Monday, October 09, 2017

Three Lessons from Vegas

In the wake of the October 1 tragedy in Las Vegas, our national ritual of lamentation, recrimination and hand-wringing has reached a new pitch. Although even the National Rifle Association has admitted that some (small) lunacies must change, the core issues remain intransigent. We seem forever stymied by the emotion-laden matter of guns in America.

Among the better articles I’ve seen are this one from Slate: “Las Vegas should entirely change the way we think about preventing mass shootings.”… And this one: America's Gun Fantasy: “Three percent of the nation owns half the firearms—to prepare for an ultraviolent showdown that exists only in their imagination,” writes Kurt Anderson. Indeed, liberal goals for gun legislation, like background checks, have retracted, rather than inflated since 2001, when many liberals began quietly to arm themselves.

My own commentary this time will be in three parts. First, I’ll reiterate my top suggestion for what to do about the shooters, themselves. Especially when — as apparently in this case — the aim of the crime would seem likely to have been neither self-interest nor dogma, but deliberate infamy. 

Second, I’ll make crystal clear the deepest reason why the gun-obsessed refuse to negotiate or contemplate even modest or pragmatic reforms -- a reason that liberals are foolish to ignore. Finally, I’ll ruminate about some side issues that may be relevant and revealing about our times.

== Erase the most common motive ==

Violence comes in all flavors, propelled by a variety of drives. Regular or gang-driven crime can be deterred, if we use modern tools to ensure that it will never pay. Sometimes those who are mentally or morally damaged seek rationalization for their rage, under a veneer of dogma or grievance, as in revenge killings or fanatical terrorism. When a kid who has been viciously bullied lashes out, we must share some of the blame, for having allowed the torment to happen, and for not noticing earlier cries for help. On occasion, a soul that is sinking into despair tries to take others down with him.

And a large fraction of mass shooters don’t fit any of those templates. Rather, their lashing out at society seems to be motivated by a frustrated sense of self-importance. A need - after a lifetime of nebbish obscurity - to yank attention from the world. Take the example of Dylann Storm Roof, a white supremacist convicted of perpetrating the Charleston church shooting on June 17, 2015. 

Calmly proud of his actions, Roof went into a fury when his court-appointed lawyers tried to make an issue of his clinically delusional mental state. He made his cooperation with the court and prosecution conditional that his insane actions would not be so characterized in court. His self-image as a crusader for the white race and freedom — who shot down children in cold blood — was more important to him than any chance of a reduced sentence.

Elsewhere I wrote extensively about the “Erastratos Effect,” named after a loony who burned down the Temple of Diana in Ephesus - of the the great wonders of the world - in order for his name to live forever.  Ah, but in fact “Erastratos” is not his real name. The Hellenes erased that and replaced it, so that he, personally, would be forgotten,  showing that we can still learn a thing or two from our ancestors. 

See my posting - Names of Infamy - where I recommend doing the same thing, as a deterrent, in all such cases — for example renaming Mr. Roof “Loony-wimp 17.” (And before you howl about Freedom of Speech, would you kindly actually read the missive?)

Does any of this apply to Stephen Paddock, the Vegas shooter? It’s too soon to say. Down below, I’ll speculate a bit more about what little we know. But in general, it could be very effective to add this element, when someone is convicted or proved to have committed some truly grievous harm to us all.

== The underlying impasse — those gun guys fear a “slippery slope” ==

A majority - though alas not a super-majority - of Americans would gladly go for something reasonable that still preserves our traditional right to reasonable ownership of weapons. (Though for two decades I have been pointing out that the Great Equalizer that’s arming nearly all citizens, today, is the cell-phone camera. See The Transparent Society. Especially p. 160.)

What’s the simplest and most logical reform that could fix so many of the howlingly stupid and harmful aspects of today’s situation?  I’ve long held that we should treat firearms exactly like motor vehicles, with well-regulated training, licensing, registration and insurance. It works superbly for cars! Every day, about 200 million of us use potentially deadly tools for millions of person-hours, with incredible skill and statistically-minimal downside every single day. In fact, we might start by simply renaming the DMV as the DMV&G. Almost every general process and procedure translates, including taking more advanced training before being licensed for more dangerous firearms.

Why can’t we have this? The answer is simple. And if you don’t know… then try actually going out there and asking Gun Folks!  The answer that you get will always be exactly the same. 
And I mean exactly. 
The same, 100% of the time. 

It’s called the "slippery slope." 

Give an inch, and your enemies will smell weakness and take a mile. Then you’ll lose everything.

To this large, vociferous minority, any compromise will inevitably set off a landslide of rapid decay, leading swiftly to state confiscation of all personal weaponry. (In fact, the slippery slope is embedded in almost every meme pushed hard by Fox News for 25 years.)

Oh, sure, there’s not been the slightest sniff of any such desire or tendency among the vast majority of democratic or liberal politicians or voters. Putting aside the yammerings of a small, radical-lefty fringe, there has never been any sign of intention toward confiscation, among those calling for rational, car-like regulation of firearms. The paranoid ravings about this are like Obama’s “UN black helicopter camps for all Christians” — the fulminations of deranged minds.

And yet, pause. Take a breath. Underneath all that, there’s a nugget of truth to the gun folks’ slippery fears

Look at the vast majority of nations and oppressive states, across the last 6000 years, where the kings, lords, priests and their armed thugs did forbid common folk from bearing arms! Moreover, in view of human history, are you sure you can blithely dismiss that concern? Go ahead, and shrug it off, if you like. But you'll not budge them or divide their alliance or draw moderates away from their faction.

No, you are supposed to be the smart folks. Yet you do not even bother to listen to your opponents, trying to perceive if there’s a germ, a core of justification, buried under all the bullshit. And that laziness on your part makes you partly to blame.

Hence, I raise, once again, my proposal for an approach that starts out by acknowledging, rather than shrugging-off the slippery slope concern, and carefully contrives a way to cancel out that fear, leaving compromise possible. It begins by pointing out how incredibly weak their beloved 2nd Amendment is! And how some future Court will, in some time of panic, simply re-interpret its vagueness.  

We have something we can offer them. A better and stronger amendment!  If they’d meet us halfway.


== Ancillary thoughts ==

Those are my two main proposals. And yes, it is frustrating to have to type new postings linking to them, year-after-year, decade after decade, mass tragedy after tragedy.

Wrapping up, let’s veer back to the specific emotion-laden vexations of autumn 2017.

We seek patterns, even when those patterns are simplistic or lead us astray. And so, the October 1st* Las Vegas tragedy sparked immediate questions about terrorism, or the perpetrator’s ties to radical groups. And in this case, speculations about political or religious motives led nowhere. As the New York Times put it: “whatever drove Stephen Paddock to kill has remained a vexing and terrifying mystery.” Agents are interviewing his family and friends. But if there were a single reason, “we don’t know it yet,” the Las Vegas sheriff said, as there was no note or manifesto left behind.

Oh, there will be parties declaring “It’s a mental health issue, not about guns!” And at the deepest level, sure, this is a truism. Over the long run, we must take responsibility for the hurt and the damaged among us, getting better at finding them. Soothing them. Helping them…

…which of course makes the fox-zoids yammering about “a mental health problem” the most unbelievable hypocrites! Hypocrites who then go and cut funding for mental health.

But that aspect is near term. What often comes up in my discussions with defense-types is the problem of “asymmetric technological empowerment.”  The notion that ever more destructive technology is coming into the hands of mass numbers of people, giving disproportionate power to the few, the angry, the insane. Some, like scholar Phil Torres, suggest that this happens to all advanced races. Indeed, it may be the ‘great filter’ that kills off most of them, helping to explain the Fermi Paradox! 

In my defense talks, I show members of our Protector Caste that it is the RATIO of sane to insane practitioners - in a context of reciprocal transparency - that can make the crucial difference in whether we’ll survive the rapid democratization of potentially dangerous technologies into the hands of an increasingly tech-empowered populace. I talk extensively about this elsewhere…

… and highly pertinent is this TED talk of mine about the plague of self-righteousness addiction that has made our society functionally less-sane across the board! Losing the agility and maturity we’ll need in a modern and open and free society.   

But what about Stephen Paddock himself? (Assuming, alas, that we remain more stupid than the ancient Hellenes and neglect to change his name, in righteously-pragmatic deterrence?) So far, he’s a mystery. But one trait already seems to stand out. The one thing he was apparently highly skilled at, across his life. Indeed, the central focus (besides guns) of his life.

Gambling. So far, it seems not to be the usual story of gambling shredding the addict’s finances, family and life. Not a ‘loser’ per se, the perpetrator was a major player. Paddock was apparently among a rare breed, those who were good at it.. until the House adjusts the rules and then you're not. And yet, even so, his brother and girlfriend and others have testified to watching him ride the up-and-down, sleepless roller coaster of thrills and depression at his favored game. Video poker has been called “the crack cocaine of gambling.” The Vegas shooter was a creature of Vegas.

Now, there’s little more to be drawn from this, in any factual way, at least so-far. We’ll have to wait and see if gambling truly was a factor. But you know me. I cannot help but riff off of this into a brinnian micro-rant. This one will be brief, but bitter.

== A steady re-definition of sin ==

Once upon a time, gambling was denounced by conservatives as at-best a wasteful temptation, and at-worst a sin that could lead to crime and shattered families. That was then. Today, shoreline and riverboat casinos are among the biggest employers and tourist draws, in the Deep South. Foreign governments launder mountains of cash through Sheldon Adelson’s anomalously profitable Macau casinos, that he then conveys under his own name to warp our politics. Indeed, most of the other gambling lords give generously. And while they have made the GOP largely their own, they still have plenty of spare change to spread to some receptive pols in the other party. 

Is this puritan conservatism in the 21st Century? We’ve seen them go from “A penny saved…” to deficit spending that is always — and I mean always — vastly worse than democrats. From shunning divorced people to re-electing far more of them than liberals do. From rewarding rectitude to making Dennis “friend-to-boys” Hastert the leader of the GOP for many years… a horrid pervert both preceded and later followed by men who were infamous for their ill-treatment of wives, and women, in general. 

Oh… and from denouncing organized crime to electing a casino-owner/slumlord with open mob ties? No, no. This is not just the party of denialist, anti-science coal barons and oil sheiks. It is not just the party of Wall street and the party of Putin. Never neglect to include the casino titans! And read this: “How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts.”  

All of them share a central character trait that is more dangerous to the republic, to our Great Experiment and to our children and human survival than all the mass shooters and terrorists, whatever they may manage to achieve in the future.  Look at what these mighty interest groups have in common! All are oligarchs who feel they deserve the power that kings and priests and lords wielded across 99% of history. All of them cheat, instead of competing openly and fairly. All of them seek to hammer us back into that feudal pyramid of old, re-establishing an order under which their sons will own your sons and daughters.

For them, guns are a convenient way to stir Confederate-vs-Union passions distracting us from an accelerating oligarchic putsch. And just watch, you Second Amendment folks, how quickly that right will vanish, as soon as the New Feudalism is firmly locked in place.

===
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Addendum.  The great astronomer and science fiction author Fred Hoyle wrote “October the First is Too Late.”  No connection. But I thought I’d plug a great sci fi novel to a generation that never heard of him.

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145 comments:

Anonymous said...

Well said. I would add the need for lawmakers to propose an insurance law against the misuse of weapons. "The liability for production of a weapon" used to murder innocent people.
This special and compulsory insurance must be accepted in a regulated manner by all arms-producing families, with responsibility in the agreement, even if the arms-making company is dissolved.
If a company produces a weapon that is used to kill an innocent person, the company is obligated to pay a million and a half dollars to the direct relatives of the victim.
If a company produces a weapon that is used to kill more than a dozen innocent people, that company must pay a fine equivalent to a quarter of the profits of that company for a year. The money of the fine must be paid in one third to the families of the victims and two thirds should be earmarked for the maintenance of a system of surveillance and rapid reaction against insane gunmen and terrorists.
You have to hit where it hurts most companies that profit from death. In profit.
I will never justify the ill-fated role of companies, which instead of diversifying their businesses when sales to the army go down, they begin to sell the artifacts of death as sweets.
Sincerely
Guy Fawkes

LarryHart said...

commenting before I've finished the entire posts, so, y'know...

As with "makers and takers", there would seem to be an unappreciated communication/empathy gap between those who love guns and those who fear guns. It has oft been noted that those who want limits on the Second Amendment don't understand those who embrace gun culture in America. Ok, but the reverse is also true. Jonah Goldberg's recent column is a good example, referring to the opposition as "those who hate guns and gun rights". Most mainstream liberals I know want steps taken to protect the public from gun violence, especially from mass-shooters who don't care if they die. Recognizing that as a social problem in need of a solution does not require one to "hate guns and gun rights." That's a false dichotomy which does not advance the conversation.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

And yet, pause. Take a breath. Underneath all that, there’s a nugget of truth to the gun folks’ slippery fears.


In actual fact, we already have a restriction on the right to gun possession. When someone is stopped by the police for any reason--especially a member of a visible minority group--and that person happens to possess a firearm and the police spot the firearm, they will open up and shoot to kill immediately. And most likely, they'll be let off the hook for such actions, and the "Blue Lives Matter!" people who insist that such is all well and good are somehow the same people who advocate for unlimited gun rights.

What good is a right to possess something when possession of that thing might be rationale to kill you?

occam's comic said...

(this comment was for the post on space topics, but that tread closed too soon;-( )

Large, reusable rockets do seem to have the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of tossing material into low earth orbit.

Most space nerds think that this is the most wonderful news because it would reduce the cost of human space exploration / settlement. I think that it is true launch cost would be much less, but human space exploration would still be very expensive, it still has enormous technological problems to solve (long term life support, space based industrial processing), and the economic case for human space exploration / settlement is dubious at best and more likely to be a giant financial black hole.

The one organization on the earth with the most experience in low earth orbit and the biggest budget is the US Military. With the reduced launch cost, the first thing they will do is give the information sensing, communication and control satellites a massive upgrade. You should be able to end up with 24/7 multispectral imaging of almost all of the earth, with an ability to focus and track thousands of targets simultaneously. The communication satellites should allow every soldier to have fast high bandwidth connection to base at all times.

After the nonlethal satellite upgrades are in place, orbital kinetic kill weapons (Orwell’s Orbiting Boot) offer a quantum leap in power projection. A wide range of mass for the orbital boots gives military personal the ability to destroy everything from a single terrorist to an aircraft carrier anywhere on the earth within 10 minutes. It is like having the whole world in your crosshairs at all times.

Once a system like this is in place, the US military has the opportunity to restructure itself so that it is a much smaller in manpower, more precise, more lethal and less expensive and less environmentally damaging. Most overseas bases could be greatly reduced or eliminated, aircraft carrier based power projection could be eliminated or greatly reduced. Conventional land based military operations (think tank battle) become even more obsolete than they are now. With continued development of high power solid state lasers, we have the opportunity to put them in orbit and make them solar powered, giving the US the potential to destroy military aircraft in flight in an economically efficient way while minimizing the environmental cost (in comparison to the other ways to destroy military aircraft).

occam's comic said...

In a time when the American empire is sharp decline
and given American's techno fetishism, and its love of war,
this sci-fi dream of dominating the planet from orbit will be nearly irresistible for the US military Industrial Political complex.
This will certainly end in some type of tragedy - global fascism, global war, or Kessler syndrome.

Katy Williams said...

The gun lovers are superstitious gun-worshippers. They seem to believe owning firearms will keep them safe from "the tyranny of Government". Their example of this working is the Bundy Ranch standoff. What they don't grasp is the standoff most likely worked because the gun-worshippers used little children (and women) as their shields. If all they'd had to defend their right to destroy public lands was their rifles and semi-automatics and whatnot, they'd be TOAST right this minute. Or in jail.

They are wrong that owning firearms protects them from tyranny and supports democracy. Freedom of the Press is what would do that, if we had it, which we don't.

And what's more: the writers of the First & Second amendments said so, quite clearly.

greg byshenk said...

For those discussing presidential fiction, I'll throw out a recommendation for The General's President by John Dalmas. It's a bit preachy and has some rather silly conspiracy nonsense, but still a fun read, and Arne Haugen is a great character.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@occam: in essence, you feel that SpaceX, Blue Origin, etc. will enable the implementation not only of Reaganesque "Star Wars" but also Pournelle's "Rods from God" and orbit-to-ground defense/offense grids.

To which I say: perhaps. And perhaps not. The USA and PRC have demonstrated ground-to-LEO satellite laser destruction capacity. Would you want to place assets up there at a much-reduced-but-still-high cost only to have a much less expensive laser knock them down?

GPS, GEO, and MEO are more likely to be safe but also have far less ability to ROATS. That will include the C4 and spying upgrades, which yes, will definitely go up.

But in LEO, stuff only stays by mutual agreement of all powers with antisat capabilities. China will not allow any offensive weapons in space until she has the capacity to launch her own and maintain balance of power.

And while they haven't tested it, I do not know why Russia and Europe would not be able to build antisat lasers. They may or may not have done so yet, but if offensive satellites go up, you bet they will. Only a militarized UN would have the overarching authority that would keep those sats aloft in a conflict, and for precisely that reason, the Great Powers will not authorize it.

Flypusher said...

Chris Ladd has a good post about the obstacles to dealing sensibly with guns over on Forbes:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/chrisladd/2017/10/06/ten-lies-distort-the-gun-control-debate/#3f95314e1fad

The topic of regulating guns in the manner of cars has been kicked about a bit on Political Orphans and most people there are all for it. There used to be a 2nd Amendment fanatic who posted there, and he had an objection to the notion that was at least original (to me)- he expressed concern about all the poor people who would get priced out of legal gun ownership. Never mind that a gun hobby already is going to demand more disposable income that the paycheck to paycheck crowd has. Also never mind that if the NRA were truly concerned about that, they have the funds to do a charity gun buying and education outreach. The excuses some people will make to avoid a serious discussion. These people are like the protagonists in the classic Greek tragedy- there is something (gun grabbing) that they fear will happen. They are so afraid that they forsake a reasonable solution and embrace crazy- some of them actually say that mass shootings are an acceptable price to pay for their gun rights (especially since it’s other people’s children being sacrificed) or go full reprehensible as in Sandy Hook “truther”. The tragedy ends with the desperate actions actually causing the most feared thing to happen. That’s the road these folks are headed down. I’d rather see responsible citizens have the right to own firearms, but not even rights spelled out in the Constitution are absolute.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | (from a couple threads ago)

The Reciprocity Principle you see is a very informal one. I thought you were referring to some kind of formal thing enshrined in law. What we DO have is at the level of the social contract. Those of us who agree to it are part of an in-club... sort of. There are benefits to being in. However, there is no membership card.... and yes... sometimes we are duped by those we think are in who actually aren't.

As for Sapolsky and Pinker, you should read the later chapter where Sapolsky deals with Pinker's claims more directly. He argues there is some truth to Pinker's claims, but those who oppose him on scholarly grounds are making counter-claims that involve violence intensity... which is a different thing. It's an interesting chapter if you want to see something about the personalities involved.

Besides having a 30th birthday being a good deterrent, I know of another stat involving a 40th birthday. It says that if the police haven't caught you by then, they probably never will. You've figured out how to lie, cheat, or steal in a way that doesn't trigger their attention. I suppose that will change in a world of ubiquitous cameras and microphones, but that remains to be seen.

David Brin said...

Occam is not alone in making very sharp micro-observations... without a scintilla of historical context. Compare all the different nationalities and peoples and states that were tempted by great power. Find one, ever, that abused that temptation as little as Pax Americana has, or waged war more reluctantly. Or one that was less hated by its neighbors.

Yes, the result of such power and temptation is nearly always some spasms of excess. We all strive for a future era when such thuggish immaturities are behind us. Indeed, no era ever set the stage for such a future as well as the 70 year American pax. Moreover, the very mental values that Occam himself applies - that there should be no war and no imperial bullying - would have been considered ludicrous in times past, but are now common in large part BECAUSE of the influence of that pax and its propaganda arm, - Hollywood - from which occam suckled every value that he preens as his own.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

occam's vision of military space isn't all that different from what George Friedman described in his 100 year future projection book. There was more detail from Friedman, but then it WAS a chapter long description. His argument was that another war between us and Russia (roughly in the late 2020's or early 2030's) demonstrated to us the huge logistical difficulties of operating on a front ranging from the Baltic to the Black Seas without a great deal of support from European allies. To deal with fueling issues, we go electric with a crash course in space-based solar power to be beamed to the surface. It's a monstrously huge expense... that only the US can afford. The net result of the war is a crushed Russia and the US absolutely dominant in space.

The book chapter doesn't make it sound easy or as Orwellian as it could be. The truth is we would still be vulnerable to asymmetric actions. People could still hide on the surface or dig in. The counter push to our power would be to develop hypersonic weaponry forcing the US Navy to stand back. Look at the newer ships we are building now and you'll see new ideas for fighting in close. All that would end with small, mobile hypersonic missiles.

With all that, though, I think it is a mistake to connect Elon Musk to this vision too much. That's not his thing. As he succeeds, it will be other people copying his success who enable this future vision for the US.

So... we are not an empire in decline. Not even close. Friedman argued that history will record the 21st century as our century. There will be other wars we can barely imagine happening, but the next one with Russia will be their last... and he makes an excellent case for why that is.

Chris Heinz said...

The purpose of the 2nd amendment is the same as it has always been: for white people to have lots and lots of guns so they can slaughter black people (originally slaves) when they feel they need to - i.e., the slaves revolt, or the black people get to uppity.

Russell Osterlund said...

Adding to the name change trick:

Why does the media always display an old photo of these psychopaths smiling and looking like ordinary folk? I would want their bullet-riddled corpse shown instead if it would not infringe on societal norms. It is equivalent to repeating over and over again a plane slamming into the World Trade Center or a president hugging a young woman in a reception line enough times until it becomes "normalized" and imprinted in the memory. People need an image that reminds them of the evil act without immortalizing the perpetrator in a photo showing their "good side".

David Brin said...

US military superiority has always been iffy. Potential adversaries always look for ways to "level the playing field" so that war becomes a plausible option for them. See Singer & Cole's best seller GHOST FLEET
https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-Fleet-Novel-Next-World/dp/054470505X

My own fear is that this is the whole purpose of the Kim regime, to give "them" a puppet who can strike at us while they sit back and say "it wasn't us!"

Paul451 said...

From the last post:

David,
"A coalition of nearly all space scientists, Silicon Valley investors and - yes, democrats - prefer to go prospecting asteroids"

When Obama proposed the original manned asteroid mission, he received no support from NASA's Science Mission Directorate, nor from rank'n'file NASA scientists. And after Congress forced SLS onto his Administration with Democrat support (such as Nelson and Mikulski), SMD scientists didn't support the asteroid return mission either.

And Musk's Mars fantasy seems to have attracted more support from the Silicon Valley types than Diamandis' Planetary Resources asteroid miners.

[I will say, I prefer a path via asteroid utilisation rather than Mars colonisation, but it's not common, even if it is amongst the crowd you hang out with.)

LarryHart said...

Chris Heinz:

The purpose of the 2nd amendment is the same as it has always been: for white people to have lots and lots of guns so they can slaughter black people (originally slaves) when they feel they need to - i.e., the slaves revolt, or the black people get to uppity.


In the eighteenth century, it was black people. Now, it's also about being able to kill Hispanics and Muslims. And sometimes Jews too if disguise your anger as being at "international bankers".

But I'm not disagreeing with your essential point. The Second Amendment protects the right of gun ownership for White Christian Republicans, no one else.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I think the “Erastratos Effect” would be a good deterrent to the more vainglorious type of mass shooter, but there is a problem: people are massively curious about these shooters, and want to know about them. to know who they are. Some times it's nothing more than morbid curiosity, Sometimes it's just the weird love of celebrity that brought us the Kardasians. And it's a need to understand. It's a good idea, but like many good ideas, it requires a fundamental change in human nature to work.

I wonder how many wannabee terrorists are watching the images from the Tubbs fire and realizing they could destroy half a city just by waiting for the next sundowner wind?

David Brin said...

Zepp, the Erastratos solution can take due process and be imposed after a few years. It won't violate free speech if there's always an asterisk and you can find the real name.

LarryHart and Chris Heinz did you enjoy that? You are right about the history and today's unequal germ. And exaggerating does no one any good.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor Brin wrote: "Find one, ever, that abused that temptation as little as Pax Americana has, or waged war more reluctantly. Or one that was less hated by its neighbors."

Most empires shared the delusion that they were noble, they were just, they were admired, and they served some purpose greater than themselves. Hitler and Stalin were widely loved in their respective countries because the "Made Homeland Great Again" and surprisingly admired in other lands. I'm not equating the US to Nazi Germany or the USSR, but just noting they weren't as nice or beloved as the residents thought, and delusional in regards to their benefice and value. And yes, England was every bit as bad. All empires are. The "Pax Americana" is the product of some 55 brush wars since 1945 resulting in over six million deaths.

Erastratos solution: Yes, that could work. Even notorious figures like Zorro, Billy the Kid or Guy Fawkes had real names that are largely known only to historians.

Gordon said...

Parton me, David for taking the conversation away from the very interesting discussion at hand. The pop up ads I get when reading your post on Facebook prevented me from accessing. Just wanted to let you know. Is someone effectively suppressing your writing?

Paul SB said...

Larry's comments about the "Blue Lives Matter" meme and Katy's about the superstitions of gun-toters are both pretty on point. There have even been cases where a minority driver who was pulled over by police calmly informed the police that he had a gun and was shot anyway. And I grew up in a town where many of my friends and neighbors were packing, and they all had that same idea that were somehow going to resist the evil government (it was evil when there was a Democrat in the White House, but something to be proud of what it was a Republican). I think both of these things help to answer Russel's question about why the media always show pictures of mass murderers looking like ordinary Joes (very, very rarely ordinary Josephines). It's a trope. Ever since Charles Whitman was shot down from the tower in College Station, TX in 1964, it has become standard operating procedure to interview friends and neighbors and discover that everyone thought the killer was a really nice guy who wouldn't hurt a fly. It's part of the script, just like the police over-reaction to minorities in possession of firearms and the hopeless fantasy of upright, honest citizens defending their rights with their guns.

If anyone has read Terry Pratchett's novel "The Truth" you might remember a discussion of what constitutes new, verses what constitutes "olds." People are not usually open to hearing something new, they want to hear what they expect to hear. "Man Bites Dog" might be news, but it causes cognitive dissonance in the consumer. Better to give them "Dog Bites Man" and they can nod their heads sagely and say, "Well I could have told you that!" and feel like they are very clever.

Darrell E said...

Paul451 said...

"And Musk's Mars fantasy seems to have attracted more support from the Silicon Valley types than Diamandis' Planetary Resources asteroid miners.

[I will say, I prefer a path via asteroid utilisation rather than Mars colonisation, but it's not common, even if it is amongst the crowd you hang out with.)"


Yes, I agree. I think its great that at the levels David mixes with that asteroid mining is looked at favorably, but like you most talk I hear (articles and comments at science & technology websites) the moon and mars have much greater market share than asteroid mining. Of course that doesn't necessarily mean anything. What's important is what the entities that actually have the capabilities to make stuff happen are thinking.

Elon Musk has his Mars vision as an ultimate goal but his often stated primary goal is to drive launch costs down far enough to enable general use of space. He wants to enable hundreds of launches a year, thousands. He isn't likely to get into the asteroid mining business himself, at least not as SpaceX, but he wants to enable others to do so. And whatever else others can dream up and make work. For SpaceX to work, to reach the goals of driving launch costs down to the levels they are aiming for and a Mars mission (let alone a Mars colony) SpaceX needs all the customers it can get. Right now there aren't enough. More customers, lower launch costs, you can't have one without the other. Getting there without failing miserably is a delicate and risky balancing act.

Sirius Lunacy said...

If only we could get those good Christian legislators who are working so hard to end abortion because it's murder to see that killing someone with a gun is also murder. Perhaps then we could get them to work just as hard to end gun violence.

LarryHart said...

Finally! Thank you, Paul Krugman, for noticing:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/10/opinion/columnists/virginia-is-for-haters.html

Ed Gillespie, the G.O.P. candidate, is trying to pull off an upset by going full-on Trumpist, doing all he can — with assistance from the tweeter in chief — to mobilize the white nationalist vote. He’s accusing Ralph Northam, his Democratic opponent, of dishonoring the state’s Confederate heroes. (Funny how people who accuse their rivals of being unpatriotic worship men who engaged in armed rebellion against the United States.)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart and Chris Heinz did you enjoy that? You are right about the history and today's unequal germ. And exaggerating does no one any good.


Jumping on the bandwagon in order to demonstrate that the wheels have fallen off.

The only way the Second Amendment will ever be reigned in is when American voters become afraid that it allows "those people" to arm themselves too.

Tim H. said...

I like the idea of not naming shooters, my preferred name for the Las Vegas shooter is "2017 homicidal cretin #273". The Jefferson rifle makes sense also, though making semiautomatic weapons available only to the armed forces, but bolt action, lever action and revolvers remaining available might be sufficient. I would add replacing lead projectiles with iron or steel which usually kill just once, as a bonus, ferrous projectiles would be harsh on gun barrels, reducing the active use of an individual weapon, and gun enthusiasts might enjoy the excuse to shop...

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

I like the idea of not naming shooters, my preferred name for the Las Vegas shooter is "2017 homicidal cretin #273".


How about also giving them faces other than their own when the story shows up in the news? When the shooter is a White Christian, portray him on screen with a black or Hispanic face. When it's a Muslim, make him blond and blue-eyed, munching on a slice of bacon. That sort of thing.

raito said...

LarryHart,

They already know that 'those people' can arm themselves. But, hey, as long as they're only killing each other, everything is fine with the world, right?

On the one hand, you can't absolutely abolish firearms. Not unless you also outlaw the purchase of chunks of metal, tools, and measuring devices. They're very simple to make. Nor are you likely to remove from the collective memory of humanity the knowledge to make them.

On the other, I'd love to see how the ownership of firearms in the USA breaks down by wealth. I'd posit that as wealth goes up, weapon ownership goes down. So ask those gun owners if the rich guys (who they see as owning the government) actually care about whether they care about gun ownership.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, ever see Ralph Bakshi's "Wizards"? Some of the evil minions would work well ;)

David Brin said...

Tim H "Wizards" is the most evil thing I ever saw. Bar none. Every single scene.

Zepp your grand declaration has a flaw. You don’t consider PERCENTAGES. Tell me what fraction of humanity saw their city burn under the trample of an invading army, under Pax Americana. Less than 1% as many as in other eras. What fraction of national wealth was spent by nations of Africa, the Americas etc on defense, compared to the normal 50% of most eras? What fraction of children had to work instead of go to school? Track how that fraction changed across 70 years, globally.

Track your OWN reflex to criticize and tell me one other imperium that trained its kids with that reflex. Try sapience. It offers perspective. Criticize? Sure! It’s how we approve. Ignore what’s special? That’s dumb.


I'm gonna be away a while. Have fun guys.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I read somewhere that the 20th century featured the lowest percentage of deaths by combat going back to the 13th century, which is the soonest time historians had anything resembling reliable data. That's despite the world wars. It's also despite your 'Pax Americana', which didn't exist until 1945.

Post war gave way to local but bloody proxy wars; Korea, Vietnam.

There was also Pax Europe, in which no significant battles were fought for the balance of the century. Part of it was lessons learned, at least for a couple of generations, from the great wars, and part of it was the cold war and the doctrine of MAD.

As colonialism receded in Africa, colonial struggles became brush wars. Genocides and pogroms became common, reflecting a basic state of humanity that existed world wide prior to the Enlightenment and the Rise of Technology. (Caps are purposeful: they created America, and they created what you call the Pax Americana). Colonialism was brutal, and killed hundreds of millions between the 15th and 20th century. Africa may be a mess, politically, but it's still better off than it was under the French, the English, and the Germans. America encouraged the demise of colonialism, but it wasn't as altruistic as it sounds: it made it easier to install corporate colonialism. America pulled back from Africa, finding it unsuitable, and now the Chinese are the economic colonists, but don't worry; America still has many virtual slave states in South America and Central America.

Yes, things are more peaceful now. But my contention is that it is, if anything, despite America.

Tim H. said...

Perhaps it means I've watched more drek, there's several movies I'd rank worse, "Galaxy of Terror"is right down there. There may have been an implication of a massacre of mutants, but I tend to be insensitive to subtlety, there was the explicit destruction of Black Wolf's army. If you have access to the DVD, Ralph Bakshi explains in the Director's commentary how George Lucas came by his merchandizing fortune, amusing whether you like his work or not. FWIW, "Cool World" was a better movie, but "Larry the lizard" would make a great replacement image for "2017 homicidal cretin #273"

donzelion said...

"Look at the vast majority of nations and oppressive states, across the last 6000 years, where the kings, lords, priests and their armed thugs did forbid common folk from bearing arms!"

It is far more probable that oligarchy is an outgrowth of gun ownership than that gun ownership restrains oligarchy.

Throughout most of that 6000 year history, metal tools were expensive. Oligarchs would have had a tough time banning staves, cudgels, axes - arms the common folk possessed in abundance. For the first few centuries of the gunpowder age, guns were expensive, unreliable, and slow firing - effective only when massed, and massed only when financed by the richest oligarchs/the state.

In all that history, guns were never a tool of the mass to resist the oligarchs; they were the weapon of choice of oligarchs to put down peasants with pitchforks. In American history, they were the weapon of choice to put down slave rebellions, or after the Civil War, to lynch former slaves who got out of line. In Europe, they were the vehicle of colonization - while at home, during the last 300 years, competitive, free societies routinely restricted arms.

Worst threat to a man with a gun? The man who commands a dozen men with guns...men who are either paid (by an oligarch), or who are part of the family. Entire feudal kingdoms were born with little more than a handful of guns...yet I know of no instances where feudalism was checked by guns (Japan comes closest, but that is more a story of nationalism/industrialism trumping agrarian feudalism).

Darrell E said...

Tim H.,

Are you implying that Wizards was drek?!?!!? (joke, though I really do like the movie).

As you may know well already Bakshi did Wizards as a test-bed for what was to be his epic Lord Of The Rings movie(s). One of the major things he was experimenting with, with making TLOTR in mind, was rotoscoping, a technique which overlays animation onto live action shots.

I like Wizards considerably more than his The Lord Of The Rings. My 1st impression of David's comment about Wizards was that he was complimenting the movie. I concede I could be completely wrong, biased by my opinion of the movie.

Rotten Tomatoes kind of supports my tastes though! The Tomatometer has TLOTR at 50% and Wizards at 61%.

Tim H. said...

Darrel E, more like I've seen many worse movies, and I suspect OGH may be misremembering after forty years*.
Wizards was completed, something we never saw with Bakshi's LOTR, damn shame. Imagine what a young Ralph Bakshi might do with the tech Peter Jackson had? One more thing, somewhere there still may be the B&W live footage Bakshi shot for later rotoscoping, the whole thing, which I believe he did first, not that I'll hold my breath for it, but that footage would sell a few BLU-RAY special editions.

*And I can't get as worked up about fictitious ethnic cleansing as the real thing.

LarryHart said...

My dad took me to see "Wizards" when I was very young, and I remember not being into it at all--so much so that I don't recall anything specific about it.

Sorry, I might have just been too young, but it wasn't my thing.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp | It is pretty easy to argue against your 'despite America' point. Your Pax Europe is Pax Americana after WWII. The bloody proxy wars the US fought were instead of WWIII. We DO discourage colonialism... even our own variety we liked in the 19th century as we've always been divided on the morality of it and one side has essentially won.

What really squashed colonialism, though, was our attitude that we owned the oceans. Look back at how Britain and France were going to act in Egypt with regards to the Suez. Look at why they stopped. You'll find us saying 'NO'.

Tim H. said...

It makes a difference how old one is when the experience happens, I already had a few gray hairs when I saw it. Even though I liked it, there were better things to watch from that era, and there wasn't all that much in the way of SFF, and little of that with anything like a production budget, which made Star Wars a bit of an oasis in spite of it's faults... A true measure of how bad it is, the seventies look good from here.

Tim H. said...

Something that might interest occam's comic, some years ago some drawings surfaced of a military application for the Saturn 5, an orbital fort equipped with FOBs, not quite as nuts as the Orion battlecruiser concept but out there. BTW, read Charles Stross's "A Colder War"? Just dripping with cold war weapons that were, thankfully, not built and Elder Gods. Halloween's coming, and the stars may be right...

LarryHart said...

@Tim H,

It is impossible for young'uns today to appreciate just what there was about "Star Wars" that made it such a thing in 1977. It wasn't the plot or the characters. Those only had to be interesting enough so that "being there" with them held your interest. The visual and kinetic look-and-feel of the film was like nothing seen before.

Nowadays, the popcorn ads have more special effects than Star Wars did, so much of that is lost on anyone who wasn't there when it all began.


A true measure of how bad it is, the seventies look good from here.


I love to re-watch so many movies from the 1970s that it isn't funny. There's a quality there that just didn't survive much past 1980 or so. Not that all movies since then suck, but they've become something different...I can't really put it into words. One piece of it is they cast against type, for example Tom Cruise as Lestat, or Adam Sandler in the Burt Reynolds part of "The Longest Yard". Another is that characters seem to know they're in a movie, and they talk in cliches and wink through the fourth wall.

Ok, I guess I'm getting old, since I'm channeling Grandpa Simpson.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart,

Oh yeah, Wizards was definitely not intended for kids.

Tim H.,

The '70s were pretty good for science fiction & fantasy films. Though, man, was there some really bad stuff too. A contender for the ultimate in '70s sf cheese, Limburger grade, was the awesome Starcrash. Should be required viewing.

donzelion said...

Darrell E: "Rotten Tomatoes kind of supports my tastes though! The Tomatometer has TLOTR at 50% and Wizards at 61%."

Methinks Rotten Tomatoes critics are guilty of comparing Jackson's LOTR with Bakshi's; the older is beautiful in its way - Rosenman's score exceptional at times, visuals remarkable, and if rotoscoping didn't catch on, motion capture, matte effects, and many other techniques evolved from the concept (instead of painting over the imagery, easier/cheaper/better looking to paint 'behind it'?).

donzelion said...

Alfred: "We DO discourage colonialism..."
I'll quibble here: we are ambivalent about our propensity. Americans have been just as colonial as other peoples, BUT we tend to recognize that foreign adventures are a key tool used by domestic powers to attain unfair advantages at other people's expense.

Ex: the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (publicly: passed because of 'Starfighter' sales to Germany and Japan; in reality, because of bribes to the Saudis, exactly the same prince as would later motivate the British to pass their own anti-bribery laws). Banning bribery changed the game from 'capture markets through bribery' to 'innovate/produce' the best product for the buck.

So too with the Suez Crisis: the U.S. and the Soviets determined that the game to capture the Middle East would require courting the Egyptians, rather than commanding (or bribing) them.

The fantasy in most empires has been that 'empire is good for the people who rule.' Hardly. While it's probably better to be part of the ruling nation than the subject nation, for most of the 'rulers,' it's just a closer window to watch oligarchs grow more powerful (up until the point they draft you to go and die for them).

donzelion said...

Darrell E: "A contender for the ultimate in '70s sf cheese, Limburger grade, was the awesome Starcrash. Should be required viewing - "

-with the help of some robot friends. The new Mystery Science Theater did it right...

Mark F. Cook said...

Mr, Brin, with regard to your second point (the "slippery slope" argument), you state that there’s not been the slightest sniff of any such desire or tendency among the vast majority of democratic or liberal politicians or voters. How can you justify a statement like that when no less a prominent liberal politician than Diane Feinstein (D - California) publicly stated (in 1995) with regard to guns,

"If I could’ve gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them — Mr. and Mrs. America turn ’em all in — I would have done it."

She is far from an isolated case.

LarryHart said...

@Mark F Cook,

While your point is taken, it is also the case that she might as well have begun with "If pigs could fly..." for all the likelihood that 51 Senators would vote that way.

I'd take her statement to be of the "If I were king of the world..." type rather than an actual plan.

occam's comic said...

I just don't understand your comment Dave,
I mean every week you talk about how the treasonous oligarchs have taken complete control over the Republican party. (you seldom mention that they also have a lot of influence over the Democratic party too)

You been here for all of the 21st century, we have been at war the whole time.
The invasion of Afghanistan and the inept occupation that is still going on. It seems as the only thing achieved by the Afghanistan misadventure is hundreds of billion of dollars to defense contractors and flood of heroin into the US.

The Iraq invasion was based on lies and the occupation of Iraq was a complete tragedy for the Iraqi people.

In the 21st century the US has embraced torture, illegal kidnapping and we have sent our death drones to many countries where they are used to murder suspected terrorists and anyone near them. Both Republican and Democratic presidents have embraced the Global War of Terror. It is pretty clear to an honest observer that the US is by far the biggest threat to ordinary people around the world.

What does it matter if by some metrics the US empire is not as "bad" as say the Mongols? it is certainly no comfort to the Iraqis.

donzelion said...

Mark Cook: "If I could’ve gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them — Mr. and Mrs. America turn ’em all in — I would have done it."

She said that in reference to all assault rifles, not all guns. Assault rifles are weapons of war - not 'traditional' implements of self-defense. And Feinstein is probably among the more 'extreme' gun control activists; most 'assault rifle' bans have just sought to limit the size of the clip.

donzelion said...

Zepp: "Genocides and pogroms became common,"

In the latter half of the 20th century? Not exactly. Industrial genocides, starting with the Armenians in Turkey, are a 20th century phenomenon, only because industrial capabilities started then - by one measure, the destruction of hundreds of tribes in North & South America in the 18th-19th centuries was a far higher pace of slaughter.

"Africa may be a mess, politically, but it's still better off than it was under the French, the English, and the Germans."
Slowly, away from unseeing/jaded eyes, Africans have been cleaning themselves up impressively these last 10 years.

When I quibbled with Alfred, it was puncturing the notion that America opposed colonialism on altruistic grounds - we didn't. The laws we've enacted and steps we've made have primarily been intended to block U.S. interests from abusing power IN THE U.S. Corporate colonialism, rampant exploitation, is a logical outgrowth of 'business as usual' in unusual settings: it will never be restrained by lofty ideals, but by pragmatically, vigorously, and regularly challenging abusers at home.

America has played an important role in this, not as a 'benevolent' nation, but a pragmatic, reasonable one (with an entirely new concept of 'pragmatism' driven by public interest over time). We MAY revert to the older, uglier ways however, unless we pierce how (and where) our current batch of oligarchs make their money.

Catfish N. Cod said...

I think Dr. Brin is referring to how the "bad guys" in Wizards primarily used technology, while the "good guys" preferred magic. Associating the "bad guys" explicitly with Hitler seemed to draw the conclusion that technology == fascism, killing the supposedly intended Aesop that technology and evil are actually orthogonal to each other. This message supposedly was conveyed by the heroic wizard killing the evil wizard with a firearm, despite being on the side that tried to suppress technology in favor of magic, and to centralize control of magitech on "Wizards" in the first place -- a feudalization method.

I would think a Brinized version of that movie would have the "good guys" encouraging democratized use of BOTH magic AND technology. Then the conflict would have centered on the evil side trying to exert control over the good guys trying NOT to exert control.

@occam: No, you're right, it doesn't help Iraqis that we're better than the Mongols. But would we all be better off in a world dominated by the Russians or Chinese? Would we all really be better off in a world with Great Power spheres of influence? Those have been the other options on the table for the last 70 years. The Great Power sphere system was the Cold War, and it stank; imperialism was much stronger then. (A reason Putin wants it to come back.) And China cares significantly less about local autonomy and building a better world for everyone than we do; they want tribute for the Middle Kingdom and for Beijing to be the pivot on which the world turns.

And all this is why the ongoing destruction of the U.S. State Department is horrific. For all its bloated bureaucracy, these guys and gals pushed more rule-of-law and good-governance and Western-ideals out into the world than anyone, even the British Civil Service or the Roman legions, ever did. If we can't rebuild that the next time sane people are in power, wars will increase and more people will die. You can take that to the bank.

Roger Landes said...

I come here frequently for a massive dose of sanity, so thank you Dr. Brin. We had a shooter on our campus last evening. In this instance the carnage was limited to one killed (a campus police officer) and no injuries. Shooter captured and now we wait for more info. It happened during a performance by an ensemble I direct and we were on lockdown with about 300 in the audience for over an hour. Let me just say that our buildings are not designed to hold large groups of people for an indefinite amount of time. We were lucky that our lockdown was relatively brief.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I have a megapost coming, which I've moved to a word processor, and which will be broken up into sections, but I wanted to make a quick note in response to Tim H before the hour got too late (I might have bitten off more than I can chew in a single night with this one...)

Tim H. said...

I like the idea of not naming shooters, my preferred name for the Las Vegas shooter is "2017 homicidal cretin #273". The Jefferson rifle makes sense also, though making semiautomatic weapons available only to the armed forces, but bolt action, lever action and revolvers remaining available might be sufficient. I would add replacing lead projectiles with iron or steel which usually kill just once, as a bonus, ferrous projectiles would be harsh on gun barrels, reducing the active use of an individual weapon, and gun enthusiasts might enjoy the excuse to shop...




Ohhhhh, noooooooooooo. No. You do NOT want to do that. Not AT ALL. Because you will be turning conventional "ball" ammunition into armor piercing rounds. The 5.56 NATO rounds we use at work are "clipped," that is they have a steel core in the tip, that allows them to more effectively penetrate light barriers. This also tends to lead to over-penetration of soft targets, especially at shorter ranges. This is not technically armor-piercing, but it is meant to increase the ability of the round to penetrate light cover and light body armor.

Going full steel rounds is actually making them armor-piercing. The 7.62 armor piercing rounds we use completely replace the lead of the bullet with hardened steel, and they'll go through a half-inch of steel like a hot knife through butter. And there is no extra wear on the barrel because both rounds are still FMJ, or Full Metal Jacket - lead or steel, they are wrapped or "jacketed" in a thin copper shell, which allows for higher muzzle velocities with less debris shed in the barrel from the round for lead bullets, and protects the barrel from increased wear with steel core or AP rounds.

Anonymous said...

And yet the US response to tyrannical governments is to arm rebels...
I suspect those rebels could talk their governments down if they only had a tongue left.

donzelion said...

Illithi: What would you do, if anything, to distinguish 'civilian' ammunition from 'military-grade' stuff?

The specific may not be appropriate, but some variation of Tim H's approach makes sense - civilian-grade bullets should be designed to not pierce police armor (or household walls), and to jam when fired from an automatic weapon. Accurate enough for hunting, self-defense, etc., but designed specifically not to assist in mass slaughter.

To my mind, purchase of significant quantities of bullets ought to trigger a red flag for law enforcement (say, after buying more than 100 rounds in a set time period) - a red flag that triggers heightened probability of searches (much like 'driving while black'). If gun enthusiasts received such attention, they'd surely view the government as 'oppressing' them - but whether the government does it or not, they already possess that view. Indeed, states could show statistics demonstrating "black men get stopped X times, white gun enthusiasts get stopped X times, X = X, therefore stop whining."

Tony Fisk said...

Just a quick note: nothing like a bit of topical artwork.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Donzelion: Licensing, training, taxes, background checks, and fines for misuse. But that's going to come in more detail in my Mega Post (I'm just starting on Section 6 out of 8).

Any firearm that is useful for hunting anything but squirrels and other varmint will punch through most household walls. Same goes for self defense. There's a lot of talk and debate in the gun community about rounds suitable for home defense, so you don't hit people on the other side of walls, but the reality is more like preventing the round from hitting your neighbor inside their house from inside your house. The drywall and stucco and two-by-fours that make up most interior walls aren't going to stop most bullets. That's an unavoidable fact of physics.

Same thing with feeding in automatic weapons. The way bullets feed from the magazine into the chamber is basically the same in almost every gun that has a magazine. There is no way you can make a bullet that will jam in an automatic weapon that won't jam or misfeed in any non-automatic weapon. Unless you want to restrict weapons to single-shot capacity only, there is no way to make this happen.

Any weapon can be used for mass slaughter, if you plan ahead well enough. Hell, things you don't think are weapons can be used for mass slaughter if you plan ahead well enough. There are things you can do to make it harder for people to just casually walk down the street and mow down a thousand people, sure, but if stopping incidents like Las Vegas are your goal, I will tell you right now that you are never going to succeed. Vegas was an event that was carefully planned and prepared for over decades. There is no passive way to prevent that from happening. There are only two basic ways to deal with that sort of situation: #1. Active intelligence and security operations catching the perpetrator in the planning/preparation/surveillance stage, and #2. Have personnel available for rapid response when it happens.



Unless I'm mistaken, large purchases of ammunition already raises flags with law enforcement. I don't know what number that is, and honestly, I probably wouldn't share it even if I did, but I do know that it is a fair bit more than 100 rounds. 100 rounds is NOTHING. I finally got out to a range here last week, since I moved into a place that lets me keep my gun at home the other month and I was able to bring my gun up from my parents', and in maybe an hour and a half, I burned through 295 rounds. It probably wouldn't have taken me even that long if one of the guys I work with hadn't showed up about half-way through with his girlfriend, because we spent some time chatting, and letting each other shoot each others' guns, and I helped teach his girlfriend to shoot. And that was just with my one handgun, and his one handgun (I don't know how many rounds he and his girlfriend ultimately went through, but I think it was a similar amount). 3 or 4 friends going out with a few different guns to shoot can easily burn a couple thousand rounds in a single afternoon.

It's also just A flag. It does not, itself, trigger a law enforcement response, just tags you with a data point that, by itself isn't a problem, but can be concerning in combination with other factors.

LarryHart said...

The next idiot plot on "Designated Survivor"...

The FBI agents investigating a secluded weapons cache in North Dakota should have sent some white guys. Like they couldn't see that in advance?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred: The doctrine was called MAD: Mutual Assured Destruction. Avoiding major war because you know it will utterly destroy you isn't exactly virtuous and morally superior behaviour. MAD has worked for 70 years, but there's no guarantee it won't fail tomorrow. Yes, MAD has worked, but HSOAS, what an insane way to ensure the peace. I wouldn't cite it as a basis for a demonstration of advanced ethics and civility.

I note that Canada defused the Suez crisis, not America. Mike Pearson won the Peace Prize for it.

I won't discuss Dr. Brin's stance on it as he's not here to defend himself, but with that proviso, I'm happy to continue the discussion.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Donzelion wrote: "Slowly, away from unseeing/jaded eyes, Africans have been cleaning themselves up impressively these last 10 years."
In some places and to some degree, certainly. There's been a vast influx of Chinese money, largely toward building infrastructure as the Chinese create their own markets rather than simply exploiting. Africa, receiving assistance, rather than Aid, is gaining ground.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Catfish N. Cod wrote: I think Dr. Brin is referring to how the "bad guys" in Wizards primarily used technology, while the "good guys" preferred magic.

Having never seen the movie, I was wondering why Dr. Brin characterized it was the most evil movie he had ever seen. Seemed an odd stance for a relatively obscure 1970s cartoon. That would explain it.
"American Gods" takes a very similar stance. We'll have to ask the Doctor what he thinks about that upon his return. I loved both the novel and the first half of the tv adaptation, but then, I'm a long-time fan of Gaiman and quite prepared to accept his stories based on his philosophical terms. For that matter, I do the same with Brin, although it's a bit easier since my RL philosophy is closer to his than Gaiman's.

Alfred Differ said...

I used to fly rockets on the Black Rock playa in NW Nevada. There isn't much to see when one is on the playa itself except for the occasional black rock that comes to the surface... and WWII 50 cal training rounds made of steel and looking quite pristine.

Yah. I kept one of each. One is fun for geology discussions. The other is useful in understanding that steel bullets fired from airplanes go through people and kill engines.

TCB said...

Yes, American Gods has an episode that is a very wicked satire of American gun worship.

Vulcan, who has modernized his game, says: “The power of fire is firepower. Not God, but godlike. And they believe. It fills their spirits every time they pull the trigger. They feel my heat on their hip, and it keeps them warm at night.”

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp | I remember MAD. I was a few months old when it almost got us all killed in ’62. You are mistaken about it not being virtuous, though. It is very prudent and Prudence is a important virtue. If you think it is still active today, though, I’d only partially agree. Recall that we abrogated the ABM treaty a few years ago. We’ve been working on ABM’s and other anti-missile tech quite a bit since then. I have no doubt we will treat an NK launch aimed at Guam as a test opportunity without saying so.

Who defused the Suez Crisis isn’t the point I was making. WE made it a crisis for the British when we threatened the stability of their currency if they continued. WE finished pushing them aside that year. It was an ugly bit of geopolitics, but it was what it was.

I’m not sure we have a non-insane way to ensure the peace right now, so I’ll settle for least-insane. A big barbarian owns the oceans and two nations who want to go to war that lack a common border have to ask that barbarian for permission. It is rarely granted unless there is something in it for the barbarian. That isn’t MAD. That is Pax Americana and it will dominate this century.

Paul451 said...

From the main article:
"Although even the National Rifle Association has admitted that some (small) lunacies must change,"

Nope. Read their words again. They said they support "Congress looking into the issue of" bump-stocks. They very specifically didn't say they support any actual change in the law, such as banning bump-stocks.

"It's called the "slippery slope." Give an inch, and your enemies will smell weakness and take a mile. Then you'll lose everything.
[...]
We have something we can offer them. [...] If they'd meet us halfway."


The former would seem to preclude the latter. I don't see how someone in the grip of "UN black helicopter", "Jade Helm", "FEMA death camps", or even just "gun grabbers!", madness would negotiate. If they were capable of negotiation, we wouldn't be here.

Personally, I prefer my idea of using the constitutionally derived federal power under Article 1 to define the "militia" as everyone who owns a firearm, and require them to turn up to the new federal militia training program. (With a generous gun buy-back for anyone who wishes to opt-out.)

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion | Your quibble is fair. I am recalling that many moves to annex territory had opponents in the US for a variety of reasons. It wasn’t just about slave/non-slave borders either. Hawaii got annexed over the objects of US-based opposition. Lovely place, but Hawaii obviously wasn’t just about our colonial objectives. Same with Alaska.

I also make a distinction between nationally motivated colonialism and corporate colonialism. You rightly point out the fantasy and aren’t alone in it. Mercantilists don’t get it. ‘Enslaving’ the suppliers isn’t as useful as motivating them to innovate and it is only through innovations that get to the third act that the common man (even among the rulers) actually benefits much.

The thing to remember about the Suez is that is when the decades-long peaceful transfer of hegemonic power from Britain to America was finalized. It was a bit of ugliness between friends at the end, but it WAS peaceful. History doesn’t have many examples of that happening.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Yeah, Vulcan and his strange precipitation wasn't in the original book, but I thought it was a quite welcome addition. Vulcan, along with Czernobog and the Zoryas, made for interesting bridges between the old gods and the new.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred Differ wrote: " I remember MAD. I was a few months old when it almost got us all killed in ’62."

I was a ten year old in Ottawa, Ontario (aka "ground zero" in a transpolar war) and one afternoon while the parents were out shopping, the air-raid sirens went off by mistake. Perhaps the most terrifying day of my life.

Have you been watching Trump's antics regarding North Korea and Iran? How does that possibly promote peace?

LarryHart said...

Twitler:

"I think it's fake news, but if he did that [call Trump a Moron], I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win,"


Reminds me of a famous blooper in a 1960s issue of Captain America. In one panel, Cap is facing off with some villain, claiming "This is it. Only one of us will walk out of here under his own power." Then the next panel has Cap slamming the guy with both hands, and shouting, "...and it won't be me!"

That last line should have followed Trump's blather.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

I was a ten year old in Ottawa, Ontario (aka "ground zero" in a transpolar war) and one afternoon while the parents were out shopping, the air-raid sirens went off by mistake. Perhaps the most terrifying day of my life.


They told you it was "by mistake." :)


Have you been watching Trump's antics regarding North Korea and Iran? How does that possibly promote peace?


When Dr Brin extols Pax Americana, he's not talking about Trump, except to point out what incredible damage the man is doing to the United States, and therefore--more's the pity--to the world.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"When Dr Brin extols Pax Americana, he's not talking about Trump, except to point out what incredible damage the man is doing to the United States, and therefore--more's the pity--to the world."

I know--and agree with--Dr. Brin's views on Trump. I was replying to a point Alfred made.

I raised this point on other blogs (and, now that I'm officially a dotard, may have already raised it here): Sanders should suggest to Trump that if he endorsed Sander's medicare-for-all plan, not only would he be the most popular president in years, but if it passed, nobody would even remember Obamacare.

David Brin said...

Mark Cook, like all of today's fallen conservatives, you argue from anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. Anecdote. All of your disparagements of your supposedly dastard-lib plotting tards boil down to anecdotes.

Worse, ytou don't even know the difference, any longer! You actually think that anecdotes are how adults argue! I have no doubt that you are sincere. But when absolutely every statistic of any kind proves that American conservatism has been hijacked, with ZERO positive accomplishments to point to, any sane person would not trust Republicans with a burnt match.

David Brin said...

Darrell, there are no scenes in Wizards that do not preach for pretty nazis to oppress and commit genocide against cowardly and mostly harmless mutants. The “evil” brother fights for the oppressed, loves a wife and child and developed his craft. The “good” wizard is a lazy lech who has helped oppressors for thousands of years and let his skills languish and who cheats in the end. Bear in mind the winners paint the skeletal images and add leering voices afterwards, but at every factual level, it is worse than Nazi level propaganda.

Tim H it is intervention from JRRT’s ghost that helped suppress what vile thing Bakshi would have done.

Zepp you don’t bother to complete the violence curve. Read Pinker. The decline in Per Capita violence continued and accelerated under Pax Americana. And I note that you ignore the plummeting share of most nations’ income devoted to defense. That decline is totally and inarguably a result of the American Pax umbrella.

Yes PA promoted US corporations, but NOT with the mercantilist ruthlessness of previous empires. Absolute proof? Our trade deficit. Which developed the world and cut world poverty by 90% That was POLICY!

“ Oligarchs would have had a tough time banning staves, cudgels, axes - arms the common folk possessed in abundance. “

This reveals a stunning lack of knowledge of combat effectiveness against an armored-mounted opponent. Try actually studying what actually happened in peasant revolts. Jesus. Let me repeat that: Try actually studying what actually happened in peasant revolts.

“In all that history, guns were never a tool of the mass to resist the oligarchs; they were the weapon of choice of oligarchs to put down peasants with pitchforks.”

Absolutely diametrically opposite-to-true, at every level and in all ways.

The French and American revolutions happened because mobilized masses armed with muskets lost all fear of mounted lords. The revolution of 1848 only failed because the mass armies consisted of farmers who had already won their rights from the Napoleanic era and were now vested in the system. They were alienated from the urban workers. But that only happened because Napolean had freed the serfs and the farmers, who supplied the soldiers and were now very happy. The farmers allied with the lords against the workers.

The rest of your story is 100% AND absolutely-& diametrically wrong on all counts. There is not one sentence that isn’t pure fantasy. Sorry man.
==

Zepp Jamieson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr Brin wrote: "Zepp you don’t bother to complete the violence curve. Read Pinker. The decline in Per Capita violence continued and accelerated under Pax Americana. And I note that you ignore the plummeting share of most nations’ income devoted to defense. That decline is totally and inarguably a result of the American Pax umbrella."

I fully acknowledge the violence curve. What I question is that American benefice somehow caused it

"Underpants + ? = Profits!!!!"

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Zepp
I agree with you
The American "Empire" is better than the British Empire was - but that is mostly due to our overall progress and the American Empire was and is worse than the British Empire would be if it was still a superpower today


I personally believe that changing from the British Empire to the American Empire was a retrograde step

As was
The American Revolution
The Restoration of the Monarchy (After the Protector)
The defeat of Napoleon
Each of these took the human race back a generation

Tony Fisk said...

I have wondered what sort of tale could be made out of a personal MacGuffin that stopped bullets cold.

It would be interesting to explore the effect on US society if someone were to broadcast instructions for a bit of circuitry, powered by a carrot rather than a potato... (I suspect it would have some deep psychological effects whose implications are a little beyond me.)

I've seen the idea handled twice, in a passing fashion. Once in Frank Herbert's Dune (the shields that were effective against high kinetic energies, but not lower energy items, like swords. These had long become part of the social fabric). Another example is Poul Anderson's "Shield" (which was basically a Keanu Reeve chase caper.)

Wizards was a twisted and confused thing that had little respect for its subject matter. I didn't particularly like it, but I'd pin my evil tag on a "A Clockwork Orange". I only got to see this a few years ago. What a shallow, venal, and *nasty* society that was. It was cathartic to realise, halfway through, that it was no longer *our* society.

I had a similar realisation while watching Bladerunner 2049: a faithful depiction of a world last seen 35 years ago, and which was based on a story written some 15 years prior to that. The world has moved in other directions since.* Still, I found the characters and story moving in a way that Alex and his droogs did not.

* I think the producers were aware of this too: they seemed to drop a few winks and hints in the scenery. Don't want to spoil too much if you haven't had a chance to see it yet, other than to say it *is* worth seeing.

Darrell E said...

David Brin said...
"Darrell, there are no scenes in Wizards that do not preach for pretty nazis to oppress and commit genocide against cowardly and mostly harmless mutants. The “evil” brother fights for the oppressed, loves a wife and child and developed his craft. The “good” wizard is a lazy lech who has helped oppressors for thousands of years and let his skills languish and who cheats in the end. Bear in mind the winners paint the skeletal images and add leering voices afterwards, but at every factual level, it is worse than Nazi level propaganda."

I agree! Those are some of the reasons I commented that the movie is not for kids. I like the movie as a movie, but not because I approve of the ideologies on display. I like it because it effectively evoked a sense of weirdness, creepiness, twistedness and evilness. I have no idea what Bakshi intended to convey but I sure wouldn't use any of the ideologies on display as examples I'd like my society to be based on. Quite the opposite.

"Tim H it is intervention from JRRT’s ghost that helped suppress what vile thing Bakshi would have done."

I can't, and wouldn't want to, argue with that either.

Tim H. said...

Ilithi, what I had in mind with ferrous projectiles was avoidance of heavy metal poisoning in scavengers and eventual oxidation of spent rounds, would grey iron avoid your concerns? It's fairly brittle and inexpensive.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Duncan Cairncross wrote: "The American "Empire" is better than the British Empire was - but that is mostly due to our overall progress and the American Empire was and is worse than the British Empire would be if it was still a superpower today."

The British Empire was extraordinarily vicious and cruel in the day, but it's kind of hard to say what it would be like now. After 1947 and the Indian succession, the UK lost its appetite for colonial suppression and exploitation, and over the next thirty years voluntarily relinquished most of the rest. The Commonwealth was more profitable than the Empire, and didn't have the ethical and political challenges of colonial administration. Britain grew weary of being hated, and I like to think some grew weary of deserving to be hated.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, I suppose whose head watches a film makes a large difference in how it's perceived.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Tony Fisk wrote, "I'd pin my evil tag on a "A Clockwork Orange". I only got to see this a few years ago. What a shallow, venal, and *nasty* society that was. It was cathartic to realise, halfway through, that it was no longer *our* society."

Never was, actually. Anthony Burgess wrote the book not to address violence per se, but to satirise society's response to same. A recurring theme in his work was to have governments that sloshed back and forth with extreme rapidity (sometimes only minutes!) between extreme, rigid and repressive Calvinist regimes and wide-open anything-goes Baccachanalian dystopia. In such changes, the most loathsome degenerates ascend to positions of power, and confront the problems they once posed. Normally, the intent is humour.
"Clockwork Orange" is remarkable because it maintains that wry sensitivity, despite the fact that Burgess wrote it in a drunken rage. His pregnant wife had been raped by houligans, lost the baby, and committed suicide. Sound familiar?

David Brin said...

Tim H, the correlations in Wizards is too perfect for it to be subjective. EVERY trait of a decent, adult, sincere adult male is held by the villain and treated with spewing hatred and every dissolut, nasty, violent and oppressive gtrait is extolled in the "hero" magician.

David Brin said...

“I fully acknowledge the violence curve. What I question is that American benefice somehow caused it.”

Jesus. I am speechless.

Duncan: “The American "Empire" is better than the British Empire was - but that is mostly due to our overall progress and the American Empire was and is worse than the British Empire would be if it was still a superpower today.”

Crap. You guys pay zero attention to the output of our propaganda arm - Hollywood - which has poured forth ANTI-imperial memes all of your lives. It is THE propaganda that raised YOU!. That gave YOU the value systems that make you so critical and so reluctant to admit that that society was any better than any other. Even though NONE of those other nations ever, ever, ever, ever preached such memes. Ever.

Jeez can you even pause in your self-righteous indignation to ponder where you got it? No other imperium ever preached AGAINST the premise of imperial dominance. And no, the British Pax would not have done this. There was never a scintilla of a sign of this, amid the “white man’s burden” memes. (Though that was an improvement over earlier imperial memes.) Damn! Try actually watching 1930s movies from Britain vs America.

I asked Zepp to compare actual amounts spent on arms and defense by most nations across the last 70 years to the historic norm. He ignored the request because it was inconvenient to his meme. It dropped from 50% average across 6000 years to maybe 5% in latin america and this largfely went to development.

Sorry, but your reflex is based on a good meme. But because you use it as a REFLEX it turns into bullshit.

-
separately - had Napolean made a DEAL with the czar to both go south and attack Turkey, in exchange for freeing Poland and the Baltic states… then we’d be speaking French now and have a lunar base.

But the rest of Duncan’s assertion is bull.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp | I’m an Air Force brat and lived on bases that were more likely to be ground zero than Ottawa. You are older than I am, though, so you’ll remember the fear better. I lived it, but I grew up IN it. I recognize that gives me a different perspective. A few years ago I met a guy who lived in it far more than I did, so I tipped my hat and let him win the ‘who had it worse’ game. He was German.

Yes. I’ve been watching Trump’s antics. I’ve run out of words to say beyond how embarrassing this is. I thought GWB was an embarrassment to end all embarrassments. How wrong I was. Argh. The best I can say is I didn’t vote for him. He is a disgusting man as far as I’m concerned. Unfortunately, many of my friends and relatives DID vote for him. Argh^2.

You are missing the point of Pax Americana if you focus too much on Trump or any of our particular leaders. The Pax is mostly about what Americans are doing and not so much about what our so-called leadership is doing. We have a huge, undefended border with Canada not because our government isn’t concerned. That border is that way because WE genuinely like Canadians. Most of them anyway. The same is not true of Mexico except for those of us who live in the regions we took from them in 1848. Still, that is enough to make the border a bit of a joke around here. We say go ahead and build a wall. Our relatives will rise to the occasion. Yah… and we will provide them sanctuary too.

The Pax is mostly about arranging affairs so nations don’t bother spending so much on war/defense as is the historical norm. Why bother we ask. Most of our saner Presidents politely ignore how NATO members aren’t paying ‘their fair share’ as THAT IS THE WHOLE POINT of the Pax. Trump is an ignorant fool and doesn’t get how lack of expenditure leads to lack of training and lack of equipment and so on leaving former powers with atrophied war capabilities. We Americans LIKE it when nations who used to war upon each other and kill millions find themselves unwilling and even unable today. Consider how well things worked recently when France and Italy projected power across the Med into Libya. It was a display of weakness from where we sit and that is just fine.

Perhaps you are expecting high-minded ideals behind our motives for peace? No doubt they are there for some of us, but I doubt that is enough to keep the peace. We Americans are barbarians inclined to fight, but we aren’t like the old Powers. We are way to fractionated and the world should be just fine with that too.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Yeah, the Napoleon one sticks to a degree: if Boney had rejected invading Russia, the nationalism of the 19th century would have been in the context of revolting against the Emperor of the West (supported by his rivals the King-Emperor of GB and the Czar). With the French Empire forming a proto-EU two centuries earlier, the Scramble for Africa works entirely differently, the World Wars don't happen as scheduled and probably are not fought on European soil at all. There are fewer world powers and blocs, and the empires probably look like the interwar British Dominion system. There is an actual chance this would be superior to OTL.

Avoiding the American Revolution would help the British Empire but is otherwise destructive of human liberty. No ARev, no FRev and no Napoleon; no republics in Latin America or elsewhere in the world; and we all stay under nobles. No thanks.

And I cannot see how Charles II was a disaster on the scale you make out. This was pre-Enlightenment; the English at this stage did not know how to function as a true republic. The best they could manage was a "crowned republic" like the Dutch or Polish. To avoid the Restoration you need a new Lord Protector; the King was brought back because there were no good and willing candidates. Even the Glorious Revolution was about choosing the King, not about having one. It took a near-century of benign neglect by the Georges to make Britain into a society that could be a republic. But then, it also made a Crown sufficently tame that they didn't *have* to be one.

There is a pattern to your choices that I perceive though: they all involve worlds with a strong British Empire. Do I misstate?

Alfred Differ said...

They needed far more than a new Lord Protector. They were coming apart socially with all sorts of odd-ball minorities pushing their own agenda. Levelers were some of the mildest and all they wanted to do was demolish the social classes. Pfft. Former supporters of revolution decided they were far better off under a Stuart who knew they were potent enough to take his head if need be.

I agree that England didn’t know how to be a republic, but the forces for creating one got a LOT of practice during their civil wars… and they didn’t exactly go away when Charles II came back.

I disagree that the Glorious Revolution was about choosing a king. The Dutch didn’t want a Catholic king on the English throne and a certain Dutch prince was willing to finance the effort needed to prevent that. Personal motives too. The English were also envious of the Dutch empire and proceed to steal it from them in the coming generations. Sure. They got to ‘choose’ a king. They also went Dutch in the cultural sense. Partially at least. This matters because the Dutch DID know how to be a republic with a noble figurehead.

I don’t see how the Czar could have tolerated France taking the Ottomans down. I really don’t. The French were already an existential threat to Russia. Giving them access to the southern route to invading Moscow would have been lunacy even if France gave up Poland and Baltic properties. Look at the map. The only direction one does not invade Russia from is the SW across the Carpathians. Coming up the Volga IS standard stuff. There would have been no durable deal.

Zepp Jamieson said...

What self-righteous indignation is that, Doctor? I note that you're the one sputtering about how speechless you are.

I didn't ignore your request to provide the military apportion of GDPs to defence, and indeed did acknowledge the trend to less standard warfare by noting the percentage of deaths from warfare was lower, perhaps lowest, in the 20th century. I am curious as to how you obtained your knowledge of military spending 6,000 years ago. Surely bronze swords weren't THAT expensive.

I will note that military spending in other countries has declined, but NOT in the US. It's still nearly as much as the entire rest of the world combined.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: “In all that history, guns were never a tool of the mass to resist the oligarchs; they were the weapon of choice of oligarchs to put down peasants with pitchforks.”

'Never' is too broad, but the claim reflects the norm: guns have far more often been a tool of the oligarchs to oppress commoners than a tool of commoners to liberate themselves. In the only exceptions, a 'mobilized mass' either became an army in their own right, or were crushed by the 'mounted lords.'

For the history of 'peasant revolts' since mounted/armored soldiers became meaningful (starting with the invention and propagation of stirrups), I'd start with Philip Daileander's and Teofilo Ruiz's courses on Medieval Europe, supplement both with Kenneth Harl's excellent courses on Vikings and barbarian empires of Eurasia, add in Niall Ferguson for an economic approach, and add Roger Crowley's 'boys own' military history: that's just the last couple years of study for me. Yes, I know the capabilities of mounted/armored soldiers; in a handful of contexts, they could be impressive. Yet when the revolts were not put down, local lords changed, tribes became nations, clans displaced one another, and the term 'peasant revolt' was replaced with some other term.

Since the gunpowder age, records reveal fairly reliably who possessed guns: the 'public' (a state financed military), 'mercenaries' (especially in the beginning of the gunpowder era), and 'private' lords. The latter group dominated most of the globe, using guns to oppress.
Where they were constrained, it was only because of a stronger state that could mobilize hundreds/thousands of gunmen.

"The French and American revolutions happened because mobilized masses armed with muskets lost all fear of mounted lords."
Humph. Now that's being 'romantic' and verging on fantasy. The 'mounted lords' of that era generally equipped pistols and sabers rather than armor, and most were professional soldiers, rather than 'lords' (the several officers were 'lordlings'). It was never about the muskets (or pitchforks, or any other implements) they were armed with - and always about the apparatus and system that turned those 'mobilized masses' into an army.

Which brings us back to the 2nd Amendment: today's debate fixates upon 'private ownership' of guns, but the amendment, and history itself, was focused upon the use of weapons by a militia. Professional militaries CAN defend against oligarchs (sometimes, more often they support them); civilians bearing muskets never could.

Alfred Differ said...

Allow me to offer a way to contemplate the cost of bronze swords in antiquity.

Over very long time scales, only real income measures make any sense. How many hours of 'peasant' labor does it cost to purchase a certain thing? Obviously the peasants weren't making bronze swords. That takes some skill. However, a nobleman buying a sword was paying for it eventually through income earned (or stolen from) the people way below him. Most everything purchased this way prior to about 400 years ago came from people who were working at near subsistence levels. Small expenses beyond the norm could leave them hungry.

In these terms, bronze weaponry 6,000 years ago was very expensive.
In these terms, bronze weaponry is dirt cheap today, but also ineffective.

The US certain has NOT seen a decline in military spending. That is a big part of WHY the Pax exists. No sane nation is going to try to match us right now. They simply can't succeed. The Soviets went bankrupt trying.

For another measure, add up naval forces. Add up everyone else but us and see if they could command a fleet larger than ours. Again, it would be insanity for one nation to try to match us. Not only do we have the large fleet, we are managing to pay for it, and we are managing to keep it trained even when there is no large war to fight.

We aren't just a super-power. We are so dominant that many nations are CHOOSING not to try to compete with us that way. That is a huge, huge deal for their people no matter which virtues are in play. Not having the option to fight means the money they would waste goes elsewhere. Meanwhile, the only nation rich enough to try this can afford the waste.

David Brin said...

dashing stuff off without rewrite, from FiRe:

Alfred, I said Napolean (who already terrified the Czar) might offer the Czar a deal: “You invade Turkey from the North while I liberate Greece, you get Constantinople - but you must liberate Poland and the Baltics. The Czar would have leaped to accept and to crown Nappy as “Leader of Europe.

Jeez Zepp, you are on a roll:

“I will note that military spending in other countries has declined, but NOT in the US. It's still nearly as much as the entire rest of the world combined.”

Of course! Try actually thinking! This is how we created the umbrella under which everyone else felt safe enough to spend less on defense and instead develop. Cripes! Your anti-American bigotry has you unable to even parse the obvious.

As usual, Alfred is sharp, but it’s Catfish who sees through layers and layers. I’d like to meet you someday, fellah.

doinzelion: bull. Muskets meant the lords had to keep large swathes of the populace on their side or be toppled. In the English, US and French revolutions, it was farmers who rose up and could finally make it stick, because of gunpowder, and the lords never dared to oppress them again. In 1848 those farmers marched with muskets to help the lords against workers, BECAUSE the lords were very carfeful with the farmers. In 1917 it was the turrn of workers to use gunpowder against the lords, especially since some farmers helped.

There are ZERO opposite correlations.

“ Professional militaries CAN defend against oligarchs (sometimes, more often they support them); civilians bearing muskets never could.”

Which is why it’s vital to keep them on our side.

Johnson said...

Very Apt .

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred wrote: "You are missing the point of Pax Americana if you focus too much on Trump or any of our particular leaders. The Pax is mostly about what Americans are doing and not so much about what our so-called leadership is doing."

The American PEOPLE are a reasonably peaceful lot, although that can be said of most countries. That has eroded in the face of years of well-financed right wing propaganda, and it isn't hard to find fools who cheer the prospect of nuking North Korea or Iran.

Now, there WAS a "Pax Americana". It began with the Marshall Plan, which was possibly the most magnificent action by any nation in history. The occupation of Japan was one of the most enlightened occupations in history. US foreign aide, whatever the motive, was something any American could take pride in. Yes, it did exist.

But it eroded as the right wing secured power and the ability to propagandise in the wake of the JFK assassination. The meme spread that it was disgraceful that all foreigners weren't fawningly grateful to America for saving their asses. This was particularly a problem in countries whose asses America did not save. I know that by about 1968 I was thoroughly fed up with illiterate clowns who would assure me that if it weren't for America, I would be speaking German, or Russian, right now. The rest of the world felt much the same way, and the constant whines about how only America could save the world grated.

With Reagan came the collapse of American economic aid to contain communism. Combined with many sneers from the right, which reverberated loudly abroad. And of course, the role of American in many foreign elections and revolutions became very well known. You could make a case that the CIA killed more people than the US military did.

It's been said many times and in many places, and it is a truism: the world does not see America as America sees itself.

Paul451 said...

Tony Fisk,
"I have wondered what sort of tale could be made out of a personal MacGuffin that stopped bullets cold. [eg. Dune, Shield]"

[Clarke also did a version in "The Trigger", a widget that could remotely detonate gunpowder and similar, making firearms and explosives dangerous to the wielder.]

The problem with this story idea is that the technology has to be magic, you say that one spell and you get that one effect. But real technology comes out of interconnected fundamental physics, if a simple widget can create a personal shield or similar effect, then it's going to be a general principle of projected matter/energy manipulation, like EM theory is to magnets and wires. It's not going to be limited to just that one application.

[Clarke & co explored this a bit, as their scientists learned more about their serendipitous discovery, they created new (and bigger) applications. Culminating in the development of a super-weapon that could remotely destroy selected DNA. However, the discovery of how to interact with higher dimensional space (the principle of the McGuffin) would have resulted in applications that were more than just "slight variation on the first thing, but eeevil."]

Paul451 said...

Ilithi,
"The way bullets feed from the magazine into the chamber is basically the same in almost every gun that has a magazine. There is no way you can make a bullet that will jam in an automatic weapon that won't jam or misfeed in any non-automatic weapon. Unless you want to restrict weapons to single-shot capacity only, there is no way to make this happen."

Not in the ammunition, but if it meant the difference between getting banned or not, I suspect it wouldn't take gun manufacturers long to figure out a system that was still semi-auto, but reduced the maximum rate of fire. Preventing trigger-spoofing like bump-stocks or gat-handles.

The easiest thing would to use thermal expansion to prevent the gun from cycling (but in a controlled, deliberate way, not just jamming something). Fire once per second, say, and you don't notice anything. Fire more that three or four rounds rapidly, the gun needs to a few seconds to cool and then to be manually cycled. But I wonder if a purely mechanical system could be produced that slows the rate of cycling.

--

I've wondered whether micro-tag security markers (**) could be integrated into ammunition. Inside the bullet, maybe sprayed out behind the bullet, matched to a code stamped into the shell casing. If you use a firearm to commit a crime, you are writing the batch and box number of your ammunition all over the room. Even without a retail ID database, it would help you find the store where the ammo was bought, the approx. date, maybe security footage; match it to a suspect and therein to their remaining ammo. If means, at the least, you have to waste a whole box of ammo for each crime-scene. Limits crimes to self-loaders.

Not sure how you would solve barrel fouling and avoid loose tags in bullet wounds causing infection, etc. As well as the general pollution side-effects created by dumping billions of (presumably metal) micro-tags through national parks, farms, etc.

** (Barely visible, usually plastic tags printed with microscopic code-numbers, you mix them with paint/varnish/glue and spray them on things you want to protect, it's nearly impossible to remove them all, and you only need to find one to get the code. Doesn't prevent theft, but it helps sort out ownership disputes, or as anti-counterfeiting.)

Paul451 said...

Re: Micro-tags

Looks like RFID tags are getting down to the same size, and some are using the same name. So just to clarify, I meant completely passive numbered tags. Size of a pin-head.

Alfred Differ said...

@David | Okay. I missed that. Liberating Poland and the Baltics would have worked if they remained buffer states. The Czar would have needed them to play the role Belgium and the Netherlands play between a united Germany and France. Getting Constantinople in exchange would have been a no-brainer. I don't know about leader of Europe, but Russia could have just waited him out and see if his offspring could hold onto power.

I don't think the deal would have been durable over two generations, though. Russian geopolitics is as merciless as their winters. Russians always want deeper buffers and it was the smaller German states that used to play that role. Poland is closer.

Oh well. This is minutia for an alt.world discussion. Fun to think about, but not relevant to our modern Pax. 8)

Ilithi Dragon said...

Paul451:
Regarding reducing the maximum, or cyclic RoF, bump fire stocks already do this. A bump-fire stock isn't going to give you the same cycle time as the same gun with full auto capability, because there is an added delay with the stock moving that means the gun doesn't fire as soon as the bolt locks to the chamber. An M16 has a cyclic RoF of 700-950 rounds per minute, but an AR-15 with a bump stock isn't going to match that. You can hear it for yourself, just pull up videos of an M16 in full auto and an AR-15 with a bump-fire stock. If you're not familiar with distinguishing different sounds of gunfire, it might take a couple extra listens, but it's not hard to hear the notably slower RoF with a bump stock vs actual full auto.

As far as a mechanism to limit rates of fire inherent to the design of firearms (which, btw, would only affect new weapons, and none of the 310 million weapons already in consumer hands), I don't think this is something that is feasible. I'm not an engineer, and I'm still poking away at my physics degree, but I don't think we have the technology to allow this without making the gun dangerously breakable. I also don't think metals expand and contract with heating and cooling fast enough to make this work. Even if we had some means of enabling that, rapidly heating and cooling metal can make it very brittle, which will cause the gun to explode in somebody's face in fairly short order.



Ammunition traceability is also a thing that is possible. Microtags sprayed behind the bullet probably are not a viable option, but casings stamped with partial lot numbers is already a thing for the military, and micro engraving lot/serial numbers on both casings and bullets to allow to-the-box traceability has been a viable option for years now, but it got shot down as an industry requirement years ago, on the grounds of evil government traceability, but probably because the ammo manufacturers lobbied against it so they wouldn't have to spend money on buying and maintaining machines to do the micro-engraving, and adding them to their manufacturing process.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp | The American PEOPLE are a reasonably peaceful lot…

You might be more generous on this than I am, but I’m not complaining. Very nice of you. If you look at it my way, we haven’t really eroded in the face of years of right wing propaganda. We’ve actually moderated a lot in the 20th century. I invite you to consider the possibility that your view of us in the past is too rosy.

I recall during the first Gulf War (GHWB era) a Senator on TV suggesting we should use a nuke to deal with Saddam’s large army. He overestimated what Saddam could do as many did. I remember being surprised a Senator would say that, but I wasn’t shocked when that kind of talk blew over in public without much concern. The idea was rejected, but it wasn’t rejected out of disgust.

I recall MacArthur wanted to use nukes to keep the Chinese out of North Korea. I don’t know if that would have worked as it might have taken more than we had, but his suggestion wasn’t from out of left field. Rejecting it then helped set a precedent on the world stage that has proven useful. MAD might not have worked otherwise.

The American Experience didn’t really turn sour on war until we lost in Vietnam. It’s not the war that is the problem for us, though. It is our disinclination to trust our leadership in these matters. There are always people who object to war on principle, but now they have allies who simply don’t believe the official reasons. These allies are not pacifists.

I know that by about 1968 I was thoroughly fed up with illiterate clowns who would assure me that if it weren't for America, I would be speaking German, or Russian, right now. The rest of the world felt much the same way, and the constant whines about how only America could save the world grated.

Yes. Very crude of us, hence the Don MacLean parody song. That’s not our right wing, though. That’s just our barbarian nature and we are all in on it including David to some degree. Ask a Russian who defeated the Germans in WWII and they’ll give a very different answer. They won’t even call it WWII. Unfortunately for you all, there is some truth in our barbarian claim. We DID save the world and we are crude enough to sing our own praises. I don’t know that you’d all be speaking German or Russian, but no one could have done what we did… and survived to sing their own praises. Y’all simply don’t have the resources we have. 8)

It doesn’t matter if the world sees us as we see ourselves. That is a fundamental truth about barbarians. We know we’ve changed the world for the better. We are quite convinced we are the best thing for the world just short of free sex. I can think of a number of our claims that are NOT true (I disagree with David somewhat regarding our trade deficit), but I’m pretty sure some of them ARE true and not just because I’m one of the barbarians. I think the numbers support us.

donzelion said...

Illithi: Interestingly, I cut for brevity a section of my post on law enforcement monitoring ammunition stockpiles - to the best of my knowledge, such a system is in place for states that voluntarily cooperate (and a system to monitor purchases by 'persons of interest'), but if the FBI or ATF are tracking, it's more on the macro-scale (supplier licensing) rather than the micro-level.

"I burned through 295 rounds. It probably wouldn't have taken me even that long...3 or 4 friends going out with a few different guns to shoot can easily burn a couple thousand rounds in a single afternoon.
"

A quick check of an as-yet non-existent database would show you are (a) in the military, (b) trained in the use of firearms, and (c) not a person of interest. Such a system should also track (d) mental illness, among other things. Attempts to create such a system have been explored; numerous states and legislatures affirmatively banned further efforts.

Still, if such a system flagged you and your friends as buying a large stockpile of ammo, a routine check would hardly hurt you; no more intrusive than, say, a sobriety checkpoint. The folks who fear 'government oversight' for them have no problem with the same scrutiny applied to others; this seems a reasonable safeguard to me though, rather than oppression.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: The English Civil War, and the creation of the 'new model army' illustrate my point: farmers could not defeat the feudal lords, but rather, they became soldiers - and that enabled beating them. Organization, nationalization, networks of larger economies than feudal lords could muster - not the firearms themselves.

"Muskets meant the lords had to keep large swathes of the populace on their side or be toppled."
They always had to keep large swathes of the populace on their side or be toppled, from ancient times through modernity. Lots of uprisings, in lots of regions occurred despite or in the face of armored horsemen - some put down, some displacing a local lord, many supported overtly or covertly by rival lords, a handful displacing the regime entirely.

In the French revolution, the English Civil War, the American revolution, and the Soviet revolution, a decaying feudal state (or colonial expression of a feudal remnant in an otherwise non-feudal state) reached financial impasse: either the 'state' army turned against the older, traditional authorities that failed to pay them, or a new army was formed. Unless that new army emerged, the locals, with their private weapons, were crushed.

Aside from those incidents, the experience of firearms around the world backs my point - from China, where fire lances developed, through Mongol conquests, through Ottomans, into the kingdoms of Europe, and thence to the New World, and later, to the rest of the colonized territory of empires - each time firearms were introduced, they were turned by the outsider to quash the locals. So too in America - historians have documented the relative scarcity of private firearms from the colonial days until the Civil War - save in those areas where locals (usually, oligarchs) feared slave uprisings or natives.

"it was farmers who rose up and could finally make it stick, because of gunpowder, and the lords never dared to oppress them again."
Hardly. The imperial powers persisted long after the introduction of gunpowder, often because of the use of gunpowder.

In a fantasy world, the farmers banded together to stop the lords.
In the real world, some farmers became soldiers in an organized army that defended something that became a somewhat centralized state: THAT stopped feudal lords. Nothing else ever has.

Winter7 said...

Something has occurred to me. something that could help solve the problem of the massive sale of weapons ....
And if an advertising campaign, with posters, is carried out, that the poster says, "These are the culprits of the massacres of innocents in the United States." And then the poster shows the photos with the close up of the entrepreneurs who own the companies producing weapons.
Yes; it would be a campaign that seeks to make the owners of the weapons factories ashamed of what they do. (though most likely, it is that the heart of gun makers is as tough and Teflon as the heart of Donald Trump)

Ilithi Dragon said...

Winter:

That tactic will result in one of two things: 1. The owners of gun manufacturers will hire more personal security, to guard against random, vigilante assassination attempts, or 2. Some dumb bastard will manage to slip through their security and assassinate one or more of them. Either way, their lawyers will have a field day.

Your approach is also flawed because it is exactly the same as trying to blame deaths caused by drunk drivers on auto manufacturers, or stabbing deaths on the owners of companies that make kitchen knives. You are creating a convenient bogey man to attack, rather than addressing the real, underlying issues, and just like attacking a made-up bogey man, you will achieve no actual results with this approach.

You also seem to be taking the stance of "all guns are bad, and should go away." I'm not sure, as you haven't elaborated, so that's just an inference on my part, but if that is the case, you should try and set more realistic goals. Guns aren't going to go away. Doesn't even matter if they should, the fact remains that they will not, and there is not a damn thing you can do to actually make them go away. You might as well be trying to walk to the moon.

If you want actual, meaningful change and progress, you need to set more realistic, and achievable goals.

TCB said...

Ilithi Dragon said: "Regarding reducing the maximum, or cyclic RoF, bump fire stocks already do this. A bump-fire stock isn't going to give you the same cycle time as the same gun with full auto capability, because there is an added delay with the stock moving that means the gun doesn't fire as soon as the bolt locks to the chamber. An M16 has a cyclic RoF of 700-950 rounds per minute, but an AR-15 with a bump stock isn't going to match that."

True but trivial for our purposes. If Vegas Erastratos was only getting 200 rounds per minute, this was more than adequate for his attack on an enclosed and helpless crowd. As you probably know, military units tend to go full auto for covering fire and semi-auto when engaging particular targets. Ammunition is heavy and it doesn't always make sense to burn through it in combat like you're in a movie.

As matters stand, any slightly competent tinkerer can make his own bump stock or hand crank or other such device. Banning them merely adds to the effort.

A technically simple method of fire-rate control might be to require retrofitting semi-auto guns with electric solenoid triggers at a legally capped rate of fire. This could be controlled by a chip welded inside its case and treated as security-shielded. Open it up, mod it, and the gun is now illegal.

Winter7 said...

On the subject of the military. Yes. it is important that the Americans keep the military on the side of the people and as a bulwark of the principles of freedom. For surely the generals could choose the wrong side. If plutocrats think of using the military to make occasional incursions against opponents, in that case the generals may have to decide between being fired and being persecuted or obeying and being part of the new government order.
In Latin America you see what has happened in the relationship of elites with the military. As the saying goes: “When you see your neighbor’s beard being cut, start getting yours wet.”
Under the current circumstances, I do not know if the American generals will have the courage not to give in to the blackmail of the Donald Trump-Russia alliance. The result of this is a mystery. Something as difficult to predict as the question of whether Americans will regain real democracy or whether they will continue to be immersed in a Mexican-style democracy, where the elite decide which oligarchs are the slices of the pie. A system in which citizens are reassured with futball; news of the end of the world and radical religion; a system in which the average citizen really believes the fantasy that Mexican democracy exists.

Ilithi Dragon said...

TCB:

Technical distinctions can be important - they can often go into the weeds, but even when they do, it's important to be willing to listen to and understand them, because dismissing them or shutting them down can make anyone you're conversing with shut down (though there are many times when it is equally important to reign in digression).


Military units also discourage automatic fire except when engaging in suppressive or covering fire, destructive fire against vehicles, or warning shots, because your accuracy goes out the window. It's called "Spray And Pray" for a reason.


The tinkerer problem is only going to get worse, and pretty soon, too, with the on-going, rapid improvement to 3D printers. The cost of metal printers is continuing to fall, making them more viable for average consumers to purchase, and there are plenty of plastic gun designs that only require the addition of a nail, or maybe a piece of pipe if you want to get more sophisticated. I've heard there are designs available now that don't even require that much. Usually those 3D-printed plastic guns are single-shot deals, but that won't last forever.

What are we going to do when the average joe can just 3D-print themselves a belt-fed LMG?



Winter:

I'm not really sure what you're trying to say here. Can you elaborate, or possibly rephrase for clarity? You're also diving into subjects that I'm not at liberty to comment on.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred: I imagine bronze swords were expensive back then (a well-made samurai sword can cost $100,000 today!) but I suspect most warriors were responsible for forging their own, or trading with someone who could.

"We aren't just a super-power. We are so dominant that many nations are CHOOSING not to try to compete with us that way."

And so the obvious thing happened, and people wishing to challenge American power turned to asymetrical warfare. The Viet Cong stymied the mighty US, and the rest of the world noticed.

It's a familiar tactic: it was used back in the 1770s against Hussein soldiers and disciplined English Army regulars by some group of terrorists in the colonies.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred: " That’s not our right wing, though."

A lot of it was. Billionaire John Birchers strained mightily to put out the word that American gifts were given with disdain to undeserving foreigners. It did NOT reflect American values at the time, but as propaganda with an aim to returning the US to an isolationist state, it was immensely effective.

This was true even amongst America's closest friends. America didn't "save England" but they played a major role in winning the war against Hitler and American largess prevented general starvation in Great Britain. But even as the war was going on, Londoners tired of American swagger, and a oft heard complaint was that US Troops were "Over paid, over sexed, and over here."
In post war London, ripping off Americans became a sort of sport. There's even an early episode of a radio comedy show, "Hancock's Half Hour" in which Syd, the shyster of the group, is looking to lend out a loft for five quid a month; a princely sum in the day. A prospective tenant shows up, and Syd deftly tours him around the less attractive features. Noticing his accent, he asks where the fellow is from. "California," he says. There's a pause, and then Syd says, "We're always willing to do anything for our American friends. I'll let you have this for just fifty quid a week." The American, of course, accepts the deal.
Canadians were exempt from that, by the way. We had a three story brick townhouse all to ourselves, with a vast back area with willow pond and carp. Fifty quid a month.

Zepp Jamieson said...

On a different topic, from futurism.com:
"Moments ago, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) announced that they made a revolutionary discovery, one that they will be unveiling to the world on Monday (October 16th). According to the media advisory released today by the ESO, scientists have observed an astronomical phenomenon that has never been witnessed before."

The article notes that the last time they made this announcement, it was to announce the detection of gravitational waves.

It may or may not have anything to do with reports of filaments of dark matter had been discovered linking two stars.

David Brin said...

donzelion's writhing, twisting defense of an utterly indefensible and diametrically opposite to every single fact assertion about history is kinda disturbing. It shows that such rationalization fetishes are not the sole providence of the mad right. Fortunately, he's not asserting anything connected to anything more heinous than relentlessly reflexive-compulsive anti-americanism.

We can survive that. The mad right is another matter.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin: "Of course! Try actually thinking! This is how we created the umbrella under which everyone else felt safe enough to spend less on defense and instead develop. Cripes! Your anti-American bigotry has you unable to even parse the obvious."

Oh I can manage to think just fine, thank you. Nice of you to ask, though.
You created an enormously expensive and badly tattered umbrella that the rest of the world saw as a threat. Nations reacted in two ways: they either nuked up (Russia, China, France, Israel, even South Africa) or, if forced to oppose American military might, engaged in asymetrical warfare. Guerilla fighters were seen as heroic figures in America up until the 1960s--the colonists, the Underground rail road, the French underground. But then Vietnam came along and it showed that American military might could be stymied.
I see where Trump has supposedly said he wants to add 32,000 nuclear weapons to the US arsenal. Trump now denies saying such a thing, but that's pretty relevant. Assume he did say it: would you consider that just another element of "Pax Americana"?

Tony Fisk said...

Paul451 said:
The problem with this story idea is that the technology has to be magic, you say that one spell and you get that one effect. But real technology comes out of interconnected fundamental physics, if a simple widget can create a personal shield or similar effect, then it's going to be a general principle of projected matter/energy manipulation, like EM theory is to magnets and wires. It's not going to be limited to just that one application.

Indeed, which has never stopped people from exploring "what if" scenarios. (I was specifically riffing off Baxter and Pratchett's Long Earth series, in case it wasn't obvious. Not the greatest story ever told, but they had a lot of fun exploring scenarios.)
What's stopping me isn't the obfuscation of magic with reverse polarisation of ion flux capacitors (or Bergenholm Inertia Damper Fields), but the insights into how a society centered on gun ownership would deal with the change in dynamics (as opposed to kinetics ;-).

David Brin said...

"You created an enormously expensive and badly tattered umbrella that the rest of the world saw as a threat."

Utter stunning drivel bullshit!~ In the history of our species, no major power was ever so liked and so trusted.

All powers will always be hated to some degree. All will make mistakes and sometimes abuse power. But you cannot name any other society that was ever tempted by such power, that instead issued the kinds of internationalist and anti-imperial policies promulgated by George Marshall. You are an ignorant person.

When Japanese troops arrived in our colony, the Philippines, the supposed "oppressed" fought at our side with stunning dedication, refusing anti-colonial amnesties and dying at our side. Others in the hills until 1945. Obama was gthe most popular man in the world, because the world WANTS to love America, if given an excuse.

You utterly ignore every single time I try to raise the relentless propaganda that made you what you are and that taught you every "impudent" opinion you are so proud of.

Others "nuked up"????????? Gawd how loony. The French did it out of pride. The Brits were allies. SAfrica was a pariah and the Sovs were paranoid-crazy. They knew we could have destroyed them. and did not. And We knew they would destroy us and conquer the world the instant they gained an edge.

Jesus fool. Ask a German, a Dane, what they think of America and NATO. Ask Poles, Estinians Lithuanians, Latvians.

Criticism of policies has helped us to be better (or less bad) than any other empire. And there's plenty to criticize.

Kneejerk anti-Americanism is looony, historically ignoramus, ingrate silly-ass dumbitude.

David Brin said...

"You created an enormously expensive and badly tattered umbrella that the rest of the world saw as a threat."

Oh, you set me off. What idiocy! The very TOPIC was the fact that most countries under that "tainted umbrella" were able to cut their defense spending by a factor of ten. Seriously, are you capable of even parsing the logic of two sentences in a row?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor Brin, everyone, you have got to see this 100 second video. I promise you'll love it.
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/fire-santa-rosa-drone-USPS-mail-truck-12271107.php

Zepp Jamieson said...

Oh, I understand what you are trying to say, Doctor Brin. That isn't the issue. I just disagree with you on that point.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"In the history of our species, no major power was ever so liked and so trusted."
Well, that's a pretty sweeping statement. It may be somewhat true, given that major powers tend to act in pretty hateful ways. It's a low bar, though. If I said you were more honest than Donald Trump, I doubt you would feel flattered. (And no, I'm not trying to draw a comparison).
Once liberated, Italians and French fought fiercely alongside allied troops, and were rewarded after the war with sneers that they were cowardly surrender monkeys. It's not unusual for armies driving out invaders to draw strong support from the subjugated peoples. There were thousands of Filapinos and even a few Filapinas named "Douglas MacArthur".
Yes, World War II and the immediate aftermath were moments of glory for America.
And a lot of it lasted through the 50s and 60s, spurred in part by America's deep fear of communism. Even America's ultimate scientific triumph, the moon landing, was based politically on "we must beat the commies."
But that also led to America falling from it's golden throne, as it inspired Korea, and then Vietnam, and then many other, lesser misadventures.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
Some excellent criticism of my first choice - I still think it was a shame but the argument that we were not ready and that Parliament maintained sovereignty is a powerful one

My Second "bad thing" was the American Revolution - and I still think that it was a bad thing because it popularized a very bad model - Like Reagan's "Trickle Down" or Lamarkism

Without the US example the French Revolution and subsequent movements would have used Parliamentarian governments which seem to be more robust than the US model

The third One was Napoleon - he instituted a lot of very good changes - some of which survived him - If he had not invaded Russia I believe that he could have cemented his reforms more firmly - possibly too firmly!

As far as the British Empire is concerned - only one of them could have made the Empire stronger

Comparing the British Empire to the American Empire you have got to compare the same time periods
The end of the 19th century would be a good comparison
The US Empire has the Philippines and the last Native American Nations
I really don't think any of the actions of the British Empire at that time approach those levels of barbarity

Actually the biggest gripe I have with the US empire is not it's actual behavior but its hypocrisy
The Americans are "always right"
unlimited submarine warfare is a war crime and a reason to join the war - until they are in the war when it's OK
The Japs attacked a naval base - so it's OK to bomb cities

The British Empire was nearly as bad - but not as self righteous

You still see that with Iran - most Americans don't seem to have a clue just what the USA has done to Iran over the last 70 years

I'm not sure if I agree with the US umbrella - I like Dr Brin's idea that having such a large military means that everybody else knows that they don't need one - but I'm not sure that it works like that and having Trump in charge does make me nervous

New Zealand decided a while back that we do not need a combat air force - but we share air force personnel with the UK and Australia so we probably could have an operational combat air arm very quickly if we needed one

donzelion said...

"donzelion's writhing, twisting defense of an utterly indefensible and diametrically opposite to every single fact assertion about history is kinda disturbing."

Hmmm...let's try another tact. Two propositions purport to account for how oligarchs have been restrained, to the extent they have been restrained:

Your theory appears to be, "When feudal lords saw masses with guns, they were cowed. The muskets caused liberty to blossom." This is the 'gun myth' (a rather common fantasy). If that is not your theory, perhaps you'll offer a clearer version.

My theory is, "When feudal lords saw ARMIES (with or without guns), they could be cowed. National structures, including armies, caused liberty to blossom."

Several possible tests could see which is more plausible. Did we see oligarchs falter in Europe after Napoleon's defeat (the first time guns became extremely prevalent throughout Europe), or were the feudal lords strengthened and replaced? Did those with guns use them to liberate the oppressed peoples of the world - or to subjugate them into colonies, conquer them, or enslave them?

Do we see oligarchs surrender as soon as peasants rose up with guns? Sometimes (the French Revolution). But the English Civil War, the American revolution, and even during stages of the French revolution, it was not the peasants with guns who cowed the nobles, but the army refusing to obey them. Whenever peasants fought the nobles, either they formed an army of their own capable of ousting them, or they were crushed. With or without guns.

It is more plausible that armies are the factor that matter, rather than guns alone. Hence my view that when reading the 2nd Amendment, one must focus on the militias, not the arms alone.

I cannot see how criticism of the 'gun myth' is anti-American. I suspect you're angry with someone else, and are perceiving reasonable criticism as a flagrant error. It is not.

donzelion said...

Duncan: The US empire in the Philippines - and other holdings taken from the Spanish in the Spanish American War - started with a colonial model as precedent, but shifted quickly to what later became known as a 'mandate' model (with commonwealth as an intermediate step). American policy toward the Filipinos was initially quite harsh, but folks quickly realized that was counterproductive (including future president and Chief Justice Taft). Puerto Rico, Guam, and a handful of others are similar 'imperial' possessions - eligible for independence just as soon as they ask for it.

Not quite the same story for India...

"I really don't think any of the actions of the British Empire at that time approach those levels of barbarity"
Well, Indians fought alongside British during WWI and WWII, and Filipinos fought alongside Americans in both wars - so by a standard our host has proposed, 'those people love their masters.' I'd say things are a bit more nuanced than that.

But you're quite right about American barbarity toward our own Native Americans, barbarism equalled only by our treatment of African-Americans. We have dirty hands. We clean them, sometimes with great difficulty, and try to do better.

"The British Empire was nearly as bad - but not as self righteous"
I am not so sure. 'The white man's burden'? Yet perhaps we're all obtuse toward our own hypocrisies.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
Maybe I'm wrong but as a Brit I always though that most of Kipling's poems were rather tongue in cheek
That one especially!

Ilithi Dragon said...

Donzelion:

I don't have enough time to make much of a post (only have so much time to shower/eat breakfast between PT and when I have to be back to work), but I do want to note that you should take Dr. Brin's aggressive language with a grain of salt - you can always tell when he's posting while traveling and doesn't have time to give more thorough/detailed responses, because his posts get short and focus on pointing out ideas/arguments as wrong or stupid. You've probably figured this out, yourself, but I figured it was worth the reminder, and also worth pointing out to anyone else reading who hasn't been around long/often enough to catch the pattern.

The personal insults are wrong, and counter-productive (I cover that in Section 7 of my now 9-section mega post that I will hopefully have finished this evening), and Dr. Brin should know better, but try not to take them personally.

occam's comic said...

Dave,
You repeatedly refer to the political party that controls all three branches of the federal government and the vast majority of states as Treasonous Traders in the Service of the Oligarchs. That sounds every bit as anti-American as anything anyone has said in this thread.

Now I understand that you have a powerful emotional attachment to the idea that America is a force for good in the world (I certainly had that emotional attachment too, and it is very painful to realize that it is not true)but an honest evaluation led me to conclude that the US is very powerful, it acts in the perceived interested of the powerful in the US, is seldom wise in its application of force and is increasingly acting dangerously and erratically.

David Brin said...

We’re zeroing in on the problem with: “Once liberated, Italians and French fought fiercely alongside allied troops, and were rewarded after the war with sneers that they were cowardly surrender monkeys.”

Argument by isolated anecdote! A few snarky comics cast an aspersion… and suddenly that’s all Americans trashing allies. That is the technique used by Fox It is a dismal, lying technique.

Anecdotes can disprove a broad generality. If I claimed “we always treated all allies with universal respect, all of us,” then that anecdote would have meaning. Otherwise, feh, what a lie.

But today I pass the utter delusion award over to Duncan. I have no place to start. Duncan's mind is sharp and his values and heart are in the right place. (Like Zepp.) And there's almost not a single one of his comparisons of the British empire to us or anything else that is anything but utter-bizarre, opposite-to-true clkaptrapo.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin:
We both know it wasn't "all Americans" or even a tiny minority. But it reverberated with a resounding clang in Europe, and cost America a lot of friends. It didn't help that few Americans saw fit to challenge the noisy trash purporting to speak on their behalf.

And unfortunately, it wasn't anecdotal, limited or otherwise. There's a chunk of America that want to be isolationist (I doubt you would dispute that) and for years they've been regaling "Eurotrash" with tales of how they won't fight or can't fight and survive only because America tiredly supports their layabout asses.

Paul451 said...

"and for years they've been regaling "Eurotrash" with tales of how they won't fight or can't fight and survive only because America tiredly supports their layabout asses."

It underpins the whole "paying their way" NATO meme. That Europe has economically benefited from US carrying the majority of the burden of NATO funding, and that European countries must increase their defence spending.

From a logical standpoint, that argument carries two core assumptions: 1) That spending less on defence is good for your economy. 2) That the US wants to spend less on defence.

When you look at the people who created and repeated the NATO meme, are those two thinks what they would say when you actually talked about US defence spending?

--

Duncan,
Re: Kipling
However, there had to be something there that he was parodying.

Paul451 said...

"are those two thinks"

A typo, obviously. But in context, it almost works as slang. Mispronouncing "thoughts", but meaning "mindsets", the way you think.

David Brin said...

Zepp you are consistently blind to how you repeat the same torrent of contempt and hate, over and over again:

“We both know it wasn't "all Americans" or even a tiny minority. But it reverberated with a resounding clang in Europe, and cost America a lot of friends. It didn't help that few Americans saw fit to challenge the noisy trash purporting to speak on their behalf.”

Bullshit again! You try to backpedal out of an untenable position… then double down on the identical diametrically opposite-to-true baloney. Yammering about hurt feelings and grudges about hurts inflicted by a few bozos.

Jiminy, the number of horrific stereotypes cast at Americans is vastly greater… and YOU are doing it right now, obstinately, relentlessly, insultingly… and if I were like you, I would react by blaming all Europeans for their “amercan-trash” insults. Instead, I have aimed my insults directly at you… with the parental intention to shake you out of some truly obnoxious mental habits…

…and I’ve failed. You will not look at how your attitudes drive from propaganda and I give up trying.

Cripes. We are accused of anti-immigrant racism. But third generation and most 2nd and many 1st generation immigrants are fully accepted here. 4th generation Frenchmen with Algerian last names suffer horrid racism every single day. What hypocrisy!

occam's comic said...

"Cripes. We are accused of anti-immigrant racism. But third generation and most 2nd and many 1st generation immigrants are fully accepted here. 4th generation Frenchmen with Algerian last names suffer horrid racism every single day. What hypocrisy!"


Yeah Zepp, French racism towards Africans is so much worse than American racism towards black folks.

Erin Schram said...

My comment is off the current discussion of guns and war, but it does relate to a tangential topic in David Brin's original post. He said, "Though for two decades I have been pointing out that the Great Equalizer that’s arming nearly all citizens, today, is the cell-phone camera."

An article about ME/CFS, Millions of Women Suffer From a Disease That Virtually Sucks the Life Out of Them — But Doctors Still Don’t Take It Seriously said:

She recalls the moment when she realized that film could be a powerful way of changing that equation: She’d been describing to a doctor how she’d collapsed the night before and been unable to get up for hours. He was barely paying attention until she took out her phone and showed him the video she’d taken of her face pressed against the floorboards. “He just turned white,” she recalls — and then he immediately started ordering a slew of tests. Apparently seeing is believing. That’s when she decided to turn her iPhone video diary into a documentary film.

This unequal relationship, a doctor dismissing a black woman's complaint, was equalized by a smart-phone video camera.

David Brin said...

Erin thanks. It is ironically very pertinent to several of the talks here at FiRe. Today we saw a new documentary about UnDx or the movement to get more attention paid to undiagnosed illnesses. And yes, seeing the suffering through images has been a major force breaking some of the log jams.

Way back in 97 The Transparent Society spoke of how light can hold oppressors accountable... if that assertion of accountability is acceptable in the 1st place. Oppressive regimes want that to never happen. Here, it's still a struggle! But it is advancing sousveillance of elites and reciprocal accountability of each other.

donzelion said...

Duncan: "Maybe I'm wrong but as a Brit I always though that most of Kipling's poems were rather tongue in cheek...That one especially!"

Perhaps so. Unfortunately, many took him at his word (both Brits and Americans). And his prose certainly favored sentiments that would cause later folks to cringe.

But the accusation of 'self-righteousness' traces largely to the rhetoric of Woodrow Wilson: the subject territories should be granted self-determination as soon as practicable, an expression of American policy (toward Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Guam, and most others). We moved into commonwealth with the Philippines as an intermediate step, until they requested and received independence bloodlessly. Not entirely different from how the Australians, Canadians, and New Zealanders were treated (but quite different from the Irish).

Even toward Native Americans, by the period you cite, our policies are fairly comparable to yours toward aborigines and Canadian natives: compulsory reeducation (in English), occasional dispossession, government efforts to 'protect' (but also to restrict), phases focusing on assimilation and segregation. Where the indigenous peoples had land coveted by interested (white) settlers, the settlers tended to take primacy. The fact that Canadian indigenous peoples were treated differently from their American counterparts arises more from the frequency of settlers coveting the lands (I do not know Australian history well enough to compare the aboriginal treatment, but suspect there's quite a few barbarisms there as well).

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

Illithi: "...you should take Dr. Brin's aggressive language with a grain of salt - you can always tell when he's posting while traveling"

Agreed. For the 'anti-American' claim, I suspect he was thinking of someone else. I was hardly being anti-American, though proper control of guns (or lack thereof) is a distinctively American challenge.

For the 'gun myth' - the notion guns 'caused' liberation and transformed ancient modes of domination - I suspect this is one of those friendly disputes not unlike our previous spat over whether America really could have taken on the entire world after the Civil War (my view: we couldn't).

My point has been a fairly reasonable one: guns did not make feudal lords act kindly - states did. Absent the state, but present the guns, and feudal lords abound. Present the state, but absent the guns, and feudal lords are restrained. Hence, the state is the 'cause' - not the guns.

The gun myth impedes reasonable policies, an emotional barrier preventing pragmatic considerations. (Guns are the basis of liberty! If you restrict them, it must be because you secretly harbor tyrannical aspirations! You're coming to take my guns!). In the real world of America, state legislators boast about opposing 'federal oppression' - since they can't find much real oppression to oppose, they target pragmatic, reasonable licensing regimes and undermine them, citing not what actually exists, but what it might lead to...

David Brin said...

The history of American relations with native Americans is of course a tragic travesty. But when you examine each case you find many people with fine intentions, whose top sin was failure to follow up and to protect native peoples from the worst whites.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Zepp you are consistently blind to how you repeat the same torrent of contempt and hate, over and over again:"

Doctor, if you're incapable of debating me, at least maintain your dignity and stop reverting to scurrilous jibe like "contempt and hate". I'm debating with neither, and it is a rather nasty smear that reveals only the feebleness of your own position.

You're assigning a position to me that I not only didn't make, but refuted from the start. The bad actors alienating America's friends did not represent America at large. That's the third time I've said that in one way or another, and I expect better from you.

Some of them are stereotypes, but stereotypes can do enormous damage. Some are not stereotypes, and also do damage.

I think your political thinking has ossified some time around 1962. That was about the end of Pax Americana, It has long since ceased to exist, and to insist that it does is as silly and as futile as if I were to claim that Britain was still taking on "the White Man's burden."


Zepp Jamieson said...

Occam's Comic wrote: "Yeah Zepp, French racism towards Africans is so much worse than American racism towards black folks."

Don't know who you were quoting, but it wasn't me. French attitudes are pretty bloody awful. But I can't imagine characterising one form of racism as being "worse"; racism is pernicious, and eventually it destroys civilisations.

David Brin said...

I give up on this person, who cannot look in a mirror, examine his processes or perceive the ironies in his relentlessly repeated behaviors. What you think of my thinking is laughably irrelevant. I am vastly more agile than you could begin to conceive.

We have found a left wing Locumranch.

But enjoy. Strawman away. I am done.

onward

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

But you're quite right about American barbarity toward our own Native Americans, barbarism equalled only by our treatment of African-Americans. We have dirty hands. We clean them, sometimes with great difficulty, and try to do better.


That's what's so insidious about the whole Trump phenomenon. He's empowering those who want to say "What dirty hands? We've never had dirty hands!!! Nothing to clean here!"


"The British Empire was nearly as bad - but not as self righteous"
I am not so sure. 'The white man's burden'? Yet perhaps we're all obtuse toward our own hypocrisies.


The "White Man's Burden" thing, while arrogant and dated in its racism, at least was a call to use one's powers for good rather than evil. It's certainly not what Hitler would have admonished.

It's similar to the present day admonition to those who enjoy white privilege to at least use it to good purpose.

LarryHart said...

oops, we've sailed long past the...

onward


onward

Winter7 said...

Ilithi Dragon:
Ho, my apologies. Again I got off the subject. And I know the chances are that Google's automatic translator does not correctly translate my words from Spanish to English.
I see that all those who have made comments are worried about the misuse of weapons by novices with large amounts of money to buy deadly toys.
Since the cause of the shooting in the Las Vegas did not seem to have a reason to do what he did, I could claim that there is a conspiracy. But the truth is that there seems to be no other motive than the simple old hatred caused by the resentment towards what were perceived as injustices of life.
Nevertheless. I can try to put the bit of my reason to pierce the thick layer of the obvious ... And find possibilities. Only as an exercise in deductive logic.
Let's see. For starters, the killer allegedly made a lot of money in casinos. Jaaajaa! Casinos are designed to empty people's bank accounts; not to enrich people (well-known is the fact that slot machines and even roulette, have mechanisms that falsify the result) (That reminds me of the machines counting votes that almost everyone believes infallible)
Consequently, I must assume that the murderer received money in the casinos. In exchange for? Why participate in money laundering? That is known to occur in many places, so it is plausible.
Thus, we can deduce that the gunman of las vegas worked for the Mafia.
Why would the Mafia be interested in causing a massacre?
Russian Mafia or Italian Mafia? What mafia controlled the casino where the killer had such good luck? There are those who.
All right. I already did 50% of deductive work. Can anyone else deduce a motive for the mafia's way of acting?
Of course, we could close the case by assuming that the mob lost control of one of its men.
But there may be other reasons:
A) The collection of insurance.
B) Punish an event promoter who did not deliver a loan.
C) War between mafia groups.
D) Punishment of event promoters who do not want to pay a percentage to the Mafia.
E) Nero Trump burning and punishing the state of California for the rebellion of the Californians.
(Can you imagine Donald Trump's smile of satisfaction as he looks over and over again at FOX News, the images of thousands of homes engulfed in flames in California?)
F) etc. Etc. Etc.

Mike said...

I’ve always loved you’re fiction, but think I’m loving you’re practical ideas even better.

Nicely, was just talking to my girlfriend the other day about regulating guns analogous to cars, with mandatory safety training, a waiting period etc. I grew up in pro-gun states and do believe in the right, but a well regulated one.

You are right about the slippery slope fear, it is also fueled by negative stereotypes about gun owners. Most I’ve know do agree with more regulation; how can you expect someone to trust if you vilify them.

Frankly I thought the gun modifications the shooter made were illegal, they should be. I am also pretty disgusted with the depths the NRA has sunk to. I’m that person in the middle, I can see and agree with both the basis for the right to bear arms and the need for more and more consistent and enforced regulation.

Lastly, your oligarchy comments are spot on.

Alfred Differ said...

@David | lumbering temporary measures that should – over time – wither away

I'd be a happy voter helping to demolish social problems all around us if I actually believed government measures were likely to be temporary. I simply don't and can't see how a bureaucracy can work that way. People in and out of government become vested in a solution and a government version doesn't have to have a business case that closes. It is a very painful process to talk to investors while pitching a project that competes with government and face down their questions about who the competitors are and how one intends to beat them.

I know a number of people who took on Cornuelle's proposition and lost. Government isn't profit motivated. Investors are. Government can tweak market rules. Morally upstanding investors do not. We are at a PROFOUND disadvantage when competing with them and most investors with real money simply won't risk it.

I personally witnessed a funded prize effort die because one guy ticked off someone in a certain FAA office. That annoyed bureaucrat whispered in a few ears and all permit applications were delayed until after the prize deadline (and funding) died. The money involved was small potatoes, but would have kick-started the NewSpace companies and their industry a few years earlier. That bureaucrat retired at some point and his replacement was better schmoozed by our friends, so the blockage eventually went away. Still, this experience shows WHY investors are leery. Our competitors were vested and could play in our market by unfair rules. THAT is what government can do... and does if one does not play by THEIR rules.

Sniff. I was working one of those applications for a permit to fly. It took a while to find the arbitrary rule imposed against us all, but I did eventually. It was in a footnote in a huge doc that slid through the rule making process. Very slimy of the guy who did it.