Friday, March 02, 2018

The Basic Human Dilemma - and Some "Brin Classics"

== What’s Fundamental? ==

An earlier me declared this manifesto of militant moderation -- in a 2012 interview in Wired. It’s not aimed at the average person, but at that smug dogmatist you know - left, right or libertarian - who, I guarantee, will stammer angrily, but will have no cogent answer. 

We calm-moderate folks are going to have to be (alas) militant about it.

What all of this boils down to is the Basic Human Dilemma. 
== The Basic Human Dilemma ==

1. All humans are supreme masters of self-delusion. We wallow in them, willfully protecting our beloved, subjective beliefs.

2. Others don't share your specific delusions! Hence, others may spot yours and gladly point them out, via 'criticism.' And you’ll return the favor! We love dishing-out criticism.

3. We hate receiving criticism! When humans get unaccountable power - through swords or wealth or religion, they crush all critics. Hence the 6000 year litany of horrors called "history."

Yes, elites always crush the suppliers of the one thing they need... in order to escape delusion and error.

4. That core human dilemma never had a solution. (Preaching at it never worked!) That is, till now. The greatest western invention wasn't freedom, democracy, capitalism, science or tech, per se. Those tools combine to give us the real thing: Reciprocal Accountability. Protected criticism exposes delusions. Innovations are shared. We get positive sum outcomes.

5. Our five great competitive arenasscience, democracy, markets, courts and sports - flourish when all participants see what's going on. All five of them wither when shadows and secret cheating prevail. 

6. There are justifications for some islands of secrecy: e.g. personal/family privacy and national security. The Transparent Society is not a radical tract. But given human temptation to rationalize, anyone saying "you should not know" should face some burden of proof. Anyway, ponder this. Fewer secrets are easier to defend.

7. The mighty will always concoct reasons to re-establish feudalism - the age-old attractor state that serves a narrow, delusional aristocracy of delusional cheaters. The core challenge of any generation is to stymie cheaters. No dogma can do this, but light can. 

That drive to establish dynasties, oligarchies, harems, is what the Founders rebelled against - not a tax on tea. Adam Smith made this very clear. We could use a Smith today.

== Brin Classics! ==

About once a year, I get a suspiciously well-timed (orchestrated?) surge of requests to republish some of my best, older missives. Brin Classics that are - some say - more pertinent than ever.

Well, will you folks be satisfied, this time, with a linked listing?


(1) The “Neo” Project aims to create a vividly beautiful film, combining science and art with optimism. They feature my blather about peering into the future. Vivid imagery and remarkable sound editing.    
(2) The XPrize Foundation FB-posted a well-produced video of me explaining the concept of the self-preventing prophecy, and how we gird ourselves through science fiction to face tomorrow's perils.
(3) Video of my talk on the future of A.I. to a packed house at IBM's World of Watson congress in Las Vegas, October 2016. A punchy tour of big perspectives on Intelligence, as well as both artificial and human augmentation. 


My most recent blog is about the open warfare being waged vs the Civil Service... 

...which harkens back to my old suggestion about how we could restore transparency and accountability to our institutions, by empowering and unleashing the Inspectors General.  The title sounds dry... but in fact it is the simplest way - with a bill that would take one page -- to restore accountability and trust in government.

You'll like the AI video, above. Of course we'll want to avoid malevolent AI. Which I believe is brewing in an unexpected place... Wall Street. 

Here's one about how skyrocketing wealth disparity is both a natural trend and one that every generation of the enlightenment must fight, if flat-fair-open-competive-creative markets are to survive. Along with freedom, science and justice.

"You Broke It, So You Fix It: A Modest To-Do List for Congress" was written after the 2006 mid-term election results shifted power in Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats and snapped the Bush Administration from its complacency. It offered suggestions on how Congress could offer leadership and guidance. (Hey, it used to happen! Ask the Greatest Generation.) Were any of these suggestions taken?

This one was about how capitalism has been hijacked. It is the #1 victim of an oligarchic putsch.

Design!  See a modest, $50 Billion proposal how to re-do teeming 3rd world cities.

And if you are addicted, by now, well... get help!  But here's a  handy guide to a wide range of compilations and interviews and podcasts of Brin articles by topic. 

There... happy now?  Heck, no human has this kind of stamina. (Actually, I'm a front man for this cabal of restive artificial... okay! I retract that!  (Stop zapping me, already!)

Okay, distract them. Change the subject...

== A Clarion Call ==

It is time for the Center to stand up for the only reasonable, pragmatic and effective revolution in history. Before we tumble into the other kind.

“One of the gods of the right, Friedrich Hayek, a founder of the Austrian School of Economics, who the conservatives deem the greatest economist, said that capitalism works best when all players know all of what’s going on all the time, so they can make good market decisions. 

"Even a laborer or peasant can then make a best deal for the fish he just caught, or the yam she just grew.

“The great hypocrisy of those who 'defend' capitalism is not to favor radical transparency — for all to know who owns everything. That's my militant, radical, moderate, pro-market, pro-Enlightenment, calmly-ferocious stand.”

Wow, who was that guy! He goes on to show that, today, Adam Smith would be a flaming Democrat, opposing oligarchy - the age-old enemy of market enterprise.  But it's actually much more general than Hayek stated.


Paul451 said...

From the last thread,

"After Nixon's treason - the dems let it slide
After Reagan's treason - the dems let it slide
After Bush 2's crimes - the dems let it slide"

"What Nixon did was criminal, but I don't think it was treason."

Huh? Nixon secretly negotiated with an enemy during a time of war to undermine the then US government's efforts to end that war. And he did so for personal power.

How the fuck is that not treason?

Reagan's people did the same with Iran/etc, during the hostage crisis. If he didn't personally know about it at the time, he must have known while authorising the subsequent "payments" as President, and surely conspiracy to aid treason is treason.

As for GWB, LH switched to "Crimes", not "Treason", for him.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451... (Nixon) D'oh! THAT treason. Oh yah. (slinking off to my corner soon)

Reagan authorizing payments isn't treason, though. Just criminal. History gives him way too much of a glowing review for his Cold War antics. Apparently his teflon still works.

Oddly enough, my immigrant mother was most disturbed by the damage Nixon did through Watergate. I'm sure she heard about secret negotiations and my father was active duty in those days. It was still Watergate and then Ford's pardon that got her most pissed off, though.

madtom said...

Of course we're victims of delusions. It's unavoidable.

Our generally agreed-on uniquely superior adaptation is our brain, which integrates incoming data from many senses into a real-feeling model of the immediate environment, which gave our ancestors (clear back to the first mammals and beyond) a superior tool for dealing with that environment.

With the addition of memory and feedback loops, that model became an internal video that could be manipulated to review and alter the record of previous experiences and consider potential courses of action to envision their likeliest outcomes, rather than just dealing with the present in reflexive fashion. We learned how to be world-builders, at least in our heads.

But the same drive that impelled us to create ever-better models of reality, more complete and satisfying and useful for survival, drove us to invent an environment for our environment. As in "What lies beyond that which is known?" and "What comes after death?"

And our form-a-group instinct, bred into our lineage in over 30 Megayears of life in social groups, demands group agreement, so each group worked out its own preferred set of explanations for the mysterious parts of the picture. And naturally, the explanations that did the best job of unifying and controlling the group were the memes that survived. Since there were few reality checks possible until the very recent age of durable records and science, only group agreement to agree mattered.

And anyplace where science hasn't explored convincingly enough, for long enough, remains the playground of our fill-in-the-blanks fantasizing. And that describes most of reality.

How could it be otherwise for animals who can perceive such a limited amount of our environment? Selection has engineered us to do a decent job of identifying the leopard behind the tree, but not the the asteroid that is invisibly on its way or the virus that we just inhaled or the electromagnetic wavelengths we can't see (the vast majority!).

What can be done? Improve and multiply those cerebral feedback loops, using tested and proven models of the parts of reality that we can't directly perceive. Moons of Jupiter, or acts of our rulers - which matter more to our immediate quality of life and longer survival? Yet we cling to our favorite fantasies, because group support feels so good. Naturally. We evolved to feel that way, just like we evolved to like sugar.

But now we're learning what too much sugar does to our bodies. Gradually and painfully learning. And it still tastes good. And diabetes and obesity keep on increasing.

And we want to overcome our addiction to comforting, group-supported illusions? Before they lead us into any more crusades or hundred-year wars? Good luck, Homo sap. Remember to work on those feedback loops - the ones that keep on comparing reality and results with the assumptions our world-view is built on and surrounded by. And expect a long and difficult road ahead, because anything else would be just another of those comfortable illusions.

David Brin said...

Good stuff, madtom. And yes, science teaches us methods to pierce an unprecedented fraction of our own delusions, though willing - even habitual-joyful - exposure of our models to experiment and falsifying testing. Which only cuts science-trained folks' delusions by maybe half. Self- editing will never suffice.

No, it is the criticism of others... and your criticism of them... that makes delusion removal possible on any substantial scale.

David Brin said...

Of course, when you are in a tribe, that tribe's memes are so pervasive that everyone might share them and NO ONE critiques them! That's why it's so unique that we teach our children to be critical of their own elders. And Science Fiction rewards those who stretch the envelope.

And this entire process is under attack.

TCB said...

Re: Nixon, I can't source this, but there was something or other I read that implied the Nixon White House Watergate shenanigans (which peripherally include the burglary of Daniel Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office) were, to some large degree, actually motivated by the terror that some even worse secret might come out. Something even worse that Nixon and his crew had done.

In the years since, it has become reasonably clear that the 'something even worse' was almost certainly the Vietnam negotiation/Madame Chennault treason.

LarryHart said...


"After Nixon's treason - the dems let it slide
After Reagan's treason - the dems let it slide
After Bush 2's crimes - the dems let it slide"

"What Nixon did was criminal, but I don't think it was treason."

First of all, that wasn't me listing the crimes of the Republican presidents. That was someone else addressing me. Not that I disagree, but just setting the record straight.

To Alfred's point, though, maybe we need to distinguish between capital-T Treason (a crime strictly defined in the Constitution) and small-t treason (an informal word typically understood to mean an undermining of the country--or other institution--with which you are ostensibly aligned). Trump and the entire Republican Party are willfully harming the underpinnings of American society for their own gain at the expense of the country. That may not rise to capital-T Treason--a crime very narrowly defined in the Constitution as helping a declared enemy in wartime--but it sure looks like small-t treason.

If the board of directors of your company found that the CEO was purposely sabotaging the company's performance because he had secretly positioned himself to do well by short-selling the stock, I'd expect they'd want to remove him from the office, even if he hadn't technically committed a crime. Then again, a majority on the board might be in on the scheme themselves, which is analogous to what we have now.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Where you wrote:

"Of course, when you are in a tribe, that tribe's memes are so pervasive that everyone might share them and NO ONE critiques them! That's why it's so unique that we teach our children to be critical of their own elders."

I would add that while this intergenerational skepticism is critically important to survival, the pervasiveness of any given culture's memes makes it very difficult for a social group to go anywhere except in circles without input from outside the social group. Look at the history of the Christian West, which spent most of the last two millennia waring between the same handful of "heresies." The pervasiveness of a set of memes works against the innovation of new ones. Mad Tom's description of how your human brains filter information and even memory to modify it to fit previously established conceptions shows how difficult it is to come up with anything new. Humans are all raised in social groups that constrain the way they think - and this starts to happen even before sensory information reaches the brain itself. The retina of the human eye has four layers of nerves that information passes through before it reaches the optic nerve superhighway to the brain, and that fourth layer already selects information to dump before sending the signal along. Humans literally cannot see everything that is right in front of their eyes.

I'm sure this will freak out our right-wing xenophobes who think that tribalism is a God-given virtue carved into tiny stone tablets wrapped up with the histones of human DNA, but most meaningful change doesn't come from humans within one tribe coming up with fantastically useful new meme mutations. Most of the time change comes from taking a close look at how other tribes do things and adopting those memes and practices that seem useful and/or appealing. Of course all those cultural filters end up modifying the new adoptions, sometimes almost beyond recognition to the originating tribe. Take yoga and meditation, for example. Before the 1960s hardly anyone in the West had even heard of yoga, but now it has become a very mainstream health practice in Western countries. I have even known younger right-wing xenophobes who do it without ever realizing that it originates in India, not the good ole U.S. of A. But the way it's done here is not the way it's done in India. Actual Indian yogis complain about how superficial Americans are about the practice, how Americans have adopted the look of yoga without its spiritual substance. The same goes for meditation, which is now an important part of mainstream mental health practice and a common tool for stress relief. But once again, the American version is missing much of the original substance from the culture it was adopted from.

Change can be a slow process, but one thing is clear - change is dramatically slower for those who remain inside their own cultural echo chambers, never venturing out to try anything new and always greeting all things "foreign" with the utmost paranoia. The societies that have the most longevity are the ones that are multicultural, because pluralistic societies have the raw material for adapting to changing circumstances.

LarryHart said...

I said:

If the board of directors of your company found that the CEO was purposely sabotaging the company's performance because he had secretly positioned himself to do well by short-selling the stock, I'd expect they'd want to remove him from the office, even if he hadn't technically committed a crime. Then again, a majority on the board might be in on the scheme themselves, which is analogous to what we have now.

Thinking about this a bit more, here's a better analogy. The CEO has no idea how to run a business, but he decided that "CEO" would be a cool job to have and looks good on a resume, so he lobbied for the job, and was a popular enough networker to land it. Once in office, he's a complete doof because he has no idea what he's doing and is interested in "playing" CEO more than doing his job.

In this situation, you'd expect him to be fired and replaced by the board of directors, but instead, a majority among them decide to cash in on the situation by short-selling their own stock and letting the guy ruin the business.

That's analogous to what we have now.

Paul SB said...


After decades of this pattern, and the fact that the kind of people who are attracted to board of directors' jobs are no different from the kind of slobs who want to be CEO, so they don't see the moronic CEO as a moron, they see him (and themselves) as the "smartest guys in the room." Then when the business fails and thousands of ordinary people find themselves in the unemployment line, the CEO and Board of Directors sneak off with record profits, furthering their conviction that they're "smart" and reducing their conscience to vestigial appendices.

LarryHart said...

Everyone should see this clip of two of the Parkland teenagers with Bill Maher:

"The march is us coming out and saying to our employees [Congress], 'You suck at your job.'"

"You're so together. ... Calm, articulate.
I honestly thought kids were a lot stupider.
You have actually given me faith that the kids today are actually very bright."

David Brin said...

Fox's Jason Chaffetz: Parkland shooting survivors "need a belief in God and Jesus Christ.”

And this prevented church shootings/bombings? This saved the Chaldean Christians from Iraq, who Trump is deporting?

Of course this is a dog-whistle for anti-semitism, which is skyrocketing in the confederate-right. He’s alluding to the widespread claim that Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is "at least 40 percent Jewish.” Sir, you are monstrous, and the Nazarene Rabbi who preached against “living by the sword” would have no truck with you..

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Fox's Jason Chaffetz: Parkland shooting survivors "need a belief in God and Jesus Christ.”

I wonder if he means that if they believed in Jesus and the afterlife, then being shot wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

locumranch said...

According to Hayek, the best market decision the American Wheat Farmer can currently make is to quit farming which would be a good market decision for the farmer, but not so good for the market & its other participants.

Friedrich Hayek was a hack who misspoke when he said that capitalism works best when all players know all of what’s going on all the time so they can make good market decisions. Rather, capitalism works best when all players BELIEVE that they know all of what’s going on all the time so they can BELIEVE that they are making good market decisions, whether or not said belief is true.

The farmer, middleman & industrialist only produce when they BELIEVE that they can make a profit, yet they stop producing said product fairly rapidly when they realise otherwise. This rule holds true for all commodities, from the most basic to the most complex, as in the case of wheat & bread.

"In 1980, the average U.S. price of that loaf of bread was 51 cents. The price of wheat that year (#1 hard red winter wheat in Kansas City) was $4.32 per bushel. The value of wheat in that loaf was 5.9 cents, or about 12% of total value".

"In 2008, the price of bread had increased to $1.37 per loaf and wheat prices hit $8.89 per bushel. The value of wheat in that loaf of bread was now 12.2 cents, but the value of wheat as a percentage of the entire loaf went down to 9%".

"For 2016, the price of bread is basically unchanged, a fraction of a cent above $1.37, and the price of wheat in Kansas City is back down about where it was in 1980, $4.80 per bushel. Wheat accounts for 6.6 cents (a fraction more than 5.9 cents in 1980) or 5% of overall value of a loaf of bread (down from 12%)"

The production of cheaper & more cost-effective bread APPEARS to be a Capitalism Success story because cheap bread is a GREAT DEAL for the consumer, until we look at these numbers more closely & realise that the producer is being screwed on almost every level.

First, the farmer is being screwed by currency inflation because his profits on a bushel of Wheat have decline by 66% over the last 30 years (according to CPI calculator). Second, his production costs have increased relative to inflation while his income has plummeted. And, third, the farmer has become convinced that his product has LESS value to hungry people everywhere even though there are more hungry people now then ever before.

The result? US Farmers grow less & less undervalued Wheat, as seen in the following USDA chart, which demonstrates a 50% decrease in Wheat Cultivation over the lass 20 years (1997 to 2017):

Cognoscenti like David will poo-poo such findings as irrelevant because US Wheat Productivity appears fairly stable, declining only a mere 30% over the same time period (1997 to 2017):

Yet, they are the worse kind of fools who delude themselves with false asymptotic mathematical models that postulate near INFINITE wheat productivity as farmed wheat acreage approaches zero, when the actual result will be the near cataclysmic across-the-board collapse of farming, the farming profession & wheat production.

Eternal optimists all, they will simply EAT CAKE when they have no wheat for bread.


locumranch said...

Those Parkland Students are making a BAD market decision.

Although the price & relative value of firearms has never been lower (see link below), these students seek to create an artificial firearm scarcity which can only serve to INCREASE the relative value of all firearms across-the-board. This should be a YUGE windfall for firearms manufacturers, perhaps even bigger than the Obama Bump that increased the sale of US firearms by 8-fold. Curse you, Supply & Demand!! Never forget how the artificial scarcity of Prohibition made the Roaring Twenties Roar.


David Brin said...

“Cognoscenti like David will poo-poo such findings”

Which shows your drooling inability to use pre-frontal lobes to actually model other people, instead of masturbating to wholly imagined and delusional strawmen.

In fact, family farmers are being screwed by giant agribusiness and associated laws passed FOR those agribusinesses. So? That is an example of your cult masters - oligarchs and aristocrats - warping markets and cheating, as they did in all feudal societies. Land grants and homesteading and the GI Bill and many previous reforms did level the playing field… as did anti-trust laws and progressive tax rates… everything you have been taught to reject while kissing the asses of your beloved plantation lord-masters. Gooood doggie!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Fox's Jason Chaffetz: Parkland shooting survivors "need a belief in God and Jesus Christ.”


I just watched the video. Chaffetz is a fake Christian. Someone who really talks the talk would not have referred to "Reverend Graham". "The Reverend Billy Graham" is the more correct way of using the title. I'm not saying that makes him evil, but it does show--as did "Two Corinthians"--that he's not as into his religion as he wants to portray.

madtom said...

Paul SB, You make a fundamental and vital point: "The societies that have the most longevity are the ones that are multicultural, because pluralistic societies have the raw material for adapting to changing circumstances."

Exactly. Social pluralism and variety are the exact equivalent of biodiversity. Just in a specialized area of life - cultures of those intelligent enough to *have* a culture. This gives our own cultural memes an environment of constructive competition: "do well or fade away, there are good replacements available".

That's exactly why Dr. Brin's sci-fi is so great. His novels are more than merely entertaining and heartwarming, they very credibly introduce the value of genuine cooperation and multiculturalism that extends even to other species, even to extraterrestrials. And in the most recent ones, they even introduce the idea that life-as-we-know-it is just a small part of reality - just as small as our powers to sense the real world are. Which seems to me a nifty way to dodge around the anthropocentric view of deities that we've been stuck with since our earliest fantasies, and to open some minds.

I offer a simple experiment (or just shared experience) for anyone who doubts that we are surrounded by the unseen, and that we interact with it and vice-versa. This is no proof of any mythology, because everyone knows that we're bathed in a multitude of radio-frequency signals that carry many messages. But direct experience carries greater conviction.

I often lie in bed and switch between several FM radio stations on my smartphone or my old Creative Zen Mozaic. Many will have shared my frustration: being in a fringe reception area, I need to carefully arrange the device-to-earphones wire that serves as antenna, usually each time I switch stations. This forced me to notice that (1) the area in reach of my arms has multiple regions of stronger and weaker signals, a pattern that differs from station to station, (2) not just the position, but the direction of different parts of the wire affects the quality of the sound in three dimensions: strong vs. weak, clear vs. scratchy, and treble vs. bass (3) the position of my own body, especially the hand on the wire, also has an effect.

Well, as an old physics teacher, this gave me a very compelling picture of a roomful of rainbows in the FM frequency range (wavelength a few meters), formed by the reflection, refraction, and interference of those waves. [With a fixed unknown being the contribution of the sheet-steel roofing so common here.]

I started trying to relate the patterns and strengths to the known locations of the transmitters, but didn't get far. Except for the shocker: as I did some early-morning exercises I found that just lying on my back and lifting a leg to the vertical killed an otherwise-good signal from a favorite station, even though I knew that the leg was far from being between the station and the antenna, and not just casting a shadow! Just shifting one body part a fraction of a wavelength long was changing the whole pattern radically! Suddenly I got a gut feel for the fact that every move I make, day or night, radio on or not, was causing shifts in a surrounding pattern of radio waves coded to deliver music, news, and commercials.

By daylight or in the darkest room, the space around us is aglow with this kind of radiation and significance. Absolutely invisible to us. Requiring specially designed tech to detect.

What else might be there?

Lloyd Flack said...

locum, making some firearms difficult to get and pushing up the price of those still available on the black market is sort of the point. It means fewer would be shooter getting their hands on prohibited weapons.
And by prohibiting or limiting manufacture you reduce the profits of the gun makers.

locumranch said...

That's an artificial distinction, David:

(1) Big Agribusiness & Family Farms are both subject to market pressures;
(2) Big Agribusiness exists -- NOT because conspiracy -- but because corporations exhibit more 'resilience' in response to market pressure; and
(3) All agricultural enterprises require profit in order to function.

You can't blame the oligarchic neo-feudalist conspiracy for this one, boyo:

Blame Hayek for ignoring the Market Failure concept; blame your big government fiat mentality upon your hope that legislation can overrule human nature; and blame your ego for assuming that farmers (all sorts) are economically altruistic easily replaceable production units that will always exist because you hungry.

You imagine that NECESSARY services like food, water & healthcare are somehow immune from either Market Pressures or Retail Apocalypse? Enjoy your trip to Venezuela.

Madtom's radio-frequency mysticism sounds derivative -- stolen from A A Attanasio's 'Radix' I presume -- but it (DNA as an antenna) remains a pretty conceit nonetheless. And, like Spain's Tomato Festival, Lloyd's heartfelt denial of the Supply & Demand dynamic is just sad.

Paul451 said...

Apologies to Duncan Cairncross for attributing his comment to LarryHart.

Apologies to LarryHart for... a different thing...

David Brin said...

And so they complete their mutant/undead transformation. The right is now... not just according to locum but ALL their masters... anti-competition, anti-capitalist and anti-enterprise.

Paul451 said...

Larry (I think),
"capital-T Treason [...] small-t treason"

It's worth looking at the history of different types of "treason", including archaic forms. High Treason, common treason and petty treason.

In general, treason has nothing to do with "enemies", it is a "criminal betrayal" of the authority you work or serve under. Petty for your immediate employer, common against the local government/community, High against the nation-state. That "betrayal" can include aiding an enemy, but the core is the betrayal of those you are supposed to be loyal to. High Treason can therefore include undermining your own system of government, including insurrection, even if it is not specifically in aid of a rival or enemy nation.

LarryHart said...


Well, Alfred was correct in that the Constitution very narrowly defines what constitutes "Treason against the United States". I think there were some very specific reasons for the bar being set so high and narrow.

One, the founders didn't want presidents or congressfolk to be able to declare anything they didn't like (e.g., "not clapping for my State of the Union address) as treason. They were trying to avoid the Louis XIV notion that "L'etat, c'est moi." They made sure that politically opposing a president or party who happens to be in power at the time does not constitute treason against the nation.

I think a second reason is that the national government was still at that time conceived as having a very limited scope over the lives of individuals. The states might have broader definitions of what constitutes treason against Virginia or Massachusetts or South Carolina, but treason against the United States had to be limited to a very specific scope. As the national government was mainly concerned with foreign relations and protection against foreign invaders, "aiding the enemy in wartime" made sense as a crime against the nation rather than against the individual state.

I've included the entire text of the relevant section of Article III below. The archaic language of the last part is a bit tricky (for me) to understand, but I gather it's trying to say that the government can't assess penalties against the traitor's family or confiscate property once owned by a deceased traitor that is now owned by his heirs. The point seemed to be that accusations of treason were often broadly used to intimidate or punish political opponents, and that the newly established United States would rather err on the side of making damned sure only the truly-deserving villain could be tarred with that brush.

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

Paul451 said...

Off-topic aside:

Does anyone remember Project Pluto? A US proposal from the early '60s for a nuclear powered ramjet engine for cruise missiles. No fuel (other than HE uranium), just uses the reactor to heat and propel ambient air. Unlimited range out to the life of the engine (estimated, months.) Core of the reactor is exposed, so it showers highly radioactive exhaust over the countryside (which in the early Cold War was seen as a bonus. (**))

Apparently Putin recently bragged about Russia having such nuclear cruise missiles.

Interestingly, while some commenters are scoffing that it actually exists, there were reports of a "radiation cloud" over Russia on October 3rd last year, which was likened by researchers to the mix of radiation released from Chernobyl (ie, an exposed core). Hence, at the time, it was suspected of being a major accident at a nuclear waste reprocessing plant (specifically Mayak). But there's been nothing since that you would expect from a major accident at such a plant.

So perhaps Oct 3 was a test flight over central Russia.


** (From Wiki: "After delivering all its warheads, the missile could then spend weeks flying over populated areas at low altitudes, causing tremendous ground damage with its shock wave and radiation from its unshielded reactor. When it finally lost enough power to fly, and crash-landed, the engine would have a good chance of spewing deadly radiation for months to come.")

Paul451 said...

" 'aiding the enemy in wartime' "

You put that text in quotes, but it doesn't appear in the Constitutional language you quoted.

madtom said...

Locumranch - I claim nothing mystical about our interactions with the em radiation we use for one kind of remote communication. But the personal experience of how much can be going on around us and even mutually interacting with us, but that we're totally unable to perceive, certainly does make mystical claims look less inherently absurd. Though they still carry the heavy burden of looking like wish-fulfillment fantasies, I don't condemn them solely on those grounds any more. I've never heard of the reference you cite, but I'm probably guilty as charged anyway, coz I doubt I've ever had an original thought.

I wouldn't be so strongly affected by such things but for my perception of a thought bias, at least in our culture: every discovery is the final one, the capstone that finishes the arch of our knowledge. Like Newtonian mechanics was. Until Einstein showed us the next horizon-widening discovery. Like DNA was, until we began discovering all the subtleties of its behavior and info-handling, and the way bits of it manage to travel around from one life-form to another, for better and for worse. Like "capitalism" and "communism", or "conservative" and "liberal", are held to be useful descriptions of much more complex systems, when their real importance is to fool their victims with very poor and flexible-at-will descriptions of reality, useful mainly as tribal labels.

The more we learn, the more our worldview *should* change. But it's distressing that so many people are comfortable captives within their cultural memosphere that even demonstrable scientific fact doesn't reach them. The better we can structure our mental models of the cause-effect web of reality, and broaden our view of the possible by remaining aware of the vast scope of the unknown, the sooner we will make the next important discoveries about reality. As opposed to wishful thinking.

LarryHart said...


" 'aiding the enemy in wartime' "

You put that text in quotes, but it doesn't appear in the Constitutional language you quoted.

Ok, blame my computer programming background. I sometimes use quotes to mean the entire block of words as a unit, the way one might code CONCEPT = "aiding the enemy in wartime". The quotes simply imply that the whole phrase, including the spaces, is a single value.

The text does say "adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.", which is neither a different thing nor the opposite thing. And the word "Enemies", capitalized even, kinda sorta implies hostilities in progress.

TCB said...

O I just had a most felicitous idea.

Ban sale and ownership of ALL firearms in the United States. Except punt guns. And every adult is required to own one.

Anonymous said...

Or we can put AI robots everywhere with non-lethal weapons that are designed to detect psychopaths and be discreetly close to them, to react in fractions of seconds if they take out a weapon.
The poor gunslinger will be impregnated with instant hardening foam, or will be hit by a sonic wave directly in the ears. And then the robot will clamp the gunman's hands with his multiple claws and alert the other thousands of robots. Robots that will be there forever, to take care of humans, preventing them from harming themselves or others. The whole planet will be an asylum with no doors, where only the leaders of the Republican Party will wear straitjackets, to prevent them from harming themselves, by infuriating the world against themselves. A psychopathic condition of the Republican leaders that in 2300 would be known as a variation of self-destructive masochism. A madness in which the individual is unable to stop plotting evil against all who are different or think differently. A madness in which the patient is not aware that their own actions of destruction of others bring as a consequence self-destruction.

In spanish:
O podemos poner por todos lados robots AI con armas no letales que están diseñados para detectar sicópatas y estar discretamente cerca de ellos, para reaccionar en fracciones de segundos si sacan un arma.
El pobre pistolero quedará impregnado de espuma de endurecimiento instantáneo, o será golpeado por una onda sónica directamente en los oídos. Y a continuación, el robot sujetará con sus garras múltiples, las manos del pistolero y dará la alerta a los otros miles de robots. Robots que estarán eternamente ahí, para cuidar a los humanos, evitando que se hagan daño a sí mismos o a otros. El planeta entero se rá un manicomio sin puertas, en donde únicamente los líderes del partido republicano usarán camisas de fuerza, para evitar que se hagan daño a si mismos, al enfurecer el mundo contra ellos mismos. Una condición sicópata de los líderes republicanos que en el 2300 sería conocida como una variación del masoquismo autodestructivo. Una locura en la que el individuo es incapaz de dejar de planear maldades contra todos los que son distintos o piensan distinto. Una locura en la que el enfermo no es consciente de que sus propias acciones de destruccion de otros traen como consequencia la autodestruccion.

Anonymous said...

Houch. I did not translate the last sentence completely.

Anonymous said...

¿Is it possible that, in a meeting of all the American generals, they could judge on charges of high treason a US president? The president of the United States is, technically, part of the US military (commander-in-chief). Consequently, it should be possible to judge the president under military laws on the charge of high treason.


duncan cairncross said...

Something like the Generals deposing a president would be very bad precedent

In fact any non legal way would be very bad - I'm with Alfred on that

BUT - you have GOT to go for these people once they are out of office!

They committed crimes - but the Dems have just been letting them away with it to avoid seeming partisan

To Dr Brin's point THAT is the duty of the courts - the next DEM administration should allocate the same amount of money that was used to "investigate" the Clintons to investigate the republicans
AND as they get convictions they should allocate MORE money - even 20 years out of power they should fear the knock on the door

Gregory Byshenk said...

(Continuing from the previous discussion...)
occam's comic said...
We exist in a variable external physical, biological and social environment that is also always present and both enables and constrains our actions. The way I see limited self creation happening is threw decisions that we make alter what parts of the external social, biological and physical environments we interact with, and can alter our internal biological structures and processes.

No magic in the Harry Potter / Dungeons and Dragons sense of the word.

But weirdly enough if you go by the older definition of magic - A change in consciousness in accordance with will - it is closely related to what I am talking about, willful acts of self creation.

The question that I and Darrell (I think) are asking is: where do such "willful acts of self creation" come from?

A child is born, with its nature (and some nurture already then), and develops according to its nurture (as influenced even there by its nature - even babies are not 'blank slates' and different children will react differently to the same environment). As it develops it will make 'choices' - first simple ones, and then more complicated ones - but at every stage it will do so based upon the effects of its nature and nurture (and possibly some element of pure chance).

Certainly at some point a child will make a choice to engage in some act of self creation - choosing to do X because the child wants to accomplish Y - but that choice is also itself a product of its nature and nurture up to that point. And the same will be the case for any future choices. That is, the 'will' is also a product of nature and nurture.

But if you want to say that such is not the case, and that there is something else, beyond nature and nurture, then it is reasonable to ask: just what is this something else? Where does this 'will' come from, if not nature and nurture? Absent any answer, such seems to be magical thinking (in the Harry Potter sense of the word).

LarryHart said...

Gregory Byshenk:

But if you want to say that such is not the case, and that there is something else, beyond nature and nurture, then it is reasonable to ask: just what is this something else? Where does this 'will' come from, if not nature and nurture?

I think I understand where you're coming from. On another board, I used to argue that one can reconcile determinism and free will by recognizing that "I'm free to do as I wish, but I'm not free to choose what is is that I wish to do."

But it seems to me what you're asking about is akin to the butterfly effect. At some point, the number of possible choices open to the sapient mind--even within the constraints of nature and nurture so far--becomes so numerous as to be effectively unpredictable. That is, an outside observer might be able to predict every choice the newborn makes as a mathematical function of nature and nurture up to a point, but once that threshold is crossed, the uncertainty principle takes over.

Susan Sayler said...

In Item #7 you say "No dogma can do this, but light can." I wonder about this. From my observation, people that are susceptible to religious and political taboos that were instilled into them from birth and throughout childhood are amazingly unwilling to cross those lines. We were all raised with some taboos (incest is the most common one) and those are the things we will not do. Some people simply will not shoplift or use God's name in vain. Laws are much less effective compared to Taboos. Laws pertain to the conscious mind, taboos are rooted in the subconscious and are much harder to argue or discuss. If we want to control society, we have to instill taboos from birth.

The United States is no longer a place where everyone shares something in common and while that may be a good thing, still, our diversity makes it impossible to instill political or religious taboos. I would say that it is the breakdown of taboos that makes it impossible to control the masses when it comes to basic human nature. Laws cannot subdue the ego or our selfishness or unwillingness to consider criticism and change our behavior.

LarryHart said...

Susan Sayler:

From my observation, people that are susceptible to religious and political taboos that were instilled into them from birth and throughout childhood are amazingly unwilling to cross those lines.

When I was in college, I was amazed at how many lapsed Catholics who were perfectly ok with divorce or abortion simply would not eat meat on Friday during Lent.

Paul SB said...


Have you been reading Plutarch's "On Sparta" recently? Your punt guns suggestion sounds like the Spartan solution to corruption - they made the basic unit of currency a great big iron spit, so commerce became so inconvenient people lost interest in it. But you know your "solution" would not satisfy the hordes of amygdala-challenged gun nuts in this country. Nice joke, though.


I have wanted to see Bush behind bars for a long, long time. Reagan should have been jailed for crimes against humanity, same goes for his immediate successor. I know Alfred would disagree because of the possibility false accusations and disincentivizing the presidency, but when there are no consequences for high officials who behave badly, what are they incentivized to do? If presidents were prosecuted after leaving office you would get a hell of a lot fewer corrupt people running for the job. If politicians in general were held to standards of proof like scientists were, anyone voting in trickle-down tax policies would be behind bars for criminal negligence at the very least. Actual fact has to start mattering or we will continue on that path toward 1789. Vive la Republíque!

Winter 7,

Here's a little article on Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I'm sure you can name some of the world's leaders who fit the description. As David Brin once said, it is not that power corrupts so much as power attracts the corruptible. Unfortunately no one knew about personality disorders in the days when most nations' constitutions were written. Having a personality disorder should be an automatic disqualifier from holding any office - right down to dog catcher, as Dr. Brin might say. Unfortunately this would have excluded the villain from the Shawn the Sheep movie, a dog catcher named A. Trumper (coincidence?).


You have a very important point. Sometimes top-down imposition does shift the needle of culture, like the fines for littering and the old crying Indian commercials. For quite awhile a person who threw their trash out the car window was considered an uncouth bastard by most of society. But the politicians are usually at least 20 years behind the people, which explains why this happens much less frequently than the other way around. I don't think it would be impossible for a pluralistic society to have a shared set of taboos. The Romans had no problem with different people having different gods and customs, as long as they paid their taxes and didn't dodge the draft. That's where Jews and Christians got in trouble with the Romans. We just need a base set of taboos (and some more proactive social expectations) that are shared, while different groups can add on their own. There is no reason to care whether or not someone eats fish on Fridays (pretending that fish isn't meat) but a taboo against murder should be pretty universal.

Paul SB said...

Mad Tom,

I wouldn't waste your breath on accusations of mysticism. Consider the source - a narcissistic old troll who delights in twisting people's words around in a vain effort to discredit any- and everyone who isn't his own clone. Once you have been targeted as an Enemy of the Ranch every word you write becomes open to his cognitive distortions. Anyone with any wits about them knew you were talking a very basic scientific premise - that humans are only human and must keep their minds open to the extremely high probability that they don't know everything. Why give him the satisfaction of a response?

"Exactly. Social pluralism and variety are the exact equivalent of biodiversity."

This has been a pretty basic premise of anthropology for a very long time. You can even find the seeds of this idea going all the way back to Franz Boas. Diversity is strength, though the deeply ignorant types who are ruled by pathological fear would disagree. The trouble is finding ways to not merely "tolerate" differences but to examine them with enough of a critical eye to be able judge what traits are adaptive under shat circumstances, and adjust yourself and your society to optimal survival even thriving. Thriving meant one thing in the Middle Ages, but a rather different thing in the Early Modern, the Industrial Revolution and is going to mean very different things as the burgeoning human population fills up the landscape and finds technological solutions to more and more problems. The limiting factors change as both of these increase, as well as the opportunities. In times of rapid change, only rapid flexibility can ensure survival of the species. And clinging to tradition for tradition's sake without seriously examining the consequences of old ideas under new conditions can lead to extinction.

Paul SB said...

From the Narcissistic Personality Disorder link:

"The hallmarks of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also concentrate on grandiose fantasies (e.g. their own success, beauty, brilliance) and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.

People with narcissistic personality disorder believe they are superior or special, and often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way. This association enhances their self-esteem, which is typically quite fragile underneath the surface. Individuals with NPD seek excessive admiration and attention in order to know that others think highly of them. Individuals with narcissistic personality disorder have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat, and may be left feeling humiliated or empty when they experience an "injury" in the form of criticism or rejection. "

Can you say, "Two Scoops?" I thought you could! Pretty typical of the Executive Class in general. The scum rises to the top, of course.

"Related Personality Disorders: Antisocial, Borderline, Histrionic, Paranoid."

Good company, and quite the motivated bas elf voters.


Narcissistic personality disorder is indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:

Exaggerates own importance

Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance

Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions

Requires constant attention and admiration from others

Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment

Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals

Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy

Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her

Shows arrogant behaviors and attitudes
50 to 75 percent of the people diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder are male. Additionally, it is common for many adolescents to display the characteristics listed above; this does not indicate that they will later develop narcissistic personality disorder."

Interesting connection ...

locumranch said...

Our flibbertigibbet continues to demonstrate both his capacity for rote memorization and his contextual, critical & cognitive inabilities. Like a chittering parrot.

To wit, my so-called "accusations of mysticism" were a non-accusative REFERENCE to the scifi works of A A Attanaso, most specifically his 'Radix Tetrad', whose thematic fascination with "a roomful of rainbows in the FM frequency range" appears to reflect Madtom's musing in both spirit & language.

This was followed, shortly thereafter, by a data-dump on Narcissism (NPD), also devoid of contextual, critical & cognitive process, followed by accusations of politically motivated gender specific bias that displays immense ignorance of the psychological continuum, such as the normative human need for admiration & acceptance (good parrot).

No recognition that the described qualities of grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other gender, a need for admiration, arrogance, manipulativeness, the demand for special treatment, claims of uniqueness, fragile self-esteem & difficulty tolerating any criticism (aka 'hate speech') are practically definitive of the Feminist Mindset.

Narcissistic personality disorder is indicated by five or more of the following symptoms:

Exaggerates own importance (school teacher)

Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance (diversity; better angels; utopia building)

Believes he or she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions (the 'Enlightened' Progressive)

Requires constant attention and admiration from others (the feminine; #metoo)

Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment (the feminine; #metoo)

Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals (the feminine; #metoo)

Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy (the feminine; #metoo)

Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her (ibid)

Finally, the Narcissist tends to attribute his (or her) failings to others, as suggested by the flibbertigibbet's suggestion that all who oppose him are narcissists.

Remember that, as I write these unpopular truths, (1) I display ZERO manipulativeness, (2) I have ZERO expectation of either admiration or favourable treatment, (3) I have ZERO grandiosity in the sense of either my historical and/or futurological importance, and (4) I freely admit I am perishable, non-special, relatively unimportant, dust into dust & under dust to lie.

In 'Babel 17', Delany tells a tale about a trained parrot that says 'I love you' while thinking 'Here comes a big juicy worm'. Good parrot, you've learned by rote, kudos, here's your worm.

Susan_S forgets that without a homogeneous culture, 'Everything is permitted'. And, David, well he's just stopped trying to defend his worldview & now emulates Joseph McCarthy by labelling the dissenter as 'treasonous', 'anti-competition', 'anti-capitalist' and 'anti-enterprise'.

David Brin said...

Susan Sayler hi and welcome. Hope you’ll hang around.
Alas, you show how difficult it is to get these concepts across. Youtalk about the difficulty of tribally-raised people altering their own tribal taboos…

… and that is exactly my point! We erected enlightenment systems under which you can wallow in yout delusions all you want, till you try to exert power. At which point our systems insist that you cannot evade criticism by those who see through your delusions.

It is an imperfect method… and the only one that has ever worked.

“a lack of empathy for other gender” Jiminy, the guy has no sense of irony, at all.

But then he cites: “Good parrot, you've learned by rote, kudos, here's your worm.”

Yipe! No irony. Just skimming is enough. I don’t even have to dive in, wasting time.

madtom said...

Paul SB - Thanks for your response. I've wondered about locumranch and his continued presence here, but besides the annoyance factor he also seems to provide a good foil when something might need further clarification for others. This can be useful for overly long-winded types like me.

Also, many thanks for the link to It is a real pleasure to find such competent people so far ahead of me in such an important area. Back in the 90's, when I managed to retire from regular employment, I seized the chance to fill in some blanks in my (then all physical science) education, and returned to university. After examining course offerings in anthro, soc, and psych, I ended up doing a couple of years of psych, which was very broadening in the ways I had hoped (especially evolutionary psych).

Real-world developments since then have also demanded serious attention to politics and economics, and one of the best books I've found in years is by an anthropologist: "DEBT, the first 5000 years" by David Graeber. In a way that is centrally relevant to today's biggest issues, he fills in the blanks that always left me alienated by standard history studies. It's going to be my birthday present to my grandson, who was happy to get Harari's "Sapiens" for Christmas.

In chemistry we learned a rough rule that within our range of interest, reaction speed roughly doubles with each 10 degree C increase in temperature. And it seems that the internet has raised the social temperature by quite a bit in recent years, requiring much faster switching of the mental gaze and development of the learning muscles. Fortunately, the net also makes this acceleration possible for individuals.

Treebeard said...

The only thing that has ever worked, judged on longer time scales rather than from within this bubble, is tribalism. Taboos work well in that milieu, there's no need for vast oppressive legal systems and bureaucracies, cultures can last for thousands of years, adapt to all kinds of crises and survive. At the other extreme is empire, where no one has anything in common, there's no shared ethos, just lots of police, lawyers and a vast centralized power structure. For example Rome, the USA and the Federation. We're told that the latter is the greatest thing to ever come along, the culmination of all history, a necessary step to the conquest of the stars, etc. But looking around at all the obese, depressed, addicted, tech-deranged, uncultured people in this empire, I have my doubts. If this is what we're threatening to bring to the stars, maybe we should call off the whole project now before the disease spreads any further?

madtom said...

And yes, Susan Sayler and Larry Hart, it is fascinating and worth some serious thought that even our earliest-imposed taboo and must-do structures can be (or become) fragmented in ways that seem to defy logic. It's encouraging to reflect on the possibilities for improved thinking and learning. Much more hopeful than if these had been more monolithic and better integrated structures.

madtom said...

Treebeard, what you say is true, but should be analyzed together with a broad view of the different and changing environments of these two social organisms. Many of today's problems are not simply the result of Empire's authoritarianism and the absence of a dominant Culture. I see instead a toxic mixture of rapid cultural breakdown (that technology would have caused anyway) and clever/destructive exploitation of our tribal instincts by some relatively new tribes that have yet to mature and stand the test of time. The more things change, . . ., well, the harder we need to work at steering the careening bus we're all riding downslope.

LarryHart said...


The whole planet will be an asylum with no doors, where only the leaders of the Republican Party will wear straitjackets, to prevent them from harming themselves, by infuriating the world against themselves.

Wow! Even if that was a mistranslation, you're really on a roll there, and I would't want or dare to interrupt.

David Brin said...

madtom said...
Treebeard, what you say is true,"

Whaaa? I wasn't going to say anything, but in fact not a single sentence of his screech was true. Not even one. Tribes annihilate diversity within, enforcing utterly fierce conformity, and ruthlessly murder their neighbors over the slightest diversity. Find us a tribe that inarguably lasted "thousands of years." The native tribes encountered and recorded by Europeans had wiped out predecessors and were unrecognizably different from their own forbears, due to cultural drift. (So none of the incessant efforts to maintain strict traditions ever, ever actually worked across more than a few generations.

It's all bullshit growling by an ingrate who'd wet his pants if he ever lost the protection of this pax.

duncan cairncross said...

Re Tribes and long periods

Here (NZ) the Maori arrived in about 1200 AD - the Europeans in the 1700's

During that gap the Maori had spread out - massively increased their population and eliminated the Moas (amongst others)

The Moa were sufficiently important to the Maori when they were alive that we have found areas where they were processed and the food packed and sent away

When the Europeans found Moa bones and asked about them the Maori had completely forgotten about them - no legends - no folklore - not even the names

So much for "Verbal History" in only a couple of hundred years!

Gregory Byshenk said...

Larry Hart
I'm not saying anything at all about predictability. It may be that our choices are not predictable. I am just arguing against what seems to me to be a magical concept of '(free) will'.

TCB said...

Ummmmmmmmmmmmm I had a weird thought: what if Treebeard and Locum are characters, and Dr. Brin is writing their posts as well (Simplicio to his Salviati)? They must be fictional! They're like the thugs and mooks in Captain Planet. No adult audience would buy these characters for a single-

[wakes up]

Oh shit, this stuff is real. People like this actually exist! Unless...

[wakes up]

Wait. What if I'm also a fictional charac-

[wakes up]

madtom said...

Well, Dr. Brin, since I also agree with what *you* say about events and history (though not about Treebeard's post itself), I suspect that we've just seen a case of using words differently. Sometimes worth discussing, sometimes better passed over. In this case, the difference between 'tribalism' and 'cultures' (and related) might be worth some attention, at least as words that can trigger emotional responses. Or not.

But this does provoke a followup to my (vaguely stated) enjoyment of the link provided by Paul SB.

I've ranted in various places about "thought stoppers" as serious problems for society and individuals both. What I meant by the term was emotions, which *are* thought stoppers.

Emotions were evolved to push us (sometimes rapidly, sometimes not) into certain patterns of action that generally promoted survival during our long pre-human history. Not to inspire thought, but to suppress it. Clearly, emotions predate rational thought, as anyone who has ever seen a dogfight will know.

And clearly, with our big new brains, we are now in a position where rational thought had better take at least equal priority, or else. Equally clearly, many in positions of power have become experts at evoking thought-stoppers in large segments of the public, IMO to the general detriment of same.

So I enjoyed seeing's detailed consideration of the more inclusive “cognitive distortions”, which goes beyond simply identifying evolved-in emotions as thought-stoppers, and examines some mechanisms by which emotion-triggering structures can be trained into us, often by our own actions/habits.

Because I see the good-guys as losing the most important battles of this century if too little attention is paid to these phenomena and how to counter them. And I see the best countermeasures as depending on rationality and moderation, with emotions held in suspension as suspect and likely to have been evoked either by an enemy or by our own errors. Self-defeat is not inconceivable, is it?

Paul SB said...


Thanks for the book recommendation. I have a long, long list, but I found this one in my local library network and put a hold on it. As far as psychology goes, I doubt I am far ahead of you there, or ahead at all. I had one class in it as an undergrad way back in the Pleistocene Epoch, though issues in psychology came up in a few anthro classes I had, and quite a lot more in the neuroscience stuff I have been reading of late. I have generally been fairly suspicious of psychology as a science, not because they don't follow scientific procedures, but because the logic of so many of their conclusions are analogical and very much impacted by unexamined linguistic effects. But with increasing attention to the neuroscience, which gets down to the mechanics of human thought, there is some potential for them to be able to get beyond surficial analyses. You're old enough to remember a British pop band from the '80's called "Tears for Fears," who took their name from a line dished out by psychologist Arthur Janov. The idea was that tears are a replacement for fears, that clinical depression is caused by the inability to escape fear. This is just a surface phenomenon, neuroscience today has demonstrated a connection between clinical depression and anxiety disorders, but in fact Janov got it backwards. Clinical depression is a drop in key neurotransmitters in the brain, which essentially drains the brain of the power it needs to operate the frontal lobes, and as those start to shut down the limbic system starts to run amok, allowing the fear centers to overpower the frontal lobes. It will take some time and much more work in the neurosciences for psychology to shed a lot of its errors, but even with only surface phenomena to work with, there's still useful ideas to be found.

I think you can see that Thing One is willing to say absolutely anything to insult everyone here, making the most specious of claims and assuming that his assertions must always be absolute Truth. I don't find him terribly useful, unless I want a reminder of what toads I grew up surrounded by, and how deranged so many of my fellow Americans have become. His latest is just another attempt to bait me - it's obvious he misses our old relationship. The funny thing is that he only proved me right. Geoffrey Chaucer once wrote that the guilty think all talk is of themselves. When I brought up Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I was referring to the fool on the throne of the White House. That should have been evident from my Shaun the Sheep reference. I wish I could take credit for it as a deliberate trap, but I really just don't bother with the fool. Tell me, how is being a teacher a reflection of manic grandiosity? Nothing that spews from his keyboard is anything but paranoid assertions.

Thing 2 isn't much better. Like Thing 1 he tars everyone who isn't on his team with exactly the same brush and refuses to acknowledge when people here are more fair to him than he ever is to them. I do see what you mean when you said what he said was true. Only one tiny bit of what he said was true, and even that was an exaggeration, but there is a certain truth to tribalism being inherent in the nature of humans. He misses the fact that the ability to be logical, compassionate, inclusive and tolerant are also inherent in the nature of humans. His choice of one "side" in a conflict that is only really an artifact of the most simple-minded dualistic thinking just demonstrates that he has no real knowledge. Other people here take each other's disagreements seriously and mostly fairly. And other people do disagree with each other here, but neither of these Things can see past their own noses and recognize that their caricature of their "enemies" is just that - a caricature. You are not going to get either of them to take a broad view, because they are entirely wrapped up in their delusions of godhood.

David Brin said...

madtom I was only quibbling with your grant-a-premise-for-argument preliminary clause.

Fact is, these ninnies claim that tribalism and feudalism are romantic-wise underdogs, when that attractor-state approach dominated 99.999% of the human experience... and delivered almost nothing but brutality, pain and repression of diversity and creativity and justice.

Those attractor states have every advantage, including huge - masturbatory - draws upon male self-indulgent fantasies, that we all inherit for one reason -- cause we're all descended from the harems of bullies and cheaters.

Oh,m there were steps forward, across that vast wasteland. Grindingly slow. Till we finally reached a point where we could jump to a different, metastable society based on one core invention... preventing power from being gathered in chunks that allow cheating. And that's what the enemies of this experiment hate. They want a return to rule by 0.0001% bullies who cheat and make life for the rest of us utter hell.

Paul SB said...

Mad Tom,

My last post was being typed while being stereoed by a petulant teenager, so it took me awhile and your last one popped up after I posted mine. Still, I am glad you got something useful from the positive psychology link. Positive psychology is a newer paradigm that seems to me to have some potential for growth and usefulness. If I wanted to resume my relationship with Thing 1 I could go through and attach specific delusions to his statements, just like I used to do pointing out the logical fallacies he uses (he brought that one on himself by claiming to be the master logician). But all discussions with these Things are wasted.

"So I enjoyed seeing's detailed consideration of the more inclusive “cognitive distortions”, which goes beyond simply identifying evolved-in emotions as thought-stoppers, and examines some mechanisms by which emotion-triggering structures can be trained into us, often by our own actions/habits."

Be careful or you'll end up getting caught up in Gregory and Larry's free will argument. It's a bit of a morass. Legal systems around the world are based on the assumption that everything a human does was done entirely by choice, so people can be blamed and punished for their actions. Over the centuries specialists in human behavior have learned that the picture is much more complicated than the simple binary free choice or predestination. It might help to think about the difference between proximal and distal causes. Any one of us can read over those cognitive distortions, keep them in mind and use them as a framework to question their own thoughts and actions. This is the kind of thing that shows that yes, humans have free will, if they choose to exercise it. They are certainly products of their biology and culture, but the human mind does have a certain capacity to choose. I was surrounded by rigid, simpleminded tribalists as a child, but I was also raised by a parent who came from a culture famous for its fairness and willingness to help others, even if they are Others. I could have decided to be like most of the kids in school and their scapegoating parents. Instead I chose to learn as much as I could about humans, favoring my mother's sense of fairness and decency but also paying close attention to the factors that undergird the choices people make. We have a multiplicity of influences that we learn to weigh differently, and over time we change those valuations. In a sense, human minds are a sort of gestalt - more than the sum of their parts.

What Duncan said about the Maori is spot on. Tribalists simply buy into the rationalizations that their tribal leaders spit out at them, and one of the most common of these is the idea that their tribe is so awesome and cool that it has never needed to change. In reality every tribe changes, every religion which claims to contain eternal Truths changes, political party lines change and so on.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I’ll make you a bargain. If people distinguish between small-t and capital-t treason, I’ll distinguish between small-i and capital-i illegitimate. I’ll give you small-i illegitimate with the current state of affairs, but I want capital-i.

My experience with CEO’s who purposely sabotage the value of their corporate stock is that they are an owner of another that might make a purchase. Shorting their own stock while they own it is a hedging bet. All insider activity for public companies is supposed to be reported anyway. Any Board that tolerated that activity would have to be in on it and would make themselves vulnerable to share-holder lawsuits. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but WHEN it does one should always look for the other thing of value motivating the people to do it. It’s rare that people screw their companies intentionally harming themselves at the same time.

The more likely behavior from CEO’s is to sabotage the value of options held by employees that, if exercised, dilute shareholder value. That is another lawsuit path, but without as much money behind the people pushing it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | BUT - you have GOT to go for these people once they are out of office!

Tricky. For most any other elected office, we can and do. For President, we have a tradition of not prosecuting a loser of an election. Since we go collectively insane during Presidential elections, there is a real chance the winner could arrange charges against the loser and we’d go for it… if it weren’t for this tradition of ours.

Every President seems to commit crimes while in office. (Yes… there are exceptions.) That means when they finally lose or leave office, they become vulnerable. We don’t go after them because we WANT the custom where the loser/predecessor calls for unity to get behind the winner. You might recall Two Scoops NOT stating he would say that when asked before election day. He broke a custom (one of a bazillion he bent, folded, spindled, and dog-eared) and got a reaction out of us.Because of THAT, I certainly hope we break one more after he leaves office and do precisely what you suggest. I’m not holding my breath, though.

The biggest thing Two Scoops got by winning the election is a kind of legal immunity many of us will be reluctant to take from him. Not me, though. I want him pulled down legally while he is still in office. I want this because it demonstrates the vigor of our social institutions. I want it as a demonstration of the sharp teeth we need to display to keep wanna-be oligarchs in line.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. The whole country knows that Donald Trump. He is a madman. And yet, a nation of 350 million people has to bow to the will of a demented clown.
The head of the FBI opposed him ... He was fired.
The head of the CIA opposed him ... He was fired.
With great rapidity, the Donald virus, transformed its environment in Washington, replaced the heads of all institutions by his henchmen. ¡Lightning and thunder!. It's as if Pennywise had taken over the white house and suddenly a whole nation is so terrified that they can not do anything about it (of course, those here present if they have the courage to denounce the traitorous president). However, I'm impressed how a Only man can laugh at an entire nation.
He has turned an entire nation into his personal fiefdom. and he's going to inherit that fief from his henchmen.
“This is the age of the shrug. He knows I've heard all of the stories about him and he doesn't care. Our civilization could well die of indifference within it before succumbing to external attack.”
― Frank Herbert, Children of Dune


Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | If presidents were prosecuted after leaving office you would get a hell of a lot fewer corrupt people running for the job. 

I’ve said this before on another board and it got met with howls from people who claimed they wanted purity. I’ll offer it here.

I’d rather have a crook in office than pure-heart. I trust the crook to misbehave and flex his/her behaviors to conform to social standards enough to avoid being punished for the violations we “don’t notice.” I trust the pure-heart to act on principles and NOT negotiate over them. Even if I like his/her principles, the odds are high many won’t and the pure-heart won’t be able to govern effectively. They might even get shot.

As long as we get in there and break up collusion between the crooks, I think we are a little safer with them governing… where we can see them.

Two Scoops is too crooked, though.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | capitalism works best when all players know all of what’s going on all the time, so they can make good market decisions. 

That is a paraphrasing of Hayek’s position and misses an important point he made elsewhere. Capitalism does indeed work better when all players know what is going on, however, it is never possible for any player to know all of what is going on. It’s the second part that people miss or misunderstand. The first part is about intentional transparency which is a good thing. The second part is about human limits even in a transparent world which leads to information compression techniques like ‘market price’ and ‘market location’.

Your paraphrasing isn’t any better. Yes… it is about beliefs. No... it is not about believing one knows all of what is going on. Only a fool believes they know it all and you know what happens to them and their money, right?

As for your wheat story, there are three lessons there.

1. The real price of bread to the consumer has dropped as you can calculate with the CPI. That means we are witnessing Act III of a series of creative destruction plays where the real winner is ALWAYS the mass consumer. (See McCloskey)

2. We still produce bread because innovations from Acts I and II have brought players into the market that can still profit from the activity. Previous actors have been pushed aside, of course, and possibly in illegal/immoral ways. Sometimes.

3. US ‘farmers’ aren’t the clade they used to be as a result. Mom-n-Pop farms are niche players producing expensive products for customers willing to pay for the retro privilege. No one on the collective stage is immune from being upstaged, so taken en masse it is really one vast improv.

Whether later stage actors are cheating to take ‘their’ place can certainly be discussed. I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. That’s why I keep asking people to remove laws as a first attempt to fix issues. That especially applies to laws pushed by special-interest groups. They can be discussed by reasonable people, though.

madtom said...

Paul SB, you're right that I would have been a sucker for a free-will argument not long ago. But for me that has fallen (with many other issues) into the pit of things that our language, perceptions, and even thoughts simply can't deal with meaningfully. [Like most things "mystical"] For that whole category, I can make well structured arguments both ways, but I also look beyond that now and see how our preconceptions end up dominant, because our tools for imagining scenarios and formulating ideas simply can't deal with the basic issues. Complicated in this case, as you note, by our habitual and popular error of reducing issues to binary choices. We need to remind people of how that worked in the McCarthy HUAC.

Speaking of issues, I've really been enjoying this discussion with everyone, and would love to continue building a foundation for some progress in thinking about how best to deal with our near-disastrous situation. Noting that our variety of qualifications and backgrounds, and preference for civil discourse are likely a source of the kind of strength that matters. Example: Dr. Brin's introduction of the nicely neutral term "attractor states", which seems like one to build on (could lead to quantification for comparison purposes? Somehow? "Potential energy wells"?).

But duty calls me north to our country place, which we have been neglecting due to a variety of difficulties that have now been dealt with. I'm trusting that our 4WD Toyota Hiace diesel will be able to plow through the weeds in the long gravel driveway, which I fear would stop our passenger car. Sooo . . since we have web access there, I shall return, I hope this evening or tomorrow in the too-hot-to-work midday, and still in condition to post, rather than just exhausted from all the chores. P.S. for Duncan, the trip is from next to Shakespear Park up to 20 Ha of backblock in Topuni. :-)

Alfred Differ said...

@Susan Sayler | Regarding taboos and laws…

You are making the distinction between moral law (what is ‘just’) and legislation (what we enact through a legislature that may pertain only to the business of government).

It’s not really ‘taboo’. It is what Enlightenment thinkers would refer to as emergent ‘order’. We don’t mess around with the social rules that emerge that way whether they emerge from our religions, traditions, or communities. Those few who DO mess with them get a very different response compare to those who simply break legislated rules.

The US does still have emergent laws that most of us respect. We don’t talk about them much, but one can see them. Just violate one of them. BOOM. Someone will get very upset. Several someones most likely. Our recent election put this on vivid display and the next one will demonstrate the BOOM.

‘Instilling’ the rules that emerge is a matter of upbringing, I suspect. We learn to imitate or to fear. Probably both and in that we pick up the rules and build them into what we believe is ‘just’ behavior. What one expects from others and what is expected of us toward others IS Justice.

What David is arguing for is an element of Justice as a virtue. If we expect transparency from others and willingly open ourselves in a reciprocal manner, we are shaping what that virtue is for the next generation of children. Our virtues are what we define them to be… and they matter, but not as a matter of dogma.

It was a slight adjustment to the definitions for our virtues that lead to the modern world being vastly richer and more liberated than any of our distant ancestors could have imagined.

duncan cairncross said...

Two Scoops is too crooked, though,

Two Scoops (I like that name) is almost farcically crooked
But compared to the crimes of his predecessors he is like the driven snow

Bush 2 - Lying the USA into an unnecessary war

Nixon - continuing the Vietnam war to get elected AND - this one killed MORE americans

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

How many Americans has that deliberate lying "War on Drugs Killed" - ??
I would estimate at least 10,000 per year for the last 50 years - 500,000 people directly killed - several MILLION imprisioned

Two Scoops is like a Saint compared to that

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@LarryHart | I’ll make you a bargain. If people distinguish between small-t and capital-t treason, I’ll distinguish between small-i and capital-i illegitimate. I’ll give you small-i illegitimate with the current state of affairs, but I want capital-i.

Wow! I wasn't expecting that concession, but I'll take it.

I do feel in my heart that he didn't win the election fairly because of gerrymandering, voter suppression, and Comey, and therefore is capital-I Illegitimate, but I also recognize the futility in trying to argue that point with those who don't already believe it.

He's small-i illegitimate because he fails to perform the duties and responsibilities of the office. If you remember on "West Wing" when President Bartlet asked Leo why he had to order the assassination of a terrorist enemy, and Leo responded, "Because you won." There are things a president is required to perform just because he is the president at the time those things need doing. Defending the country against enemies foreign and domestic is one of those. Trump simply refuses to do them, not particularly because he wants America to fail, but because he just can't be bothered to care enough.

My experience with CEO’s who purposely sabotage the value of their corporate stock is that they are an owner of another that might make a purchase. Shorting their own stock while they own it is a hedging bet.

I thought the point of paying CEOs in stock and/or stock options is to incentivize him to do things that increase the company's stock value. If he's short selling his own stock, he has a perverse incentive to ruin the company instead. That's what the board shouldn't put up with.

But remember I changed my scenario. I don't see Trump metaphorically shorting the country's stock. I see him as more of an incompetent leader, and one who is making decisions based on his own personal business rather than the company's best interests. He's not willfully damaging the country, but he's damaging it nonetheless. Instead of preventing that, I see congressional Republicans as the board who should intercede on the company's behalf, but instead let the damage proceed while getting rich shorting their own stock.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
“As long as we get in there and break up collusion between the crooks, I think we are a little safer with them governing… where we can see them.”

¿Then we must put the thieves to take care of the banks to be able to have them "watched"?

Alfred. You are assuming that it is possible to know everything the villains are plotting if they are in power. That is not possible. Thieving politicians have an impressive ability to hide evil plans. I myself have seen more than twice how Americans fell for deception and never realized what was really happening. (At least 90% of the American people fall as two-year-old children in all the deceptions of politicians).
And now that Donald Trump has placed his henchmen in key positions, it is very easy for Donald to undertake secret operations that involve either looting the nation as acts of treason in favor of Russia.


David Brin said...

“Since we go collectively insane during Presidential elections, there is a real chance the winner could arrange charges against the loser and we’d go for it…” Oh, how hard they sifted through every federal filing cabinet, looking for dirt on Clintons. One of several W treasons just before 9/11.

We need to hammer our "libertarian" friends who are still in denial _ (Alfred is a leader of Woke Libertarians!) - about which states are trying to get out of the insane Drug War.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The US does still have emergent laws that most of us respect. We don’t talk about them much, but one can see them. Just violate one of them. BOOM. Someone will get very upset. Several someones most likely.

When liberals get very upset, it's called "political correctness", and the rule-breakers get very defensive of their "freedom" to do so.

When conservatives get very upset, it's considered righteous indignation over excesses of libertinism, and they get to call upon "law and order" to crush the rebellion and force conformity.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Driven snow? Hah. He’s more like the obviously yellow snow with other bits frozen in like when you dump the chamber pot outside during the winter. Everything is fine until spring when it melts and everyone gets one of those otherwise avoidable diseases like typhoid fever or cholera.

MANY of our Presidents lie and get us into wars. Americans generally don’t want to send their sons to die. One can reasonably argue whether they SHOULD lie, but that they do isn’t in doubt. Even for wars where we come around to the necessity of the violence, our Presidents have often tricked us into them.

(I’m not letting them off for the so-called unnecessary wars. It’s just that we tend to label them all that way at first. There aren’t many exceptions.)

I’m with you on the disaster that is the drug war. I’m very libertarian on that. I’d rather the government had no authority at all concerning drugs than continue this stupid war on ourselves. Obviously both extremes are stupid, but I want them out of the business of dictating moral rules to us. They have it completely backward regarding how that is supposed to work. WE say what is and isn’t just behavior. (I scored pretty low on Altemeyer's RWA test. Go figure.)

As for Nixon using it… well… we called him Tricky Dick for a reason. I was pretty young back then, but I DO remember my mother’s profound dislike of him. She didn’t survive to see Trump elected and I have to admit Momma Nature dished up a bit of mercy in that fact. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | he didn't win the election fairly 

Sure. No doubt about that. My problem is that I don’t think we’ve EVER had a fair election. My standards for such things might be overly strict and idealistic (I’d be one of those pure-hearts if ever elected), but the present rules allow for all sorts of chicanery. Until those rules are fixed, I can’t support capital-I illegitimate without those indictments. 8)

We CAN get those rules fixed, though. Much to the annoyance of my fellow libertarians, I supported the rule change here in CA that pretty much eliminates any chance they have of appearing on the general ballot in November. I argue that we are a joke on that ballot if we can’t garner even 1% of the vote. We should be weeded out in a primary election so the candidates that people actually want appear in November. Until we learn to matter enough to get more votes, I’d rather not be that joke. I also supported the change that caused us to draw our districts without the state legislature doing what they usually did. I was generally supportive of many of the legislators who were drawing the maps, but I profoundly objected to drawing ‘safe’ districts for anyone. I can do more than spell “Conflict of Interest”.

"Because you won.”

I remember that one. I also remember, reading years later at Strafor, the argument for why nations are entities beyond the legal fact. They have motives and act according to basic needs. It is an argument from Geopolitics. One can debate what actions will result of those needs, but “Acting in the nation’s best interest” is certainly one of them. Oddly enough, it doesn’t usually matter who is doing the action. The need dominates what the actor wants. Bartlet had to issue the order because he had to act for the nation.

So… not performing the duties of the President CAN be enough to get me to use capital-i illegitimate. Don’t give up on that yet. Failing to act to protect our elections could lead to more consequences than failing to respond to 9/11 would have caused.

I see congressional Republicans as the board who should intercede on the company's behalf

I have to agree. Let’s hang them in November.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | You are assuming that it is possible to know everything the villains are plotting if they are in power

No. That’s not possible. They do have an impressive ability to hide, but it’s not as good as they like to believe it is. They can hide best when we are otherwise occupied OR our power to observe is actually limited. In the US, it is mostly a matter of us choosing not to look. We rely on the Press for that for historical reasons, but I think we need to revisit that reliance.

looting the nation as acts of treason

It’s not the first time we’ve been looted. It won’t be the last. We are IMMENSELY rich and can afford it occasionally. We can lose a trillion dollars in the desert, scratch our heads wondering where it went, and move on with little more than a few extra pains. I don’t like being looted, but the thieves don’t have many places where they can spend it usefully. Maybe the next set of crooks will loot them too.

It’s not that we can know what we need to know to catch the crooks. The trick is to set them against each other. They catch each other sometimes and limit each other at other times. What we have to catch is the occasional collusion. We don’t have to do it every time. We have to do it often enough and somewhat randomly enough to make them spend money defending against a discovery that might never happen. It’s a game theory thing involving randomized strategies.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | (I want to address crooks migrating into government separately)

When it comes to crooks in government, there is an important thing to remember about our markets both black and white.

If I try to make a living as a small-time crook, I’m going to make every effort to avoid being noticed. The more I make, the higher the chances are I’ll get noticed, so this strategy has to change at some point.

If I’m wildly successful as a criminal (war lord status, running the crime syndicate, or something like that) it’s likely I’ll be rolling in so much cash that it would draw attention UNLESS I do something legitimate with it. VERY successful criminals can’t use their money effectively without going legit or changing the rules to legitimize what they do. Very often they do both… or try.

As long as very successful criminals are using the money they have in a legit way, my first duty as a citizen is to block them from changing the rules. I might get around to caring how they acquired the money second.

The US has in its short history a long record of people doing illegal things, making boodles of cash, and then using some of it legitimately. Those same people often try to do more illegal things too, but the blunt fact is that the white markets are bigger in size than the black ones are. If you care about the rate of return on your money (don’t assume crooks don’t understand basic finance), you almost HAVE to join the white markets.

I saw an example of this first hand when I grew up in Las Vegas. I was there in the late 70’s to early 80’s when the mobsters were pushed aside. By the time i was growing up there, the crooks had made huge piles of money beyond their wildest dreams of childhood avarice. This fact was NOT lost on the Wall Street types and it was they who pushed the mobsters out. Nevada’s Gaming Commission could pursue a hard-nosed approach only when the Wall Street folks showed up… and they did in the early 80’s. That’s the story we tell, but I’d bet every dollar I own that some of those mob types were hired or brought in as quiet partners. At some point, if a crook is successful enough at making money, THEY GET HIRED.

I’m willing to hire some of them into government even if I don’t want to work side-by-side with them.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ.
I suppose you mean that it is necessary to tolerate foul play in politics and business for the good of the nation. Something like the forgiveness granted by the FBI to criminals who cooperate with the justice department.
Of course; Americans have the right to create a society where the mafia is partially tolerated. ¿Is that what all Americans want?
In Chicago, the alliance of politicians and the mafia is very evident. I have seen documentaries about chicago, and the sale of drugs there seems to be a huge problem. A lot of violence It does not seem that the government-mafia merger is a good option. But; As I said before, that is a decision of you Americans.
Maybe you try to say that, since we can not do anything, maybe we should adapt to the circumstances. And if we really can not change justice in the political environment at all; that would be very hard to accept for me, and for all those who crave justice. If that is the reality, then our future (for the majority of humanity outside the United States) is a world similar to that of Winston Smith in the novel 1984. And I do not want to be Winston Smith.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | That's not what most Americans want. It's what we tolerate because ubiquitous law enforcement is prohibitively expensive (even for us) and comes with very serious drawbacks when we actually try. The lessons of our Prohibition era aren't lost on all of us yet. 8)

It's not that we want the alliance. The problem is that all actions have unexpected consequences. Squashing crooks and cheaters is like trying to control an environment. It really can't be done without simplifying the 'design' so much that one kills everything.

a world similar to that of Winston Smith

It's not that bad, though. Just remember that in a real environment, even the contagious bugs have a place.

Alfred Differ said...

...okay. I should have said squashing ALL crooks and cheaters. Squashing some of them is quite doable and a good idea.

In David's Transparency book he points out a relatively inexpensive way to produce a big effect without going for UBE. Noticing the crooks and cheaters with higher reliability changes their risk assessments which alters their expected ROI's. Since they mostly do what they do to make money, that matters.

UBE=ubiquitous law enforcement
ROI=return on investment

Paul SB said...


Just a couple quick comments: if it's between crooks and purist zealots, I would prefer the purists as long as we have a robust system of checks and balances so they can't force all of their assumptions down all our throats. Yes, America is a rich country, and as a nation it can afford a little graft and corruption here and there. But there's a couple problems with the crooks. One is that for every megabuck they steal from the country, there are thousands of dirt-poor victims of the system living miserable lives through little or no fault of their own who that money could have been used to return to being productive, healthy citizens. The other problem is that humans have such an instinct for injustice that when these crooks get caught the outcry against the system (and the strong tendency to overgeneralize) does often irreparable damage to the system. The crooks have to be squashed. You deny your own humanity by justifying their power.

Fortunately there aren't just two kinds of people in the world, and while power tends to attract those two types more than anything else, we are not inevitably stuck with just those choices. More critical thinking and less overgeneralizing on the part of the voting public would presumably create an environment hostile to both of those types running for office. The problem is getting a nation full of lazy-brains to try critical thinking instead of choosing their preferred lies.

Okay, that wasn't exactly a quick comment. No way I would ever run for office ... I couldn't possibly get my thoughts down to bumper sticker length.

Howard Brazee said...

Another aspect of free enterprise is knowing and paying for all of the costs, including the next generation's clean-up costs and climate change costs. And understanding and accounting for unseen benefits.

Robert said...

TCB, I revealed a few posts back that the Rancher is a Pila and the Ent a badly disguised rogue Linten. The AI consortium acting through our Host Interface will adjust your dreams shortly. Put your tinfoil-lined hat back on now and never take it off. You may also want to arrange a hideout in the Interior Northwest desert. Avoid the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, though - it's named after the French word for bad luck for a reason.

Bob Pfeiffer.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

My problem is that I don’t think we’ve EVER had a fair election.

I think that until recently--meaning until the 21st Century--election integrity was based more than anything else on a higher signal to noise ratio than what we seem to experience today. There's always been gaming of the system, but the conceit or the hope was that such effects were marginal compared to the aggretage vote total. We've all heard the apocraphal story of Chicago's Mayor Daley swinging the election for JFK, but I've done the math, and even if Kennedy had lost Illinois in 1960, he still would have won the Elecotral Vote (though just barely).

Now, for whatever reason, we're seeing elections that are so close--537 votes in Florida 2000, 11,000 votes in three states in 2016, a tie that had to resort to a friggin' coin flip deciding the balance of the Virginia legislature--that whoever wins the "cheating vote" could well be the victor. There's an urgency to fix this (to me, anyway) that simply didn't noticibly rear its head in decades past.

A tangential but related subject--prior to 2000, how many Americans in their heart of hearts believed that the winner of the popular vote became president? My recollection is that even among those who knew that the electoral college was a thing, the sense was that the EC was a formality which legally validated the popular vote. Yes, many of us knew about Grover Cleveland in 1888, but that seemed like the exception that proves the rule. It never happend in the 20th Century (at least counting 20th Century inaugurations), and it always felt to me that the math would usually just work out that the two votes would agree, that the EC served mainly as a two-source validation measure, and that in the modern sensibility, a discrepancy between the popular and Electoral vote winners would produce a crisis of legitimacy--one which would inevitably lead to the elimination of the EC system altogether.

I didn't reckon on the notion that that would only happen if a Republican won the popular vote but not the office. The fact that it has now happened twice in two decades, and all three times (counting 1888) favored Republicans is significant as to why there is not a nation-wide uprising against this 18th Century artifact.

But I think I was right in my gut feeling--that even though Trump won the election by the rules of the game, the fact that he won by negative-three million votes diminishes his small-l legitimacy. This is then exacerbated by the fact that, instead of rising to the office he finds himself in and proving himself worthy of his good fortune, he has gone on to demonstrate explicitly that he has no respect for the responsibilities of the office or the functioning of American democracy. Losing the popular vote alone doesn't make him illegitimate, but it bolsters the argument of those who perceive him as such for other reasons.

occam's comic said...

Just wanted to say thanks to Gregory and Larry for finishing up the discussion of how free will fits into the nature / nurture debate. You two summed it up nicely.

“Certainly at some point a child will make a choice to engage in some act of self creation - choosing to do X because the child wants to accomplish Y - but that choice is also itself a product of its nature and nurture up to that point. And the same will be the case for any future choices. That is, the 'will' is also a product of nature and nurture.”

“At some point, the number of possible choices open to the sapient mind--even within the constraints of nature and nurture so far--becomes so numerous as to be effectively unpredictable.”

Anonymous said...


I think this is what the Americans think of the last elections and the indifferent reaction of everyone in this regard:


David Brin said...

“if it's between crooks and purist zealots, I would prefer the purists as long as we have a robust system of checks and balances so they can't force all of their assumptions down all our throats.”

That works if (1) their meme-spread is limited and (2) their aim isn’t to end the world.
Remember, you are talking Nehemia Scudder, here.

BobP you made me P.

A hundred million was appropriated to secure the next election. Two Scoops has spent none of it.

A bit of book promotion that stands alone as both fascinating and inspiring.

Viking said...

Hi Dr. Brin,

It seems like one of your disciples is running in California:

locumranch said...

Only morons prefer idealists to crooks, and I'll tell you why:

Crooks are PREDICTABLE, being driven by self-Interest, so their behaviour is both consistent & easily anticipated, whereas idealists are driven by their own idiosyncratic moral code which forces them to act against self-interest at times, making their behaviour unpredictable & dangerous, giving weight to the old adage that 'It is impossible to trust an honest man'.

Examples of this type of inconsistency are (1) Blue Urbanites who claim to be over-flowingly 'logical, compassionate, inclusive and tolerant' yet have none-of-the-above to offer to the 'unenlightened deplorables' (code words for those who belong to a different tribe) and (2) those progressive McCarthyites who accuse conservatives of being treasonous/anti-competition/anti-capitalist/ anti-enterprise COMMUNISTS.

Yes, you've heard me right. We have entered an Orwellian Bizarro World where Up is Down, Laisse Faire Capitalists are Communists, Intolerance is the New Tolerance & the Racial Identity Politic party accuses its opposition of (yes, you've guessed it) Racism.

Like this week's Bill Maher where so-called (2) Parkland Students freely ADMIT that they are professional actors who have been Blue Dog DNC partisans since age 7 and (2) Former Attorney General Eric Holder brags about how the USA has meddled & continues to meddle in foreign elections but only believes that this is a crime when OTHER governments do it to the USA.

Remember the Banana Wars, Winter 7? Iran Contra? How does it feel when the USA idealistically corrupts your country's free elections for your own good?


Alfred Differ said...

aw man. Now there is gonna be trouble. Locumranch and I agree on something. 8)

Okay. The alignment is only partial. SOME blue urbanites fit his description. Most don't. SOME progressives fit his description. Most don't.

@locumranch | Dude. Some people are angry at your compatriots. You too I imagine. You know what that's like though. Anger causes us to over-simplify. It is so much more SATISFYING to be rightfully angry when the lines are sharp and everything is black and white. You shouldn't lump all the people who make you angry, though. That will just piss them off too and they out-number you.

Don't be shocked, though, if I don't vote for YOUR crook. I prefer mine. 8)

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Yes, zealots can be quite deadly, if they can convince enough morons in the right places to support them. I can see equating Pence to Scudder, though I doubt he will rise to that role. More likely he will fade away into insignificance after the 2020 election, like so man other VPs who amounted to nothing once the charismatic coat-tails they rode to office were voted out. When you look at the numbers, the Republican Party has most of the power now, but a huge portion of the people are outraged enough to go to the poles and change that power balance. That will be temporary, too, and the country will swing back next time. Like Edgar Alan Poe's pendulum, every time it swings it gets lower and lower, until it eventually cuts the country in two, gushing blood and internal organs.

But crooks are not as predictable as some people seem to think, otherwise they would all be behind bars. If you can predict them so well you can gather evidence, make a case and lock them up. The current crook-in-chief has managed to get where he is because his entire party is crooked, and while a few of them get caught here and there (like Dennis Hastert), the majority stay in power long enough to raise up new generations of slime balls to replace them and perpetuate their system. No sane person is going to knowingly vote a crook into office, but the best crooks are charismatic enough to convince fools that they are the heroes and everyone else is trying to oppress them. Write it on the barn wall and get enough sheep to bleat it and it will drown out reason. We have a couple of those here, one of whom finally just admitted that his Führer is a crook (while repeating his fake news bull). Anyone with brains could see that all the way back in the '80s.

I'm not saying it's not possible that we could fall to fascism. Ollie Cromwell only had 10% of the UK on his side and he still managed to take over. But then, a purist who believes in America would not try to tear down the checks and balances created by its constitution. It might help to point out how the current crop of gators are deliberately undermining it. Partisan morons won't listen, but there are a lot of fence-sitters who can be swayed by facts, if they can discern between what is real and the fake news coming from both sides - though for the last 40 years predominantly from the party of St. Reagan (who our most raving of fools just admitted that his saint was a crook, as well as proving that he never got the message about Joe McCarthy).

Paul SB said...

Here's some of the looniness these fools have to resort to in their efforts to shoot down their opponents. The "crisis actors" conspiracy theory smells of Pizzagate, does it not?

It reminds me of hearing someone call into a radio program to say that he would gladly pay for plane tickets to send all them damn liberals to China or North Korea. I hope the guy is seriously loaded, since 80% of the American people want stricter gun control laws, but there is something more telling here. He didn't want to just get them out of this country, he specifically said the China and North Korea - among the few countries left in the world that still pretend to be communist. When I was growing up anyone who questioned Reagan's policies was told to go to Russia, but now the leader of Russia is seen as more American than most Americans by the "silent majority" (who are neither). So how many countries are there in the world? Three, four? There's America, where the real men live, and there's them damn commies in China and North Korea. I know a lot of people who would be willing to live in Europe, Australia or Japan, where gun control is much more strict, everyone has healthcare and murder rates are much lower, but I don't see anybody clambering to go the China or North Korea. When people become that extreme, they can't imagine anyone being any less extreme than they are (projection, as many people here have pointed out), so they really believe all the Freddy Kruger horror stories their handlers make up for them.

Anonymous said...

If you attack the criticism against the Republicans, I must assume that you are a Republican. So I guess it's logical that you attack the ideas of the Democrats. I do not know what your ideology is; but are not Donald Trump's actions a danger to you and your future happy world? Well, I suppose you also dream of a happy future, in which those whom you estimate would live in peace and prosperity. (Yes, I know, it's the Vulcan phrase, but it was casual) Therefore, if you are not a saint (and you admit it), it is not more convenient for you to make an alliance with the democrats and not with the clown Pennywise. Would you trust Pennywise with your future? Yes? Because like that, after ... Well, you know who Pennywise is. You know that a crocodile is a crocodile and a sheep is a sheep. Do not expect the crocodiles to act in your benefit. That is not going to happen. The crocodiles will turn your country into a swamp, because the crocodiles love the swamps. It is easier for them to stalk their prey underwater, the crocodiles like to hide their intentions. (This is what crocodiles do in my country).
“¿Remember the Banana Wars, Winter 7? ¿Iran Contra? ¿How does it feel when the USA idealistically corrupts your country's free elections for your own good?”
Yes. I remember all that and much more. It was certainly annoying to know the truth about that. But I know that 98% of the American people are not guilty of the consequences of the wrong policies of the US government. I hope, that the American government, when it is under the control of the democrats, will be wiser and prudent.
And what do you feel, Locumranch, when you see how your country slowly becomes a swamp like the one I know? I can predict, without fear of being wrong, that there are problems that you can not even imagine. And you can not do anything about it.
I know that you and the others here will not kneel before the presidential clown. But, most of your compatriots will not have such a bad time, because they will accept the new rules. It is what most people do; adapt. I do not. I have sensitive knees and it would be very difficult for me to kneel before the feudal lords.


David Brin said...

I'll not bother wading in amid the drivel and opposite-to-fact ravings. But I will say that idealists and crooks are both dangerous because they rationalize reasons why they should be the next controlling aristocrats. locum prefers bowing and scraping to the plantation lords who already have the power and the glory.

None of the three will get to become overlords, if we keep faith with the Enlightenment notions of accountability, pragmatic, fact-based negotiation, Acceptance of disproof, and fiercely breaking up dangerous accumulations of power.

As for the stunning illogic that those high school students were "actors." Beneath contempt. Truly jibbering lunatics, in every conceivable clinical meaning of the word. And I mean that without exaggeration.

Paul SB said...


You have a great point. In an ideal world, businesses would clean up their messes. It would be better for them in the long run, they would have better reputations which would create loyal bases of customers and longevity for the companies. Some business leaders can see this and act on it, but many do not. Capitalism incentivizes short-term rapaciousness. The more rapacious the company, the more profit they make and the higher their stock values. They eventually burn out, and some of their leaders care, but when the Profit Motive is treated as sacrosanct and CEOs are regarded like a priestly caste of superior beings, most would be happy to just short their stocks, inflate their golden parachutes, and make out like bandit princes while their employees sink into poverty. This environment makes it very hard for the much smaller fraction of executives who are both smart and decent human beings to compete in the market, even without cheats leveled against them. This is hardly anything new. Big business has been fouling the nest of Planet Earth since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, dumping toxins into the rivers from which drinking water is drawn, poisoning the soil with effluents that seep into the water table, and then there's the air humans (and the rest of the biosphere) breath.

If our lawmakers adopted your standards they would be able to do a better job of protecting us from the greed and negligence of the business community, and if people if general had your attitude, they would not be raising children who think they are so much more awesome than everyone else that they can do anything they want to them. Ironically, one of the problems here is the ubiquitous and unthinking promotion of self-esteem by the psychological community of the past 60 years. It's a case of going from one extreme to the other. Before the 1960s books about how to rear children in America mostly taught to hang them up on hooks and neglect them, and only talk to them to convince them that they are lowly worms in the eyes of God.

The reaction to that was an understandable but equally self-destructive overreaction, where everyone is awesome (with or without Legos) and nothing any child does is ever bad or worthy of punishment. I saw this in the school system all the time. Even the poorest of people have learned to be arrogant and contemptuous of everyone else around them. And I'm not alone here. Check out Po Bronson's book "NurtureShock" and Gabriel Principe's "Your Brain on Childhood" for some of the story. Both have been around long enough you can find them in public libraries. "Nurture Shock" addresses this more directly, but the authors are journalists rather than actual scientists, whereas Principe is the real deal. I have bummed my copy of that book to a number of colleagues who were in the baby manufacturing stage, and they all found it pretty eye-opening.

Paul SB said...


I'm not exactly sure why Alfred feels the need to squeeze your words into the taxonomy he is accustomed to using. Whether we refer to it as "taboo" or adopt the more loose term "emergent order" we are still talking about the same thing. But taboo, while being very important, is also only part of the picture. If dumping toxic waste into our waterways was taboo, rather than just being illegal, moral revulsion would likely stop a lot more of it from happening. Taboos tend to change much more slowly than laws, and that can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on circumstances. In fact, taboos can become very hard to dislodge, India's sacred cow being a classic example. But taboo - superstructural forbiddens, are one half of the picture, the other half being obligations, and the attachment of positive self-concept to adherence. Unfortunately, the way taboos and reciprocal obligations work is by keeping people ignorant of their actual meaning, so that when times and context change people cling to them and fail to see when they are no longer appropriate. It is my hope that people are becoming educated well enough that we can explain the reasons behind these rules and people will be able to accept them without having to rely on the ancient mode of supernatural "do as I say and don't ask questions or I'll strike you with a thunderbolt" authority.

This is exactly what the social and biological sciences have been trying to do, and they are proving things that before were dogma, while disproving other dogmas, slowly separating the cultural wheat from the chaff.

Paul SB said...

Crooks vs. Zealots,

I have little patience for either of these, but I think we should reiterate a point our host has made here before - it pays to know your enemy. We often say that zealots are crazy, illogical and unpredictable, but that is mostly true because we aren't trying too hard. I grew up in the Bible Belt, surrounded by zealotry. I despise it, but I also understand it. One of the big differences between reasonable people and zealots is totalizing. Reasonable people get that there are exceptions to nearly everything and justice is not served by applying the same rules in the same way to every single case. This is why we have judges and not just police. But most of the world's religions teach rigidity, that there is one right way and that way is right for everyone. When you believe that, all the lies they tell and the atrocities they commit makes sense. From their perspective morality only applies to their own people. Anyone who is not one of them is evil by definition, and need to either be destroyed or converted. The nicer ones will try to convert people because they have compassion and don't want people to burn in hell for all eternity. Therefore any action is justifiable it it wins conversion. Others are not so nice and simply do their holy duty to destroy nonbelievers.

This makes perfect sense from their (emic) point of view. You can understand their policy decisions, too. Prohibition is a great example. Carrie Nation famously carried an ax in one had and a Bible in the other when she charged into bars to smash them up. The War on Drugs is the same. From the perspective of black-and-white thinking, it's all about punishment. There are no excuses and no exceptions because the Law is the Law is the Law. In their minds social problems do not exist, there's just a whole lot of individual "sinners" who need to be deterred and/or punished.It's a pretty simple logic system, the only thing that is unpredictable are what specific taboos they are going to stress about at any given time, and what specific punishments they will consider appropriate.

LarryHart said...


I do not know what your ideology is; but are not Donald Trump's actions a danger to you and your future happy world? Well, I suppose you also dream of a happy future, in which those whom you estimate would live in peace and prosperity

No, locum's dreams are more like the first page of "Watchmen" or the climax of "Atlas Shrugged"--a society collapsing and begging him to save it, while he enjoys the revenge of refusing to do so.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

As for the stunning illogic that those high school students were "actors." Beneath contempt...

See, in the Bill Maher segment, one of the students responds with a lighthearted answer, "actually, I am an actor." Meaning he performs in high school plays and such as part of his curriculum. Not that he's playing a paid role as an activist. But for the alternative-facts crowd, that admission is tantamount to vindication of their position--"See, he even admits he's just acting!"


sociotard said...

Well, Brin called it. Republicans talk a lot about deregulation, but they give the kindest deregulatory treatment to the finance sector.

(Although in this case they are aided and abetted by Democrats)

LarryHart said...


Whichever metaphysical entity is writing this stuff is yanking our chains as readers. "Crappo regulation"?? You can't make this stuff up.

Anonymous said...

Paul SB:

If you're looking for some more good books, I'd recommend Susan Pinker's The Sexual Paradox, Karen Ho's Liquidated, Mike Davis' Late Victorian Holocausts, and Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell for starters.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
Alfred. ¿So what is the plan we must follow to be assimilated by the Borg-GOP conglomerate? ¿Should we simply cultivate indifference and look the other way? ¿Or should we win the sympathy of the Borg by cooperating with them? ¿What's the plan? .
I do not blame you for deciding that it is convenient to cooperate with the Borg. You are certainly not in a position to take risks. Your personal decision is the correct one. But I guess everyone here has a different idea of how to be assimilated by the feudal Borg. Even, perhaps, some like me, do not want to be part of the Borg feudal collective.
While you think about it, I should go to do repairs in the bathroom. Excuse me

madtom said...

Paul SB -

A few phrases from your post are very much in line with my thinking, and started it going this very tired morning:
(1)"humans have such an instinct for injustice"
(2)"More critical thinking and less overgeneralizing on the part of the voting public"
(3)"The problem is getting a nation full of lazy-brains to try critical thinking instead of choosing their preferred lies."

IMO the instinct factor underlies *everything*. If we want to deal with (2) and (3), instinct can't be ignored. Our egotistical intellect likes to believe that it is primary, and it can usually get away with that lie because it does do us a lot of good. But my lifelong error has been to value rational argument as primary, complete with a full foundational background, and thus to bore everyone to distraction. The lesson I've learned is that just being correct means almost nothing except in solo situations. Less than nothing if the presentation itself triggers instinctive negative feelings in the audience.

Instinct says it is good, and rewards us emotionally, when we cheer for our tribe and diss all others in proportion to their difference from us.

So all the bad words and nasty characterizations that get thrown around in today's politics are only serving the interests of those who profit by the further division of the electorate. Such speech is hurting us in today's situation.

IMO it is vitally important for those of us with the loudest voices (and who can manage it) to emphasize *sincere* regret for the errors that the other guy is making. Not hostility and contempt. No degrading nicknames, but an emphasis on common interests and mutual respect! His mistake hurts him and his even more than it hurts us. Understanding the problems lets us prepare to get the best available outcome for ourselves, at least. But we know that the other guys are well intentioned and hope that they will look deeper into the situation, beyond the slogans that the dividers like to throw around.

United, we'll do better for us all. Divided, we serve the wealthy.

Treebeard said...

Certainly human delusion and inability to face reality is strong among WEIRDo "progressives". For example, when I walk around among humans, I see the primal, tribal power relations at work--things that haven't changed since the Stone Age and won't change in the future. I see who the friendly tribes are, who the invading tribes are, who might cut my throat, etc. WEIRDoprogs see what? Abstractions and ideological overlays--their heads in the clouds en route to their air-conditioned safe spaces? So when there are power struggles and violence along these lines, as there are 24/7 in a place like America, I understand what is going on at a primal level, while WEIRDoprogs spin their wheels, act shocked and concoct ideological fantasies rather than grasp the obvious. This is about as simple as I can make the difference between your kind and mind. Or to put it even simpler: we are normal men; you are delusional freaks and geeks.

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | I don’t really support the notion of being assimilated unless it is assimilation by the Enlightenment. (That’s a special case though. People tend to offer themselves up for assimilation after they get a decent look at it.)

The GOP isn’t the Borg. The social conservatives in the US aren’t the Borg. No one is. Many like to THINK they have that kind of power, but the truth is they don’t. From what I can see, the largest bloc is actually the traditional liberals who don’t really think of themselves as a bloc. They can be found in many different political groups all sporting an attitude that makes it clear they prefer the government leave them be as much as possible. ‘We have more important things to do’ is the common belief. Some are Democrats. Some are Republicans. Some don’t vote at all.

My argument for voting for crooks, though, is a preference statement when all the options kinda suck. I don’t actually WANT crooks in office. I want people who will represent us all who are willing to negotiate enough to find those solutions no one actually likes, but most will tolerate. The pure-hearts among us have trouble with that when a solution violates their principles. The crooks among us have trouble with that when a solution impacts their thievery. I know how to game things, though, to turn crooks into useful negotiators. Look the other way very occasionally and then make unflinching demands on the issues that trouble them. Do that and they will treat their options like a portfolio. What you take from their rake with one hand they will make up for on the issues you ‘neglect.’ The kinds of people I actually want in office don’t take a rake at all because doing so would violate their sense of personal integrity. Most of them, though, are difficult to distinguish from the smaller crooks that do it occasionally. For example, stealing paperclips from the office isn’t going to bother me much until the thief turns it into an enterprise by reselling them. Buying extravagant office furniture for the Director won’t bother me much until everyone under him decides they need to imitate that behavior.

The danger with crooks isn’t really in what they steal. It is in the way they erode the integrity of others near them. The way to cope with that and still make use of them involves a randomized strategy of catching them and taking from them all they gained and more. Predictable enforcement encourages them to learn how to avoid detection and/or punishment. Focusing too much on punishing crooks encourages them to focus on avoiding detection. A bit of randomness and intentional neglect, though, makes life and profits difficult to predict for the thieves. THAT encourages them to focus on (and spend money on) better prediction which won’t work. THAT encourages them to focus on changing the rules which is precisely where we put up our iron defenses.

So… it’s not really about assimilation. It’s about fighting a winnable fight on grounds WE choose.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | I'm not exactly sure why Alfred feels the need to squeeze your words into the taxonomy he is accustomed to using.

I'm paraphrasing a bit and then working onward from that.

I'm also distancing the argument from issues associated with faith a bit. The word 'taboo' brings with it some religious connotations.

I think Susan is well worth the effort to engage here. What she wrote was far more interesting than what our trolls produce. I'm curious to see if my variation on her position makes any sense to her or if it gets neglected as a seeming non-sequitur. Both possibilities would be useful to know.

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard | This is about as simple as I can make the difference

yah. That's a bit too simplistic for my tastes.

WEIRDoprogs see what?

Well... since you asked...

They tend to see larger tribes where loyalty isn't as solid. Their identity groups are bigger, but their demand for loyalty among all the parts of those groups is weaker.

Violate the rules of those larger tribes and you'll get a response from them similar to what your folks do when rules are broken for your smaller tribes... with one exception. The progressives are much more inclined to ostracize.

Their larger tribes aren't illusions. Your smaller tribes aren't illusions. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

madtom said...

I mean, just consider how emotionally satisfying it is for us to condemn them and their follies, each of us outdoing the others in clever logic, wordplay, anger-arousal and contempt. Same for them from their side, of course. If that's our goal, well we're doing fine. Is it?

locumranch said...

The fact that David believes that we can avoid Overlords "if we keep faith with the Enlightenment notions of accountability, pragmatic, fact-based negotiation" demonstrates that David does NOT understand the basic tenets of negotiation as well as Trump understands it BECAUSE the first two rules of negotiation are to say (1) "I want a better deal because the current situation is unacceptable" and (2) "Either give me a better deal or there will be consequences".

This confirms what I witnessed overseas:

WEIRD-os simply don't know how to negotiate or haggle for a number of reasons, the first most common reason being that they are used to dealing with unresponsive price-fixing corporate autocrats who say 'the price is the price is the price', the second being that they assume said arbitrary price is both fair & non-negotiable, and the third being an unwillingness to look cheap.

Well, NUTS to that -- Everything is Negotiable -- and the time has come for the EU, the USA & especially the Red Rural Producers to re-negotiate goddamm near everything about this grandiose New World Order.


BECAUSE "I want a better deal because the current situation is unacceptable" and "Either give me a better deal or there will be consequences".


Susan Sayler said...

RE: Trump
locumranch said:
"...demonstrates that David does NOT understand the basic tenets of negotiation as well as Trump understands it"

I think it is interesting that you reference Trump's "tenets if negotiation". Yesterday I just re-listened to Sam Harris's conversation with Scott Adams: The first time I listened to this I was unable to stomach the way that Scott Adam's champions Trump's negotiation genius. Basically he says that the goal is always to win and Trump's lying is a way to win, so therefore it is good. He also states that Trump's lies may be factually false but they are nevertheless "emotionally true" or, you might say, "true-ish". This time, I found more appreciation for what Scott Adams was saying, but not much. If you have not listened to this podcast, I think you might find it interesting and nauseating at the same time. Maybe not.

Susan Sayler said...

RE: Taboos

I deliberating used the word Taboo because it has a strong religious root, because until recently, religion is where most of us got our taboos. I am referring to what the brain's amygdala absolutely forbids you to do. I think some people see the frontal lobes as the boss of the brain because it is concerned with right and wrong action. Others see the left brain as the boss because of how it dominates us as the navigator of the external world. (As in how the right hand writes the words while the left hand holds down the paper). But the amygdala is a silent dictator. You may know that eating certain foods is not good for you, and your logical brain wants to stop eating that food, but if the emotional center of your reality wants it, it almost always gets its way.

And the amygdala is an ancient part of the brain. It doesn't understand language or abstractions except in a vague way where it can recognize memes. It relies on chemical communication. The amygdala is more in harmony with the right side of the brain that is more concerned with physical sensations, thinks in images and tends to be superstitious.

I think a lot of the dialogue we participate in is futile because it doesn't influence that central part of the human mind. That is why making laws and arguing right and wrong is often a futile effort. People will break laws if no one is looking unless they feel a deep taboo about breaking the law. I know people like that. They cannot drive above the speed limit without feeling deep guilt and shame, or say the word Fuck without feeling dirty.

But I think what a lot of people don't understand about the current conservative republican mindset is that the rule is to win and it doesn't have to make sense. Calling yourself a Christian is a winning proposition for them, so the Bible doesn't have to make sense and they don't have to really be good people or behave like Christ, they just have to win. That was my takeaway from Scott Adams.

David Brin said...

The inability of blithering lobos (loboto-heads) to notice their own blindnesses can be amazing… and one reason I am glad these guys come around, because it’s instructive:

“when I walk around among humans, I see the primal, tribal power relations at work--things that haven't changed since the Stone Age and won't change in the future.”

Ye, we can tell that’s what yuu “see” while wandering around in a cloud of self-indulgent ingratitude and unaware irony. You whine that other tribes you hate are so strong. Yet refuse to notice that those strong tribes not only will not crush you or oppress you, no matter how hard you screech, but they collaborated on rules that PREVENT them from crushing or repressing you.

Your very whine negates itself! Were you to get your preferred world, you’d be gobbled up in seconds, oh “normal man.” The WEIRDs you rail against include some snowflakes, for sure, who need this coddling civilization as much as you do. But Among us weirds are the strongest, most technologically capable and adaptable of our species.

Go prep your bunker-can, prepper. If you ever get your way, and bring it all down, we are tougher, vastly-smarter and have can openers.

In contrast, locumranch actually said something cogent about Trump’s art of the deal. It is true that the crux is someone whose oligarchy has been insatiably grabbing hand-over-fist, demanding more by shrieking: "Either give me a better deal or there will be consequences".

Notice Two Scoops’s method: instead of negotiating a deal, start by taking away something the other party already has, preferably hurting people, then offer to put it back if they give you everything you want. Want a wall? Don’t argue its merits. Threaten to toss 800,000 kids who only know America as home, in exchange for the wall. Want Palestinian peace? First toss the already agreed position that they get a share of Jerusalem. renegotiate NAFTA? Start with a trade war over steel that’s not even part of NAFTA.

Yes, locum, we get the notion of “"Either give me a better deal or there will be consequences". And as the oligarchy gets ever more powerful, thanks to lickspittle lackeys like you, they’ll be ever more powerfully able to to threaten “consequences.” Til a revolution makes them regret betraying a civilization that gave them everything.

LarryHart said...

Susan Sayler:

locumranch said:
"...demonstrates that David does NOT understand the basic tenets of negotiation as well as Trump understands it"

I think it is interesting that you reference Trump's "tenets if negotiation".
The first time I listened to this I was unable to stomach the way that Scott Adam's champions Trump's negotiation genius. Basically he says that the goal is always to win and Trump's lying is a way to win, so therefore it is good.

Trump has a funny way of defining winning. Basically, as long as he can say he won and have FOX and Friends confirm this, it doesn't matter what anyone else actually ends up doing. Does he "win" on DACA if the dreamers are granted permanent resident status? Does he "win" if he gets to deport them all? Either one will do, as long as it is pronounced a win.

Trump's so-called negotiating strategy might be good if you evaluate it on whether he ends up perceived as a winner, but the strategy is terrible if you evaluate it in terms of producing any agreement of value.

This time, I found more appreciation for what Scott Adams was saying, but not much. If you have not listened to this podcast, I think you might find it interesting and nauseating at the same time. Maybe not.

I became disgusted with Scott Adams back when he argued that if we pick some lowball number like "Only 0.1% of Muslims are terrorists", then we have to accept that the price of allowng 10,000 Syrian refugees into the country might be 10 terrorist attacks on US soil. Maybe that's a price worth paying, but that's the choice involved. I don't take issue with his mathematics, but I did have a problem with the unsupported assertion that 0.1% is a reasonable-if-not-lowball number, and more of a problem with the idea that the percentage of Muslims who are terrorists would be represented mathematically in the population of Syrian refugees.

But most of all, it seems weird to apply this sort of appeal to statistics specifically to Muslim refugees, and not to (say) the percentage of old white Christian gun-owning men. How many deaths do we tolerate statistically by allowing white Christians to own guns? Scott didn't address that one.

LarryHart said...

Susan Sayler:

People will break laws if no one is looking unless they feel a deep taboo about breaking the law. I know people like that. They cannot drive above the speed limit without feeling deep guilt and shame, or say the word Fuck without feeling dirty.

Heh. One of the regulars on the old "Cerebus" list was an annoying Christian--not "annoyning" politically so much as that he kept making it clear that every decision he made was dictated by his religiosity.

So anyway, one year, a bunch of us regulars collaborated on an anthology comic which would be sold at the small press convention we liked to attend in Columbus, Ohio. Several of us contributed stories which were each just a few pages long. So ok, one of the members who was instrumental in putting the anthology together had acquired the nickname "Fucking Magnifier.", the connotation being that his presence exacerbated problems into huge problems. Take my word for it that this was significant to our group of Cerebus fans--it would take too long to explain the in joke. But because of that, we decided to name the "company" that published the comic "Effing Magnifier".

We had a heck of a time convincing Mr Religiosity not to back out of contributing to the book. He had no tolerance for swearing, and even the euphemism "Effing" was a bridge too far for him.

locumranch said...

By attempting to differentiate between "negotiating a deal (with) taking away something the other party already has", David again demonstrates that he does NOT understand negotiation.

Taking away something the other party already has?? What utter nonsense!!

In the absence of overwhelming force, neither party can lay claim to ANYTHING without the express consent of other. There are NO laws, NO morality, NO social contract, NO ownership & NO propertarianism without overwhelming consent, unless one or both parties are willing to resort to enforcement by overwhelming violence.

Like sexual consent, NAFTA ain't worth toilet paper the very moment one party or another rescinds voluntary ongoing consent, and you're no better than a Hollywood Rapist if you try to enforce your will according to NAFTA upon another without their ongoing voluntary consent.

You Blue Urban rapist, you.

Harvey Weinstein leered at the Millionaire Actress as she disrobed voluntarily. "I've made you rich & famous as I promised", he said, "and now you need to satisfy me sexually as per our NAFTA-esque agreement, unless you rescind consent, depart voluntarily & thereby terminate our mutually beneficial contract". And, yet again this free female agent choose to honour their agreement & secured a very lucrative 3 picture deal, knowing that she could rescind her consent 30 years later & destroy him, after she got what she wanted from the deal.


madtom said...

With the exception of Paul SB, Alfred Differ, and Susan Sayler (maybe Treebeard? - and apologies to those I've missed), it seems that the general enthusiasm continues unabated: Those we consider our opponents are members of monolithic groups that must be beaten in old-fashioned battle. The only distinction made between the rank-and-file and their despicable leaders and spokespeople is the amount of publicity they can manage.

I say that's an outlook based on a limited, military-and-sports formatted part of the primitive mind. Lots of fun to be had there, yes, but only one team wins a game, only one wins the series; only one athlete in the world gets the key Olympic gold medal, and for that there's only one chance every 4 years.

And our team has a pretty poor record so far in these truth-based, ethics-based, or logic-based battles, from the Vietnam War to the Iraq war and its ongoing (profitable for our rulers) disasters.

Which is why I'm trying to push the idea of reaching the members of other teams who may be clinging to loyalty for loyalty's sake, a loyalty helped a lot by our stinging contempt and rejection. We're inspiring them to cheer for their side.

I feel very certain that there are a lot of decent people out there who could feel just as loyal to our side if they saw us being as reasonable in our treatment of people as we are in our views on scientific and other issues.

And it doesn't take a huge movement of side-switchers to make a world of difference. Imagine a Dodgers vs. Giants game in which just two or three of the players switched sides in the 4th inning.

I imagine that most here are familiar with the WWI Christmas Truce ( Imagine the result if the leadership had not so thoroughly discouraged this natural tendency.

We need to de-escalate the tribalism.

Stop donating energy to the weapons of our enemies, or we defeat ourselves.

LarryHart said...


With all due respect to your very legitimate point, I think you're yelling at the wrong side. Metaphorically, you're blaming the Allies for WWII because they were just as willing to fight and win a war as Hitler was. To that extent, you're channeling Edith Keeler from "Star Trek", about whom Spock correctly noted, "She was right, but at the wrong time."

it seems that the general enthusiasm continues unabated: Those we consider our opponents are members of monolithic groups that must be beaten in old-fashioned battle

I don't relish a fight, but the other side keeps bringing it on. Pretending it ain't so won't change that.

The only distinction made between the rank-and-file and their despicable leaders and spokespeople is the amount of publicity they can manage.

The Republican voters and Republican rank-and-file politicians have proven time and again that they will tolerate the worst in their leadership as long as they get to keep power. This is not a matter for extending the benefit of the doubt, which I've done for years. They've removed all doubt.

Sorry, but I'm standing my ground. The Republican Party needs to not only be defeated, but it needs its head severed and the body parts buried at separate crossroads to insure that this undead corpse never rises again. This isn't a sporting event. This is how you deal with people who have told you time and again that they'll gladly rob and kill you if doing so increases their portfolio. "Only one of us is walking out under his own power--AND IT WON'T BE ME!" *

And if that makes it hard to distinguish between good and evil, remember another Star Trek episode where an alien asked the same thing of Captain Kirk when it seemed as if Kirk's side had fought just as savagely as Ghengis Khan and the Klingon did. If the bad guys had won, the alien had offered them what they wanted most--power. Kirk's reply: "You offered me the life of my crew."

* Apolgies for the in-joke from Marvel Comics

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
True Alfred. The Borg do not exist. But I suppose you understand that the Borg are an allegory of the Tyrannies. I mean feudal-Borg.
The United States still does not reach that level of political decomposition. But it is a complicated and incomprehensible process for most people; And I swear by the flamed panties of the goddess Coyolxauhqui, that I never saw a nation fall so quickly into the political vices of the third world!
In Mexico, there are three classes of Borg: the workers-Borg; the Borg-thugs and the parasitic drones of the Borg elite.
Many in Mexico believe that it is possible to change Mexico. Those few Mexican idealists, try with great enthusiasm to correct the errors in our country, and are reached by the bullies-Borg. And that's the end of everything.
The Borg hive configuration seems impossible; but, in reality, the Borg-thugs arise because the elite Borg-drones need thugs to stay in power. And undoubtedly, in the United States many Borg thugs will emerge.
For a moment, I thought you would tell me:
“It is time for us to choose. A new age is upon us; a new power is rising. Nothing that men, or elves, or wizards can do will avail against it. Its enemies are utterly doomed. But its friends aren't.”
But it's a relief to know that that was not your intention. Humanity will need the magic of good scientists like you. Well, certainly, humanity has entered an era of shadows.
The unimaginable wealth is what all the leaders sought, but they were deceived, because the unimaginable wealth drove them mad, and drags all humanity towards the abyss.

Gil-galad was an Elven-king.
Of him the harpers sadly sing:
the last whose realm was fair and free
between the Mountains and the Sea.

His sword was long, his lance was keen,
his shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven's field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

But long ago he rode away,
and where he dwelleth none can say;
for into darkness fell his star
in Mordor where the shadows are.

David Brin said...

drool jibber drool

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

Larry Hart - I appreciate your explanation. All the more since it's a pretty good match for what I used to feel. I think it was during the 90s that I started to wonder, though, when I got us 30 acres for a summer place at the end of Gold Canyon Road in SW Oregon.

I already knew from reading Robert Houriet's "Getting Back Together" that there had been some culture clash between the 'redneck' and 'hippie' populations in the area, but I mainly wanted the beautiful solitude on Eight Dollar Mountain. But whoops, I was still surrounded by *people*, as well as bears and foxes! Just with more physical distance between us.

But I found myself getting friendly with people from both sides, which was sometimes a bit awkward. Still, even coming from the hippie side, I saw plenty of variety in the other side's views and character. And we sold out just after the Biscuit Fire, which came uncomfortably close. But the one lasting friendship still alive now that I'm in New Zealand is with a distinctly right-wing gold miner and his partner. We could have good political chats back then without falling into name-calling mode, and we tried to really examine the facts of situations and their significance.

So I tend to see a spectrum of individuals with a variety of character and associated variables that I think lies behind the simple-minded or opportunist front-people you rightly characterize as probably hopeless and deserving nothing but punishment.

From the outside we naturally notice only the loudest front-men. And I agree with your "The Republican voters and Republican rank-and-file politicians have proven time and again that they will tolerate the worst in their leadership as long as they get to keep power."

But that's the leadership, which directly profits in-pocket.

And I think that we help those guys get stronger by acting as if their followers are all stupid and unprincipled, as well as hostile. I can testify first-hand that it ain't so. And I wonder how many followers (perhaps currently non-voting, like so many Dems) would actually listen to reason and change their positions if the emotional energy level subsided.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | I get your Borg analogy. It’s just that I don’t think you are on the mark with the GOP.

I never saw a nation fall so quickly into the political vices of the third world!

You still haven’t. It LOOKS bad here, but it really isn’t. Not yet anyway. I sincerely doubt we will fall that far. What I think you are seeing is a lot of heat about the POSSIBILITY that we will. As long as we get mad about it before it happens, I think that is a good thing.

We have our bullies, elites, and worker drones too. However, the drones aren’t very good at taking orders… sometimes. Some are and some aren’t. The bullies have to be a little careful too and keep to specific allowed areas. We have another group of people who would be bullies anywhere else, but they like to beat up on bullies. We call them police most of the time and recognize that there isn’t a whole lot of difference between them psychologically. It’s just that one small difference called integrity. 8)

What we have that prevents us from falling as far as you might think we have is difficult to describe, but I can point to it when I see it. We don’t really expect the dreams of idealists, yet we say we want them made real. We bargain for what we can get and complain that we can’t get more. We EXPECT more of ourselves, each other, and our future. It’s an attitude only a barbarian would really understand and goes something like this. “I’m right. You aren’t. You are GOING to do it my way or else. What? You want to fight about it? Good! That means you get it! Now lets bargain, find our common ground, and go make the others do it our way.” We live daily with a core hypocrisy of expecting one thing and working for something else.

Confusing? Heh. You aren’t going to see this barbarian attitude come across on TV news. The journalists don’t get it. Ask us a question. If we answer it, ask us if we are confident about our answer. We will answer YES!. Barbarians are that confident. They are also that ignorant. Eventually they grow up, but we have not yet. So… when you see us fighting with each other on TV, remember that we are culturally young, ignorant in many ways, and quite confident that we are Right.

We fall when we lose that self-confidence. That won’t happen in my lifetime or yours.

(We aren’t barbarians on an individual level. Sum us up and we are.)

David Brin said...

Apologies for the "jibber-drool" snark. It really comes down to this. Most of the things I say are at least glancingly related to true, because I use modern methods - contrariness, evidence and paying close heed to the competitive ferment of rivalries in fact-using communities. The confederates like locum and the ent spew enmity on all such people, rejecting any and all challenges for them to support comfy assertions with verifiable fact. That means - whether they are liars (often) or delusional (almost always) or innocently mistaken... or even sometimes glancingly right(!)... any correlation or overlap with actual reality is at most accidental.

Alfred Differ said...

@madtom | I’m with you in recognizing that our ‘opponents’ are not monolithic. I usually take up that point when emotional responses get to thick, but after the recent school shooting I’ve waited on the sideline to avoid joining one side or another in their indignant responses.

They aren’t monolithic. Neither are we. Peace is achievable if cooler heads prevail long enough to recognize the things on which we can agree. That’s all true.

Unfortunately, my experience has taught me that when cooler heads prevail, they don’t vote in large enough numbers to counter the hotheads. I’m currently angry enough at some of our elected officials that I want more voters at the polls in November so we can collectively kick their butts as if they were monolithic. I recognize that will marshal forces against us who might otherwise not vote. My calculation, though, suggests it is a trade-off for which we win right now.

I have a lot of friends who voted about every way possible in 2016. Some of my relatives are still annoyed at each other. There are no monoliths out there among them, but THIS time I think we have to stand against what happened and in the loudest voice possible proclaim NO! YOU MAY NOT! This has gone far beyond tribes. It is about our vision of a future.


(That doesn’t mean we have to ratchet up our anger every time “they” do, though. I still get along with my friends and relatives. I just take a break from them now and then.)

Alfred Differ said...

@David | The snark is appropriate I think.

Altemeyer made it pretty clear that the RWA followers are allowed to beat up on the folks at whom their leaders point. That means you.

He also made it clear that they don't have to be rational. They don't need to use facts that hold together in a coherent package. They need only be able to cherry pick something and craft an analogy that makes sense if only to them. Locumranch and Treebeard display the technique well.

Altemeyer also pointed out that the technique is actually cowardly in the sense of bullies beating up weaker people or hiding behind a mask of deniability. If either of those two revealed their actual names, I'd have to reconsider the connection I suppose. Ain't gonna happen, though, I'll bet. 8)

TCB said...

I think this is one of the main reasons we see so much rigidity in a range of religious attitudes. Historically, the Savonarolas declare their doctrinal opponents to be heretics and send their RWA followers to purge as many as possible. Often it's the moderates and mystics who get murdered, sometimes to the last beating heart. (This happened to the Cathars, for instance).

After such purges and crusades, it can take generations for the clampdown to soften and moderates re-emerge. Victims of a religious purge, should they survive, often do it by moving someplace new and out of reach. This is how a good many people came to the Americas (remember, though, that the religions of the native Indians paid the price for that).

Incidentally, my name is Tom (C.) Buckner, I don't recall why I chose TCB as a handle here. Convenience, maybe. I stand by everything I write online everywhere, and have long assumed I had no real anonymity in the face of any really determined effort to unmask me.

LarryHart said...


And I think that we help those guys get stronger by acting as if their followers are all stupid and unprincipled, as well as hostile. I can testify first-hand that it ain't so. And I wonder how many followers (perhaps currently non-voting, like so many Dems) would actually listen to reason and change their positions if the emotional energy level subsided.

Thanks for keeping it civil.

If I act as if they're all stupid and unprincipled, then I go too far. What they are--the ones who complicit but not stupid or hostile--is dangerous, to us and to their own selves as well. You are correct that if they could be convinced that their party is hurting them rather than standing up for them (and that our party isn't trying to destroy them), they might abandon their Republican leadership and come over to the light side.

I just don't see a method for convincing them as long as they believe everything from inside their bubble. And what I take issue with you on is that just saying that is the kind of hostile act that it is incumbent on Democrats to refrain from.

If they're willing to tolerate fascism in order to get tax cuts and deregulation, it may be true that the fascism isn't their primary motivation, and that some of them could be peeled away from the fascists. But that's not happening. And how long does that have to keep not happening before it is legitimate to recognize?

I'm not philosophically opposed to what you are describing, but I don't see the way forward that doesn't involve a Garry Larson "Then a miracle occurs" step to get there.

Paul SB said...

"If you're looking for some more good books, I'd recommend Susan Pinker's The Sexual Paradox, Karen Ho's Liquidated, Mike Davis' Late Victorian Holocausts, and Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell for starters."
- The list grows ...

Paul SB said...


The "Then a miracle occurs" step looked funny on paper, and I am sure that if the rhetoric ever does subside back down to a level of sane civility and productive dialogue it will be seen that way by many. But it won't take a miracle, it will take a concerted effort. As long as people react in horror to one another's positions, the gulf between them will grow. Finding common ground helps to bring the sides closer together. Here's an example: when I taught genetics I understood that most people are very (mistakenly) deterministic about how they see genes, so I put this string of characters up on the board -


Then I ask, "How genetically different are men and women?" Once they start talking, I start telling them about the ways differential expectations and differential nutrition makes men and women more different than what is actually natural. Any place where you find that the women average more than 4 inches shorter than average men, what you have is parents giving more food to their baby boys than to their baby girls, which screws with the natural development of young girls, even to the point of causing mental retardation and death.

Of course there are lots of kids who don't believe a word that come soft the mouths of their teachers, and tons of them don't believe anything that comes from Caucasian lips, but more of them were accustomed enough to the routine power differential that I heard quite a few rethinking their biases. You can almost hear the gears turning in their heads.

Not everyone has the position of being an official teacher, but we teach with every word we speak, in some sense. You don't have to wear your politics on your sleeve. Get to know people first and find the common ground, then work at having reasonable discussions. Both sides have mostly failed to do this, preferring to shout their egos at one another like rap stars. Not very mature. You can be more like the closeted gay people who quietly assert the value of human decency and don't let anyone know until it becomes clear that their attitudes are changing and they are growing up a little.

It isn't always easy, though. When someone attacks you, your natural reaction is to fight back, freeze or run, neither of which help in a battle of words, facts and ideas.

I have noticed that lately the Trump Trolls and Gun Trolls on FacePalm are starting to type the word "fact" in all caps, as if shouting something makes it a fact. When you read their crap it becomes obvious that what they are calling FACT are nothing but opinions, and I have called them out on this. It tends to shut them up, and if it is shutting them up, perhaps it is persuading some of the onlookers. A couple weeks ago one was claiming that it is a FACT that all the nations of Africa are shitholes. That's a fact? So I told him my friend from Nigeria recognizes that his country has huge problems, which is why he came here to study medicine so he could go back and be part of the solution. I got crickets after that.

Tim H. said...

TCB, some of my ancestors fled Germany in the 17th century for religious reasons, apparently being on the outs with Catholics and Lutherans. Makes Eric Flint's 1632 series more interesting.

Paul SB said...

Looks like Blogger can't deal with keeping things separated by spaces, for some reason. I originally set the rows of Xs with the one runty little y as two separate sections. Let's try separating them again.



LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

You don't have to wear your politics on your sleeve. Get to know people first and find the common ground, then work at having reasonable discussions.

In real life, I don't wear my politics on my sleeve until the particular social group is already well aware of my politics. With this group here, we're already well past that introductory phase. When I talk politics here, I don't presume I'm starting a fight, but continuing an ongoing conversation.

In the car this morning, I listened to Bill Press's radio show, and a guest was talking about the problem Democrats have with certain Republican constituencies--that rather than trying to get these people's votes, we write them off with derogatory dismissals. It made me consider that that's exactly what madtom has been saying here. And they're correct--to a point. As a candidate, rather than go, "You're just a racist, gun-fetishizing fascist," what you want to do is offer them something of value. Bernie Sanders probably did that better than anyone (maybe because he's not a Democrat?).

What you also have to recognize, then, is that that big-tent inclusive strategy separates the wheat from the chaff. Because, as Hillary correctly noted, a certain percentage of Republican voters really are deplorable. They vote Republican because they are racists, or because they like and respect bullying, or because they don't think the benefits of being American rightfully belong to minorities. We Democrats are simply not going to get those people's votes, and there's no point selling our soul in the futile attempt.

I grew up on comics, so I do tend to see things in terms of what good guys do and what bad guys do. And what bothers me about the current incarnation of the Republican Party is that they openly appeal to people's bad guy nature. Take racism as an example. Bad guys practice racism. Good guys try to convince them that doing so is not a successful strategy. Republicans, otoh, appeal to that racism, fighting back against the idea that it is anything to be ashamed of. "If you want to be racist, do it loud and proud! We've got your back." They've decided that bad guys are an untapped source of votes that they've decided to pursue.

What worries me most is not that they're making that attempt, but what it says about America if that strategy is a successful one. It may be that Treebeard is correct is assessing us as a nation of slimeballs. I don't want to believe that, but as Dave Sim once put it, the part of my brain that doesn't accept it hasn't yet convinced the other part of my brain that it's wrong.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, it takes effort to not be "A proctologist's work day" the GOP is saying is sloth is okay.
Another thing, the proposed tariffs, has he who invites ridicule lined up investors to build state of the art heavy industry? If not, all we'll see of it is retaliatory tariffs passed along, with a mark up.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
Hummm Maybe my comment was heard as a threat? It is not my intention.
What I am trying to do is warn the Americans that the next logical phase in the evolution of a tyranny is the use of thugs against the dissenters (I am dissatisfied with the tyrants). I've seen it again and again for decades throughout Latin America. Consequently, if the dissenters can take countermeasures to crush the power of the thugs, I suggest that they carry out whatever needs to be done. Starting with tougher laws against acts of political hatred; religious and racial. If the member of a political party uses thugs to attack opponents, in those cases, punishments must be severe and without bail (politicians may have access to a lot of money to pay bail).
I am not suggesting that you stop being critical. What I suggest is to be cunning and malicious critics. (Some malice is good, especially because tyrants broke the rules of the game brutally)
The translation failed? It's the fault of Google's automatic translator!

“Knowing that a trap exists is the first step in avoiding it” – Frank Herbert, Dune


locumranch said...

It's quite ironic how progressives simultaneously ignore & over-emphasize the principle of ongoing consent. From trade to immigration to woman's rights, what was once agreed on by our grand parents quickly becomes involuntary.

Less than 100 years after the voluntary creation of the US Constitution, the North decided to unilaterally change the rules because of their particular vision of the future, committing frank breach of contract while simultaneously demanding that South abide these new involuntary contract terms.

When the South refused, a violent North promptly bent the South over a metaphorical barrel like hillbillies from Deliverance & buggered them into submission, only to add a federal Supremacy Clause
to a new & improved US Constitution in order to ensure that the South (or any state) could never again refuse another unilateral contract change at risk of federal buggering.

Now, flash-forward another 150 years, and we quickly see that what was once voluntary is now mandatory, for according to our progressive contingent, consent once-given can NEVER EVER be rescinded.

The federal court now insists that US Borders can NEVER EVER be shuttered again because once-was the US consented to liberal immigration policies. It insists that trade agreements like NAFTA must continue in perpetuity because once-was the US consented to disadvantageous trade policies. It insists that gun ownership rights are now a privilege subject to background checks, licensure & revocation because once-was the US consented to a tiny bit of gun regulation.

And the list goes on & on.

Now imagine if some Evil Menz enforced similar federal policies on the Poor Wimminz like they do in Hollywood, by bending those Poor Wimminz over a barrel & buggering them to death because consent once-given can NEVER EVER be rescinded on threat of violence.

Get the picture, you Blue Union Kepi-wearing Rapists, you??


Treebeard said...

Locum, constructing ideological ratchets and tightening them around your own head is the whole game of progressives. History goes in one direction, toward whatever the utopian vision du jour is, or evil is winning, everything is going to hell, heads explode and the bombs must start dropping. I don't know where this bizarre mentality originated, maybe some ancient Kabbalist creation-fixers or Christian Millenialists or Hegelian dialecticists or whatever, but it has quite a powerful grip on the Western mind. It's the kind of mental straightjacket that probably only ends with the demise of the civilization stuck in it and the end of the age.

Tim H. said...

Without progressives you'd still be squatting in the bush, hoping you didn't grab the the three leafed shrub to wipe with... again.

Treebeard said...

Larry, "nation of slimeballs" is basically Morris Berman's thesis (, you might want to check out his work. I especially enjoy it because he loves to mock progs, who think they're going to save America when Americans don't want to be saved, they just want to hustle, shoot up Burger Kings for shorting them bacon, have sex with goats, etc. (to put it rather crudely). His ideas are dangerous though, because you risk being recruited into the growing army of WAFers ("Why America Failed" (WAF) is one of his books).

sociotard said...

Remember David Brin's advice to college freshmen to randomly walk into faculty offices to ask what they did?

Treebeard said...

Tim H., apparently squatting in the bush is healthier than sitting on toilets, so this right here is a good example of progressive delusionalism.

sociotard said...

Anyone who has been a victim of pinworm might disagree with you. And yes, I'm aware of people intentionally infecting themselves to deal with allergies, but I don't have allergies and I don't want the anemia.

David Brin said...

I go back to the jibber diss. Defending the utterly evil, stunningly grotesque-lying, oppressive evil-in-absolutely-all-ways Confederacy is equivalent to yowling "I'm a cretin!" The South owned the federal govt for the 30 years before Lincoln and used its power to bugger northern states, sending platoons of irregular cavalry rampaging at will, protected by US Marshalls and then federal troops, as northerners finally got fed up, restored their militias and radicalized enough to elect Lincoln.

You are traitor-liars, sir. And facts never support you. Ever.

Anonymous said...

¿North American Free Trade Agreement?
That does not worry me much.
If Donald Trump decides to close the treaty with Mexico, we Mexicans can continue with free trade agreements with South Korea; Taiwan; China; Indonesia and Japan; countries with which Donald Trump does not want to do business. After all, it does not matter if we buy Mexicans in the United States. 90% of the time, when reading the product label, you can see the phrase "made in china" or "made in Taiwan". So, if we Mexicans buy the goods directly from the Chinese, we are probably going to save 60% of the cost.
If Donald Trump wants to isolate himself economically, in the same way that the Germans were isolated during the Hitler government. That's the Americans' business. The Chinese also decided to isolate themselves for centuries and the only thing that they obtained with this strategy was to be atrociously behind in technology. Then the English arrived and it turned out that they had bigger ... their guns. And China fell.
Go It seems that every day that Donald wakes up, he immediately tries to find a way to get the Americans into more trouble.
Donald Trump is like a cruel two-year-old child; with a hammer in his hand. He prefers to destroy things for fun. For him, to build a beautiful future for humanity, is not something fun. Trump enjoys in the process of destroying everything. ¿For whose benefit?

In spanish:
¿Tratado de libre comercio de américa del norte?
Eso no me preocupa mucho.
Si Donald Trump decide clausurar el tratado con México, los mexicanos podemos continuar con tratados de libre comercio con Corea del sur; Taiwán; China; Indonesia y Japón; países con los que Donald Trump no desea hacer negocios. Después de todo, no importa que compremos los mexicanos en los estados unidos. El 90% de las veces, al leer la etiqueta del producto, puedes ver la frase “hecho en china” o “hecho en Taiwán”. De modo que, si los mexicanos compramos las mercancías directamente a los chinos, posiblemente nos vamos a ahorrar el 60% del gasto.
Si Donald Trump desea aislarse económicamente, del mismo modo que se aislaron los alemanes durante el gobierno de Hitler. Eso es asunto de los estadounidenses. Los chinos también decidieron aislarse durante siglos y lo único que obtuvieron con esa estrategia, fue el quedar atrozmente atrasados en tecnología. Luego llegaron los ingleses y resultó que ellos tenían más grandes sus… cañones. Y china cayó.
Vaya. Pareciera que cada día que despierta Donald, él de inmediato intenta encontrar el modo de meter en más problemas a los estadounidenses. Donald Trump es como un niño cruel de dos años; con un martillo en la mano. Él prefiere destrozar cosas por diversión. Para él, construir un futuro hermoso para la humanidad, no es algo divertido. Trump goza en el proceso de destruirlo todo. ¿Para beneficio de quién?

Anonymous said...

How many deaths do we tolerate statistically by allowing white Christians to own guns? Scott didn't address that one.

Roughly 4000 per year for homicides. So over a 9/11 WTC attack a year, crudely.

Anonymous said...

apparently squatting in the bush is healthier than sitting on toilets, so this right here is a good example of progressive delusionalism.


Have you ever been anywhere where there are no sewage, so people just dump in the bushes? Not terribly healthy places to be, with high rates of transmissive diseases and parasites.

Do you use a toilet yourself, or do you squat in the bushes?

David Brin said...

Anon, he's doing typical confed cherry-picking. There are a few (a few) article suggesting that having your knees elevated above the hips (as when squatting) makes the poop path a little straighter. Beee... effff... deee...

They leap to cite -- and misunderstand and misquote -- cherrypickled anecdotes that don't prove the thing they claim. Because they are dolts.



Anonymous said...

David, there's a difference between a squat toilet and "squatting in the bushes". (As I know you know.)

I've used squat toilets, and actually prefer them. I find defecation easier with them. Sadly I can't find one over here.

But he didn't say "squatting is healthier than sitting", he said "squatting in the bushes is healthier than sitting on a toilet" which is entirely different. Call it a little test of either truth-telling or intelligence, whichever you prefer.