such as prayer in the schools. They feel their freedoms so harshly controlled by our evolutionist views, human cause of climate change with books of regulations preventing free commerce and fairness to businesses who want to succeed but could not for the cost of said regulations. They are rallying under their own flag of freedom in whose hope and trust they have placed in our current administration. So beware that under your banner of reason and civil law you be prepared to meet the fervour of the lines of resistance, their declarations of freedom will summon. It will not be pretty, as we witness with every act by the current administration.
Heinlein's was so prophetic it hurts, as you so aptly show. Let us not let this opposing view of freedom allow to congeal into a fist of raw power! Already very powerful propaganda methods won this last election and data mining used extensively to effect a victory. Show people how they are being duped. Thread facts through the curtain of propaganda and never quit at this game!

Jumper said...

Since I'm not a bigot, I talk with lots of gay people about their lives, and find a strong correlation between strict religious parents and the way their twigs are bent. I am not making this up.
Misogyny and homophobia are also perversion, if you like to frame things this way. It seems to come most strongly from self haters.

Paul SB said...

In the case of both our regular trolls, the anonymous trolls, and the one who was at least able to half way identify himself, you might notice that every assertion they make is backed not by evidence or facts of any kind, but by more unsupported assertions. This is what is meant by a "just so story" or argument by assertion. This is the ultimate in relativism. It is not moral relativism, or cultural relativism (morals and cultures are relative by nature), this is factual relativism, by which there are no standards of truth whatsoever.

Jon S. said...

Just a note: Verhoeven's movie was originally an anti-fascist satire, not unlike RoboCop, involving a militarized Earth making up an attack by innocent aliens in order to justify a war against them. One of his associates suggested that there were enough resemblances to Heinlein's novel that Paul might want to purchase the movie rights, in order to avoid any possible copyright claims. The movie itself was not based on the novel; some character names were re-used, but the situations only vaguely resemble anything from the novel. (My least-favorite moment involves Doogie Himmler, SS - er, I mean "Carlos", supposedly reading the mind of the Brain Bug at the end [even though in the novel Carlos was long since dead, killed when the Bugs hit the Pluto research base], and announcing that the lone, unarmed creature surrounded by its heavily-armed bloodthirsty human enemies was "afraid", as if this represented some great victory.)

Another side note: The mention of Tagalog being spoken in Juan Rico's house, as well as his name, came in one of the earlier chapters, along with Carlos talking about his family telling him that Simon Bolivar "built the pyramids, landed on the Moon, and cured the plague". (Approximately; I wish I could pull up the exact quote, but my previous copy of the novel went to Iraq with my friend and never made it back thanks to an insurgent shelling [he was away from his tent at the time, thank heavens], and i haven't replaced it yet.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote: "It's the Cliven Bundys of the world who will revolt the strongest once (inevitably) their ox is the one being gored."

Hardly an inspiring example, given that Cliven Bundy is nothing more than a common land thief who has taken his desire to use public land free for profit as something patriotic and anti-authoritarian.
But then, the Boston Teapartiers were mostly local smugglers who were outraged that England LOWERED the tax on tea, thus cutting into their trade.
Hopefully we can find something better than crooks with a knack for good PR.

Ken McCormick said...

Oh, please tell me this is some kind of joke. A grand cabal of fundamentalist Christians wants to torture nonbelievers and they think Trump is like Jesus? This is so far removed from the reality I see that it must be a joke or it must be pure hysteria. Get a grip, fellas!

Zepp Jamieson said...

locumranch wrote: "Morals are based on laws, Zepp, although some prefer to call them commandments. No laws equal no morals."

So anyone who disobeys an unjust law is immoral?

Morals are personal, although often guided by the greater society. Mores are social, and represent an aggregate of morals. Law are functions of the state, and nearly all laws based on "moral behaviour" are bad laws.

Doug said...

Dear David,
I disagree with you, so you call me a loon? Quick! Better run out and get that aluminum foil.

It's amazing the logical leaps you make to refer to me as a 'confederate traitor-fanatic'. I served in the US military - did you?

And you're blaming the decision to have a North and a South Dakota on Trump? I think 1889 - the year they were admitted to the union - is a trifle early for Trump (or even his father) to have wrangled.
You know, David, I don't use a political litmus to determine whose books I read, but I do use an ass test. And you've just proven yourself to be one. Your books are going into the next yard sale, and I won't be spending my money on any of the new ones I haven't seen. Not that there are any.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Treebeard wrote: "Heinlein is a fascist, sexist and racist, haven't you heard?"

Not particularly. He had no delusions that businessmen were inherently moral or superior to ordinary mortals. His most celebrated work of business tycoons Who Get Things Done was probably "The Man Who Sold the Moon" and his protagonist, far from being an Ayn Rand wet dream, was a con artist, a liar, sometimes a cheat. But he got things done.
He is a sexist by today's values, but not by the standards of the time he wrote.
And I've never heard anyone call him a racist. And I've read at least 40 of his novels starting at age 10, and I can't think of a single racist thing he wrote.

Tony Fisk said...

As I said above, Zepp, Locum is confusing morals with ethics, which do have an element of legality to them.

Speaking of legalities, this is an odd bit of news which could be described as the feminisation of "Citizens United" (but tell that to a Maori). The Whanganui River in NZ has been accorded the legal rights and responsibilities of a person.

claybonnyman said...

I give credit to Heinlein for changing how science-fiction was written, in much the same way that the Beatles changed music and Hemingway changed American fiction. I admire much of his work up to "The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress," including many of his "juveniles."

But I always find it odd when people insist he wasn't "right-wing." Clearly he was libertarian, and many of his (apparent) views can be categorized as rightist. Whatever the historical context, his argument in "Starship Troopers" was brutally militaristic and anti-democratic. Likewise, he became more and more anti-government as his life went on, and more and more militaristic, IMO.

He was wholly responsible for an ugly clash with his long-time friend Arthur C. Clarke, whom he utterly repudiated because Clarke, as a scientist, had the temerity to suggest that Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (aka Star Wars), was not workable.

Sexism runs rampant through Heinlein's catalog, from the distasteful proclamation that women should be seen and not heard in "Orphans in the Sky" to his later novel "Friday," which he seemed to believe was pro-woman, in which the protagonist endures rape by, in so many words, lying back and enjoying it.

"The Sixth Column" seems to be a thinly concealed racist screed, with a protagonist named Whitey and sinister yellow people as villains.

I appreciate Dr. Brin's quoting from some of Heinlein's more palatable—and, as Brin suggests, prescient—ideas, and I appreciate Heinlein's clear, if not entirely consistent, critique of authoritarianism and the danger of religion.

But I think claiming Heinlein as some sort of sterling example of civilized ideas, one of "our guys," is no more supportable than "lazy" (Brin's word) excoriation of his less admirable impulses.

Am I wrong?

locumranch said...


The ancient philosophers describe three categories of Law:

The first is Natural Law (NL). Also know as Naturalism, 'Might makes Right' & the Law of the Jungle, it is observable, empiric & amoral, lacking as it does in 'shoulds', 'ought tos' or 'supposed tos'. This is the domain of science, concerned as it is with observation & reproducibility.

The second type is Divine Law (DL), also known as Objective Morality. It prescriptive & proscriptive in nature, giving rise to many 'shoulds', 'ought tos' and 'supposed tos' in regard to human behaviour, with its intended endpoint being God's (objective) Will rather than human preference. This is the domain of religion, concerned as it is with the appeasement of gods.

The third type is Human Law (HL). It is also prescriptive & proscriptive in nature, giving rise to many 'shoulds', 'ought tos' and 'supposed tos' in regard to human behaviour. Also known as Subjective Morality & Moral Relativism (of which Humanism is a subtype), its intended purpose is measured only in terms of the soft subjective endpoint known as human desire.

IMO, then, this is where most of our disagreements start & end:

I argue that the first (NL) is greater than the less important second (DL), while the third (HL) is the most arbitrary & least important; Pinker argues that the second & third are interchangeable but equal, while the first is unimportant; Adam Smith falls into Pinker's category; David argues that the third trumps the first while the second is less important; and Treebeard argues that the first trumps the other two, both of which are relatively unimportant.

Therein lies the problem:

Those who favour the first are often thought uncaring & inhumane; those who emphasise the second are thought inflexible & unimaginative; and those who prefer the third tend to be both impassioned & creatively flexible (even in a moral sense).


Best
____
Disobeying an unjust law is not necessarily immoral, Zepp, depending on which of the three legal systems you choose to honour. Murder is a natural & allowable act according to the first, proscribed by second & condemned by the third unless certain legal exceptions are invoked. It all depends on which system you choose to prioritise:

"Here is better than home, eh, sir? I mean, at home if you kill someone they arrest you — here they'll give you a gun and show you what to do, sir. I mean, I killed fifteen of those buggers. Now, at home they'd hang me — here they'll give me a fucking medal, sir!" (MP, Meaning of Life, Fighting Each Other, Part III)

Nobody is perfect, including the great Heinlein. Most likely, Heinlein favoured Natural Law (the first type) much more than our good host David does. In 'Earth' at least, David does set Human Law above the natural version when he gives that Earth a human intellect & conscience, doesn't he?

Tim H. said...

Claybonnyman, yes you are, Friday Jones didn't lay there and enjoy it, she mapped out how she wished to kill them, though events took that chance away. Try to see Heinlein as multi-faceted, with no simple way to describe.

Tony Fisk said...

Nope, not fitting into that box, Locum.

Natural Law, as you describe it, is a load of hooey. It was tacked onto Darwin's theory of evolution as "survival of the fittest". An afterthought, but it is very shallow to think of evolution solely in those terms.

...Oh, and what happened to the one about "Do no harm"?

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Treebeard wrote: "Heinlein is a fascist, sexist and racist, haven't you heard?"

Not particularly. He had no delusions that businessmen were inherently moral or superior to ordinary mortals...and I can't think of a single racist thing he wrote.


Treebeard is assuming that we all take marching orders from the Marxist-Feminist Axis (credit Dave Sim for the term) and therefore should be giving Heinlein the MILO treatment, so what hypocrites we are for actually listening to anything he said!

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk to locumranch:

Natural Law, as you describe it, is a load of hooey.


Well, it does exist. It is "law" more in the sense of "laws of thermodynamics" than laws of society.

And therin lies locumranch's sophistry. He purposely confuses statements of how things do work (absent outside forces) with commandments of how people should act.

locumranch then quotes a Monty Python skit to back up his claim that social-cultural sanctions placed upon murder are in conflict with the "natural law" which says that murder does happen and (absent outside forces) is often advantageous to the murderer. This is the rough equivalent of claiming that airplanes, stairways, even ladders violate the law of gravity and should be held in contempt for doing so.

LarryHart said...

Doug:

I disagree with you, so you call me a loon?...
And you're blaming the decision to have a North and a South Dakota on Trump?

No, he listed that as the kind of thing Republicans have to do to even have a chance of winning national elections. Yes, back in 1889 it was the Union side bringing in as many Republican senators as possible. Now that we know that, what do we know?


Your books are going into the next yard sale, and I won't be spending my money on any of the new ones I haven't seen. Not that there are any.


That's a threat? :)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Claybonnyman
I also think that you are wrong!
Heinlein explored things - and wrote about his explorations
This is what great writers do!
By your logic Orwell was a fascist because he wrote 1984!

IMHO Heinlein was right up to date with his treatment of sexual rights - his women were portrayed as being fully equal to his men - but often suffering from their location in society

Starship troopers was a "What If" - not a "This is what we should do"
The idea that only those people who have served a society (either in the army or some other way) should get to vote in it is not obviously incorrect
"Some Skin in the game"
And in his "history" with after few generations of "Chicken Hawks" fighting unnecessary and bloody wars I can see a lot of merit in that idea

The other main idea is corporal punishment - as he put it in our current system somebody gets tiny painless corrective punishments until we suddenly decide that they are an adult and then we execute them - or imprison them for decades
Corporal punishment has been savagely abused in the past - but have we thrown a useful baby out with the bathwater?

LarryHart said...

I said:

And therin lies locumranch's sophistry. He purposely confuses statements of how things do work (absent outside forces) with commandments of how people should act.


Allow me to clarify. Back on the old "Cerebus" list, I once posed the (serious) question of what the justification for the religious position that there is something especially heinous--even above other sins--about suicide. One of the responses quoted some line from the Bible about how people are supposed to love life, a gift from God and all.

So the question becomes what sort of "law" is the statement "People should love their life". Is that a law like "An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by an external force," or a law like "Thou shalt not commit adultery"? The one is a statement of how things are; the other a statement of how things should be. How do we treat exceptions to these laws? In the former case, laws are amended to account for exceptional cases (like Special Relativity), whereas in the latter case, human beings are sanctioned in order to compel them to follow codes of behavior they might not otherwise follow. Need I add that that's a different thing; in fact, the opposite thing?

Apropos nothing but a tangent, I'm kinda proud of the example I proposed to the right-wing Christian from Texas I was arguing with about the morality of suicide. Since he was all "stand your ground" about justifiable killing and the death penalty, I pointed out that he believed that if someone is trying to kill you, it is justifiable to kill that person first. So I asked why that's not the case if the person who is trying to kill you (and who you kill first) is yourself? Is suicide justifiable in self-defense?


David Brin said...


Claybonnyman asks “Am I wrong?” Well, in some specifics you merely exaggerate. In others yes, plain wrong. RAH tried to be more enlightened than the times that he lived in. And the fact that you make no such allowances is sad. Note also that in later, crotchety years, he had severe b rain problems. Clarke forgave him.

Locum cites natural and religious laws… but these were written, often with good intent, by men. The bad ones - many - were finally overcome and replaced not by fiat of human law, but by DISPROOF of their premises by experimentation.

David Brin said...

Ken McCormick, enjoy your strawman. Try actually reading the thing you are gonna scream at, fellah. I said none of those things. even remotely But yes, those who de-emphasize the words of Jesus in favor of the screeching-insane rant of John of Patmos, do not deserve the title “christian.” And they proved it by electing the most opposite-to-Jesus human being on the planet.

Doug, you whine about my words, then go out of your way to prove them accurate. I did not say the cheating started with Trump. The Gerrymandering thing had been a crime by both party machines for a long time… but blue voters rebelled in a dozen states and ended it! Name one red state citizenry that did that.

Name a red state that is trying to ease out of the drug war?

If we subtract outliers like Utah and Detroit & Chicago, name a metric of moral and healthy living that is not worse in Red America, from teen sex, STD and pregnancy rates to obesity, dropouts, divorce and domestic violence, gambling and so on. Name... one... exception. 

Oh, but your final rave about selling my books? Proves that your aim is not argument, it is hate-drenched avoidance of cognitive dissonance. I disagreed with almost every political opinion of Poul Anderson, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven and got yelled at by them a lot. And lefties too! But it’s a moron who deprives himself of art he loved, because of disagreements with the artist. Loon.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Tony Fisk cited: . The Whanganui River in NZ has been accorded the legal rights and responsibilities of a person.

Fascinating. Well, if a corporation can have legal personhood, than why NOT a river?
I can't help but wonder if it will be legal to build levees against the possibility of floods, or if you will need to secure permission from the river's legal guardians to swim, boat or fish in it. If the waters are safe and you take a drink from it, would that be considered a mugging?

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Natural Law" is better described as "lawlessness." And as for being 'natural' it was our host's Earth that brought me to the realization that evolution is as much a matter of cooperation as it is competition. "Natural Law" is neither Law or Natural.
Divine Law is almost always utter tosh, Shamans interpret the wishes of gods that are invariably silent and invisible and decree them, and oddly enough such laws are usually designed to accumulate power and sometimes wealth to the shamen.
Human law is the only one with a basis in reality. We codify our mores. All societies have mores, and all codify them to one extent or another. The nature of the mores varies wildly, and even so-called "universal laws" such as proscriptions against murder or incest have wildly different definitions of what murder and incest actually are.
Heinlein favoured "natural law" only in situations and locales where human law didn't exist because there was no society. In other words, "the law of the jungle" was fine, so long as you were alone in a jungle. Yeah, kill the panther because if you don't he'll kill you. Divine law he considered utter twaddle, and rightly so.

Anonymous said...

Not all MGTOW are right wing lunatics. Some left wing nut jobs. Most of us however are quite normal human beings.

Unknown said...

David; These days I see both left and right becoming far more authoritarian in their behaviour. This disturbs me greatly. It's as if the horrors of the last 100 years have all been forgotten. Everyone seem so very eager to repeat them.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

While i agree that RAH is far from the worst example of a right-winger, as an Australian (or, indeed, as anyone outside of America) he seems plenty right-wing to me - even for his time. He was progressive by 1950s/1960s American standards, but not by European or Commonwealth standards. His egalitarianism, at least as far as women were concerned, didn't extend much past his recurring-fetish fantasy of having lots of sexy intelligent women cast off their socially-imposed morality shackles so they could serve him and his desires without inhibitions.

As for fascism, that depends partly on how serious he was about his oft-stated ideal that the right to vote must be earned by military service. I've never been entirely sure whether that was his straight belief, exaggerated for effect, or an outright parody. Heinlein's militarism, whilst not as slavishly extreme as, say, boosters of neo-feudalism like Pournelle but was still repulsive by any decent standard.

And his dismissal of Marx's Das Kapital as unscientific nonsense is just ignorant and ill-informed anti-communist prejudice. Maybe he said it out of fear of McCarthy, maybe he really believed it. I don't know. Either way, it was both ignorant and flat-out wrong. Marx's analysis of capitalism has been proven correct over and over again, on that topic he's at least as much the prophet as Heinlein - what we're living through now is the late-stage capitalism that Marx predicted. What others made of Marx's work and the horrors that some used it to justify, well..that's another matter. But Marx was no more personally responsible for Stalin than Nietzsche was for Hitler.

ps: Many americans and Westerners mistakenly believe that they're capitalists. They're not. Capitalists are people who own all or most of the capital - money, assets, land, means-of-production, etc. Most people who think they're capitalists are workers. or, at most, shopkeepers or merchants. Running off with some of the scraps that fall off the table doesn't make a mouse a human, nor a worker a capitalist. Wishing you were rich or owned a lot of stuff, or even a lot of capital doesn't make anyone a capitalist eitherr - it makes them a fantasist.

pps: I despise all forms of American-style libertarianism (AND their theft of the term from its original socialist meaning), but RAH's version is far less obnoxiously insane than current variants (but, then, I grew up on it just as you did. and it seemed great and wise to my primary-school self, resenting the jack-booted thuggishness of authoritarian teachers - and there are still strong traces of his influence still in me today). Modern American Libertarianism *IS* overtly both neo-feudal and fascist, not surprising when you realise that it has been pushed in that direction by decades worth of pro-corporate propaganda and advertising.

Craig

LarryHart said...

Unknown:

David; These days I see both left and right becoming far more authoritarian in their behaviour. This disturbs me greatly. It's as if the horrors of the last 100 years have all been forgotten. Everyone seem so very eager to repeat them.

Thoughts?


By "the left", do you mean violent protesters at Berkeley, or do you mean Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren? It's not particular worrisome that the extremes of various parties are extreme. That's a simple tautology. What's worrisome is when the extremes are validated and empowered by elections. In that sense, the disturbing thing is not "The far-right and far-left are becoming more authoritarian." The disturbing thing is "Americans elected authoritarians to power."

And that's not happening on both sides.

LarryHart said...

Craig as Anonymous:

As for fascism, that depends partly on how serious he was about his oft-stated ideal that the right to vote must be earned by military service. I've never been entirely sure whether that was his straight belief, exaggerated for effect, or an outright parody.


I haven't read the book, but I gather from what people here describe that the idea that the vote must be earned is speculative--start with the premise and see where it leads.

In any case, it sounds positively egalitarian compared to the tendency for American conservatives to push for the vote being earned by wealth or property. If the vote in America was earned by military service, probably none of the Republican mega-donors would qualify.


ps: Many americans and Westerners mistakenly believe that they're capitalists. They're not. Capitalists are people who own all or most of the capital - money, assets, land, means-of-production, etc. Most people who think they're capitalists are workers. or, at most, shopkeepers or merchants.


The word is used two distinct ways. The British seem to use the word "capitalist" as you do, to mean the people who actually possess capital. Americans use the term more to describe believers in the system which allows private ownership and development of capital. It's not that one is right and one is wrong--you just have to be clear on what the sentence you use the word in is trying to say.

Paul SB said...

Larry, Tony and Zepp,

Regarding locus's sophistry, in this case it is possible that he has fallen into a fallacy rather than deliberately committing sophistry - though I wouldn't put it past him, he does it all the time. In this case he is committing the fallacy called reification error. As a former archaeologist, this is one that I was warned of frequently. Archaeologists tend to rely on taxonomies in their daily work, and often find themselves believing (and writing as if) these taxonomies are "real" rather than somewhat arbitrary representations of the realities found in the ground.

In the case of Law, any taxonomy of the concept runs into a definitional problem. Human language, and human thought, is metaphorical. Humans create words to represent some thing or some idea, then (vis Vyogotsky & neural networks) extend the meanings of words to other things they see some similarity - metaphorical extension. The idea of a "natural law" or a "law of science" is an unfortunate example of this. Human law is arbitrary, presumably created for the benefit of society, though often manipulated by law makers to their own personal or class, race, gender etc. benefit. Human laws can be broken, and when broken the miscreant can be punished for the infraction. Natural law, on the other hand, cannot be broken. There is no punishment and there are no miscreants, because breaking a natural law is not possible. If you can show an instance where a natural law has been broken, what you have really done is disproven the law. The problem here is in discovering these laws and coming to an accurate understanding of them with the feeble, metaphorical human thinking apparatus. Some humans are doing remarkably well in this respect, but why they are doing well is because they accept the possibility that their ideas about natural law can be shown to be wrong, like the Ptolemaic Model, or in need of modification, like Newtonian physics.

Larry is essentially correct when he points to locus's error in confusing how things do work with how people should behave. You see the same reification in the Twig's words and the hard-on he gets for manly men with huge muscles and ruthless behavior (i.e. Conan). This is reification error - the assumption that someone's (Herbert Spencer's, to be specific) abstract conception of "Law" is in any sense a real thing and not just an ideal, a metaphorical mental construction. It is unfortunate that scientists use the word "law" at all, because their continued use of it leads to this sort of thinking.

Zepp is basically right about divine law. It is really just human law disguised as something else. All sorts of gods have been claimed to give all sorts of laws, and just like human laws, they can be transgressed, and transgressors can be punished by human authorities. Since none of these gods ever show their faces or can be shown to even exist, it is obvious enough that these gods are merely employed by human governments to add another layer of justification to human law. Zepp is also correct that evolution is as much a mater of cooperation as competition - and much more so for a species like humans that are entirely dependent on their social groups for survival - the mythical "rugged individualist" is completely contrary to human nature, which should be obvious from the fact that people placed in solitary confinement go insane. The common American conception of "the law of the jungle" is completely bogus as it applies to humans. But it is also politically useful, so reification error is not only an easy logical trap to fall into, it is promoted by the culture itself.

Would this make his sin forgivable if he repents?

Nick Nuessle said...

It has been unnerving watching this happen, beginning a bit more than a generation ago. Particularly unnerving has been watching how people are willing to invest their self-identity in association with a label, a membership in a gang, to the point that they are unwilling to risk questioning their identity by growing their knowledge base. They remain in the Dunning-Kruger Effect of their chosen membership, manipulated by its leaders, and unaware how easily the superficiality of their label is subject to being subverted from outside and from within.

Have watched incidents coalesce into a very close approximation to the cautionary sociology lesson he provided, almost as if a template. Appreciate you bringing this to publication, Brin. Heinlein's voice is no longer able to speak out as these situations develop. At least glad so see Ursula LeGuin has been one of his colleagues who stepped into the void his absence left.

Paul SB said...

Craig,

Just a thought on Marx and Heinlein: we probably have more than one confusion going on here. During the Cold War, it was unsurprising that most Americans would reject anything that came from the pen of Karl Marx in toto. That was a seminal feature of the times. Likewise those on the other side of the Cold War took the words of Marx as gospel truth, also a seminal feature of the times. Maybe Heinlein was guilty of the same, or maybe he was doing it to avoid being blacklisted by the Unamerican Activities Commission. Or maybe he was more subtle than that, an you can't take the words of his characters at face value. An example would be the quote an anonymous commentator wrote regarding Heinlein's relationship to Rand.

"And within MIAHM itself, Professor De la Paz says (page 83) "I can get along with a Mandate."

But the character speaking was De la Paz, whose name roughly translated means "for peace." Of course De la Paz can get along with a Randite, he is for peace and can get along with anyone who does not openly advocate the kind of never-ending violence espoused by Spencerians like locum and our Twig. Did Heinlein believe what De la Paz believed? Does an actor who plays a psychotic believe what the character believes?

Today we are getting to be far enough removed from the Cold War that some people, at least, can evaluate Marx more objectively, without being influenced by the fears conditioned into earlier generations. Much of what Marx wrote made good sense in the times in which he lived, and anyone who recognizes that - as a certain fictional queen mother once said - power is power, is living with the intellectual legacy of Marx (from "The German Ideology" more so than from "Das Kapital" though his structuralist thinking in the former work led to his conclusions in the latter). It's a case of babies and bathwater. Marx effectively invented structuralism, a perspective that runs deep in our models of human behavior today. People who were structuralists in their thinking were often accused of being Marxist, but accepting one aspect of Marx does not mean accepting Marx in toto. Take a smorgasbord approach, picking the good plates and passing up the ones that smell a bit off.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB:
Some decades ago, there was an ad campaign in California promoting the new seatbelt law. Ads featured a drawing of seatbelts with the slogan, "Not just a good idea; it's the law!" Some wit grabbed an image of the "falling rocks" highway sign and emblazoned it with "F = Gm1m2/r2. It's not just a good idea. It's the law!"
I agree with you that describing universal constants as "laws" lends itself to a certain amount of confusion. I'm not sure if locumranch is conflating universal constants with social Darwinism or not, but I've been giving him the benefit of the doubt and assuming he's smarter than that. Although, as you note, opportunists have long deliberately tried to beef us a discredited and often viciously racist social theory with universal constants. "If c always equals c, then Negroes are inferior to whites" that sort of thing. As I said, I give locumranch the benefit of the doubt on that.
And while I agree with Heinlein 100% on the nature of divine law, I was describing his views rather than my own. A very faint distinction, I admit, but I want to give credit where it is due.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

Giving the man the benefit of the doubt is very human of you. I try my best, but I have been burned so often by Spencerist types (including very religious ones, and not smart enough to see the irony and contradictions), so I tend to jump into attack mode when I start to smell that crap. The Twig is more obvious about, while locum obfuscates and goes solipsistic with the best of them. In the last thread he mentioned giving solace to the ill and dying as part of his profession, and I wanted to take that at face value, but given the extremist diatribes he spews against 50% of the human species, I very much doubt that he gives solace equally.

As to racist universal constants, they mostly follow the path of Hernnstein & Murray, using IQ test scores to "prove" inferiority and promote conservative political agenda, or worse still, Philipe Ruston, a Canadian psychologist who does the IQ thing, then adds insult to injury by trying to demonstrate that only Caucasians have "normal" libido and "normal" sex lives, while all other "races" are either excessively repressed (Asians) or excessively promiscuous (African & Hispanic). Fun stuff, but it takes statistics judo to fight back such excrement, because it is so scientistic (not actually scientific) that it is easily confused for real science by the undereducated. This is why better science education is essential to human survival.

Imagine how things would change if we had Star Trek technology? If a person could live on a farm in Kansas, but commute by transporter to Northwestern U or Ann Arbor, or even University College London, then go to their favorite gumbo joint in New Orleans for lunch and take a date for sushi in Yokohama all in the same day. A lot of those cultural barriers would start to slowly disappear, I think.

David L. Craig said...

"The Gerrymandering thing had been a crime by both party machines for a long time… but blue voters rebelled in a dozen states and ended it! Name one red state citizenry that did that."

True, but only in those states. Maryland is not one of them. My Congressional District includes all of relatively sparsely populated western Maryland and the line through Montgomery County supplies a sufficient Democratic majority to the district. Your commendation of some blue majorities does not extend to all.

raito said...

One thing that never quite seems to be mentioned about the political system of Starship Troopers, is that troopers who go career essentially give up >any< chance at franchise. And no one ever compares that to the other person who never gets franchise -- the ones who never enter federal service. And to my knowledge, no one seems to have >ever< thought of it as a commentary on our present system, in which voter turnout is so low that any idea of a 'majority' in an election is laughable.

And very few even acknowledge the book's dedication, or understand it.

And yeah, Divine Law is a scam. God's plan is unknowable if rotten stuff happens to you. But suddenly, it's completely knowable because I want you to do something you don't want to do.

Amusing that Niven was mentioned, as just last night we were watching an animated Star Trek in which the Kzinti appear.

Nick Nuessle,
The authors of this book:
https://www.amazon.com/Superfandom-How-Obsessions-Changing-What/dp/0393249956
would agree with you entirely. Including identities that are tied to commercial brands.

Robert said...

I think one thing that people haven't been paying much attention to (apart from illness late in his career) is that Heinlein changed over his career. He moved from solidly Left (as defined at the time), campaigning for Upton Sinclair, to solidly Right (as defined at the time, before the extreme degeneration of the conservative movement set in). When Heinlein was writing, Jeffersonian libertarianism and classical secular conservatism (as found in political philosophy textbooks) were both flourishing, and were both considered part of the Right. My own politics is a mix of the two. Anyone who subscribes to either was booted out of FoxRushReich long ago.

Something similar has happened on the Left (I'm not treating Brin-style liberalism as part of the Left). There is a classical Left which realizes "It's the economy, stupid." And there's the campus PC crowd. The difference with the Right is that neither Left controls the Democratic Party, and that the PC crowd hasn't swamped the economic Left. There's enormous potential for a classical Left comeback, in my opinion. The reason I wouldn't support it myself is that even the legitimate Left favors forced egalitarianism. I would take any kind of Leftism short of Stalinism over Fascism, however.

I don't write off Rand completely because every now and then she gets something just right. The Fountainhead quote in the comments; her views on torture; Anthem; most of The Fountainhead; her characterization of "The God-Family-Country Swamp"; her statement that Marxism was the last version of leftism that even made enough sense to refute. And I very much, even as a Christian - especially as a Christian, respect the fact that she had the honesty, the integrity, even the decency, to be an open and fierce atheist, attacking Christian ethics head-on, even to the point of proposing John Galt as a superior replacement for Jesus Christ. It's the only position compatible with her overall philosophy, and she knew it and said it. Good for her.

I have very similar feelings about both Marx and Nietzsche, for much the same reasons. People who do their own thinking are free to recognize what they like about opponents.

Ceterum autem censeo Trumpum esse delendam
Bob Pfeiffer.

locumranch said...


No sophistry here.

(1) Natural Law =>'Everybody poos'.
(2) Divine Law => 'Thou shall not poo'
(3) Human Law => 'You may poo with shame & sin'.

Now, substitute your favorite commandment (and/or sin) for poo & that's the sophistry of 'shoulda', 'oughta', 'supposeda' in a nutcase. It's magical thinking, is all, that you can override nature by wishing otherwise.

Cynics argue that the conflicts between these 3 systems were a deliberate attempt to induce shame (as in 'poo make gods angry') as a means of social control, a technique that David indulges in when he ridicules "Red America (for) teen sex, STD and pregnancy rates to obesity, dropouts, divorce and domestic violence, gambling and so on" (all of which can be attributed to more individual & personal liberty, btw), whereas the empiricist does not attempt to nullify nature & legislates accordingly:

(1) Natural Law => 'Everybody poos'.
(2) Divine Law => 'Thou shall poo'
(3) Human Law => 'You will poo, potty preferred'.

Mock divine law if you like, but never forget that religion & secular government are analogous, practically indistinguishable in fact, as both consist of a shared belief system of right (desired) & wrong (undesired) circumstance associated with reward or forfeit. The concept of 'no god', loosely speaking, translates as 'no shared belief systems or commonality', meaning that 'no community; no society' wherein 'everything is allowed if you can get away with it'.

Finally, Marx is history's undisputed expert on Capitalism, as evidenced by his empiric 40 volume 'Das Kapital', but he proved himself a magical thinker indulging in Utopian fantasy when it came to his non-empiric, hypothetical & non-experimental 'Communist Manifesto', one that was later disproven in empiric fashion (after the fact) by the likes Stalin, Mao & Pol Pot. In effect, Marx's Communism construct is analogous to the 'Thou shall not poo' commandment as both try to override human nature with magical wishes.

Wish in one hand, poo in the other, see which hand fills first.


Best

raito said...

Since I can, and since our host and I differ considerably on judo vs. sumo:
https://youtu.be/ew10Pbi4gRs?t=387
Chiyonokuni's tottari yesterday is spectacular, and has nothing to do with the sort of shoving usually attributes to sumo. But then, even tug of war has subtleties.

Jon S. said...

Two points:

For our anonymous Australian friend, Heinlein did not have any "oft-stated" position that the right to vote must be earned via military service. He had one book in which some characters went that route. (And it was specified, repeatedly, that the franchise in that world was earned by a minimum of two years of federal service - which might be military, or it might be paper-shuffling, or it might be, as Sgt. Ho suggested, field-testing survival equipment on Titan. "If you were silly enough to come in here stuck in a wheelchair and blind in both eyes, the government would find something equally silly for you to do - counting the fuzz on a caterpillar by touch, maybe." Juan Rico wound up volunteering for the military in order to impress a girl, which sadly didn't work.)

Second, that's a very selective reading of Heinlein's female characters. Hazel Stone, who was first seen as a young girl fighting the Yellowjackets during the Lunar Revolution, and next seen as a grandmother in The Rolling Stones, existed "solely to service [Heinlein's] sexual fantasies"? Mary, the victim of alien abduction and PTSD, from The Puppet Masters? The Mother Thing? Lummox? Jackie, in Tunnel in the Sky? Friday? You must have some very... interesting fantasies, if that's all these characters are to you.

(I think the biggest problem with The Number of the Beast was that for some reason, the publishing company didn't want to edit Heinlein. His best work was reined in by editors. Otherwise, as the uncut version of Stranger in a Strange Land shows, he had a tendency to ramble.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

locumranch wrote: "Wish in one hand, poo in the other, see which hand fills first."

Very funny, but also sums up a totally fallacious argument. Let's take your first triad:

"(1) Natural Law =>'Everybody poos'.
(2) Divine Law => 'Thou shall not poo'
(3) Human Law => 'You may poo with shame & sin'."

Your version of 'natural law' is a simple statement of fact. All living things ingest and excrete. Without exception. And while I've seen religions come up with some daft rules, I can't think of any that tried to outlaw pooing. Your version of 'human law' however is commensurate with many churches.

Your second triad, the one you hope to disparage, is actually the saner one.

'(1) Natural Law => 'Everybody poos'.
(2) Divine Law => 'Thou shall poo'
(3) Human Law => 'You will poo, potty preferred'.'

OK. (1) is fine. (2) would be better described as "Thou shalt poo, to remind yourself that humans are vain and flawed, unclean creatures." (3) holds up fairly well--it acknowledges pooing, and seeks to contain in in ways that are not injurious to our health, which exemplifies the idealistic notion of what human law should be.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

No sophistry here.


Actually, nothing but.


(1) Natural Law =>'Everybody poos'.
(2) Divine Law => 'Thou shall not poo'
(3) Human Law => 'You may poo with shame & sin'.

Now, substitute your favorite commandment (and/or sin) for poo & that's the sophistry of 'shoulda', 'oughta', 'supposeda' in a nutcase. It's magical thinking, is all, that you can override nature by wishing otherwise.


So you believe laws against murder are fantastic, futile attempts to overcome a basic truth that "Everybody murders"?


a technique that David indulges in when he ridicules "Red America (for) teen sex, STD and pregnancy rates to obesity, dropouts, divorce and domestic violence, gambling and so on" (all of which can be attributed to more individual & personal liberty, btw),


Our host uses those as examples of Red America failing to live up to its own stated standards. When you give reasons why rural red-staters are superior to the hundreds of millions of city dwellers, it makes sense to point out your hypocrisy--that the reasons you give apply to you worse than to us. Doing so does not require me to actually buy into your standards. It works as an indirect proof.


whereas the empiricist does not attempt to nullify nature & legislates accordingly:

(1) Natural Law => 'Everybody poos'.
(2) Divine Law => 'Thou shall poo'
(3) Human Law => 'You will poo, potty preferred'.


(2) is completely unnecessary. A law that commands people to do what they will do anyway is as pointless as the version that commands them not to do what they must. Dave Sim put this as "There is no Church of Newton's Laws giving thanks that objects in motion remain in motion unless acted on by an outside force. What exactly would we be giving thanks for?"

The first part of (3) is identical to (2). The "potty preferred" is the essence of the law as stated. Yes, people have to poo, but society is ill served by human feces uniformly stinking up the environment, so human societies regulate behavior in a manner that finds compromise between man's need to poo and man's desire not to be swamped with poo. I'm unclear on what you find objectionable about this process.

LarryHart said...

David L Craig:

Your commendation of some blue majorities does not extend to all.


Dr Brin has acknowledged Maryland and Illinois many times. His point is not that all Blue States have repudiated gerrymandering, but that most have, as opposed to no Red States doing so.

Secure Base said...

On RAH and Ayn Rand:

At the time I wrote Methuselah’s Children I was still politically quite naive and still had hopes that various libertarian notions could be put over by political processes… It [now] seems to me that every time we manage to establish one freedom, they take another one away. Maybe two. And that seems to me characteristic of a society as it gets older, and more crowded, and higher taxes, and more laws. I would say that my position is not too far from that of Ayn Rand's; that I would like to see government reduced to no more than internal police and courts, external armed forces — with the other matters handled otherwise. I'm sick of the way government sticks its nose in everything, now. -- The Robert Heinlein Interview, and other Heinleiniana (1973) by J. Neil Schulman (published in 1990)

LarryHart said...

raito:

Amusing that Niven was mentioned, as just last night we were watching an animated Star Trek in which the Kzinti appear.


"Fool! Human females are intelligent!"

The Animated Series gets short shrift these days, but there are some really interesting episodes there. I saw it when it premiered in the early 1970s, and some of its most significant lines remain with me to this day. "It is no shame to fail once--for others. If you fail, there will be those who call you a coward the rest of your life."

And I learned what a "Jihad" was from that show. Probably other such things as well that I'm just not thinking of at the moment.


donzelion said...

Zepp: "Well, if a corporation can have legal personhood, than why NOT a river?"
Y'know, William Douglas (a justice in the US Supreme Court 50 years ago) made that argument about trees, but was concerned a crazy maverick.

Tony Fisk: "The Whanganui River in NZ has been accorded the legal rights and responsibilities of a person."
Intriguing...so does the Whanganui River have rights to own property? To sue and be sued? I'd love to read the precise wording where that was conferred. I'm sort of curious exactly who would bring a lawsuit against a river (ahem, you're too wet! you're not wet enough!)...and how exactly do you get the river to pay a fine for breaking the law? ;-)

Zepp: "Natural Law" is better described as "lawlessness."
Now now, it's an ancient tradition, and merits some modicum of respect (then again, I find much of merit in both Plato and Aristotle, though our host ridicules the former).

'Natural law' - as in gravity, relativity, etc. - is viewed as a 'current set of assumptions about how things work, which can shift - but when it does, the changes are profound.' Previously, it was viewed as immutable, and the very concept of immutability is a crucial stage in human interactions that make all law (positive, natural, developmental) possible. In terms of some modern theory, 'divine law' (or 'divine command theory' - the notion that 'X is right because God or gods command it' - rather than 'the God or gods command us to do right things') - is a mode of thinking, typical of a small but important minority (evangelical Christians renounce 'divine command theory' - you'll never see them adopt the entire Levitical code, but only sections targeting minorities they don't like).

It's not utter tosh - just most people who think they're arguing 'divine law' don't actually believe what they're saying (and in Socrates/Plato's hands, their contradictory assumptions would be quickly laid bare - to the extent that they'd execute whoever pointed out their hypocrisy).

"Divine law he considered utter twaddle, and rightly so."
There is often, but not always, a nugget of importance within twaddle that endures for millennia. That nugget isn't always what the proponents think it is, but even so, it's worth looking for and understanding before rejecting.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "His point is not that all Blue States have repudiated gerrymandering, but that most have, as opposed to no Red States doing so."

Actually, Arizona has adopted a variation of the California model, and as I recall, their Congressional delegation fell from 6 Reps/3 Dems to 5/4. Because the Arizona model didn't reflect the rest of the party's desires, I find it unlikely other red states would follow suit. Arizona Reps fought the anti-gerrymandering/citizen panels tooth and nail; most states reject the ballot initiative methods adopted in the West that make it possible for these things to be crammed down recalcitrant gerrymanderer's throats.

David L. Craig said...

"Dr Brin has acknowledged Maryland and Illinois many times. His point is not that all Blue States have repudiated gerrymandering, but that most have, as opposed to no Red States doing so."

That's what I get for not being a regular here. This rebuttal continues to imply this fact demonstrates blue is better than red. Well, in that category, sure, but it is hardly extendable to all categories. Can we agree both major parties fail in many serious regards?

This focus on horizontal binary differences is a smokescreen when the real difference behind the curtain is vertical--the haves versus the have-nots. Before Reagan, the GOP was the party of small, non-nanny government and fiscal responsibility. Now Ike wouldn't recognize it. Starting with Reagan, the nominal National Debt has doubled every eight years. Now the Federal government expends around 1,500,000,000 dollars daily in interest expense on principal we cannot pay down, only roll over. Both parties support this madness and intend to make it even worse. Explain to me how this can end well. What do you believe RAH would have recommended we do about it?

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

'divine law' (or 'divine command theory' - the notion that 'X is right because God or gods command it' - rather than 'the God or gods command us to do right things')


A very important distinction that is often ignored.

The latter has God or gods helping us with a shortcut. They're telling us what the law is, but we could have eventually figured it out in other ways. They're just saving us all the trial and error. The former definition is the essence of authoritarianism, straight out of 1984. "Two plus two equals whatever God says it does."


(evangelical Christians renounce 'divine command theory' - you'll never see them adopt the entire Levitical code, but only sections targeting minorities they don't like).


They'll say the new Covenant with Jesus overrides the old law. Except for the gay parts. I had a conservative Texas Christian tell me specifically, as if this is plain as the nose on your face, that the new Covenant frees us from the restrictions of the Old Testament "except for idolatry and commercial vices." How can one argue with that? :)

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Arizona Reps fought the anti-gerrymandering/citizen panels tooth and nail; most states reject the ballot initiative methods adopted in the West that make it possible for these things to be crammed down recalcitrant gerrymanderer's throats.


I thought the Supreme Court nullified that, on the grounds that the legislature could not delegate their district-drawing powers for some strange reason.

LarryHart said...

David L Craig:

Can we agree both major parties fail in many serious regards?


Maybe, if we can also agree that the Republicans fail in more damaging regards.

David L. Craig said...

"They'll say the new Covenant with Jesus overrides the old law. Except for the gay parts. I had a conservative Texas Christian tell me specifically, as if this is plain as the nose on your face, that the new Covenant frees us from the restrictions of the Old Testament "except for idolatry and commercial vices." How can one argue with that? :)"

They can't win that argument. The New Covenant is defined in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and it is explicitly made with Israel. Gentiles are "grafted into" that covenant according to Romans 11:13-24. Jesus clearly said He did not come to do away with The Law but to fulfill it. Acts 15 records how the council in Jerusalem decided what is required of Gentiles who are grafted into the New Covenant when they first arrive, clearly expecting them to learn The Law fully and apply it to themselves as non-Jewish people. That's how you argue with that.

LarryHart said...

David L Craig:

Starting with Reagan, the nominal National Debt has doubled every eight years.


Dick Cheney put it, "Reagan showed us deficits don't matter." Now, Republicans complain about the debt when Democrats are in power, and immediately shift to "no big deal" mode when they themselves assume command. I'm glad to see you at least call Republicans out on this. Most of them say something like "I'm against deficit spending when both sides do it," but they only say such things when Democrats are in power.


Now the Federal government expends around 1,500,000,000 dollars daily in interest expense on principal we cannot pay down, only roll over. Both parties support this madness and intend to make it even worse.


The national debt itself (not just the annual deficit) was almost zeroed out at the end of the Clinton years. That had more to do with a booming tech economy than a political party, but the point is, we were almost there? Which party so freaked out at the notion that there might be a national surplus that something had to be done about that? W took his less-than-majority mandate and immediately slashed tax revenue in order to insure that the national debt was here to stay. Then came two off-the-books wars, and here we are.

With that in mind, what would it possibly gain for Democrats to be fiscally responsible now? Any savings that Democrats generate by agreeing to slash social/environmental programs would simply offset by increases for the military and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. If we could choose between wise spending and profligate spending, I'd be there with you on the wise spending side. But the only practical choice now is deficit spending in the service of good or deficit spending in the service of evil, I know which side I'm on.


Explain to me how this can end well.


The Rapture could come and take all the Republicans somewhere else. :)

More serious answer: It doesn't end at all. There's no "happily ever after" point at which problems have all been solved. Governing society is an ongoing process.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote: "The national debt itself (not just the annual deficit) was almost zeroed out at the end of the Clinton years."

Well, no. In 1999 where was a CBO forecast that suggested that if Clinton policies were followed, the public debt might be retired by 2012. That was pretty spectacular, but of course, the Republicans stole the 2000 election and put paid to any hope of that happening any time soon.

Deficits are almost always much worse when Republicans control the budget.

David L. Craig said...

So you dispute the Treasury's own accounting as published at https://www.treasurydirect.gov/govt/reports/pd/histdebt/histdebt.htm and accept Clinton's instead?

LarryHart said...

@David L Craig,

Then what was Greenspan so worried about surplus for?

https://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/testimony/2001/20010125/


...
The emerging key fiscal policy need is to address the implications of maintaining surpluses beyond the point at which publicly held debt is effectively eliminated.
...
The time has come, in my judgement, to consider a budgetary strategy that is consistent with a preemptive smoothing of the glide path to zero federal debt or, more realistically, to the level of federal debt that is an effective irreducible minimum.
...
At the same time, we must avoid a situation in which we come upon the level of irreducible debt so abruptly that the only alternative to the accumulation of private assets would be a sharp reduction in taxes and/or an increase in expenditures, because these actions might occur at a time when sizable economic stimulus would be inappropriate. In other words, budget policy should strive to limit potential disruptions by making the on-budget surplus economically inconsequential when the debt is effectively paid off.
...
The changes in the budget outlook over the past several years are truly remarkable. Little more than a decade ago, the Congress established budget controls that were considered successful because they were instrumental in squeezing the burgeoning budget deficit to tolerable dimensions. Nevertheless, despite the sharp curtailment of defense expenditures under way during those years, few believed that a surplus was anywhere on the horizon. And the notion that the rapidly mounting federal debt could be paid off would not have been taken seriously.

But let me end on a cautionary note. With today's euphoria surrounding the surpluses, it is not difficult to imagine the hard-earned fiscal restraint developed in recent years rapidly dissipating. We need to resist those policies that could readily resurrect the deficits of the past and the fiscal imbalances that followed in their wake.


David L. Craig said...

@larryhart, in a word, politicks.

David Brin said...

David L. Craig I will admit that both parties fail in many serious regards, if you’ll admit that one of them fails in the normal range of American politics and the other has gone stark jibbering and criminal insane. You imply equal lists of crimes. Please show such a list.

Outcomes in all metrics of US national health are UNIVERSaLLY better across DP administrations. And they do not wage war on facts and science. I could go on.

Still, your commentary seems cogent and you are welcome in this community.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re Arizona's redistricting/anti-gerrymandering law

The case is Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (2016) (do PDF links actually open? if not, then you can google the decision, sorry - or go to some analysis here).

In essence, the Supreme Court approved both the extremely gerrymandered Texas map AND the 'less' gerrymandered Arizona map (the one that led to a 5/4 rather than 6/3 distribution of votes), with nuanced and narrow reasoning that is very much still in contention.

That said, you're not incorrect - a focus of the fight in Arizona had been on delegation powers (because the Arizona Republicans did not want to call attention to their ultimate purpose - to invalidate the public that crammed the new rules down their throats and 'cost' them a nicely gerrymandered 7/2 or 6/3 spread). The Supreme Court ruling was quite limited, and certainly doesn't create a stronger anti-gerrymandering rule (that awaits a new court...some day...).

Antonym said...

There is a fundamentalist sect that is gaining power among the evangelicals and who supported Trump over moralists like Cruz and Santorum: conservative Christians who don't actually go to church. An article (in The Atlantic, I think, not sure) posits the theory that those on the Right who "lose their religion" gravitate towards nationalism and white supremacy. In everyday life they may keep up the trappings of Christianity, but come Sunday they will be nursing a hangover instead of sitting in a pew. Liberals who lose faith in Christianity (or Judaism, Islam, etc.) will often still have a moral/ethical basis for treating others with decency. A conservative apostate, however, will find a new spiritual home in a more earthly authoritarianism.
The same could be said of Mother Russia. I greatly doubt that large percentages of Russian are active members of the Eastern Orthodox Church. After decades of state mandated worship of the Holy Trinity of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, I would guess that religiosity is very shallow in Czar Putin's empire. But the trappings of the Orthodox Church are convenient for lending ever greater authority to the Kremlin.

-AtomicZeppelinMan

raito said...

Jon S.,

If I recall correctly, the book Rico didn't want to be in the military (and the war hadn't started). He got shuffled there because the war started. I seem to recall that he thought there was no danger, as there wasn't a war on at the time.

As for Heinlein females, I wonder if the ones in the juveniles even count for this argument, as it seems likely that the books wouldn't have been published otherwise? Peewee? Ellie Coburn (I have a first edition of Starman Jones)? Speaking of which. kind of odd to have a juvenile novel in which our hero is basically a criminal.

LarryHart,

And the original actors do the voices, which was important to me (and still is).

David L. Craig,

I tend to use the St. Lous Fed's numbers, mostly because they're on graphs and I can see the trends more celarly.

As for gerrymandering, WI got caught at it and is spending my money trying to deny it.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re 'divine law'
"A very important distinction that is often ignored."
Especially by the asinine 'poop in hand' metaphor posited above. Were Locum to raise it anywhere but among a bunch of fairly liberal science fiction fans - proponents of 'divine law' would be calling for his immediate execution for blasphemy - yet for some reason, he's afraid of feminists? Because they hurt his fragile ego?

"The former definition is the essence of authoritarianism, straight out of 1984. "Two plus two equals whatever God says it does."
I wouldn't go so far as to say 'divine command theory' = 'authoritarianism' - but it does serious injury to any belief in the 'omnibenevolence' of God (if right and wrong are purely arbitrary decisions of God, that are not 'right or wrong' based on any extrinsic factor - then to call God 'good' is simply redundant, rather than descriptive). But it's certainly a method authoritarians would LOVE to adopt - so often by referring to authority from God, whether the deity is a 'friendly angry man in the sky' of theistic authoritarians, the 'scientific dialectic' of atheistic authoritarians. ;-)

They'll say the new Covenant with Jesus overrides the old law."
Indeed, whenever it applies to THEM or people they like. But even then, they'll pick and choose which parts of Jesus they like, and refuse to see the text where it proves inconvenient. Divorce? Not a problem. Wealth? Not a problem! (We invented this wonderful magic 'gate' called the 'Camel Gate' - so Jesus didn't mean what he seems to mean...) Making a noise in the womb? CLEAR EVIDENCE ABORTION IS THE WORK OF THE ANTI-CHRIST (and their feminist agents).

"I had a conservative Texas Christian tell me...How can one argue with that? :)"
Reasoned discourse and argument - criticism - is wasted on such. One has to personalize the story, connect with something more important than the point of disagreement. Criticism may be the only known antidote for error - but when a person refuses to take the antidote, one must try other measures.

A mother doesn't always HAVE to reason with a child when administering the medicine the child needs. But a stranger must always obtain enough trust to acquire informed consent - and trust is an emotional, personal decision more often than a rational judgment.

donzelion said...

Antonym (or is it Atomic Zeppelin Man) - "There is a fundamentalist sect that is gaining power among the evangelicals and who supported Trump over moralists like Cruz and Santorum: conservative Christians who don't actually go to church."

Saw the article, also forgot the source. The implications may be horrific. A conservative apostate (or, more often, a 'backslider') will bend his ear to whatever voice meets a psychological need - including a need for 'moral clarity' that defines 'enemies' in simple terms.

The phenomenon you mention in Russia has its parallels in the Middle East part of the Muslim world (and, or so I've heard, in Indonesia and Africa). Non-practicing Muslims, like non-practicing Christian 'Evangelical-wannabes' - tend to express their beliefs by targeting 'nonbelievers' or 'deviants' rather than performing obligations of their faith. That results in predictable and frequent schisms - a certain number of 'backsliders' want to revert to the full panoply of duties - others focus upon the 'political' manifestations of faith (hence the enduring animosity between Saudi Wahhabis and the Muslim Brotherhood).

donzelion said...

LarryHart: As for the argument about deficit spending - esp. "Any savings that Democrats generate by agreeing to slash social/environmental programs would simply offset by increases for the military and tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations" - maybe a better way to phrase it is thus:

Coal fired plants, and the emissions they release, kill XXX thousand toddlers every year in America (including many cute, white toddlers). Tax cuts for billionaires will save exactly 0 of those toddlers. How many toddlers do you want to die this year to achieve your tax cut?

When it comes to the EPA, too many eyes focus on the costs (even if the EPA itself is a rather cheap structure compared to many other government entities) - too few on the benefits. And when those costs fall on, say, African-American babies in Flint, Michigan, too many white folks shrug (too bad for 'those people') - whereas when they see a cute, white toddler gasping to death (from a god-fearing, Christian family, of course, that never smoked or did anything else that was 'wrong'...)...

donzelion said...

David Craig: "Can we agree both major parties fail in many serious regards?"
Of course, but one side responds to criticism (slowly), the other does not. One needs to choose when and where to focus criticism, lest one's critique simply be used in service of the recalcitrant ones.

"Before Reagan, the GOP was the party of small, non-nanny government and fiscal responsibility."
Before Reagan, the GOP had multiple factions - some aligned with libertarian agendas, some aligned with civil rights, some with big business. A GOP president created the EPA, and even as Eisenhower deplored the 'military industrial complex' he premised the freeway system on military necessity ('freeways' are the ultimate 'nanny state' invention - 'macho states' know that toll roads are the way to go so that only manly men and their mistresses may make use of them).

"Both parties support this [debt] madness and intend to make it even worse. Explain to me how this can end well."
The Democrats follow Neo-Keynesian logic: deficits to reduce depression (or recession), surpluses to pay off deficits. Reagan Republicans may actually have believed 'supply side' theory; nowadays, they know it's a scam, BUT they also know how to profit from bankruptcy and come out even wealthier. It's not madness at the helm: it's more a sort of vicious street smarts backed with impressive mathematical modeling (after you've monopolized fire extinguishers and the water supply, shut down that 'expensive' fire department - and wait gleefully for the fires to come).

"What do you believe RAH would have recommended we do about it?"
Which RAH? At an early, idealistic age, he would have agreed with the hopes. Later on, after a few decades of nuclear Armageddon fears (among many others) preying on him, his greatest works behind him, he latest efforts...not quite measuring up...who can say?

Jon S. said...

Raito, Johnny did indeed volunteer for military service. He tried to go Navy, because the girl was in the office at that moment volunteering to be a spaceship pilot (Carl was big on physics, and wanted to do his two years at a research facility). Unfortunately for Johnny, the list of preferences for service was the last choice he was permitted until after training, and he failed the testing for everything but MI (their last-ditch other attempt was to train him as a partner for a neodog, but he didn't connect with his pet dog so deeply as to sneak the dog into his bed at night despite his mother's wishes).

(He regarded anything that didn't put him into a spacecraft as unworthy of his time - all the other careers were "booby prizes", as he put it.)

Can you tell I've read it a few times? :)

David L. Craig said...

Dr. Brin, I am not apologizing for the GOP. I did not intend to imply equal crimes and would like to understand how I did so. I'll acknowledge the differences, but I fail to comprehend what is gained thereby, as Washington remains malodorous. My point is the entire system is failing and pointing fingers horizontally only serves the purposes of the real perpetrators of this self-serving folly who back both parties to get what they want regardless of who wins. I think Jefferson would be appalled but not surprised.

Technomad said...

Where did Heinlein say he despised Ayn Rand? To be sure, he disliked her nuttier followers, but so did and do most "students of Objectivism" to this day. And I think that particularly after the unexpected results of Stranger in a Strange Land, he'd sympathize with her about people who take one's writing in unexpected ways.

locumranch said...


You squares are living in the past, man.

Fundamentalist US Christians are a straw-man threat to the West. They haven't been able to swing a 'Fundamentalists on Parade' protest since the 1980s; their so-called Moral Majority is stone-cold dead; Western Church attendance (all denominations) is in terminal decline; and Western Christendom (or the remnants thereof) has become so secularised that most divinely defined Judeo-Christian Sins are CELEBRATED rather than condemned.

Really, now. When was the last time anyone in the US, UK, AU and/or EU was prosecuted for renouncing god, using his name in vain, adultery, idolatry, disobeying one's parents, blasphemy, heresy, sodomy, consensual fornication or failing to keep the sabbath?? Modern Christendom has proved itself incapable of that kind of intolerance, preferring to go the 'God is Unconditional Love & Forgiveness' route.

For that kind of holier-than-thou bigotry, you only have 2 choices:

You can either look east towards Islam (and, yes, most Muslim countries still have death penalties on book for the above religious infractions), or you could look LEFT to Feminism & their multimillion women army whose hurt feelings can deprive practically any man of his goods, wealth, livelihood, reputation, speech, liberty & children on nothing more than unsupported & unsupportable 'She Said' accusations (wherein male guilt is assumed prior to trial).

And, NEVER was the last time you heard of any feminist organisation demand either smaller government, fewer police officers or less spending on social service programs.

Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Feminism & their multimillion women army whose hurt feelings can deprive practically any man of his goods, wealth, livelihood, reputation, speech, liberty & children on nothing more than unsupported & unsupportable 'She Said' accusations


Pardon the redundancy, but again, you sound like Dave Sim, who in the day insisted that feminists at Harvard ruined the life of Lawrence Summers. My life should be so ruined.

Apparently, these omnipotent feminists were unable to deprive #SoCalledPresident of the White House, nor impose a Democratic majority on either house of congress.

So to sum up, the right-wing owns the presidency and both houses of congress, are about to have a Supreme Court majority and nominate more federal judges, and control the legislatures and governorships of almost enough states to ram through a new Constitutional Convention. But the clear and present danger is that we're writhing under the heel of left-wing feminism?

Zepp Jamieson said...

locumranch wrote: "Fundamentalist US Christians are a straw-man threat to the West. They haven't been able to swing a 'Fundamentalists on Parade' protest since the 1980s; their so-called Moral Majority is stone-cold dead; Western Church attendance (all denominations) is in terminal decline;"

I don't suppose you've looked at the membership of the Supreme Court, Congress, the Air Force, or far too many school boards around the country. The quit marching and went underground, and have been subsuming America by gradually taking over all levels of government. They control a surprising amount of the media, as well, and most of the hospitals.

They didn't go away; they just realized if they wanted to take over, they were going to have to be sneaky about it.

donzelion said...

Locum: "Fundamentalist US Christians are a straw-man threat to the West."

To the "West": agreed; they're not a major threat... To America? Jury's still out. We'll have to see. There is a price that is paid for rampant fact aversion.

A people who are quick and happy to send someone else to war on their behalf are very much a threat - to their own civilization, and to others as well. That's one price. There are also prices in terms of health, productivity, economics, environment...

"most divinely defined Judeo-Christian Sins are CELEBRATED rather than condemned."
Depending upon who commits the sin. Weiner shows his weiner: scandal. Trump gropes some lady, it's a fraternity prank. If Michelle Obama shows her shoulders: it's immodesty. Melania strips naked for a photoshoot, it's 'God's great art.'

"When was the last time anyone in the US, UK, AU and/or EU was prosecuted for renouncing god, using his name in vain, adultery, idolatry, disobeying one's parents, blasphemy, heresy, sodomy, consensual fornication or failing to keep the sabbath?"

(Homosexual) sodomy between consenting adults was declared unconstitutional in 2003...so that would be the last prosecution here for that one. Took a little while for the Constitution to catch up with the times...

But prosecutions for any of those sins never threatened any Western power, let alone Western civilization as a whole. What has threatened us is nuclear annihilation, rampant warfare, environmental collapse, disease - all things that evangelicals make significantly more dangerous, rather than less.

"you could look LEFT to Feminism & their multimillion women army whose hurt feelings can deprive practically any man of his goods, wealth, livelihood, reputation, speech, liberty & children on nothing more than unsupported & unsupportable 'She Said' accusations" -

- indeed, and with all those guns they've been buying, those women could kill all the men and set themselves up with a matriarchy and keep us all as menial laborers and occasional sex slaves...oh wait, that's a different author.

Tony Fisk said...

The Two Ronnies covered Locum's terrors with "The Worm That Turned"

David Brin said...

David Craig, sorry, but your re-expression of false-equivalence is still false equivalence and thus, pushing the central mantra that Murdochians use, to keep ostrich conservatives from bolting.

Washington may be “malodorious” to you. But there are two things happening there. Politics and civil service. The latter still exists, though it is targeted for destruction. The former is dead, killed deliberately. It’s been dead since at least 1995, the last time any republican was allowed to negotiate with any democrat over anything at all.

Newt Gingrich was punished for daring to negotiate with Clinton both Welfare Reform and the Budget Act that balanced out finances and erased the deficit. He was replaced by Dennis Hastert whose famous “rule” forbids any negotiation, over anything, at any time. In other words, death to American politics.

That was treason, pure and simple. The Constitution does two things… establishes rights and creates conditions wherein each generation of citizens can deal with current problems with … POLITICS! Those politics shouls, ideally, as they did under FDR and as they do today in the western states, engender BOTH a healthy public and a private sphere.

While politics is not ever elegant and is sometimes filthy, under normal conditions it balances interests and incrementally improves processes. And eliminates some! ALL of the de regulation… yes DE-regulation done in our lifetime was done by democrats… except finance and resource extraction

But. Without politics, we are utterly without any tiller except the old one — feudal aristocracy. One party wants this situation. The other didn’t. Hence the democratic party now contains not just lefties and liberals, but almost every sane conservative left in America.

Proof of the latter? YESTERDAY another GOP legislator was arrested for buggering boys. Just like Dennis Hastert! Democratic sex pervs send emails or get caught with prostitutes. Sorry. The distinction matters.

David Brin said...

Har. Or rather... sob. Locum, your folks have a long term plan:

Here's what H.R. 610 does. -- ACCORDING TO A COMMENTER ON ANOTHER THREAD

Initiates the school voucher system (ages 5 through 17)

Begins the defunding process of public schools

Eliminates the Elementary and Education Act of 1965, the nation's educational law which also provides equal opportunity

Repeals ESSA*, the Every Students Succeeds Act, that covers programs for struggling learners, AP (Advanced Placement) classes, ESL (English as Second Language) classes, classes fo Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance, and Federal Accountability Programs

Abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch

Contains no wording protecting Special Needs kids, no mention of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) or FAPE (Free Appropriate Public Education, for those with disabilities)

*Some things ESSA does for children with disabilities:

+ Ensures access to the general education curriculum.
+ Ensures access to accommodations on assessments
+ Ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning
+ Includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups
+ Requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).

=====
bugger

locumranch said...


Loved the Two Ronnies!! 'Two beers' for the lot of you, courtesy of Dave Allen.

My point was that some are conflating US Republicanism with Christian Fundamentalism. That's a huge stretch ... I mean YUUUGE. Problems occur when we try to estimate how many Fundamentalist Christians exist in the USA as up to 19% of Catholics & 70% of Black Christians also self-identify in those terms, yet Gallup estimates that less than 28% of the US population falls into the category of white, Christian, non-Catholic fundamentalists who (1) may be 'evangelical' only in 'cultural' or social terms and (2) are largely non-militant.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/20242/Another-Look-Evangelicals-America-Today.aspx

Finally, David is overestimating the actual impact of decreased federal funding on US Education as federal funding makes up LESS than 9% of the total US public primary & secondary funding and, while its true that the US federal government has giving targeted funding to impoverished school districts since 1965, the federal US Dept of Education has only been operational since 1980, meaning (according to David's logic) that everyone educated in the US before 1980 is probably malnourished & very very stupid. Most likely, David doesn't even realise that ESSA, AP, ESL, Safety, Monitoring, Compliance & Federal Accountability Programs are largely unfunded mandates. And, Sports, don't get me started as many US schools spend up to 30% of their total budget on Athletics.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/08/property-taxes-and-unequal-schools/497333/

Enjoyed the last few days immensely, btw, I'll be back in touch when I can.

Best

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

You know law far better than I do or am likely ever to, so I thought I would run this one by you. In Locus's first trinity, he posits:

(1) Natural Law =>'Everybody poos'.
(2) Divine Law => 'Thou shall not poo'
(3) Human Law => 'You may poo with shame & sin'.

Obviously the first is not law but simple fact metaphorically extended, as I explained before. The second sounds pretty familiar, modeled as it is on the Ten Commandments, the third, however, sounds like his usual sophistry (and I am surprised no one called him out on that before, as it seems pretty glaring. My studies of history and religion in a previous life gave me the distinct impression that "shame & sin" are the territory of canon law rather than common law. His use of "shame and sin" in the context of human law looks purely delusional - he seems to be projecting whatever his own personal sense of shame is on institutions that are unrelated. As I have said before, since '1984' it has become very easy to heap invective on government in American culture - whether it deserves it or not. Government has become a convenient scapegoat.

Robert said...

So. The FBI has verified it is investigating ties between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.

Meanwhile, Trump's approval ratings continue to decline as more and more people realize not only is Trump not going to give them what they want, but that he is out to screw them over "yugely".

And Republicans desperately seek to get their hackneyed replacement for Obamacare in place ASAP. Because they see the writing on the wall.

Impeachment. It will start within his first 100 days. More and more dominoes are falling. More and more it is looking like no matter how much Republicans want to hold off the Big "I" that their hands will be forced. Perhaps before they can pass legislation that stinks to high heaven but which they could then turn around and blame Trump for.

What I wonder is if Pence will become President... or if he is tainted by association and will be forced to step down as well, leaving a young and slightly charismatic Speaker of the House to "rescue" the country from the "madness" of a Trump Administration.

(Best case scenario for Trump? Pence becomes President. He does a blanket pardon for every member of the Trump Cabinet including Trump. And then steps down for Ryan to "rescue" the nation.)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Locumranch, who ARE you and what have you done with our locumranch? Seriously. Meds? Late blooming maturity? SOmething happifying? That was a cogent missive.

Wrongheaded, because clearly the fundie thing is used as a rallying center for a vast swathe of the confederacy. Watch the three Bannon films cited here:

This is crazy-apocalyptic stuff in which madmen yearn for a spasm war, whether in order to trigger the Book of Revelation or else for some QUASI-religious mysticism.

Moreover you know this is so.

==

Rob H, I still feel 100 days is way too soon. Ryan will fear the wrath of Trump lumpen proletariates. (HEY DID I JUST COIN TRUMPENPROLETARIATE?_ ) So he needs:

1- for 10 million more republicans to peel away from DT without defecting to the dems

2- for the Dems to stupidly lead the charge for impeachment.

3- for Pence to play ball. But what if DT was smart and said: "Mike I will make you VP but you have to go naked into a room with a photographer and a goat." Sorry. Bad taste. But DT has a feral intelligence.

And the Russians(the KGB lives!) have taught him a thing or two.

donzelion said...

Locum: Yes, the Fed only provides 9% of total K-12 funding. Typically, it provides the funding for pockets that are never funded by local taxpayers - either because the costs exceed local means (almost always the case with special needs education), or because the beneficiaries are a small group of people (often but not always the case with advanced placement programs). As I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong Paul SB), schools do rather well handling the 80% of the kids at the center of the bell curve - it's helping those struggling the most - or those with the most promise who need help to achieve it - that takes a great deal of time. Time that costs money.

And that's not even raising the racial factor, which is hardly all that hidden.

"meaning (according to David's logic) that everyone educated in the US before 1980 is probably malnourished & very very stupid."
Not 'everyone' - just millions of kids who might have had it better, but didn't, because folks only wanted certain kids (there's) to excel - they were afraid of competition with all those smart uppity 'other' folks, and used a variety of tricks to ensure that those others never got a fair chance.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: re law

Honestly, I saw Locum's 'system' and shrugged it off as a bad joke.

Your point about the distinction between 'canon law' and 'common law,' on the other hand, is interesting. I'm no expert in canon law, but from what I understand, 'sin/shame' were less its purview than 'who gets what' (e.g., inheritance, property disputes, contract disputes). Regular ecclesiastical/clergy functions handled sin/shame without need of a legal system (unless property changed hands as a result of a certain sin).

'Common law,' similarly, aspired to solve mostly property related problems (punishment didn't require all that much complexity to render - beat the guy til he confesses), but also to encompass disparate Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Danish, and Viking/French traditions. Like canon and civil law, it uses extensive moralistic language, but the impetus is always addressing a present dispute 'properly' - not to determining whether conduct is 'sinful' but rather, whether that conduct occurred, and if so, what the terrestrial response to it must be.

"His use of "shame and sin" in the context of human law looks purely delusional"
Agreed.

"since '1984' it has become very easy to heap invective on government in American culture"
Surely it was easy long before Orwell! But Orwell certainly showed us a new way to be afraid, not just of the 'iron heel' (tyrants had long been feared) - but the fact that we might be programmed to embrace it without even realizing it. (I still think Huxley came closer to the real threat today - not rule by a jackboot and terror, but by chemically manipulated incentives and caste regression).

"Government has become a convenient scapegoat."
Which is tragic. Many public officials once saw service as an honor, and disdained the gross pursuit of wealth. Now, in a crazy turnabout, those who devoted their lives to trying to help are regarded with disdain for failing to 'prove themselves' in a commercial forum - and those who merely sought to profit for themselves are treated as honorable merely because they profited, by folks who know little about profits (and the ability to obtain them by utterly dishonorable means).

Tony Fisk said...

... And Republicans desperately seek to get their hackneyed replacement for Obamacare in place ASAP. Because they see the writing on the wall.

After all those years of obsessed, frothing indignation about the temerity of its very existence, the buzz on my Twitter feed is that the Obamacare repeal bill hasn't got the numbers, and is unlikely to get them. We shall see. Maybe my comments about it being a conspiracy to mass murder are bearing fruit? (more likely: reps have been getting their ears beaten bloody by their constituents.)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin
I was searching for your blog about a wealth register - I wanted to pass a lint to somebody
I can't find any damn thing on your new website
Can you ask you web people to put a search engine on it - pretty please!

Or else tell an old fogey like me where the search function is hiding

Anonymous said...

And yet Heinlein would be thorn in Gun Control advocates and those who want big govt.

"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." - Robert Heinlein

Paul SB said...

Anonymous hominid,

2 issues:
1. This quote from Heinlein, was this him speaking as himself, or are these the words of a character in one of his novels? If the former, how old was he when he said it? If the latter, how can you be sure those words represent what he actually believed and not simply the words of a character who represented the beliefs of other people?

2. What makes you think that any normal, sane and rational human being will always and exactly toe one or another party line? Many Americans seem to be doing their best to show their neighbors that they can out-Conservative everyone else, or out-Liberal everyone else, a behavior described by Thorstein Veblen way back in 1899 as "competitive emulation." His assumption was that this sort of behavior was largely characteristic of the wealthy class of society, but you can see this at all levels of society. Perhaps the more interesting question would be; under what circumstances does such competition intensify to the point that a majority of people make self-destructive decisions and become so blinded to reality that they can do no better?

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

"As I understand it (correct me if I'm wrong Paul SB), schools do rather well handling the 80% of the kids at the center of the bell curve - it's helping those struggling the most - or those with the most promise who need help to achieve it - that takes a great deal of time. Time that costs money."

For the most part you are correct, Sir. Federal dollars generally target programs that are meant to "level the playing field" as much as possible to prevent our education system from creating permanent, inherited underclasses. Thus much of the money goes to programs for Special Education and English as a Second Language. In my experience, gifted education is much more spotty, though probably a lot of that has to do with supposedly "gifted" children so often being determined as "gifted" by the wealth of their parents, then removed from the public schools into private schools.

However, what constitutes the center of the curve can vary widely from neighborhood to neighborhood. My first teaching assignment was at a school in which 90% of the student body qualified for nutrition assistance, most of them both breakfast and lunch, meaning that they lived far below the poverty line. Children raised far below the poverty line generally have huge issues that dramatically reduce their success in school that are results of their environment rather than their genetics, though no amount of proof will convince most of the right wing, who have used untested assumptions about genetic inheritance to justify their status quo since before the world even had a terminology with which to objectively examine claims of inheritance (and even in the 20th Century the methods used to determine the "heritability" of traits were so fraught with untested assumptions that we have all grown up with very bad conclusions passed off as scientific. Epigenetics is beginning to change this meritocracy bias, but as usual the cutting edge is at least a century ahead of the common perception. And of course, you are discussing this with locum, whose assumptions are informed by these same ancient, aristocratic prejudices. As long as the nation segregates neighborhoods by SES and then funds schools by neighborhood, this is not going to change.

Here's an interesting article I came across recently that might give you some food for thought:

http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2010/10/18/the-culture-of-poverty-debate/

David L. Craig said...

Dr. Brin, I've lived most of my life in proximity to that cesspool. Our local news is often world news, but not all of it that should be gets published due to "editorial prerogative". Politics is of course essential to negotiating differences but there's an expectation of good faith involved. Corruption is bad faith and technically prosecutable because of the harm it inflicts upon the political process. If you feel better about your team's comportment, I'm happy for you. When Congress gives up their private health care system and uses the ones they legislate for their constituents, I'll be impressed, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm just hoping they actually read this bill they're getting ready to vote on. It's less than a hundred pages instead of the 2000+ of the ACA, but still... When I am out of the area and folks learn where I'm from, they invariably deem me responsible for DC's antics. I fire right back we locals are not the problem, it's the bozos you elect and sent to us. None of those "honorable" politicians leave office poor. Red and blue, sir!

Paul SB said...

Donzelion (again),
re law:

"Honestly, I saw Locum's 'system' and shrugged it off as a bad joke."
- It can be hard to tell, with him. Like so many of his ilk these days, it seems as if absolutely everything sets off a raw nerve, and even his jokes are angry and sarcastic. So it goes back to the issue of how much to debate and how much to dismiss. But then, I am inclined to see most of the last 40 years as a bad joke. History has shown time and time again that intensification of competition overheats and collapses nations.

"...from what I understand, 'sin/shame' were less its purview than 'who gets what' (e.g., inheritance, property disputes, contract disputes). Regular ecclesiastical/clergy functions handled sin/shame without need of a legal system..."
- This makes good sense, though it is hard to imagine that the old Church courts did not rely on a huge emphasis on shaming to extract the confessions they were after. In fact, I am sure of this based on readings I had done way back when I was a history student. Laws were written in terms of infractions and punishments, but records of courts proceedings were filled with ridicule and guilt-tripping. So his taxonomy has some measure of technical truth, at least in point 2, though 1 is still nothing but metaphorical extension and 3 is pure projection.

On Orwell and Huxley, I see roles for both. It is easy to take chemistry to be all-powerful while ignoring the roles of propaganda and manipulation. Chemistry certainly sounds more sinister, as it would appear to rob people of choice. But assumptions we have been enculturated into about choice or free will set us up to miss the subtleties. Another article from the blog I linked to above featured someone whose hypothesis was a radical (and ridiculous) denial of the value of psychiatric medications, claiming that all such medications are nothing more than placebos and complaining about the huge financial interests of the pharmaceutical industry to sell such medications. While the latter part is certainly true, the former is not, but more to the point it demonstrates a common misconception. Doctors do not merely prescribe medications and expect that they will cure psych patients all but themselves (or any who do are hugely incompetent). Medications are designed to stabilize the neurochemistry long enough for something else to make more permanent changes - therapy. Therapy is about redirecting people's thoughts away from damaging, emotion-charged beliefs that impact the chemistry of the nervous system in negative ways, into healthier, more rational thoughts that impact brain chemistry in more adaptive ways. Thoughts matter as much as chemistry because thoughts change chemistry. A hypochondriac is a perfect example. Thus the Orwell approach and the Huxley approach are both needed for truly sinister government (or corporate, or religious - more likely all three working hand-in-hand) control.

Paul SB said...

Donzello con.t,

Agreed about the "crazy turnabout." It seems to me that this is largely a result of how the Cold War was played out in ideational/ propaganda terms. The other side claimed to be all about helping the majority of the people against a parasitical caste of ruthless exploiters, but then turned around and exploited the majority just as ruthlessly. On this side it was seen as a repudiation of any attempt to help anyone as dishonest. The extremes of one side drove the other side to an equally destructive extreme, one that has dug deep into American culture and has more to do with our current dire straits than any of the pundit explanations, including, I am sorry to say, Lakoff's "authoritarian vs equalitarian family structure" hypothesis. The essential conflict can be thought of not so much as between "liberal and conservative" or "progressive and regressive" but between trust and mistrust. One side assumes that at least some who are trying to help are genuinely trying to help, while the other assumes that all attempts to help are really disguised attempts to cheat. Both sides see the other as fundamentally stupid, and in a sense, both sides are right. They are not equally right, however, as the one side recognizes that some people are honest and others are dishonest, while the other side assumes that all people are equally dishonest, and that, in spite of the obvious, day-to-day interactions we all have that prove otherwise, that human life is truly "every MAN for himself."

Zepp Jamieson said...

"An armed society is a polite society."

One of his rare idiotic remarks. Apparently he never heard of Japan or the UK.

David L. Craig said...

P.S. Jubal Harshaw observed an "honest" politician is one who stays bought. I wonder how the author of his statement personally felt about that definition throughout his life.

raito said...

donzelion,

One of the problems is that it's tough to get a child a couple of standard deviations out any official assistance at all. I had a fun meeting with the principal, the teacher, the school's ALP rep, and the district's ALP rep. They were clearly there to tell me no. Apparently, testing 4 grades higher than the grade you're in is not sufficient for anyone to care. Then again, I'm not so sure the ALP (Advanced LEarner Program_ people are very bright. I went to their parents meeintg. The ALP people though the meeting was to present their changes to the plan. The parents though it was to complain about how the ALP program didn't meet anyone's needs and was patchy across the district. And in my last teacher conference it was all I could do to get anyone to talk about my daughter's academics. I always did figure that I'd have to be the one to teach my children anything useful.

There's lots of examples of church law being able to be circumvented by the rich, or even by just a bit of money. Purchasing indulgences, perhaps? Or what to do when your being financially supported by the local baron? I recall reading somewhere (and I really wish I could remember, because it was a wonderful example) that in the Middle Ages committing suicide by falling on your sword was not a sin. Leaivng aside the obvious resonance with seppuku, it required that you have a sword. Something that the masses did not have.

Paul SB,

And now you understand why I have troubles, trying to steer between the extremes.

As for poverty, I see it as a bit more complicated. Remember, I've seen students under the poverty line succeed, partly because of the school's efforts, and definitely powered by their parent's stories of the hellish conditions they grew up under. And I've lived in and impoverished neighborhood, for a while anyway. One very big factor appears to be whether 'being poor' is part of the person's identity. Sure, it's hard to maintain that attitude under those sorts of circumstances. And it's not the only thing, for certain. I find it difficult to imagine, say, success for a student of illiterate parents.

(Or for a child of someone who thinks that they don't need to teach their children anything 'because that's what the schools are for'. There are those people out there, too.)

The local non-religious private school would have cost us 30% of our income. I only know stories from one person who attended there, but it's definitely a bubble. She thought it was normal for students to take off for a wekk-long cruise during the school year, with that stident's parents paying for a few friends to come along to alleive boredom.

David L. Craig,

You might want to check up on your statement about the wealth of politicians. I'd originally though for some time that part of the reason for some of the political silliness what that the federal legislature was rich (the definition of which meant that they'd never have to work again if they didn't want to). Then I did the research. While it's true for most of them, it's by no means true for all of them. A cursory search shows that it was 2014 where the median wealth of a congressman reached a million. Yeah, none of them are probably starving, even the few with negative net worths. I haven't bothered to do the math to determine what happens pre-and post-congress, but it would probably be interesting.

David L. Craig said...

Zepp Jamieson, he did not say, "An unarmed society is a rude society."

David L. Craig said...

"You might want to check up on your statement about the wealth of politicians. I'd originally though for some time that part of the reason for some of the political silliness what that the federal legislature was rich (the definition of which meant that they'd never have to work again if they didn't want to). Then I did the research. While it's true for most of them, it's by no means true for all of them. A cursory search shows that it was 2014 where the median wealth of a congressman reached a million. Yeah, none of them are probably starving, even the few with negative net worths. I haven't bothered to do the math to determine what happens pre-and post-congress, but it would probably be interesting."

Paul SB, did you include all the lifetime perks they vote for themselves in that assessment? Lifetime medical expenses can really add up.

Zepp Jamieson said...

David Craig:
America is an extremely heavily armed society. Would you describe it as a "polite society"?

David L. Craig said...

Zepp Jamieson, now we're getting into the need to analyze case studies, which seems unhelpful. There are degrees of impoliteness and ranges of both polite and impolite behavior within an overall framework deemed to be polite or rude in general. Quantification is difficult. Just how armed are the people you rub shoulders with? Can people without fail detect concealed weapons? My understanding is civilian armaments in this country are mostly stored, not carried. The "Wild West" was honest about armaments and seeing the hardware does remind a person of the wisdom of not needlessly offending the bearer, but that didn't eliminate rudeness in that culture, especially in saloons on Saturday night. Why not just accept the implied concept that folks are more inclined to play nicely with others when they are cognizant that there can be serious consequences for failures to do so?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Citing the US is hardly a nit-pick. It is the exemplar of armed societies. Oh, there are others; Somalia, Yeman, the Sudan, and so on. Oddly enough, none of those qualify as a "polite" society, either.

David L. Craig said...

Zepp Jamieson, fine, have it your way. Impolite armed societies just go to show how unclearly thinking people can be sometimes.

Tim H. said...

If memory serves, the "Armed society is a polite society" quote was about the tribal areas of Pakistan over fifty years ago, so YMMV. FWIH, I feel the world's a poorer place without RAH, but I wouldn't wish the intervening years on him, and it's purely unfair that he didn't live to see the fall of the USSR.

Paul SB said...

David L. Craig,

"Paul SB, did you include all the lifetime perks they vote for themselves in that assessment? Lifetime medical expenses can really add up."

You are barking up the wrong commentator. That was Raito, not me. But it's easy to mix things up like this, so no biggie.

I will, however, object to your "armed = polite" discussion, because the facts don't bear it out. More guns does very little to encourage courtesy, even if it would seem to make sense to do so. If I have a gun you might not be inclined to be rude to me, except that you probably have a gun, too, and access to firearms tends to bring out juvenile impulsivity in people. Most people think more about what they can do with their gun, on the spur of the moment, then wisely consider what someone else might do to them with their gun, as wise deliberation (System 2 thinking) requires more time and effort than impulsive ego-stroking (System 1 thinking). If people were born with their frontal lobes myelinated and had to grow myelin in the limbic systems instead pf the other way around, then the "armed = polite" saying actually would be true.

David L. Craig said...

@Paul SB: Sir, I yielded already on that matter, and I appreciate your gracious forbearance of my erroneous attribution.

Paul SB said...

Okay, sorry. Didn't get much sleep...

Robert said...

I still say 100 days. This is one reason why. The longer Republicans allow this to continue? The worse the Republican Party is going to look. Because there is one group that the Republicans, as currently existing, cannot stand up against in two years.

Retired military personnel running for public office.

These Patriots will point at Republicans refusing to do anything about what has all the wrappings of treason while cozying up to Russia and say "we did not serve in the military to have these treacherous dogs sell us out to the enemy." And the flag-waving rural voters will see these strong ex-military saying "we will not accept this, vote these bums out and let real patriots in" and they will win.

And if they have subverted the voting mechanisms? Well, if enough people voted for patriots and everyone speaks up and say "well I didn't vote that bastard back into office" then you just lost legitimacy of government.

Republicans cannot allow Trump to steer their ship. He has been tainted far too badly. They will get rid of him... or they will find the entire power structure that put them into power fall apart around them and leave them at the mercy of the ex-military who take power legitimately.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

@David L. Craig, on armed societies...

I don't see how both sides of a conversation being armed encourages politeness more than both sides being unarmed does. Either way, both parties are approximately matched should it come to violence.

Also, I'm not sure the oft-quoted line means what the NRA types think it means. The presumption is that politeness enforced by fear of violence is a good thing. One might as well argue "A totalitarian society is a polite society," as the populace mostly walks head down, looking neither right nor left, praying desperately that they are not attracting notice of any kind. They're gonna be polite to a fault, but this is hardly a desirable situation.

Unless you've been lurking, you're pretty new here, so you might not know that I'm the list's most geeky fan of the musical "Hamilton". The time period in the play is one of an armed society in which insults literally did have to be answered for in duels. That doesn't prevent it from getting that far three times within the course of the play--two of them fatally so. And in the two fatal cases, the least polite participant gets to kill the more polite one. So now that we know that, what do we know?

donzelion said...

"An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life." - Robert Heinlein

Where did he actually say this? Too many fishy quotes circulating...

And that said, while I can vouch for Yemenis and Afghans being quite polite, and quite heavily armed. Israelis? Not quite so much (think of an entire country of New Yorkers - rather brusque and blunt). El Salvadoreans? Not at all (but very heavily armed).

matthew said...

I still disagree that impeachment within 100 days is the most likely outcome of the Trump presidency. It is a non-zero possibility, but it is not the most likely outcome.

I *do* think that the bellicose words about being "done with patience" with North Korea spell trouble. If Trump appears to be sinking into his own swamp then he will look to military action as the only way to recover his mojo. A limited nuclear exchange with NK will fit his needs closely. The NK reaction spasm kills off most of South Korea, a good chunk of Japan, possibly a couple liberal cities on the West Coast (my Portland and the fucking ent's Seattle are the most likely). After such an exchange I guarantee elections will not be held in 2018 unless polling shows absolute Republican dominance. As a bonus, by using US first-strike capability on NK, Trump gets to go after several competing ethnic groups (Korean, Chinese) that have large real estate portfolios in the areas of the world he is most interested in owning. Almost as good as banning Muslims for his real estate wishes.

New Odds:
10% impeachment in the first 100 days / 35% We Shall Overcome- years of protest and strife with the Confederacy losing but no internal war / 40% Bloody Civil War (that the Blues will win and not be as merciful to Reds as last time / 15% nuclear pretext to effectively destroy American Democracy and build the Trump Brand.

raito said...

David L. Craig,

As Paul SB said, it was I who made the assertion. I use the names of people whose posts move me to post in order to make the conversation trackable.

In particular, you say 'lifetime medical expenses can really add up'. And 'give up their private health care system'.

A cursory search turns up 'CRS Report R43194, Health Benefits for Members of Congress and Certain Congressional Staff, Annie L. Mach.', apparently from 2014. The copy at archive.org states in its summary:

The federal government, as an employer, offers health benefits to its employees, including
Members of Congress and congressional staff. Prior to 2014, Members and staff had access to
many of the same health benefits as other federal employees. For example, Members and staff
were eligible to voluntarily enroll in employer-sponsored health insurance through the Federal
Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, and they could choose to participate in other health
benefit programs, such as the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS).

Section 1312(d)(3)(D) ofthe Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as
amended) generally specifies that the only health plans that the federal government may make
available to Members and designated congressional staff (with respect to their service as
Members or staff) are either created under the ACA or offered through an exchange established
under the ACA. A final rule issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) amends FEHB
eligibility regulations to comply with Section 1 3 12(d)(3)(D) of the ACA. Under the final rule,
beginning January 1, 2014, Members and designated congressional staff are no longer able to
purchase FEHB plans as active employees; however, if they enroll in a health plan offered
through a small business health options program (SHOP) exchange, they remain eligible for an
employer contribution toward coverage. Additionally, the final rule allows Members and
designated congressional staff who are eligible for retirement to enroll in a FEHB plan upon
retirement.

I see nowhere in that report any mention of lifetime medical expenses. The FEHB plans do not appear to be free. Have things changed since 2014 (the date of the report)? (Note: I did not look up other benefits)

raito said...

Whoops, missed a spot:

http://www.factcheck.org/2015/01/congressional-pensions-update/

donzelion said...

Paul SB: re education

Growing up navy, I attended about 7 different K-8 schools (2 private schools, one for 2nd and one for 3rd grade), and one high school by the time my Dad finally settled in San Diego. Getting out of the private schools, I tested at grade level for 4th grade in a public school, then jumped far ahead by the end of my year (exceptional teacher: a boatswain's mate, with colorful language barely kept in check - and a love for teaching kids algebra even if it was way off the curriculum). Died of a stroke with a month left at the end of the year, but we were so far ahead of the curve and tested off the charts that the substitute just let us play Dungeons & Dragons in the back room all day...ah, memories.

As navy-based schools go, these were all working class neighborhoods, where a man earning about $35k could buy a house and raise a family of 4 (my Mom earned about $10k as a part time teacher at the time, but couldn't pass the CBEST test - she's a mathophobe). How times have changed...(in San Diego, on a Navy salary, you'd never be able to afford that house now...and it was hardly in one of the 'premium' neighborhoods - just good teachers in otherwise troubled schools).

donzelion said...

Paul SB: re law

"History has shown time and time again that intensification of competition overheats and collapses nations."
Adam Smith tried to merge his economic thinking with a grand theory of law, but was so unhappy with his manuscript that we burnt it. These days though, blessed with a little more mathematical insight, the general view isn't that 'intense competition' is bad - so much as 'shortsighted competition' (e.g., burn down all the trees to get a few more boats in the water today = no food next year, and no new boats...with variations for environmental context). Law can be a mechanism to rein in that sort of short-sightedness, and in the 20th century, we made big steps to use it as such - often for the first time.

Folks who despise 'government' and mock lawyers often carry romantic attachments to a notion of a 'wild west' where manly men took what they wanted...they forget that even that mythology was premised on stealing land from natives (or extracting work from slaves/serfs)...when they fear immigrants, they are subtly acknowledging the possibility they are now the 'natives' about to be displaced by new forms of 'settlers.' Guilt.

"Laws were written in terms of infractions and punishments, but records of courts proceedings were filled with ridicule and guilt-tripping."
Indeed, so it has always gone. Again, I see economics at work: far cheaper for a judge to mock and shame a defendant than to pay a police enforcer to watch that person.

"On Orwell and Huxley, I see roles for both."
Likewise. But the chemical controls - and the unquestioned caste system - posit their own deep propaganda, simply to avoid questioning the assumptions. For example, American prescriptions for ADHD meds are about 4x those of France - certain kids certainly benefit, but when commercial and competitive incentives influence the prescription decision, people will seek prescriptions, rather than behavior change. Should that path continue (and incentives haven't changed at all - they've compounded) - the measure of success outcomes will be 'which kid in which district with which drugs' - rather than merely how much money the kids parent's have.

And of course, if you mix those kids in those settings with those stimuli...one can anticipate breeding...ultimately developing into alphas, betas, deltas, gammas? Probably not - if law intrudes and shifts the incentives. Not a concept canon law would ever touch upon. Common law, however, has a possibility of checking the propensity for self-segregation - just as it did with Danes, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, etc.

Jon S. said...

I only recall that "armed society" line in Beyond This Horizon; the part that most folks ignore about it (because the transition occurred before the story began) is the period before "politeness", when all the armed-and-empowered-to-use-it people are slaughtering each other over their rudeness. The idea is that all those who are too quick on the trigger will be dead, then the "polite society" can emerge from the survivors.

You can understand why the NRA, for example, would prefer to deemphasize this...

donzelion said...

Raito - not raising any kids myself, so I'm not the best placed to do more than speculate and parrot what I've heard, but I really wonder what drives that sort of recalcitrance. But seems to me that in general, parents have always played the lead role: my Dad 'taught' me a steady staple of sci-fi books. I recall one or two about dolphins and such, which were definitely not 'young adult' literature. Does your daughter read books? I see fewer and fewer kids doing so these days...

"There's lots of examples of church law being able to be circumvented by the rich"
Indeed, and so too with every law, BUT absent the law, those people could circumvent the rules of society so much more easily! Law raises the costs for doing things society doesn't like - it does not stop those things. But by tweaking those incentives, law can have pretty amazing effects.

"...in the Middle Ages committing suicide by falling on your sword was not a sin."
As I recall, there was actually debate on that topic among Catholics. Augustine suggested women who committed suicide to avoid being ravaged were mistaken about how 'purity' works, but was not judgmental as to whether they violated God's law ('thou shalt not kill' applies to self as well as others - but maybe exceptions apply). Aquinas was pretty firmly opposed (better to be enslaved/martyred than commit suicide, as your life and your freedom is God's gift to take or give as he pleases). Others may have pronounced other exceptions (e.g., on Crusade, or in other specific contexts, many of the rules changed...but then again, the Crusades themselves aren't exactly well defended under 'canon law' today).

Robert said...

If an impeachment trial starts up and Trump orders the military to attack North Korea, especially with nuclear weapons, I have a sneaking suspicion the military may refuse. BTW, a while back I amended my original belief of impeachment in 100 days to "impeachment proceedings start in 100 days" as I know how slow Congress is to act.

I am not a post-truth internet commentator.

Rob H.

David L. Craig said...

raito, I accepted that information from a journalistic source I trusted before 2014 (probably it was in 2009) and confess to not vetting it. I extend my deepest apologies to this august group for misrepresenting those facts. Thank you for performing the research I should have.

Tony Fisk said...

re "An armed society is a polite society"

This is one of those quips that are best taken as a bit of wit rather than an absolute truism. As has been pointed out, it does not mean the converse: that a polite society is an armed society.

What RAH did expand on the issue of politeness in some of his novels (eg: Friday, To Sail Beyond the Sunset) using a maxim from Confucius: that the clearest indicator of a society in terminal decline was a breakdown in manners. It makes sense if you think of society as a matter of caring for each other. He went on to suggest (without corroboration) that the state of a society's manners were reflected in the state of its public wash rooms.

David S said...

from https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein


Beyond This Horizon, Chapter 15, “Probably a blind alley—”, p. 147

"Well, in the first place an armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. For me, politeness is a sine qua non of civilization. That’s a personal evaluation only. But gunfighting has a strong biological use. We do not have enough things to kill off the weak and the stupid these days. But to stay alive as an armed citizen a man has to be either quick with his wits or with his hands, preferably both. It’s a good thing."


LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

What RAH did expand on the issue of politeness in some of his novels (eg: Friday, To Sail Beyond the Sunset) using a maxim from Confucius: that the clearest indicator of a society in terminal decline was a breakdown in manners. It makes sense if you think of society as a matter of caring for each other.


If accurate, then we are royally screwed. Politeness is now a sign of weakness, and its opposite has been elevated to a civic virtue.

donzelion said...

re 'armed society is a polite society' - thank you for confirming the quote. I suppose I haven't read enough Heinlein to have come across it - save by references in quotes. ;-)

That said...well, my experience suggests no correlation whatsoever between an 'armed society' and a 'polite society.' Manners are NOT good when one may have to back up his acts with his life. And from driving about the rural Southwest a bit lately, I'd have to say that your average gun-toting, truck driving Southwesterner loses all 'manners' and becomes downright rude on the roads.

David Brin said...

David Craig, you argue well and are welcome in this community. But I made very clear that the fifference between the GOP and DP is that the former is insanely corrupt and treasonous, but the latter are corrupt to “normal” degrees. That means, yes, we need transparency and stings to catch enough of the “normal” corruption to keep them cautious and satiable. A little graft, a little cheating… then a lot of sincerely using politics to address national problems.

I have long railed that democratic pols may be on our side in some ways, but in it for themselves, in others. For ages, Gerrymandering was a crime commited by both parties… till Blue State voters rebelled in Washington, Oregon, California and half a dozen others. DP pols screeched: “You’ll disarm us, cause the Goppers will keep gerrymandering!”

They were half right. Only Idaho (which is pure red anyway and doesn’t care) and Arizona (coerced by purple citizens, qualify as Red States who pushed back against Gerrymandering. All the others? Red voters are fine with their party pols being cheating assholes.

So it’s not just to be left to DP pols. It takes citizen power. But there, too, the advantage is Blue.

Should Congress be liable to the nation’s laws? Don’t you remember Newt promised that in the Contract With America? How’d that work out?

==
On Orwell and Huxley, the answer is simple. the meritocratic castes will have so much latent power to wreak harm if angry, that the State will have to use Huxley’s methods and soothe the expert classes into thinking all is hunky dory.

David Brin said...

Trumpenproletariate was already coined! Alas!

Yes, RAH did drink koolaid, now and then. “An armed society is a polite society?” Bull puckey. There a reason cattle hands had to hand in their guns when they rode into Dodge. Sure, it would come true after 10,000 years of gun ownership, as the genes for flashing temper were weeded out.

Ironically, the aphorism comes true when everyone is armed with… cameras! Those who draw first don’t always win. And if you shot intemperately, you can apologize.

In fact, Heinlein knew that the first half of Beyond This Horizon was silly, and he ended it as quickly as possible and got to his traditional second half blather fest. Only in this case, the action half was dopey and the blather half was brilliant!

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch; Having fun with the philosophy of law again? 8) It’s a tad more complex than your NL, DL, and HL distinctions. People make a mess of the objective/subjective delineation along with the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts.’

Natural Law is supposedly objective, but it isn’t except for the simplest of systems and even then only when the observers agree upon a set of customs that define which evidence is allowed and how confirmation tests are performed. These customs are at the heart of the scientific method of which there are many methods that are moderately related to each other, but none of the methods meet the falsifiability criterion once one departs from the hardest sciences. When it comes to Law, there is no scientific method, so abandon all hope of an agreement regarding objective evidence let alone theory. One is well into the social science domain with Law, so we have to revert to the classic methods of philosophy. Argument/Refutation. Conjecture/Counter.

If one recognizes that some of us have difficulty distinguishing Divine Law from Natural Law within an agreed set of customs and beliefs, one can see that the ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ are part of the customs… or not depending on the people involved. Try to find irrefutable evidence and you’ll find a set of customs defining what it is. From that, the distinction between the two can be both subjective and objective. It’s a matter of custom.

As for Human Law, which of the above isn’t? Perhaps we are only interested in behavior management, though, and will let physics be natural? If so, one is outside the science domain again and back to classical philosophy techniques.

Everyone Poos | Okay. This is the realm of biology and there are decent scientific methods that apply and sets of customs that practitioners follow to delineate objective from subjective. As a result we can reasonably agree (classical philosophy approach here) that everyone does indeed poo. Oops. The dead do not. Is our conjecture refuted? Nah. The dead are not people except in our imagination. Biology doesn’t recognize them as such.

Thou Shalt Not Poo | Heh. Says who? Why? If one accepts this as Revealed Truth, then one follows a set of customs. An alternate explanation can be adopted by other people following different customs that arrives at the same conclusion, though. Poo is potentially disease filled and the people who followed more tolerant customs may have died out. The most intolerant may have mistaken Divine Favor with a health decision accident of probability. They survive to tell the story, though, so Favor it is. Pfft!
You May Poo with Shame & Sin | Okay. This is a Divine Workaround. Those who stick to it avoid diseases more often because they hide their poo. Heh. Don’t knock it. It works and doesn’t have to invent Science back during the Stone Age.

You Will Poo, Potty Preferred | Wow. Same end result, different set of customs. This works too. Poo gets removed!

Obviously I’m not a big fan of divine law and the customs adopted by the people involved, but I DO recognize that they have found solutions to problems I might not even realize exist. My job as a classical liberal science fan is to ask why tradition exists before moving to terminate it no matter how illiberal its results appear to be. I don’t care if someone’s God says I should not poo, but I DO care why they think it is such a good idea. Murder happens like poo, but I think it is an interesting question to ask why someone’s God says it shouldn’t. What historical problem is being solved? What alternate customs can we adopt that solve it too? Can we swap illiberal customs for liberal ones and not destroy the desirable end result? Those questions are FAR more interesting that ‘should’ and ‘ought’ questions.

raito said...

Jon S.,

Having re-read that section tonight, he tried to volunteer for anything but infantry. So yes, I was incorrect about his attempting to avoid the military, it was the infantry he was avoiding.

donzelion,

I partly attribute my children's current development to something I was able to convince my wife was essential. We never used baby talk with our children, ever. Simple grammar? Appropriate vocabulary? Sure. But never baby talk. I cringe at how some parents speak to their babies and toddlers.

And yes, my daughter reads books (the son is just starting to read). The first time I caught her doing the stereotypical under the blanket with a flashlight thing was when she was 2. Sure, I had to bawl her out. But I was awfully proud. And the reason she likes books is that there have always been books around her in her life. She sees her parents read.

She sometimes reads too much, if such is possible, and it is. Why are we late? Because you went upstairs to get socks and got stuck in a book. But I'd still rather have it this way than the other.

David L. Craig,

I'm glad I was able to correct your misperception.

Outdated facts can be deadly, and serve no purpose. This doesn't mean that I think former Congressmen are off the hook, though. I'm pretty sure that by the fact of their tenure, they have influence of various sorts that is quite profitable. Influence not available to the rest of us.

LarryHart,

Yes, it seems that these days good manners are a sign of weakness. What the fools who so think do not understand is that there are times when I do not use good manners for the fool's sake, I use them for mine. Sadly, some persons that I had to interact with while I was working as a bouncer simply weren't capable of understanding that.

The really don't understand Churchill's quote:
"When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite."

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

“An armed society is a polite society?” Bull puckey. There a reason cattle hands had to hand in their guns when they rode into Dodge. Sure, it would come true after 10,000 years of gun ownership, as the genes for flashing temper were weeded out.


Are you sure it would work in that direction? It seems to me that it would be the quickest to draw and fire who would survive and reproduce. Quick tempers and remorselessness might be selected for over time.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LarryHart wrote: "It seems to me that it would be the quickest to draw and fire who would survive and reproduce. Quick tempers and remorselessness might be selected for over time."

I always liked Neal Stephenson's approach: Just tatoo "Poor impulse control" on their foreheads.

David S said...

The city of Vista (north San Diego county) is considering changing the election of the 4 member city council from "at large" to creating 4 districts. The stated intent is to bring the city in compliance with the California Voting Right Act of 2001 (the CVRA disfavors "at-large" voting because it can result in minority vote dilution.

Here are the proposed criteria for adopting districts:
1. Each council district shall contain a nearly equal number of inhabitants;
2. Council district borders shall be drawn in a manner that complies with the
Federal Voting Rights Act;
3. Council districts shall consist of contiguous territory in as compact form as
possible;
4. Council districts shall respect communities of interest as much as
possible;
5. Council district borders shall follow visible natural and man-made
geographical and topographical features as much as possible;
6. District borders shall attempt to avoid head-to-head contests between
incumbent Council members in order to respect the voters’ choices
insofar as this does not conflict with federal or state law;
7. After the initial establishment of districts, each newly revised council
district shall preserve the corresponding existing council district’s
population and territory as much as possible; and
8. Council districts known to be areas of higher-than-average population
growth in the years following this boundary line adjustment may be underpopulated
within the population deviation amounts allowed by law.

The full city attorney report can be read at http://vista.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=3&event_id=1090&meta_id=41426

What additional criteria should my city consider?
Does anyone have a good reference to the gerrymandering efficiency gap and model language to use when crafting district selection criteria?



Zepp Jamieson said...

David S asked, "What additional criteria should my city consider?"

Most of it looks pretty reasonable. It should specify who will be determining the districts, mandating that they be non-partisan and politically or financially disinterested parties with expertise, and there should be a provision to redraw the lines after each census.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - Rich congress critters

I'm an outlier here - I would MASSIVELY increase their pay and give an automatic long term pension

BUT - that would be under the understanding that as a "Servant of the People" he/she could have no other master - NO other source of income
Not when they were in congress/senate and not for at least 10 years after they left

If they did have something like royalties or interest payments those would instead be paid to the exchequer (or possibly a national charity)

If they didn't want to serve under those terms - fine - I don't think we would suffer from a shortage

David L. Craig said...

Dr. Brin, you puzzle me. You keep attempting to cast me in the role of GOP apologist and I must keep declining the offer on general principle. I do not approve of the GOP, either. Is that clear enough?

You envisioned 3000 colonels stumping for Bernie, despite the historical affinity of armed forces voters for the GOP, and that mystifies me somewhat. Perhaps you meant as a very much needed third party? Actually, the Israeli system of over a dozen parties starts to look interesting following this past election season and now the government it produced.

I'll give The Donald this: he's the best stress test of checks and balances we've ever had by far. If the system can't handle this, we need a new system, donchathink? What a divine twofer he is: bread and circuses.

David L. Craig said...

P.S. Hamilton's Electoral College had "its shot" and failed to deliver. Next contestant, please.

Marino said...

"I'll give The Donald this: he's the best stress test of checks and balances we've ever had by far. If the system can't handle this, we need a new system, donchathink?"



and Hitler was the best stress test for the Weimar republic? and the emerging new system...well. (OK, Godwin's law. OK)
We Italians barely survived the stress test delivered by that beta release of Trump, Berlusconi. And we're not a world power. "I'd prefer not to", as Bartleby said.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

I still say 100 days. This is one reason why.

https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/844200944506044417


I like the way the speaker keeps accidentally saying "Russian Party" and then corrects himself to "Republican Party". I wonder how accidental that really is.

Paul SB said...

Marino,
While I agree entirely with your sentiments, "I'd prefer not to" did not end well for Bartleby the Scrivener. He just sank deeper and deeper into the depression that led to his imprisonment and ultimate death. Then again, maybe this is what is happening to Western Civilization, with all these right-wing fascists attaining power .... Not a pleasant story to contemplate, to be sure.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Dr. Brin, you puzzle me. You keep attempting to cast me in the role of GOP apologist and I must keep declining the offer on general principle. I do not approve of the GOP, either. Is that clear enough?


I can't speak for Dr Brin, so caveat emptor. But through experience, anyone who claims that both parties are equally reprehensible is actually trying to deflect specific criticism that rightly belongs on the Republican Party and dilute that to a more general "pox on both your houses". That's not due to anything in particular that you've stated, but is my default reaction when I hear such words.

You envisioned 3000 colonels stumping for Bernie, despite the historical affinity of armed forces voters for the GOP, and that mystifies me somewhat.


My impression is that Dr Brin expects military officers to be horrified at Trump in particular and to act accordingly to save the country.

Perhaps you meant as a very much needed third party? Actually, the Israeli system of over a dozen parties starts to look interesting following this past election season and now the government it produced.


As long as our system allows victory by a plurality--no requirement to build a majority coalition--than a two-party system is actually preferable. With only two parties which have a chance at actually winning, the victor has to at least get something close to 50%. If there were three viable parties, one could win a squeaker with 34% of the vote. Now say we had the situation where Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Ralph Nader, and Donald Trump had roughly equal vote totals. Donald Trump might have won with 21% of the vote, even though 79% would have rather bit their own 'eads off rather than see him win.

I'll give The Donald this: he's the best stress test of checks and balances we've ever had by far. If the system can't handle this, we need a new system, donchathink? What a divine twofer he is: bread and circuses.


When Frank Sinatra sings "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere!" do you hear "If I can't make it there, then I don't deserve to live"? Because that's essentially what you just argued.


Hamilton's Electoral College had "its shot" and failed to deliver. Next contestant, please.


The electoral college functioned as designed--insuring that 3 million voters from New York and California couldn't override the will of Nebraska and South Carolina. I'm not sure you can lay the blame on Hamilton for one New York candidate with ties to Wall Street beating another New York candidate with ties to Wall Street.

Still, I can imagine Hillary and Trump engaging in this exchange:


Since when are you a Democratic-Republican?

Since being one put me on the up and up again.

No one knows who you are or what you do.

They don’t need to know me; they don’t like you.

Excuse me?...

...Oh, Wall Street thinks you’re great.
You’ll always be adored by the things you create.
But upstate, people think you’re crooked.
Schuyler’s seat was up for grabs so I took it.

I’ve always considered you a friend.

I don’t see why that has to end.

You changed parties to run against my father-in-law!

I changed parties to seize the opportunity I saw.
I swear your pride will be the death of us all!
Beware, it goeth before the fall.



LarryHart said...

Mario:

and the emerging new system...well. (OK, Godwin's law. OK)


Godwin's Law has been repealed by reality.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart: "Godwin's Law has been repealed by reality."

Wow. I think that's the best succinct summation of current events I've seen yet.

David L. Craig said...

Marino, the problem with applying Godwin's Law is any discussion involving the sitting POTUS is already very close to bottoming out--it doesn't need to be a long discussion at all to arrive there, long though this one is.

David L. Craig said...

:Still, I can imagine Hillary and Trump engaging in this exchange:"

LarryHart, Bravo, Sir, Bravo!!! Encore!!!

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

Marino, the problem with applying Godwin's Law is any discussion involving the sitting POTUS is already very close to bottoming out


No, again, you're generalizing too much. The problem is that his closest advisers in the White House and some of his staunchest supporters are actual Nazis.

LarryHart said...

David L. Craig:

LarryHart, Bravo, Sir, Bravo!!! Encore!!!


Ok, you are new here, aren't you. Most of the list has tired of my Hamilton references.

But since you asked...My teenage daughter is the one who got me hooked on the musical. So back during the presidential debates (and remember, at the time, everyone thought Hillary would kick Trump's ass up and down Fifth Avenue) the two of us were coming up with appropriate "Hamilton" lines that Hillary should have been using in the debate. I would have paid good money to hear her come out with this one:


I know that [Donald Trump] is here, and he would rather not have this debate.
I’ll remind you that he [was] not Secretary of State.
He knows nothing of loyalty,
Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty,
Desperate to rise above his station.
Everything he does betrays the ideals of our nation.


Zepp Jamieson said...

"Most of the list has tired of my Hamilton references."
Aaaand it's going to get worse. The quarterback for Les RougeetNoir is retiring now that he has a Grey Cup, which means the Tiger Cats have a serious shot at this year's CFL championship.

David L. Craig said...

"As long as our system allows victory by a plurality"

LarryHart, that's the point in Israel--it doesn't work that way. After the election and the dust has settled, those party leaders that gain the most votes begin the horse-trading with all the other parties that results in one majority coalition that gets established as the new government. Inter-party politics determines the makeup of the new government, a process somewhat independent of voter involvement.

raito said...

LarryHart,

The quickest to learn the art of ambush would survive and reproduce, as would be the ones who learned to get others to do their dirty work.

Also, I find both parties pretty close in the reprehensibility department. But I dislike parties in general, though given freedom of political speech and freedom of assembly, I haven't yet figured out a legal way to outlaw them. I also occasionally think that having been admitted to the bar should disqualify one from legislative office as a conflict of interest. But again, there's that overriding idea that anyone gets to run.

In practical terms, today decisions are swinging to one side. So I approach my thoughts from that angle. To exaggerate, powerless loonies aren't a current problem.

Davis S,

'As possible' generally ends up meaning 'I think this thing that hurts me is not possible, this thing that helps me is possible'. Who and how are things like 'communities of interest' defined, and by whom? How is 'known to be' defined? These sorts of things end up being the bones of contention down the road.

Most importantly, I don't see any indication of how and when boundaries must be rewritten.

Duncan Cairncross,

You might have people trying to congress like people currently try for the lottery. I can't say whether that's good or bad in the long run. Are you saying that the pension is permanent and it's just other income that's barred?

David L. Craig said...

"do you hear "If I can't make it there, then I don't deserve to live"?"

LarryHart, no, I don't. I was primarily expressing a bit of gallows humor. It's time to make the best of a rather undesirable situation.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@raito:

Outlaw parties? I can't figure out a way to prevent them from forming regardless of law. Faction is a disease of humanity: "man is a social animal". All I ask is for ways to prevent tiny factions from achieving outsize power: a problem that neither the US (with its parties-containing-coalitions) nor Israel and other parliamentary democracies (with their coalitions-formed-from-parties) seem to have solved. Greens in Germany get to eliminate nuclear power, ultra-Orthodox get to shove maximal settlement activity, Tea Partiers hold out for the fastest repeal of Obamacare despite a slim majority now supporting it.

@Larry: That military officers (other than some Air Force) are horrified is without question, but that they will run? As Democrats? Not clear... *unless* the damn fool starts a war as Bannon so clearly wishes. Then there will be more Tammy Duckworths.

@David Craig: Not quite fair. The EC had atrophied to the point of delirium: no one chose electors in any expectation that they would actually deliberate, and now the idea has been planted that deliberation is partisan.

But I would say that having any body chosen for such an effervescent existence to have any long-term views is silly on its face. The only bodies I see looking to the long-term future are the ones with long terms: the Fed, the Senate, the Supreme Court. They plan for the next few decades because they expect to face the consequences, or because they know how much attention history will pay. No one ever remembers an elector, unless they are faithless, and then to revile them. The feedback doesn't work.

@Dr. Brin: Of course it's nonsense as a general proposition. The proposition of "armed society == polite society" only works when you have boundary conditions, like dropping a major jump in weapons tech or a huge drop in population. Then the winnowing occurs fast, as in Jamestown or the Wild West. But when there are incremental changes, the whole thing fails: if trigger-happy fools are born or immigrate as fast as they are eliminated, a dynamic system emerges that stays rude, crude, and violent. Examples: inner-city Chicago, gang-held Central America, ISIS-held territory, southern Somalia, (metaphorically) the United States House of Representatives.

But RAH loved to study the boundary case of a frontier society.

Twominds said...

David Craig on plurality voting systems:

It works the same way in the Netherlands. We now have an interesting situation that the largest party got voted 33 of 150 seats in parliament, and will have to find partners to govern with. There´s still a ´cordon sanitaire´ around Wilders, for good or bad, and the other parties have declared they´re not willing to share power with him. So one of the second biggest (three parties almost the same number of seats) is not taken into account. I think it will be the first time we´ll have a four party coalition. And because they´ll come from different parts of the political spectrum, question is if they´ll manage the whole four years.


Paul SB, two threads back:

at least today had some good news. The right-wing idiot who Locum predicted would be swept into power in Holland lost resoundingly.

Unfortunately that´s not true. Wilders won 5 seats, going from 14 to 19, he just didn´t get the landslide that many feared and others hoped. Surprisingly, the Greens won big, more than doubling their seats. I´d expected the Socialists to pick up more.

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