Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Plausible Deniability: How we'll be attacked, unable to retaliate

== Using a tantrum toddler to do your dirty work ==

Okay, bear with me, because there are a couple of vital matters of international security that may be ill-considered. Let's start with the elephant in the room -- the clear fact that is likely to lead to major war:

The brutal North Korean regime is subsidized and propped up by its neighbors to the north and west. But consider...

(1) Vladimir Putin’s carefully crafted anti-western alliance now stretches from Ankara to Manilla, combining Islamist regimes with mafia-oligarchies, with Orthodox-church/czarist-nostalgists, with a few communist politburos. The common thread is not socialism or religion. It is a fear-driven hatred of the West’s positive-sum dynamism and the rule of law. The common themes are 'traditionalism' and absolute power. (See below where this is verified in a report by the Defense Intelligence Agency.)

(2) War drums may seem to have shifted toward North Korea, but I would still bet on Iran. The confluence of forces who want a U.S.-Iran war is still huge: The whole alt-right community, the Saudis, some Israelis, Trumpists seeking a foreign distraction that won’t involve nukes… plus the Iranian mullahs, who would shrug off a few hundred pippety Tomahawk hits, but use them as an excuse to crack down on Tehran’s millions of modernist youths. The biggest winner would be Vladimir Putin, who would profit from rocketing oil prices and also extend his protective umbrella and thus get the Persian satrapy sought by Russian despots since Catherine the Great. With so many winners, eager for this “war,” can it be avoided?

Note that U.S. military leaders, who would have to do the fighting, want no part of this!

(3) Meanwhile turning back to North Korea, the mad Pyongyang regime offers a way for this axis to stab hard at the West, someday, while the real players are protected by a cloak of plausible deniability

What does that mean? Consider how some EMP attack over North America, or a virus/plague might be attributed to the Kim regime, damaging us severely, but with the potemkin mask of North Korean culpability taking all the retaliatory heat.

The state next-door has already proclaimed that they will 'defend NK from hostile actions,' unless the violence is initiated by Pyongyang, in which case they will be “neutral.” 

Ponder that carefully. How can this be anything other than a set up for plausible deniability? Meanwhile, Putin’s U.S. “asset” is busy breaking up the western alliance, while bringing us down to Kim’s level of kindergarten tantrums.

Okay, dismiss this as a crackpot theory (it's my job to explore under-appraised concepts.) But here's possible confirmation to watch out for. Our intel services should be tracking CRINK spy ships in the Pacific.  If such vessels are ever seen converging toward some stretch of international water - or possibly Hawaii or Guam - then we might expect an NK H-bomb to be tested in the center. While the CRI nations denounce it, the test will give them all the data they need, in order to fine-tune the EMP we should have spent 20 years preparing-for.

== The Putin Doctrine ==

David Ignatius lays bare the underlying focus of Vladimir Putin's alliance, discussing the potential scope of Russia’s cyber-operations, as highlighted in a report by the Defense Intelligence Agency, “Russia Military Power: Building a Military to Support Great Power Aspirations.” Its conclusion: “Russia views the information sphere as a key domain for modern military conflict ... critically important to control its domestic populace and influence adversary states.”

Among the major themes of Russian propaganda, the DIA says, is this message: 

“The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.”

Note that the behavior of Putin's Czar-worshipping, Russian Orthodox + mafia oligarchy state is little different than the old Soviet Union, proving that national character - in this case feudalism and paranoia - matter far more than superficialities of dogma. Yet, our confederate right adores this Kremlin, because it has befriended our own feudal lords.

Make no mistake, this Kremlin wants to end us, no less than Khrushchev intended to "bury" the Western Enlightenment Experiment.

== Second topic: cyber security ==

Since 1995, I’ve said our emphasis is all wrong. There is no such thing as a secure system that’s connected to the world. All declarations of cyber-safety later prove false. Witness recently Equifax losing 140 million identifiers and Yahoo losing security for 23 million accounts. 

Stop expecting the next security method to work! It will fail. They will fail. All of them, because it is inherently impossible to dam-up something that is duplicable at zero cost.

Yes, some things merit careful protection, over short terms. Password/ID systems. Industrial methods and core IP. Intelligence sources. These crown jewels would be more secure if we stop trying to defend impossible boundaries. 

Example: Most of the information about 140 million Americans that was stolen from Equifax is not inherently harmful: names, birthdates, social security numbers, mortgage numbers and amounts… most of these data are public and open record in Estonia and Scandinavian countries.  Because they cannot be changed, they are inherently IDENTIFIERS  and not PASSWORDS. As I explain in The Transparent Society, identification pointers can only harm you if they weren’t being used properly, in the first place.

Passwords are vastly more important, but even they are obsolete. The banking industry has been almost criminally lazy and late in realizing what their true, 21st Century role will be - using biometrics to verify customer identity. (One bank hired me as a consultant and they will leave the others in a cloud of dust.)

== What is fundamental ==

Every time I speak at a security agency I emphasize one fundamental. That all enemies of the Western Enlightenment Experiment (WEE) are lethally allergic to light. 

Hostile states, criminal gangs, market cheaters… all of them would suffer in a more open world.  In contrast, the Snowden/Assange/Wikileaks events—  and this leaky White House — show us that light will at-worst only irk or inconvenience the WEE. 

More generally - (and I allow for tactical exceptions) - light only makes us and our systems work better. 

Ponder that again. The WEE nations finds light bracing and improving. All of our enemies find light lethally toxic! Is it possible you don't see what this means?

It means that our one and only victory condition is a more open world

We need some secrets! Some cyber security, and tactical shadows for military, intel etc professionals to use, in daily struggles. Citizens deserve privacy, while knowing the inevitable leaks won't do them palpable harm. Nevertheless, any overall trend toward worldwide transparency favors our side in this clash of civilizations. 

If we give in to the temptation of shadows, they’ll be better at it! And we’ll lose.

== About drone warfare ==

Much has been said about how the use of drones in warfare has reduced killing to a video game. And sure, that's a danger we should always watch for and science fiction does warn us, repeatedly. But we are not there. 

Skip to near the end of this article to see that it’s in fact the very opposite situation for the men and women operating drones from their base near Las Vegas.  Unlike jet pilots, they linger and observe whole villages for sometimes weeks.  They know it’s people – even when it’s a deadly enemy who must be taken out. The sci fi expectation of dehumanization was diametrically wrong.

== Hidden Wealth ==

Do they actually think this won’t end badly for them? Here is an example of what the insatiable, would-be New Lords of the world are doing. Using their wealth to turn Zurich airport into a non-national zone where they can store vast wealth, like 100,000 art works, without ever having to show any of the items or account for the trades even to Swiss authorities. Not. even. to. SWISS. authorities.  Think about that one.

To be clear, the billionaires who earned their wealth – by either inventing/creating or helping others to invent/create wondrous new goods and services – generally want no part of such shenanigans. They are the living arguments for incentivized-competitive and relatively flat-fair-competitive enterprise. (Actual, AdamSmithian 'capitalism' is one of the foremost victims of conspiratorial oligarchy.) I would bet plenty that most of those trading purloined art in this Zurich-airport palace of greed never created a damned thing. They let sycophants tell them they are geniuses and inherently superior, as feudalists have always done. Read EARTH to see where this ends.

Or else, in Existence, see a chapter describing what smart New Lords might do, to avoid the almost universally stupidity of past feudalisms.

Oh, but one of you points out: “Geneva Freeport sounds like the perfect setting for a classic heist movie! Billions in assets, much of it easily tradable like gold and jewels, stored in a single handy location.”

Great idea. Only, all you have to do is steal it from one part of the structure and put the items in another part of the same building! Hey, get my agent on phone.

And some good news...Fascinating how cleverly and well poor people in Kenya are using the cash that they save, especially in the villages where charities are experimenting with direct giving.  Elsewhere I have written about how Kenya’s M-pesa cell phone payment system works, as neighboring country officials are bribed by big banks to prevent it getting a foothold outside of Kenya.

== The crux? ==

 It would be one thing if the neo-feudalists preparing for war against the West were actually as smart as they think they are.  

They aren't. And that... more than any scullduggery... should scare us.

73 comments:

Timen sound said...

Thanks for sharing a nice information.

Car Navigation

locumranch said...


So let me get this straight:

It is that evil genius, Vlad (Dracul the Impaler) Putin, who is the power behind the North Korean throne, but not the other dragon-in-the-room (China) because they're the USA's most important economic trading partner & best friend. Plus, Vlad is NOT dangerous because he (and others like him) are lethally allergic to light.

Like a pot calling a kettle crockery, it's quite amusing when our favorite moral relativist condemns other moral relativists for being "cheaters".

This is what progressivism is all about, n'est pas?

The over-turning of rules that conserve the old in favour of the radical; the rejection of the archaic law of moral absolutes; and the replacement of pre-existing statute with 'new & improved' rules that reflect subjective preference.

It's not like the Lord of Hosts handed down Roe vs Wade, Global Unity, Gay Marriage & Russia the Evil Empire as inviolate commandments carved in stone. Laws like these are ffffing arbitrary, reflecting neither precedent nor rhyme nor reason.

Progressives like David deserve to be very very afraid, following their targeted destruction of Absolute Morality, because now anything & everything is permitted in Kurdistan, California, Catalan & the Ukraine, including invasion, secession, reefer madness & all manner of wickedness.

(Thanks to California, btw, for making secession lawful once again)

And, finally, Robert E Lee was a cadet at West Point like every other Union officer who attended West Point. He valued duty; he fought with honour; and he never violated the Union's pro-federal sovereignty clause because that unjust law was passed only in the aftermath of the Confederacy's entirely lawful secession.

And, he was quite unlike Lincoln whose deceitful emancipation proclamation never freed any slaves who resided within Union jurisdiction. Lincoln was also a racist, don't you know, who wrote about shipping all the slaves back to Africa.

We need to scrape that mofo off the penny ASAP, and erase him along with OJ Simpson, G Washington, K Spacey, B Cosby, H Weinstein & every other individual who violates our delicate revisionist sensibilities after the fact.

When history stands in the way of progress -- Rinse, lather & REPEAT -- because those who erase history are doomed to repeat it.


Best
___
I'm sorry if Matthew feels threatened by Culture Club because I, too, once thought them offensive until until I accepted my heterosexuality and decided that - yes - I really did want to hurt them & make them cry. It's ok, Matthew, your maleness is not a crime. Forgive. Yourself. First. Alt-Right comes later.

Lloyd Flack said...

Absolute morality, what does that mean other than the attempt to reduce morality to one sentence simple statements in the vain attempt to be completely certain in one's moral convictions?
But morality is not simple because human beings are not simple and one has to ballance competing moral considerations.
There are three things that you can try to base morality on. One is authority. Another is natural law. And the other is intuition.
If you try to base it on authority which in this case is divine authority the you will be asked what if God asked youto do some monstrous act what should you do? If you say God is good and would never do that then you admith that there is a standard of morality which does not depend on divine edict. If you say that no matter how repugnat it is I will do whatever God commands then you are overriding your conscience which most will not see as a moral act.
So most will for good reason reject authority as the basis of morality.
Most theologians will try to base morality on natural law. I would love to do this but no one has solved the is-ought problem though they might think they have. You have to unrealistically simplify your picture of human nature to try this.
Finally you can base it on intuition, the conscience. This is the only thing that works as far as I can see. But this means that you have give up certainty and provability. More, there can be conflicting moral intuitions leading to being no completely right answer. This is the price of dealing with the complexity of human beings.

David Ivory said...

David - I like your argument about light. It then follows that the Equifax leak might lead to better use of identifiers thus nullifying the problems when such leaks occur.

John Oliver has a great sum up of the leak here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPjgRKW_Jmk - mind blowing incompetence.

LarryHart said...

Jon S in the previous thread:

Reminds me of a "threat" I've been seeing on Twitter, to the effect that we'll regret the Mueller investigation, because it might bring down "liberal" politicians too!

The folks posting these don't seem to understand when the "liberals" reply, "Good! Let's catch all the lawbreakers! We don't care whose team they're on!"


That's the view inside their bubble--that only political enemies of the policies Trump endorses want to bring him down, when in fact the opposite is the case. Any sane and rational American knows Trump's characteristic flaw isn't that he's conservative, but that he's dangerously out of control. Only those who stand politically to gain by his continued presence don't want him gone.

Republicans have threatened to impeach every Democratic president since Nixon ("Impeach Clinton!" bumper stickers were around before Bill was even inaugurated) because they want political revenge, as if Nixon was impeached for being a Republican and no more excuse than that is required to turn the tables on Democrats.

On the old Cerebus list, my formerly-sane conservative buddy liked to call out liberals as hypocrites for having supported John Edwards when he turned out to be a bad role model for feminists--completely disregarding the fact that liberals turned on Edwards immediately as soon as the dirt came out. He presented that very fact as liberal hypocricy: "Oh, so now you think he's a bad guy, but he used to be a liberal darling." In that view, I'm sure that continued support for Trump despite everything that is revealed about him shows consistency of character.

LarryHart said...

Anonymous in the previous thread:

I therefore advocate that we adopt the German method of voting. Do away with the electoral college. Each voter gets to choose their local state representative, and a party.


That's all well and good except that changing the method of presidential elections requires amending the Constitution, and that can only be done with a super-majority of Senators and/or states. As long as the party who holds majorities in both places is the very party who benefits from the current system, that's not going to happen.

Any present-day attempt at changing the Constitution would be in the direction of more privilege for typical-Republican constituencies, not less.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@locum:

China is the main propper-upper of the North Korean regime, true. But they do *not* have an interest in the Norks being aggressive. They're supposed to sit there and suffer, remaining a border state that exists to keep US troops off the Chinese border.

To extend your analogy of Vlad the Impaler, he's dangerous precisely because of his seemingly-magic ability to cloak himself and his minions in darkness.

And custom should NOT be changed trivially, or due to subjective moral relativism. But when it can be shown, through discovery of UNTRUTHS through the scientific method and statistical collection and simple anecdotal observation, that a custom does not support the virtue that forms its raison d'etre?

Every one of those "newfangled" customs you condemn came about for that reason. Roe v. Wade because fewer women died with legal abortions than the consequences of banning abortions. Global organizations because even corrupt and shambolic international cooperation is superior to hundreds of millions dead and nations destroyed in the age of global thermonuclear war. Gay Marriage because it *encourages* family values, albeit in a new form, and because of the discovery that most homosexuality is not a learned behavior. And Russia... the only thing to realize is that the tiger never changed its stripes.

As for "Absolute Morality", I would point out that locum should then also challenge "life begins at conception", a notion that was of middling agreement at best in historical Christianity up until it became emotionally and politically convenient. Absolute Morality may exist in a philosophical, theoretical sense, but any attempts to reify it quickly convert it to Authoritarian Morality. Or in Christian terms: we are all too equally sinful, even in a state of grace, to bring both Divine Law in a perfect manner. Or, again, as Jefferson put it:

Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels, in the form of kings, to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Will those who question make errors? Indubitably. But so will those who use Absolute Morality as their lodestone; and while the practitioner of Enlightenment has before him the tools to discover those errors, the practitioner of a Romantic notion of morality will shun the Thomistic heritage of incisive inquiry.

The Articles of Confederation denoted "Perpetual Union", a wording which in the Constitution became the more ambiguous and less actionable "More Perfect Union". And if we are to take the "originalist" argument and advocate the intentions of the Founders, Madison was adamant that the Constitution was irrevocable and defeated an amendment to made it otherwise, then (with Hamilton) another in the New York ratification convention. The practical as well as legal justification of secession was rebellion: victory and domain by right of conquest.

Rebellion for redress of unresolvable grievances was perfectly legal under international law of the time, a precedent established by the United States itself (as the Confederates were proud to point out, calling their fight at times the Second American Revolution).

Lee was at West Point, but then so were most of the Confederate generals; this provides no statement on his character one way or the other. I respect him more than most of his colleagues, which is to say I have the ability to see his whole life -- and I respect him most for his stalwart efforts after the war to accept its verdict and to oppose all efforts at revanchism or irredentism.

awbryan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catfish N. Cod said...

As for Lincoln, this is what my teachers called "true, true, and unrelated". It did not matter to Lincoln that Africans were inferior (as he thought); human rights were human rights, and practical as well as theoretical morality demanded emancipation. His Proclamation was not deceitful as he took pains to emphasize at the time (Marylanders would likely have risen in rebellion despite Federal occupation of Baltimore if he had not). But you know all this; the arguments are the sort of chaff thrown up to emotionally distract from unpalatable truths.

Your hyperbole does you no credit, my good sir. I must place it in the same hall for which I reserve those advocates of global warming that exhibit hyperbole for the sake of additional motivation: your motives are undermined by your tactics.

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :

House Republicans had originally planned to release their tax bill today, ...
Originally, the bill was said to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes, but that drew so much opposition, the bill has been revised. It is interesting to see how it was revised, since that reflects where the real power lies in Congress and what the leadership thinks it can do. The elimination of property taxes was strongly opposed by the real estate industry, home builders, and banks that issue mortgages, since this section of the tax code makes home ownership cheaper, something these sectors love. They won and the new bill allows local property taxes to be deducted.

State income taxes are a completely different story. They are mostly felt by people (not necessarily home owners) in high tax states, nearly all of which are deep blue. So eliminating the deduction for state income taxes would be a way for Republicans in Congress to punish blue states for having high taxes to pay for good education, health care, infrastructure, etc. A potential problem in the Senate is that Republican senators from high-tax states like California, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois would be put in a tough position having to vote for a bill with the state tax deduction eliminated. Fortunately for Mitch McConnell, though, none of these states have any Republican senators.

The House, however, is a different story. Together, these four states have 35 Republican representatives, far more than enough to sink any tax bill they don't like. The breakdown by state is California (14), New York (9), New Jersey (5), and Illinois (7)...


I keep scratching my head at Illinois being included in the "deep blue, high tax" states which would be most punished by eliminating this deduction. Granted, Cook County has high property and sales taxes, and Illinois has high gas taxes, but none of that is what they're talking about. Our income tax is 3.75%. It's been as "high" as 5% and as low as 2% in the past. If I have to pay federal tax on the money I pay in state income tax, it will add about 1% to my tax rate. Other changes in the tax bill would probably turn that into background noise.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Most of the information about 140 million Americans that was stolen from Equifax is not inherently harmful: names, birthdates, social security numbers, mortgage numbers and amounts… most of these data are public and open record in Estonia and Scandinavian countries. Because they cannot be changed, they are inherently IDENTIFIERS and not PASSWORDS. As I explain in The Transparent Society, identification pointers can only harm you if they weren’t being used properly, in the first place.


Isn't the problem, though, that the banking/credit system currently in place relies on those identifiers being used as passwords, and that even though the wheels have fallen off that bandwagon, there's no replacement vehicle, so the institutions go on pretending that knowledge of such information proves identity and lays the blame on consumers for not regularly changing their name, address, SSN, and birthdate every 75 days.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"It is a fear-driven hatred of the West’s positive-sum dynamism and the rule of law."

Would it be easier to just say, "They hate us for our freedoms"?

To be sure, there are elements that despise freedom and capitalism, but the west have done more than their share to stir up animosity. If you ask Iraqis why they hate America, the answer is not going to be "Because you can buy 5o brands of toothpaste at the local supermarket" or "Because they have a perfectly uncorrupted government."

David Brin said...

I have seldom seen such an obdurate “let’s see if I can draw every single wrong interpretation possible” floundering as the following: “It is that evil genius, Vlad (Dracul the Impaler) Putin, who is the power behind the North Korean throne, but not the other dragon-in-the-room (China) because they're the USA's most important economic trading partner & best friend. Plus, Vlad is NOT dangerous because he (and others like him) are lethally allergic to light.”

It goes beyond insipidity, all the way to satire. And once again, I suspect this fellow is just having us on.

Likewise, Lloyd Flack waves his arms and declares: “There are three things that you can try to base morality on. One is authority. Another is natural law. And the other is intuition.”

Bull! There is also morality based upon the achievement of practical-beneficial outcomes. The kinds of outcomes that lead to maximized success as individuals, nations, civilizations, species and world. A crude version of this was Utilitarianism, which was rightly criticized as being shortsighted, but aimed to maximize the benefits for all. But if you extend Utilitarianism forward to include future generations…

…and then include an added factor, maximizing future generations’ ability to engage and compare the widest diversity of perspectives plus the agility and ability to change course, if needed, then you get a moral system that:

- eliminates waste by eliminating prejudice,
- maximizes our descendants’ options by preserving the Earth and its species,
- eliminates poverty because poverty reduces the number of participants and narrows options,
- encourages flat-fair competition, because hierarchy tends to narrow the decision-making caste,
- encourages eccentricity and diverse thinking but discourages raging dogmatism, because the latter leads to oppression and narrows our options and ability of future generations to change course.

This is a “morality” that’s based upon belief in and trust in our descendants and the future. And Mr. Flack is clearly incapable of even pondering it as a possibility. Not his fault. Humans tend to the Look-Backward view of wisdom and only recently have become dimly aware of the Look Forward approach.

He badly needs to stretch his mind by taking my Questionnaire on Ideology at: http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/questionnaire.html

David Ivory, alas, John Oliver for all his brains still buys into the underlying notion that such breaches can be avoided. The Estonians and Swedes get it. Take measures to ensure that others who DO get info on you cannot use it to HARM you.

LH: “Isn't the problem, though, that the banking/credit system currently in place relies on those identifiers being used as passwords” Yep! I’ve railed against that for 20 years, since The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

“Isn't the problem, though, that the banking/credit system currently in place relies on those identifiers being used as passwords?”

Yep! I’ve railed against that for 20 years, since The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?


I guess my point is that asserting that identifiers should not be construed as passwords does as little good as asserting that we should get rid of the Electoral College until a replacement system to move to is available (in the first place) or a plausible mechanism for doing so asserts itself (in the second).

Presently, the answer from the institutions is, "Naw, we're not gonna do that."

donzelion said...

LarryHart: I'm watching the new tax bill with glee. At least two Congressional districts won by Hillary stayed in Republican hands in California (Dr. Brin's own Issa, and my neighbor Royce) would instantly be far more vulnerable, as the real estate barons in both districts have long been a tight-knit crowd of powerbrokers.

Unfortunately, I expect that the bill will feed back into a routine Supply Side fraud (we don't actually need to drop the deductions at all - we'll just grow our way out of deficits). Proponents of the fraud are precisely the sort who can convince an anti-evolution crowd's beliefs: as they're already impervious to facts, simply silencing a few fact-users whom they already disdain will offer the best of both worlds (and creating deficits enables those with power to shift the costs of those deficits...).


Berial said...

I have no link but the latest podcast from 'The Economist' has a segment dedicated to Putin and his succession. They point out that there is likely to be a LOT of chaos and violence from the void when he leaves power. And he WILL eventually have to do SOMETHING about succession.

Berial said...

The podcast is from 'The Economist: Editor's Picks' Editor's picks: October 28 - November 3 2017 "A Tsar is Born"

Sorry, still no link but you can get it from iTunes.

David Brin said...

Re the tax bill: Susan Collins said she will oppose any bill that completely rescinds the Estate Tax! My hero of the hour. The Estate Tax was and remains the central target of the oligarchy and their GOP shills. Eliminating it will save zillionaire families tens to hundreds of billions that would otherwise go to our streets and defense and R&D and lowering OUR taxes.

Everything else about the Tax Bill is lower priority, even taking revenge on Blue States by eliminating the SALT deduction.

If you’re serious about actually slimming and simplifying the tax code, I have proposed the only way it can happen. It will work, both mathematically and politically. It is the ONLY way it can happen politically and it is fair.
http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/taxsimplification.html

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

I want the Republicans to pass a debt-exploding tax bill because they will never again be able to nail the back of their hand to their forehead while swooning over deficits again. At this point, I don't even care if the wealthy get a tax break as long as it isn't paid for by increased taxes on normal people. If they can raise the debt in order to give tax breaks to billionaires, then we can raise the debt to educate kids and save Puerto Rico and stuff like that. "Reagan showed us that deficits don't matter," and now Ryan and McConnell are confirming that.

Lloyd Flack said...

David, Utilitarianism is a cosequentialist form of natural law justification for morality. And it no more solves the is-ought problem than does any duty based form of naural law justification.
I would agree with you about what outcomes are desirable but your criteria are ultimately based on intuitions and emotional reactions whether you acknowledge this or not.

LarryHart said...

Are they effing kidding? This is what time is being spent on?

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/01/trump-reportedly-demanding-tax-reform-bill-be-the-cut-cut-cut-act.html


President Donald Trump is reportedly insistent that the Republican tax reform bill be called the "The Cut Cut Cut Act."

Trump's proposed title for the legislation is being met with resistance on Capitol Hill.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has final say over the bill's name.



donzelion said...

Lloyd Flack: There are at least four 'traditional' ethical theories still in play, each of which influences authority and intuition today, all of which claim to be outgrowths of nature, none of which is typically discussed in those terms.

In order of their entry into common discourse (though each predates the cited authority) -

(1) Ontological theories (the act contains its own moral meaning, whether as a result of the meanings themselves, or as defined by a recognized authority that conferred those meanings on certain acts) - Moses, etc.
(2) 'Virtue' theories (any act changes the actors, and this set of changes to the actors creates moral meaning) - Aristotle, etc.
(3) Consequentialist theories (the consequence of any act determines its moral meaning; utilitarianism is the largest focus of these theories - e.g., Bentham/Mill - but there are many other approaches to consequentialist thought, such at the supplements our host offers)
(4) Deontological theories (the act expresses rules of thought by the actor, and such universalizable rules of thought - e.g., reciprocity - are inherent aspects of what it is to be sapient) - Kant (Jesus)

Each tradition has proven supple and enduring. Partisans of one mode tend to habituate themselves into one mode of reasoning as their primary mode (e.g., militaries tend to think in 'virtue' terms - orders are followed not because the orders are good in themselves, nor because of the good consequences of any specific order, but because of discipline instilled in the people who issue and follow orders and the virtue of discipline outweighs any other consideration).

Our civilization reflects a dialogue of all four modes: it is robust because each plays its role in turn.

Tim H. said...

If they get the tax cuts they want, wouldn't that tend to strengthen the dollar? If so, a boon for tourists and importers, a bane for exporters. Sounds like a "Let them eat cake" moment in the making.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I want the Republicans to pass a debt-exploding tax bill because they will never again be able to nail the back of their hand to their forehead while swooning over deficits again."

Alas, collective memory of the FoxNews crowd is too malleable to actually believe that. The folks who scream about deficits when a Democrat holds office shrug them aside when a Republican takes his place. The tragedy of fact-aversity is that anyone who points this out is dismissed as an elitist out of touch with 'their' public.

And in the shadows, the wealthiest get their break - either by bypassing U.S. taxes entirely (Manafort/Gates) or weakening the capabilities of the entities tasked with collecting those taxes (far easier to collect from middle class families than from upper-upper class). A 38% -> 20% change is a sideshow to THAT struggle (wherein the balance of their assets grows vastly, even as their 'income' never seems to change at all).

donzelion said...

Lloyd: "Utilitarianism is a cosequentialist form"

It is indeed consequentialist. It is not typically listed as 'natural law' sort of theory - simply because the contours of natural law were (traditionally) derived from the meanings inherent in actions themselves.

"And it no more solves the is-ought problem than does any duty based form of naural law justification."
Every theory - whether it focuses on the (1) the action per se, (2) the actor over time, (3) the consequences, or (4) the nature of action in general - has its problems when we apply it to solving is-ought dilemmas. Yet a civilization exists based on the collective interactions of the efforts to solve such dilemmas. Anticipating a final, firm answer to is-ought types of questions comes from a routine error in thought - we have no 'final' best thoughts, such that once thought, we are done thinking - we just think. Yet we can be pretty confident that our thoughts give rise to our intuitions, most (all?) of our emotions, and (most/all?) actions.

Lloyd Flack said...

Donzelion, my point is that any single one of those ethical theories is too simple to deal with the complexity of human beings and their societies. And they do not give a reason why that mode of moral reasoning should be the one chosen.

Lloyd Flack said...

And I agree that we do not need to solve the is-ought problem to have a working society.
My concen is that in trying to convice ourselves that we can completely justify our actions we can over simplify and only take one set of moral considerations into account.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"I want the Republicans to pass a debt-exploding tax bill because they will never again be able to nail the back of their hand to their forehead while swooning over deficits again."

Alas, collective memory of the FoxNews crowd is too malleable to actually believe that. The folks who scream about deficits when a Democrat holds office shrug them aside when a Republican takes his place.


Yeah, but next time, Democrats aren't going to listen to "We can't push our agenda or else Republicans will push theirs the next time they get power." We know what Republicans are now, so when it's our turn, we can safely ignore them and their whining.

The cynical place I'm at now is I'm exhausted with trying to save the confederates from themselves. We must make sure we don't suffer to much in the interim, but let 'em burn!

I know that makes me a bad liberal. I don't care.


Treebeard said...

I like how you've given your god a cute name. Every religion needs one I suppose: Yahweh, Allah... WEE? And like other religionists, WEE-worshippers are good at rationalizing after the fact and propagating their myth that history is progressing according to a divine scheme – the believers' role being to act as soldiers in a great crusade, ever-mindful of the enemies of WEE who want to return mankind to bad old pagan days, and ready to smite them as necessary.

On a related note, I live on the borders of an Indian reservation, surrounded by descendants of the original blood & soil traditionalists of these lands. There's not many WEEists among them, they're mostly Christians, but they still maintain their tribal identity against the bitter tide of progress. Which isn't surprising, since their ancestors were among the original enemies of WEE, who had to be cleared out to make way for the history-ending WEEist civilization. I get along with them fine for the most part, they're a not particularly militant fishing tribe, but I'm under no illusions about what they may do to my kind if they get the whip hand (I note, for example, an increase in tribal power propaganda and exclusion of non-tribal members from formerly open areas. Do you think none of this applies to you, blue city white man, being ethnically displaced in the name of Diversity? Think again). Anyway, I'm sure that when this sucker goes down (as all suckers inevitably do), you and I both will find your WEE god about as valuable as Confederate dollars post-1865. Which are all good reasons for a-WEEism: because we know that WEE is a mad, man-made, mortal god, who won't save us, inspire us, or survive the end of the aberrant and unsustainable age that gave birth to it.

David Brin said...

Lloyd Flack, with respect (and you are welcome here) your rave is incantatory armwaving and absurd: “Utilitarianism is a cosequentialist form of natural law justification for morality. And it no more solves the is-ought problem than does any duty based form of naural law justification.”

Baloney. All you prove is your myopia, insisting that ‘morality’ must be a value structure derived from earlier “basic” principles or axioms. That is pure look-back thinking and clearly you have never pondered the issues posed at my Questionnaire.

The notion that any one generation can make moral declarations binding on later generations is, in fact, morally questionable in the most fundamental sense and possibly flat-out evil. Those generations will - if we succeed - be smarter and hence btter able to parse (if they should be so silly as want to) the morass of ontological-Deontological-etc incantations.

What IS a tenable moral stance is contingency based upon preserving for those future generations the maximum possible agility, sapience, resources and options. Not only is that more advanced version of utilitarianism vastly more justifiable in the pragmatic sense of outcomes optimization, but it is also rooted in the most “moral” of all human imperatives…

…devotion to future generations. Devotion to our children, the most deep moral imperative of all. NONE of which can be said for your absurd trio of intuition and so on. You wag your finger at me sir, without any real understanding.



Notice when Treebeard wants to denigrate his opponents, he calls them “worshippers.” And he is (as usual) too dense to even notice the irony.

BTW the original enemes of WEE are feudalists like you, down the line. Every time a white man tried hard to make treaties work, and used Amerind names for places, that was a WEE guy. And then rapacious feudalists would come in and break the treaty. You are diametrically opposite to fact, again.

Lloyd Flack said...

I never said that we needed a moral system derived from first principles. My remarks were a response to Locom's talk about moral absolutes. I believe that moral absolutes would require a solution to the is-ought problem to justify them. But I support muddling through without spending a huge effort on what I beleve is a Quixotic endeavour. What we need are consistency checks to let us know when moral trade offs are required and the sense of proportion that will let us do so. I think Locum wants to believe that we can avoid moral trade offs.
I completely agree with maximizing the opportunities of future generations. But I cannot justify it and prove that I am right to do so.
You skimmed what I wrote and unintentionally misrepresented it.

donzelion said...

Lloyd Flack: I jibe with our host often, but essentially agree with his views far more often than that (hence the absence of criticism - why add another me-too?). Yet as I see it, you're actually right on the money here -

"My concen is that in trying to convice ourselves that we can completely justify our actions we can over simplify and only take one set of moral considerations into account."

That is precisely the problem as I see it (and others here have cited it as well, albeit through very different wording - e.g., Paul SB's criticism of the 'bottom line' focus of businesses).

If one mode of moral reasoning (and its partisans) falls out of balance and creates a system that reliably dominates/silences the others, it will entrench its power (which is how and why oligarchy so often emerges and endures). Proponents of one approach must master it (and will typically become contemptuous of the others), and will dismiss alternatives as 'partial/incomplete nonsense on stilts' - but our civilization works - to the extent it works - by creating space for each to continue in its approach on its own terms.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "The cynical place I'm at now is I'm exhausted with trying to save the confederates from themselves. We must make sure we don't suffer to much in the interim, but let 'em burn!"

I think you're at a frustrated place, rather than a cynical one. As with even our recalcitrant true cynic, Locum, when the chips are down, you'd never willingly stand by and let them burn - not even if they screamed and spat at you while you tried to put out the fire - even if you pledged to add gasoline to the fire and roast marshmallows to celebrate it the purge.

You'd put out those flames, to the extent you can - for reasons derived from one of those four old models of thinking about morality that simply endure no matter who tries to dismiss them. As such, I'm not worried about either of you and your effect on sustaining this (quite good!) civilization.

TCB said...

Re: security, what I like to tell people is this: if you had something that was ever truly 100% secure, you couldn't use it either.

Really, everything in the world is like this. Could you live inside some sort of steel cube with no windows or doors? No. Could the cells of your body function without letting some molecules in and others out? No. Anything that can be used, for basically any purpose, must be accessible and manipulable in some way. If you make it really, really hard to access and manipulate, you make it hard for yourself to use, and yet never truly 100% impossible for someone else.

The art and science of security is all about finding a good compromise between wide-open and welded shut.

David Brin said...

Mr. Flack, in that case I apologize for both misunderstanding you and (a little) over-reacting. But ain't it great to flame-on-off over abstractions? ;-)

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

I think you're at a frustrated place, rather than a cynical one. As with even our recalcitrant true cynic, Locum, when the chips are down, you'd never willingly stand by and let them burn - not even if they screamed and spat at you while you tried to put out the fire


True to this extent--when the danger presented itself, I would want to mitigate it for everybody. I'd be shouting "I effing told you so!" all the while though, only I wouldn't use the child-safe word there.

However, if like the guy in "Blazing Saddles", the confederates want to point a metaphorical gun at their own heads and hold themselves hostage, I will not negotiate with terrorists.

TCB said...

Re: morality. When I was a boy growing up in North Carolina, I was told that people didn't have any morality to speak of until the Bible gave it to them.

Now I know that this is horse shit.

Frans de Waal: Moral Behavior in Animals lays out the case rather neatly: many of our moral behaviors and attitudes are inherited from our non-human ancestors; morality and ethics are not rooted in religious edicts, but came long before, as ways for social animals to cooperate for mutual survival. Simple as that.

If a particular chimp, for instance, behaved as selfishly as Donald Trump does, cheating and bullying the rest of his troupe day after day after day, his actions would threaten the long-term survival of the troupe. And the others would, at some point, lose patience, band together and remove the threat. It wouldn't be pretty, but it works well enough; chimps have survived for a few million years.

What humans do with this basic software is interesting: all human cultures share the essential prohibitions against murder, for instance. But then there are cultural peccadilloes everywhere, so that what is acceptable in one society is taboo in another. Is it better to have a village priest do your praying for you, or should you do it yourself? Wars have been fought over less.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"The Cut Cut Cut Act."

How about "Jack the Ripper Act"?

LarryHart said...

TCB:

The art and science of security is all about finding a good compromise between wide-open and welded shut.


When I was very, very young, but just old enough to have been exposed to some concepts from tv cartoons and comics, I asked my parents in all seriousness why houses couldn't be made out of a material that lets good people pass through, but is impenetrable to bad people. At the time, it seemed like a no-brainer.

LarryHart said...

What the fuck is Donald Trump talking about? Does he really think that if a Muslim terrorist who kills people in NYC gets a fair trial, he's going to be set free without consequence?

If we're a "laughing stock", he should look in the mirror for the cause.

Sorry, I'm just watching a news clip on tv, after which Sarah Huckleberry Saddlebags insisted that "That's not what he said" when a reporter asked about what we just saw him actually saying.

In other news, the sky is blue and the sun came up this morning.

Catfish N. Cod said...

At last. At long flippin' last.

Apparently having the Murdoch-controlled WSJ calling for Mueller's head was the last straw. They may yet get steamrolled, but what is left of Republican dedication to the rule of law and principles of fair play has made the first move in speaking out. And even to utter a phrase I have never yet heard: "the Republican resistance."

Not just NeverTrump. Not even my own term of Sanopublican. "Republican resistance."

Hell to the yes, friends. The many beefs between us I can set aside for that. Welcome to the resistance. Let us save our Republic first, and return to debates anon.

You know, so we stop having inanities like "The Cut Cut Cut Act." Great Washington's Ghost-- how more blatantly contemptuous of average American thought could you get?

TCB said...

I'm a knife... knifin' around... cutcutcutcutcut!

Tony Fisk said...

Since I considered the content of "Trumpscare" to be a line lifted from the Dead Kennedies ("We're gonna kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor, tonight."), I'm not going to get too bothered by "cut cut, cut".

I'd suggest buzz-saw, but the longer they spend thinking of a cool name, the longer it will be before they try passing it through themselves.

As an aside, has anyone seen Monty Python Goes to Ragnarok yet? Quips aside, the humour worked pretty well with the action. It may be a case of over-active pattern matching, but I thought there were a few eerie parallels between Asgard's problems and our own.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

I'm not going to get too bothered by "cut cut, cut".

My incredulity is not so much over the specific name as the fact that the name of the bill is being treated as an important issue. And such a stupidly embarrassing name on top of that.

President Donald Trump is reportedly insistent that the Republican tax reform bill be called the "The Cut Cut Cut Act."


The key part of the sentence was "[Trump] is reportedly insistent that...".

A.F. Rey said...

Speaking of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a friend at work made a great observation.

"She looks like the mother of the kid that hit your kid at school."

I dare you to tell me it isn't so!

https://www.google.com/search?q=sarah+huckabee+sanders&safe=active&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi-8efZkaDXAhXhD8AKHatNC2gQ_AUICygC&biw=1554&bih=296#imgrc=Etn8BpWc10StBM:&spf=1509634279370

locumranch said...


Quite unknowingly, Lloyd_F has stumbled into a nest of idealists who do not recognise the 'is-ought' problem and, for this, I offer him my condolences.

By & large, our discussions follow a well-worn pattern: Our host identifies some problem in human education, reasoning, interaction & behaviour; our host declares that these problems spring from erroneous human education, reasoning, interaction & behaviour; and, with Pinkerian human perfectibility as the stated goal, our host then attempts to correct these problems by developing prescriptives about how humans 'should', 'ought' and 'are supposed' to reason, interact, behave & be educated.

Human perfectibility ?? Even when I assume the best of intentions, I have no idea what this phrase means -- nor do I ever wish to know -- and I place myself squarely in the 'is' camp of human nature.

(1) We humans are what we are;

(2) We reason, interact & behave in the manner that we reason, interact & behave; and

(3) Terms like 'ought', 'should' & 'supposed' to are meaningless verbal irrationalities.

TCB then sums up the whole moral relativism issue very nicely when he dismisses old school religious (absolute) morality as "horse shit", arguing (as he does) that morality is innate, uninterested (as he is) as to the origins of religious morality, yet convinced (as most are) that his rather subjective moral belief system 'should', 'ought' and 'is supposed to' be universally applicable & enforceable upon all in an absolute moral fashion.


Best
_____
Fun fact: Jello Biafra, lead singer of the Dead Kennedys once ran for Major of San Francisco, but only a few befuddled conservatives voted for him, mostly because his tongue-in-cheeck 'Kill the Poor' homeless policy was thought politically incorrect.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

Speaking of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a friend at work made a great observation.

"She looks like the mother of the kid that hit your kid at school."


A caller to Stephanie Miller's radio show said that "Sarah Huckabee Sanders!" sounds like something your grandmother says instead of swearing.

David S said...

Dr. Brin,

I spotted a kepi wearing protester at the Darrell Issa protest last Tuesday.
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/communities/north-county/95018052-132.html
If you watch the video, you can see him at the 33 second mark.

raito said...

LarryHart,

The tax bill came up on the local NPR station. Caller said that it was only reasonable to tax taxes, because otherwise those in high-tax states aren't paying their fair share of federal taxes. Fortunately, the show's guest had the relevant figures showing that low-tax states tend to receive a lot more than they pay, so what's this about fair again? My personal take is that essentially wages in high-tax states are just a bit lower than they might be because of the taxes. Then again, I've also lived in Texas and paid no personal income tax, but high sales taxes.

As for the estate tax, it pretty well shows that money = power. Would any other clause that affects so few people generate so much debate, were it not that those few are the ones with the money? I don't think so.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Sarah Huckabee Sanders"

Her name, aptly enough, is a political Frankenstein's monster: An opportunistic money-grubbing hick, a leader of the trash christian right, and a socialist progressive.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp,

I noticed that about her name as soon as she appeared on the scene. Granted, the "Huckabee" is no coincidence as she's the daughter or niece or something of the Mormon candidate Huckabee, but the fact that her other two names evoke other prominent politicians is eerie.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Caller said that it was only reasonable to tax taxes, because otherwise those in high-tax states aren't paying their fair share of federal taxes.


Do we need any more evidence for a complete lack of principles? In what other context would so-called conservatives be arguing that income already lost to taxes should be taxed again? Their argument against the estate tax is that the money was already taxed as income, and that's not even true (inherited unrealized capital gains are never taxed, even when the beneficiary sells). But even if it was true, that's their argument.

Marino said...

"The Cut Cut Cut Act."

Being a sci-fi fan, I remember that in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse novels, "Cut!Cut!Cut!" is the warcry of the Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT), whose leader after the Change is Ted Kaczynski, aka Unabomber, and the Church happens to be one of the most evil villains of the series, as it became a conduit for supernatural evil eldritch horrors beyond space and time (when a CUT acolyte watches you and says " I...see...you..." you get possessed...)
Just sayin...

Marino said...

and, again, about "Cut!Cut!Cut!":
a character in the novel dreams about a future where the CUT won: endless fields worked by scared apparently Neanderthals or similar sub-human slaves laboring under the eye of whip-carrying overseers..."plantation lords", really... :-)

donzelion said...

"Caller said that it was only reasonable to tax taxes, because otherwise those in high-tax states aren't paying their fair share of federal taxes."

California is a 'donor' state, receiving a smaller amount per tax dollar from the Fed than we pay to it. ObamaCare appears to have reduced the rate at which California gets mooched (so we don't pay quite so much more than we receive, unlike under Bush) - which is one of the real reasons the Red States despise it (and us) so much...like any moocher, they despise the folks they're mooching from (and fear that the spigots may get turned off - then they'll have to wait around for their own smart people to invent smart phones and what-not...).

http://www.politifact.com/california/article/2017/feb/14/does-california-give-more-it-gets-dc/

donzelion said...

raito: "As for the estate tax, it pretty well shows that money = power. Would any other clause that affects so few people generate so much debate, were it not that those few are the ones with the money? I don't think so."

Concur. The secondary reason is that by discussing the 'death tax' (aka 'the ordinary income tax' that rich people want even greater special exemptions from) makes them APPEAR to be advocating on behalf of ALL older people (even those whose estates would never trigger 'death taxes').

Add in the complaint that the Affordable Care Act threatens Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and they don't have to do much to sustain a claim that they're looking after the interests of the elderly middle class.

Paul451 said...

Larry,
"but next time, Democrats aren't going to listen to "We can't push our agenda or else Republicans will push theirs the next time they get power." We know what Republicans are now, so when it's our turn, we can safely ignore them and their whining."

No, never underestimate the ability of Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

donzelion said...

Locum: I always find this discussion funny, because those who raise parts of it tend to ignore the implications of what they say, but here goes:

"(1) We humans are what we are;
(2) We reason, interact & behave in the manner that we reason, interact & behave; and
(3) Terms like 'ought', 'should' & 'supposed' to are meaningless verbal irrationalities."


Terms like 'ought,' 'should' & 'supposed to' are terms we humans (whether Pinkerian or otherwise) actually use. A lot. We humans, being creatures that habitually use terms that you describe as 'meaningless' - create and confer meaning for those terms, much as we do with any other terms that we actually use. Whether our natures be fixed, or constructed, or transitional, our behavior in so doing this easily observable.

Lloyd has stumbled into a feisty group that frequently contests the meanings that are ascribed, and that looks broadly for evidence that the processes utilized in reaching those meanings is sound and offers alternative mechanisms (e.g., TCB's evidence from chimps, and Dr. Brin's own criticism). He's found a bunch of irredeemable contrarians and intelligent sci-fi fans...which may be precisely what he was looking for (in which case, he OUGHT to enjoy the give'n'take).

Smurphs said...

Re: the repeal of the Estate Tax. The Republicans may get it or they may not, but they win either way. Squirrel!

Living near a major metro area (Philadelphia), I see this every few years. When the City needs to slash programs they always start with the Library and the Pools. Communities fight fiercely to get them back, but give away everything else. Need a stadium deal, threaten to close the Library. Need more pork barrel money for the Port Authority, threaten to close the summer recreation centers. (Chicago and New York are nothing compared the corruption of the Delaware River Port Authority. I know, I've lived in all three.) Squirrel!

And, every five years or so, there is another Catholic priest pedophile scandal. Within weeks, the Archdiocese start threatening to close parochial schools. Squirrel!

Works every time.

LarryHart said...

Smurphs:

And, every five years or so, there is another Catholic priest pedophile scandal. Within weeks, the Archdiocese start threatening to close parochial schools.


Actually, wouldn't that solve the problem?

/sarcasm

locumranch said...


Terms like 'should', 'ought' and 'supposed to' confer little meaning beyond personal preference.

But back to specifics:

Why, pray tell, does David believe Putin so despicable? Is it his atheism? His egotism? His military training? His pro-surveillance stance? His intestinal fortitude? His computer savvy? His predilection for partial nudity? His rejection of moral absolutes? His affection for aerospace technology? His diminutive stature? His horsemanship? His moral relativism? Are the WEE little nations envious of his authoritarian wee-wee?

It's quite a puzzle. The more LIGHT the West shines on Putin, the greater his international influence & the stronger he seems to grow. Methinks that there is no such as bad advertising and, if this is so, perhaps MSNBC, CNN & the liberal mainstream media should stop screaming 'Trump Trump Trump' 24/7.


Best

TCB said...

Locum, the House Troll, hath said:

"TCB then sums up the whole moral relativism issue very nicely when he dismisses old school religious (absolute) morality as "horse shit", arguing (as he does) that morality is innate, uninterested (as he is) as to the origins of religious morality, yet convinced (as most are) that his rather subjective moral belief system 'should', 'ought' and 'is supposed to' be universally applicable & enforceable upon all in an absolute moral fashion."

OOOHHHHH TASTY! Aren't you a saucy bugger. You sure told me what I think!

I am, in fact, interested in the origins of religious morality to the extent that it is such a major cultural force for both good and ill; however, I argue (as I do!) that this origin has its most distant roots in biology and what we nowadays call game theory. Social creatures enjoy powerful survival advantages when they can cooperate, and the cooperative behaviors (as well as the punish-the-uncooperative behaviors) of nonhuman social creatures maps onto much of what humans call 'morality'.

As for my supposed conviction that my "rather subjective moral belief system 'should', 'ought' and 'is supposed to' be universally applicable & enforceable upon all in an absolute moral fashion", why, heck, I thought that was your game! You're the one who seems insistent that religious codes are the source of human morality. I merely think they are codifications, i.e. standardized frameworks made possible by language and writing, of what already existed in its essence in the human heart. If humans were as amoral as jellyfish or bacteria, would they have listened to Moses and other such men when they proposed codes? Hard to see how. If humans had no innate sense of good/bad pleasure/pain survival/death dichotomies, how could you possibly explain to them that the Mosaic Code was 'better' than not having a code? The concept would be alien to such a people.

Be that as it may, every neurologically normal human (and chimp and wolf) does have some concept that some things are better than others, for both self and society. All these creatures take care of helpless babies instead of eating them at once. All these creatures feel bonds of affection and solidarity. All these creatures cooperate for survival, at least as much as they compete.

But Man, that naked monkey who found ways to cooperate and survive even in outer space, only that creature thinks he needs gods to tell him what the chimps and wolves and even he himself knows already.

Unknown said...

Regarding "Hidden Wealth": A few well placed drone strikes would destroy billions in ill-gotten gains. Those who are hiding wealth there couldn't even complain about it because that would mean they'd have to admit they had something of value stored in those "Freeports."

Lloyd Flack said...

Locum, claiming that there are moral absolutes is claiming that morality can be reduced to simple rules which allow you to make decisions that you can be certain are right or wrong. But that is not how it is in real life. Often we have conflicting moral imperatives and have to make a judgement call about the weights that we give them. Often any decision that we make has a moral downside even if a minor one.
Should we base morality on reigious claims? Why should I believe them? If what God wants requires my belif then God knows what is required for me to believe and it isn't prophets and scriptures. Thus I conclude that God is uninterested in my obedience or praise. Not much of a basis for morality is it?

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Why, pray tell, does David believe Putin so despicable?"

I'm sure Brin can answer that for himself, but I despise the man and would delight in reading of his assassination because he is a vicious despot, one step removed from Robert Mugabe or some of the grotesques ruling former Soviet states. He doesn't hesitate to order the murder of dissidents, opponents, and reporters, and he has stolen some eight trillion dollars from his people. Further, he has done everything he can to destabilise the west, America in particular.

LarryHart said...

Lloyd Flack:

Locum, claiming that there are moral absolutes is claiming that morality can be reduced to simple rules which allow you to make decisions that you can be certain are right or wrong. But that is not how it is in real life


It's a bit confusing, but loc is arguing that there are no moral absolutes. He thinks we're the ones insisting that there are.

donzelion said...

Locum: "Terms like 'should', 'ought' and 'supposed to' confer little meaning beyond personal preference."
So YOU believe. Yet these terms are believed, by every party engaging in every transaction that made it possible for you to type those words and transmit them somewhere, to have some meaning. All those folks may be wrong or misled. But they built your world in part by reliance on such beliefs.

re the judgment on Putin

Putin is no Stalin, not even a Khomeini or a Bin Laden in terms of the vileness hierarchy. At his worst, for Russia (and Ukraine, Georgia, and other targets of his 'affections'), he embraces and empowers a series of well-connected oligarchs, enriches some, strips others, all part of an ancient means of doing business through power.

Putin is less some super-genius arch villain seeking to destroy the civilization that conferred your toys - he's a mundane, fairly typical expression of powerbrokers operating behind the scenes to maintain their power and squelch alternatives.

"The more LIGHT the West shines on Putin, the greater his international influence & the stronger he seems to grow."
I disagree.

In the pool of 'strongmen,' the Philippines is more at risk of falling into Chinese orbit than Russian, Turkey's Erdogan has no better leverage to play to obtain economic opportunity from the EU than to hint at looking elsewhere, Venezuela is hardly a raging bastion of terror...all are hiccups, so long as America by and large plays by the 'rules.' When American casino operators and other financiers change the rules for their own benefit, the strongmen prosper - and Putin's own territorial ambitions become considerably less expensive. But to the extent his aspirations are known, they are far more difficult to achieve - nobody will wittingly be seen to embrace him (save perhaps the occasional Assad or two - monster unloved by anyone decent).

"Methinks that there is no such as bad advertising"
You are allowed to think what you like. I pray things remain that way. Milo Yonscampolis gets paid to say otherwise. But while conservatives whine about being silenced, they hold majorities in every position of power throughout the country - if anyone silences them, it's other conservatives.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: I suppose I'll insist on some moral absolutes:
slavery is evil.
genocide is evil.
oligarchy is ugly and ineffective compared to a much better civilization we've constructed.

If Locum, or anyone else, cares to argue these absolutes do not hold, I'll gladly attack their arguments. I suspect I would not be alone in the undertaking.

Lloyd Flack said...

Rather say that some things have such a high weight compared to the alternatives that in any realistic scenario the proper choice is clear.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

I think the point being argued is, "So What?" Slavery is evil (or in the sense of the original argument, "People should not practice slavery."), but people do practice slavery. So what does the "should" imply? That you and others will fight against slavers? Sure, but plenty of Republicans will also fight against democracy. "Should" don't enter into it.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "So what does the "should" imply?"

Watch where you buy your diamonds? I don't know - probably whatever one wishes to make of it, more likely whatever many make of it together. But at the very least, it would challenge the claim 'there are no absolutes.'

"Sure, but plenty of Republicans will also fight against democracy. "Should" don't enter into it."
'Should' always enters into it - drives it, defines it, organizes it and sustains its organization. When they fight, to the extent they win, it's often by mustering 'shoulds' better than their adversaries (alongside the claim, 'the other side is worse'). I don't particularly care for Koch/Murdoch 'shoulds' - but also don't pretend they do not exist.

David Brin said...

Locum misses the point, as always. I don’t call Putin evil. Where did I say that? He is a clever warrior for the destruction of our Great Experiment and a return to 6000 years of feudalism. He has created an alliance to bring us down and is quite open about it.

Take this from Vladimir Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly following the referendum on annexation of Crimea, 18 March, 2014: “The USA prefers to follow the rule of the strongest and not by the international law. They are convinced that they have been chosen and they are exceptional, that they are allowed to shape the destiny of the world, that it is only them that can be right. They act as they please. Here and there they use force against sovereign states, set up coalitions in accordance with the principle: who is not with us is against us.”

From his perspective, Obama and HClinton were very aggressive, pushing western values of liberty, democracy, freedom, individualism etc, e.g. in stealing the Ukraine from the Russian Sphere. Hence his devotion to defeating her and putting in his own puppet.

See this fascinating report from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency on the Russian military buildup, along with their open war aginst us via cyber and propaganda and sabotage.

http://www.dia.mil/Portals/27/Documents/News/Military%20Power%20Publications/Russia%20Military%20Power%20Report%202017.pdf

From that report:

“Major themes of Russian propaganda include: The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.”

You can tell a lot by what your adversary says to make himself out to be the hero. According to the Putin Doctrine:

“The West demonizes Russia, which is only trying to defend its interests and sovereignty and act as an indispensable nation in world affairs. The United States is determined to interfere with and overthrow sovereign governments around the world.”

And yes! We should squint and see how they see themselves as heroes and the injured party! Except that:

1) Their complaint is that we have interfered in their traditional right to repress others. Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles…

2) Blatantly, the U.S. could have destroyed them at any point across 70 years, especially the last 20. We did not. It is clear they would not have been so restrained, were the role ever reversed.

3) The system they want the world to return to was tried for 6000 years and utterly failed.

David Brin said...

onward

onward