Sunday, May 20, 2018

A "fourth political theory?" Persuasive propaganda... for simpletons.


I'll reiterate some familiar themes in the 2nd half of today's missive, raising the spectre of the "Greatest Generation," and re-introducing my one-page bill that might restore some faith in honest government.  But first...

... let's expose one of the worst memes being spread by the oligarchs' propaganda machine. It starts with an "of course" assumption that's an insidiously vile lie.

 == What's old is new ==

Shills on today's U.S. right -- the same folk who brought us "the Fourth Turning" and "Deep State" -- are now throwing roses at the feet of Alexander Dugin, a bona fide monster, sometimes called "Putin's Brain." I do recommend getting to know him! Because  studying this fellow's technique will teach you a lot about the low art of agitprop, including a clever trick; promote an untruth by assuming it as a given. 

Dugin - and his many followers on today's were-right - claim to advance a “fourth political theory” beyond three they say ruled the 20th Century -- liberalism, communism and fascism. All three failed, they assert, hoping you'll nod your head and perk your ears, ready for a fresh alternative. A New Hope.

In fact, their Fourth Way is the same "Decline of the West" bull-puckey pushed for a century by every right-wing pseudosmart jerk from Oswald Spengler to Alan Bloom to David Gelernter to... this Dugin character, who promotes as "new" a style of governance as old as dust. Extolled as "time-tested traditionalism," it dominated 99% of past human cultures, failing every "test" of decency, fairness, or actual outcomes. 

The Fourth political theory is Feudalism. And it never went away, across vast swathes of the globe. Arguably, fascism and communism were variations: self-chosen elites crushing all opposition by force, under the figleaf banner of some religion or ideology.

It is gangsterism by those with money and swords, the theocrats and lords who stole everything from our ancestors while repressing science and fair competition. Only after Adam Smith denounced its horrific record of bad governance, and the American Revolution restarted the Periclean experiment, did we learn how thoroughly loathsome and discredited feudalism is. Our modernist, flat-fair-open system has accomplished more than any other... than all others, combined.

Yet, the urge to re-establish feudalism simmers and roils in the loins of every second rater who inherited daddy's silver spoon.  And they hire gifted svengalis to spin tales to undermine our confidence in flat-fair-open-scientific-rational and pragmatic enlightenment. These would-be oligarchs and lords and theocrats and kings need to be stopped, cold, the way 250 years of our ancestors stopped them. They are enemies of all human hope and any possibility that our grandchildren may inherit the stars.

When I was in Russia last month, I told an audience... "Your parents were wrong about a lot of things... but not about EVERY thing." Marx saw clearly what Adam Smith saw... and Pericles... that human nature propels the powerful and owners and kings and priests and oligarchs to use their advantages to cheat. Marx believed there was no way out but utter class war, that is, after the means of production were completed.

Heck, it may yet come to that. (On his 200th anniversary, Karl Marx is being bought and read more than any time since the 1980s). But Adam Smith saw another possibility: that dynamic competition and freedom and flat-reciprocal accountability might be solutions, less easily corrupted than class war. The radical revolutionaries of 1789, 1917 and 1949 went with the "Marxist" notion, because his incantations provided excuse for them to become the next wave of feudal cheaters! 

The U.S. moderate-progressive revolution tried Smith's approach... and it has worked better than anything since Periclean Athens. Than every other thing. Combined.

“Fourth path? My shiny metal…. Oh, you lying feudalist monsters.

== Drain the "swamp" with professional swamp drainers. ==

There are currently more than 70 federal inspectors general, one serving as ‘watchdog’ in nearly every national agency, though some positions are currently vacant. George Washington’s inspector general, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben is memorialized in a statue in Lafayette Square across from the White House. (See the hilarious Danny Kaye movie “The Inspector General.)

NPR reports: "Perhaps the most important principle for every inspector general is ensuring our independence from the agencies we oversee, so that we can be effective watchdogs over them," Justice Department inspector general Michael Horowitz said. ‘It was Horowitz's office that investigated (former high FBI official) McCabe. He's also been involved in some other high-profile probes at the department, including former FBI Director James Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation and whether or not the Justice Department improperly obtained a warrant to surveil Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Horowitz said he could not comment on any of the ongoing investigations.’  Busy guy.  So is the Inspector General at Scott Pruitt’s EPA.

"Peter Tyler of the Project On Government Oversight argues that the duties of inspectors general are more important than ever, and they "do really good work, but the question is, does anybody listen?"

This article barely scratches the surface. The IG system is a blessing that has vastly more potential for good than is currently utilized. Indeed, the present system is inherently endangered by conflict of interest, with the IG in each agency having to hold accountable the person he or she works for. 

I’ve long proposed a simple solution that could be legislated on just one piece of paper, in a few paragraphs, transferring all departmental Inspectors General and their staffs to serve under a new official, the Inspector General of the United States, or IGUS. With cabinet-level rank and free to attend cabinet meetings, IGUS would nevertheless be independently appointed, serving outside presidential control.

See my writeup on IGUS. If this happened, public trust in government would rise. It’s not the only such measure that’s called for - (I propose others) - but it's possibly the simplest and easiest to implement on a near horizon.  

And see where I incorporated this proposal in THE FACT ACT.

== Selling influence ==

Alas, under the present regime, “swamp” creatures don’t even try to hide the vampirism. For example, interim director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Mick Mulvaney bragged to banking industry executives and lobbyists last month that they should increase their campaign donations to influence lawmakers, revealing that when he was in Congress he would "meet only with lobbyists who contributed to his campaign.”

Our representatives don’t view themselves as our representatives — they view themselves as representing the interests of their funders. And it’s not the first time one of them has let that truth slip out. Republican Rep. Chris Collins of New York, for example, revealed his donors told him to get the tax bill passed “or don’t ever call me again.”

What? You shrug that this is just another daily assault upon the republic... a new normal? Well, don’t get outrage fatigue! Sure, the America has been losing this phase of the recurring American Civil War. But we may be on the cusp of our Gettysburg, this November, when the Confederacy of Dunces gets pushed back by a resurgent Union. 

Instead of shrugging, join groups who can take a little cash and maybe a tad of your time, and multiply it thousands fold. For example, contribute $5 to Lawrence Lessig’s campaign to get money out of politics.

Or pick some "ostrich republican" who suckles fox-rationalizations in order to stay loyal to the madness, but who is basically a good soul. Choose one and cling!  Be tenacious, pulling his or her head out of the sand of denial.  Normal rules of courtesy do not apply, when nation, civilization, humanity and planet hang in the balance.  I - one by one - we peel away just 5 million residually sane American conservatives, the Confederacy will lose this round of our civil war.

Use their own slogan!  The "MAGA" crowd supposedly reveres the "great" time of the 1950s. But our parents in the Greatest Generation would slap every Fox-cultist. The folks who survived the Depression, crushed Hitler, contained communism, went to the moon, ended Jim Crow, built the greatest economy in history... and whose favorite (adored) living person was Franklin... Delano...Roosevelt.

== Can you spell "Itoldyouso"? ==

Find one other pundit who predicted this, in every detail. 

Russia now claims the US missile strike on Syria largely failed — and that they've captured U.S. missile technology.


== The Bald-Faced, Actual Difference in Outcomes ==


Finally someone able to see, and point that to the fact that a stereotype has no clothes.

Get this: Since 1977, the three presidential administrations that have overseen the deficit increases are the three Republican ones. President Trump’s tax cut is virtually assured to make him the fourth of four. And the three administrations that have overseen deficit reductions are the three Democratic ones, including a small decline under Barack Obama. If you want to know whether a post-1976 president increased or reduced the deficit, the only thing you need to know is his party.” - From The Democrats are the Party of Fiscal Responsibility, in the New York Times.

David Leonhardt gets it right without actually using my clear explication that it is the Second Derivative of Debt – the rate of change of the rate of change – that shows the effects of an administration’s policies and the attitude of the party.  The popularized version is “gas pedal? Or brake?”

Republicans always hammer down on the former, democrats on the latter.  That’s always.  I mean always.  I mean abso-freaking-lutely every single time and always, always, always and always.
  

204 comments:

1 – 200 of 204   Newer›   Newest»
raito said...

I don't need to study Dugin to learn the technique of assuming lies as a given. I live in the state of Tailgunner Joe and his lawyer who was an influence on Trump.

Slim Moldie said...

Not trying to hi-jack any discussions here. Just thought some of you might find this Seth Abramson posting about post-modernism and post-post-modernism relevant.

https://twitter.com/SethAbramson/status/997980968886644736

Old Rockin' Dave said...

FDR did not deserve all the reverence of my parent's generation. His tepid too-little-too-late response to the Holocaust was no accident or intractable political problem.
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/260862/m-project-franklin-delano-roosevelt-jews
He was preoccupied with having white supremacist authors figure out how to spread the Jews and other"undesirables" thinly over swathes of uninhabited territory outside the US - and keep them there.
I have no doubt that if he had prioritized saving the lives of Nazi victims that no opposition from the Army, State, or Republicans in Congress could have stopped him.
Yes, he did great things for Americans, but he did terrible things for America.

Russell Osterlund said...

Saturday was a nice change - not seeing Unobama's name or Russia or scandal scrawled all over websites and news programs (one could even forget about the latest massacre in our schools for a while). Even the commentary on how different the wedding was and how it could create change was less rancorous than the normal screeching. It was nice to see some positive, happy news can still happen in the world.

Alan Light said...

You misrepresent the American Revolution. The men who led the American Revolution were not commoners. They were the wealthiest men in America, many of whom were honest-to-God aristocrats. Their innovation was not to level everything, but to establish a system in which the most productive individuals could peacefully rise to the top and do the most good for their people. Many of these, they knew, would be from aristocratic families - but they opened up possibilities for people from all backgrounds, and removed the artificial supports that propped up those who happened to be of aristocratic parentage but who did not contribute much of anything to society. The American Revolution worked because it was NOT radical. It was conservative. They fought the war because they wanted to maintain the traditional rights of Englishmen, when the monarchy wished to treat them - actual British aristocrats transplanted in America - as second class citizens undeserving of self-government.

You have, instead, fallen victim to the Puritans who came along later and, after embarrassing themselves by their treasonous actions in the War of 1812, rewrote history to make themselves the heroes of the Revolution, even as they did their best to destroy everything it accomplished, even when they fought a war to destroy the principle of government with the consent of the governed.

The Puritans managed to mislead generations of immigrants whose forefathers were not actually here for the Revolution, but there are still some of us whose ancestors took part in the American Revolution, and still uphold its principles. Life. Liberty. Property. Equality before the law.

Mel Baker said...

This is an interesting argument that the 9.9% below the .1% are in fact the new aristocracy. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/the-birth-of-a-new-american-aristocracy/559130/

Dwight Williams said...

Well, there's a bit of pushback against sanity in politics. Looks like several attempts to hijack the discussion away from where you'd prefer it to go, Doctor.

As to the subject of grazhdanin Dugin: I believe to some extent that you're right. He's a feudalism-pusher. And I also suspect that he wants to engineer the next Holocaust without actually being in a position of official authority in any nation's government, because holding any elected or appointed office at all might merit the attention of whatever authorities might survive to bring him to justice once he fails.

Maybe I'm committing to the wrong sort of paranoia here, but he's said enough in several places that caught my attention and made me wonder about him.

donzelion said...

Treebeard: from the former thread...which is relevant to today's post in part because California is exactly a model for how to limit the power of feudalism.

"LOL @ donzelion’s child-like California-worship."
Thank you for the unintended compliment. I mentioned we out-Bible the Bible Belt, and thus, I can quote happily, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

"Isn’t it funny how religious concepts never leave the minds of people raised in a religion, they just take new forms?"
Indeed: and that's a California way as well - take the old, re-present it. We built cathedrals of glass where nudity was denounced, while also building temples of porn, as well as Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and a hundred other faiths, and quite a few brand new ones also born or nourished here.

"BTW, we get a lot of refugees from California up here in WA state"
For retirees who amassed housing fortunes here and need to resize for their twilight: rest well! For those relocating for work, work hard, and give to others as well as you gave to us!

For the haters, turn on your Rush Limbaugh (a voice you've only heard because he was discovered in California) - or go tell it to the trees (which, if they're older than 100 years, were probably saved by California-style conservation efforts a la John Muir) - or go join your local White Aryan Resistance or successor militia (Californian originals as well, which we mostly have tried to deport). Or browse some website and whine about how horrible we are using the tools and platforms we gave you.

Utopia? My claim is that we err, we acknowledge, we repair. I never claimed that we are perfect.

"Some of them talk as if they left Mordor."
They may, and if they do, they largely perceive 'Mordor' through lenses we designed, and perhaps shipped, to New Zealand, or if not the lenses, then the processes that financed the use of those lenses and the display and release of the imagery.

My deepest roots are in WA, mostly east of the Cascades, and my family history goes back almost to the Yakama uprising. In WA, some wrongs get righted...slowly. But feudalism lurks: you'll find old guards defending turf, fighting to extract rent and preserve crumbling estates in every corner. Look to Monte Cristo, now that it's reopened and see their great works - the dilapidated brothels and choked mining towns where the first Trump fortune was built - a ghost town polluted beyond habitation for decades. That is all the feudal lords have ever offered you.

Ken Fabian said...

I'm not familiar with US style Inspector Generals but I have long thought that independent institutions like courts, that attempt to make their judgements according to assessments of evidence are far more fundamental to a well functioning society than where a government sits on a TotalitarianCommunist/FreemarketCapitalist spectrum.

Governments can engage in activities that elsewhere would be considered commercial enterprises without the sky falling, but wherever courts put money or allegiances ahead of evidence based and just decisions, nations are going to have unresolvable problems. When wealth is a licence not only to cheat but to stack governments and courts to support and enshrine that cheating in legislation and legal precedent nations will have unresolvable problems. Immunity from accountability as an acceptable benefit of wealth, whether it's soft corruption or hard corruption or just negligence, has enduring consequences.

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | No insomnia. If you see me posting near 1 AM, I'm just winding down from whatever problem I was working. If I'm doing physics, I can't transition from that to sleep in less than 30 minutes. It often takes almost an hour, so I start that process by thinking about other stuff. Usually that means wanting to talk to people, but everyone around my house is asleep, so I turn my full attention here for a while. 8)

It is possible that “Rule of Law” isn't translating well. I don't know the equivalent Spanish term to use, but it only partially has anything to do with actual laws. Donzelion could probably describe it best, but from my perspective, the relevant part is the custom we follow in avoiding arbitrary decisions that can alter the course of someone's life. If a generalized rule is on the books and it is written to apply to all of us, it is part of that custom because we can follow it (or not) and know in advance what the consequences of our actions might be. Think about a rule prohibiting littering on the highways. They are pretty clear in their intent and apply to everyone. If you are thinking about doing it, you can predict reasonably well what will happen if you get caught. The opinions a judge might have about your parentage don't matter. The cop handing you the ticket has a job to do enforcing the rule and there is little question about it. In a culture with a Rule of Law custom, the whims of enforcers are intentionally mitigated regarding the impact they might have upon enforcees.

During our Prohibition era, one of the biggest forms of damage done occurred when local police took money to NOT enforce the law. One could argue about whether the laws were good or not, but the corruption undermined the custom which undermined social confidence in the non-arbitrariness of the LE institution. It's a REALLY big deal when society loses confidence in law enforcement officers. We can and do argue about alcohol today, but the real damage done from that social experiment goes far deeper than what alcohol can do to a person.

Do you mean that if immigrants get upset about...

What I'm trying to point out is that the immigrants who get upset would probably find allies among non-immigrants IF they are willing to try remedies that respect the Rule of Law first. It might not be obvious to newcomers, but many of us who've been here all our lives get quite upset about police abuses. Join us. Make it our cause too, and you'll have allies you didn't realize would help.

[I could relate a story from a few years ago that happened in Fullerton, but I still get too upset about it. The guy beaten to death was too much like my son, so I can too easily imagine it being more personal. All the people involved in that event, no matter what side they take, might be surprised at how many others would choose to get legally involved if asked. What happened that day should not happen again.]

You say Wallace was not really violent?

What I'm saying is the Wallace portrayed in the movie is not representative of the historical Wallace. Be wary of historical accuracy in anything produced in Hollywood, but be doubly wary when Mel Gibson is involved.

donzelion said...

Old Rockin' Dave: You might refer to this piece in The Nation - https://www.thenation.com/article/fdr-and-holocaust/ - a more thoroughgoing analysis, with more history, including statements made by those who denounced Roosevelt's policy in his own day and took a valiant stand even against their most ardent allies in other contexts.

More accurately, if one believes polls, there was intense public pressure from the American people to close the doors, rather than to rescue European Jews. http://news.gallup.com/opinion/polling-matters/186716/historical-review-americans-views-refugees-coming.aspx

In terms of the article you link to, note one of its closing observations: "Very few people outside the team that produced the reports were allowed to see them and they had no discernible impact on policy decisions." Against that, you have the actions by Eleanor Roosevelt (who probably had more influence over the president than this minor research project), his public speeches (see Robert Rosen, Richard Breitman & Allan Lichtman), his nominations to the Supreme Court of prominent Jewish jurists, efforts in North Africa to break the German advance through Egypt (which would surely have led to Palestine)...and proof that yes, he also spoke to eugenicists and anti-Semites (but never actually used their work product in any of his many policy initiatives).

"His tepid too-little-too-late response to the Holocaust was no accident or intractable political problem."
It was too little, too late. More could have been done, should have been done. In Clinton, we had a president who actually tried that once (in Yugoslavia, after many years of threatening to do so), and a Secretary of State who tried it as well (in Libya) - things did not work out so well for either, and their efforts were judged 'failures' by a harsh media - even if few Americans died (whereas interventions were deemed triumphs even if thousands of us died or were maimed to bring down other evil doers).

Anonymous said...

Could someone explain to me what Dr. Brin means when he says

It’s Congress – Republican for all but two of the last 23 years

?

Anonymous said...

Doctor David Brin:
“the Inspector General of the United States, or IGUS. With cabinet-level rank and free to attend cabinet meetings, IGUS would nevertheless be independently appointed, serving outside presidential control”
Yes! That is an appropriate solution!
When we observe how Donald Trump has dismantled the entire American system quickly, we realize that a president should never have the power to remove a public official from his position and that the main public officials (Directors, etc.) In some way , they must be chosen directly by the people, something that the new technologies of total communication could make an easy and efficient procedure (as long as said system is not hacked, like the vote counting machines of the republican states)

Winter7

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Refugees from California show up in Washington? Really? 8)

In a geopolitical sense, it's MUCH more than that. We are currently the 5th largest economy (if we were treated as independent) recently surpassing the UK. Our GDP was around $2.7 trillion last year. If not for recent exchange rate fluctuations, we might be ranked sixth behind the UK, but the exact position doesn't really matter. A TIE with the UK is frickin' huge.

That production has to go somewhere, so it is no surprise that we show up in Oregon and Washington. Dismantle the silly wall along our southern border and we would flow in that direction too. It is in OUR interests to have goods, services, money, and labor flowing in and out of here, so we do.

Check with residents of Nevada and Arizona and they will tell a similar story about us.

[I came here in '83 to go to school, married a woman who grew up here, and decided not to leave. Thought about it exactly twice and decided against it each time.]

Alfred Differ said...

I argue we've been governed by three Roosevelts.
Each one of them different in their way.
Each one of them dangerous in their way.
Each one an interesting combination of talents and flaws.

The US wouldn't be the nation it is today without them.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "Dismantle the silly wall along our southern border and we would flow in that direction too."

We already do, but when we do, it flows BOTH ways, enriching each of us, by and large. UC Davis invests in new fruit species - Mexicans grow it there - take water from here - move it down there - bring it back to stock CostCo shelves - which in turn fuel restaurants and businesses, which in turn fuel workers experimenting anew with new possibilities.

"Thought about it exactly twice and decided against it each time."
The only times I left (Boston/NYC, and my extended sojourn in the Middle East), I explored precisely what the feudal aristocracy has to offer - and there are some impressive offerings there! I may leave again when I retire, but if I do, I'll know how wonderful the thing is that I leave behind.

MiGrant said...

Somewhat tangential, but I think you're being a little unfair to William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of _The Fourth Turning_ and other books about their theory of generational cycles, which is not inherently reactionary even if it has been embraced by the odious Steve Bannon. They arguably did a pretty good job of predicting where we are now.

donzelion said...

Anonymous: "It’s Congress – Republican for all but two of the last 23 years"

The 'Republican revolution' occurred in 1994, with them taking a majority in the House that they held for every period except 2008-2010, iirc. They've held the majority in the Senate for most of that period as well. America enjoyed two bubbles, lots of new billionaires, and generally falling wages and tighter constraints on the middle class during the whole period (except for a slight hiccup in the late '90s).

Most Republicans today still pretend to be 'outsiders' opposed to the Washington way - a fiction that would be ironic (since they've been the establishment for longer than there's been an establishment) - but for the ugly consequences. And yet we push on, building new things despite them and their kleptocratic ways.

Tim H. said...

https://lithub.com/rebecca-solnit-the-coup-has-already-happened/
Perhaps shrill, but yes.

Anonymous said...

@donzelion

Why is the 07-08 house not considered democratic majority? They had 233 seats to 202. 110th & 111th were both D houses.

Also, if you consider the senate, there are 4 years of split control, with the 4 years of D control.

donzelion said...

Anonymous: I stand corrected; yes indeed. The 111th though was the only time they had two houses and the presidency; a majority in the house and senate before Obama took office was inadequate to actually legislate against the president's will. Hence the 'all but 2 years' claim, though of course there were stretches where the Republicans did not have majorities sufficient to legislate anything, since their primary agenda was to prevent legislation and perpetuate negative status quo, that agenda was still mostly fulfilled.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | it flows BOTH ways

Much healthier that way and I largely agree, but....
I want the most concentrated economic asset flowing in both directions.

[People and the human capital they carry within them]

Anonymous said...

@donzelion
So is the reference here just wrong?
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2018/05/the-velocity-of-money-and-revolution.html

Chris Heinz said...

David,

So many great points in this post. I repost your stuff sometime, to Twitter => Facebook. But, often, it is TL;DR - I don't think people read it. You have such great ideas, but I think they could find more traction if you could shorten them by 1/3 - 1/2 in the word count.

I am a great fan and have read all the sci-fi you have written, I think only the Uplift novels multiple times. Please keep on keepin' on, fighting the feudalists.

Chris

Jon S. said...

There was some annoyance about "California refugees" here in Washington - back in the late '70s. It's not so much a thing any more. (Now the annoyance is at all those people who are insisting on getting hired to work in Seattle, because the city is geographically constrained - Puget Sound to the west, the mountains to the east, and existing cities north and south - so the newcomers are having to buy houses further and further away from Da City; Puyallup is now a "bedroom community" for Up North, and housing prices are skyrocketing in the South Hill area. Something similar is happening in the Bremerton area, and placing stresses on the ferry system.)

The biggest issue about "California values" here today seem to stem from a fellow named Eyman, who's made a profession out of putting initiatives on the ballot, win or lose, and who seems determined to scrap all traces of mass transit and blanket the Seattle-Tacoma metroplex with concrete a la Orange County, CA. (The I-405/Hwy 167 interchange in Renton already bears a resemblance to the Orange Crush, at least as far as traffic backups are concerned...) He also wants to eliminate taxes as far as possible, at least on his own stuff (weird how he only became concerned about the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax when he got a new Mercedes SUV in 1998), which means cutting all other services in order to fund highway and freeway expansions.

Howard Brazee said...

As more and more labor gets automated, it seems to me that the most likely result is a form of feudalism dominates. Labor won't have power. Our feudal bosses will make sure we are dependent upon them and rule us.

LarryHart said...

Anonymous (who might want to pick a name) :

Could someone explain to me what Dr. Brin means when he says

It’s Congress – Republican for all but two of the last 23 years
...
Why is the 07-08 house not considered democratic majority? They had 233 seats to 202. 110th & 111th were both D houses.

Also, if you consider the senate, there are 4 years of split control, with the 4 years of D control.


Dr Brin will have to answer for himself, but I have some guesses.

1) He meant 4 years

2) He's only thinking of 2009-2010 because those were the only two years with a Dem congress and Dem president. W. discovered his veto pen in his final two years.

3) He's only thinking of 2007-2008 because as soon as President Obama was elected, Mitch McConnell adopted the strategy of filibustering absolutely everything, which meant the congress was constrained by the Republican minority despite its being a minority.

Is the point any less valid with "4 of the last 23 years"? And in the intervening years of split control, that meant that the obstructionist Republicans generally got their way. Ask Justice Merrick Garland about that.

donzelion said...

Howard Brazee: "As more and more labor gets automated, it seems to me that the most likely result is a form of feudalism dominates."

Actually, the opposite is more likely. Think like a feudal lord: technically, when sharecropping/slave/serf labor was essential, and had the greatest theoretical power vis-a-vis owners, feudalism itself was steonger, rather than weaker. As industrialist took off, feudal power weakened immensely even as laborers grew more 'interchangeable.'

Neither automation nor globalization, at least by themselves, will strengthen feudalism. What feudalists need is an absence of rules, a framework in which their power is the only meaningful rule. They oppose competition and are neutral toward production: the goal is to feed from the best position on the trough and limit others from getting privileged positions. They don't need to care about customers, products, or services: just guarding that position and zealously ensuring a flow of benefits - a feat often more easily achieved by sabotaging rivals than by enhancing one's own holdings.

donzelion said...

Jon S: Ah, the Orange Crush...this is now my home in SoCal, right near the middle of the worst of it.

There's a sort of an open secret about how it was built: CalTrans, with a limited budget, couldn't acquire the plots to make an ideal system, and was forced to improvise to complete the routes (the residents of South Pasadena proved how easily the wealthy can block a freeway expansion quite a while ago).

The owners who blocked that system were also developing plots in Corona, Anaheim Hills, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Juan Capistrano, and Irvine - and had an alternate system in mind: private toll roads. For them, the WORSE the Orange Crush became, the better their investments in toll roads (in several cases, they extracted rules that any expansion of the public system that reduced the profits of the toll roads would be reimbursed to the toll road owners - a compromise that 'worked' because the freeways were just so bad that any solution was better than keeping the status quo in place).

Nowadays, the 57/60 interchange is the WORST route in California (by a significant margin), and recognized as the #5 worst in the country (in terms of safety, traffic conditions, etc.): it's the first major item scheduled to be fixed as a result of the gas tax. And the developer/owners are repaying the state senator (Josh Newman) who made this happen with a recall vote to bring him down in 2 weeks: he directly threatens their profits, and they've gone all out to guard them.

The effort to scrap mass transit is a similar vein: once a transit route is known, land values near hubs skyrocket, making 'low density housing' difficult to ensure. Developers tend to strongly prefer high value/low density housing: steady profits on sales, minimal risk of low credit buyers, strip mall additions are easily planned, and most important, you don't need a lot of schools. That's also their complaint about immigrants: two families of 4 sharing one 4 bedroom $500k house will completely screw up the entire calculation and raise school costs immensely (and worse, if they aren't native English speakers, may bring down test scores). And thus, Orange County's Republican feudalists despise 'illegal immigrants'...as they have for decades.

LarryHart said...

A bit off topic, but an issue oft discussed here:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/May21.html#item-7

...
Gun control is not the only issue where the GOP appears to be ignoring younger voters, and doing whatever it can to keep the older folks happy. There's also climate change. Broadly speaking, most younger Americans are worried that by the time they reach retirement age, the planet will be wrecked and Las Vegas will be oceanfront property. Many older folks are doing the ostrich routine and trying to deny that there's a problem. For years, climate-deniers—a faction that the GOP has an even greater monopoly on than gun zealots—have insisted that there is no warming. That fiction is getting harder to maintain; just this month the planet had its 400th consecutive month of warmer-than-average temperatures. That's a staggering 33 straight years; the odds of that happening by random chance are 3.87259 X 10E121. To put that large a number in some sort of context, 2E64 grains of rice would be enough to bury New York City to a depth of 20 feet, and 10E121 is considerably more than 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 times larger than 2E64. To put it another way, there's no way that 400 straight months could possibly be random chance.

Anyhow, now that global warming is all-but-undeniable, Republican partisans have moved on to excusing the phenomenon's effects as beyond the control of man. Sunspot activity is one popular explanation, another is "Earth's natural cycles." Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) proposed an interesting one this week: That ocean levels are rising because of all the rocks falling into them, particularly from the Cliffs of Dover. The Cliffs are 15 km and the coastline of the UK alone is 12,429 km, so that math doesn't quite add up. Of course, Brooks also insisted this week that the size of the Antarctic ice shelf is currently growing. That is 100% correct, if by "growing" you mean "shrinking." Clearly, facts are not Brooks' strong suit. And not only is he a duly-elected member of Congress, he's Vice-Chair of the Committee on Space, Science, and Technology.
...

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

The effort to scrap mass transit [in Los Angeles and Orange County] is a similar vein...


The plot of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is surprisingly accurate. My California relatives confirmed at the time that the Red Line had indeed existed, and the bit about "Who needs a car in LA? We have the best public transportation system in the world," was not the joke it seemed to be, but an accurate representation of 1948 LA.

Judge Doom's plan, while exaggerated for cartoonish effect, seems also accurate--buying the Red Car in order to dismantle it, while investing in freeways and associated services provided at the off-ramps, "...and automobile dealerships as far as the eye can see! My God, it will be beautiful."

Howard Brazee said...

Automation means labor becomes less valuable to owners. Some kind of hierarchy of power will be there - but it won't be in favor of workers.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

The "MAGA" crowd supposedly reveres the "great" time of the 1950s...


That's actually overly generous. Many of the confederates seem to prefer the 1850s, while the evangelicals seem to look fondly back upon the 1650s.

Howard Brazee said...

It is obvious that from the beginning of time, God's values are those values that I kind of have. Obviously not my grandparents' values, and tragically not my grandchildren's values.

Anonymous said...

What was the name of that Inspector General Obama fired in 2009 because he didn't like what he was reporting? Hey, maybe IGs are not blessings after all.

Anonymous said...

@LarryHart

>> 1) He meant 4 years

You mean he meant 8 years? He did not say 'Democrat controlled for only 2 years', he said 'Republican for all but 2'. It actually should have been 'Republican for all but 8 of the last 23 years'


>> 2) He's only thinking of 2009-2010 because those were the only two years with a Dem congress and Dem president. W. discovered his veto pen in his final two years.

Again he was talking about republican control, not democrat control. In the last 23 years, a republican controlled congress has been under democratic president quite often, yet they were not excluded from the 23 years?


>> Is the point any less valid with "4 of the last 23 years"? And in the intervening years of split control, that meant that the obstructionist Republicans generally got their way. Ask Justice Merrick Garland about that.

Well, it would be '8 of the last 23', but no the point is not less valid. However lets not forget our respect of FACTS. A still valid point with correct facts is better than the non factual version.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "The plot of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" is surprisingly accurate."
Perhaps so, provided one remembers that instead of one evil overlord conspiring, the outcome was the result of a huge number of petty barons.

Remember, LA was but one strong city within a county chock full of other 'less strong but still very potent' cities - each established by a handful of developers who recognized that they could best ensure their positions of wealth through low density housing structures. They created their own local city councils, used them to block threats to their preferred development plans (zoning, etc.). Setting the playing field this way, the petty barons obtained rights of way outside of cities cheaply, defended them zealously, choking off transit (largely by raising maintenance costs to exorbitant levels).

It's an adaptive model of feudalism, far more than the typical path toward wealth in other cities (take over a tenement, become a slum lord, eventually redevelop into hotels).

(1) Freeway bonds, esp. after WW2, enabled communities in separate cities to pool resources and override owner vetos (for a time). Owners struck back though: fast food outlets (another SoCal invention) were an excellent means to increase the value of otherwise unusable parcels of land that might otherwise be converted to serve public transit.

(2) Public colleges, esp. the three-tier system using community colleges, Cal-State universities, and the UC system. These + freeways resulted in a much more 'campus-based' economic structure than is typical elsewhere in America. All those campuses had interests in transit to serve them, and countered feudal efforts to dominate transit.

(3) Immigration, both from other states and from out of state, but a very specific kind of immigrant: whole-family movements, rather than individual movements. In older cities, single immigrants came for work, and if they worked hard, paid their rent, and got promoted, they earned a basic means to start families. Here, most lower class workers needed an extended family unit even to start out - a dual income stream to afford even a modest house - so very often, an aunt/grandparent cared for children to enable wage earners to tolerate the freeway commute.

To reiterate my basic point: in California, we err as often as anyone else, but we acknowledge errors, and often correct them. The freeways were one tool in that effort, as are new rail lines currently going up. But we're a work in progress, as with every community.

Tom Metzger said...

Thanks for the honorable mention or was it dishonorable Its hard to tell anymore. I do read everything. Tom Metzger White Aryan Resistance now Lone Wolf Radio resist.com

LarryHart said...

Anonymous:

Again he was talking about republican control, not democrat control. In the last 23 years, a republican controlled congress has been under democratic president quite often, yet they were not excluded from the 23 years?


It depends what the meaning of "control" is (and yes, the Clinton reference is deliberate).
:)

Again, I can't speak for Dr Brin, and I don't know why he said "two years", but I'll clarify why I think "four years" is accurate and "two years" could be justified.

Democrats want government to work, and Republicans want it to fail. Therefore, the veto pen, a majority in one house of Congress, or the ability to filibuster everything in the Senate is a kind of control for Republicans. It's like The Joker once said when he polluted the Gotham reservoir, "If you make something unusable, it's just as good as stealing it." If Republicans can make legislation unusable, that's as good as control for their purposes.

The same does not hold for Democrats, who actually want to pass and enact legislation. The fight is asymmetrical.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

(3) Immigration, both from other states and from out of state, but a very specific kind of immigrant: whole-family movements, rather than individual movements.


Since you seem to know these things, how accurate is the portrayal of the migrants and the reaction of California authorities in The Grapes of Wrath?

I read the book my senior year in high school (gulp!--1978) and then re-read it just a few years back. The later time I was much more knowledgeable about what to look for, especially in the descriptive chapters which don't focus on the protagonists, but kind of set the overall scene. Some specifics I picked up on the second time:

1) Displaced Okies didn't just decide on their own to head for the coast. California businesses advertised for migrants as a way to lure hundreds of thousands to fill jobs, thus driving down wage pressure.

2) California wanted low-wage workers, but did not want them settling in as Californians in their own right. At least in certain areas of the state, they were moved along in a manner resembling the way homeless people are steered to Skid Row. (Likewise, Arizona tolerated migrants passing through, but made sure they passed all the way through without settling in their state.)

3) The book presents the positions of the authorities in the 30s almost diametrically opposed to what we think of today, with California authorities being blatantly hard on migrants and US federal authorities offering a modicum of relief.

4) The most memorable passage which I missed the first time was actually a footnote, which explained that Californians, having acquired the territory from Mexico by force of will (because they "wanted it more") were all too sensitive to the notion that the migrants might do unto them as well, and fiercely guarded against such an occurrence.

donzelion said...

LarryHart (and Mr. Anonymous): "Well, it would be '8 of the last 23', but no the point is not less valid. However lets not forget our respect of FACTS. A still valid point with correct facts is better than the non factual version."

I stand by the claim of "all but 2 years" - for reasons I've stated, as well as LarryHart, and also for reasons of how the public perceives the candidates it nominates. Republicans habitually run as 'outsiders' promising to 'upset the Washington order' (or drain the swamp, or take a chainsaw to red tape, etc.): this illusion of being perennial 'outsiders' - while generally being at the beck and call of insiders - is a crucial, valuable asset they deploy in races nationally to take and retain power.

The facts here include, (1) the public tends not to know or be aware of how power is wielded, but (2) the public tends to blame abuses on incumbents they do not know, and believe local incumbents who claim to be fighting 'the system' for their benefit. Problems get blamed on those 'others' - either the minority party (for the last 24 years, typically the Dems), or 'out-of-touch Washington bureaucrats' (largely, public sector employees - the long serving ones are disproportionately Dems, with shorter tenure common among Reps in the public sector, who move in and out of the private sector).

For all but 2 of those years, the Republicans controlled enough government to set the agenda and block any competing agenda: they either 'were' the establishment, or dictated terms for its operation.

Anonymous said...

@LarryHart @donzelion

Plenty of fine points about how government works, and the tools of obstruction. However the amount of spin used to justify the '2 years' claim in ridiculous, and is more typical of the lies and hyperbole coming from the current white house; which is more willing to defend a previously claimed falsehood to the death, than admit it false. When the white house does it, they begin to lose credibility for anything else they may claim. What do you think happens when we do it?

For example, almost no justification is needed for claiming that a democratic congress is hamstrung by a veto pen, yet no consideration is given for the same situation with a republican congress? Question: Out of Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama, who has successfully vetoed the most, and who the least?

LarryHart said...

Anonymous (and I really wish you'd pick a name) :

However the amount of spin used to justify the '2 years' claim in ridiculous,


I will certainly grant you that I'd have said "four", meaning 2007-2010.

I think I'm on stronger ground arguing that once the Republicans had one house of congress (2011-forward), they wielded a form of control that is not symmetrical. Between the House and the Senate filibuster, the Republicans effectively controlled the legislative agenda. True, they couldn't pass whatever they wanted, but they could impede whatever they wanted, and for them, that was sufficient.


Question: Out of Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama, who has successfully vetoed the most, and who the least?


I don't know, but I'm not sure that's a fair measure. I'm thinking that the "winner" would be Obama for vetoing 60 attempts to repeal Obamacare, but what does that tell us differently from if he only had one chance to do so?

LarryHart said...

Anonymous:

When the white house does it, they begin to lose credibility for anything else they may claim. What do you think happens when we do it?


Point taken.

Instead of "Republican controlled", I'd have said "Congress – where Republicans had their way for all but four of the last 23 years".

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Since you seem to know these things, how accurate is the portrayal of the migrants and the reaction of California authorities in The Grapes of Wrath?"

Steinbeck's journalistic background exposed him to a vast swathe of players: he was reasonably accurate. Add in Upton Sinclair to get the big picture: he studied eastern-styled feudal operations, then came to California to prevent them from coming into existence. Magnify that across most of the immigrants who came here: some were semi-literate, others remarkably insightful - but all were conversant with the tricks used to dispossess them, and looked at similar arrangements here with suspicion.

"a footnote, which explained that Californians, having acquired the territory from Mexico by force of will (because they "wanted it more") were all too sensitive to the notion that the migrants might do unto them as well"
California's feudal lords were no more sensitive than feudal lords elsewhere: every feudal lord is driven to guard his position and uses similar tools to do so. The difference was that the folks who'd been ousted from their homes back East already knew how those tools worked. They countered gambits that had worked so well for America's feudalists elsewhere, but didn't work so well here because they hadn't built up sufficient means.

California authorities were serial abusers of natives (esp. Latino and what remained of the Native tribes), Chinese, Latinos, Japanese, African-Americans, and Okies each in turn - the same efforts used to rein in minorities effectively in other cities were tried here too. But each immigrant community understood in some way how to grab a piece of the power - destabilizing systems before racism put down the same sort of extensive, mutually reinforcing poisoned roots. We err, but we repair: we're no better than anyone else, but we do tend to remove those who profit from error rather than rewarding them.

American oligarchs had to evolve in order to replicate oligarchic patterns from the old world in America; California's own would-be feudal lords were compelled to evolve still further. Yet it turns out, immigrants can evolve even faster - they are ingeniously resilient, and remarkably sensitive to efforts to put them and keep them in their place. And now, their place is pretty much wherever they want it to be: even Beverly Hills cannot kick out 'undesirable' Okies (or Arab royals) quite as easily as Long Island could.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

California's feudal lords were no more sensitive than feudal lords elsewhere: every feudal lord is driven to guard his position and uses similar tools to do so.


I think what they book was saying (whether true or not) was that California's feudal lords had overthrown the Mexican feudal lords within recent enough memory to understand that the migrants were capable of doing the same thing to them if they weren't careful to prevent it.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | A case could be made for California’s feudal lords being the children of those who were there when Americans flooded into California and took it from Mexico. I don’t know that it counts as ‘recent enough’ memory, but maybe it does.

In a more modern sense, though, lots of us pay attention to this. I was at an event in LA a few years ago that celebrated some aspects of the Latino culture. I noted that MANY of the people there had those California Republic logos on their t-shirts. It was a big deal. THAT is what got me thinking about a reverse invasion. Heh.

The reality here is more subtle, though. In the political sense, we are part of the USA. In the cultural sense we are a borderland that stretches all the way to Texas. Mexico may have lost the territory, but national identities are really about what the people on the ground think and not what a few officials in the capitals think. Much of California is both USian and Mexican. I’d favor recognizing that reality here by recognizing dual citizenship and their right to vote back home as if our counties still belonged to Mexico.

locumranch said...


David asserts that promoting an untruth by assuming it as a given is "a clever trick" while using this very same technique to falsely imply that the Progressive West is somehow 'anti-feudalist', even though the West still lives under de facto Feudalism.

feu·dal·ism (fyo͞od′l-ĭz′əm) n.
1. A political and economic system of Europe from the 9th to about the 15th century, based on the holding of all land in fief or fee and the resulting relation of lord to vassal and characterized by homage, legal and military service of tenants, and forfeiture.
2. A political, economic, or social order resembling this medieval system.

Of course, we PRETEND that our privately-owned property is not in fief or fee, much in the same way we pretend that we aren't 'tenants' who owe the state 'homage, legal and military service', even though damn near every thing we own (including our labour & our selves) remains subject to taxation, forfeiture, military compulsion & service.

And, although the landed aristocracy is a thing of the past, we are still compelled to give homage & obedience to unelected deep-state bureaucrats who owe their sinecures to self-selection bias, rampant credentialism, financial chicanery & political connections indistinguishable from blooded nepotism.

The 'Fact Act' amounts to little more than a naked power grab by a 'new' fact-using aristocracy who believe themselves SUPERIOR to the common man on the basis of in-group credentialism of their own determination with the proposed IGUS standing in as their private goon squad, secret police & political enforcers.

We won't be fooled again.


Best

Jon S. said...

The mention was honorable, Metzger - it's you that is dishonorable. Well, and your "organization", if I might use the term so loosely.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "I noted that MANY of the people there had those California Republic logos on their t-shirts. It was a big deal. THAT is what got me thinking about a reverse invasion. Heh."

Perhaps you mean 're-invasion' rather than 'reverse invasion'? ;-) After all, the majority of California was still Latino for decades after the days of the California Republic (esp. the majority of the landholders). [And now my invocation of Israeli imagery earlier takes a slightly different nuance...] We actually had some big challenges with the census, distinguishing Americans, Mexicans, 'Indians not taxed,' and 'others.'

LarryHart: Perhaps Steinbeck and I disagree as to the sensitivity of feudal lords: he interviewed few of them, and it could be that he never served any of them, so he speculated as to unique perspectives and motives for them which I don't find particularly exceptional. In general, whether your family held a fiefdom for five days or five centuries, you know it can be lost in minutes by any number of factors: any lord in such a position will use any means necessary to retain the fief.

I stand by my suggestion to consider Upton Sinclair alongside Steinbeck to understand 1930s California - and along with his 'fiction,' the history of his gubernatorial race. Most people were not aware of how conservative Hollywood actually was, how the Republican dynasties in CA operated. Most people (even Californians) overlook the rise of California's Earl Warren, our 'other most successful governor,' who rode to power as a nativist reactionary through land confiscations - and then somehow morphed into a Supreme Court judge moving behind the scenes to set up Brown, Gideon, Miranda, etc.

Duncan Cairncross said...

From the outside it seems to me that the only time that the Democrats have had control in the last twenty odd years were the period when they had Congress - 2006 - 2010 and also had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate
Which should have been 2008 - 2010
But was actually only about six months because of the hoo haa getting one senator seated and then having another die

So the Dems have had "Control" for about 6 months in the last 23 years

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

And, although the landed aristocracy is a thing of the past, we are still compelled to give homage & obedience to unelected deep-state bureaucrats...


No we don't. At least, no more than you "pay thousands of dollars every year to the cashier at the local Food Mart." What you Trumpists call the "deep state" are functionaries who carry out the mechanisms of government for a meager salary. They don't get rich off of the treasury, nor do they personally command homage. If you must obey them, it is in their capacity of agent of the law, and it is the law you are compelled to obey, not them personally.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Most people were not aware of how conservative Hollywood actually was, how the Republican dynasties in CA operated.


A while back, I found a website which showed the electoral vote counts for past US presidential elections. One fascinating take-away was that for pretty much the entire 20th century as a whole, California gave is electoral votes to Republican candidates more than Democratic ones. So did Illinois, for that matter. Both are perceived as solidly-blue states now, but that's a recent phenomenon.

Even more, going back to (I think it was) 1912, the two states were in synch (either both voting Republican or both voting Democratic) in every election except one: 1960. That one was the exception that proves the rule--Richard Nixon being a native son from California and Illinois famously in the tank for JFK.

People seem to forget that both Nixon and Reagan came out of California. And in the movie "Seven Days In May", the senator who was working with the right-wing conspiracy was from California, and that seemed like plausible characterization at the time.

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

From the outside it seems to me that the only time that the Democrats have had control in the last twenty odd years were the period when they had Congress - 2006 - 2010 and also had a filibuster proof majority in the Senate
Which should have been 2008 - 2010
But was actually only about six months because of the hoo haa getting one senator seated and then having another die

So the Dems have had "Control" for about 6 months in the last 23 years


I agree whole-heartedly. But our Anonymous poster is correct that Dr Brin didn't refer to "Democratic control", but "Republicans control". I see the point that they didn't meet that definition during some years of divided government. (I think they did in practice, but I see the argument on the other side).

Also remember that even during the five months or so when there were 60 Democratic Senators, they weren't all guaranteed to vote in lockstep the way 41 Republicans were. Joe Lieberman voted against his own bill providing Medicare For All. Ben Nelson of Nebraska kept holding bills hostage for bribes. Joe Manchin? I don't remember who all of the problem Democrats were, but there were several.

Tom Metzger said...

Have a nice day.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "People seem to forget that both Nixon and Reagan came out of California."

They sure do. Folks forget that what Nixon actually achieved during his presidency: Watergate and Vietnam override all other achievements. Yet his impact was far more 'anti-feudal' than JFK's:
- the alternative minimum tax of '69
- ending the Bretton Woods system (which by the '70s had become a tool to ensure insiders controlled global finance for their own profits)
- adopting Moynihan's 'negative income tax' proposal to create a first brush with 'guaranteed minimum income' (the overall plan failed, BUT the one piece that survived was SSI, and even today that's a major support for low-income disabled people)
- dramatically broadening health care (not as far as Ted Kennedy sought to go, but still...)
- founding the EPA (+ the Clean Air Act + the Endangered Species Act)
- actually implementing broad desegregation (JFK/Johnson talked about it, but never desegregated more than about 10% of American schools; by Nixon's resignation, he'd raised that to @ 75% of the schools - leaving Carter to grapple with the most recalcitrant)
- supporting the Equal Rights Amendment (but perhaps a bit feebly)
- NASA funding declined from being one of the largest line items in the federal budget, but remained robust and they continued making GIANT LEAPS for mankind

I am no fan of Tricky Dick or Ronnie Ray-Gun. But I respect the 'conservative' positions in the late 60s/70s they espoused are now deemed liberal perversions. Today's reactionary right has to disparage everything that is California. Their ultimate target is not Obama's legacy, but Reagan/Nixon's legacy (and then FDR's, and finally, Woodrow Wilson and the 16th Amendment - the ultimate ambition of eradicating the federal income tax - so that at last they can restore the feudal era of the 1870s). They'll never succeed, but it's unclear how much we'll lose before we learn to beat them consistently.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

...so that at last they can restore the feudal era of the 1870s


Don't you think they're after the antebellum feudal era prior to 1860?

The evangelicals go further back, pining for the theocracy of pre-1692 Massachusetts.

donzelion said...

locumranch/LarryHart: "And, although the landed aristocracy is a thing of the past, we are still compelled to give homage & obedience to unelected deep-state bureaucrats..."

LarryHart and I think in lockstep, so I'll merely expand on his points: the only bureaucrats who command obeisance are the police, who also, it turns out, earn salaries that, including perks, exceed the 'high roller' lawyers on Wall Street (earning about the same in base + perks, while working fewer hours - they think an 80-hr workweek is hard...). Most conservative curmudgeons exempt them from the pool of 'nasty bureaucrats' subject to their ire. But as his points are my own, I'll expand to the other side of your ellipses -

"homage & obedience to unelected deep-state bureaucrats...indistinguishable from blooded nepotism."
You have never lived, worked, and acted in a state where the bureaucrats actually were appointed through blooded nepotism, so in your ignorance, you assume America operates the same way they do. To butcher the aphorism, stop making an ass out of u (but not me).

Other than the police, there are no bureaucrats in America who can charge you, or even treat you differently, if you insult them or question their legitimacy publicly (and even the police have restrictions). The 'homage & obedience' required is simply to the laws, not the bureaucrats. If they act unlawfully, you can challenge them. Some folks do: routinely (and then the bureaucrats have to pay for your challenge, it's a neat system).

"Of course, we PRETEND that our privately-owned property is not in fief or fee,"
Do we? As far as this lawyer is aware, most of us WANT to own private property in fee, rather than by lease. Whatever are you talking about?

"damn near every thing we own (including our labour & our selves) remains subject to taxation, forfeiture, military compulsion & service."
Several cities in Washington (most recently, Seattle) charge a 'head tax' - the only capitation tax I'm aware of in America. Since WA refuses to charge an income tax, and draws revenue primarily through property and sales taxes, there's no more direct way to raise revenue in a city for people (mainly, corporations) who work there, use the infrastructure, but do not spend their money or own property there.

America has never charged a corvee tax (other than slavery, which is rather different), our closest equivalent (the military draft for men) was ended (by Nixon), and typically operated more like a scutage (a draft for the commoners, exceptions for the uncommoners). Labor has never been taxed; income derived from labor can be since the 16th Amendment.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Don't you think they're after the antebellum feudal era prior to 1860?"

Not at all. During the antebellum era, they had FAR less money! Perhaps a few muttering KKKers among them want to revert to slave feudalism, but they're a tiny fraction.

"The evangelicals go further back, pining for the theocracy of pre-1692 Massachusetts."
Evangelicals have no idea which theocracy they actually want to erect: it's mutable, transitional, continuously evolving, defined primarily in rejection to some 'other' which is put before them for purposes of rejection - they feel like they're being oppressed, and hearken for some era when they weren't so oppressed, but wherever they look, the Prosperity Gospel looks back, forcing repudiation of actual Puritan traditions.

yana said...

California and splitting a 2/4 year hair, blah blah. Just call it 3 and move on, and accept that California is one of the least likely places outside Europe to reinvigorate feudalism. Expanding Calimentality has already flipped OR, HI and WA to a variant social contract, NM and CO on the cusp, AZ and NV coming soon, look to ID and WY in the queue next.

On the whole, don't see much to worry about. Author of this blog does good to evaporate mists at the base of nutty 'new' political aedificia, but all of that only finds fertile ground in the big red "L" across the US: ND, SD, NE, KS, OK, TX, LA, AR, MS, AL, GA, SC. Twelve of 50 doth not a quorum make. Other 38, look for the rise of the normals this cycle.

Not just the regular pendulum pushing left after a rightward swing, but the number 2,864,974 was a real WTF moment for a lot of normal folks. Add that to the creep of new christian sharia laws, then sprinkle some extra absurdity over the beltswamp, and you got a whole bunch of people thinking "holy crap, look what happens when I don't vote."

That's the core of republican democracy, effectiveness rises and falls in tandem with participation %. So many decry 'gridlock' but the polisci 101 takeaway is that all issues are decided more quickly at the republic level, as more people vote. If there is 70% turnout, then legislation proceeds twice as fast than if 50% vote. For better or for ill, we don't know, only turning current events into historical events can assign that, but bigger turnout will always mean quicker and more decisive republican government.

The added speed, again either for good or for ill, can only engender a wider range of enthusiasm/outrage, meaning even greater participation, which is never an ill. It's a pleasant circle with only a small vicious periodic arc. Win-lose-win is still 2/3 a win, yet another basic law of politics.

Wilder swings of public policy from right to left are a collective set of extrema in and of themselves, revealing another cross-pendulum carving its own parabola, with a period determined by the ever-present majority of decently rational folks. This idea is really why the US has a Constitution instead of some kind of Carta.

yana said...

Don't see much to worry about. 2016 turnout was 59%, the last midterm in 2014 was 36%. Previous midterm in 2010 was 42%. Will be surprised if 2018 doesn't top 44%. Right here, am coining the phrase "rise of the normals," so anytime you pundits say that from now on, you owe me a nickel.

Simply combine a surge of participatory democracy with demographics, see racism tend higher with age + mortality, and see political awareness growing in the pre-voting group where tolerance + globalism are a secondary of the third comm revolution. I'm really not worried about the future at all.

The only noteworthy thing in the coming decade's demographics will be obsolescence of the idea of a "generation". People who got a smart mobile phone in 2005 are markedly different than those who joined the network in 2010, who are yet distinct from those who popped on since 2015. God bless the poor Millennials, those old timers who were the last to have their own generational moniker.

edit to last post: apologies, Heron would have had access to the work of Archimedes, not vice versa, and yes the power of oil over wood would have been discovered before the 1840's, if the steam engine were known 1600 years earlier. But we've been sipping dinojuice for 180 years and projections are about 60 years' worth of it left. Only reinforces the point, humanity is lucky that progress is held back by our squabbles. What would this planet look like if we'd reached "peak oil" in 752 AD and depleted all the coal and tar sands by 1061 AD?

The race is just as much booned as burdened, by our need to struggle, the dampening force which gives conscience a breath to catch up with technology. To make the next human steps, struggleness has to be incorporated into public policy. The Constitution is halfway there, hopefully the next Constitution will expand the avenues by which people can peaceably struggle.

Fight Space! (TM)

Jon S. said...

In fairness, and in contravention to the assumption the Loco one will doubtless leap to, the "head tax" Seattle recently passed was on corporations, rather than the citizenry. It applies only to corporations with a net income in excess of $20 million per year, and charges the princely sum of $275 per employee. (So no, it doesn't hit small businesses, and no, The People aren't paying anything extra. I don't imagine Amazon will really notice the extra outgo, now that it's already been passed, and the CEO of Redfin actually endorsed the plan, as the tax raises money primarily to deal with the burgeoning homeless population in the city.)

Alfred Differ said...

Calimentality? Heh. Okay. If we are going to go by that term, it's best not to focus at the State level for where that will penetrate. Think in terms of cities and their economic activity zones immediate around them.

I don't see it in Idaho even with Boise. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but I just don't see it.
Parts of Nevada? Sure. The economic activity area round Vegas. That's about it, though. The rest of Nevada might as well be Idaho or Utah.
Wyoming? No way. Not enough people to even bother spitting in that direction.

It's really about population numbers. California pulled into a GDP tie with the UK, but only has about 60% of the population. Our population is pretty close to the same as all of Canada. It makes a huge difference how many people are here because they provide depth to our markets as well as the occasionally sparky innovator. We prosper because of the people here.

It was Proposition 187 back in '94 that gave our GOP a black eye followed by a concussion from which I think they never recovered. I thought it was one of the dumbest things we ever did when it passed until we put prop 8 on the ballot and passed it! Prop 187 sent a very negative message, looked like a local 'build a wall' plan, and would have killed us demographically when the baby boomers finally had to sell their properties to pay for medical expenses. Disaster! That real estate catastrophe is still looming on the horizon, but we've dealt with SOME of the dangers before it arrives.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: just met some campaign volunteers working for your colonel. He needs reinforcements.

David Brin said...

Ooh! Touched some nerves! Just back from China, I'll be traveling a lot, the next month. You guys will need to carry on some without much hosting. I trust that'll go fine ;-)

Geez Slim Moldie… Abramson gives almost a whole book in separate tweets… and thus he has re-invented… the PARAGRAPH! That meta observation is pertinent in ironic ways.

Old Dave: I am perfectly aware of FDR’s faults… and of the right wing narrative that tries to make his culpable myopic lassitude more than it was. He was a flawed politician, unable to accept that modern humans could sink so spectacularly into pure evil. Recall that WWI propaganda portrayed Germans doing things that were later disproved. There was a natural tendency to assume exaggeration, instead of assuming the worst.

To judge him you must compare him to his contemporaries. No. I will use a pure fact to counter the present oligarchic putch. The fact that our GG parents adored him - for many good reasons - is a WEAPON against the mad confederacy. And I’ll not dillute that weapon.


Anonymous, the dems lost Congress to Newt Gingrich in 1994. They took it back partially in 2006, but only EFFECTIVELY for two years in 2008. (Obamacare) In fact, by actual numbers of voters for congress in each party, the Republicans should have lost all but two of those Congressional elections. Geographic flukes and pure cheating explain the disparity. Pray tell me what power the 07-08 House had? With George Bush in the White House?

Pray tell also, what have repub congresses done, other than tax breaks for the rich?

MiGrant, I agree that Strauss and Howe give in to a human temptation to take pattern recognition and turn it into a grand cyclical compulsion. Tendentiousness. They do not spin it as inherently right wing. For example, they don’t WANT the crisis, which Steve Bannon desperately seeks to provoke. But if the prediction is self-fulfilling, who gets “credit” for the tens of millions who will die if we get to crisis.

Look, I can see the patterns. And yes, many boomers are assholes and the next wave will have to clean up our messes with their calm and logic. But dig it… it is cranky boomers who tout this 4th Turning mania! And many of them want it.

Tim H. I respect the heck out of Ms. Solnit! But she veers so far left that she is incapable of recognizing that the fact-using security folks — military, FBI, CIA — seem to still be on our side. Many are being driven into the tent of the Enlightenment. The stupidest thing we could do is to spurn them.

Hi Chris Heinz. Hang around here. You too Yana!

Locum: “We won't be fooled again.”

Of course not. You have absorbed being a fool into your very bones. No need for an “again.” Even the irony, declaring all fact-people to be monsters… as if the word s you tupe are facts! But of course, they aren’t. And the irony is utterly beyond your ken. Idiocrats are proud of it. Like the Knownothings and the book burning “simpletons” of A Canticle For Liebowitz.

Now… this tube goes in your ear… and this one in your mouth, and this one….

David Brin said...


donzelion, Nixon wanted federal health care & created the EPA. Rostenkowski blocked Nixon’s attempts to be a nice guy. Did you ever see THE CAINE MUTINY COURT MARTIAL? Nixon was Humphrey Bogart. Mad, for certain and dishonest as hell and vengefully vicious… but his crew could have eased the insecurity and pain and helped his better angels. So they share the blame. Watch that flick! And thanks, I never realized that comparison till now!

In contrast, there are no better angels in today's GOP. Romney is trying to organize a conference of Residually Sane RINOS... and he's just another foxite with more noblesse oblige and a better suit.

Yana please join our community! One of the oldest and best on the web. We even have cranks who aren’t trolls! Infuriating dopes, but they do try to argue, after a fashion. And I remain astonished how few Kremlin-basement types we get.

donzelion said...

Yana: Rise of the normals? Let's hope. I hear that hoping can still be audacious.

"Will be surprised if 2018 doesn't top 44%."
The talk of the 'blue wave' is starting to fizzle - the metrics that led pollsters to believe in it in 2016 are suggesting a possibility, and the metrics that did not show Clinton winning also show the reverse and cast doubt on it even happening, or any greater turnout turning out. I honestly have no idea what to expect.

Since I no longer take any polls for granted, I'm putting my back into it and doing the handslapping work of campaigning: a new thing for me. There are three other volunteers working in one of the hottest races in the country for Congress (the #1 most probable pickup in California - the 39th - Nixon's home turf) who've never done this before either - and dozens upon dozens of actors doing what they've always done, backing who they've always backed, insiders who turn off the public the same way they always have. The Dems picking up seats are blue dog moderates running against ugly opponents: yes they won, but beating a child molester shouldn't be that difficult.

"I'm really not worried about the future at all."
I am. But I also don't worry about calamity: much harm can be done, but we can rebuild. Iran might nuke America?

"God bless the poor Millennials, those old timers who were the last to have their own generational moniker."
God bless 'em indeed. Unemployment is down, but I know so few who can start their own households - their plight is far worse than mine as a Gen Xer, and we're both worse off than our parents.

"But we've been sipping dinojuice for 180 years and projections are about 60 years' worth of it left."
Well...as I see it, Newton and Einstein were geniuses competing with a host of other geniuses. Solutions can be found: they're more likely to be found when folks working on them compete with one another, testing their theories, resolving intricate problems that demand utter focus - rather than when they're forced to compete with astrologers and clowns. Who can say: if we had a world capable of draining oil completely in 1061 AD, perhaps we'd have established a Mars colony rather than merely a few new world ones by 1860.

The difference between modern struggle and medieval is that now, provided we don't blow it all up and disintegrate into a perpetual post-apocalyptic world (and stay there indefinitely, which might happen - and has happened - but probably wouldn't happen this time) - we can move onward. And even if we do enter a post-apocalyptic world, folks will remember what a Constitution looked like.

David Brin said...

Alan Light said..."You misrepresent the American Revolution. The men who led the American Revolution were not commoners.”

Hogwash! Most of the wealthy founders (and many were not!) were self-made men like Hamilton, Franklin, Hancock and dozens of others. You outright lie, sir. Or worse, you use canned pseudo ravings to pretend to know things.

And if this was a bourgeoise revolution, partly led by some wealthy bourgeoisie? So? You answer absolutely -absolutely - none of my points. I said it was NOT radical in any systemic way… that's what marked the US revolution as calmer, incremental and successful. But they knew that some radical STEPS were called for. And yes, they seized one third of all the land from noble families and redistributed or sold it. Yes, they did. They... did.... that. And notice, you did nothing to contradict that, except arm-wave.

In most states, smaller scale revolutionaries passed fierce laws banning primogeniture, so big estates would be broken up among many children. A calmly moderate revolution that had to take some radical MEASURES. Just as both Roosevelts were charged to do, and Lincoln, by later generations facing similarly dangerous disparities of feudal power.

You… know…. nothing… sir.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: mind my note about your colonel. Applegate is getting some really nasty attacks from a Dem who should have shut up and shut down long ago, but has a lot of wealthy benefactors. He needs some help.

re Nixon: "there are no better angels in today's GOP." Charles Munger Jr? Lindsey Graham? Precious few, but there are still a few. (they both pass my personal litmus test, "Would you guys just acknowledge evolution so we can start talking about reality, please?" Romney? I knew Bain too well to ever give him any credit, and BCG for that matter.

"We even have cranks who aren’t trolls! Infuriating dopes, but they do try to argue, after a fashion."
Guilty as charged. ;-) Now if you ever catch your breath, you've got your colonel and I've got my lieutenant-commander (best we could dig up in OC, but he's a good man).

Tom Metzger said...

Wasn't it Reagan who emptied all those mental institutions and treatment centers. Putting thousands on the street?

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ: "Maybe I'm not looking hard enough, but I just don't see it."

Not the hardness, it's the length. Look longer.

yana said...

donzelion said...

"Yana: Rise of the normals? Let's hope."



"their plight is far worse than mine as a Gen Xer, and we're both worse off than our parents."

Not agreeing. You're fairly dour. Understood, part of the purpose of a political opposition is to make things look worse than they are, so there have you. The sin of both red and blue is seeing things through a tru-vu of gain/loss, and is that really the best jumping-off point? Not sure whether enough of humanity is past gain/loss yet, but the count keeps growing. I remain unworried about the future.

gerold said...

donzelion: glad to hear you're helping with the Applegate campaign. But I'm not convinced that he's a better option that Jacobs. Either one would be great, actually. Let the market decide.

Regarding feudalism: it's with some chagrin I see "feudalism" treated as synonymous with despotism. They're really not the same. Feudalism was a decentralized organizational system for societies where communication was slow and transport costs were high, taking over from the tribal Celto-Germanic systems after the Volkerwanderung.

This was a time when long-distance raiders could appear with very little warning, so castles and keeps were needed for defense. Vikings in the north, Avars from the east, Moslems from the south; it's worth it to contribute to the construction of a castle when the alternative is death or slavery from raiders. The organizational requirements of such large investments imply more hierarchy than freedom-loving people would want - until you consider the alternatives.

Despotism operates along a different dimension.

In the Western tradition rule of law has a very long history, extending way back to the early Indo-Europeans. In the IE tripartite ideology, the power of the sovereign estate was limited by law and custom. Kings that over-stepped their bounds were removed. Despotism was not tolerated then, and we won't tolerate it now.

Regarding the 2018 Blue Wave: it's coming. We saw what happens when you don't vote. Rise of the Normals indeed!

yana said...

David Brin: "I remain astonished"

Yeah me too, but one thing i want to know: did you consult with Peter Gabriel on his tune "In The Blood Of Eden"? Always liked the song, but only after reading Postman, realized that's what the song's about. The tune captures the book better than the movie ever did.

gerold said...

Re: Nonzero by Robert Wright - I'm reading right now after a recommendation from Brin. Not quite halfway through, but it's great so far. A little old - published 2000 - but still relevant.

The NYT book review was written by a curious choice; Simon Conway Morris, an archaeologist who is also a religious believer. A rare bird, and hardly suitable to review Wright:

https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/00/01/30/reviews/000130.30conwayt.html

Wright goes to a lot of trouble showing how the arc of evolution bends toward complexity, and Morris comes along all butt-hurt when we see how religion and other superstitions are shown to evolve like any other meme.

C'mon NYT. We expect better.

yana said...

gerold: "Rise of the Normals indeed!"

Howard Brazee said...

"Pray tell also, what have repub congresses done, other than tax breaks for the rich?"

What they *haven't* done is also big. Failure to do their Constitutional duty with Garland and the other judges is very impactful.

Of course, neither party is willing to do the constitutional duty - letting the President create and keep wars.

Howard Brazee said...

"Hogwash! Most of the wealthy founders (and many were not!) were self-made men like Hamilton, Franklin, Hancock and dozens of others. You outright lie, sir. Or worse, you use canned pseudo ravings to pretend to know things."

Only those without slaves should be called "self-made".

Jon S. said...

"Only those without slaves should be called 'self-made'.

What of those who started in poor circumstances, and who had slaves later only because in their society it was the "done thing"? (That would cover Hancock, although he was also the son of a prosperous merchant, and Hamilton, an orphaned bastard who worked his way up from the bottom of white society.)

On the other hand, if you insist on ideological purity as well as poor circumstances in the beginning, you have the cousins John and Samuel Adams; John was born the son of a farmer, while Sam's father was a poor shopkeeper (and Sam himself tried to become a businessman a few times, but never met with any success). Neither one approved of slavery, and neither kept slaves (although neither worked quite so hard against the institution as John's son, John Quincy Adams).

Benjamin Franklin certainly started from poverty and earned his way to wealth; although he reportedly owned slaves shortly after first achieving success, by 1750, however, he no longer owned humans, nor did he believe that anyone should do so, and he argued strongly against the idea. (It's been held by some that Franklin wasn't allowed to write the new Constitution in 1789 for fear he would hide jokes in it; it seems very nearly as plausible, however, that he would have inserted language outlawing slavery in the new nation, expecting his fellows not to bother reading it in detail before signing.)

Jefferson, I'm afraid, was a bit of a white supremacist; although he began to lean against slavery as time went on, his goal wasn't to free them quickly, but rather to begin a program to deport all blacks to Africa, and free them on arrival. He believed that it was not possible for black and white to live together in peace, and that the supposed "natural superiority" enjoyed by whites entitled them to this new land. We may shake our fingers backtime, although personally I'd rather just use a time machine to introduce him to my wife. :-)

Beyond that, do we really have a canonical list of who is and is not considered a "Founding Father"? I've heard the term tossed around my entire life, but who is on it seems to depend on who's speaking at the moment.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

...provided we don't blow it all up and disintegrate into a perpetual post-apocalyptic world (and stay there indefinitely, which might happen - and has happened - but probably wouldn't happen this time)


Inspired by Psychohistorical Crisis, my 2018 summer reading list began this year with a re-read of the original Foundation trilogy. The opening segment where Hari Seldon first explains how the Empire is falling and that the barbarian interregnum will last 30,000 years? For the first time, that chapter seemed as if it were torn from today's headlines.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

We won't be fooled again.


Dr Brin got to this first, but he's correct. You're fooled every time you look into a mirror and mistake the reflection for an urban progressive libtard. The anger that the perceived enemy inspires in you is really triggered by your own self.

My wife's old roommate had a cat like that. He'd freak out every time he passed a mirror, because the first time he tried to stare down that other cat, it stared back at him abyss-like. So mirrors became his mortal enemy.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"there are no better angels in today's GOP."

Charles Munger Jr? Lindsey Graham? Precious few, but there are still a few.


Lindsey Graham will stick up for his friend John McCain and denounce some of the more egregious Trump characteristics. But he votes for anything Trump or McConnell tells him to, so when it counts, what good is he?

LarryHart said...

Howard Brazee:

"Hogwash! Most of the wealthy founders (and many were not!) were self-made men like Hamilton, Franklin, Hancock and dozens of others. You outright lie, sir. Or worse, you use canned pseudo ravings to pretend to know things."

Only those without slaves should be called "self-made"


So Hamilton, Franklin, and Hancock, then.

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

It's been held by some that Franklin wasn't allowed to write the new Constitution in 1789 for fear he would hide jokes in it; it seems very nearly as plausible, however, that he would have inserted language outlawing slavery in the new nation, expecting his fellows not to bother reading it in detail before signing.


In the play 1776, Jefferson tries to insert some wording in the Declaration renouncing slavery. The proponents try to couch it as rejecting Americans' own slavery to the crown, but the delegate from South Carolina is having none of it, recognizing what such wording really applies to.


Jefferson, ...believed that it was not possible for black and white to live together in peace, and that the supposed "natural superiority" enjoyed by whites entitled them to this new land. We may shake our fingers backtime, although personally I'd rather just use a time machine to introduce him to my wife. :-)


You might want to reconsider that introduction. I'm not sure the inevitable result would be what you have in mind. :)

locumranch said...



"If you must obey them, it is in their capacity of agent of the law, and it is the law you are compelled to obey, not them personally"[LH]

Utter hogwash spoken by those unfamiliar with bureaucracy, as all bureaucratic functionaries are technically 'agents of the law' & all are capable of petty tyranny, from the lowest Starbucks barista who sparks an international racial incident to the IRS agent who seizes someone's 'private property' for non-payment of taxes that are indistinguishable from feudal 'rents'.

All that is not forbidden has become mandatory in our legally progressive utopia.


Best

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Lindsey Graham...votes for anything Trump or McConnell tells him to, so when it counts, what good is he?"

I cannot say, but did raise Earl Warren at length to show how even a wretched nativist serial abuser of the various non-whites and architect of some of our nation's ugliest incidents can ultimately turn around and contribute immensely. Other Republicans may similarly surprise us. Indeed, unless they start doing so, and we start courting them, there's a great deal we're likely to lose.

donzelion said...

Locum: "Utter hogwash spoken by those unfamiliar with bureaucracy,"
I am not so sure you professionally deal with bureaucracy all the time, in many different agencies, and thus, from that vast degree of experience with many different agencies, speak with conviction born of experience...

In health care realms at least (whether VA or private sector), most of the problem of the bureaucrats is an injection from the private sector itself, as insurance industries demand the impossible and undesirable, and subsequently requiring physicians to do far less medicine, and far more bureaucratic piddling.

That said, if "all bureaucratic functionaries" includes "the lowest Starbucks barista who sparks an international racial incident" then no wonder you're so riled. In that case, the incident arose because the barista called in the police: the barista is not a bureaucrat, but the police may be, even if they seldom are demeaned as such. Regardless, in this case, they were seldom regarded as the cause of the problem.

"...to the IRS agent who seizes someone's 'private property' for non-payment of taxes that are indistinguishable from feudal 'rents'."

Oh no, they are immensely distinguishable from feudal rents. When you've worked a bit more for feudal rentseekers as I have, you'll understand the difference, which is far broader than black and white. And indeed, the folks who challenge the IRS in lien proceedings or tax enforcement have myriad tricks up their sleeves making it quite likely they will prevail, or if not, make the cost of trying to seize extremely onerous (except for the worst and most stupid evasion schemes).

raito said...

With regard to transparency:

https://www.wpr.org/study-milwaukee-police-wearing-body-cameras-finds-some-changes-officer-actions

The major points:
1. No change in amount of force used.
2. Fewer 'subject stops'.
3. Fewer complaints against officers.

Spin as you will, everyone else is.

LarryHart,

What locum has done is taken a known argument and thrown feudalism over it. And while I agree with the argument, I do not agree that it is feudal.

The argument is that the government seizing real assets for non-payment of taxes is indistunguishable in practice from the governmnet extending a lease (with rather liberal terms) on that land.

But that isn't feudal. Your argument that government bureaucrats represent the law doesn't quite work, either, as the laws in feudal Europe described feudalsim.

And the Long Night is a plot point in very many books, not just the Foundation series.

That Atlantic article is quite interesting, and I only found a quibble with one fact (the GDP % chart seems to show the 9.9% falling, though not as much as the 90%). Still, I only partly believe the conclusions, probably because I seem to be an outlier (as is my wife). I think that part of growing up in an economic/social class also affects how one thinks, and that has a great effect on how one performs in society. So when I was destitute (and I was) it was my attitude and thought from my upper-middle class upbringing that allowed me to progress. Not because of any special privilege because of my class, because I was in the lowest class at the time, but because of what I learned when I was in that higher class as a child.

donzelion said...

John S: "Beyond that, do we really have a canonical list of who is and is not considered a "Founding Father"?"

Not 'really'...but there is a pretty narrow subset of 'Founders' (signatories of the Declaration of Independence, plus a few others), 'Drafters' (in reference to the Articles of Confederation), 'and 'Framers' (signatories of the Constitution, plus a few others). There are only three men who signed all three documents, but any signatory of any of the three is surely included within any 'canonical list,' we might conceive. The list always includes some names (those names), and sometimes broadens to include a few others (e.g., certain theologians who predated the entire structure but set down norms and principles with which they were all conversant).

donzelion said...

gerold: Our host had several items in 2016 touting the virtues of colonels, which you might consider setting some decent arguments down. My focus is the 39th across the street from me, not the 49th, which is 1-3 hours' drive away - but in both, there are about 4 blue candidates, 2 with significant money, 2 without, and in both of them, a chance for two Repubicans to break through on the primary, denying Dems a pickup in the House even in districts they ought to win. And in the 49th, I'm hearing mostly about Levin, who has a great many favors from other OC Dems, and postured as an "environmental activist" when his record...says otherwise.

"Regarding feudalism: it's with some chagrin I see "feudalism" treated as synonymous with despotism."
It's our host's preferred terminology, and there is a sound reason for it: no despotism anywhere endures without embracing oligarchic expansions, and no oligarch long endures who does not strive to erect assurances to transmit wealth through generations. Plutocracy and kleptocracy are also very different, but the overall framework reverts to one in which 'feudal' lords by whatever title seek to maintain their places of privilege for themselves and their heirs.

"Feudalism was a decentralized organizational system for societies where communication was slow and transport costs were high, taking over from the tribal Celto-Germanic systems after the Volkerwanderung."
Aspects of feudalism appear throughout the world, featuring the same familial allegiance networks, decentralized power maintained by select elites within specified territories, rent networks maintaining that power, and numerous other features.

"it's worth it to contribute to the construction of a castle when the alternative is death or slavery from raiders."
Except the castle never protected the general populace: it protected the elites AGAINST that populace (and raised the costs for any other set of elites who might consider dispossessing any other set of elites). For most of the peasants, the choice of death, slavery, or servitude wasn't always so clear.

"Despotism operates along a different dimension."
Look a little more closely at despots, and the similarities become much clearer. No despot could personally, directly wield power over a broad territory: he works through lackeys, henchmen, and others, who work not out of fear of the 'boss' but from an expectation of reward.

"Regarding the 2018 Blue Wave: it's coming. We saw what happens when you don't vote. Rise of the Normals indeed!"
My expectation is that like the victory of Clinton over Trump in 2016, the 'rise of the normals' will be shortlived, smaller than expected, and will be greatly reduced if the 'normals' still believe that others will do their work for them and save them from the effort. That is, to the extent anyone believes in a 'blue wave,' they make it less likely to actually occur.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

John S: "Beyond that, do we really have a canonical list of who is and is not considered a "Founding Father"?"

Not 'really'...but there is a pretty narrow subset of 'Founders' (signatories of the Declaration of Independence, plus a few others), 'Drafters' (in reference to the Articles of Confederation), 'and 'Framers' (signatories of the Constitution, plus a few others). There are only three men who signed all three documents, but any signatory of any of the three is surely included within any 'canonical list,' we might conceive.


It only occurred to me now because I briefly brought up the play 1776, but George Washington was not a signatory on the Declaration of Independence, right? I mean, he wasn't there in Philadelphia since he was busy fighting a war at the time.

Still, I can't imagine any definitive list of "Founding Fathers" without him.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Washington was first signatory of the Constitution, and president of the constitutional convention. Definitely a Framer, and hence, a 'Founding Father' by any canonical standards.

Personally, I'd broaden 'framers' to include the drafters of certain 'key' amendments - like the 13th, 14th, and most of the Bill of Rights. But I also wouldn't pretend that was an indisputable 'canon.'

Anonymous said...

@David Brin

>Anonymous, the dems lost Congress to Newt Gingrich in 1994. They took it back partially in 2006, but only EFFECTIVELY for two years in 2008. (Obamacare).

democratic control is not the opposite of republican control, since you can have a split congress. you claimed republican control, not democratic non-control. in addition to the four years of house control, dems have had between 8-10 years of senate control.

>In fact, by actual numbers of voters for congress in each party, the Republicans should have lost all but two of those Congressional elections. Geographic flukes and pure cheating explain the disparity.

this is true, but irrelevant to the point under contention.

>Pray tell me what power the 07-08 House had? With George Bush in the White House?

There were also 4 terms of democratic presidents that republican controlled congress were under. Why are they not removed from the last 23 years?

>Pray tell also, what have repub congresses done, other than tax breaks for the rich?

Nothing I can think of. I agree with you on this point, which is why when I heard the '2 of last 23 years', I thought it pretty damning... good fodder for crazy uncle arguments. So I looked it up, and it turned out false. My uncle would have a field day calling it 'fake news facts' if I tried to argue '2 of 23', when it could clearly be shown wrong... and then what standing would I have to counter his obvious 'hyperboles'? I prefer @LarryHart's phrasing "Congress – where Republicans had their way for all but four of the last 23 years"

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Personally, I'd broaden 'framers' to include the drafters of certain 'key' amendments - like the 13th, 14th, and most of the Bill of Rights.


Maybe "framers", but I have a hard time separating the concept of "Founding Fathers" with those who were there at the beginning. "Stepfathers" maybe?

matthew said...

Note that our unsigned anon is sealioning. Ignore and move on.

LarryHart said...

@matthew,

In most such cases I'd agree, but this one does seem to have a point. Republicans didn't control congress for all but two years. I can see why he'd wonder at the continued defense of the factual assertion that they did.

OTOH, his continued refusal to pick a name argues in your favor.

And there was the matter of those 400 electoral votes. :)

OTOH, those pesky 100 days...

backfire_effect said...

@matthew

"
In all of history, there has been only one cure for error discovered, one partial antidote against making grand, foolish mistakes. One remedy against self-deception.

That antidote is criticism.
"

David Brin said...


Bilious hatred of civil servants - each of them middle class and held to frequent accountability checks - enforcing laws deliberated and passed openly by democratic due process and replaceable or improvable by that same means - is a stance that fools are welcome to. But to whine and moan about oppression by those civil servants, when their power is more constrained that under absolutely all of the feudal hierarchies that dominated 6000 years? Oh, such jibbering-loco hypocrisy.

Notice he never, ever specifies what he is FOR.

--- re the 49th district, have you noticed the rich kid trying to buy a seat in congress based on adverts and an internship?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

But to whine and moan about oppression by those civil servants, when their power is more constrained that under absolutely all of the feudal hierarchies that dominated 6000 years? Oh, such jibbering-loco hypocrisy.


We might underestimate the effect loc has on actual people who are forced by trade or profession to interact with him. It's possible they do recoil with an accurate perception of who they're dealing with in an unprofessional but understandable manner.

For some people, it must suck to wake up every day and realize they they are still themselves. Certainly Donald Trump would be one of those. Loc might well be another.

I wonder if that's what Hell really is--an eternity of knowing exactly who you were in life. Funny that Heaven might be the same thing. The difference wouldn't be place-dependent so much as person-dependent.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "re the 49th district, have you noticed the rich kid trying to buy a seat in congress based on adverts and an internship?"

You mean Sara Jacobs? She's 28, not a kid anymore! And it looks like it wasn't 'an' internship, but TWO (maybe even 3) internships! [I don't see much wrong with her, unlike Mike Levin, whose contributions to 'environmental law' appear primarily to consist of selling products to oil-and-gas companies and possibly Exxon-backed carbon sequestration/"clean coal" work).

All that said, with Rocky Chavez in the lead, the Reps have found not just a marine, but a Latino marine colonel. A tough challenge in the 49th. Unless something changes, the battle will be between two Republicans, but I'd sort of like to see TWO marine colonels go at it, one Rep and one Dem, so that folks have to actually pay attention to what they actually believe.

As for me...the 39th is closer, and a tough nut all it's own.

donzelion said...

Oh, yeah, just remembered Sara Jacob's comments about not being 'some crusty old marine.' That's where I saw her name last, grimaced at the self-inflicted wound, wondered why she wouldn't withdraw and rehabilitate in chagrined silence...had to glance again at the story -
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/sd-me-crusty-marine-20180222-story.html

Now it could be she was making fun of Applegate. It could also be she was picking on Rocky Chavez. But how they handled this was to find an ex-marine journalist, who could say in Jacob's defense re a toy drive,

“She posed with some veterans’ kids when we were giving them toys,” Rider said. “She just jumped right in. That’s what we need in this country.”

Ugh...no, that is NOT what we need in this country.

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of colonels (ie marine pilots), it appears Amy McGrath has won the Dem pre-selection ballot for congressional district Ky-06.

donzelion said...

Tony: Kudos to McGrath. Intriguing that the DCCC backed her rival, yet she still beat him. Hope she wins...it'll be quite a struggle.

Jon S. said...

DCCC says they didn't back her rival - just asked him to run again months ago. I think they were holding any backing in reserve.

McGrath is definitely untouchable on the ever-beloved right-wing topic of patriotism, though, being as she's a retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel fighter pilot... :)

gerold said...

donzelion on feudalism: " no despotism anywhere endures without embracing oligarchic expansions, and no oligarch long endures who does not strive to erect assurances to transmit wealth through generations."

Hmm. Not sure that hereditary wealth transfer is a significant factor. Every society has hereditary wealth transfer. Consider the old USSR; definitely despotic, and there was inheritance, but it really couldn't be called feudal.

Whether we call despotic systems fascist, communist, theocratic, or just old fashioned gangsterism, they all depend on the use of force and fraud to privilege one segment of the population against the rest.

"Except the castle never protected the general populace: it protected the elites AGAINST that populace"

That is the conventional view these days, but the feudal period lasted for many centuries, and European society evolved tremendously over that period. In the formative years when feudalism formed (approx. 500 - 1000) the farmers did rely on the warrior aristocracy and the defensive stronghold. People forget that long-distance raiding parties of Magyars ranged hundreds of miles away from their Hungarian base to collect slaves and booty from 900 to 955. During that time they did a lot damage until they were defeated by feudal forces. Like the Avars before them, the Magyars came on horseback, but their business model was the same as the Vikings and Moslems: appear suddenly in force, rape slaughter and steal, then go before superior forces arrive. Feudal defenses were the logical response.

In the later feudal period the situation was very different, and castles could become tools of oppression rather than a refuge for the populace. That's the distinctive feature of despotism: the use force and fraud to privilege one segment of society at the expense of the rest.

Putin's Russia is a gangster despotism, run like an organised crime syndicate but on a larger scale. But lets not call it feudalism.

gerold said...

Re: CA 49th District race

The jungle primary seems like a good idea, until you get a race like the 49th. This is a district where the voters want Democrat representation (Hillary beat Trump by a substantial margin here) but the primary calculus with this group of candidates could result in two Repubs on the ballot.

After Applegate came so close to beating Issa in 2016, he should have the inside track in 2018. But with only 2 strong R's and 4 D's it's possible the voters could be faced with the distasteful prospect of choosing between bad and worse.

Any one of these Democrats could beat Rocky Chavez in the general. Lets hope one of them gets the chance.

Anonymous said...


This article reveals the genealogical origin of Donald Trump:

https://phys.org/news/2016-10-heavy-price-neanderthals.html


Winter7

Twominds said...

And of all Europeans and people of European descent. And East Asians and their descendants. Too broad, Winter 7.

I wonder what the positives of this interbreeding will turn out to be. This article dove into the negatives, not looking any further it seems.

Once Neanderthals were the brutes with the bone clubs, almost non-human, then it turned out they weren't, so much. Now they're the bringers of disease in our genome? I expect more nuance and subtlety here too.

Nuance is what phys.org/news mostly lacks, making it useful as a first step into an interesting subject, at best.

Tim H. said...

David, you may be amused by this comment on "The Transparent Society":
http://www.bradford-delong.com/2018/05/cfp-panel-on-the-transparent-society-david-brins-book-ten-years-later-hoisted-ten-years-later.html

Anonymous said...



Tim H:
Fui a la página que sugieres y es una extraña página en blanco. En información de la página de google dicen que no es una página segura. ????.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Oww, I wrote it in Spanish. There it goes again, with translation:

I went to the page you suggest and it's a strange blank page. In information on the google page they say that it is not a secure page. ?

Winter7

Anonymous said...


Haaaa The detail here, is that in the case of Donald Trump's family line, a caveman ancestor, whom we will call Donald Flintstone, bribed a Neanderthal girl named Stormy granite, to have secret relations with her.
The son of Donald Flintstone saw what the father was doing and when he became an adult, he copied the process, and so the cycle was repeated, for centuries, until finally the current Donald was born; a Donald Trump 90% Neanderthal.
For example, in the face reconstruction of two of the Neanderthal skulls in the natural history museum, you can see how a Neanderthal is identical with Donald Trump. (the one on the left side):



https://blogs.psychcentral.com/not-robot/2016/03/having-a-disability-in-prehistoric-times-was-sometimes-better-than-it-is-today/


Winter7

Tim H. said...

Winter7, Google has been promoting https over plain http pages, you might try "delong.typepad.com", it might be more palatable to Google.

Anonymous said...

Tim H:

Thank you. I have a problem with a big Stuart Little.
The rodent turned out to be very intelligent. He knows how to activate the powerful spring traps without falling into them. Do not touch the poisoned baits. The rubberized cardboard was removed by accessing a narrow space, managing to detach itself.
I'm impressed. Will it be a genetically modified rodent? . (Haaa, those damn Russian scientists) 8)
I managed to catch the rodent in a cupboard for pots and pans. I managed to put bait inside with poison. Sooner or later it will make you hungry.
This is a brawl fight. The man against the mouse. Who will win?
If the mouse ran away from the lab where Pinki and Brain live, I'm lost.
It's time for me to prepare my hyper-antioxidant smoothie.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

I think the previous translation is wrong. The translator put "Tu" instead of "he". ¡I told them that before!

Napoleon Bonaparte said:
"A translator is a potential enemy."

Winter7

LarryHart said...

Winter7:

Napoleon Bonaparte said:
"A translator is a potential enemy."


I always thought that a high-ranking official should either have some knowledge of the language of the person he's speaking with or at least have a very trusted adviser along who does. Someone on the policy side should be able to keep the translator honest and at least perk his ears up at an obvious mistranslation.

Otherwise, one sets oneself up to be the victim of dangerous mischief.

It's a bad idea for your accountant to be the only one who knows your business. Likewise, it's a bad idea for the translator to be the only one who knows what both sides are talking about.

LarryHart said...

...and the above reminds me of a funny scene in the tv show "The West Wing".

A high level adviser (Joey Lucas) was a deaf-mute woman, so she always had an interpreter who would translate her sign language for the other participants. During one closed-door meeting, there was an intense discussion about whether everyone in the room had security clearance, and someone--I think it was President Bartlet himself--pointed out that the interpreter did not have clearance. This prompted a fierce defense from Ms Lucas of how she trusts the interpreter with anything she's allowed to hear, only the interpreter himself was in the position of saying things like, "I trust him completely!" when the "him" was actually the guy speaking and the "I" was someone else.

It was funnier than I'm making it sound.

Anonymous said...


LarryHart:

It is not admirable how well the automatic translator works in Star Trek?
Which was not an advantage anyway, when Captain Kirk brought a gift of Peace to the little aliens at war who finally tore his clothes.
I must hire Nyota Uhura. (because she is cute and efficient).

Winter7

Anonymous said...

Hooooo. So the quasars are the exit ends of the black holes ...
(Or at least, that seems obvious to me)
Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-multiple-gamma-ray-emission-regions-blazar.html

Winter7

LarryHart said...

How do we parse this. "Red Letter Christians" refers to an evengelical group who disapproves of evangelicals' embrace of Trump and the Republican agenda. "Liberty University" is Jerry Fallwell's base of operations.

If I'm reading this passage right, "We don't want to take sides," means "We want to take the side of Liberty University." I'm trying to be charitable, but how else can that be read? Which speaks to the American bias toward Republicans I've been screeching about, that opposing a Republican position is "politicizing", but advancing one is just supposed to be above the fray.

You decide.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/23/us/anti-trump-evangelicals-lynchburg.html


...
In Lynchburg, Mr. Golden began following the approach of the mass revivals honed for decades by the Rev. Billy Graham, in which organizers from out of town recruited local ministers to help turn out crowds and engage new believers. But Mr. Golden quickly learned how challenging his task would be.

When the president of Lynchburg College, Kenneth R. Garren, learned that some of his chaplains and faculty had hosted a Red Letter meeting on campus, he told them the college could not sponsor the event or host meetings.

“We didn’t want to take sides. We have a fine relationship with Liberty,” said Michael Jones, a spokesman for Lynchburg College, also a Christian school.
...

LarryHart said...

After a two month drought, Jim Wright (Stonekettle Station) has much to say about gun responsibility:

http://www.stonekettle.com/

...
Why is it that supposed "responsible" gun owners always – always, every goddamned time – argue so strenuously and so ridiculously against actual responsibility?
...

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Although the term 'Red Letter Christians' strikes me as cute, there has long been a wing of Christians that rejects both progressive and reactionary camps. Unloved by Republicans as traitors. Unloved by Democrats as (1) religious (in a party with a somewhat secular prejudice), (2) independent (in a party that punishes independence), (3) often pro-life (sacrilege), (4) conspicuously not on board with numerous other programs, and (5) melanin deprived (in the sense that there's no simple way to brush their religious positions aside as merely a tokenized 'racial justice' claim).

The article you linked to is mostly right: these aren't Christians who get invited to either Fox or MSNBC. They are swingy. Part of the FoxNews game is to ensure they find no safe haven with Dems.

If I'm reading this passage right, "We don't want to take sides," means "We want to take the side of Liberty University."
Correct.

This faction pisses off both school administrators and major church builders - both court major donors, and hope that a sufficient sort of flatter will beget massive donations or other concessions (a situation with ample corollaries in every organized religion).

Yet since so much more of the Gospel focuses on wealth than ever referred to homosexuality, abortion, gun control, etc., these folks are a mortal threat to the 'establishment.' Think of the medieval threat posed to the papacy by monks arguing for poverty - sure they might get the Bible right, but they're screwing with power and thus must be ousted as heretics...

David Smelser said...

The most current publicly available poll for CA-49 (taken end of April/beginning of May, 901 respondents) shows two republican's polling at 14%, Applegate at 13%, Jacobs at 11%, and Levin at 10%. So the no dem in the general is a real possibility.

The three leading democrat represent progressives (Applegate), establishment democrats (Levin) and #MeToo (Jacobs). Applegate has the best name recognition, the most in-district campaign donations, but the least cash on hand overall (he isn't doing any mailers). Levin has the most money, most democratic politician endorsements, but has been rated 'unacceptable' by a lot of local democratic clubs. Jacobs is multiple government internships, self financed, but entered the race a year later than Applegate & Levin and has been behind in public appearances and endorsements.

I've been pushing that people vote for the polling front runner (Applegate has lead in all 5 public polls) and I'll be voting for anyone with a (D) after their name in November.

donzelion said...

gerold: "Any one of these Democrats could beat Rocky Chavez in the general."

I'm not in the 49th, not engaged in those fights, but from here...that seems utterly improbable. None of the four Dems has held office; only one had a 'real' and respectable job that required leading others. Chavez is both strong on paper for the 49th and a proven electable candidate who has won campaigns before.

Of the 4, Doug might be able to win. Smart, a marine, the charges from his divorce are asked and answered - but all the insiders abandoned him in favor of Levin, as have most donors (Kerr and Jacobs can essentially self-finance just fine).

Levin? OC Dems either like him or owe him favors. If they knew a bit more about what kept FuelCell going since their stock peaked at $40 in 2014, then crashed to under $2 ever since, they'd be wary (esp. anyone attracted to the 'environmental lawyer' claim).

Jacobs? Miss 'I'm not a crusty old marine'? Please.

Kerr? Polling in last place. Don't know much about him, except it's about time someone started sticking some stiff jabs at Levin.

"it's possible the voters could be faced with the distasteful prospect of choosing between bad and worse."
More like 'probable.' San Diego may have changed a fair bit since I grew up there, but the only chance any of the other three Dems has is if they can ride a magical blue wave. I just don't see it: I saw the Hillary win in 2016, accepted the 75% probability pronouncements, and overlooked the reality. At a district level, no matter how much the locals dislike Trump, they gotta like the champion they appoint to stand against him or they'll never turn out.

donzelion said...

David Smelser: I'd have to double check my source, but I saw a poll that swapped Applegate and Levin's numbers (with 13% Levin, 10% Applegate); there's a large enough undecided block to make that possible. Levin has locked up the Dem insiders, who wrote off the 49th as 'unwinnable' in 2016 (letting Applegate get as far as he did). Now that Applegate showed it was 'winnable' after all (which I suspect most of San Diego has suspected for a while), they're stepping in...

"So the no dem in the general is a real possibility."
For the 39th (my neighboring district), it's a 'real possibility' - Cisneros is leading in most polls, and SHOULD break through (but there's a huge undecided group which could lead to a top-two (R) race in November). I'll try to help them hold the line here and do whatever I can. For the 49th, it's 'more likely than not' - unless Applegate volunteers come through the woodworks at the last minute, in ways they mostly haven't this time.

Hence why I put out the call to our host, who has fought this battle before, but may lack the time or inclination to return to the fray.

Anonymous said...

¡Steam engines in space! A clean alternative if we use water from the asteroids.

Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-rosetta-unravels-formation-sunrise-jets.html

Winter7

Anonymous said...


LarryHart:

So you say Republicans used religious fanaticism to manipulate people?
No doubt that has happened. And that is why the "Founding Fathers of Mexico" decided that the government should be secular. But in practice, in fact, other things happen.
Haaaa How Machiavellian turned out to be the Republican leaders. They used all the tricks and deceptions available to steal the elections. They are the Grinchs who stole the elections.
The use of religion in politics is a powerful weapon. Maybe there is no other way but to imitate the adversary. Or is there another option?

Winter7

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | Yes. There is another way.

Imitating them makes it a battle of faiths and that leads to warfare. Ain't gonna happen here. Not that way, anyway.

gerold said...

donzelion: "San Diego may have changed a fair bit since I grew up there, but the only chance any of the other three Dems has is if they can ride a magical blue wave."

Strangely pessimistic. Applegate lost to Issa 2 years ago by nose. Darrell Issa. Incumbent, with huge war chest. Applegate would beat Chavez. So would Jacobs. Maybe even Levin, though you say he has skeletons in the closet.

But if Applegate can run neck-and-neck with Issa in 2016, he wallops Chavez in 2018.

I'm next district south, in the 52nd, where Scott Peters will have an easy skate. What do you think of him? He's been my rep for 4 years now, but I don't really know much about him.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Larry Hart:

I read that article about Red Letter Christians with much interest.

I am much further down the slope of liberal Christianity than even these folks, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, my first thought was "Pffft, these "Red Letter" people still cling to some out-dated hermeneutics and even identify as Evangelicals! What is wrong with them? Can't they see that... (etc, etc) ?"

I thought about it a bit more, and realized that my hopes and worldview are far more in-line with theirs than the Trumpest Evangelicals. My next thought was, "Could this liberal, inclusive, "Red Letter" Christianity become a real political force? After all, a wide variety of religious groups came together to knock off Charles I in England (may he rest in peace). ;) After all, Sam Vimes (in the Terry Pratchett books) ancestor was Suffer-Not-Injustice ",Old Stoneface" Vimes. This dude is pretty clearly an Oliver Cromwell type who led a menagerie of religious groups (and whackos). Maybe a coalition of similar religious eccentrics could have real power today?


Unfortunately, or maybe more fortunately, the nature of these Christian out-groups has changed and the very idea of this group wielding political power is actually anathema to the individuals holding these beliefs. This is very much in-line with the views of that man from Nazareth, IMO.

Can the "Red Letter Christians" influence politics despite this scrupulosity? I suspect they can--to some extent. Perhaps not as much as MLK did, but amongst the younger generations of Christians, especially, it could have an effect.

It's a "soft power" after all-- persuasion only with no wielding fear of damnation or the threat of divine punishment on earth--that these groups wield. Is it effective? I don't know, but maybe the decline in young people identifying as "Evangelical" is partly due to this. I suspect, though, that more of those raised as evangelical are totally leaving religious belief and spirituality in ANY form due to...well everything from discarding creationism to internet discussions of the contradictions in the Bible. Also, all the ancient purity codes that seem so ridiculous and arbitrary such as the sexual prohibitions and role of women (the food prohibitions were cast aside long ago) play a role in their exodus.

My prediction? Continued decrease in the number of hard-core Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians and an increase in "Spiritual", unaffiliated people. Those identifying as atheists will remain stable. A Handmaid's Tale scenario is no longer out of the reach of plausibility, though, where everyone identifies as believing in the state religion.

David Smelser said...

The only poll I'm aware of that showed Levin ahead of applegate was funded by a PAC that is founders have contributed to Levin. The poll results were from a question asking members after reading candidate descriptions (the descriptions were not provided).
The numbers I quoted were from
https://ballotpedia.org/California%27s_49th_Congressional_District_election_(June_5,_2018_top-two_primary)#Polls

Flip the 49th (a PAC that shares volunteers with indivisible 49) paid for a candidate viability study prior to the March candidate filing deadline. The study hoped to convince candidates to drop out (one candidate dropped). Paired comparisons between each of the democratic candidates abd the top 3 GOP candidates were conducted. The all the top dems were very competitive (tied or won).

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

these folks ["Red Letter Christians"]are a mortal threat to the 'establishment.' Think of the medieval threat posed to the papacy by monks arguing for poverty - sure they might get the Bible right, but they're screwing with power and thus must be ousted as heretics...


I get why the powerful Republican evangelicals don't like them. But I expect them to come up with reasonable-sounding arguments as to why they're not allowed to speak on campus.

First of all, the right typically blames liberals for political correctness and preventing opposing voices from speaking. You think they'd want to avoid the appearance of doing the same exact thing their own selves.

But more to the point, it offends me that they can say with a straight face, "We don't want to take sides" when what they mean is a different thing, in fact the opposite thing. And that's my real point. It's not just these particular evangelicals who think that way. Much if not most of America seems to accept that "taking the side of Republicans" is equivalent to "not taking sides."

LarryHart said...

...or as Homer Simpson once said (of his gambling on football with Lisa's help),

"And it's a victimless crime. The only victim is Moe."

gerold said...

Steven Hammond: "Those identifying as atheists will remain stable."

Why would you say that? The Pew data has tracked religious affiliation in the US for a long time, and the trend is very clear. Atheism in the US is catching up to the rest of the Western world. We're slow. We're laggy. We still have many victims of religious indoctrination. But truth is stubborn stuff. We're getting there.

donzelion said...

gerold: "Strangely pessimistic."

Perhaps so: in 2016, I believed pollsters, believed Hillary would win, and felt foolish.
In 2018, I'm assuming that past predicts future, that we must assume it will continue without change absent strong evidence to the contrary. The evidence I see in the 49th?

(1) Republican turnout has typically been slightly larger/steadier on primaries in general (older white men are more likely to vote than other demographics),
(2) activist turnout is typically much greater as a percentage of voters (and for the Dems, this means a splinter),
(3) most voters will not know who they're voting for, leading to a somewhat random distribution within a party that may be slightly influenced by name recognition (bad news for every Dem in the race)

Against that, Chavez has all the attributes I like to see in a 'strong' candidate: ran for and actually held office, emerging unscathed from doing so, has a resume that shows leadership and trustworthiness adequate to impress voters in the district, ethnic identity as potential wild card...

"Applegate lost to Issa 2 years ago by nose. Darrell Issa. Incumbent, with huge war chest."
Darrell Issa had two big problems: (1) Darrell Issa (a major jerk), and (2) Donald Trump.
He pulled barely 50% of the vote in the primary, and barely 50% in the general: despite those two major downsides, his voters never changed. Applegate moved up from 45% to 50% - that 5 point movement was the fruit of a very focused, united effort - including a host of volunteers -

Who have abandoned him in 2018.

"What do you think of [Scott Peters]?
Not much; Govtrack.us and Polititrack put him as pretty close to my own current rep (Lou Correa of the 46th - moderates, by and large - the sort who annoy activists, but are needed.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "the right typically blames liberals for political correctness and preventing opposing voices from speaking."

You cannot seriously think that they have a real problem with hypocrisy? ;-)

"they can say with a straight face"
That's your problem: which 'they' are you referring to? Lynchburg Universities authorities, with an eye on donors? Disagreeing with professors/theologians? Similar disagreements between admin and faculty dominate all of the academy, in one way or another.

"Much if not most of America seems to accept that "taking the side of Republicans" is equivalent to "not taking sides."
On a question like evolution, 'not taking sides' is 'taking sides.' And that is why it comes up all the time (because any Christian who takes the Bible literally has now been deemed an 'idiot' by the opposing side once this litmus is utilized). That's how this game has been played: a series of litmus tests to ensure that a large enough pool of Evangelicals will never listen to their own gospel when it critiques their preferred leaders. Once a matter like 'evolution' becomes a 'political choice' - so many other facts fall by the wayside too.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Gerold: Oh. you're probably right that the number of atheists will increase--but I suspect it won't be as much as you'd predict, especially if you equate "atheist" with "strict materialist". I suspect many people in the future will be "materialists plus..something (maybe)". Lots of things that may explain that response.

I suspect many here would check that box on a survey if they were pressed as far as their worldview. Does it matter? I don't think many of those (us) that believe in or hope for the "something else" believe or feel that what someone intellectually "believes" or identifies as has any real importance in any ultimate sense. Actions may be more important, maybe, but that brings up the whole free will thing which I have a hard time grasping from a physiological and philosophical standpoint.

You might ask then, what is the use of believing in "something"? Well, it makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it? It's the difference between hope and despair. A life that has meaning and loves that mean something "real" and the fleeting results of random mechanical laws acting on matter that are here for a moment and then gone with no thing good, nothing bad and nothing meaningful. I won't attempt any defense of this position, but just wanted to present why I think so many look for room that "something more" without concern for reward or punishment from a Sky-God.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"the right typically blames liberals for political correctness and preventing opposing voices from speaking."

You cannot seriously think that they have a real problem with hypocrisy? ;-)


No, but I do expect that they want their arguments to persuade. And doing what you just berated your opponent for five minutes ago isn't the best way to that result.

Can they really not come up with argument in their favor that doesn't rely on blatant hypocrisy? Or at least that is more subtle about it? "It's more important to make common cause with our Christian brethren than to give the heathen libtards excuses to pick us off one by one." See? That would at least be more persuasive than saying "We don't want to take sides," to obviously mean "We did want to take one particular side."

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Can they really not come up with argument in their favor that doesn't rely on blatant hypocrisy?"

Oh, of course they can, just not one that would convince an outsider to the faith (of evangelical, literalist protestantism).

"And doing what you just berated your opponent for five minutes ago isn't the best way to that result."
Sorry, my opponent? Who? I disagreed with Gerold, but didn't think of him as an opponent in any sense. Am I really coming across as so combative? Hmmm...perhaps best to stop for a spell again.

In terms of coming up with a persuasive argument, it would really depend upon what forms of evidence one accepted: a Christian arguing with another Christian is in a weird state, as argument in general is disfavored, and splitting hairs over trivial things regarded as futile within the literal texts. They'd start with a number of quotations, Matthew 18 (if anyone of you sins against another, confront him alone, then return with 2-3, then...) - then move on to 1 Corinthians 6:1: "If any of you has a dispute with another, do you dare to take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the Lord's people?" They'd go from there, "If we have disputes about certain things, all will be made clear by God in time." And a sequence of similar verses ultimately asserting authority from one senior toward one less senior. The formula isn't particularly original to Christians.

Persuasive? Yes, for many Christians who are committed to literal acceptance of the texts. To anyone else? A baffling and unpersuasive hypocrisy.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"And doing what you just berated your opponent for five minutes ago isn't the best way to that result."
Sorry, my opponent? Who? I disagreed with Gerold, but didn't think of him as an opponent in any sense. Am I really coming across as so combative? Hmmm...perhaps best to stop for a spell again.


No, no, no, no, no.

I wasn't directing that at you. I was continuing my hypothetical argument with the right-wingers who prevent Red Letter Christians from speaking on campus even as they excoriate liberals for interfering with the rights of Milo Yianni...whatever or actual Nazis to speak. The right-wing snowflakes were the "you" in that question.

Darrell E said...

Steven Hammond,

Regarding "believing in something more" vs "strict materialism, what do you think is the most important consideration, that a belief is true* or that it enables you to retain cherished beliefs in comfort? Other than the inertia of tradition, which I can understand, I really don't think I understand why believers typically equate materialism and being responsible for being the authors of our own purposes (collectively! we are social animals) with bleakness. To me it seems worse in every way if we were actually the product of some superior agency, designed for its purpose and expected to be beholden to it in any way. I can not for the life of me understand the desire for that or how it could be comforting.

In my opinion whether something is true or not is clearly more important. It also seems clearly evident to me that peoples' beliefs, especially beliefs central to their self image such as religious beliefs, affect their behavior and therefore YES, what they believe is important and can have an impact on everyone else. Materialism is not bleak to me at all, quite the opposite. I don't think that convincing people that materialism is true and religion is not is taking anything away from them, generally speaking. Quite the opposite. For 1, our reality as revealed by modern science is orders of magnitude grander, strange and awe inspiring than the "cosmos" as described by any religious belief system I've ever learned anything about.

Interestingly, if you take just about any data set of measures of quality of life by country / region and compare it to religiosity by country / region there is a strong and consistent correlation between lower quality of life measures and higher religiosity. Causation and direction are less clear of course but the take away is that the crappier a persons life is the more likely they are to be religious and have stronger religious convictions.

*In the sense of accurate, for example apportioning belief based on how well a claim is supported by evidence. Not capital "T" true which is only a thing in religious thinking and formal logic. True as in, the proposition that the sun will rise in the East tomorrow morning is a 99.(some very large number of 9s)% probability and therefore it is reasonable to say the proposition is true. And QFT is somewhat less true than that (but still quite true!), while astrology is deep into the false end of the scale and the proposition that Elon Musk will land people on Mars in a SpaceX ship in his lifetime is somewhere in the middle of the scale.

Howard Brazee said...

I've seen claims about what *my* religious belief does, and what *any* religious belief does, and what *no* religious belief does - backed up by logical arguments.

But I haven't seen real-world evidence comparing behaviors with people with similar political and social positions.

I have seen that belief systems that are ethical when they belong to minorities can be very unethical when they gain power. And when a belief system conflicts with positions of power, they change.

Darrell E said...

I understand what you've written, but I'm unsure what you mean to convey more generally. Are you skeptical that belief systems have any significant effect on behavior? Or are you just pointing out how messy and complicated human behavior is?

By the way, there is some evidence out there of the kind you say you haven't seen. As with most human behavioral studies existing data is heavily reliant on self reporting and while sometimes correlations may seem clear causation rarely is, and usually the most clear take away is that there wasn't nearly enough data to even come close to accounting for unknown and unconsidered variables.

I often hear claims of the kind "their religious belief didn't have anything to do with it, it's their culture." My question then is, how do you make a meaningful separation of religion and culture and if you do does it bear any correspondence to reality? Seems pretty clear to me that religion is simply one aspect of culture. You can't separate it.

More generally, there are myriad factors that account for behavior. I've never heard a convincing argument for the claim that beliefs are not one of those factors. Usually people that make such arguments only make them with respect to detrimental behaviors. When the behaviors in question are positive they are the first ones to claim that beliefs are a significant factor.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I wasn't directing that at you." Ah, glad to hear it. I've been known to be argumentative. Believe it or not, that is NOT an asset for lawyering.

"I was continuing my hypothetical argument with the right-wingers who prevent Red Letter Christians from speaking on campus"
Hmmm, try to step into their worldview. "We are under attack! The forces of Satan seek to drive lies like evolution into our children's minds, they seek to say that black is white and white is black and upend all of the ancient moral premises! Sure, there may be time to question what we do, but in the middle of this war? Your silly little presumptions are unwelcome - we've been fighting the good fight for decades!"

But still, it's ultimately a mask: the Christians who fled to America for 'religious freedom' never had much interest in 'religious freedom' here: they wanted to establish religious tyrannies under their own authority, subject to their own interpretations (hence, Connecticut breaks from Mass, and Rhode Island from Connecticut, and half of Pennsylvania is one breach from another and then from another until finally they have to decide to just leave them all alone and not give special privileges to anyone).

I hear a little of that assertion of authority here from time to time, and wince every time I do, because the ones who make that sort of claim of authority are not alone, and would not like the intellectual company they join (and that's my snarky, argumentative streak coming out, and occasionally pissing off even though I regard as on 'my side').

Howard Brazee said...

I agree that it would be difficult to normalize religious beliefs within behaviors. That doesn't mean such studies should not be done - unless people don't wish to learn the results of such studies.

One problem: We've had a couple of thousand years with Judaism being oppressed, out of power, and very ethical (even if it was accused otherwise). But now we have Israel with the same kind of ethics that oppressors of Judaism have had for all of that time.

And we have "Christian Nationalists" in the U.S. rejecting the values that the Bible shows Jesus Christ to have. Is that the fault of the religion?

Steven Hammond said...

@ Darrell E:

Remember I only said "something more"--no capital letter you might note. That "something more" would include Moral Realism which, apparently, a majority of atheist philosophers hold to. Many (and I would be one of them) argue that Moral Realism posits a kind of "moral fact" which is non-material and unobservable (in the way as objective material facts are observable), and therefore not accessible to the scientific method. Being a Moral Realist would therefore exclude someone from being a strict materialist even if they are an atheist.

That being said, I can certainly understand how you would view certain theistic religions as far less comforting than materialism and "being the authors of our own purposes". The deities of many religions and/or sects) are frankly monstrous.

As far as evidence for any benefit of "religious belief" for the believers themselves, there would certainly be a lot of factors to control for to compare quality of life, happiness etc in atheist materialists and believers of any kind. You'd have to be pretty specific about the religions espoused as well. Couldn't go with just "Christianity" for example given all the various flavors of that religion and I think that would apply to Islam, Buddhism etc. Would have to control for age, gender, health, socioeconomic status, education, race, nationality etc. It would be a very interesting study, though.


In any event, I think it's great that you're happy with your beliefs and philosophy. My own continue to evolve and yours may as well. As I've mentioned before, I'm very intrigued by Process Thought and exploring that right now

Darrell E said...

Howard,

Religious scriptures are endlessly interpretable. Schisms abound. There are over 33,000 sects of Christianity alone. The Bible has much, much more in it than what Jesus says and though he says some pretty swell things here and there, though none unique or original, he also says some pretty awful stuff. So, who's interpreting a religion "correctly?" Dominionists or UUs? Famously, religion can be anything you want it to be. I think that's part of the problem, not evidence that it doesn't affect behavior.

Howard Brazee said...

Then instead of evaluating whether a religion is good for the world (and/or its members), evaluate whether a sect is good for the world (and/or its members).

Of course that won't mean that sect remains good when its members gain power.

Darrell E said...

Steven,

Thanks for the interesting response. I'm not sure I'm any more or less happy with my beliefs and philosophy than the next person. But I truly do not feel the need or longing that many religious believers describe. I try, though surely fail with some frequency, to remain tentative to one degree or another about my beliefs & philosophies pending further data. And there's always further data. Well, until you die that is.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

"I was continuing my hypothetical argument with the right-wingers who prevent Red Letter Christians from speaking on campus"

Hmmm, try to step into their worldview. "We are under attack! ...


I get that.

But, the liberals who shout down or shut out conservative speakers on campus could make the exact same defense, and they'd have more claim on the mantle of "under attack" than white Christian Americans do.

This isn't a Muslim country or some such place where Christians really are a persecuted minority. When American Christians claim to be under attack, they mean that others are demanding equality before the law and society, and so their position of privilege is threatened. To assert special privilege against this attack which is not transferable to other groups who really are under attack--sometimes by those very Christians themselves--is the height of arrogance.

I do understand their position, but I won't grant the validity of it. More to my original point, though, I don't think it convinces any third party observer that they're in the right when their argument defies its own logic. "We don't want to take sides--the only side we're taking is Moe."

Darrell E said...

Howard,

I disagree. I think there is good reason to evaluate both the general and more specific cases.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "...the liberals who shout down or shut out conservative speakers on campus...have more claim on the mantle of "under attack" than white Christian Americans do."

Again, it's all a matter of perception. White Christian Americans are trained by their own faith to be suspicious of 'wordly' wisdom (including science) - if your are 'blessed when they persecute you and say all manner of evil against you' - then you may look for any statement to that effect as 'proof' that you are blessed. In that context, every scientist supporting evolution fits their view of a conspiracy against them - they look for opportunity to assert their valiant stand against 'liars' threatening them (and extend that to vaccinations, climate change, and most other fact-professions).

In some cases, they're not completely wrong: every smart phone you ever touched was designed largely to convert a person into a consumer, beguiling with worldly wares - a trap.

"When American Christians claim to be under attack, they mean that others are demanding equality before the law and society,"
Some yes, but most don't actually see that. Instead, they see their own struggles with sin, and project that externally: Satan lurks everywhere, trying to tempt and seduce and destroy them, even their most extensive efforts sometimes fail, and given all that failure - anything external that reinforces this constant siege is the 'work of the enemy.' When they advocated for the "Defense of Marriage Act" (an ugly notion if ever there was one), they were quite savvy to struggles in their own marriages - and any external threat reinforcing their own failures might be the last link breaking their efforts to be faithful, loyal spouses...

It's not entirely rational, and it's very hard to see any case in which homosexuals getting married threatened a heterosexual couple - but when you already feel 'under attack'...similar skepticism extends to every corporation, elite, scientist or other person with 'worldly smarts' (who is not from their own community). The enemy's agents are everywhere!

Having once been inside that worldview, and having come to reject it, I have a few thoughts on how to beat those who are still in that worldview that outsiders might consider.

"I won't grant the validity of it."
It isn't my intention to validate or justify it: only to understand. Yet that's why a third party insisting, "Hey, you guys silenced these other Christians! Look, you hypocrites!" really won't influence them in the slightest. They see you are setting a trap, and will shrug it aside without engaging, just as they shrugged aside Jon Stewart and a host of comics mocking them for decades (all proof of how the enemy reviles and persecutes them!).

A different way, more likely to prevail would be something like, "You love X? Gosh, I love X too! Oh, you think Y threatens X? I think Y actually strengthens X...and here's why..." Focusing on a shared love avoids the trap resistance instinct.

An excellent illustration is our host's invocation of SciFi trends, scientific discoveries, and similar items: even people who hate his politics but love those items may engage(probably even a few Christians...).

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | In some cases, they're not completely wrong: every smart phone you ever touched was designed largely to convert a person into a consumer, beguiling with worldly wares - a trap.

Damn straight. All's fair in love and war.
We ARE trying to trap... their children.

[ahem]

It's a slow war most of the time. I'm willing to be nice to a point, but I only have so many cheeks.

@Steven Hammond | I used to help discussions that tried to address who is and isn't an atheist, but I gave up a while ago. I'm pretty sure I know what I believe, but where I get categorized by others depends a lot on what THEY believe. Many Christians ( & others who effectively believe in the same God) lump me with the atheists not for materialist beliefs but for the fact that I don't believe in their particular transcendent being. In both the proposition sense (like believing 2+2=4) and the loyalty sense of 'faith' I’m not with them. For some of the lesser transcendents, I am. Day to day behaviors guided by a common code of ethics isn’t good enough, though, to avoid the categorization.

If atheism is defined their way, the group is likely to keep growing in the US in the next generation or two. It’s just the result of individualism, though. Nothing much to write home about.

Howard Brazee said...

My big issue is in people who appear to believe more in Hell than in Heaven. Certainly it is easier to picture Hell. But it is harder for me to accept that an omnipotent creator even thinks what humans believe is that big of a thing, much less allowing people born to the wrong family to be eternally punished for that. Having me and mine being special in God's eyes seems like a lot of ego.

SF fans can come up with more reasonable views of such a creator.

donzelion said...

Howard Brazee: "My big issue is in people who appear to believe more in Hell than in Heaven. Certainly it is easier to picture Hell."

Well, Inferno is the far better read than Purgatorio and Paradiso, and Paradise Lost more beloved than Regained. If people envision Hell more vividly than Heaven, it's largely because evil, failure, despair are more interesting than 'the Good Place' - and anyone with time to read/think is highly likely to to be well-acquainted with our own failings.

"Having me and mine being special in God's eyes seems like a lot of ego."
It might...but ordinarily, there's enough strings attached to make it a delicate balance for the sake of ego: 'we're special in God's eyes - so don't screw it up by........." (long list of ways to screw that up).

Steven Hammond said...

@ Darrell E who said:

I try, though surely fail with some frequency, to remain tentative to one degree or another about my beliefs & philosophies pending further data. And there's always further data. Well, until you die that is.

Exactly! :)
This is what I'm doing as well, though I may have started from different place than you based on personality, temperament, family and early experiences. I'm continually incorporating data whether it be higher criticism of biblical texts awhile back that made biblicism untenable to arguments regarding the Problem of Evil to the finer points of evolution. Is Stephen J Gould correct in that the evolution of creatures such as us was highly contingent or was it inevitable as the book, Nonzero, that Gerrold above mentioned apparently claims? (I haven't read it but must, now) It's interesting that I as someone who at least hopes for something "other" than strict materialism actually was leaning towards Gould's thought.

I also see as "data" experiences that I have as well as other humans. A lot of these are filed mentally in the "not sure what to make of this, I'll come back to it" drawer. This would be things like Barbara Ehrenreich's mystical transcendent experience she wrote about. (She's a born and bred atheistBarbara Ehrenreich I actually read her book. Found it in a bookstore visiting my daughter and it sounded interesting and it was. So what do I make of it? I'm not sure WHAT to do with it. The experience seems to be a pretty typical "one with the universe" type thing but the details around it at the time are pretty mundane. No gurus, drugs or meditation involved. However, Ehrenreich herself was anything BUT mundane when young the book makes clear. It's just a weird data point that I won't discard. Sort of like a puzzle piece that won't fit in--yet.

Sorry for the long aside, what I was most interested in saying is, wouldn't it be nice if religions took in data and evolved to incorporate it? I know they do to some extent, but generally only when forced. It appears that someone comes up with a religion (or a theology of a religion such as Calvinism) that seems to make sense at the time and hundreds of years are spent defending it despite discoveries in the physical world, textual research and philosophical/logical arguments that make major doctrines of said religion untenable.

You mention that you can't identify with the need or longing that religious believers describe. My own blindspot is the need for certainty. We live with uncertainty in science, why can't we (or they) live with uncertainly in the religious realm?

Alfred Differ said...

@Steven Hammond | I know they do to some extent, but generally only when forced.

That sounds like every other human enterprise I've ever known. Some are _more_ resistant than others, but they all resist change and likely should if they are to represent knowledge we've accumulated.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Alfred Dilfer who said:

@Steven Hammond | I know they do to some extent, but generally only when forced.

That sounds like every other human enterprise I've ever known. Some are _more_ resistant than others, but they all resist change and likely should if they are to represent knowledge we've accumulated.


Yes, that's true. It's just that change of religious dogma proceeds at a snails pace compared to that of science or even many cultural norms.

I think (at least in regards to Christianity) that this has to do with some underlying presumptions that make innovation in regards to religious doctrine not only resisted, but potentially punished. In the past, this punishment could range from excommunication to being burnt at the stake. Interestingly (at least to me) a relative of mine, Patrick Hamilton, an early proponent of Protestantism was burnt at the stake in St Andrews in 1528.

Now obviously those same risks don't apply today, but what made theological innovation so controversial still applies.

At least in the line of old school type Christianity, you are dealing with a Person who has some definite views on what is acceptable and what is not. He's written down what He thinks in a book and if you fail to follow that, well, "there's Hell to pay." This could apply to both theologians as well as those that might ascribe to a theologians "heretical" doctrines--with the latter point being why the religious powers of the day treated these theologians/leaders so severely.

In any event, I think that theologians have some added barriers to getting their thoughts heard and received that other thinkers don't have to deal with. If you remove eternal damnation from the equation, the stakes are a lot lower.


Oh, and your experience being pigeonholed in various discussions is one I can relate to. It often seems that both religious people and atheists see religious/metaphysical beliefs/philosophy in a binary fashion. It's really not helpful for anyone.

Anonymous said...


Howwww. What a great idea ... An authentic blaster ...

Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-05-versions-han-solo-blaster-theyre.html

Winter7

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

LarryHart: "...the liberals who shout down or shut out conservative speakers on campus...have more claim on the mantle of "under attack" than white Christian Americans do."

Again, it's all a matter of perception. White Christian Americans are trained by their own faith to be suspicious of 'wordly' wisdom (including science) - if your are 'blessed when they persecute you and say all manner of evil against you' - then you may look for any statement to that effect as 'proof' that you are blessed. ...


This conversation has mutated several times, but I still don't think my original point was clear.

Suppose I'm the Red Letter Christian who is told he can't speak at Lynchburg College, and the reason given is, "We don't want to take sides. Liberty University is important to us." I'm not saying that won't be convincing to liberals or to other evangelicals. I'm saying that I--the hypothetical recipient of that ruling--would not myself be convinced of anything other than "The fix is in." Because in the next breath after "We don't want to take sides," they justify that position by mentioning which side they do indeed want to take.

Real-me's point was that you'd expect the defenders of free speech against liberals to at least come up with an argument about why it's ok for themselves to impinge upon free speech that would seem like fair play to the one being denied a speaking role.

Anonymous said...



Howard Brazee:

In Star Trek 5. "The final frontier" Spock's brother; Sybok, manages to find God. And that God possesses all the attributes of power that God is supposed to possess. But then, Kirk suspects, interrogates "God" and everyone realizes that the being they have discovered is not God, for the simple reason that that being does not possess what is supposed to be God's greatest virtue: Love and kindness .
But in real life, Los Indúes; Muslims; Shintoists; etc, they would never dare to question their own god, and even less the priests of their gods, then, it is a matter of child brainwashing. (Ho, sorry, I meant that it is a matter of faith and faith is something indelible in almost all of humanity.) This supports my claim that religion is a powerful weapon, for example, in my country, those of the PAN, distributed false pamphlets of the party "MORENA" in which the Virgin Mary was attacked (the mother of Jesus, which is adoreda with a lot of obsession.) That is electoral "Fake News." Dirty play using religion.
Maybe we can not use religion as a weapon, because we are good guys. But villains will never have a problem with moral dilemmas. Because the Sith, they do not possess morals. And that leaves the Jedi at an overwhelming disadvantage. Do adversaries really deserve fair treatment? I do not believe it.

Link to the dirty religious war trick of fake news:

http://laprensademonclova.com/portal/2018/05/20/insultan-a-la-iglesia-los-panfletos-de-morena/
Winter7

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I used to help discussions that tried to address who is and isn't an atheist, but I gave up a while ago. I'm pretty sure I know what I believe, but where I get categorized by others depends a lot on what THEY believe. Many Christians ( & others who effectively believe in the same God) lump me with the atheists not for materialist beliefs but for the fact that I don't believe in their particular transcendent being. In both the proposition sense (like believing 2+2=4) and the loyalty sense of 'faith' I’m not with them. For some of the lesser transcendents, I am. Day to day behaviors guided by a common code of ethics isn’t good enough, though, to avoid the categorization.


When I was a teenager and stopped believing in God, I used to say I wasn't Jewish any longer, because at the time, I conflated the two things. My dad, who lived through the Nazi era, would tell me that I didn't get to decide whether or not I was Jewish--others would decide that for me. In the sense that he meant that, I believe the same applies to atheists.

I think what believers consider atheism is if you don't believe that you'll be punished by God for doing wrong. The whole "all is permitted" thing.

LarryHart said...

Winter7:

In Star Trek 5. "The final frontier" Spock's brother; Sybok, manages to find God. And that God possesses all the attributes of power that God is supposed to possess. But then, Kirk suspects, interrogates "God" and everyone realizes that the being they have discovered is not God, for the simple reason that that being does not possess what is supposed to be God's greatest virtue: Love and kindness .


I thought Kirk figured out that it wasn't God because God wouldn't need a starship.

A kindergarten kid should have been able to figure that out. Sybok must be the stupidest Vulcan ever.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
The problem that I have with "Religion" is that religion teaches ONE WAY

As an engineer I look for the "Best way we have thought of so far"
The religious people I have worked with have all been much more likely to glom onto the first idea that they have and much more difficult to persuade to look at and evaluate different ideas
Knowing that there is "True Forever Correct Way" in one part of their lives means that they act as if that is true in all parts of their lives

Anonymous said...

LarryHart:

In any case, Leonard McCoy saw the matter in the same way as I when he was horrified to see how the super powerful being killed those who questioned him. I detect the lack of love and kindness, so he deduced that that being was not a God.
I suppose we could apply Kirk's interrogation to other gods; But instead of asking: Why does God need a starship? We could ask the God of the Hindus: Why is God omnipresent, does he need a priest to talk to us?
And of course, the gods of the Hindus could not answer, without the use of a priest, because the god Ganesh does not exist. In fact, I think the Hindu gods were perhaps extraterrestrials.
I remember that ancient Hindu text: "And he went up to his Vilmama and threw an egg against the triple city, destroying it." (Evident nuclear bombing)
And if Krishna was a blue being. Who has blue skin on this planet? Maybe that god was an extraterrestrial. But totally deadly, (they mistook him for a deer and killed him with an arrow)
In spanish:

En todo caso, Leonard McCoy vio el asunto del mismo modo que yo cuando se horrorizó al ver como el ser súper poderoso asesinaba a los que lo cuestionaban. Detecto la falta de amor y bondad, por lo que dedujo que ese ser no era un Diós.
Supongo que podríamos aplicar el interrogatorio de Kirk a otros dioses; pero en vez de preguntar: ¿Por qué Dios necesita una nave estelar?, podríamos preguntar al dios de los hindúes: ¿Por qué dios omnipresente, necesita un sacerdote para hablar con nosotros?.
Y desde luego, el diós de los hindúes no podría contestar, sin el uso de un sacerdote, porque el dios Ganesh no existe. De hecho, creo que los dioses hindúes quizás eran extraterrestres.
Recuerdo ese antiguo texto hindú: “Y él subió a su Vilmama y lanzó un huevo contra la triple ciudad, destruyéndola”. (Evidente bombardeo nuclear)
Y si Krishna era un ser azul. ¿Quién rayos tiene piel azul en este planeta? Quizás ese dios era un extraterrestre. Pero totalmente mortal, (lo confundieron con un venado y lo mataron con una flecha)

Winter7

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, from my point of view the absence of Heaven and Hell absolves no one of responsibility to others (I suspect you may feel likewise), which leaves me feeling that the more sociopathic members of the .001% were badly raised, spoiled brats grown up.
It took me years to come to terms with my disbeliefs, might have been even longer without the push I got, which I do not wish to discuss on line.

Anonymous said...

Tim H:
  Yes. Even with religion, with the threat of hell and the promise of heaven; There are people who choose evil. And there are even countless psychopaths like Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Because choosing good or evil is a personal decision. And because almost all of humanity has fallen into dementia ...

Winter7

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

from my point of view the absence of Heaven and Hell absolves no one of responsibility to others


When believers complain that atheists aren't bound by morality because they don't fear Hell, I suspect they're not concerned so much with abstract concepts about what one should do, but about one might do anyway. Similar to the original sense of the word "bastard" as someone who had no family honor to maintain, and therefore was not constrained by honor.

One need look no further than the current occupant of the White House to understand the kind of thing they're afraid of--whim unencumbered by ethics. The fact that he sells himself to his supporters as a great Christian just adds an extra dose of irony.

Darrell E said...

By coincidence I just happened to come across the following paper today which bears on some of what I commented about up-thread a bit.

Religion as an Exchange System: The Interchangeability of God and Government in a Provider Role, published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. If you have the Unpaywall app you can access the paper for free.

If not try this article at Jerry Coyne's website WEIT, More evidence that a caring government erodes religiosity. Jerry offers a clear summary of the paper and another link or two to interesting related data.

I'm going to be lazy and quote some excerpts from the WEIT article, but if you are at all interested I highly recommend clicking on the link above and reading the whole thing, and then maybe reviewing the paper.

"(The paper) adds more evidence to not only the negative relationship between government care of its people and their religiosity, but also suggests that the former causes changes in the latter. The former relationship holds not just for countries of the world (155 were assessed) but also the 50 United States, and data from the U.S. suggests that increased government welfare actually reduces religiosity."

"Along the way, they were able to use the U.S. longitudinal data to study temporal relationships between these variables, suggesting that it is social services that erode religion rather than the other way around. ]

In all cases, the relationships were controlled for other variables using hierarchical regression analyses, so that each factor’s effects could be studied independently."

"b. Better government services were associated with lower religiosity. Higher quality of life was also associated with lower religiosity (remember, each variable is controlled by holding the others constant)."

"States and countries that take better care of their people are less religious, and the temporal analysis suggests that an improvement in government welfare erodes religiosity, as predicted by many sociologists"

"Further, as we already know, there’s a negative correlation between quality of life (and happiness, too!) and religiosity. The most religious countries are the least well off and have the unhappiest people."

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

"Further, as we already know, there’s a negative correlation between quality of life (and happiness, too!) and religiosity.


That may count as a feature, not a bug.

If comics writer/artist Dave Sim is any guide, strongly religious people are outright suspicious of happiness as a concept, and seek to avoid it as much as possible.

donzelion said...

Darrell E: I found the premise fascinating, and wondered immediately at the data set used for the research. But I'm not interested enough to bypass the paywall.

I suspect this is not actually valuable research anyway: it would be easy to tweak the numbers to get whatever result one wished to attain (secular Euros have low infant mortality, hence, a 'more caring govt').

In four Middle Eastern countries (with 90%+ Muslim populations) I'm extremely familiar with, the measures of 'caring government' would probably surpass the U.S. (100% health care, free or extremely cheap public universities, etc.), so if one wanted to say that they are 'uncaring,' one would sub 'health expenditures' for 'health access' (e.g., Egyptian doctors were paid $800/mo to work 5-8 hours at public clinics, a mandatory condition for most to maintain their licenses - a situation not uncommon in the non-Gulf State Arab countries). Does a low Gini = 'more caring government'? Does a high infant mortality count as an 'uncaring government' - even in the face of a rapidly declining infant mortality rate? If so, how much? (And how much is that weighting altered by confidence in the stats? Several countries are savvy to tweaking stats gambits...esp. whenever payments are tied to success - e.g., everywhere you tie police pensions to a drop in crime, you find a decline in the crime rate, but it's difficult to tell whether that's a result of a real change, or just a change in police decisions)

Too hard to assess whether the authors came at this looking to prove something, and tweaked their findings to fit the theory - not uncommon in social sciences.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "When believers complain that atheists aren't bound by morality..."

Christian (and many Muslim) believers tend to project their own personal experience onto others: "but-for the fear of God, and XXXXX (conversion/reversion to faith), I'd have sinned sooo much more, like I used to back before..." That narrative, reinforced constantly by other members of their community, becomes a 'truth' setting expectations about morality.

Filtered this way, every point of evidence anyone might present that could plausibly suggest a believer was no different from a nonbeliever (e.g., prevalence of domestic abuse among religious communities, prevalence of teenage pregnancy, drug use, etc.) gets 'translated' by the script into 'sure, there are people who say they believe, but they never felt the power of God the way I did, and only after they did were they restored by God to do right...' No facts that can pierce this narrative - even if the church leader commits some egregious sin, they're just fallible humans who can repent.

What you see as irony (Trump as a whim-driven bully child), they see as a prodigal son trying to return to a fold by the grace of God. They shrug off the sideshow (just 'media hype'), and fit the rest into their narrative: the more people point out facts questioning it, the more convinced they become that 'the world hates all us believers, including Donald' and tune you out, turning instead to information sources uninterested in presenting things that you see as ironic.

donzelion said...

Tim H.: "the absence of Heaven and Hell absolves no one of responsibility to others"

Perhaps, but it does absolve us of any responsibility to create a certain form of society (one that subsidizes religion) - and it is possible that those instincts crowded out alternatives.

Surely 'nurture' plays some role in sociopathic behavior, but Milgram/Zimbardo experiments suggest 'social organization' and roles as understood at a specific point in time probably has a greater effect, even on 'non-spoiled brats' (and perhaps even more so for 'dutiful, obedient children').

Treebeard said...

I've seen other studies suggesting the opposite: that religious societies are happier than non-religious ones. Activist social science is a fun game. I doubt it would be difficult to do a study showing that decline of religiosity leads to sub-replacement birthrates which, projected forward, suggest that atheism leads to extinction. "Where there is no vision, the people perish", as the saying goes. A strong data point was the Soviet Union, where replacing God with Government was like a death spell cast upon the human soul, expressed in the most primal way--loss of interest in continuing to exist. This has begun to reverse now that those nations are returning to religiosity. We may not be able to scientifically measure human souls, but we can measure secondary effects when they are starved by the ideologies of WEIRDo, extremist, bubble-dwelling atheists.

Howard Brazee said...

"States and countries that take better care of their people are less religious, and the temporal analysis suggests that an improvement in government welfare erodes religiosity, as predicted by many sociologists"

The United States is a federal system where we can observe whether this holds true.

Of course observation of a correlation would not indicate which may be cause and which may be effect.

Howard Brazee said...

"I've seen other studies suggesting the opposite: that religious societies are happier than non-religious ones. "

CNBC has this list of the top 10 happiest countries in the world:
https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/16/these-are-the-top-10-happiest-countries-in-the-world.html

World Atlas has a list of the most religious countries in the world:
https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/most-religious-countries-in-the-world.html

Darrell E said...

Regarding the US, it does not generally score well compared to other "Western" nations on the measures used by economists and sociologists to try and characterize the economic and social status of societies. It is often an outlier, considered anomalous. Basically we are noticeably more primitive with respect to our economic wealth compared to all other "Western" nations. It isn't a difference in kind, just degree. But degrees do matter. In reality that's all there is. We are also by a similar margin the most religious. So measuring the US against countries most would assume score low isn't saying much.

Alfred Differ said...

@Steven Hammond | Snail’s pace? Spoken like a true believer in the Enlightenment. 8)

That they change at all is interesting. That some of them have organized procedures for coping with the need to change is MUCH more interesting. For example, the Catholic Church DOES have a procedure for coping with the errors of faith they hold. It moves slowly, but it has managed to cope with Copernicus, Kepler, and even Darwin’s evolution.

I know there are sects that want to run the clock back, but a big part of that isn’t a reaction to those of us called atheists. They are responding mostly to the religious reformers nearer to them. Since it was a group like this that started this thread of the conversation, I don’t need to expound on it. I have little to add as an outsider except to note that they DO change and only some of them walk the orthodox path.

I read somewhere an argument that faith positions regarding social preferences in Europe cycle on a scale of about five centuries. The author wasn’t trying to craft a predictive theory of history, though. They were just noting that the languages used to describe things drifted enough on that scale to leave scholars unable to accurately translate past works and defend doctrine/dogma. Lots of things can happen on that scale, so the argument was weak if applied to the modern era, but the author was pointing more at pre-Enlightenment Europe.

Consider this word in old Greek [φρόνησῐς]. How it translates depends a bit on whether a modern reader speaks one of the romance languages. In our Latin alphabet it is [phrónēsis] and means roughly ‘to think’ in the sense of a certain type of wisdom. If you are raised knowing a Romance language it comes across as ‘prudence’ which is a practical wisdom one uses by looking backward at one’s own experience. If you grew up knowing a Germanic language, it comes across as ‘foresight’ which is exercised by looking forward at what might happen. The difference is subtle, but it is enough to affect how philosophers think about virtues and ethics. It is big enough to be related to the difference between the German flavors of the Enlightenment and how the French saw things.

Those of us who live in the modern world don’t see that a snail’s pace for change was still a lot of change for our ancestors to absorb. That some of our social institutions still struggle is not shock, but applying our rapid change expectations to them is a kind of assignment error. It would be like blaming Jefferson for having slaves because he failed to conform to modern moral stances.

It’s not that we can’t complain about their pace, though. It’s just that our choice is to leave the snails behind. They ARE snails, after all. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I think what believers consider atheism is if you don't believe that you'll be punished by God for doing wrong. The whole "all is permitted" thing.

Could be. I met a lady on a cross-country flight where we whiled away the time with a religious discussion. [Heh. No doubt we annoyed anyone within earshot.] She understood well that I wasn’t hostile, but I didn’t see things her way. When I used the ‘good behaviors will have to be good enough I hope’ argument, she was obviously well prepared with the ‘It won’t be’ counter-argument. That placed her particular faith on one branch of the Christian tree, so I knew not to bother offering certain other counter-counter-arguments. 8)

What I’ve always found odd is that people like her lump true agnostics with people who argue she is very wrong. The agnostics come in different flavors too with some arguing firmly for the unknowability of certain things and others sticking closer to ‘I don’t know’. Still. She did not make that distinction. She was certain she knew what I needed and that is what defined my position to her. Simply put, I was ‘Them’. No distinction needed.

She was nice enough through the flight that we parted with knowing smiles, but convinced no one.

Anyone making the distinction, though, would note I’m not an ‘all things permitted’ kind of guy. I never have been. The lesser transcendents Christians assign to aspects of their God are fine by me. I don’t bother with what I see as an unnecessary step of personifying them, but I’m still loyal to them. If I DID personify them, I’d be lumped in with the polytheists, I suppose. It wouldn’t be as hard for me to do when compared to adopting a monotheistic belief. Still. It strikes me as animism and reducing to one God is hard to distinguish from a round-off error for zero.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | No facts that can pierce this narrative...

That's the nutshell version of why I think their belief system is harmful. It's mostly benign to the rest of us most of the time, but it imposes an opportunity cost that Pascal did not account for in his wager.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Anyone making the distinction, though, would note I’m not an ‘all things permitted’ kind of guy. I never have been. The lesser transcendents Christians assign to aspects of their God are fine by me. I don’t bother with what I see as an unnecessary step of personifying them, but I’m still loyal to them. If I DID personify them, I’d be lumped in with the polytheists, I suppose. It wouldn’t be as hard for me to do when compared to adopting a monotheistic belief. Still. It strikes me as animism and reducing to one God is hard to distinguish from a round-off error for zero.


I don't think it's so much a matter of personifying as it is of fearing. You say you respect your morality, but if you decided not to, there'd be nothing forcing you to comply. That's why we're monsters to them.

To me, it's just the opposite (thing). My morality is evident in my character, and if you know me, you know what you get. The religious fanatic--if he perceived that his God told him to shoot up a school tomorrow, he'd do it. It's the religionist who can't be trusted, because his fealty to God supersedes morality. That's a harsh, uncharitable way of putting it I know, but I trust you get the sense of what I'm saying.


I met a lady on a cross-country flight where we whiled away the time with a religious discussion. [Heh. No doubt we annoyed anyone within earshot.]


I've got you beat on airplane stories, although I amused more than annoyed the passengers around us. On a flight back home from my then-girlfriend's parents' home in Texas, I spontaneously proposed to her, and she accepted. We were some 30,000 feet over Springfield, Illinois. I didn't even have a ring to give her because I hadn't planned on doing that until the moment struck. Until then, she had been the "Let's not talk about this yet," person in our relationship, but that time, she tricked me by actually letting me finish the question. :)

David Brin said...

“decline of religiosity leads to sub-replacement birthrates which, projected forward, suggest that atheism leads to extinction.”

Seriously? All it means is that future generations will consist of the descendants of breeders. Duh? I expect the effect to be mild and to converge on a very gradual decline to sustainable balance. But the alternative is not extinction but… instead… Seriously. just watch the anthem film of your ideal society that you fight to bring about, every day: “Idiocracy.”

Steven Hammond said...

@Darrell E:

I didn't read the original paper, but this bit of Coyne's synopsis you quoted is most intriguing and powerful:
b. Interestingly, the level of government services in a given year predicted the level of religiosity (a negative relationship) one and two years in the future, implying that if there is a causality, it’s an erosion of religion by government services rather than an erosion of government services by religion.

That predictive power (if real) is remarkable. Of course, the question then (assuming the authors' hypothesis is true) is whether there is any metaphysical/existential aspect to most people's "religiosity" at all? Is the local religion just an alternative or in many cases the primary social welfare net? I actually think this may be true.

I still keep an eye on recent Christian scholarship, and Douglas Campell's recent work paints Paul the Apostle as very much setting up a social welfare network in multiple areas of the Roman Empire. I know Dr Brin sees Paul in a very unfavorable light, but he really ought to read Campbell and reassess his views.

I've been intrigued by the Nordic model of capitalism (I like Scandi-Noir as well, but that's a different convo. ;) ) Anyway, focusing on the Nordic countries might be especially useful as so many of us are interested in that model as well as envying the happiness of its populace. This article might interest you. Scandinavian Nonbelievers, Which Is Not to Say AtheistsI do have to quote the last bit of the article:

At one point, he queries Jens, a 68-year-old nonbeliever, about the sources of Denmark’s very ethical culture. Jens replies: “We are Lutherans in our souls — I’m an atheist, but still have the Lutheran perceptions of many: to help your neighbor. Yeah. It’s an old, good, moral thought.”

I know we have one Scandinavian poster here so her thoughts regarding spirituality/religion in her country would be especially welcome. :)

So, here's my big point. Maybe Christianity has DONE its job in those Scandinavian countries? Maybe the point of Jesus was never some intellectual acceptance of certain metaphysical propositions? I think Rene Girard's work is an important stepping stone in understanding this idea that something other than the traditional Christian explanation. René Girard (I do find many Girardists as insufferable as the most annoying SJWs or Trumpists, BTW) I'll be honest and say Girard's views seem to have some evidence supporting them--when I read Pinker's "Better Angels" my thoughts went to Girard's theory.

@ Alfred Dilfer:

You're thoughts regarding the need for patience in regards to changes in religious doctrine are illuminating and well taken. ;) The discussion of language drift leading to doctrinal changes in Christianity (at least) is very helpful in a variety of ways. I do have to wonder if "language drift" led to a very different view of the Christian writings by, say, Augustine, than Irenaeus? It's got me thinking so that's a good thing and I thank you.

Steven Hammond said...

Sorry! Links don't seem to work.

I won't try to make a new link, but here's the NYT's article about Scandinavian non-believers:https://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/us/28beliefs.html

And here's the wiki link to Rene Gerard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/René_Girard

Alfred Differ said...

@Steven Hammond | I wouldn't be even remotely competent in comparing and contrasting Christian writers, so I'll defer to others. I find it interesting to learn about the arguments people present while crafting those comparisons, but I do so from an outsider's perspective... mostly. For example, I get the response concerning Danish culture, but I'd argue that is mostly about the 'little gods' of which the bigger one is composed. Basically, they are loyal to the smaller transcendents contained within the old Lutheran faith (and many, many others), so of course they are broadly ethical.

I have a 1921 US silver dollar in my pocket with an image on the front of one of those smaller transcendents we still appreciate in the US. I don't have to personify her, or fear her, or anything like that to be loyal to 'her.' From my outsider perspective, the God of the Christians is a composite of smaller ideals. It is quite possible to be loyal to many of them while rejecting others and the composite. I freely admit I reject some of them... I didn't grow up in a pastoralist culture, so this isn't a surprise. I'll keep the others, though.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | If tomorrow I decided no longer to respect the moral code I currently use, there are PLENTY of forces that would force me back. Everyone around me would be surprised at a minimum. Some might be deeply offended and push back. Some might send the police after me if I was bad enough. I get that they won't accept that as 'forcing compliance', but I think we both know how potent social forces can be. 8)

It's the religionist who can't be trusted, because his fealty to God supersedes morality.

On this I'll disagree with you. His fealty IS a part of his morality. It's a matter of loyalty. In fact, it gets to the very definition of the word 'faith'. At the risk of sounding like locumranch, that word is worth looking up in a dictionary. There are various parts to it, but they come in two flavors.

One is propositional like a statement of a truth. 2+2=4. Wanna make money?... Buy low, Sell high. What goes up, must come down. That kind of stuff. Whether the statement is actually true isn't the issue. Belief that it is is that variation of 'faith.'

The other is better described as 'loyalty to'. If 'I have faith in God' then I'm expressing a loyalty. If I'm a faithful Dodgers fan, I'm loyal to them when it comes time to trash talk their competitors. As a classical liberal, I'm faithful to Liberty.

Set aside the propositional variant for a moment, though. [It's is pretty new in the English language and confuses people a LOT.] The loyalty sense ties into one of the concepts that many of us treat as a virtue. If you are what you are now, being loyal to yourself is a kind of integrity. Maintaining your identity is terribly useful in all our cultures, so it is no surprise being able to do that is held up as an example of a 'good' person. Loyalty/faith, therefore, is not something most of us will abandon. Besides there being social consequences for doing so, we just won't. No doubt there are biological reasons behind this. If there weren't any in the past, I have no doubt we'd evolve them. The trait is really useful.

Religionists aren't all that different when it comes to basics like this. The difference is they are loyal to something some of us reject. They can be quite predictable IF you can wrap your mind around to what they are loyal. In this they can even be trusted if that ideal doesn't conflict with yours at the moment. Can't the same be said of us?

The propositional variant is a new thing infiltrating our language as mathematics takes over some of our mindspace. If you want to avoid confusion when talking to them, avoid the variant completely. Even if they use it, paraphrase back at them using other terms. Don't let anyone conflate the two. Do you hav faith God exists? Are you faithful to God? Those two questions need to be kept on opposite sides of the planet. That's what I've learned anyway. 8)

yana said...

Like a pink drummer bunny, you people just keep at it. Tougher to follow the conversation when replies are not threaded (and not dated), but looks like it's morphed from outing card-carrying Founders, now into religion, with a through-line of chit chat about California politics.

donzelion:

"a Christian arguing with another Christian is in a weird state"

And a sane person arguing politics in CA is not?

As for Red-Letterists (the RLX), they're despised by institutional christians not just for draining institutional momentum (and donations), but mostly because the RLX claims a higher moral shelf. God, that's galling to millions who have been able to make accommodation to a modern world, shuffling christianity in bits and pieces until it's possible to make a deck which allows them to buy a second BMW SUV, though some possible decks justify heaving rockets onto London and killing 6 million people of another tribe.

RLX doesn't deal the deck differently, it just removes most of the cards. Four aces, with a joker in a smidgeon of Acts. Christianity is certainly about arguing, 1517 led straight to 1776 and 1789. But if there's less to argue over, then less to build an accommodation around. Red letters say what all christians wish they were, the black letters let them be modern citizens with some peace of mind. But there's always that nagging suspicion in the back of the mind, what if RLX is right?

It's that nag which really pisses off the larger denoms, it just never goes away. If you're a spiritually inclined christian, ya just can't ever get rid of that twinge. Easier to swear off most distractions from one's current arrangement of purity, if they come from outside the Edifice. But that itchy nagging half-doubt, that some other christian has a better bead on a moving target than you, it's infuriating. "Jill, the calls are coming from inside the house!"

I hold out hope for the Oxyrhyncus project. It's been a century, and they're under 10% done, so it should take about a thousand years, sigh. But hopefully, buried in that trash heap were copies of the work of Papias, perhaps history's first investigative reporter. In fact, Papias would be a prime candidate to be in a rubbish heap in Egypt in the 4th c. After Eusebius blamed Papias for Arius, the 5 books of Papias went rapidly down the path to "lost".

If we can get our hands on those 5 books, we'd witness a wholesale re-ordering of christianity all around the world. Of course with a couple attendant wars, but we're in a much better position to deal with that now, than in 1618. Holy wars ain't what they used to be.

yana said...

Steven Hammond:

"wonder if "language drift" led to a very different view of the Christian writings by, say, Augustine, than Irenaeus?"

Certainly. Take as analogy, English is a slutty tart with a strict German father and a hot Romance mom. Linguistically speaking, big daddy issues. But this makes it flexible, a great absorber of new words. Augustine's Latin was not brought up that way. It mixed spit mainly with Greek, fairly resistant to other influences, linguistically equivalent to that kid who looks up to an older sibling as the first replacement for parent-worship.

Augustine's Latin had been formalizing hellenisms 5 centuries by then, and as political events took a turn, his form of Latin was caught in amber. Just as the Romans envied earlier Greek culture, the general post-Rome pined for a previous stable age. Cue the rise of the clergy, codifying late-classical Latin as "Latin", then where is Irenaeus?

Although pure Greek was de rigueur for a post-Rome scholar, it's a more context dependent language, more to argue about. For running a large empire, or a large church, argument is the enemy. Treason or heresy, both often presaging death in those days. The more exacting nature of Roman culture made Latin more fit to organizational communication. 1054 was entirely predictable.

Irenaeus suffered because he wrote those detailed anti-gnostic polemics in his own local lingua franca, Greek. It was esteemed just enough to survive among the literati, but late-classical Latin took over the mechanics of government across a wide area. Greek shrank back to Greece over several centuries. By that time, reading Irenaeus was only interesting to nerds who already knew Greek. After Nicea, what's the point?

Of course, today we know that Irenaeus was a propagandist of the most inveterate sort, not above lies to propel his arguments, the only logical alternatives being that he was either grossly stupid or consistently misinformed. Both alts seem unlikely, considering his eloquence.

My rare nod to conspiracy theories, perhaps more rational minds in the ancient days saw that a lie in defense of a truth only damages the truth, more than the thing which needed to be defensed. Maybe that's why Irenaeus is slightly read today, a lack of intellectual honesty recognized long ago?

Howard Brazee said...


Thanks for that definition of faith that I very much like:

"The other is better described as 'loyalty to'. If 'I have faith in God' then I'm expressing a loyalty. If I'm a faithful Dodgers fan, I'm loyal to them when it comes time to trash talk their competitors. As a classical liberal, I'm faithful to Liberty."

That fits "Christian Nationalists" who appear to have values very different from how the Bible describes Jesus Christ to have. Their identity is what they "believe in", and they are loyal to it.

LarryHart said...

yana (or do you hear "Laurel") :

Tougher to follow the conversation when replies are not threaded (and not dated), but looks like it's morphed from outing card-carrying Founders, now into religion, with a through-line of chit chat about California politics.


It helps if you think of this comment section as a neighborhood bar with a bunch of regulars and semi-regulars who flow in and out at different times, rather than a formal discussion of a single point.


As for Red-Letterists (the RLX), they're despised by institutional christians not just for draining institutional momentum (and donations), but mostly because the RLX claims a higher moral shelf. God, that's galling to millions who have been able to make accommodation to a modern world, shuffling christianity in bits and pieces until it's possible to make a deck which allows them to buy a second BMW SUV, though some possible decks justify heaving rockets onto London and killing 6 million people of another tribe.

RLX doesn't deal the deck differently, it just removes most of the cards. Four aces, with a joker in a smidgeon of Acts. Christianity is certainly about arguing, 1517 led straight to 1776 and 1789. But if there's less to argue over, then less to build an accommodation around. Red letters say what all christians wish they were, the black letters let them be modern citizens with some peace of mind. But there's always that nagging suspicion in the back of the mind, what if RLX is right?


Sounds like they're seeing what it's like to be on the other side of Pascal's wager-type arguments. Must be rough. :)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

"It's the religionist who can't be trusted, because his fealty to God supersedes morality."

On this I'll disagree with you. His fealty IS a part of his morality. It's a matter of loyalty. In fact, it gets to the very definition of the word 'faith'.


I was being intentionally harsh, as a counter to the conventionally-accepted charge that atheists are unconstrained by ethics because they don't fear Hell. I was pushing back that the religious are unconstrained by ethics because they don't fear inconsistency. If they believe something is immoral, but then they believe they are instructed by God to do that thing, they'll do it. I don't actually expect most Christians to have cause to find themselves in that situation--it's more my oft-used and oft-misunderstood argument of the form: "I don't accept your premise, but even assuming your premise does hold, then it also doesn't support your conclusion."


One is propositional like a statement of a truth. 2+2=4. Wanna make money?... Buy low, Sell high. What goes up, must come down. That kind of stuff. Whether the statement is actually true isn't the issue. Belief that it is is that variation of 'faith.'

The other is better described as 'loyalty to'. If 'I have faith in God' then I'm expressing a loyalty. If I'm a faithful Dodgers fan, I'm loyal to them when it comes time to trash talk their competitors. As a classical liberal, I'm faithful to Liberty.


Oh, I understand the definitions. A long time ago, I noticed that the two seemingly-distinct definitions of "swearing" were really the same thing that mutated into two distinct directions. Saying "fuck" doesn't seem to have much in common with testifying before God, but the older version of cussing wasn't "saying 'fuck'", but saying things like "God damn you!" or "Jesus Christ!"--literally taking the Lord's name in vain. ("In vain" itself having two distinct meanings which are really one if you think about it long enough)

I find this stuff as fascinating as you do.

Your two definitions of faith may seem distinct, but they overlap, and in a sense, one of them is necessary for the other. If I have faith in God--that is, loyalty to God--I must therefore also believe that "God exists" is a true proposition. Confusion sets in because the reverse is not the case. When a scientist says, or is characterized as saying, that he "believes in evolution", he means that he believes the theory to be sound. He doesn't mean that he thinks evolution will save his soul, and therefore he doesn't require God. But that's what the religious hear in terms like "believe in evolution" or "believe in climate change". Hence an argument across a bottomless canyon with "Here there be demons" the only legend on either side's map denoting the other side. Words don't mean the same thing on the two sides.

LarryHart said...

Howard Brazee:

That fits "Christian Nationalists" who appear to have values very different from how the Bible describes Jesus Christ to have. Their identity is what they "believe in", and they are loyal to it.


On another forum, I once said that if the Christians are correct, then I'm incapable of passing the test, because (and this is not a typo) :

I have to believe that I have to believe in Jesus Christ in order to get into heaven in order to get into Heaven.


and I just can't do that.

donzelion said...

Yana: My point: a Christian arguing with another Christian is in a weird state Your response: "And a sane person arguing politics in CA is not?"

Indeed: sane people arguing politics is more Californian than our constitution, but nothing in our constitution enjoins or judges the conduct of argument. In faith, the texts work differently.

"As for Red-Letterists (the RLX), they're despised by institutional christians-"
- where they are not themselves 'institutional.' It's a complex mixture. There's nothing in 'direct literal interpretation' that rejects 'the modern world' - except within any literalist stream of Christianity, there's a moral principle to 'denounce all things worldly and look to God.'

For this set, they'd look rather to Dietrich Bonhoffer (and occasionally, Corrie Ten Boom) v. Nazism. No Nazi could possibly fit their model. They'd also be disloyal to the 'Prosperity Gospel,' pissing off a long list.

"Christianity is certainly about arguing"
Actually, it's about 'unity' and obedience is a key tenet, BUT given the clauses proscribing dissent against the 'elders' and bickering over technicalities, the structure of arguments tends to include renouncing the authority of another based on some authority of interpretation - resulting in a schismatic cadence among protestants. When Catholics argued, they had a final arbiter, and when Orthodox argued, they had a process that bypassed argument to mitigate schism.

"But there's always that nagging suspicion in the back of the mind, what if RLX is right?"
Actually, the bigger suspicion: what if the Acts of the Apostles show what the actual models to be emulated actually were? There goes Christian capitalism in a very quick blow (but it does fit neatly, historically, with a primarily slave-driven faith).

"Holy wars ain't what they used to be."
Thank goodness for that.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "I have to believe that I have to believe in Jesus Christ in order to get into heaven in order to get into Heaven."

That would be a pretty accurate statement of the dominant position of Christian evangelical protestants. It was a factor in why I left: I simply couldn't accept that any feelings I had for a non-Christian must either be 'lust' to be repented from, or 'hope' that she would leave her Jewish faith: having lusted quite a few times, I could tell that the emotional state was very different, and the sense of having to destroy a part of her identity in order to try to be with her was the start of my rupture.

I had thought my personal journey was fairly unusual, but have since learned it's in keeping with the preferred means of engaging with those who are determined to reject others: identify shared loves, focus on those items and try to limit areas of dissent or disagreement. Gentle nudges, chiding, rather than mockery or a frontal assault. Accept that there's more in common, even if they claim otherwise (often when they do, it seems like an aggressive repudiation, but is in fact a human fear of drifting from the fold).

Jon S. said...

Larry:

#NotAllChristians

I have faith, although most official sects would probably find me to be heretical in one aspect or another. (For instance, I don't see nonbelievers as "damned" - in my view, acts and underlying beliefs are more important than mouthing a specific shibboleth.) Part of that faith is that a loving God would never order me to take up arms and kill people seemingly at random; therefore, any supernatural-seeming voice ordering such a thing isn't God. I don't believe He's a trickster (although He clearly does have a sense of humor, as my life amply demonstrates), so I don't think He's faking evidence of things like evolution or the age of the universe. (I'm always surprised at the arrogance of religionists who insist that the evidence for a thirteen-billion-year-old universe or the existence of life forms evolving over four billion years are "put there to test our faith". Really? You're willing to go on record as saying that God is a liar? Let me know how that works out for you.)

Then again, another aspect of that faith is that most of the Bible is told in the form of metaphor and poetry, because there are so many clear contradictions if taken literally (the timeline in Genesis chapters 1 and 2; Adam and Eve being the first two people, with no mention of anyone else being created, yet after killing his brother Cain flees to "the land of Nod" and takes a wife; Noah is told in one verse to take "seven pairs of each kind of animal", but in another to take "two pairs of each kind of ritually clean animal, and one pair of each unclean"; and of course the record of the last words of Jesus - did He scream, did He shout a question, or did He stay quiet and just whisper "It is finished"? And this is by no means an exhaustive list). So there's a lot of room for interpretation, in my faith... :-)

(Oh, and I agree with our host that the Book of Revelation of St. John the Divine reads more as bad fanfic than any actual revelation from the God represented by even the harshest portions of the rest of the New Testament.)

David Brin said...

Onward!

Howard Brazee said...

"A long time ago, I noticed that the two seemingly-distinct definitions of "swearing" were really the same thing that mutated into two distinct directions. Saying "fuck" doesn't seem to have much in common with testifying before God, but the older version of cussing wasn't "saying 'fuck'", but saying things like "God damn you!" or "Jesus Christ!"--literally taking the Lord's name in vain. ("In vain" itself having two distinct meanings which are really one if you think about it long enough)"

Non-religious crudities are all about class. Using the Norman or Latin terms of the rulers are OK, but if you use the Anglo-Saxon terms of the serfs, you make Baby Jesus cry.

With the exception of words which say "I treat you the way I treat a woman" (the F-bomb).

Brian Bohmueller said...

Ever consider channeling your blog through a podcast, Dr. Brin? Synthesis of thought like your blog-scripting needs to reach millions, and the audience is there! Alas if it would delay getting the next Uplift novel out, perhaps outsourcing the recording of your articles would accomplish the same ends.

Brian

Old Rockin' Dave said...

"Why does everyone else get prediction cred? I prominently discussed "subvocal" interfaces in Earth,back in 1989. Sigh alas."
You were beaten to the punch by Walter John Watkins, in his 1973 novel, "Clickwhistle".

Old Rockin' Dave said...

donzelion, FDR faced an officer corps and State Department that were heavily infected with blatant anti-Semitism, and a Congress that was only slightly better. As well, some rescue efforts were sidetracked by disputes among Jewish organizations that couldn't always agree on what, where, or how. Obstacles were many, and there was little appetite to act.
There were multiple opportunities to intervene that were thwarted by the Joint Chiefs, who would sit on the proposals awhile, then announce that there was nothing they could do, while others were blocked by half-hearted State responses that were more talk than action. FDR overruled State and the Army when he cared enough. He also could have provided a safe harbor for the refugees. There was enough empty space under US control that he could have used, and there wasn't another group that would have joined the war effort with as much enthusiasm. It might be noted that of all the German Jewish children who were taken in by Britain, ten thousand served in the British forces, manpower that was certainly welcome.
Certainly FDR wanted to defeat the Axis in North Africa, but not to preserve the Jews of the Palestine Mandate. Between El Alamein and the Mandate were the not-inconsiderable Nile valley, Egyptian oilfields, the Royal Navy port at Alexandria, and the Suez Canal, and beyond it lay bigger oilfields, then-neutral Turkey, millions of Axis sympathizers, and the southern flank of the USSR. By the same token it could be argued that Marshal Zhukov did more to save Jews from the Nazis than the rest of all the Allied commanders together, but I'm sure it wasn't his primary consideration.

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