Saturday, May 27, 2017

Chaos - and disturbances - in the Oval Office

The good news? Donald Trump is behaving so incoherently, unable to parse sentences, claiming to have coined phrases like “pump-priming,” announcing to the nation that “no one knew” that Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican, and changing his story about firing the FBI director within hours. You know I could go on and on with examples… like covfefe... any one of which would have put DT’s supporters in a tizzy, if they saw it done by a Democrat.

Putting that hypocrisy aside, there is a silver lining to this behavior. It means our protectors – the grownups – are fully warned. The adult men and women in the intelligence and law communities, civil service and military officer corps are already mentally prepared to do their duty, if something outrageous tips over into threatening – instead of just irritating or infuriating – the republic.

This is why I recently posted a plea for folks not to push hard for impeachment! (See below.) I gave a dozen reasons, any one of which should convince, including the mob of highly disciplined and leak-proof Dominionist fanatics that would enter the White House with a President Pence.  But the biggest reason is, again, the skill and professionalism of our protector caste. 

Aside: A dozen years ago, after a speech at an alphabetical and secret agency, I asked a couple of senior guys the following question: “I know you can’t answer this, but do you have a group or division charged with watching out for subornation of high officials of the United States?” From puzzled looks, I realized that the word “subornation” seemed strange to them, despite the fact that this method was used in struggled between nations for 4000 years and is well described in Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

The word isn’t strange to them anymore, I betcha.  See a chilling image of DT grinning with the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, the day after Trump fired the man overseeing the investigation of Russia-GOP connections.

This is why many of you are hearing the term "Deep State" being bandied by your conservative friends and their hypnosis channels. After waging war upon almost every single profession that deals with facts - from science and teaching to journalism and so on - the cult now finds they must undermine and discredit the last few standing: the FBI, the Intelligence Community and the United States Military Officer Corps. "Deep State" is the clarion call to denounce those fact-users, as well, by raising the spectre of an Orwellian "inner party" or concealed state run by conspiratorial bureaucrats.  

Mind you, I do think Suspicion of Authority is an important factor in the American psyche! And deep states have happened and might happen here. But right now, the protector caste is blatantly our main hope for maintaining the one thing most in danger of utter destruction by Fox and its co-conspirators.

Grownup maturity. The patriotic adulthood to respond calmly and purposefully, when we have clearly been invaded and suborned.

“To me, the question might finally come down to this,” Celeste Wallander, President Obama’s senior adviser on Russia, said. “Will Putin expose the failings of American democracy or will he inadvertently expose the strength of American democracy?”

== The loony-immature impeachment impatience ==

Back to the panic room. Those waving their arms and screaming "Impeach now!" are either shrill fools or else work for the Kochs, who can see everything they built being discredited by Donald Trump.  Take this fellow's spiel in Der Spiegel. "A Danger to the World  It's Time to Get Rid of Donald Trump:  Donald Trump has transformed the United States into a laughing stock and he is a danger to the world. He must be removed from the White House before things get even worse."

Bull and and 100% wrong, in every conceivable way.  As I have said elsewhere, timing is key. Trump is a GOP problem, now. Our civil servants and intelligence and military communities are now fully warned about him and are busy isolating and neutralizing his ability to do sudden or devastating harm.  Sure, he can still wreak havoc on budgets and short term international relations and court appointments etc... I am not making light of all this. But on the truly major, existential plane, he is currently not really a danger to anyone but the Republican Party.  

Whereas (I cannot repeat too often) Mike Pence is a truly dedicated Dominionist, who would fill the White House with tightly disciplined apocalypse fans. Read about why patience is now our greatest virtue.

More on the Dominionists below.

== Worshiping Reagan? ==

As Doyle McManus reports in the LA Times, “There are two kinds of conservatives in the Republican Party now: those who still invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan, and those who see more value in Trumpism…. When President Trump spoke at the conference on Friday, he never mentioned Reagan’s name at all.  Neither did Stephen K. Bannon, the president's chief theoretician. Instead, they talked about what Bannon called “a new political order” — one that leaves big parts of Reaganism behind.”

McManus focuses on policy differences between Reagan and Trump, and they are many. But this drift toward omitting the central deity of conservatism has a deeper meaning. Quick. Name one GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention!


 Except for frenzied Trumpist Newt Gingrich, all were brushed under the rug, including both Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis (friend to boys) Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, Boehner, McCain, Dole, Romney....  In fact, name a Republican between Eisenhower and Ryan who was even mentioned by the party at the RNC, other than Reagan and Newt! This shows how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance.  How desperate they are, to double down with new heroes, shouting "squirrel!" and pointing offstage at ever-greater hallucinations, rather than face the fact that their side has gone insane.

== Trump reversals add up daily ==

President Donald Trump says he’s open to raising the federal gas tax to fund infrastructure improvements -- a position that could pit him against his fellow Republicans in Congress and might hit rural voters who supported him harder than others.” -- reports Bloomberg News.

Yipe! “President Trump said Monday he’s considering breaking up major Wall Street banks and could support bringing back a Depression-era law separating consumer and investment banking.” -- reports The Hill.

And now he calls the House "health bill" - which he praised to the skies, a month ago - "mean and completely wrongheaded. Oh. My.

  == The Prosperity Gospel Strikes ==

We’ve all heard of it. The Prosperity Gospel preaches that God rewards virtue in this life, in direct proportion to the degree that a person follows a specific set of doctrines, incantations and beliefs… and not just heavenly reward, but with money and health, as well. As evidence, the preachers point – to themselves!  Aren’t they prospering, from the donations of tens of thousands of followers? When a parishioner has luck, they claim credit. When bad fortune falls? You didn’t believe fervently enough.

What about the testimony of history? That health and wealth have only a slight correlation with virtuous living? Answer: what kind of a sinful nerd would cite – or even knows any – history?  Ah, but it’s accelerating, as tens of millions double down on a hysteric sense of denial, as demonstrated in this interesting article, showing how the GOP “health plan will hurt the very people frothing for it.

Trump’s rise came as a preacher of the prosperity gospel. His promise to repeal Obamacare and replace it with just about nothing in particular relied as much on dissatisfaction with the current law as it did the delirious optimism of prosperity, and the idea that the real way to better America was to make life better for healthy and wealthy people, and to further link the two, writes Vann Newkirk in The Atlantic.

== The Dominionist Core ==

The “American ISIS is called “Dominionism” – an offshoot of fundamentalist Christianity that proclaims its desire for a coming apocalypse, as foretold in the gruesomely sadistic and opposite-to-Jesus-in-all-ways Book of Revelation.  Moreover, while they strive to topple our civilization, they also fervently declare that:

* The United  States once was, and should again be, a doctrinal Christian nation, denying the equality of other religions, or even other versions of Christianity.
• Dominionists endorse theocratic visions. The U.S. Constitution should be seen as a vehicle for implementing Biblical principles.
• Dominionists hold that wealthy people are superior to the rest of humanity and that government should be captured by them to serve only them.


As evidence of the last point, Dominionist preachers point to themselves – rich as Midas from parishioner donations that are never taxed. Dominionism means they no longer hide their mansions, ranches and helicopters, but flaunt them as proof of God’s love, promising poor suckers that they, too, will have helicopters, once the unbelievers are toppled and their wealth redistributed.

Blog commentaror Peter Olotka wrote in with the following tabulation of Dominionists in the Trump Administration -- all  of them recruited and vetted by Trump’s Dominionist Vice President:

Vice President  Mike Pence  
HUD Secretary  Ben Carson
Education Secretary  Betsy DeVos
Energy Secretary  Rick Perry
Attorney General  Jeff Sessions
CIA Director  Mike Pompeo
Agriculture Secretary  Sonny Perdue
HHS Secretary  Tom Price
EPA Director:  Scott Pruitt

Note that Trump had never met most of the Cabinet before he was President. Then, recently added:  Voter Fraud Commission: Kris Kobach, Secretary of State in bankrupt Kansas. And rumored to be on the shortlist for FBI Director: John Cornyn. 

Other powerful members of the cult include Steve Bannon & Kelly Ann Conway. Both are on the Council for National Policy a secretive Dominionist organization which has been planning a US government take over for decades. Kelly Ann is on the executive committee: Earlier notable (raving) dominionists included Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. There have also long been rumors – backed up by investigative reporting – of a cabal of Dominionist Air Force Generals who are high in the nuclear chain of command.  (The other services have resisted this infiltration.)


I have certainly written about the Dominionist  frenzy.  My own take is that this movement - along with almost every other aspect of this debacle - is driven not so much by religious faith as by:

1- The needs of a swathe of oligarchs (not all billionaires, but a lot of them) who want to lock in feudal social order...

2- Hatred of intellect. Of all the smartypants city/university types. This is why Hillary Clinton miscalculated, thinking DT's own words would bury him. He rose up in the esteem of the confederate rank and file, each time he infuriated us; that was his chief attractive trait and remains so.  

This means his bulwark of support, the untouchable core of maybe 1/3 of the population, will not be moved by our complaints over crazy stuff. Every seething yelp we emit goes straight to their pleasure centers.

Bear in mind that impeaching Trump will empower these people, even more! Wait. Wait until Congress changes hands. And I'll tell you later how to do that.

We need new tactics.

== Surveillance and such ==

Operation Bedbug
This interactive map shows which hotels around the world are part of Operation Bedbug – an intense campaign by the Chinese government to buy up hotel chains that might then spy on guests, tapping the house WiFi, installing cameras and bugs, especially in locales that host tech conferences. 

This honey pot trap was exposed at the famed Waldorf-Astoria in NYC, by INVNT/IP and Mark Anderson’s Strategic News Service. As a result, the Waldorf lost so much business from (rightfully) paranoid officials and executives that the hotel effectively went out of business.
     
Not mentioned is the other danger – using these hotels to lure lonely officials into bad judgment and behaviors that make them subject to blackmail.  ALL of you should beware.

== Republicans vs Democrats ==

And finally... a few things that are independent of left-right politics distinguish Republican presidents from Democratic ones.  Exceptionally telling is what they do after leaving office.  

GOP ex-presidents -- 100% of them -- retire to a ranch or farm, hold court, play golf, engage in some craft, sit on a few corporate boards. 

DP ex-presidents -- almost all of them -- scurry about frenetically and busily arm-twisting and speaking for causes, trying to save the world.  The one exception was Lyndon Johnson, who was so exhausted and wounded in the post-Vietnam miasma that he just kinda waited on his ranch for it all to end ASAP.

There are other distinguishing traits. Every Democratic nominee for president chooses a running mate who is both highly qualified and rather boring. 

With one exception, GOP nominees pick running mates who are spectacularly unqualified to run a great, technologically advanced and forward looking civilization.  That exception was Ronald Reagan, whose choice was - on paper -- hugely well qualified.  And that choice went on to become the worst president of the 20th Century. (His son is no longer the worst of the 21st Century. Some distinction.)

See another non-political hint at the core difference of personality between the parties... obsession with symbolism... which also lies at the heart of our present madness.

An amusing anecdote how one fellow – frustrated by a bad grade – was almost entirely responsible for getting through the most recent amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  It is also a warning to put time limits on these things.

And now enough. This perspective-dumps just keep getting longer, alas. Oh for a boringly grownup republic, once more.

77 comments:

Tim H. said...

In light of the preference of some denizens of Wall $treet to disable safety mechanisms and the GOP's desire that no one should have government sponsored safeties, there may come an opportunity to shake things up in a large way, damned shame there'll be so much suffering involved if change happens that way. Odd how conservatives and disabling safety mechanisms came to be linked, I think it could be tied to the prosperity/dominionist heresy.

Anonymous said...

How was George HW Bush the worst president of the 20th Century?

Tim H. said...

Possibly Harding-Coolidge would compete strongly for that title...

Susan Watson said...

Have you posted about anti-gerrymandering auto-redistricting software yet? If so, I've missed it.

California is already using a version to redraw districts to maximize 'compactness': http://nationbuilder.com/auto_districting

Also see: http://autoredistrict.org/

... interested in what you think.

Josh Freeman said...

"Whereas Pence is a dominionist who would fill the White House with tightly disciplined apocalypse fans."
...
"Vice President Mike Pence
HUD Secretary Ben Carson
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
CIA Director Mike Pompeo
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
HHS Secretary Tom Price
EPA Director: Scott Pruitt
Kris Kobach
Steve Bannon
Kelly Ann Conway"

Sounds like they're already there.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Whereas Pence is a dominionist who would fill the White House with tightly disciplined apocalypse fans."
...
"Vice President Mike Pence
HUD Secretary Ben Carson
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
Energy Secretary Rick Perry
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
CIA Director Mike Pompeo
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
HHS Secretary Tom Price
EPA Director: Scott Pruitt
Kris Kobach
Steve Bannon
Kelly Ann Conway"


Let's not forget Thomas, Alito and Roberts, who are also Dominionists. Don't know about Gorsuch.

If he isn't, then they lost ground there: Scaly was a dominionist.

David Brin said...

Zepp I pray you are wrong about Roberts and Alito.

Anonymous, GHWBush opened the door for Russian mafia oligarchy. The "advisors" he sent over to "help" Boris Yeltsin transition to capitalism "helped" themselves and local Russian-commie thugs to vast fortunes, wrecking what should have been a transition to liberal democracy.

Then, amid a victorious Iraq War, he decided to stop at 100 hours, refusing Schwarzkopf's pleas to go on to save the shiite peoples of Basra and southern Iraq from being slaughtered by Saddam. Bush PERSONALLY had told them "Rise up! We are on our way!" He personally betrayed a million people to suffering and death at the hands of a monster, ensuring we will be hated by the Shiites for generations.

A despicable-wretched horror of a man, and I don't care if I am the only person alive who is saying it. Not only the worst president of the 20th Century, but in the running for worst of all.

Paul451 said...

" == The Cominionist Core == "

A typo or a pun I missed?

--

"The one exception was Lyndon Johnson"

I think LBJ's personality fitted the mould of a Republican/Dixicrat politician.

Paul451 said...

Re: Bush's betrayal of the Shiites and Kurds in Iraq:

There are two possible explanations for Bush's actions, incompetence or malice. Incompetence: He made the call with no understanding of the implications, negotiated the treaty with no understanding of how Saddam would use the reprieve. Malice: Precipitating the uprisings was a cynical ploy to force Saddam to sign the cease-fire; the Shiites/Kurds were deliberately set up.

But personally, I don't see Bush's betrayal as any worse than the US reneging on their post-WWII promise of independence for the SEAsian colonies whose populations resisted the Japanese. It is just one more item on a long list of supposed "Realpolitik" pragmatic actions proving to be moronic and self-defeating in the long-run.

--

Susan Watson,
Re: Gerrymandering.

"Compactness" isn't sufficient. The rule should be that the district boundaries are redrawn such that if people voted exactly the same as they did in the last election, the result would reflect the actual result. Ie, the majority of voters would win the majority of seats, in reasonable proportion to the size of their majority. That way, any change in each election should reflect the actual changes in people's opinions and wishes.

David Brin said...

Bush had vastly more and better information than when Truman (admittedly) betrayed Ho Chi Minh. He betrayed the Iraqis because the Saudis did not want an independent, Shiite Arab entity on the Gulf. Your third explanation would be evil lackey.

Dwight Williams said...

Liking this phrasing:

"...the prosperity/dominionist heresy."

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

My computer is saying your last comment was posted at 2:01 am. Are you in a different time zone, or are you that busy? If the latter, your retirement years be a little too busy, though that might also be the case if the former.

Paul SB said...

Dwight, while I am not disagreeing with you, the prosperity/dominionist heresy can be traced all the way back tot he High Middle Ages. It's really an intellectual modality that easily takes over during more prosperous times. When life is miserable, like during the time of the Black Plague, no one believes in prosperity on Earth and they look for it in the afterlife, and when times are better they change their tune. It parallels atheism, which rises when people have good jobs and falls when the economy goes to hell.

Come to think of it, maybe that's been the Republican economic plan all along!

Paul SB said...

Darrell,

I forgot to get back to you on h/g time studies from last thread. I must have misremembered one specific culture and generalized to all. It's been too long since I was deep in this stuff. Marshall Sahlins had the bad habit of being very thorough, he was the one who coined the phrase "original affluent society" - in this case I'm not relying on admittedly limited memory - I looked it up. I do remember professors rolling their eyes at this, as well as older ethnographies with titles like "The Harmless People."

That brings up a related topic, though. Robert Sapolsky's new book, "Behave" talks a bit about the estimates of violence among h/gs that Pinker used in his "Better Angels of our Nature" and shows them to be very faulty and misleading (p.317-325). He has a long, bulleted list of flaws, one of the most damning is that he conflates cultures that are not h/gs with actual, nomadic h/gs (which more closely model 200,000 years of the evolution of human instinct). He cherry picks especially violent horticulturalists who supplement their diets with hunting and gathering, as well as some sedentary h/gs whose lifestyle requires much more rigid territoriality which is often enforced violently. Sapolsky shows a graph that makes this point on p.322. The violence numbers among true nomadic h/gs are quite tiny, but if you lump small sedentary cultures in there the number shoots way, way up.

This points out the dangers of trying to use data from a field you are not trained in. Maybe Pinker did that deliberately, but more likely he simply didn't know any better, and the mismatched figures happened to support his hypothesis. Sapolsky, on the other hand, has degrees in both neuroscience (which is what he's famous for) and anthropology, so he knows what he is talking about.

LarryHart said...

On gerrymandering, a couple of rhetorical questions...

1) In football, why doesn't the winning team get first pick of next year's draft candidates?

2) In any sport, why doesn't the championship team get to hand-pick next year's referees from a pool of their own fans and team members?

Gerrymandering won't be solved by mathematical algorithms, but by changing the rules on who gets to draw the districts. Like when you and your bratty little sister divide up the last piece of pie--one slices and the other chooses. Maybe the best solution would be something like binding arbitration where the arbiter can't change the proposals but can only choose from one of the two. The incentive then is to propose something that will look fairer than the other side's. That would still leave the question of who arbitrates the arbiter, but it would probably be easier to make a mathematical algorithm to mediate between competing proposals than to have one draw up fair districts from scratch.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul451 wrote: "Re: Bush's betrayal of the Shiites and Kurds in Iraq:

There are two possible explanations for Bush's actions, incompetence or malice."

There's a third. Indifference. Bush got he wanted from the Kurds-A largely imaginary threat from the north to distract Hussein while the allies attacked from the south, and then he betrayed them because they no longer served any purpose and left them open to Saddam's vengeance.
Previously, of course, the US supplied Saddam with the weapons of mass destruction--most of which were in direct violation of international law, and watched with a small, satisfied smile as Saddam tested them on the Kurds. America would have preferred he use them on Iran, but Saddam was afraid Iran might have such weapons of their own. Bush couldn't have everything, but at least all those dead kids told him that those weapons work just great.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Zepp I pray you are wrong about Roberts and Alito."

I wish I was. Neither admit to it, but their rulings strongly indicate their leanings. And they were strongly supported during the nomination process by overt Dominionists such as Cruz, Bachmann, and Gingrich.
All three justices are members of Opus Dei, which has strong Dominionist leanings, as was Scalia.

TCB said...

@LarryHart: "Like when you and your bratty little sister divide up the last piece of pie--one slices and the other chooses."

Oh ho, I like that.

Re: Bush and the First Gulf War aftermath: It's noteworthy that we (as in mainly the United States, also the UK and France) accidentally created a democratic state in the north of Iraq, after abandoning the Shiites and Kurds to Saddam's tender mercies. Saddam's weakened yet still potent forces used helicopters to strafe civilians and put down rebellions in both the north and south. Though Iraqi fixed-wing aircraft were grounded after the cease-fire, General Schwarzkopf got snookered into permitting Iraqi helicopters to fly, assuming the helicopters would only be for liaison purposes.

After much embarrassment and bad press, the victors imposed total no-fly zones in the north and south, which meant that Saddam's government soon found itself unable to exert any power in the north among the Kurds. (I get the impression he was never so disempowered in the south and could continue to meddle there without air power). And so, for a little over a decade, an informal Kurdish state existed as an island of relative peace, prosperity and democratic self-rule. All without 'advisors' and 'assistance,' the people in the Northern no-fly zone showed they only needed to be left alone and protected from aggression.

Naturally, George HW Bush's son ruined all that.

Jumper said...

H.W., to use the metaphor of captain of the ship, set a course that was wrong. During that time the engines ran smoothly, the ship did not catch fire, some painting was done, fuel taken aboard. H.W. was too hard-nosed to be a strict anti-colonialist, much to his erosion as a moral leader: he simply didn't care about the betrayal of the Shiites. The invasion was terminated with historically small American losses.
To contemplate a president who is much worse is not comfortable. The moving Overton window is the real horror.

donzelion said...

Re 'suspicion of authority' - think it's time to retire that term and replace it with a more accurate, updated one.

Not all 'suspicion' is created equal, but all 'suspicion' is created. We have 'suspicion' based on logic, facts, verification processes, and professionals looking out against other professionals to rein them in, as well as amateurs applying their conscience to facts to prevent abuses. Healthy. Important.

But raw 'suspicion peddlars' - like Trump - create conspiracy theories that obscure facts and prevent reasonable, effective checks on power from operating. Using the vocabulary of SOA, they thwart the purposes. Trump will launch a thousand investigations to go after perpetrators of the Bowling Green Massacre, illegal voters in 2016, refugee terrorists, and extraterrestrials who aligned with Clinton and Elvis to smear his good name and hide his brilliance - all while extracting more rents from behind the scenes and disarming real controls. SoA needs a refinement that captures the distinction between effective and ineffective 'faux SOA.'

donzelion said...

HW did care about the Shiites; just not enough to risk significant losses of troops. He hoped they + the Kurds could bring down Saddam without American losses; oddsmakers in intelligence gave them about even odds to do so...in early 1991.

Where Dr. Brin sees malicious evil and subservience to Saudis, most historians see caution (and in this case, most evidence supports that view). It's sort of like Yoda being the most evil creation in literary history (though from the sound of it, The Last Jedi may be going in precisely the existentialist direction I proposed a year ago...).

David Brin said...

1- at least the Kurds got a no-fly zone that effectively gave them independence from Saddam. Had Bush Sr just given the southern shiites that much, they might be our friends today.

2- No one ever mentions my solution to gerrymandering, though I explain it time and again. LET the state assembly gerrymander all they want under a moderate perimeter to area rule. But the districts for state assembly, state senate and Congress must have MINIMAL OVERLAP. If one party rules, let em have their messed up, unfair assembly districts (limited by a coarse contortion limit.) But the other two houses will be very different.

3- donzelion that is utter drivel. Show us how the Saudis weren’t the one major interest group that benefited most from the suppression of a southern arab-shiite ministate on the gulf. Though over the long run, after Saddam’s fall, the real beneficiary was Iran. Shortsighted idiots.

HW’s reasons were never clear. We were taking insignificant casualties at that point. He was mocked for wanting the round number of “100 hours.” No, stop reflexively defending your pals against what’s blatantly obvious.

4- One scene proves Yoda's evil, though in fact, he is evil in EVERY scene. When he orders the Jedi into a suicide attack that kills most of them and then he shows up with his clone army JUST after they have been slaughtered. His taking delivery of the clone army he ordered (there is NEVER any reason to believe otherwise) would have taken weeks. Hence he could have called off or delayed the Jedi attack by even five minutes and saved his colleagues. I mean, his now-inconvenient and disposable rivals.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin, there's a hilarious series of Star Wars dubs on Youtube by user Auralnauts. It portrays the Jedi as hedonistic frat-boy goons, the Jedi Council as a bunch of stoners who never leave their headquarters, the Empire as a corporation that runs theme parks, and C3PO as "Creepio", an utter lunatic. In other words, better plot than the movies.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
re "he conflates cultures that are not h/gs with actual, nomadic h/gs"

methinks you are pulling a "no true Scotsman" here - with part of the definition that a "true" h/g society has low violence rates

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

And that choice went on to become the worst president of the 20th Century. (His son is no longer the worst of the 21st Century. Some distinction.)


I saw an amusing image on Twitter. The first panel was an image of W with the caption, "No longer the dumbest president." Next to that was an image of Nixon and a caption reading, "No longer the most corrupt president." Then at the bottom, the punchline caption, "Both titles were stolen!"


An amusing anecdote how one fellow – frustrated by a bad grade – was almost entirely responsible for getting through the most recent amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It is also a warning to put time limits on these things.


I'm not sure I feel a need to have the ratification take place within a certain time interval of the amendment's proposal. However, I do think the 3/4 of states ratifying the amendment should take place close enough to be considered "at the same time". Maybe states should be able to take back their ratification after the state legislative elections or something like that. That way, the amendment is only legal if 3/4 of states want it at (roughly) the same time.

I don't have a problem with Kentucky having ratified an amendment in 1792 as long as they haven't decided not to do so in the interim.

LarryHart said...

...What I mean above is...

Right now, the amendment process seems to work as if each state has a series of on/off light switches that only works in one direction. Once your state's light is "on" (for ratification), it stays on forever. Once 3/4 of the lights are "on", the amendment is considered to be ratified.

My suggestion would be that the states are allowed to toggle their lights "on" and "off". Although it seems intuitive that a state could not "take back" its ratification gratuitously, it could easily be allowed once per legislative session, or once per census decade, or some such interval. An amendment then would be considered ratified if 3/4 of the lights were "on" at the same time.

Note, this would not preclude Kentucky's 1792 ratification of the 27th amendment, but it would have given them 200 years to revoke their ratification if they so chose. Not doing so implies "Yeah, we're still good with that," and therefore counts as a yes vote.

LarryHart said...

...And I suppose one might also consider letting Congress "un-propose" an amendment that has not yet been ratified by the states. But they'd have to do it with the same 2/3 supermajority that it takes to propose an amendment in the first place.

LarryHart said...

President Snow says the foreign trip was a home run. It reminds me more of the "Rainbow Tour" in Evita, in which Eva Peron has a great reception in Spain, doesn't do quite so well in Italy, starts well but faded in France, and then...


Face the facts--the rainbow's starting to fade.
I don't think she'll make it to England now.
(It wasn't on the "shedule" anyhow.)
Better get out the flags and fix a parade.
Some kind of coming home in triumph is required.

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I can see your point, and Sapolsky's book is so new you might not be able to find it right away, so you might not be able to read it for yourself (it came out a week before my birthday, so you can guess how I got it). But getting to the point, context is everything. The list of reasons why Pinker's estimates are wrong is quite long. He refers to a study that actually gets it down to nomadic h/gs that I was able to track down on the internet, so you can read that one for yourself.

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6143/270.full

One thing you will notice is that in the bar graph of lethal violence, one particular group accounts for 69 out of 148 incidents (the Tiwi of Australia). However, Sapolsky does not claim that h/gs are entirely peaceful. "Nonetheless, these HGs are no tie-died pacifists: 86 per cent of the cultures experienced lethal violence." (p.323)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
I registered and read that article

I could NOT find out how big the groups were or the period of the sample
Did you have any luck?

The "Tiwi" are 2500 people - and we will have their history over less than 200 years
So for 50,000 people/years we get 69 murders - or 138/100,000/year
If the others were half of that then 69/100,000/year

So only 17 times as bad as the USA!!

That is not as bad as Pinker's estimates - but still in the same ball park

And I was assuming "worse case" (lowest murders) - if the study was only of part of the Tiwi group
(as most are now westernized)
or of only a part of the time period
(to get them when they are "unspoiled")
Then the murder rate goes UP and UP

Alfred Differ said...

they still call me an admiral
but I gave up the sea, long ago

Paul SB said...

Duncan, I don't have that ethnography, so I couldn't look it up. But there is a flaw in your logic here. You pick the most extreme example and extrapolate from there: "If the others were half of that then 69/100,000/year"

But look at that graph again and you will see that none of them even come close to half of that. Several have 0, most have just a handful, and #2 after the Tiwi had only 10, approximately 1/7th the Tiwi numbers. Plotting this as a line graph or a box-and-whisker makes it pretty obvious. Any statistician would throw the Tiwi out of calculations as an extreme outlier.

I am not arguing with Pinker's main point - that nations have to have strong government and robust justice systems or they will fall apart. Pinker's argument is in direct opposition to paranoid propaganda that the right wing has spewed since Orwell's 1984 wedged itself deep into the amygdalas of the average person (few of whom actually read it for themselves). The right wing takes advantage of this exaggerated SoA to remove restraints on the dishonest and at times even homicidal practices of the big businesses that they are financially invested in, without concern for anyone else but their own immediate profits and disregarding the wider and longer-term consequences for the survival of the species.

But the contention that conditions would be exactly the same for any human social group regardless of population density is naive, and the idea that all people who did not live in civilization are simple barbarians and savages has more to do with Biblical and Victorian prejudices than reality. One of the methodological problems is making inappropriate comparisons (apples to oranges to mogongo nuts to thermonuclear weapons). This discussion was prompted by an earlier discussion of mental health, in which you contended that mental health must have been worse among h/gs because they were in constant fear of being killed by members of their own societies. If you had said that about chiefdoms you would probably have been correct. Maybe tribes as well. One thing the anthropological record shows to those who know it is that there is a huge amount of variability within each of these taxonomic groups. So if you want to cherry pick, you can make any assertion you like. Some of these societies operated under conditions that mitigated against violence while others did not. One factor that should be obvious is how geographically constrained they were. When the landscape is relatively empty of human habitation, as it was for most of 2.5 million years, fights within groups tend to lead to fissioning of the group. More violent groups tend to be ones that have nowhere to go to get enemies away from each other.

Paul SB said...

This brings up one of the points that Sapolsky repeats: modern h/gs cannot be assumed to model the conditions of prehistoric human life 100%. As terrestrial landscapes have filled with hominids, that safety valve has disappeared, radically altering conditions for said hominids. Now we have to deal with these problems with a prison system, something that requires a strong governmental apparatus to make effective. Some are more effective than others. Here's a video that, oddly enough, my video game abusing 13 year old came across and showed me, about the rather extreme different between the American prison system and the Norwegian system. I have a couple quibbles with it, but it does make some useful points.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxdgPnYyj64

Living as our prehistoric ancestors did might have been highly stressful for a few groups, due to internal conflicts, but the variability of societies we see today at least hints pretty strongly that this was far from universal and stress-related disorders were probably very rare. Even with interpersonal violence rates at 17 times what they are in modern civilizations, doctors examining modern h/gs have recorded stress-related disorders very rarely among them, if at all. Most of what causes the misery of modern civilization is not the fear of violent death, but the fear of toxic management and toxic relationships, in civilizations so constrained that we can no longer "vote with our feet" and can hardly even afford to be selective about the jobs we accept when we are lucky to have a job at all. That allows toxic management to flourish, propelled by conservative memes about meritocracy and divine justice that inflates the egos of those who were fortunate enough to be born with every advantage while crushing the souls of those who were not. The Black Lives Matter movement is not about a bunch of spoiled brats trying to assert their claim of superiority over others, it's a result of generations of being denigrated (consider the origins of that word) by an extremely hierarchical society - which ironically claims to not be.

And a point I was making when I brought up Dr. Brin's idea of the Age of the Amateur is that there are ways in which human civilization is returning to more healthy ways of existing that are more in line with the instincts the species evolved over the 2.5 million years before civilization. These changes are facilitated by advances in technology, but they are also reactions to the oppressiveness created by our hierarchical economic system. These moves toward healthier conditions will not go anywhere, however, as long as humans cling to the same misunderstandings about human nature. As long as people buy the meritocratic bullshit that is really just a variation on the theme of divine justice - itself a product of civilization with its divine right of kings - conditions for the species will only deteriorate as the population grows. Like any positive feedback loop, it will eventually reach the limits of its growth and collapse under its own weight. This is not inevitable. Innovative societies learn to change and adapt to changing conditions. Conservative societies that refuse to change themselves when conditions change are the ones that collapse.

Paul SB said...

Given where the human species is currently, and deeper understanding of its nature, along with growing technology to create opportunities for people to meet their ancient, instinctive needs, is what it is going to take to survive. If we keep clinging to the old myths of civilization, we are as doomed as locum claims we are. It's the ability to change and adapt that will prove him wrong. Though maybe not in any of our lifetimes - but we can see those changes being planted today. The fools who would bring humans to extinction are the ones who cling to their old prejudices, the ignorance that existed before we had the kind of human sciences that can reveal why we fail when we fail and why we succeed when we do.

Extinction or the collapse of civilization are not inevitable, if we examine our ancient prejudices, discover our true nature (the Know Thyself carved on the Temple of Apollo in Delfi can be broadened to Know Thy Species) and learn which ones to conserve and which ones to reject. The reflexive assumption that anyone who was not "civilized" must have been an evil, mindlessly violent savage is one of those - as is the opposite notion of the noble savage. It will take a whole lot of commitment to finding the truth to find the right match between instinct and institution.

Sorry for another long essay...

donzelion said...

"at least the Kurds got a no-fly zone that effectively gave them independence from Saddam.

The quid pro quo necessary with Turkey to make that happen was astonishing, and a result of decades of NATO relations. As it happened, the monthes it took to set up similar arrangements in the south proved to be all that Saddam needed to crush the uprising. Nobody knew that would happen in early 1991. The fact that it wasnt known says a lot about what Reagan had done to the Arab experts in our intelligence agencies...

No one ever mentions my solution to gerrymandering
I like the California 'public justification' approavh, where public hearings are held in which non-politicians have to justify each boundary.

"Show us how the Saudis weren’t the one major interest group that benefited most from the suppression of a southern arab-shiite ministate on the gulf."

Reagan's (and Bush Jr's people at the time) initially advocated for dividing Iraq into three pieces (which would remove Iraqi oil from global markets for decades to come...). But the horizontal drilling, fracking, and microwave treatments that would let Americans capitalize on a supply disruption of that magnitude were still theoretical in 1991 and unproven. With no new Americans clearly benefiting from higher oil prices, and millions benefiting from low prices, keeping Iraq intact was useful. But when other states are concerned, leaders from a superpower with minimal data cannot dictate outcomes over a long term: Israel could not do so with Palestinians without a serious price, and their motivation, expertise, and need were orders of magnitude more intense than our own in taking on Iraq...in 1991. In 2003 though, there were vast fortunes to be made in America so long as Iraqi oil could be kept off the market.

"No, stop reflexively defending your pals against what’s blatantly obvious."
Not my pals. I still disagree with HW. I just don't think it was 'evil.' There is a lot more at work in 1991 than Saudis giving orders, the subsequent years proved that in dramatic form, and a lot that happened in 2003 that couldnt have happened in 1991 - all of which results in a better understanding of the relationship than a cabal.

"One scene proves Yoda's evil..."

What if he was just enormously incompetent? :-) Wasn't it Mace who ordered the suicidal charge?

I could see him contemplating that five minute screwup for 20 years on Dagobah, and thinking maybe it was all for the best if the jedi disappear...

Mr. Driscoll said...

Dr. Brin, Although I don't disagree with you entirely about the Intelligence/Military backstop for our government I'm curious about your opinion of McMaster's and Kelly's defense of Kushner's back channel request to the Russians.

David Brin said...

Donzelion: “The quid pro quo necessary with Turkey to make that happen was astonishing, and a result of decades of NATO relations. As it happened, the monthes it took to set up similar arrangements in the south proved to be all that Saddam needed to crush the uprising.”

Oh come on man! Try harder! That stunning malarkey is incredible! Saddam was terrified of Schwarzkopf’s forces by then, and he was doing anything he was told. He asked PERMISSION to fly his attack helicopters against his people and GHWBush gave the permission. All we had to say was “Don’t fly below this latitude and he would not have.

There were no neighbors to negotiate with about the Southern Shiites except one. Just one. Only one. The Saudis. Who said “No Way! Saddam isn’t a threat to us, anymore, so put him back in charge so he can crush those people.”

Yes, oil was a factor. A unified Iraq would continue to be under sanctions and keep its oil off the market, benefiting SA and hurting us, so naturally that’s what happened. Had a southern Shiite Arab entity been protected, its oil would have poured forth, benefiting its people and lowering prices within 6 months.

“Reagan's (and Bush Jr's people at the time) initially advocated for dividing Iraq into three pieces”

The logical thing to do. Vetoed by the Bush family’s masters in Riyadh. The Bush family has always been a cadet branch of the Saudi Royal House.


Mace didn’t order the suicide charge. Mace was the only Jedi who did his job as a secret agent and snuck up on Dookoo. With two more helpers he would have succeeded.

David Brin said...

Mr. Driscoll, I know some senior officers who are fretful about the rightist insanity, as I describe. But to be honest, my evidence for McMaster is slim. Possibly even wishful thinking. I see him walking a tightrope, "Supporting" DT while desperately couching every statement in ways that are strictly true and not lies. I am not rushing to judge these statements. He has to flatter DT in order top stay head of the NSC. And oh, we need adults in that room.

locumranch said...


Once-was, my children, the idea of becoming a 'grownup' implied independence, maturity, autonomy, initiative & individual responsibility, but no longer, as it has been redefined by the likes of David into signifying the Orwellian opposites of passivity, dependence & obedience.

This is what David means when he identifies our protectors as "the grownups":

He means that (1) only those who qualify as protectors (in his eyes) are 'grownup', (2) 'growing up' (in his eyes also) requires at least an A Level of educational indoctrination, (3) all others who do not meet these unstated criteria are neither mature nor 'grownup', and (4) those who do not qualify as either mature or 'grownup' are supposed to just 'shut up' & 'obey their betters' in the same manner that academia expects the ideal student to act 'grownup' by remaining silent, attentive & obedient.

Welcome to Orwell's Dystopia:

By virtue of their special 'enlightenment', the Progressive Western Cohort has arrogated onto themselves the term 'grownup', defined themselves as the only ADULTS in the room & deliberately infantilised their sociopolitical opposition as immature, intransigent, dependent, fanatical know-nothings.

The dictionary says otherwise however. Adult means mature, autonomous, independent. Adults do not cower under the skirts of a metaphorical parent. They may act 'freely' to protect their own interests if they so choose; they are not subject to someone else's adult-ish authority; they are under no obligation to 'shut up', sit quietly & kowtow to enlightened (and/or) arbitrary orders; and they are resistant to shame & flattery as a means of external control.

You'd think a self-identified 'Libertarian' would understand this distinction.

And, what's the difference between a Dominionist fanatic & Deep State secularist? There is none. (1) Both are little children who reject adult responsibility & initiative and defer to the imagined protection of a metaphorical parent and (2) both express FAITH in a 'greater agency' that has been known to 'destroy the Village (and/or the World) in order to save it', excepting that the Dominionist fanatic calls this greater agency 'God' & the Deep State secularist calls this greater agency 'Government'.

"The Gubberment LOVES me, this I know, because our secular priest David tells us so".


Best
____
Voted for DT? Against Gay Marriage? Nationalist leanings? Dispute Climate Change? Then, you don't have a say in how you live your life because you're just a widdle piddle baby. Put on this dunce cap. Stand in corner. Shut up. Or else. No pudding for you. Coal for Xmas. Gulag. And we'll call you RACIST.

David Brin said...

Ah, he’s back: “it has been redefined by the likes of David into signifying the Orwellian opposites of passivity, dependence & obedience.”

If he were firing salvoes even remotely in my direction, I might get angry. But all these strawmen prove is his own delusional psychosis.

Still I will answer this next sentence because it addresses why these loonies are dangerous: “And, what's the difference between a Dominionist fanatic & Deep State secularist? There is none.”

So says the fanatic who is incapable of grasping the positive sum ways that grownups argue and negotiate and revise their positions, in the face of evidence. Indeed the way they SEEK argument and criticism, in order to pierce their own delusions or errors.

This was a trait of grownups even long before the positive sum enlightenment. There were always kings — the best ones — who knew the dangers of circle-jerking flattery and conveniently evidence-resistant dogmas. But they could never make it stick, and soon they were replaced by flattery-seeking psychopaths.

The dominionists and alt-righters are the OPPOSITE of grownups. Their incantations are self-flattering yowls (“We’ll get all the good stuff that was made and earned by smartypants, because God wants us to kill them and take it all!”)

Oh, and they actively want the world to end, according to a scenario screeched by the most evil book on the planet.

As for the final part. No, we do NOT seek to rob you of your rights. That is YOUR side’s zero sum view of life and you are projecting it on us.

Trump and the goppers are currently savaging every single program having to do with blue stuff like science. They are stealing jobs/contracts/factories and sending them to red states that could not attract them in fair competition, without government orders like those Ryan and Trump are issuing. And so they hope to prop up supply side disasters like Kansas, Oklahoma, Alabama etc.

Do Democrats do this, when they have powers? Every DP administration BOOSTED programs and aid to red America. Like FDR’s Tennessee Valley Authority and Johnson’s War on Poverty, that ended Hillbilly tragedies. We don’t behave like you because we aren’t like you. Your logic is infanitle and not our logic. Worse, you are an ingrate.

You perceive us being like you. But we aren’t such filthy-minded, hate-drenched, vindictive souls. You are screming at a face you see in a mirror.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
Without the actual numbers and times of those studies we are grasping at straws

BUT the article itself said that the mean without the Tiwi was half of with the Tiwi
I suspect that the other H/G groups in the study were much smaller and THAT is why they had less deaths

The idea that in the early days there was less pressure from other groups - yes such a period obviously happened BUT it was very very very short

A small group of Maori was stranded on the empty but large islands of NZ - when the Europeans arrived less than 500 years later all of NZ was occupied at the maximum population density that the Maori technology could accommodate and the warfare part of the cycle was starting

Humans spread FAST! - it only took a few thousand years for the whole of the Americas to be occupied

We and all humans since the development of States have vastly more opportunities to "move" than H/G's ever had (except for those very few who lived at the fast moving borderlines of human expansion - maybe 0.01% - or less)
If you "move" in a H/G environment you are immediately a stranger in somebody else's territory and you will almost certainly be killed

Jared Diamond spent a lot of time among H/G societies in New Guinea

http://www.jareddiamond.org/Jared_Diamond/The_World_Until_Yesterday.html

Well worth a read - I think I will re-read my copy
Come to that I will have to get another copy of Guns, Germs and Steel as I lent mine out and it wasn't returned

Jumper said...

Some territories are never habitable year round. The mountains in winter are no place to be. To haul some dried fish and bear fat and fur down the mountain is a valid plan for the itenerant.

locumranch said...



Of David's ability to argue past me & concede nothing, while simultaneously proving my position that he would deny the 'grown up' & valid nature of his opposition's agency, I admit to his superiority in this literary regard. Against my own better judgement, however, I find myself forced to ask what tome he refers to when he refers to world-ending scenarios contained within "the most evil book on the planet".

The "most evil book on the planet" !!!. Could it be Hitler's racist 'Mein Kampf' with it's subsequent +50 Million body count? 'The Communist Manifesto', perhaps, with it's +100 Million Identity Politic-motivated slaughter of innocents? The hateful lies of the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion'? The Muslim Koran', perhaps, for its unapologetic endorsements of slavery, murder, sexism & pedophilia? The world-ending tale of Divine Wrath, Noah & the Ark? Or, the popular catastrophic world-ending fiction of Brin's 'Earth' and 'Existence'?

Oh, he means the Christian Bible, I think, because this book (oft-referred to as 'The Greatest Story Ever Told') tends to link death to renewal, sin to forgiveness, destruction to rebirth & despair to hope. How foolishly 'cyclic'. How unrepentantly 'evil', this theological attempt to temper sin, death, pessimism, destruction & despair with renewal, optimism, forgiveness, rebirth & hope. There's no other word for it but EVIL.

Luckily, we can all find comfort in any TV News Network's reportage of the ongoing Climate Change Apocalypse and Trump-a-geddon. We could set the world to rights, we could, once we disregard that evil superstitious book which preaches tolerance, mercy, forgiveness & 'turning the other cheek'.

Then, we could turn the entire Middle East to nuclear glass because Manchester.


Best

TCB said...

Say what you will about Hitler, Stalin, Mao: they didn't want to kill everybody. The Dominionist heresy do. What happens in "Left Behind" is pretty much what they want.

Listen, if we wanted to fanatically follow an ancient religious creed, why not Jainism?

Ohhhhhhhhhh because that would be really hard. Because we're too lazy, too selfish, and frankly we like the taste of meat. Myself included.

But unlike lowcome, I'm not quite that dishonest.

--------------------------------------------------------------

On a more elevated note, Sundiver alert!

Paul SB said...

TCB,

I haven't met a whole lot of people who have even heard of Jainism - much less could pronounce it right!

Lowball makes his dishonesty more transparent every day. Most obvious this time, his claim that Dr. Brin was talking about the entire Bible and not just the Book of Revelations - a point he has made here so often only a true moron would fall for this. We could also talk about he linear nature of Biblical time, but since the temporal straight arrow from "Let there be light" to Armageddon (anybody see armies trying to attack Tel El-Megiddo lately?) doesn't match his cyclic history incantation, then he conveniently changes the universal meaning of the Bible to match his personal interpretation. When will he learn that no one here is as dumb as the people he hangs out with?

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I haven't read Diamond for a number of years, so I can't honestly say I remember all too well. I remember things I learned in college 25 years ago, and in grad school 20 years ago, than things I read a year ago - or for that matter what I had for breakfast this morning. So at this point I am just going to shrug my shoulders, keep reading, and hope that some of it sticks. I want to go back for a PhD, but if my memory issues don't improve I'm not going to be capable.

But do get another copy. Good books are things to keep close at hand. And if you have the opportunity, the Sapolsky book has a fascinating organization to it that really stimulates the old neurons. He also has a bit of a dry wit I find enjoyable.

TCB said...

Incidentally, Paul SB, the book of Revelation was the last to be added to the canonical New Testament (which may be the real reason it's the last book in the Bible: not linear time, but tacked on). There was much disagreement whether it even belonged in the canon, major parts are obviously a sort of allegorical agit-prop against secular, pagan Roman society, and neither Martin Luther nor John Calvin seem to have been much impressed by it.

But three-headed dinosaurs and gilded whores with big snifters of wine do make for colorful pamphlet covers!

Alfred Differ said...

Some territories are not habitable year round or even safe to cross. Then a couple thousand years go by and some group figures out how to domesticate a 'camel'. Go figure. The barrier is awash with humans going this way and that and spending long enough there to figure out other tricks.

Humans DO spread fast. We also change what we ARE fast. Nah. Not genetically. Memetically.

Humans with dogs and and an idea of what to do with them can live in the arctic much more comfortably than humans with no dogs. Gotta keep moving, of course, but calories can be apportioned better. Dogs were domesticated long ago, but the first arctic colonists didn't use them. Arctic use of dogs is VERY recent.

Humans with camels can cope with the Sahara in ways humans alone cannot. (Camels were domesticated VERY recently.)

The animals are amazing, of course, but it is the ideas that change us.


I don't know whether or not to believe violence data regarding our ancestors, but one vision of them I'll never believe again is that they were stupid.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | propelled by conservative memes about meritocracy and divine justice

I'm going to have to ask you to describe the first one. I think I know what you mean for the second one, but I'm inclined to argue about the first. Before climbing onto my soapbox, though, I want to see if you are referring to an aristocratic version or a bourgeois version. So... what do you mean when you say meritocracy is a conservative meme?

who were fortunate enough to be born with every advantage

Is it this?

can hardly even afford to be selective about the jobs we accept when we are lucky to have a job at all

Ugh. Sounds like the peasant ethic. Rejecting it doesn't mean one has to adopt the aristocrat's ethic, though. There is one in the middle.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Oh come now. Even to my non-believing ears, Revelations describes evil. It was written by someone with a mind bent on avenging a past wrong. It reads like a long-winded curse.

You are @$#@'ed, for it is WRITTEN!

Bah. It is a great big error of faith.

Tony Fisk said...

Patrick Farley gave up on his revelatory spoof about halfway through; having carefully worked out the size of the rampaging Heavenly Host, and lobbing a nuke their way. It seemed an appropriate point to end.

(I do wish he'd kept up with "Spiders" though)

PNG is possibly an odd place to study H/G societies. It is, in fact, one of the agricultural hubs of the Ancient World. Seriously rugged terrain is the main reason an extended society didn't get established there.

Another measure of aggression is the rate at which language evolves to stop enemies learning terms. There are reports of fellows coming back from an extended hunting trip and being puzzled by what their kin are now talking about.

donzelion said...

"All we had to say was “Don’t fly below this latitude and he would not have."
Sheesh, it's an awkward thing to defend HW: he made a bad call, and a cowardly one, but not a venal one. However, instructions were issued, which Saddam respected about as much as he did the weapons inspectors. Bush was unwilling to enforce a no-fly until he had clear basing rights; he had them in Turkey, he did not in Saudi or Kuwait, not for a few months.
And then it was too late to make a difference.

"There were no neighbors to negotiate with about the Southern Shiites except one. Just one. Only one. The Saudis."
The Saudis were less interested in the plight of the southern shiites than about whether their own kingdom could survive with American bases on the ground. Of course, they did cave for temporary bases - but it took some time and convincing. And time was the luxury the uprising shi'a lacked.

"“Reagan's (and Bush Jr's people at the time) initially advocated for dividing Iraq into three pieces”
Hardly 'the logical thing' if a bulwark against Iran is the goal. And indeed, redrawing maps on other people's countries has seldom been an American hobby: we hated doing it in Korea and Vietnam, neither of which worked out quite so well for American military. Indeed, replaying those fiascoes was precisely the story Bush Sr. dreaded most, and why he hesitated.

"The Bush family has always been a cadet branch of the Saudi Royal House."
Re-read the story of Prescott Bush (linked to Thyssen Krupp, but never a Nazi sympathizer), connect a few dots through the early era of American intelligence agencies...Prescott and HW were analysts at heart, not cowboys (like Jr pretended to be). Analysts talk to anyone useful, as often as possible, because that's the job. But only an outsider mistakes their public friendliness of actual friendliness. Bush's deal with the Saudis (of which payments were only the tip of the iceberg) set America up nicely for the next 8 years.

"Mace didn’t order the suicide charge. Mace was the only Jedi who did his job as a secret agent and snuck up on Dookoo."
I still think Yoda's outcome is more credibly a sign of incompetence rather than malice.
"Patience you must have, Master Windu! 12:05, I said!"
"Oh hell no! This party's over! [[muthaf@cka!]]"

Paul SB said...

TCB,
I had a couple history of religion classes way back when I was in college, and the factual accounts of how the Bible was cobbled together and the very political reasons for what was selected was so different from what I was taught in Sunday School it made me disinclined to believe a single word coming from the mouth of a "believer" ever again. Is it any surprise that facts no longer have any value among the religious in America?

Tony.
I do remember Diamond vividly describing the violent intentions of the people he had studied in New Guinea, and thinking that he is looking at highly constrained horticulturalists and pretending that they represent 2.5 million years of hominid instinct. Unfortunately, I don't remember if he had data that was any better than his anecdotes.

Alfred,
I'm not sure why you have such a hard time seeing the propaganda that has permeated human civilization for as long as it has existed. The belief that all people get in life exactly what they deserve - that there is no luck (good or bad) and that all things happen for a divine reason - is so ancient and so pervasive maybe it is like water to the fish for you. But I hear this victim -blaming, self-congratulatory bullshit every day. Turn on the news and listen to any Republican open his/her mouth. It's all about blaming the poor for their poverty and insisting that the wealthy deserve their wealth no matter how they got it. Denigration is how they justify themselves, and especially how they justify both thieving fiscal policies and vile social policies.

Here, let's let the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development demonstrate. This article came across my email just this morning, and whatever you think of the source, the implications of Carson's words are clear enough - poor people are poor because they are stupid and lazy, and rich people should not be taxed to help stupid, lazy people. That's Conservative 101, however you want to divide up European peoples of the 17th Century.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2017/05/housing-secretary-ben-carson-poverty-state-mind/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=Newsletter&utm_campaign=Nonreligious&utm_content=44

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

You are @$#@'ed, for it is WRITTEN!

Bah. It is a great big error of faith.


Isn't it more like "You must unquestionly believe, or else this is your fate"?

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Against my own better judgement, however, I find myself forced to ask what tome he refers to when he refers to world-ending scenarios contained within "the most evil book on the planet".

...

Oh, he means the Christian Bible,


Not the whole Bible. He means specifically the Book of Revelation.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

I still think Yoda's outcome is more credibly a sign of incompetence rather than malice.


Alwasys keeping in mind we're discussing fiction here...

Yoda was the exalted Jedi Master for 800 years, and the best defense you can offer is that he was incompetent? Were that the case, wouldn't another master have replaced him in position and legend long ago?

carol adams said...

I appreciate your saying "we need new tactics" and await eagerly your suggestions.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart: Did you think the Peter Principle was limited to planet Earth?

LarryHart said...

From the New York Times, this sums up the present Republican Party:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/29/opinion/donald-trump-greg-gianforte.html?_r=0


...
Republicans, blinded by fear and rage, thirsty for power, desperate for a reclamation and reassertion of racial power, have cast their lot with the great deceiver and all their previous deal-breakers are now negotiable.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Yoda was the exalted Jedi Master for 800 years"

It's that 800 years thing that gives me a reason to think 'incompetence' or a 'senior moment.' Or a simple misunderstanding. Yoda was never a great 'starfighter" and simple error...

Yoda to Clone Commander: "Be there at 12:00 pm, we must!"
Clone Commander: "Roger, we arrive at Geonosis at 12:00 pm" (meaning, in orbit around the planet...only Han Solo could figure out how to jump an attacking force all the way into low orbit, and that was decades later)
Yoda to Mace Windu: "Be there at 12:00 pm, we shall!"
Mace Windu to Yoda: "Alright, cuz if you late, Master, I will shove my arm up your a** and work your mouth like a puppet."
Yoda to Windu: "A puppet I am not...anymore..."

And then, Yoda spent the next 20 years on Dagobah, initially thinking, "Work on my prepositions for clarity, I must." But then giving up. "Old I am, and in my ways fixed. If grammar it was that the jedi destroyed, then destroyed must all jedi be."

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Mace Windu to Yoda: "Alright, cuz if you late, Master, I will shove my arm up your a** and work your mouth like a puppet."


Yoda to Windu: "Puppet? I'm not a puppet! (interval of other dialogue) "You're the puppet!"

Catfish N. Cod said...

On Yoda: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

He was 800+ years old. And he was training the Younglings for at least two generations. Then, in Episode II, Yoda and Windu discuss how the latest generations of Jedi have major character flaws: arrogant, overly confident, self-assured, self-centered.

Gosh, what is common about the training all Jedi of that era received?

I think Yoda was indeed the flaw, but not because he was evil. It's because he was OLD. Set in his ways. *HE* had to be the one to bring in the Clone Army, and it was his students --
arrogant, overconfident -- that went and got themselves killed so quickly. He disregarded all warning signs about Anakin because he relied too much on Jedi precognition and not on the common-sense observation that Anakin was a loose cannon who needed to be anywhere but Coruscant. Overconfident himself, he tried to take on the Emperor/Sith Lord singlehandedly after four members of the council, one of them Mace Windu himself, had failed to do so. And then when he couldn't do it? Disband the Order and command the survivors into seclusion, he did, where they got picked off one by one until only he remained.

His leadership was a complete disaster, because at the end of the day, Yoda only trusted Yoda. If he couldn't do it, or be the one to order it done -- and how and when and where to do it -- then it couldn't BE done. To the very last he kept telling Luke what and how to go about defeating enemies he couldn't manage himself... and his strategies were STILL wrong. Because he couldn't adapt to literally save the galaxy's life.

Yoda should have been packed off to Dagobah before Obi-Wan was even an apprentice, there to train specially talented recruits as a Jedi Master Emeritus. Instead he stuck around and drove the whole Order to ruin. Despite preaching self-sacrifice, he was a selfish old coot who held on to power until it killed him and everyone he cared about. He and Palpatine almost deserved each other. And if Luke tried to teach the way Yoda did, no wonder everything fell apart again. It may be up to Rey to reach the necessary revolutionary concepts, to break out of this monstrous guild system and try another way. My theory is that the same frustration was what initially seduced Kylo Ren to the Dark Side.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

He was 800+ years old. And he was training the Younglings for at least two generations.


I no longer can recite The Empire Strikes Back word for word, but wasn't there a line that went something like "For over 800 years have I trained Jedi" (emphasis mine)? It wasn't just that he had lived 800 years. He had been Jedi Master for that long.

raito said...

Well, the whole Anakin thing falls apart when you realize that the dark side guys just keep popping up, even though all the Jedi are gone (and apparently forgotten legends inside of 20 years). If midichlorians (yuck!) exist, then some are going to be able to use the Force, training or no. If no training, they'll do whatever they figure out. If training, they'll do whatever they're taught (power-wise, that is).

So you can't leave the loose cannons out there, because they'll figure out stuff on their own. And the easiest stuff is the nastiest.

Referring to recent Foundation conversation, poor Flandry. Unlike Seldon, he didn't know that the Long Night had an end (and maybe it didn't over in his cosmos). Then again, my favorite agent is Retief, albeit the one in his first story.

donzelion said...

Catfish: "On Yoda: never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence."

Agreed: and the opposed view - ALWAYS attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence - is a lynchpin tactic of the Trump/Britbrat set. Those of good conscience do well to accept your premise: the claim of malice is so compelling, so easily capable of generating attention - but the tactic leads to the dark side....

Catfish N. Cod said...

@locum: "The dictionary says otherwise however. Adult means mature, autonomous, independent. Adults do not cower under the skirts of a metaphorical parent. They may act 'freely' to protect their own interests if they so choose; they are not subject to someone else's adult-ish authority; they are under no obligation to 'shut up', sit quietly & kowtow to enlightened (and/or) arbitrary orders; and they are resistant to shame & flattery as a means of external control."

You sound just like a highly articulate teenager when you say that. "I don't have to listen to you!"

No, you don't. But the consequences of ignoring things that others are telling you will catch up to you nonetheless. And you can't wish facts, results, or outcomes away.

Mississippi has a worse per capita GDP than Alabama, which is worse in turn than Georgia's. Sixty years ago they were rather close: $6500, $7000, $8000. Today Mississippi gets $22k, Alabama $26k, Georgia $36k. They started with rather similar populations, geography, etc.; in fact MS and AL might be considered better off to start with, with more water transport, railroads, mining, agriculture, etc. So why is Georgia now rich, Alabama lagging, and Mississippi the second poorest state in the nation?

Because Georgia's largest metro, Atlanta adopted blue-state attitudes and became enormously productive as a result. Alabama accepted large federal investments to develop Huntsville and Birmingham into technical and medical dynamos, lifting formerly decrepit areas (and incidentally turning them blue). Mississippi.... played the straight red-state supply-side business-friendly playbook, and got nothing but wind for their troubles.

Act like a blue state and you get the economic rewards, just as the cosmopolitan Dutch beat the pants off their neighbors -- especially those run according to hidebound Spanish rules -- by permitting minorities and freethinkers and diversity and tolerance. And despite cries of oppression, tolerance is all we ask of the redlands, instead of conformity and favoritism to one narrow form of nationalism.

There's no magic about cities qua cities, or the coasts, or anything. The formula works just as well if you're a small town. <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-preview-mississippi-factory-jobs/>Immigrants or locals, doesn't matter.</a> All you have to do is embrace a larger view of American identity, get that ol' melting pot bubbling, and take the responsibility to invest in your people -- ALL your people.

Both the Blue culture AND the Red culture couldn't be anything other than American. But one of the two produces wealth and knowledge and culture and all the blessings of civilization in greater abundance.

Tony Fisk said...

Oh, I think Flandry knew the Long Night would end.
Anderson portrayed his misfortune as knowing he could only set a few lanterns going, but not stop Nightfall. Meantime, he managed to do what he could, shrug, and enjoy the better bits of his lot (he once likened the era he lived to a slightly overripe banana: a bit brown in places but rather tasty withal. Bananas rot quickly, however. By the end of his life, the brown bits had definitely spread).

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: BTW, "From puzzled looks, I realized that the word “subornation” seemed strange to them, despite the fact that the method was used in struggled between nations for 4000 years."

If you were talking to senior bureaucrats, use of the word 'subornation' outside of a context of perjury is unusual these days, though your usage does sound technically accurate. If your audience found it perplexing, it's because courts play such a limited role in national security contexts...a fact that quite a few technologists are aiming to change with their bid to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Quite possibly an area where your views could be quite helpful...

Personally, I'd love to see a 'data protection' regime akin to Europe's erected in America. The threat to privacy is almost always private entities, acting through opaque measures, in service of themselves and occasionally government agencies: I can change my government, but can't fire AT&T, Comcast, etc. (well, I can fire any one of them and shift to another, but since they all play the game the same way). Nearly everyone seems to think that they have a 'privacy right' connected to the constitution somehow that extends to the private sector, just like they think they have a First Amendment right to use Twitter (they do...our government can't arrest you for tweeting...) - when so many people are so woefully misled, sometimes, their common sense ought to be reflected in the law.

donzelion said...

Catfish: Here's an interesting corollary to your observations re Mississippi v. Georgia.
Currently, for every $1 Mississippians pay in taxes, they receive $3 back from the federal government. Which they still claim to hate. Georgia gets back about $1.10 or so from each dollar they put in; they come out ahead, but not nearly as much.

"why is Georgia now rich, Alabama lagging, and Mississippi the second poorest state in the nation?... Mississippi.... played the straight red-state supply-side business-friendly playbook, and got nothing but wind for their troubles."

I'd go a bit further.
(1) Mississippi's largest employer is agriculture, a field in which they have erected a neo-slavery system dependent on illegal immigrants (like many rural areas). The practice is crucial to preserve wealth for a handful of 'modern plantation' operators, who are deeply threatened if their employees - some have been working there for decades - were to obtain a 'path to citizenship' (and a raise). 'immigration control' has been a handy tool to help dispose of the occasional recalcitrant employee.

(2) As in many parts of America, 'manufacturing' in Mississippi is primarily conducted through temp firms, rather than actual, direct hires. Smaller than agriculture in terms of size of the labor market, it's the largest employer by revenue - yet the 'temp' structure dominates in Mississippi to an extent greater than most of the rest of the country. Most factory workers get about $14/hr; the temp firm 'taxes' their additional income...

(3) Fishing, the 3rd largest sector by jobs in Mississippi, is...problematic. The Gulf of Mexico is a rich resource, but the 'death zone' created by runoff into it, and other problems, make it so one needs capital to keep a fleet afloat (for insurance, etc.). Smaller, family owned fishermen get squeezed.

(4) Gambling (riverboats) was a major growth industry 10 years ago. No longer. Ironic, that a president associated with gambling won Mississippi...wonder how many of those jobs he will bring back to them? (none)

(5) Oil & gas is a potential area of growth... Oil & gas concentrates political power into a few well-placed hands...yet oil and gas, more than any other field, is a ploy to blame Democrats for resisting drilling in the Gulf. Who cares if a few Deepwater Horizons happen? The Democrats are blocking you from a job that pays $150,000 a year without a college degree!

"Act like a blue state and you get the economic rewards, just as the cosmopolitan Dutch beat the pants off their neighbors -- especially those run according to hidebound Spanish rules -- by permitting minorities and freethinkers and diversity and tolerance."
Yet those cosmopolitan Dutch lost their rentier industries to British and other rivals...not exactly falling into poverty as a result of being displaced by immigrants, but losing status as plantation lords.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Isn't it more like "You must unquestionly believe, or else this is your fate"?

If they listen to the words of Revelations only, that would be true. Good Christians don't do that, though, and they are very picky about this. Cherry picking Bible quotes (even whole books) will raise eyebrows from the scholars of all their sects.

Taken as a whole, Revelations is a good way to learn how Christians deal with errors of faith. The Roman Church has a fairly well defined technique. Anyone following it with precision CAN challenge doctrine. The theory of Evolution is a good example showing the difficulties AND how one succeeds. I'm too much of an outsider to know how they all do it, but I can respect most sects if they have it documented well. The procedure used helps one examine how honest they are about wanting to know the Truth.

Our host has done some studying and isn't the only one calling Revelations what it is. I wouldn't care much as a non-believer of course, but I DO have a dog in this race. I'm a member of this civilization they think will end a particularly gruesome and vindictive way. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

donzelion | Yet those cosmopolitan Dutch lost their rentier industries to British and other rivals

Yah. The English went Dutch and did it more liberally. They also had a better position on the Atlantic. And my goodness were they ever willing to go into debt creating a big redistribution of wealth among their people.

The English were willing to do what the Dutch haute bourgeois didn't want. The English began the walk-away from mercantilism.

David Brin said...

I knew he’d do this! Strawman king: “Oh, he means the Christian Bible, I think, because this book (oft-referred to as 'The Greatest Story Ever Told’)”

Bullshit. You know that time and again I have called the hateful BOOK of Revelation the most-opposite-to-Jesus thing ever written. Despised by all the great early churchmen, it was voted into the Canon by ONE vote and that guy a pagan. It is so filled with hate and hand-rubbing relish of torment, torture, sadism, murder and then endless eternal damnation that Hitler comes across positive rosy-cheeked, by comparison. And son, you knew that’s what I meant. Liar.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

Both the Blue culture AND the Red culture couldn't be anything other than American. But one of the two produces wealth and knowledge and culture and all the blessings of civilization in greater abundance.


And the other one is better at retaliating with outrage and destruction, and they don't care that they kill the golden goose as long as no one else gets any eggs.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | The belief that all people get in life exactly what they deserve

This is what I was asking you to explain. I’ve heard it, but I’ve also heard the bourgeois version of ‘meritocracy’. In the first version, it is a matter of fate/God’s choice. In the second version, you get what you earn, but there is a big dollop of luck. There is a theist’s version of the bourgeois version, but I tend to cling to the secular variant because there is literally no one to blame if I’m unlucky. Having no one to blame is as close as I’ll come to saying my fate is my own to make or not. If someone IS to blame for something bad, though, I will take notice.

I assure you I am hypersensitive to many types of propaganda and hypocrisy. It’s just that I’ve seen a lot of people talking about what they think are the same thing when they are not. Meritocracy as a meme comes in many variations of which I object to some of them. One of the bourgeois variants is, in my not so humble opinion, quite useful.

I met the woman I would eventually marry in a bookstore/coffee shop. A few of my friends used to hang out and play chess, so that was my initial motivation for joining them. One day one of them was bemoaning how poor he was and the owner got a little snippy. He said very gruffly that he was poor because he chose to be. That got a quick reaction out of most of us, including me. We gave him time to explain, though, and he walked us through the decisions this guy made in his life. By the time he was done, I knew something about the bourgeois variant of meritocracy though the owner didn’t label the variant for me. He stated it like a faith position much like people do who believe the other variants. It took me a few weeks of thinking about it, but I decided the owner was correct, though I preferred a secular variation to his.

Don’t worry about me siding with Carson. He is a sad case stuck on the aristocrat variant and tells it from the peasant perspective.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred

We do have some control about our "trajectory" through life - although we have considerably MORE control on the "Down" than on the UP

But the possible trajectories are set by factors completely beyond our control - starting off with our initial conditions
All of us on this site started in conditions that were incredibly rich compared to our peers in other poorer countries

But some people do start out with the silver spoon
And then there are the Horatio Alger types who start out "poor but handsome" until some "benefactor" does something...

We do have some responsibility - but sheer luck is vastly more powerful

JParker said...

In Regards to W's craft/painting. Which I find his progress interesting by the way. One of my friends made the comment, "I'm familiar with what rehab looks like. That looks like something someone does after rehab." Let's not ignore the possibility that the last few years have been 43's first sober years in decades. A good reason not to be bouncing around the world.
Bush 41 was somewhat active in charity at least up to and including the Boxing Day tsunami.