Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Liars, cowards and scoundrels

== Defectors and clingers….  and a truth teller who can go to hell ==

Top GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, long a vocal critic of Trump, sees his party as cowardly and "irredeemable" for not standing up against the president. There are dozens of such adults who are saying they’ve had enough. Alas, almost none of them are in the right’s political caste.

Mitt Romney – for his own benefit – spent a year trying to get “moderate republicans” like John McCain and Susan Collins and the rest to join in a conference to save their party, the way the Democrats saved theirs in what I call the “Miracle of 1947.”  Alas, Romney failed to find more than three grams of cojones among all of them, and now he has shrunk back from the challenge, too, sucking up to the Trumpists. We’ll get no help from such cowards.

And there’s backpedaling and lying hypocrisy on the rise. Take Ralph Reed who was always among the smartest of the fanatics pushing us hard into a dark age. His recent missive declares that the countless, volcanically-vile personal faults of Donald Trump are irrelevant:

I said the same thing in the 1990s when I argued strongly against attacks on Bill Clinton’s character. In my book “Active Faith,” I wrote: “I have always deliberately confined my criticism of Clinton to public policy issues, not his character or moral shortcomings” and “If Bill Clinton is a sinner, he is no worse or less than you or me.” That was not a popular position at that time in my community, but it is one that I felt very strongly about then, and I feel the same way about President Trump.”

Oh, how charitable and all-forgiving! And spectacularly hypocritical and openly lying, given his earlier words. Here's a quote from Ralph Reed in a 1998 NY Times article''Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message…. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.''

Okay, so now his excuse for the pyrotechnically immoral behavior of almost every to GOP official, from Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert to the present occupant of the White House is: "Yes, our leaders are deeply immoral... but democrats are the same!"

Half a billion dollars of mostly our money was spent — across 25 years — investigating the Clintons, the most thoroughly probed humans in the history of our species. Half of all subpoenas issued by the lazy-ass GOP Congresses were in futile search of some "smoking gun." In 2001, George W. Bush diverted many agents from counter-terror duties to go through Clinton Administration files... in the run-up to 9/11.

 And after all that, what did we wind up with? A husband fibbed about some third base adult-consensual infidelity in a hallway... and the wife was later caught using exactly the same sort of somewhat improper email system as Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, John McCain, Mike Pence, George Bush and Jared Kushner.

Meanwhile, the GOP, which used to oppose gambling as a vice, is now dominated by casino moguls and slumlords with mob ties. A movement that despised divorce now shrugs when far more of its politicians are on multiple marriages (or caught in sexual perversion) than democrats. Red-confederate America leads the way in STDs, teen sex and pregnancy, domestic violence, gambling, addiction, murder and opioid addiction… and yet continues chanting about how much more moral they are.

Reed knows the chant is unraveling. “It’s about the policies,” he now maintains.  

I know several “ostrich” or residually sane Republicans who fall for this mantra. “My side has gone insane and sunk into turpitude,” admitted one of them to me, just days ago. “But if Trump and Fox are monsters, at least they have good effects.”

Alas, when I ask them to cite actual, measurable positive outcomes from the GOP controlling Congress for twenty of the last twenty-three years, they all stammer and then desperately try to change the subject. Because in all metrics and all ways - even things they should care about, like deficits and the health of entrepreneurial enterprise ... and military readiness(!) - the record of outcomes across Democratic administrations is universally and unambiguously better. 

See this proved, in detail: Outcomes Matter more than Rhetoric.

I repeat this too often, I know. But I will keep doing so, until you - yes you - and others start using it as a powerful polemical weapon: Name a fact profession - from science to law to the military - their cult is not attacking.

Name a strength that won us the Cold War - from alliances & science to citizen cohesion and a confident civil/military serving caste - that is not being systematically demolished by the Foxites.

When these purported ‘anti-communists’ are all chummy with Kremlin lords - just because those ex-KGB agents switched from wearing hammer/sickle pins to orthodox crosses, you know hypocrisy has hit new levels.  When their greatest pals are communist tyrants, you realize this was never about the health of market enterprise, but the revival of a confederate plantation caste.

“By his fruits you shall know him.”  And by his every fruit, we know Ralph Reed is what he’s always been. A lying beast, slouching toward Meggido.


== A man who could always see where this must lead ==

Oh, but they fall into a spectrum, a bestiary. Ralph Reed, while feral-clever enough to be evil, shows no sign of what I (or any star visitor) would call “sapience.” But there are some who I know to be easily as smart and perceptive as I am… or more… who have deliberately chosen treason.

Take the man I call "The Worst American".  George F. Will now asserts that only time spent in the wilderness can possibly save a Republican Party that's been hijacked by monsters. Oh, sure, he's very smart. He can tell that his entire conservative movement could wind up going extinct, if it remains under the control of casino moguls and slumlords with mafia ties, foreign despots, fox-traitors and confederate trogs. His point in this essay (Read it! Show it to your uncles): that only a crushing defeat this fall might force the GOP to re-evaluate and replace ol' Two Scoops in 2020.

Only a pyre that burns today's GOP will let a phoenix rebirth from the ashes. And Mr. Will asserts that rebirth could be dazzling.

He has a point. Democrats frittered away the last two times they retook Congress, allowing the Republicans to come roaring back. So, as a purely tactical move, GOP voters might follow Will's advice to rescue their party, ideally restocking their political caste with fresh voices who aren't crazy, or anti-fact - or beholden to Rupert Murdoch.

Only here's the thing. George Will remains unrepentant that he helped architect this present freak show. His brilliant incantations - like those of the protagonist in Vonnegut's MOTHER NIGHT - helped to keep tens of millions of residually sane "ostrich" republicans loyal to the undead elephant for two extra decades after Dennis "friend to boys" Hastert and his crew destroyed politics in America. For 20 years, Mr. Will cast soothing spells, delaying the arrival of this crisis till the very lives of America and the Western Enlightenment Experiment - hang in the balance.

He continues rationalizing... e.g. that Democrats kowtow to their executives -- an imbecilic falsehood belied by history, including California's Brown administration. Will knows this; he's offering his conservative readers a way to save face. 

But there's nothing left to save. Not when your party is now a cult, waging war against every profession that uses things called facts. Not when each and every strength of the American Pax that won the Cold War is being systematically dismantled or torched.

No. This man gets no forgiveness. Sure, we must welcome every American who returns home to the Union side, in this phase of the Civil War. And if some are turned back toward the light by words issued by George F. Will? Let's make them feel welcome under a very broad tent.

But not him. I forbid it. He might earn a prodigal son's forgiveness from Washington and Lincoln, perhaps in the great beyond. But the Worst American gets no pass from me.


== Speaking of whom… ==

The Nazis, according to this new book - The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic - were above all “a nationalist protest movement against globalization.” Even before the Great Depression brought huge unemployment to Germany, the caprice of the global economy offered an opportunity to politicians who had simple answers. In their 1920 program, the Nazis proclaimed that “members of foreign nations (noncitizens) are to be expelled from Germany.” 

Next would come autarky: Germans would conquer the territory they needed to be self-sufficient, and then create their own economy in isolation from that of the rest of the world. As Goebbels put it, “We want to build a wall, a protective wall.” Hitler maintained that the vicissitudes of globalization were not the result of economic forces but of a Jewish international conspiracy.

And then… more surprises?

This actually appeared on Fox News?  What’s their game? NASA's chilling 30-year-old warning: “We were warned. On June 23, 1988, a sultry day in Washington, James Hansen told the US Congress and the world that global warming wasn’t approaching — it had already arrived.  The testimony of the top NASA scientist, said Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley, was “the opening salvo of the age of climate change.” 
"Thirty years later, it’s clear that Hansen and other doomsayers were right. But the change has been so sweeping that it is easy to lose sight of effects large and small — some obvious, others less conspicuous. Earth is noticeably hotter, the weather stormier and more extreme. Polar regions have lost billions of tons of ice; sea levels have been raised by trillions of gallons of water. Far more wildfires rage. Over 30 years — the time period climate scientists often use in their studies in order to minimize natural weather variations — the world’s annual temperature has warmed 0.54 degrees Celsius, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And the temperature in the United States has gone up even more — nearly 0.85 degrees.”  

Are the Kochs and their pals backing off?  Or preparing their case against the inevitable lawsuits?

Nope. As I'll tell in a coming missive, they are preparing freehold redoubts in Patagonia... where they will die at the hands of the very guards they have hired to protect them.  The ones left? Surviving "fact people" will know how to find them and have the ability and means to dig them out, or bury them with their useless gold...

...before we resume upward progress, and mine gold from asteroids.

86 comments:

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Oh, how charitable and all-forgiving! And spectacularly hypocritical and openly lying, given his [Ralph Reed's] earlier words. Here's a quote from Ralph Reed in a 1998 NY Times article. ''Character matters, and the American people are hungry for that message…. We care about the conduct of our leaders, and we will not rest until we have leaders of good moral character.''


He's apparently trying to be like all those people who insist that they don't like Republicans increasing the deficit either, but strangely only mention the thing they don't like either party doing when Democrats are doing it.


Okay, so now his excuse for the pyrotechnically immoral behavior of almost every to GOP official, from Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert to the present occupant of the White House is: "Yes, our leaders are deeply immoral... but democrats are the same!"


He's not even saying that. He's saying his party may be full of degenerates, but they're our degenerates. They vote against abortion, against gays, against feminism, and against the environment (and nominate judges who back those positions), so what they do on their own time is irrelevant.

Donbury said...

The Democrats, right or wrong! Never mind assessment via established scientific protocols.

David Brin said...

Hey Donbury! You ready to put money on that? I mean it. Name a law firm ready to take our stakes. Your cult is waging war on all fact-using professions, especially science. And you dare to sully the word "scientific" with a confederate tongue?

David Martin said...

Thanks for another dose of sanity in an insane time. I hope it isn't too late to preserve liberal democracy, and the "Union" side. But as Churchill said in 1940--I am very much afraid it is[too late]...we can only do our best. By the way--I'm not on Twitter, so I wanted to thank you here for your reference to *Lord of Light*. I read it every few years. Is that where "the fit hit the Shan" originated? If so, just another way that SF has enlightened us all...

William of Ockham said...

Even if the Repubs regain their sanity, it may well be too late. The oligarchs plans, according to this, are much scarier than you think and are well-advanced.

https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/blog/meet-the-economist-behind-the-one-percents-stealth-takeover-of-america

David Brin said...

Mr. Martin... of course Zelazny rules! ;-)

donzelion said...

"Are the Kochs and their pals backing off? Or preparing their case against the inevitable lawsuits?"

Actually, I found Bill Koch's documentary "Sour Grapes" (2016) fascinating - and perhaps an insight into the 'crusade' of a man who was outraged at buying $1000 bottles of swill. Posing as an honest-broker (in the wine industry) determined to take down some nasty immigrant who outwitted him, a great deal makes sense about how he would ideally wind up, joining the vineyards somewhere or other, suckling grape juice, and laughing about it all.

Patagonia, or wine country in Australia, or any one of a number of other vineyard-graced plots of lands somewhere else in the world (probably not France or Italy)...

Joseph Discenza said...

I'd like to suggest that passing the ACA wasn't "frittering away" the last time the Ds held Congress--but cost them that hold thanks to lies and the lying liars who tell them.

Alfred Differ said...

I don't think it was so much about the lying liars. From what I remember, the American People weren't yet sold on the ACA. Many were, but there was no consensus. It made me think of what would happen if Americans were told we had to go to war and the powers that be had yet to successfully sell the need to half of us.

Of course the Democrats didn't have enough time to sell it. That's the work of a generation.

David Brin said...

Joseph D, passing the ACA was done stupidly. The dems should have made very clear it was the GOP's OWN dam plan! They could have cornered republicans into grudgingly owning it and a few into supporting it. But claiming credit for it, the dems let all the goppers howl "we've never seen anything so awful!" and come roaring back.

NoOne said...

Wait for the next recession. It may begin in late 2019 or early 2020 and a recession in an election year usually means it's toast for the incumbent. (The Dems have to win the house in 2018 though to keep the momentum going.) If I were Trump, I'd start going after Powell for increasing interest rates. I'm surprised Trump hasn't tried to intervene more visibly. It's in his interests to delay the next recession to 2021.

samuel glover said...

In addition to what's been said, the timing of the ACA campaign was all wrong. Obama should have gone after the financial "industry" first. None of the Wall Street alchemists who helped cook up the 2008 meltdown ever had to even lawyer up, let alone face jail time. This has proved profoundly corrosive, demoralizing to representative government.

*After* tackling those well-connected thieves -- and with the enhanced popularity that would have come with fighting them -- Obama could have pursued health care reform from a much stronger position.

But then I'm just wish-thinking, here. Obama never had it in him. Even before his inauguration Republicans made their policy explicit: We will kick you in the teeth every chance we get. Give them their due, they never made a secret of it, and they plainly meant it. Obama's genius response was to waste at least four or six years chasing the imaginary ghosts of "bi[partisanship" and collegial civility. Yeah, he accomplished some good things (e.g., the negotiations with Iran, and **parts** of the ACA), but on the whole Obama will mostly be remembered as the president who let once-in-a-generation opportunities simply slip through his fingers.

Jon S. said...

Samuel, Obama couldn't fight back effectively. Any time he exhibited anything more than a Mr.-Rogers-like patience with his opponents, the (increasing number of) racists in the GOP started making noises about "angry black man". He was in a Catch-22 situation - fighting back would prove he was "just another angry black man", and lose support from a surprisingly large number of whites, while not fighting back gave them leverage in a different direction, trying to claim he was "ineffectual". (Of course, Dem "leadership" didn't help much...)

NoOne, the recession is starting to hit - and it has nothing to do with interest rates. Lowering or raising interest rates won't sell American soybeans to the Chinese market, or move BMW production back to the Carolinas again. The only thing that could avoid it at this point is exactly what Donnie won't permit - removing those stupid, pointless punitive tariffs, which are resulting in retaliatory tariffs (did he honestly believe that he could hold his own private trade war, without the other side returning fire?).

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

From what I remember, the American People weren't yet sold on the ACA. Many were, but there was no consensus.
...
Of course the Democrats didn't have enough time to sell it.


Democrats are historically bad at salesmanship. In fact, I think there's a liberal tendency to disdain salesmanship, wanting instead for good policy to be embraced on its merits. The lesson of the last 30 years or so is that this isn't a good way to get things done.

(As a Libertarian, you don't need me to describe that process)

Republicans are masters at framing the public perception, so that Democrats feel the need to justify themselves to Republican voters rather than justifying their positions to voters in general.

donzelion said...

Joseph Discenza: "I'd like to suggest that passing the ACA wasn't "frittering away" the last time the Ds held Congress--but cost them that hold thanks to lies and the lying liars who tell them."

Indeed. I wouldn't even say that it was the ACA that cost them - the lies and lying liars who SELL them benefited immensely starting in 2009 from a reversion to the older style of campaign finance.

The key shift came from FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life (2007) - after which Republicans realized that the key mechanisms for enforcing campaign finance reform were effectively neutered. They poured tens of millions into campaigns using old school attack tactics, even though the effort was still 'illegal' (and would remain so until 2010's Citizens United).

Dr. Brin: "...The dems should have made very clear it was the GOP's OWN dam plan!"
By 2010, it wouldn't have mattered what Dems tried to make clear. No matter how consistent their messaging, Reps owned the largest media network, dominated or maintained exceptional power on the next two largest media networks (the so-called 'liberal' parts), the AM radio universe, and the content of local broadcasters and most newspapers. Even if they raised billions of dollars per election cycle, their rivals owned hundreds of billions of dollars in media properties broadcasting for free: by that measure, Reps still outspent Dems.

In a fair debate, yes, "[Dems] could have cornered republicans into grudgingly owning it and a few into supporting it." But the media landscape has not resembled a fair debate for a long time. Best they could do with extremely expensive air time they could acquire was shove the ACA down Romney's throat in 2012, and use that to hold the White House by suppressing Rep turnout...that gambit worked.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

But claiming credit for [Obamacare], the dems let all the goppers howl "we've never seen anything so awful!" and come roaring back.


Note the unashamed double standard. "They rammed Obamacare through without a single Republican vote!" implying that the Democrats put party ahead of country and defied the will of the American people. OTOH, "Not a single Democrat voted for the tax bill," is indicative that the Democrats are being obstructionist, getting in the way of the will of the American people.

donzelion said...

Jon S.: "Obama couldn't fight back effectively. Any time [Obama did or did not do anything]...racists in the GOP started making noises about "angry black man"."

That is a story of media domination: the GOP made noises simultaneously accusing Obama of tyrannical excesses/domination - inept weakness - and Muslim identity. Obama took a 'lose the least' line (up until his final months in office after the 2014 elections), but the attacks came from CNN, MSNBC, and 24/7, from Fox (and were amplified by social media).

"NoOne, the recession is starting to hit - and it has nothing to do with interest rates."
The target, as always in manufactured shortages, is the 'weakest enemy' - and the one identified by Republicans is labor unions. The recession empowers employers to justify refusals to increase wages ("Gosh, we'd love to give you guys a raise, but given the global environment, we just wouldn't be competitive anymore and would have to fire all of you!") - even as corporate profits and shareholder buybacks continue at an unprecedented pace.

The methodology will be a slight variation on what worked so well against Obama: arguing simultaneously
(1) "Unions are tyrannical and destroy all of America!"
(2) "Unions are weak and incompetent, and do nothing whatsoever!"
(3) "Unions are FOREIGN and disloyal!" ('foreign' in the sense of being driven by out-of-state interests loyal to CA, IL, and NY 'leaders')

Larry Hart said...

NoOne:

If I were Trump, I'd start going after Powell for increasing interest rates. I'm surprised Trump hasn't tried to intervene more visibly. It's in his interests to delay the next recession to 2021.


He has tried to intervene with Saudi Arabia to lower gas prices which went up when he scuttled the Iran deal. The Saudis have separate interests there, though.

If #BenedictDonald wanted to keep the economy humming, he could do things like not launch trade wars or not threaten NATO, but he's constitutionally incapable of not being a bull in a china shop. Maybe it's the reality tv star in him--three years of humming economic growth just isn't compelling enough. Ratings require there to be more drama.

Larry Hart said...

BTW, radio host and lawyer Norman Goldman yesterday went all the way to calling Donald Trump a traitor.

His reasoning is the Constitutional language defining treason. "He adheres to America's enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Can't argue with that.

Larry Hart said...

donzelion:

The methodology will be a slight variation on what worked so well against Obama: arguing simultaneously
(1) "Unions are tyrannical and destroy all of America!"
(2) "Unions are weak and incompetent, and do nothing whatsoever!"
(3) "Unions are FOREIGN and disloyal!"


Republicans making that argument would be projecting.

Alfred Differ said...

hmm... If any of y'all plan to schedule recessions, please let me know so I can move from long to short positions in the market.

I'll also let the annoyed and unemployed know who arranged for it. 8)

gerold said...

Re: Nazis in Germany - how and why they were able to take power is a bit of a paradox. But explaining it as a "nationalist protest movement against globalization" (Benjamin Hett in The Death of Democracy) seems like a gross oversimplification. There are a couple of other factors that seem much more important.

Without the Great Depression in 1929 the Nazis would have remained a small fringe faction, a political punchline. Until then their vote totals were insignificant. From that army of the unemployed Hitler recruited a mob to create violent public disorder in strange partnership with the communists. Both saw it as an opportunity to exploit discontent. Widespread street fights and conspicuous public violence, combined with the fear of worldwide economic collapse, made the desperate resort to right-wing rule seem like a possible solution.

I suppose it's possible to link the Depression to the global economy, but the Depression of 1873 was just as bad or worse than the one of 1929. In 1873 the German Socialists successfully used economic distress to advocate for unemployment insurance and other social welfare programs, but in 1929 the Nazis used it to create a crisis of public order.

The other factor exploited by the Nazis was the Versailles Treaty. While mainstream political parties argued for peaceful resistance, Hitler went all-in with tit-for-tat. It was completely irresponsible of course, but it played well with his base.

The whole notion of "Romanticism" is ill-formed. The idea that the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment and Rule of Law engendered a reactionary "Romantic" opposition is bunk. There was a reactionary response, but it would be better described as irrationalist, centered and championed primarily by organized religion.

Every product marketing campaign tries to shroud itself in a romantic aura. Whether you're selling cars, beer, or totalitarian political doctrines, you want rugged square-jawed champions and dazzlingly beautiful sirens promoting the product. Nazism was tawdry, brutish and stupid, but that's a loser of a marketing campaign.

Every civilization in world history has been based on a tops-down, command/control hierarchy where the privileged ruling class has life or death control over the exploited masses. The West is the only (partial) exception, but as enlightenment rolled-back the corrupt privilege of the exploiters, they obviously resisted. There are still plenty of people and organizations that feed on exploitation, using force and fraud to con their victims. Trump is just the latest face of this corrupt exploiter class, backed by a mass of zombie dupes penciled-in as cannon fodder should the opportunity arise.

Nazis, the American Confederacy and their current-day descendants tap-in to the primate brain to mobilize their cannon fodder; the future of the White Race is in peril! Defend your women from pollution! Save the Shining City on the Hill from desecration! Lock her up! Build the Wall etc.

As ugly as it is, I can't get too worked up. These dinosaurs will die. Youngsters aren't buying their crap. Now they just have to get out and vote.

Treebeard said...

These dinosaurs will die and then there will be new dinosaurs. Nothing that is inherent in human beings ever goes away. If humans colonize Mars and the stars, they'll still have the same old problems. I don't know why this is so hard for progs to grasp. Probably because when you lose faith in the old gods you have to invent new ones, and Progress will do until something better comes along.

locumranch said...


"The idea that the Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment and Rule of Law engendered a reactionary "Romantic" opposition is bunk"[gerold]

It's just so progressive to discredit someone you don't like by calling them 'a Nazi' traitor on scant evidence:

As in the case of Donald Trump who is the father of Jewish children & Jewish grandchildren.

As in the case of Oswald Spengler, a Jewish German scholar & a strong proponent of Cyclical History theory who published 'The Decline of the West' in 1918 & died in isolation after Adolf Hitler's rise to power.

As in the case of George Will being accused of being 'like' the (false) Nazi protagonist from Vonnegut's 'Mother Night'.

As in the case of the so-called Nazi nation of Israel & all those who dare oppose Open Borders & Globalization.

As in the case of Seinfeld's 'Soup Nazi' absurdity.

This is stupid & dangerous game, this act of conflating pretty much everyone you dislike with Nazi level villainy, as it trivializes & devalues the utility of the term in the sense that "If Everyone Is a Nazi, Then No One Is".

And it's already started backfiring on all those pro-diversity PC Nazi thugs & traitors who have betrayed the principles of Freedom & Liberty.


Best

David Brin said...

gerold you are cogent and smart... and seem to have absolutely no idea what romanticism is, a blind spot that I deem extremely dangerous. It is as bad a blind spot as locum's inability to grasp even in theory the concept of positive sum and treebeard's pyrotechnic "fuck you Dad! and can I have $20?" snarling-ingrate silliness.

Romanticism extolls hierarchy and demigods and those who rule by right, rather than measurable achievement and negotiation. It extolls the warrior virtues and warrior blindness and tragedy. It is purity of Essence... POE... versus purity of evil...

I could go on. But you are clearly not only blind to this force that has propelled great art and horrid policy for 6000 years. You appear also to be uninterested. Try listening to Wagner. Crum, man. Watch Lord of the Rings. Star Wars.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin,

You might have failed on one prediction from Earth, namely that NATO still exists in 2038.

Mel Baker said...

I love the last paragraph. When their guards they've hired kill them. I've often thought the same. The Peter Theil's of the world have their lear jets warmed up to fly off to New Zealand, but his guards will put a bullet in his head at the tarmac and take their families to the fortress of solitude.

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard | Nothing that is inherent in human beings ever goes away.

Maybe on an evolutionary scale it does, but that’s not the claim old-school liberals would make. Nothing goes away? Okay. Nothing ever gets added? Nope. Not even close.

What is happening nowadays isn’t occurring at the individual level except as a consequence of what is happening at the social level. Liberal societies are different than feudal ones in a fundamentally important way.

I could explain why and get nowhere with someone who prefers Hobbes. Instead, let me point out that real incomes for the average person on Earth have increased at least 16x (conservatively) in the last 500 years. At no earlier point in history was that ever true. The average person averaged slightly more than a subsistence income and most of that was generated by their own hands or the hands of their family/band. In the US, average real income is (conservatively) up about 100x if one does not take quality improvements into account. These numbers are measurable unlike the explanations offered by economists. They are all referenced to subsistence living standards.

History does have a few examples where real incomes went up 2x or 3x for select groups, but they all point to people who lived in the heart of a prosperous empire. Romans were better off the closer they were to Rome. Those improvements didn’t make even a blip on the global scale, though, because most people were not Romans or Egyptians or whatever empire you choose. In our case, the improvement is vastly larger AND it has altered the global statistic.

… and it’s accelerating upward.

Beat that with a stick if you can!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - NATO

Does the USA REALLY want the largest economy in the world to unite and spend more (and more efficiently) on it's Military than the USA?

The countries that developed warfare over 2000 years of practice?

Is that a "sensible" wish?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
I always used to think that humans had not changed
That we were "cavemen in suits"

And then Pinker's - Better Angels of our Nature - just blew my mind!

David Brin said...

LH... the character in EARTH expresses surprise that "NATO is still in business."

David Brin said...

Duncan, the thing about zero (or negative) sum guys like our two beloved cranks is that they never consider how BORING things were, in the 99.99% of human societies that they venerate (because at least the thuggish kings and priests weren't sciencey-nerrrrrrds!) Treebeard and Locum rail that human nature hasn't changed. Indeed, while the arrival of beer probably sharply winnowed male populations and made us verifiably genetically different, we still contain within us a lot of trog stuff.

Trog stuff dominated every other culture... sometimes under a togas or morning coat veneer. so what I don't get is WHY seek a return to that era? Sure, we fail to convince, with mountains of evidence that this renaissance truly is better in almost all ways. More nerd stuff. Pointing out the insipid stupidity and cruelty of those era sounds like liberal whining to zero or neg-summers.

But the boredom... the stunning relentless predictability. Jiminy, shouldn't that be a turnoff?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Boring! - I had not thought of that - YES incredibly boring!

Nothing but gossip -
Remember Larry Niven's "Bordered in Black" - the constant buzz of conversation

Not as bad as that - but still pretty bad

gerold said...

David: you're right, I don't understand Romanticism. In fact, I think the entire concept of "Romanticism" as a significant socio-cultural system is just plain wrong. If I'm wrong about that I'd love to have my errors explicated however.

I've read several cultural histories that attempt to show that this thing called "Romanticism" arose in the early 1800's as a reaction to the Enlightenment of the "long 18th century" (~ 1650 - 1800); or maybe a response to the Scientific Revolution, or increasing materialism, or even the disorientation resulting from accelerating change in every aspect of life. You have yet another version, where "Romanticism" has a much longer pedigree - 6000 years!

I have yet to encounter a coherent/consistent explanation for romanticism and its origin, reason for being, and continued survival. The explanations are not only mutually inconsistent, but internally self-contradictory. A few strokes of Occam's Razor are enough to show there's no there there.

You mention the veneration of hierarchy as a distinguishing feature. But there's nothing romantic about hierarchy. It's just the simplest means of social organization for large groups of people, adapted directly from instinctive primate pecking orders. (See Wilson, _Sociobiology_ for excellent examples of instinctive dominance hierarchy in various social species.)

5000 years ago people started building urban population centers, and the method of social organization they settled on was a simple dominance hierarchy with gods at the top and slaves at the bottom. Sumeria, Egypt, China, Mexico, Peru; all the ancient civilizations followed a similar totalitarian tops-down command/control organizational principle. Crude, but effective. But hardly romantic. It's the romance of the barracks, complete with flogging post.

The West has followed a different trajectory, where elements of anarchic tribal liberty have been preserved. Nietzsche and Walter Scott looked back fondly on the viking era as a time of unlimited freedom, and indeed it was. But the problem with having the freedom to plunder, rape and kill is that others can do unto you also.

I love Wagner and Tolkien. I find the notion of going a-viking rather romantic too. But all in all, I prefer the 21st century.

I think there was a reaction to accumulating knowledge, science and enlightenment. It was a threat to the ignorance-based industries like religion, and corrupt force/fraud systems like hereditary aristocracy and kingship. They defended their privilege when it was threatened, using every trick of force and fraud developed over thousands of years. But calling it "Romanticism" doesn't make any sense. Organized crime syndicates will defend their turf when threatened by rival gangs or honest cops. They might even try to portray themselves in heroic terms - see the efforts of the NDrangheta to enlist the aid of their victims and dupes on the underside of the boot. But Romantic? - nah.

gerold said...

Treebeard: the notion that human beings are incapable of change, and the accumulation of knowledge of the centuries have failed to result in any progress, is self-evidently false.

When ents get old they start going tree-ish.

You're not going tree-ish are you?

Those lacking a scientific orientation can easily misunderstand the Second Law of Thermodynamics as proving the universe must inevitably turn to shit. Not so. Because alongside the increase of entropy is a counter-current increasing complexity. Eric Chaisson has described the process in beautiful fashion. Progress is not only possible, it's unstoppable.

Now, you may not like it. Equal rights for women, non-whites, gays and social deviants may seem more like decadence than progress. If tradition floats your boat, then progress might seem downright abhorrent. But most people don't feel that way. And progress marches on.

Don't go all tree-ish and you just might enjoy it.

David Brin said...

"I have yet to encounter a coherent/consistent explanation for romanticism and its origin, reason for being, and continued survival."

Yes, it is bold of you to admit this, since it's blatantly obvious that sucking up to the lords and "heroes" was beneficial to ancestors who had not other way to seek resources or justice.

"The explanations are not only mutually inconsistent, but internally self-contradictory."

To you.

"A few strokes of Occam's Razor are enough to show there's no there there."

Please do so. That you could watch a Wagner Opera or look at giant jawed Nazi or Socialist-realist hero images and not see the consistent pattern is... odd.

Larry Hart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

Does the USA REALLY want the largest economy in the world to unite and spend more (and more efficiently) on it's Military than the USA?

The countries that developed warfare over 2000 years of practice?

Is that a "sensible" wish?


In stereotypical Jewish fashion, I'll answer your question with a question, brought to mind by soon-to-be-anointed supreme court justice Kavanaugh's notion that presidents should be immune to subpoenas, prosecution, or even investigation...

Do the Republicans really want a situation where the only course of redress is the guillotine?

Larry Hart said...

Put these together and a conclusion becomes inevitable...

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Jul13.html#item-2

Trump defines his relationship with other world leaders in entirely personal terms. He doesn't particularly care if Russia and the U.S. get along; what is most meaningful to him is that he and Putin get along. And, as the Washington Post's Philip Bump points out, a hostile totalitarian like Putin or Kim Jong-Un has nothing to lose in playing to Trump's love of flattery and glad-handing. On the other hand, an Angela Merkel or a Theresa May or an Emmanuel Macron doesn't do that; their philosophy and their domestic political environment and their foreign policy all demand that they treat the President as an equal and a partner, not as an emperor whose ring must be kissed. Of course, you can't teach a 72-year-old dog new tricks, and so there is zero chance that Trump is going to change. Which means that it's going to be at least two more years of America's friends being treated like enemies and her enemies being treated like friends.


Article III, Section 3 of the United States Constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

Darrell E said...

I'm feeling really warm and fuzzy today towards the good people of the UK that have received Trump so appropriately.

One of many pics that made me smile was of a Dalek sporting a Trump wig among a crowd of protesters.

locumranch said...


There's funny and there's hilarious.

It's funny how our most outspoken critic of Romanticism fails to define that of which he is so critical.

Romanticism is most often defined as (1) "An artistic and intellectual movement that emphasizes emotion and imagination", (2) "a departure from the attitudes and forms of classicism", (3) "a rebellion against established social rules and conventions", and (4) "a adoption of Romantic attitudes in thought, expression, or action".

A the heart of the Romantic attitude, however, lies the belief that one identity group (as defined by race, creed, nationality, belief system or gender) is somehow "chosen" to be somehow better, more superior, more special or more deserving than any other identity group.

It follows that it's somewhat funny that our host (who makes his living by selling emotional & imaginative fictions) dislikes Romanticism. It's even funnier when one recognises that our Scientific 'Enlightenment' represents a return to classical attitudes about nature & empiric reality (of which Romanticism represents 'a departure from' and 'a rebellion against').

But, it's down-right hilarious when one considers that it is the so-called "progressive" identity group which so vehemently claims that it is THEIR identity group (and theirs alone) that has been "chosen" to become Humanity's Future, by virtue of their self-assumed state of being better, more superior, more special or more deserving than anyone else (I suppose).

It is to laugh.

And now, I will pause in order to allow our host to tell us more about progressive, blue urban, WEIRD & American exceptionality.


Best
____

It is not some much that Treebeard & I argue that 'human beings are incapable of change (and) the accumulation of knowledge of the centuries (has) failed to result in any progress', but that progressives assume a counter-factual degree of change that would render humanity unhuman, inhuman & not-human -- or, as progressives like to say -- BETTER.

Tim Wolter said...

"Indeed, while the arrival of beer probably sharply winnowed male populations..."

Amidst sundry and to be frank, repetitious political vitriol the above appears.

A base calumny, Sir, base, and one which cannot stand unchallenged!

Yes, an excess of beer has been epidemiologically linked with tap room stabbings and such. And, demonstration my magnaminity, I'll concede that many of the crackpot, desstructive philosophies that have come out of middle Europa have been fueled by nights in the bier stube.

But contra this, consider that beer is less likely to transmit water borne pathogens. European tee totallers of both genders sickenend and died. Hardy beer drinkers may have wobbled on into the future, but at least they got there!

From the land of Beer and Cheese

T.Wolter/Tacitus

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

But contra this, consider that beer is less likely to transmit water borne pathogens. European tee totallers of both genders sickenend and died. Hardy beer drinkers may have wobbled on into the future, but at least they got there!


Boiling water also reduces pathogens. Isn't the success of the Anglophone world attributable to its sobering up on tea and coffee?

Tim Wolter said...

Coffee and Tea did not come along until much later.

As to dedicated research on the health effects of beer vs boiled water I think a controlled study would get plenty of volunteers. Just not for the placebo group.
Maybe not for the active trial group either, I 'spose they'd have to drink Zima to find a taste and color analog to water.

Otherwise your point is logical and so must be dismissed by Bier Stube logic.

We'll get together one day and hash this all out.

TW/T2

locumranch said...


Larry_H uses a strange definition of the term 'friend' when he describes the EU as 'America's friends'. Hangers-on, yes. Fair-weather associates, maybe. But NOT friends because friends reciprocate & occasionally pick up the chit.

Although the USA has treated the EU 'as if' they were friends -- by funding, feeding, feting & protecting them -- they return the favour by eating our food, complaining about the quality of wine we provide, stealing our cutlery & pissing on our carpets.

Like 'Timons of Athens', Trump's behaviour to those smug little EU parasites was both appropriate & restrained. He splashed a little water in their entitled faces in the hopes that they would wake they 'f' up. Big whoop.

It's not like he went Odysseus on their suitorous arses & slaughtered them where they stand -- which they deserve, btw -- for abusing the hospitality of our house.

O, dear! An impolite Trump asked for ketchup & used the wrong fork. He's crass, confrontational, uncultured & he drinks BEER! It's an international incident. I swoon.


Best

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

As to dedicated research on the health effects of beer vs boiled water I think a controlled study would get plenty of volunteers. Just not for the placebo group.


Heh. I haven't had a good spit-take here for a long time. Thanks.

Assuming the placebo group drinks coffee and tea (not just plain boiled water), I can sacrifice myself for the cause.

Larry Hart said...

locumranch clearly gets his information from FOX News, Sinclair, and/or Trump's Twitter account.

I do not hear the words of fact-deficient traitors.

matthew said...

Larry said, "Do the Republicans really want a situation where the only course of redress is the guillotine?"

The answer is yes, that is exactly what they want. The only missing bit of information here is that they think that THEY will be the ones running the guillotine. See the words, here, of our resident assholes, loco and the ent, where they both make very clear that they are looking forward to seeing the rest of the blue state liberals die.

You are not taking them seriously enough.

Treebeard said...

Progress marches on. And then you die and are forgotten and everything you care about crumbles to dust. Long live progress. It's unstoppable.

matthew said...

As the news of the indictments against 12 Russian GRU members rolls out today, watch for the mentions of "unindicted co-conspirators," which almost certainly include Rodger Stone and Wikileaks. For a good background on this I recommend Seth Abramson's twitter feed.

Winter7 said...

Humm All right. That makes clear the aversion to Tolkien.
Yes. We can then agree that the romantic spirit of war is bad when that spirit is linked to the cult of oligarchs of all ages. It is easy to remember how the Nazis in the German army considered themselves invincible Viking warriors. Those pieces of Nazi shit were totally convinced that they had the right to murder; looting and enslaving those who did not belong to the clan of Viking warriors. (That fucking philosophy remains intact among the numerous Nazi groups around the world) (If some Nazi sneaked into this discussion and does not understand what I said, they can call the number 11111111111111111, collect and get a coloring book with dioramas and stories that explain more clearly the cause of Nazism is shit and a symbol of spiritual putrefaction.
Nevertheless. We can not pull the figure of the warrior down the drain. We must only redefine the warrior's motivation.
The medieval warriors, before the battle, shouted: By God and by the king! Or, for God's sake and for our country! (X country). Thus, the motivation of these warriors was to fight for their God, (that being the religion instrument of the oligarchs was to serve the oligarchy without knowing it). Or by the king (who is oligarch) or, by their respective nation, which means nationalism, and as we all know, nationalism is an instrument widely used by the Nazis of all ages.
So, we could redefine the modern warrior's motivation. The cry of the modern warrior would be: For the freedom of all families!
I do not know what the oath is in the American army. But I think the motivation I proposed is something applicable to the modern warrior.
Of course, the ideal would be a world without armies. A world where we were all honest and fair. I'm signed up for a world like that. (if they find a vaccine that cures the selfishness and rapacity that has infected factions around the world). But as long as we do not have that vaccine that can turn the Putin into honest beings, we can not completely take away the warrior spirit from us. Well:

“But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

So that. We can be warriors if the survival of the nation merits heroism, but we can be warriors with the correct motivation: Warriors who seek the freedom of all families. Without distinction of race or religion.

¡Για την ελευθερία όλων των οικογενειών! ¡Ελευθερία!

Winter7 said...

I forgot to say that the following paragraph is part of the declaration of independence.

"But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States."

Thomas Jefferson and other patriots.

Larry Hart said...

So much for the fact-challenged:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/12/opinion/editorials/trump-nato-obama.html

Now that the smoke has cleared from the NATO summit meeting, the most tangible result is apparent: President Trump advanced President Barack Obama’s initiative to keep the allies on track to shoulder a more equitable share of NATO’s costs. Mr. Trump even signed on to a tough statement directed at Russia. For once he saw eye to eye with his predecessor.

Yet whether Mr. Trump himself is clear about the strategy he’s pursuing, or whether he in fact has one, remains as mysterious as ever.

Mr. Obama persuaded NATO leaders to increase their military spending at a meeting in Wales in 2014, after a newly aggressive Russia invaded Ukraine. Back then, alliance members pledged to work toward raising spending levels to 2 percent of their gross domestic products by 2024. All 29 allies have begun to increase their military budgets in real terms, and two-thirds of them have plans to reach the 2 percent target by 2024. And they reaffirmed their “unwavering commitment” to these targets in the communiqué issued at the end of the two-day summit in Brussels this week.

...

gerold said...

David and Winter7: we have used Wagner and Tolkien as examples of Romanticism, with two very different connotations.

David links them to Nazi/Soviet genocidal totalitarianism. He finds it difficult to believe that others reject that linkage, so I'll try to explain why the association is faulty. Winter gets it.

Lord of the Rings and Ring des Nibelungen are both based upon the Siegfried Saga, a pan-German epic committed to written form in the 13th century, but originating centuries earlier in the oral tradition. (I say centuries, but there is no way of knowing how many; the story is found from Iceland to Austria, so it has deep roots.)

The Ring story is not about "sucking up" to some robber baron in an old fashioned protection racket. The Ring is a representation of the corrupting effect of power, and the story is about the necessity of resistance to that corruption. Frodo is the only member of the Nine who can be entrusted with the mission of destroying the Ring because of his unique immunity. Yet even he succumbs at the end.

If you go back to the origin story of the ring, it's Loki who causes it to be cursed. It's his greed and pitiless cruelty that turn the ring from a beneficial wealth creator into a tainted talisman of evil. The legend teaches the necessity of guarding oneself from that temptation.

Wagner added a beautiful twist in the opera, where the Valkyrie Brunhilde has to disobey Wotan to save the life of Siegfried; not only must be abjure the temptation of power, but also defy the orders of our "superiors" when love dictates otherwise.

1984 is a great example of a cultural vaccine against tyranny, but the Ring story is an even better one.

A big part of Enlightenment is refusing to take advantage of our power when it comes to exploiting the weak. Siddhartha knew it. Knights and ladies of the First Western Enlightenment (1150-1300) knew it. So did Condorcet, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine. But while the enlightened leaders of the past constituted an elite, that understanding has now filtered down to a critical mass of commoners - hence the Third Western Enlightenment (1950 - ?).

There is an historical error of seeing the past in a hazy blaze of glory. There is another in seeing it through a grey-brown fog of exploitation and misery. Reality was more complicated and it always will be. Over-simplification is gross.

gerold said...

On progress: Treebeard notes that while progress marches on, we as individuals die.

You got a problem with that?

Mortality has its advantages. It's how we make room for subsequent generations. And there's nothing like the immanent prospect of death to sharpen ones focus and sweeten the delights of existence. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Locum seems to be saying that progress isn't really progress. How's that? The entire history of life on earth has been a progression of increasing complexity, intelligence and beauty. Flowers didn't even exist until the end the Cretaceous.

The same pattern holds true for human history. Read some Steven Pinker if you want data. Yet dinosaurs always complain about the curtain coming down, seemingly unaware that it will rise again. And as much as I like reptiles, I like mammals better. And while the good old days were fine, I like the present a lot more.

And though you may choose not to believe it, the future will be better yet.

Larry Hart said...

what we probably knew all along...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/opinion/brexit-conservatives-boris-trump.html

...

With astonishing hypocrisy, wealthy Brexiteers such as Mr. Rees-Mogg, John Redwood, Lord Lawson and Lord Ashcroft have all been discovered either preparing to move their own assets into European Union jurisdictions or advising clients on how to do so. No doubt when Britain does finally leave the European Union in March 2019, they will distance themselves from reality once more, allowing the sense of victimhood and the dream of “sovereignty” to live another day. Meanwhile, someone has to keep governing.

Treebeard said...

LOL @ gerold. Spoken like a true believer. I'm sure the robots or raccoons who rule the world after humans are long gone will be saying similar things, and will have their own Pinkerians. And when it's all dead and gone, maybe the empty universe will gloat about how everything has progressed to a beautiful Zen-like void.

Since you're a Nietzsche fan, here's another apropos quote, one of my all-time favorites:

In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge. That was the highest and most mendacious minute of "world history" — yet only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.

One might invent such a fable and still not have illustrated sufficiently how wretched, how shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary, the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened.

Twominds said...

@ gerold on Lord of the Rings. I agree with your interpretation that the core of the story is resistance against corruption. The whole part of the True King is secondary, it could have been replaced ; with other forms of governing without changing the story's essence. (As an aside: I liked Strider better than Aragorn, he became far too lofty, not interesting anymore.) Something more Shire-like for instance. You could say that the organization in the Shire is much more modern, a glimpse of things to come maybe. But because Tolkien delved deeply into old myths, the Chosen King theme fits the general atmosphere well.

I think there's another theme in the story core: going on against all odds, that way creating a situation that another one can take over and solve a problem. (No deliberate 'lone heroes' here, the only one who can succeed, no others need apply.)

I have more thoughts about this, but I can't give them words right now, not in English, not at this time of day. Maybe another time!

Twominds

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

Progress marches on. And then you die and are forgotten and everything you care about crumbles to dust. Long live progress. It's unstoppable.


You seem to think you're the only one who understands that fact.

Why doesn't that apply to your team as well? What's the point of being a white supremacist or a Nazi? What difference will Blood and Soil make in a trillion years when both have disappeared from the universe? What matter if you die in battle against a worthy foe or wither away enfeebled in a nursing home with an ugly non-white woman wiping your butt in Spanish? Once the sun has gone nova and then cooled, what difference will it make?

Winter7 said...

Gerold. You must understand that Doctor Brin warning is very important. The romantic cult of war was once used by the Nazis to seduce young people with brutal efficiency.
Certainly any young person of this violent era can be seduced with more facility by the leaders of the extreme right, which can turn to the young people in authentic monsters in massive form. But ... If circumstances lead us to go to the battlefield ... How to know if they are manipulating us?
I suppose it might be enough for us to stop and ask ourselves if our leaders or groups are looking for their own benefit and if the war could really be for the benefit of all and not just for the benefit of a few oligarchs. However, probably asking ourselves those questions will not suffice, since in order to know if we are being manipulated by a traitorous president, we would need to have knowledge of the history of humanity, especially in the political aspects. Hence the great importance of creating a summary of the main errors of humanity and how leaders of all times have managed to deceive and manipulate everyone. Then, that summary should be given to the younger students. Although, that knowledge could be considered complex and boring, that's where the talent of the teachers comes in, to turn boring into something surprising and to make comprehensible what is complex. An important task, because if we can show to the following generations how the traps of the manipulators work, then the young will be less easy to manipulate and the day could come when we would enjoy real democracies, or something even better.

Winter7 said...

¡Danger! ¡Danger! I detect a republican attack of hackers, in the American civil registry. It is evident that they are preparing the electoral fraud of the next elections. ¡The dead will be able to vote thanks to alterations in the civil registry! ¡And probably a lot of Democrats are going to find unexpected problems to be able to vote because of alterations in the registers!
Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-07-pennsylvania-reveals-cyber-intrusion-birth.html

Winter7 said...

“Progress marches on. And then you die and are forgotten and everything you care about crumbles to dust. Long live progress. It's unstoppable”
It is clear that Treebeard tries to discourage us. He tries to convince us that "all resistance is futile" before the advance of the empire of the oligarchs. However, it must be evident to all, that surrender has never been an option for those who fight for the freedom of all.
In fact, if life is short, the fight against the forces of evil is the best investment we can make with our time, because heroes care more about saving humanity than their own good. But if it is possible to achieve the happiness of humanity and happiness itself, that is much better. That is what makes life interesting, doing amazing things to defeat evil.
¡Για την ελευθερία όλων των οικογενειών! ¡Ελευθερία! "Oorah" "Oorah" "Oorah"

Winter7 said...

¿Is there a science fiction novel that shows how a democracy can be used to cover up a feudal system?

David Brin said...

Tim defends beer, yes! But I was not talking about beer in a near-modern tavern, consumed by a population 3/4 of which are capable of saying the magic words… “that’s enough.”

How did we get to this point, a species that can say “enough” to addictive substances at all? 9,000 years ago or so, there was a sharp narrowing of genes… a bottleneck in which reproducing males were outnumbered 17 to one by females. The going theory is that it had to do with fierce war. It certainly had to do with the arrival of kingship and feudalism. But I’ll point out that is almost exactly when brewing arrived! And the resulting death rate among human males must have been huge.


LH: “Boiling water also reduces pathogens.”

Yes, which is why England had a transformation. Till the mid 1600s they purified water with gin and were snockered all the time. Then they boiled water for tea… and conquered the world.

Winter7, there have been warriors like the American soldier. Roman citizen soldiers, like Cincinnatus. The citizen sailors of Themistocles. Thegerman troops mocked our efficient, comfortable combat fatigues and how poorly our guys marched. The Nazis weren’t laughing a couple of years later. Citizens make fine soldiers, when needed. They are slow to recognize the need. But when the Army of the Cumberland crossed vast swamps on corduroy roads, Confed. Gen. Johnston said “there has never been an army like this in the history of the world. And… without vengeance on traitors who deserved plenty, they took that romantic shit and ended it.

gerold: “The Ring is a representation of the corrupting effect of power, and the story is about the necessity of resistance to that corruption.”

Oh what silliness. Sure the story is tragic. Romanticism wallows in that stuff. Sure there are villains and mistakes and ironies and tragic coincidences and all that. So? In a romantic happy ending, a corrupt Dark Lord gets replaced with a good one. In a sad-arty romantic tale, the resistance is futile and all fall. But what do they have in common? An assumption there will be petty gods and kings, no matter what.

There… are… no… citizens. That is our invention. And citizens rising to say: “we need no lords” is what revolution truly is. It is what The Postman was about.

David Brin said...

“t follows that it's somewhat funny that our host (who makes his living by selling emotional & imaginative fictions) dislikes Romanticism.It follows that it's somewhat funny that our host (who makes his living by selling emotional & imaginative fictions) dislikes Romanticism.”

Of course it’s funny, since it is a lie. I made clear that I use romanticism in my art and it can flavor art delightfully. Hell only opens up when humans allow romanticism to alter POLICY. Moreover I said that very clearly. And hence, you are again an open and deliberate liar.

Today’s confed traitors think symbolism is all that matters. No pile of betrayals by Trump will turn them against him, because he upsets the uppity citizens they hate above all. locum repeatedly says that facts are impudent distractions from what matters… assertions(!) that sound truthy.

Then locum savages our allies, who plunged into Afghanistan and Iraq at our side, having only to be asked. The ONLY time the mutual defense part of NATO was invoked, after 9/11. Savaging our friends and praising our clearly-proved foes. F&%$#g traitor. In the absolute meaning of the term. Like your helping to cripple US science and our justice system and every profession that gets things done.

The howler! He accuses Europeans of looking down their noses at us, when his cault has been screeching for 70 years that urban folks are immoral - diametrically opposite to every fact.

ent: “Progress marches on. And then you die and are forgotten…” Not if one of my great grandchildren is a sapient AI starship, plunging toward the night. She’ll wake every now and then, along the way, and think about us. And tell others, millions of years from now. And when Tipler’s gods gather, we’ll be remembered.

donzelion said...

Gerold/TwoMinds: "I agree with your interpretation that the core of the [Lord of the Rings] is resistance against corruption. The whole part of the True King is secondary..."

Secondary to the plot, sure, but I don't think secondary to Tolkien's overall project. He wanted to indulge personal myth-construction, a sort of romantic renunciation of classicism, where no such tropes are legitimate or 'interesting' outside the Greco-Roman-Judaic canon. The Chosen King is relegated to a sideshow, while the hero and his gardener save the world? Oh, and here's the genealogy for the King - and the hobbit, and that dwarf over there...

In a sense, 'romantics' do worship gods and kings, but their concept seems to me to be the claim that we are all gods and kings in some sense, that our petty little sensibilities are as grand (and small) as proclivities of monarchs: Beethoven is the hero of Eroica, Yeats can present Irish while Coleridge shares Native American myths about gods and kings as "just as good as those ancient classics." A painting of a pauper is as good as one of a king, a struggle for freedom is not a rational endeavor about possible equality, but an earnest passion not to be shackled - nature is interesting not because we can somehow comprehend it, but because it can be incomprehensibly wild, unpredictable, defying our reason.

To follow Gerold's thought: "I find the notion of going a-viking rather romantic too."

Perhaps. If you find the pursuit interesting because of the possibilities of extending power, acquiring wealth, fame, trade, etc., then you actually may be thinking of it 'classically.' If you find the thrill of adventure, the risk, and the sorrows interesting, then you're thinking 'romantically.' I do not find these mutually exclusive (neither did TS Eliot, who had a great deal to say about 'romantics' and 'classicalists').

donzelion said...

"Hell only opens up when humans allow romanticism to alter POLICY. Moreover I said that very clearly. And hence, you are again an open and deliberate liar."

Ah, well if we're contemplating an exclusively political context - in general, the best leaders merged romanticism with enlightened empiricism. Both Roosevelts were master romantics. Fireside chats? Teddy's bear? There's absolutely nothing rational or enlightened about such notions - but the effort of making emotional appeals paid vast dividends, as it does for all leaders. Neither permitted their personal romantic fixations to displace rational calculations (at least, not in most cases).

The very worst of politics, it seems to me, are Enlightenment notions run amok (slavery) and Romantic notions similarly violating the central principles (genocide). Some unity of the two enriches both and reduces the risk of excess in either direction.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Talking about after 9/11 - one of the countries that went out of it's way to help the USA was Iran
As a "reward" it got the "Axis of Evil" speech

gerold said...

David: I realize you have a lot on your plate, but you'e way too superficial here:

>gerold: “The Ring is a representation of the corrupting effect of power, and the story is >about the necessity of resistance to that corruption.”

>Oh what silliness. Sure the story is tragic. Romanticism wallows in that stuff. Sure there >are villains and mistakes and ironies and tragic coincidences and all that. So? In a >romantic happy ending, a corrupt Dark Lord gets replaced with a good one. In a sad-arty >romantic tale, the resistance is futile and all fall. But what do they have in common? An >assumption there will be petty gods and kings, no matter what.

You're seeing villains and heroes, swords and sorcery, warriors and damsels - very romantic, right? Summed up by "the assumption there will be petty gods and kings". I'm kind of wondering if you're read Tolkien or only seen the movie. That's a ridiculously superficial misunderstanding of the story.

It's not just Tolkien, or Tolkien and Wagner, or the Nibelungenlied and Volsungsaga. The cursed ring was a symbol of corruption, the corruption of power and wealth. This idea is deeply embedded in Western culture, going back thousands of years. We understand it at an unconscious level, which is why it's a little puzzling how you refuse to see it.

This theme goes beyond the Germanic myth that inspired Tolkien. Mordor is all about one-party rule. Sauron is the monotheist boss. The nine Walkers are all about separation of powers. They are organized according to the classical tripartite structure of the proto-IE peoples: sovereign, warrior, and producer. None can stand without the others, and it's Frodo, the sovereign-producer, who is entrusted with destroying the ring.

Anyone who uses the ring will inevitably be corrupted by it. The ring represents corrupting power. The quest to destroy the ring is a metaphor, a symbolic representation of the enlightenment project to preserve our personal and cultural integrity by eschewing abuse of power. If you thought about it a little you would see that.

A more contemporary representation of the same concept is found in Pulp Fiction, where the briefcase shines with a golden glow and has the combination 666. It references wealth (gold) and evil (666), and plays the same role as the ring. It's a means to an end, becoming the end itself, and inspiring all to kill for it.

gerold said...

Treebeard: your favorite Nietzsche quote is one of his clunkers. He missed the mark there. Reminiscent of the legendary (and probably apocryphal) physicist who declared right before the discovery of quantum mechanics and relativity that we learned it all and there's nothing left to discover.

The evolution of the human mind is actually a complexity phase-transition of cosmic proportions. There haven't been that many; when the universe was about 400,000 years old (just a baby) the background temperature dropped low enough for plasma to condense into neutral matter. That was a cosmic phase transition. When stars first started fusion reactions to populate the periodic table, that was a cosmic phase transition. Whether to put galaxy formation at the same level is a matter of judgement, but the evolution of human-level intelligence certainly is. (See Chaisson for more detail.)

Eric Chaisson uses specific power density as his primary metric of complexity, and it's surprisingly apt. (Specific power density is power usage divided by mass.)

Who would think that a brain has higher specific power than a star? It's true though, despite the tremendous wattage of a star. Most of that mass is used to create the high core pressure where fusion happens. Power to weight ratios map to complexity. And the next step isn't far off; when we create transcendent AI's we'll reach the next level. Read some Vinge for an enlightening exploration.

Nietzsche was a man of his time. Brilliant and insightful, but he got it wrong sometimes too. Don't we all.

gerold said...

donzelion: "[Tolkien] wanted to indulge personal myth-construction, a sort of romantic renunciation of classicism, where no such tropes are legitimate or 'interesting' outside the Greco-Roman-Judaic canon."

Another way of looking at it: by going back to pagan Germanic mythology, Tolkien was out-classicing the classics. Western culture was a fusion of Celto-Germanic and Roman as mediated by the Catholic church. But once we learned all the useful technologies the Romans had to offer; literacy, stone architecture, urban planning, industrial-scale manufacturing, road-building etc. - the ugly baggage that came with it could be jettisoned. Totalitarian government and theocracy were the poison pill that came with all the civilized goodness, and now we're in the process of purging the body politic. Don't need that shit.

When Tolkien recast Germanic mythology it was more classic than the classics, a return to the roots, shorn of the ugly imports from totalitarian despotism. Progress marches.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH: “Boiling water also reduces pathogens.”

Yes, which is why England had a transformation. Till the mid 1600s they purified water with gin and were snockered all the time. Then they boiled water for tea… and conquered the world.


That was exactly my point.

But to be fair to Tim, he was rooting for the home team (Wisconsin) and making a barroom-type argument more than a scientific one. I get it.

locumranch said...

Winter7 talks about the heroic "fight against the forces of evil"; David slings his little stones against the oligarchic Goliath & cites the uncommon heroism of American & Roman citizen soldiers "like Cincinnatus"; and Donzelion updates us about his heroic attempts to circumvent Law & Order for the benefit of the law-breaking immigrant:

They are all good Romantics who champion lost causes, battle on against overwhelming odds & vow that they will 'rise again'.

I dream the unlikely dream that my children will live on without having to apologise for their 'white privilege'; David dreams the unlikely dream of being remembered by great grandchildren who become sapient AI starships rather than toasters or dust; and Donzelion dreams of facilitating his own demographic extinction.

Welcome to the New Confederacy, brothers, and may your respective 'Souths' experience resurrection.


Best
_____

I mean, what have you got to lose?
You know, you come from nothing, you're going back to nothing
What have you lost? Nothing!

Tim Harness said...

Please note that brewing beer requires boiling water, resulting in something safer than river water, in spite of the alcohol. Gin did not exist before the seventeenth century, when Europe experienced some evolution in action.
Tim H.

donzelion said...

Gerold: "When Tolkien recast Germanic mythology it was more classic than the classics, a return to the roots, shorn of the ugly imports from totalitarian despotism."

Ah, but the very notion one could 'out-classic the classics' is a romantic claim. By injecting Germanic/Nordic/Celtic myth into the equation, Tolkien ruptured the primacy of the 'classics' - positing alternative myths which he felt merited equal space. "My gods and kings are just as cool as 'the' gods and kings!"

Some Romanticists took that several steps further: in fighting for space for 'their gods' v. 'the dominant pantheon' - they tended to see themselves as loners standing up to a hostile world. But there is a world of distinction between the claim the 'Germans are also great!' and even the nationalistic pride "The Germans are the greatest!" - these thoughts do not necessarily lead to the abomination of "The Germans are so great they must eliminate any non-German defects that threaten that greatness!"

In politics, that's my concern about liberals who fear fascism within Trump: he has crossed many a line that should not be crossed, but the fear that we will head in that direction is as misplaced as the conservative fear that any restriction upon gun ownership is a step towards mass confiscation. Worse, that sort of fear makes removing Scott Pruitt a 'victory' - even after he gutted so many science functions from the EPA - missing the larger point of the harm being done, we digress into tit-for-tat battles against 'evil men' and overlook the great works of the good folks.

donzelion said...

Locum: "Donzelion updates us about his heroic attempts to circumvent Law & Order for the benefit of the law-breaking immigrant:"

If we spent the same money on tax evaders and unfair business practices as we do chasing 'law-breaking immigrants,' we'd have locked up Trump long ago (but not Hillary, no charges were ever proven in any court against her), and broken up every major fortune in America. If you really cared about 'Law & Order' you'd want to target the worst, most dangerous breakers of the law, rather than the mostly innocent folks washing your dishes at restaurants who just happened to have been born without certain blessings you've enjoyed (but still feel oppressed despite all those many entitlements).

Larry Hart said...

donzelion:

But there is a world of distinction between the claim the 'Germans are also great!' and even the nationalistic pride "The Germans are the greatest!"


I've been making that same distinction as a counter-argument against locumranch's "White supremacists are just another identity group," canard. There's a world of distinction between "Black lives also matter" and "White lives matter more than anyone else's do."


these thoughts do not necessarily lead to the abomination of "The Germans are so great they must eliminate any non-German defects that threaten that greatness!"


Dave Sim characterized the Nazi German anti-Semitism as "God made a mistake choosing the Jews. It's up to us (Nazis) to correct God's mistake for Him."

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

I dream the unlikely dream that my children will live on without having to apologise for their 'white privilege';


All they have to do is use their powers for good instead of evil.

What you seem (or profess) to want is to not have to apologize for using your powers for evil.


David dreams the unlikely dream of being remembered by great grandchildren who become sapient AI starships rather than toasters or dust; and Donzelion dreams of facilitating his own demographic extinction.


Dr Brin's dream is his own. :) You misread donzelion, though. He seems to think more as I do--that I'm not invested in immortality by way of any racial or ethnic or religious group. Even my own groups would tend to consider me an outcast, and are as likely to do harm to me as any opposing tribe is. Your notion of demographic extinction only makes sense in a situation where opposing tribes will hurt you and (only) your tribe benefits you. That's the America you wish we were, but it isn't the America that we really are.

My immortality would be more assured as an influencer or teacher, living on in the minds of those who think and feel the way I prefer. Shakespeare or Einstein or George Washington will live on irrespective of genetic progeny.

And yes, I use "immortality" in a metaphorical sense. I don't expect to really have influence over what happens a trillion years in the future. "In the long run, everyone is dead." The difference is, I don't leap from that to "Nothing matters." The journey is as important as the destination, and might possibly be all that is important.

Welcome to the New Confederacy, brothers, and may your respective 'Souths' experience resurrection.


That's very white of you. Donzelion would disagree with me, but I'm un-magnanimous to hope that your respective "South" dies a painful death before its head is removed from its body and the parts buried at separate crossroads. I'll supply the guillotine if necessary.

Jon S. said...

One thing that's missed in the LotR discussion - at the very end, after the Dark Lord has been overthrown and Aragorn has resumed his "rightful" place as the High King, we then return to the Shire, where Saruman and Wormtongue have taken over. After the Scouring of the Shire, however, the former near-anarchy of the Shire is gone forever. Instead, Peregrin Took takes up the ancient family mantle of the Shire-Thain, a supreme leader of his lands reporting to the High King. Everything was restored to its "natural" status as one part or another of an organized kingdom, operating ultimately under the last descendants of the Numenoreans. And while the eventual end of this order was foreseen, it was thought of as a sad thing, a degeneration of the world that would be caused by the Numenorean bloodline dying out.

It's who your ancestors are that's really important, you see, not who you are. That's the ultimate lesson of LotR (aside from the idea that no one is truly incorruptible - even Frodo fell to the Ring at the end, and the world was saved only because Smeagol couldn't see beyond stealing the Ring back).

Larry Hart said...

BTW, I believe there's at least one French regular or semi-regular poster here.

Happy Bastille Day, and good on you for holding the line for democracy when many allies are sadly failing.

Treebeard said...

I love this "Singularitarian" religion. I was briefly into it myself at one time. You get to wave your hands and say "and then a miracle happens", then you can imagine yourself becoming a transcendent AI starship, meeting Tipler's gods, living in a computer or whatever weird SF fantasy floats your boat. And of course this transcendent event is very imminent, utopia is just around the corner, provided we don't blow it and become all Romantic and reactionary. It's like Enlightenment Cultism turned into a fundamentalist religion.

Larry, you sound like one of those media simpletons I hear about (but of course never watch, cuz I don't own a TV), who reduce everything to a false binary: virtue-signalling, guilt-tripping PC liberal or Nazi white supremacist. It's a grade school dialectical trick that doesn't work on me. I could break out a Nietzsche quote about the genealogy of morals, slave morality and the use of guilt as a weapon, but I won't bother.

The things I value, despite knowing that everything is doomed, relate mostly to what gives me a pleasant state of mind here and now, not ideological abstractions or future fantasies. For example, I discovered long ago that my psychology is not compatible with your liberal cosmopolitan utopia; I'm not mentally wired for it and don't find it particularly pleasant. So I moved somewhere else. If that makes me an evil Nazi white supremacist in your mind, that's your demon, not mine. But if you can put down the moralist club and extrapolate from what I'm telling you, maybe you'll realize that a lot of the political divides of the day aren't issues of deplorable morals, but of psychological reactions to a society that has gone far off the rails and away from anything sane or natural--like visions of AI starships for grandchildren, for example.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

Larry, you sound like one of those media simpletons I hear about (but of course never watch, cuz I don't own a TV),


Big whoop. You've got the internet.


...who reduce everything to a false binary: virtue-signalling, guilt-tripping PC liberal or Nazi white supremacist.


Excuse me. I should have said white nationalist, not necessarily supremacist. You've certainly mentioned that other races and ethnic groups should have their own countries and get out of yours, and praised Putin for being a strong, authoritarian white leader. So I'm not just guessing on account of your not being a liberal.

As for the rest of your rant there, it's beside the point. You basically espoused a notion that nothing matters because we'll all be dead before the universe expands into heat death or collapses into a black hole. And I asked why your chosen morality survives that any more than that of Dr Brin or anyone else you disagree with. If "white supremacist" isn't your bag, then fill in whatever is. The question still stands.


The things I value, despite knowing that everything is doomed, relate mostly to what gives me a pleasant state of mind here and now, not ideological abstractions or future fantasies.


See, on this, you're agreeing with me. Except that certain abstractions or fantasies do give me pleasure in the here and now. But aside from that, you're not saying anything different from me when I say "The journey is as important as the destination". So you can cut out that condescending tone, or stop being surprised to be called on it.


gerold said...

Jon: "It's who your ancestors are that's really important, you see, not who you are. That's the ultimate lesson of LotR"

There is an over-reliance on bloodlines in LotR, but I wouldn't say it's the ultimate lesson.

The epilogue in the Shire didn't make it into the movies, which was unfortunate, but it's kind of a recapitulation. The Shire, which was presented as an egalitarian paradise, was also found to be susceptible to corruption and tyranny. Sharkey and his goons staged a violent coup, but they found quislings among the hobbits, willing to prostitute themselves to grab a share of power.

My own philosophical inclinations lean toward anarchy, but history teaches us that tyranny is actually better for most people than anarchy. Allowable levels of freedom in a society are determined by the level of personal responsibility that individuals are willing/able to exercise. Cultures that don't have a long tradition of freedom find it very difficult to import democracy; they quickly slide back into despotism.

The hobbit-heroes were able to overthrow the Sharkey regime and restore order, but the Shire was going back to the comfortable anarchy it had before, despite high-level political affiliation with the High King.

A more significant message was the fact that the Shire had within the capability to become a gangster-state; like they say, the only thing required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

David Brin said...

gerold, bah. Sorry, but your effort to make the ring about “corruption of power” is just like George Lucas’s Dark Side of the Force, an abstract finger-wagging “lesson” that no one pays any attention to, as they do what romanticism demands… choose between two groups of mutant demigods. (That come from the same mutant Nabooian aristocratic family.)

“I dream the unlikely dream that my children will live on without having to apologise for their 'white privilege’;”

What an unrepentant schoolyard bully thug! Never “my children will achieve what they do by merit, and never judged by group ID outside their range of choices.” Locum could get the legit part of his wish if we simply grow up enough to never notice involuntarily inherited prejudicing irrelevancies. But he can’t parse it that way. Instead it is “I must be dominant because of traits I never earned!!!”

Again, a thug.

The ent: “All we are is dust in the wind!” Sure fine, fellah. But does your wind have to befoul ours with ingrate stink, while wallowing in all the comforts you never earned?

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Howard Brazee said...

Lots of people are upset that Russia is interfering with our elections beyond actually fixing votes.
Fewer Americans were upset when we have done that to other nations.

But those tools are available to despots and politicians and political parties and Big Business and Media within countries. How do we survive them?

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