Saturday, October 06, 2018

Looking for destiny ... in false historical parallels

Teleology is a quality of humans -- the pattern-seeking animals -- to ascribe foregone destiny to both history and the future.

Yes, I admit there are some undeniable historical patterns, like the tendency for groups of males who have an advantage -- muscles, swords, money  or persuasive voices -- to take advantage... using it to cheat, crushing fair competition by giving their sons overwhelming, inherited advantages.  Inheritance-hierarchies dominated across 99% of history. The truest "attractor state," feudalism (in its general sense) is what Adam Smith and the American Founders successfully (at last) rebelled against. 

Much of U.S. history has been about efforts by cheaters to restore feudal hierarchy  under a vaiety of excuses (including some lefto-Marxist ones), ending our brief experiment in flat-fair-open-Smithian systems. The Greatest Generation did a fantastic job of staving off that failure mode, resisting extremist temptations in all directions, establishing the most creative, productive, and progressively-improving nation ever seen. 

Alas, these things tend to be temporary. One of the worst oligarchy putsches is happening right now, but that’s not today’s topic, which is teleology.

Is history ordained or cyclical? I’ve been talking a lot about this human obsession. Religions fixate on it, almost everywhere. Mystics sought to predict using auguries and oracles and prophets. Recently I laid out a fascinating overlap -- how romantics of the left are remarkably similar those on the right. Both groups believe in a compulsory future. Leftists tend to see it as an often-violent upward climb toward zero-coercion utopia.  (In this end goal, they are amazingly like libertarians.)

The right is enamored of a different forecast of gloomy futility -- Cyclical History -- the notion that societies go through life cycles of youthful vigor, senescence and decay. Take Oswald Spengler's The Decline Of The West, for example. Or the Nazis’ notion of rhythmic collapse via plunging ice-moons, followed by a resurrected reich. 

Or the insipid Tytler Calumny.

As far back as Toynbee, historians have debunked this jibbering nonsense, yet pattern seekers keep rushing to embrace it, finding solace in a sense of "historical inevitability."  The latest version, beloved across the American right, is The Fourth Turning, by Neil Howe and William Strauss.  (Not related to the University of Chicago's Leo Strauss, who trained a generation of neoconservatives to undermine every American strength.)  I critique this just-so story in detail, elsewhere. But we need reminding that it has become a cult bible to many of our neighbors.

Yes, in this case, Strauss and Howe provide a lovely, symmetrical tale fitting the dyspeptic narrative. According to their story, it seems that, despite their near-total victory at demolishing the Greatest Generation's Rooseveltean social contract, every value held by today's U.S. majority is destructively self-indulgent. Hence (oligarchs and flacks tell themselves), cheating is justified to prevent that benighted majority from having any say.  Moreover, despite Republican dominance for 30 years, things have reached a pass where only a horrific cleansing will bring a new, vigorous generation out of the ashes.

There are countless problems with this narrative of hand-rubbing glee over looming catastrophe:

1)  Very few metrics suggest such a crisis is a foregone conclusion. Yes, there is a rising wealth and influence disparity, reversing the Greatest Generation's (GG) finest accomplishment: the flattest and most dynamic free market society the world ever saw.  And - oh, yes - there is a looming ecological crisis. But other than those two dangers, most indicators are rather positive. And those two could be fixed with some GG pragmatism. In other words, by not repressing all the creative castes.

2) Not satisfied with inevitability, the most vigorous Fourth Turning believers, like Steve Bannon, have openly declared their intent to provoke the crisis.  To thwart (as the Fox-GOP has done for 25 years) any processes of negotiation by which adults might resolve issues without crisis. They proclaim that they’ll be satisfied with nothing less than violent Civil War. 

3)  It is assumed, because Fox succeeded at riling up proto-fascist populism among the more ill-educated white males, that this trend can be maintained forever, under tight control by the Murdochians. But history reminds us:
   a) The oligarchs in 1930s Germany lived to regret riling up a similar, Know-Nothing hate movement, that served its initial purpose against the left, but then turned on them, as we are now seeing Trumpist fascism start to turn on the Kochs and other oligarchs.
   b) In America, 1930s populism instead veered leftward, but not to communism. Rather, to Rooseveltean reforms and that flat-dynamic free market success story. The most successful – by all measures - social contract the world ever saw, and the very one that Republicans have proudly dismantled since 1981.

4) None of the scenarios promulgated by Bannon and others realistically assess whom the millennials – who are presumably the next "hero generation" according to Fourth Turning theory -- will blame for the crisis, and which direction they will veer.  Think about this irony: Bannon, Alex Jones and the Murdochs and Putin all utterly depend on riling-up unwise, precipitative wrath out of aging American white male Baby Boomers, exactly the "dupe Generation" disparaged by Howe and Strauss! So… why would Bannon assume that the subsequent hero generation will march in lockstep down the same path?

Um, doesn’t  the Fourth Turning theory suggest that millennials will reject everything crisis-making boomers like Steve Bannon have done? (Raising an intriguing deep-conspiracy notion, that’s probably occurring to you, right now.)

Millennials are already swinging soft-left, emulating the Greatest Generation and rejecting their grandparents' raving, boomer inanities.  (Like the insipidly self-indulgent "I'm as mad as hell" meme.) Millennials can clearly see what every single "reform" made by the GOP since 1981 has wrought -- steadily declining growth, except in skyrocketing debt, disdain of the science that delivered a myriad miracles, and a new gilded age of neo-feudalism. The works of Karl Marx – moribund in the 1990s – are now flying off the shelves.

Exactly where do the Murdochs, Kochs, Mercers and Bannons think this is likely to end?  Especially when the well-educated whites (and others) in the fact-professions feel warred upon every day, by every reflex of a mad right?

Sensible men and women conservatives need to try actually parsing this out. 

Even if Howe and Strauss are correct, the crisis scenario does not bode well for any aspect of a moderate, free-market American right. And every day that passes without U.S. conservatism awakening to its duty, we come closer to a climax that will make even Vladimir Putin writhe with regret over what he and Murdoch and the other rich fools awakened...

...either a Rooseveltean outcome of overwhelming, resurgent strength... or a Huey Long... or a Hitler.

== Prepare for a “U” to turn sideways ==

As Samuel Johnson wisely observed, scoundrels run to “patriotism” when they feel cornered and have no other recourse. And abandon patriotism when anything is asked of them, like keeping their word. In particular, confederates are always the most fervent wavers of the red, white and blue, swearing oaths to America… until it becomes even slightly inconvenient.  Like when a Lincoln wins an election.

Then just watch as the “U” in their shouted “U S A!” turns sideways, into a “C,” and the confederacy drops all pretense. Signs are already erupting. See this anecdotal preview: Neo-Confederates reach out to their ‘Russian friends’ in new project : "Once again, racist secessionists are looking to Moscow for succor.” Then the League of The South, an organization described by analysts as a neo-confederate hate group, has launched a Russian language page on their website to explore shared ideas on "Southern nationalism."

Yeah, yeah, one can find anecdotes for almost anything. Indeed, the #1 Fox trick is to show anecdotes of absurd-pathetic “social justice warrior” flakes and then declare that “all liberals and democrats are like this!”  I hope I’ll prove just as wrong about the trend toward a deeply violent phase of the American Civil War.

Still, you need to be thinking ahead. And there's still time to order that Halloween costume I’ve been urging on all loyal Americans for two years.  A blue, union Kepi hat.  It will speak volumes this fall, one week before the mid-terms.

== Another hat idea ==

I still prefer the kepi. But one of you chimed in with an alternative:

I want to have a hat made with the letters moved around: AWGA. ‘America Was Great Already!’"

Indeed, recall the trap I suggested for your mad, confederate uncle. Demand of him: “Okay then, when do you think America was great?”

Spring the trap! If they say “the 1950s,” you can both show that we got way-better, still… and that the “Greatest Generation” of that era were mostly liberals, who adored Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

(See my earlier posting: Was 1957 America better than today? 


97 comments:

David Dorais said...

I personally prefer the De Grasse Tyson quote - Let;s Male America Smart Again.

Larry Hart said...

@David Dorals,

I think you made a typo, but it was funny anyway.:)

Larry Hart said...

And leave it to Bill Maher tp point out the obvious-in-retrospect juxtaposition of Senators lining up individually to read the FBI report in a secret room vs drunken frat boys "pulling a train".

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. No way to avoid that when dealing with information trapped in a SCIF. 8)

Larry Hart said...

This is a tangent, taking advantage of a lull.

Much of the defense of Kavanaugh seems rooted in a sense that a certain level of sexual aggressiveness is simply what young men do--something no more wrong than,say, drunken rowdiness at a bar--and that bringing up individual incidents of such youthful behavior is impolite, an unfair attack on the men. "[Almost] anyone is going to have those incidents in their background. It's nothing to single an individual out for. Doing so is a below-the-belt attack on the man's integrity and good name."

I get that, but...

This must really be one of those "There are two types of people in the world..." things. I was a horny young heterosexual male once myself, and I still to this day have sexual fantasies that have no possibility of coming true. But even in my fantasies, or (pre-marriage) attempts to actually consummate physical intimacy with a woman, the intent was always wanting her to like me, not to have her fear me or feel threatened by me.

The West Wing's writer, Alan Sorkin, once had his Leo McGarry character explain the point of view of an alcoholic, saying, "I can't leave a glass half-empty [without finishing it off]. I don't understand people who can leave a glass half empty." Me, I can't understand a boy or man wanting to have sex with a girl and leave her terrified, humiliated, and/or despising the guy. That there are guys who have that as a goal is undeniably true, and yet I can't wrap my brain around the motivation. To me, the woman's willing approval is essential to the thing. Rape would be unsatisfying in the same manner as a meal of chewing gum.

I'm not saying this to say, "I'm so great" or anything. I'm saying this to point out that there are indeed a subset of heterosexual men who nevertheless do not aspire to sexual assault, and who don't have a dark history of such in their backgrounds. It would be a good idea to select for prestigious jobs from that subset, or from the set of women.

locumranch said...

In the second paragraph of this fine thread, our host defines the term 'cheating' as "the tendency for groups of males who have an advantage (...) to take advantage", a hilarious and illogical assertion when one considers that the term 'advantage' is a strong synonym for the term 'merit'.

https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/merit?s=t

Are we to take this condemnation of the term 'advantage' as a simultaneous indictment of term 'merit'? Not hardly.

Not only is our host is a strong proponent of the Meritocracy Principle, but he also favours meritocratic rule by an educated, intellectual & fact-using elite.

What he objects to, it seems, is any definition of meritorious advantage that includes accidents of birth, blood, physical strength, beauty, fertility, culture, "muscles, swords, money or persuasive voices".

As these advantages are 'accidents' -- by which I mean advantages which appear random, unearned, inherited or unplanned -- our host (who appears to be channeling 'Harrison Bergeron') wishes to define these advantages as IMMORAL and UNFAIR, while simultaneously retaining the accidents of intelligence, education and hierarchy as worthy of merit.

This is a highly problematic assertion because it is at odds with both Nature & the majority of Mankind who do NOT share (or care about) our host's particular preferences. Nor should they.

Nor will they.


Best

David Brin said...

Ah, what a contrast. Locumranch is back, asserting that cheating and crushing nascent competition is “merit.” Screw Adam Smith and fair markets or the fact that real – not pre-biased – competition is the greatest creative force. No combination of ALL societies that tried his approach (and nearly all – boringly—did) ever matched the creativity, productivity, happiness and freedom of those few who made competition real.

One of the stunning stupidities of democrats is allowing republicans to continue to pretend that the word “competition” is theirs, when they betray it at every turn.

It is our job as individuals to seek to win, moderated by values. We establish societies to define “cheating” so that competition can occur in ways that create positive sum outcomes.

Poor locum never, ever realizes that his ravings reveal, again and again that his neural nets cannot even perceive the vaguest outlines of what ‘positive sum’ means.

How interesting to contrast with LarryHart, whose type of male cannot function, sexually, without a positive sum joy resonance from the woman. That resonance is THE core meaning of coitus or love-making to such fellows, a laser-like amplification that requires two mirrors. Some zero or negative-sum males clearly suspect that such resonance exists, have no access to it, and thus (a) fail to satisfy partners and (b) may express rage at women, for this incapacity. It’s actually rather tragic.

There is a solution, but it will entail more from women than just denunciations via #metoo. They are gonna have to get organized and finally hold conferences to discuss a forbidden topic. What it is that they really want.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

That resonance is THE core meaning of coitus or love-making to such fellows, a laser-like amplification that requires two mirrors.


You're actually the one who led me to understanding that dynamic when you said something that started off with (paraphrasing), "Watch the audience during a movie love scene. 95% of the viewers of both sexes are watching the woman's face for her reaction."


There is a solution, but it will entail more from women than just denunciations via #metoo. They are gonna have to get organized and finally hold conferences to discuss a forbidden topic. What it is that they really want.


I doubt they're all in agreement on that. "Women for Trump" and the ones who insist that they'd love it if he grabbed them by the p***y are as real as the women you and I love. Unfortunately, Dave Sim may be partially correct when he asserts that women "want to be raped by rich, muscular doctors." No, of course it's not 100% of them who are that way, but it's not 0% either.

Zepp Jamieson said...

You have to admire the cognitive dissonance in a political movement that can simultaneously assure us that Neil Howe and William Strauss were right, and campaign on "Make America Great Again". America is rotted and kaput, but we're going to make it great again.
Uh huh.

Winter7 said...

I suppose everyone here realizes that letting a criminal (Donald Trump) choose a criminal as a judge to judge the criminal Donald Trump; it is an absurd act; illegal before any decent democracy in the modern world in Europe. Of course, that would be normal abuse, in a monarchy of the 16th century, an era in which leaders thought they possessed power by divine right. (something common in the leaders of the right in Latin America)
In essence. Do you realize the abysmal illegality of the event? Do you know what it means that only a few hundred women had to take to the streets in defense of freedom?
Given that this fact does not disturb even a little 85% of Americans. We should ask ourselves: How did the Russian agents achieve such a high degree of control over the thoughts of the American people?
As we can see; the struggle for civil rights (and a true democracy) will have to be restarted with enormous disadvantages ... Life takes on a fabled atmosphere. Titanic obstacles; incredibly evil villains; devastating monsters ... Woooow! Great times for the heroes!
In mass demonstrations, perhaps Americans need a banner with an image that unites them all. They could use the image of Abraham Lincoln; along with that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

more weight said...

So, I've looked up Dave Sim's opinions about women. It was exactly like reading radfems, just with male and female reversed. I'm surprised that this person seems to be considered important, it's just bog-standard paranoia, complete with Capital Letters, personal Jargon, and Fantasies! of!! Revenge!!!

Daniel Duffy said...

You failed to mention Toynbee's "Study of History". Granted, SoH has a lot of critics but in broad strokes it does provide a useful framework for historical analysis and even prediction.

According to Toynbee there are only remaining "civilizations": Western, Islamic, far Eastern and Hindu. Each existing and extinct civ goes through a predictable cycle of growth and decay:

Challenge and Response- causing the birth of a civilization. For the West that would be the “stimulus of new ground” caused by barbarian volkwanderung at the end of Hellenic Civilization (fall of the Roman Empire).

Cultural growth – led by a creative minority that spurs a civilization to greater heights of artistic, scientific, cultural, economic and political advancement. The majority willing emulates this creative minority. For the West, this stage stared in the so-called Dark Ages and really gathered steam during the Renaissance, Age of Exploration and birth of Science.

A Time of Troubles – when war and the struggle for power leads to destruction of cultural creativity as the leading minority stops being creative and becomes a dominant minority which forces the majority to obey without meriting obedience. The West has seen a time of troubles since the Napoleonic Wars through the World Wars and the Cold War. We can see the continued mutation of the new dominant minority as the uber rich establish an oligarchy which controls the economy and the political process.

Creation of a Universal State – as one competitor (like Rome) achieves total dominance and defeats all rivals to create an empire encompassing its civilization. In the West that is obviously the United States (for good and bad).

Cultural decay – the establishment of a Universal State creates an alienated internal proletariat resentful of being under the thumb of the dominant minority and an external proletariat of barbarians.

However, there really is no external proletariat of barbarian hordes waiting to descend on the American empire. Such hordes would have to be created by catastrophic climate changes turning those now living within the borders of the American empire into hordes of refugees (which was what may of he barbarians migrating into the Roman empire were). The refugees from Syria entering Europe to escape ISIS and war, which was caused by a prolonged drought, which in turn was caused by climate change may be the first of many.

A Universal Church – created by the alienated internal proletariat as an outlet for its dissatisfaction with its political and economic lot under the dominant minority. It’s no accident that Christianity spread through the Roman Empire via slaves, the poor, women and other oppressed minorities and disenfranchised.

Fall of the Universal State – As Toynbee noted, a universal state empire is not a golden age so much as an Indian Summer, a brief rally in an inevitable downward spiral. As the empire finally unravels politically, militarily and economically the external proletariat launches another volkwanderung and the internal proletariat creates a Universal Church which then forms the chrysalis of the next civilization.

Question: has any SF author used the Toynbee cycle as the basis for a future history?

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

You have to admire the cognitive dissonance in a political movement that can simultaneously assure us that Neil Howe and William Strauss were right, and campaign on "Make America Great Again". America is rotted and kaput, but we're going to make it great again.


Not only that, but think of how they pillory anyone else who insists that there's anything wrong with America. Michelle Obama and Colin Kaepernick, for example. How dare anyone else criticize America, but it needs to be made great again?

Stephen Colbert summed it up in a book title, something to the effect of "America Again: Re-Becoming The Greateness We Never Weren't".

Larry Hart said...

more weight:

So, I've looked up Dave Sim's opinions about women. It was exactly like reading radfems, just with male and female reversed. I'm surprised that this person seems to be considered important, it's just bog-standard paranoia, complete with Capital Letters, personal Jargon, and Fantasies! of!! Revenge!!!


Remind you of someone on this list? Being Canadian, at least Dave has an excuse for the British spelling.

Larry Hart said...

@more weight,

I'm curious as to whether you took your pseudonym from The Crucible

more weight said...

Well spotted! That's my personal idea of a hero.

David Brin said...

In the lovely -fun sci fi novel SPACEPAW the gruff-jovial bearlike fellow on his home planet has the respect worthy name "More Jam."

Winter7 said...

At a Boston technology conference last month, computer scientist Alex Halderman showed how easy it was to hack into an electronic voting machine and change the result, without leaving a trace.
"What keeps me up at night is the threat that a hostile nation-state could probe every swing state or swing district (and) find the ones most weakly protected, to silently change the results of a national election," the University of Michigan professor said.

Link:
https://phys.org/news/2018-10-election-angst-hacking-threats.html


(The good thing is that a responsible and honest professional has warned us in advance of a threat to freedom.)

Larry Hart said...

For those of you who think a new Constitutional Convention is a good idea...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/opinion/brett-kavanaugh-supreme-court.html

...

But probably the biggest, gutsiest move is the call for a constitutional convention.

There are two ways that amendments to the Constitution can be proposed: One is by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, and the other is by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the states. The second method has never been used, but is now gathering steam among Republicans.

As Charles Pierce wrote in January in Esquire, the people pushing for a convention “have commitments from 28 state legislatures. They need 34 to trigger the Constitution’s provision for a ‘convention of the states.’”

Pierce continued: “If the convention is called, the disunion that has become a faith in some conservative quarters will run amok. Economic oligarchy will be established in law, and any political check on the powers of business likely will be eviscerated.”

...

Zepp Jamieson said...

Wow. Watched the launch from V-berg. Just fucking amazing. Created a vast prismatic plume that covered a quarter of the sky. And the brilliant, brilliant return of the primary...I see it did land safely. Sonic booms were around as loud and sounded like a Harley at the end of the block.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Here's a video of the launch. I saw a Saturn V take off from about 100 miles away back around 1970 or so. This was far more spectacular.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zw4X8p5zVZE

yana said...


Deal with them all the time. Millennials are not any hero generation, identify much more with the anti-heroes in lit and pol. Last week, in fact, met a milestone American: politically aware and eligible to vote, yet not born in the 1900's.

Don't see the dichotomy this post opens with, then swiftly abandons. Cyclical vs. Predestined is not a 0/1 choice, in fact the ideas look more like the same thing the more one looks. But i keep saying it: not worried abut the future here. No matter which cycles of history one uses, it's always a pick-n-choose game where historical anecdotes which do not align with one's preconception of destination, are always underweighted as "outliers" and "anomalies" with specific and unrepeatable "causes".

There's a dichotomy of expectations, that Utopia versus "Looming Catastrophe," but they're both doing the same thing. We can discard Bronze-Silver-Gold-Iron as an outdated simplistic idea, but it's still shocking, how few people realize that the US experiment was intended to break those very cycles of history. So far, it works.

Bake peaceful revolution right into the pie, and you don't get 24 blackbirds flying out every generation. Where socialism has failed, it is because it rapidly devolves into dictatorship. No matter how much a Dux claims ongoing revolution, the proof is in the pudding. Only democracy has, so far, delivered real revolution at an incremental pace.

What our Constitution does, is to speed up history's pendulum by enlisting freedom of speech/press, so that when (in the past) the change from a Golden Age to an Iron Age would require a cataclysm, now it's faster, so the swings have less time to reach extrema. Because there's less time for a cultural faction to calcify, there is less shattering when the next one swings into view. They called it Domestic Tranquility.

And here's where the Millennials come in. They're just not as apt to get riled up about any nutty thing the left or the right does. Unfortunately, this does leave them more vulnerable to the fable of false equivalency which Vlad Corleone and the Emperor Of Ti are so fond of. But they are keenly interested in freedom, and at the present moment it is apparent which wing of the political turkey seeks more, and which one seeks to curtail personal freedom. Just wait until freedoms start falling to evangelical influence (thanks Brett!)

Millennials are not going to stand for that. Racism is nearly non-existent in this gen, and they self-denominate as religious at very low levels. This continues two trends which, as it turns out, were only temporarily interrupted in Sept of 2001. As a group, they'd rather not have to vote, but if someone were to boost institutional racism and inject religious dogma into government, resulting in a decrease of freedom, that's your tipping point.

And look what's going on as we speak. Just in time, one might say.

Alfred Differ said...

A Constitutional Convention will break this nation in the only way that I think passes legal muster.

Bad idea. The war would be epic.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry (quoting someone else) | "want to be raped by rich, muscular doctors."

Meh. I don't believe it. Fantasize... maybe. Want it? No. They want that rich, muscular doctor to want them so bad he can't think of another option. They want him to show it. They don't want to be raped.

As close as I'll get to this, I'd turn it slightly as say "If one is going to be raped, at least have it be a rich, muscular doctor."

I know there are women who like their sex rough, but I've yet to meet one that didn't want at least a little bit of control like an agreed-upon safety word.

Can't stand the idea myself. Willingly creating that kind of fear demonstrates one is confused about the difference between love and possession.

(Our host uses the laser analogy yet again. That's the piece of the story in his first novel that got me to buy the next one. I was a young physics student at the time and loved that bit of detail.) 8)

yana said...



locumranch thinks: "www.thesaurus"

In my experiences, every time someone resorts to a dictionary, i know i've won the argument. At that point, if i simply keep to the merits of my position, i won't need to introduce any new points. Using a thesaurus? That just quadruples the... it's like wearing brown, strapping branches to one's head, and running around the woods in November.

Larry Hart thinks:

"I doubt they're all in agreement on that. "Women for Trump" and the ones who insist that they'd love it if he grabbed them by the p***y are as real as the women you and I love... not 100%... not 0%"

Thank you, it shouldn't be a surprise, but the 3rd communications revolution is quickly obliterating the concept of "women" as a voting bloc with unique policy aims. Once they got a voice, en masse and about simultaneously, they are every bit as politically diverse as men. Caution against relying on #MeToo or #Enough as political constituencies.

Remember how, in the 1980's we lauded "pioneer" women who broke various ceilings? Every one of them had to thread shoals in rape-infested waters. Including the media. Including the church, including the boardroom and the teacher's lounge, and let's not even talk about politics.

All it took to bring that rapefactory down (except in Alaska) was 120 million smartphones. It's fighting back, yes, but the 3rd comm is not done yet. Far from it. You thought the Culture Wars were tough? Just wait until we get into the Reputation Wars.

yana said...


Daniel Duffy thinks:

"As the empire finally unravels politically, militarily and economically..."

Hey, i think you're on to something big here. Sure, the Constitution needs some tinkering, but not yet the wholesale rewrite of a Convention. Within a nation, we know that the best way to keep healthy (pol + mil + econ) is incremental revolution. And the only way we've been able to do that is with a democracy and free(ish) economy who jointly control the military.

We humans can do that in-house, within a nation, and dozens of countries do it every day. We're used to it by now. The genius of democracy is the planned obsolescence of each new movement, can't help but sow seeds of its own supplantation.

So why can't we build on that concept, extend it to bring stability to international structures, the "empire"? Mr. Duffy, you my have hit on an extraordinary political theory.

Let's think about what an empire is. It's a coalescence of widely divergent cultures. Anyone who talks about "two americas" is a muckraker. Don't listen to them. Despite the crowing of the turkey wings (in any era, not just now), the US is still a single culture. Put it up to a vote. Let's give the 50 of us each a vote on whether to secede or not. I guarantee we'd still end up with the same 50 states.

Today's world has 3 empires: there's a Tsar, an Emperor and the EU. All three call themselves "presidents" but... you know what's going on. Now what if an empire could build in a mechanism, foreseeing the inevitability of what Daniel Duffy here calls "the empire finally unravels" ??

Dozens of stable democracies foresee the competition of factions, and have mechanisms to encourage slow-burn revolution at the expense of violent revolution. There's no reason why an empire could not do the same: foresee its own unraveling, and put a mechanism in place to provide for a period of lawful unraveling and re-coalescence. Say once a generation or so?

Construct an empire with a planned shelf life, an expiration date, and it would have to work hard, decade after decade, to help all the different cultures become happier places to live. If being part of an empire is totally opt-in, its geography may change, but the empire itself becomes a very healthy political structure.

Have not been following Brexit negotiations very closely, but holy smackerel, suddenly that situation takes on a bright importance to the future of humanity.

Alfred Differ said...

The Reputations Wars have been going on since before we became modern humans. 8)

Male? Wanna reproduce? Better win.

yana said...


True Alfred, but the rules of the game changed twice before, and they're changing again now. Not just in scale and scope of total communication, but the ability of indivs to swim between small communication pools and large ones. Evolution prepared our brains for this, from the beginning.

Once upon, the duality of communication styles was family/clan. Then three modes of communication: family/clan/community, later we learned to add "nation" and "empire". Most people today speak 5 languages, and don't even know it.

Although there were others before, 'history' will record the first casualty of the Reputation Wars was Alex Jones.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

@Larry (quoting someone else) | "want to be raped by rich, muscular doctors."

Meh. I don't believe it. Fantasize... maybe. Want it? No. They want that rich, muscular doctor to want them so bad he can't think of another option. They want him to show it. They don't want to be raped.


Oh, I completely agree. Even if a woman enjoys a submissive role in sex, she wants it on her terms, with someone she chooses and trusts. "Want to be raped" is an oxymoron.

Furthermore, I don't think even Dave Sim literally believes that. He's using hyperbole to say that "Women want to be raped by rich, muscular doctors" has more resonance with truth than we politically-correct liberals want to admit.

Addressing yana's rhetorical question above about Dave Sim, one problem is that he perceives all of western society to be controlled by feminist liberals, and that he is a lone minority-of-one voice in the wilderness refusing to buy into that worldview. He goes for exaggeration and shock value because (I think) he doesn't think anyone else understands the points he's actually trying to make. He apparently has no idea how identical he sounds to the "incel" and "men going their own way" movements, even though he is the diametric opposite of an involuntary celibate.

I haven't communicated with Dave in many years, and I'm almost afraid to know what he thinks of Trump and the current Republican Party.

Larry Hart said...

Republicans are hardly a persecuted minority party. More like sore winners:

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Oct08.html#item-6

Not for decades, if ever, has the Republican Party had so much power as it has right now. It completely dominates government at almost all levels (except for mayors in big cities). The GOP controls the White House, both chambers of Congress, and now the Supreme Court, But that is not all. They also have 33 of the governors' mansions and the trifecta of the governor's mansion and both chambers of the state legislature in 25 states (plus de facto Nebraska, whose unicameral legislature is theoretically nonpartisan, but not really). They also have 4104 of the 7183 seats in the state legislatures, close to a record.

Larry Hart said...

Sore winners:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/07/us/politics/supreme-court-kavanaugh-senators-midterms-heartland.html

“I hope the battle cry of Republicans for the next 30 days will be ‘Remember Kavanaugh,’” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Judiciary Committee chairman, at a Republican dinner Sunday in Iowa.


From the same article...They may not like what they find out:

Now, though, Republicans in these races are using the court clash to turn the campaign into more of a national referendum on the fate of their 51-49 majority and a test of which side the voters are on: that of Mr. Trump and Justice Kavanaugh or the angry Democratic opposition.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Lest I forget, thank you for the mention of my "AWGA" slogan in the main post.

Donald Gisselbeck said...

Happy "No you idiots, Columbus didn't discover that the earth is round" Day.

David Brin said...

Yana said: “Don't see the dichotomy this post opens with, then swiftly abandons. Cyclical vs. Predestined…”

Then you simply did not understand what I was saying. Both are versions of teleology.

Still, you have offered up some interesting thoughts.

Larry Hart said...

Donald Gisselbeck:

Happy "No you idiots, Columbus didn't discover that the earth is round" Day.


I read a newspaper column on Columbus Day a long time ago--I want to say 1988--which suggested that Columbus was convinced that the earth was much smaller than other scholars thought it was, and that India was only about 2000 miles away. The column suggested that he was lucky that there happened to be a previously-unknown continent just about where he thought Asia was.

I juxtapose that with the fact that prior to the 1492 voyage, Columbus had spent time in Scandanavia. It suggests to me that he had heard of Leif Erickson's voyage, and that his mistake was to presume that the land discovered on that voyage was Asia. If that's the case, then the presence of America at the correct location was not coincidence. He already knew where America was, just not what it was. Occam's Razor makes me like that explanation.

raito said...

This article seems apropos:
https://www.brookings.edu/blog/future-development/2018/09/27/a-global-tipping-point-half-the-world-is-now-middle-class-or-wealthier/

A.F. Rey said...

And apropos to a different part of today's posting, David Neiwert chronicles how the Right is preparing for a civil war (with hat-tip to P.Z. Myers for the link):

https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1049048025073512448.html

Larry Hart said...

Benedict Donald in that article linked immediately above:

'You don't hand matches to an arsonist and you don't give power to an angry left-wing mob, and that's what they've become. Democrats have become too extreme and too dangerous to govern. Republicans believe in the rule of law, not the rule of the mob.'


That takes chutzpah coming from someone whose power comes from intimidating Republicans and Democrats alike with an army of brownshirts.

Really, the only proper response to any characterization of liberals or Democrats by the right-wing is "I know you are, but what am I?" The criticism they hurl at us is always true about themselves. Always.

locumranch said...

It's a well-established rhetorical technique:

To alter word definitions after-the-fact in order to transform a rhetorical loss into an apparent victory, as exemplified by (1) David's attempt to redefine the term 'advantage' as non-equivalent to a synonymous term [merit], and (2) the Left's attempts to argue that plausible (as in 'credible') allegations are synonymous with the non-equivalent of established fact.

Even so, Poor David will never ever concede that my positive-sum incompatible neural nets have accurately predicted (1) the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential Election, (2) the political schism between Red Rural & Blue Urban sensibilities, (3) the growing backlash against the privileged little feminist who repetitively cries wolf, (4) the evolution of the US Democrat Party into the Minority Only party, (5) Kavanaugh's SCOTUS confirmation, and (6) the hyperbolic Chicken Little-ism that drives current Climate Change argument.

Since almost nobody here much cares about argument that conflicts with their preconceived sociopolitical biases, that's the reason I post here less frequently, ... mostly because accomplished wordsmiths like David are so emotionally invested in their own little non-cyclical teleologies that they must necessarily take exception to the cyclic option.

And what does the future hold?

(1) Nationalists will continue to seize power throughout the EU; (2) the much predicted US Midterm Election 'Blue Wave' will be more of a sad trickle; and (3) the price of Oil will surpass $150 USD per barrel in short order & confound all climate change predictions in their entirety.


Best

David Brin said...

"the presence of America at the correct location was not coincidence. He already knew where America was, just not what it was. "

Totally agree.

A brief slumming: No locum - "advantage is not the same as merit -- especially not in a society where the benefits of flat-fair-open competition are so spectacular.. You reveal so much about yourself.

And note, I never made the Ford accusations the centerpiece of my own objections to BK. Who said that any lie made under oath, even about non-crimes or things unrelated to duties, was perjury and reason to kick a man out of office. Bill Clinton told one fib about consensual 3rd base sex. Out with him! Until oops a GOP president lies every single day. And BK himself committed clear and repeatedly blatant perjury at least 2 dozen times in his hearings. Yes, often about minor matters not job related, but... oh you incredible hypocrites.



locumranch said...


18 U.S.C. § 1001 makes it a federal crime for anyone who "in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully ... makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation."

The penalty for violating this US statute is up to 5 years imprisonment.

General Flynn violated this statute. So did President Bill Clinton. The size of this lie -- a big whopper or a little white one -- is immaterial.

This same statute has been used to convict and imprison Rod Blagojevich, Scooter Libby, Bernard Madoff, Martha Stewart, and Jeffrey Skilling.


Best

donzelion said...

"Is history ordained or cyclical? I’ve been talking a lot about this human obsession..."
Jerry Brown set aside $6 billion or so in funds because he believes there's a high enough possibility that 'history is cyclical' to justify keeping that cash, rather than returning it to taxpayers or spending it to meet other pressing needs (mass homelessness? crumbling infrastructure?). If history was completely non-cyclical, his holding a reserve would be foolish.

The difference between a Jerry Brown picture of cyclicality and a 'Fourth Turning' picture is how one responds: Brown took concrete steps during his terms to ensure adequate resources on hand to meet government expenses for X months in the event of a shortfall. A 'Fourth Turning' picture, by contrast, offers guidance as reliable as any astrological chart. So what should we do? (Hire me as a consultant, I'm a 'Strauss & Howe' certified expert! 'You should artistically migrate the heroic vision...and for another $10k, I'll show you how!')

"Exactly where do the Murdochs, Kochs, Mercers and Bannons think this is likely to end?"
Bannon was a disposable tool, as are most pundits. But all of them are united in a view of politics informed far more by Carl Schmitt than by Strauss, Hayek, or any other thinker, let alone amateurs like Strauss & Howe.

The Mercers, Kochs, Murdochs, Trumps, and Adelsons built/preserved empires based on carefully applying the concepts of 'friends and foes' - identifying which debts to take, which to pay, which to defer - all relying entirely on Schmitt's concepts. For them, silly liberals are 'foes' destined to fail: as they do not comprehend the real power of 'the political,' they'll forever bog down in fruitless rational navel gazing, while 'the political' sets the stage. It's never meant to end: 'peace' will not arise when their enemies are defeated, but rather, they'll reject other, more distant 'friends' - in time. If all goes according to plan, they and their children will remain exceptionally rich.

Of course, they'll never publicly cite Schmitt. Any successful 19th century businessmen knew well enough to cite Jesus, rather than Machiavelli as his guide - even if in practice, the Italian thinker was consulted more often. They offer popular, incoherent ramblings like 'Fourth Turning' - while arranging structures based on the models proposed by a Nazi. 'Fourth Turning' is for the 'slightly smarter than National Enquirer' crowd - Schmitt is for the oligarchs themselves.

David Brin said...

I think what he means is it doesn't matter that Trump and Kavanaugh and all Fox-affiliated mafiosi lie ten thousand times as often and as seriously as Bill Clinton. He fibbed about hallway nookie. It's all equal!

TCB said...

For me, Brat Kavanaugh's most obvious perjury was when he denied knowing about Senate Democratic documents on strategy concerning G.W. Bush court nominees. These were stolen by a GOP mole and Kavanaugh was one of the recipients, as proven by the fact that he got - and FORWARDED - emails containing this material. And he lied about it under oath.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I think what he means is it doesn't matter that Trump and Kavanaugh and all Fox-affiliated mafiosi lie ten thousand times as often and as seriously as Bill Clinton. He fibbed about hallway nookie. It's all equal!


That's Christianity speaking. All sin is equal. What matters is not whether you sin (everyone does) or even what you do to make up for it, but simply whether you receive forgiveness. Trump does. Kavanaugh does. Clinton doesn't. It's as simple as that.

Larry Hart said...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Oct09.html#item-2

At the swearing-in ceremony for Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump apologized to Kavanaugh for the terrible pain and suffering he endured during the past several weeks. Trump did not apologize to Christine Blasey Ford for any pain and suffering she might have endured during the same period, not to mention what she endured when someone (who she insists was Kavanaugh) tried to rape her when she was 15. Not only did Trump fail to apologize to Ford, but he attacked her for violating fairness, decency, and due process. In other words, for coming forward and telling her story.


In addition to everything else that is wrong about Trump's mocking dismissal of Dr Ford, the one thing she did not do (it was done against her wishes) was "violating fairness, decency, and due process." The right-wing smear against her is that she purposely tried to embarrass Kavanaugh with her last-minute accusation. In fact, she asked for her letter to be kept confidential so that the White House could quietly drop him from the list of nominees without anything having to come out in public. It only had to become part of the confirmation process because Trump refused to handle the matter privately.

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

Darrell E said...

TCB,

Exactly so. In a reasonable political environment that would indeed be a death blow to any prospective SCJ, because it damn well should be. That issue should be all that needs to be said. This one issue demonstrates that BK does not have the two most important traits a SCJ is supposed to have. Not lying and impartiality. I'm not sure why the Democrats didn't pound on that one hard. I suspect because they figured that it just wouldn't matter. Not to the Republicans in the Senate and not to enough of the public to possibly compel some Republicans in the Senate to vote no. There's no doubt at all that the Republicans in the Senate couldn't care less about a SCJ nominee who has both lied to them under oath and lied about a matter that clearly demonstrates his partisanship, his willingness to take unethical actions in service to political masters even in a job in which he is supposed to be impartial.

I think too that there is little doubt that the public would not have cared enough to put sufficient pressure on enough Republicans in the Senate either. But, I wonder. It seems to me that setting or maintaining precedents can be important. I think the Democrats should have pounded on this issue very hard regardless of whether or not they thought it would lead to a successful no vote on BK simply to be seen to be doing the right thing, to acknowledge in plain view what is right and what is wrong.

A.F. Rey said...

Just in case you don't follow Existential Comics (I don't--hat tip to P.Z. Myers, again), here's one where all the great moral philosophers agree that a wealthy person should give bread to a poor man--er, except maybe one. :)

http://existentialcomics.com/comic/258

donzelion said...

AF Rey: been a while since I referred to existential comics: I'm a fan.

I'd say all four of the systems presented have their adherents, and even divine command theory is worth taking seriously.

But not Rand. Rather than a moral system for reasoning about what we should do, her offering is akin to astrology: popular, but useless. One should treat it the same way as any astrologer criticizing astronomy...

Darrell E said...

donzelion,

Why do you think divine command theory is worth taking seriously? Is it more for pragmatic reasons, for example because a majority of the population are religious and understanding their philosophies is of practical value in understanding their behavior? Or is it for more intellectually useful reasons, for example because you think it may be of value in Moral Philosophy, or similar endeavors, for informing our moral / ethical standards?

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

There's no doubt at all that the Republicans in the Senate couldn't care less about a SCJ nominee who has both lied to them under oath and lied about a matter that clearly demonstrates his partisanship, his willingness to take unethical actions in service to political masters even in a job in which he is supposed to be impartial.


The best you can say is that the don't care. For the more rabid among them, those are features, not bugs. They want a partial justice, as long as he's partial on their team.

David Brin said...

TCB said...
For me, Brat Kavanaugh's most obvious perjury ...

No, that was among the most SERIOUS perjuries, along with "I'm impartial."

But the most OBVIOUS was claiming the "boofing" was farting. It is documented (excuse me) up the wazoo that he's boofed and knew what he was doing.

locumranch said...


Darrell_E, who argues that partisanship should "be a death blow to any prospective SCJ because it damn well should be (and any SCJ) is supposed to be impartial", seems to have contracted a bad case of the supposed tos.

And, for Poor Larry_H, who objects to Christian conceptions of Sin & Forgiveness, would doubtlessly be thrilled with the revocation of the similarly Christian conceptions of Justice, Tolerance, Mercy & Charity, so here's hoping that he receives that for which he wishes.

I'm sure that that lot will be much more satisfied with Sharia Law.


Best

Marshall Boice said...

Zerosum says:

"And, for Poor Larry_H, who objects to Christian conceptions of Sin & Forgiveness, would doubtlessly be thrilled with the revocation of the similarly Christian conceptions of Justice, Tolerance, Mercy & Charity, so here's hoping that he receives that for which he wishes.

I'm sure that that lot will be much more satisfied with Sharia Law."

Hi Strawman! Haven't seen you in a while! *bangs head on desk*

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

And, for Poor Larry_H, ... so here's hoping that he receives that for which he wishes.


You won't be happy if that happens.

Larry Hart said...

This is a comment under Paul Krugman's column today, not Krugman himself, but the subject is one I've been quietly wondering about for many months now:


My grandparents did not get out of Poland in time; my father and his uncle did. What country will take American refugees running from American Fascism? Not a rhetorical question: I'd like to know, for the sake of my children.

Tim Wolter said...

I was all set to start a discussion on the merits of the Kavanaugh nomination, one that looked at Confirmation bias in both literal and figurative terms. The valid issues of irregular finances and of the extent to which prior executive branch partisan work should be considered a negative (for Kavanaugh and presumably for Kagan). Philosophical musings on the presumption of innocence. Hypothetical scenarios regarding whether the next nominee - quite likely female - should be voted down if there were perhaps allegations that she offered/threatened subordinates or students if they did not engage in a same sex relationship (having two women who must be believed could induce a Landru Computer Meltdown I fear).

But David, along with the esteemed Senator from the Great State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, you appear to ascribe considerable import to the exact parsing of a scatological reference in an indulgent, stupid high school year book.

I've previously mentioned that I think you are drifting far beyond the thought patterns of most American citizens.

I don't think we can have that reasonable discussion yet.

Tacitus

matthew said...

Tacitus - Kagan was not the recipient of stolen documents. Lying Rapist was.

matthew said...

David, do not give into Tacitus' demands to discuss on his terms. Remember how many times he shifts the goal posts. How much evidence he is willing to ignore.

He's just another waste of time.

Tim Wolter said...

Matthew

I am hardly demanding anything. In a world where strange things happen in our politics I am offering opinions.

I don't have a "side" so to speak so it is not a fair comparison, but if you've been around long enough you may recall my composure has generally been unruffled by the electoral ups and downs of either party.

If I become generally unwelcome I'll just take a vacation from ConBrin. I do feel that with an alternate perspective I usually offer more than I take from of the conversations here.

T

Alfred Differ said...

I don't think Tim is a waste of time. Far from it.
Difficult to convince? Sure, but I get that. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Darrell E,

Donzelion will have to speak for himself regarding the value he sees in divine command theory, but I’ll offer some support from the side from a non-believer.

I carry a Morgan dollar in my pocket because Liberty is portrayed on the coin instead of dead Presidents. She is a ‘transcendent’ to which I can be loyal without running the risk of running into unpleasant human details about the actual life she led compared to what I want to believe. Many of us agree on certain aspects of her too, so my individual belief system is part of a social construct.

If I were to anthropomorphize her a bit too much, I might argue that she has certain expectations of me. As I’m a libertarian, that could even make some sense to people who believe in and are loyal to other transcendents. I don’t actually go that far, but in practice there are some ‘commands’ associated with the defense of Liberty that I follow as if I was actually being commanded.

In a virtue ethics system, the step between where I am (non-believer in anthropomorphized transcendents) and other believers is not a huge one. We can agree on a number of ideals even if we don’t agree upon the foundations under them. This is useful, so I’ve learned to let the impractical stuff go.

There is a math analogy here too. In projective geometry, a ray pointing along a direction can be scaled by a finite integer (not zero) and still be the same thing. Visually, it still points in the same direction. Orientation is not altered by scaling. Non-believers like me can ‘point’ in the same direction as believers if we agree to squint a bit and ignore our foundations. The practical layer of our moral system comes out identical if we do.

matthew said...

Tim I think you've been around here for about five years. I've been here around ten but I don't remember you ever changing an opinion on anything.

As to "not having a side" if you honestly believe you do not have a side, I recommend you go back and read your comments for the last five years. Try Larry's "what if a Democrat said this test" to your own comments. I see you as one of the most partisan voices here.

Bob Neinast said...

Larry Hart wrote: #ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

How about those who follow Dr. Brin's advice to be Republican so that they have some small amount of influence in their heavily gerrymandered district, but vote (almost exclusively) Democratic in the general elections?

(Raises hand.)

Tim Wolter said...

matthew

I've been around more than ten years. Probably around 14 but I did not post as often in the early days.

I have gained what is to me a significant degree of insight into the thought processes of those who hold very different views. For that I thank the general community.

It is the tendency to demand ideological purity that has dynamited so many of the remaining bridges across the partisan divide. I can understand your point of view. Mostly I can respect it. But some, not all, of you are loathe to have me challenge it.

T

donzelion said...

Darrell E: "Why do you think divine command theory is worth taking seriously?"

So many reasons, so hard to defend in short space...

"Is it more for pragmatic reasons,"
Yes, and I'd add in longevity as well as popularity, but both are mere evidence "there may be something more to it than meets the eye." I disregard popularity in Rand's case, as her crap is a temporary fad (and there are millions of them similarly consigned to intellectual dust bins) - divine command theory is millennia old...even concepts I dislike which have sticking power are worth taking seriously, as one may need to refute them (or integrate them).

"Or is it for more intellectually useful reasons, for example because you think it may be of value in Moral Philosophy, or similar endeavors, for informing our moral / ethical standards?"
That too, but in a very unorthodox way. The habits of thought typified by Divine Command Theory don't necessarily lead us to answers about moral questions any more reliably than any other moral tradition - but the existence of people trained in those habits of thought is crucial for our society. There are reasons one sees a vast number of religious people contributing to science, Jewish, Jesuit, and many Protestants - in many cases, one of the first steps toward scientific discovery was grappling with early questions about religious authority v. material reality.

As a moral system, "a thing is good because God commands it" rather than "God commands the good" creates plenty of questions, no few of which make politics complex. But as rational beings, "what exactly is it that God commands" lends itself to issues of interpretation that revert to "what is" - and a fixed faith that there must be some discoverable truth underlying all else. That's not entirely a useless position.

Rand, by contrast, amounts to "evil is good, good is evil, words mean what I wish, and I wish what I whim" - in short, a species of pure relativism (again, pretending to be 'objective' based entirely on such whim). There's nothing there, not even a worthy story, beyond the gibberish.

donzelion said...

Tim: "It is the tendency to demand ideological purity that has dynamited so many of the remaining bridges across the partisan divide."

Two thoughts:
(1) Hence, my proposing that we take Carl Schmitt seriously. No other political thinker is so utterly convinced of the inevitability of partisanship and the futility of reasoned discourse. The demand for ideological purity is less about a desire for echo chamber agreement, but for proof of 'friendship' to distinguish friends from foes.

(2) Even though I take Schmitt seriously, that doesn't mean I like or agree with him: I still think reasoned debate is a wonderful thing in itself, and still like hearing disagreement from intellectuals capable of doing so with reasoned argument. (In case anyone was listening, that commitment is also why I refuse to see Locum and many other holders of views I vehemently reject as an 'enemy' - we disagree - but either he or others who also disagree with me will eventually guard my back and protect a country and civilization with great value - or that civilization is indeed destined to collapse and be replaced by despotism).

Thank you for the challenge. In a decent person's hands, criticism is intended to make one's claims, or reasoning sharper - not for the sake of petty sniping.

donzelion said...

Bob Neinast: re #ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans
"How about those who follow Dr. Brin's advice to be Republican so that they have some small amount of influence in their heavily gerrymandered district, but vote (almost exclusively) Democratic in the general elections?"

But is such a person really a 'Republican,' or are they a strategic Democrat?

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Ugh...with fears of American fascism, my persistent needles that we all dust up some abandoned Schmitt texts may seem like adding gasoline to a fiery dread...but that's not my purpose. Strauss had a number of arguments that, once understood, were fairly trivial to beat (e.g., propositions like 'national virtue benefits from 'splendid little wars'', 'esoteric and exoteric knowledge must be carefully orchestrated' and 'true Western civilization traces from Jerusalem and Athens' are easily countered).

"What country will take American refugees running from American Fascism?"
We're not finished yet. Think: things were hopeless in the '70s, when women earned 50% as much as men in the few professions that even tolerated their presence. Things were hopeless in the '50s, when Jim Crow prevailed in the South (and the North erected their own shady segregation through 'New Deal' tools). Things were hopeless in the '30s, the '10s, the 1870s (we've never had robber barons so powerful as we did then) - the 1850s (the Supreme Court declared African-Americans permanent slaves) - the 1830s...

In 2005, I was convinced Americans would never recognize marriage equality, even argued cautiously that fighting for it now was foolish, wasteful, simply stirring up right wing stooges who took it as a 'red meat' issue to drive votes. Now? God bless millennials: on this issue more than any other, they come down on the right side of history, and the rest of us, like it or not, will bow to their conviction. There are probably many other twists ahead - hopeless struggles that just may prove out.

Treebeard said...

Reasoned discourse works in certain domains, but it's not how fundamental things get decided. Good luck having reasonsed discourse with people who don't share your culture or worldview. Which is probably why nations with shared ethos, values and traditions are a good idea—so you're society doesn't turn into a warzone and fall apart.

It's funny but not surprising that someone like Schmitt is still influential. In a lot of ways people like him were just ahead of the curve in dispensing with the sentimentality and moralism of legacy Christendom and pushing full-on into the God is dead, might is right, postmodern future. Universal brotherhood and reasonableness are religious ideals after all, not facts of nature. The fascists may have won, but they couldn't have done it without the revolutionaries, progressives and Enlightenment cultists.

matthew said...

Tim, the demand for ideological purity in America is all in the hands of the most disciplined political machine in US History right now. Hint: it ain't the liberals.

The loud voices calling for out and out Civil War are not the liberals. Point me to the Alex Jones's, or Mike Savages, or Sean Hannity's on the liberal side. Show me anyone with the reach of Rush Limbaugh on the liberal side calling for Civil War the way he does.

The end of sane political discourse in America is a direct result of the GOP political machine. See: the Hastert Rule. See: Merrick Garland.

But you will still "whatabout" around any discussion of accountability for the breakdown. Over and over again. Raising up a molehill next to Mt. Everest and claiming it is taller.

Bob Neinast said...

donzelion asks: But is such a person really a 'Republican,' or are they a strategic Democrat?

So, you are saying there are No True Scotsmen?

In my case, I've always been a Republican, though more of a Rockefeller Republican (or, more accurately, being from Illinois, a Chuck Percy Republican). Are they True Republicans? I actually came up with implementing Dr. Brin's strategy on my own before hearing about it from him here (maybe it's just the way many physicists think). My views have changed over the years (educated in many ways by what I've read here), but I still don't subscribe to some of the Democratic thinking on business (and I distinguish between oligopolistic businesses and much smaller ones for which competition--kept fair via governmental restrictions--still works).

Larry Hart said...

Bob Neinast:

'#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans'

How about those who follow Dr. Brin's advice to be Republican so that they have some small amount of influence in their heavily gerrymandered district, but vote (almost exclusively) Democratic in the general elections?


Ok, it depends on what the definition of "Republican" is.

:)

David Brin said...


Bob Neinast, I registered republican in order to vote in primaries in a republican district, true. But California changed its election laws to the best in the country, with open –shared primaries resulting in two things at once… LESS partisanship… but the near extinction of the CA GOP. How can both be true? Because the GOP is insane, California voters know it. And many elections here wind up being between a left of center democrat and a moderate dem who wants science and the environment and rights, but also a good business climate.

This is what guys like Tim and other RASRS don’t understand. If the Republican Party’s undead rampaging were-elephant finally gets a stake through its monstrous-zombie heart, the immediate result will be a schism in the DP. And the “conservative” wing will be everything a decent man like Tim would want.

Pro-science and professions and pro-fact, anti-cheating. Eco, rights, transparency all that stuff… but also deficit hawks like Jerry Brown, the ONLY guys balancing budgets in the USA. Let me repeat that. The ONLY folks fighting for fiscal prudence in America (and succeeding) are the right half of the Democratic Party.

If they were alive today, Lincoln and T Roosevelt would hold the stake while Ike and Barry Goldwater pounded it into the foul heart of today’s treasonous beast.

David Brin said...

Tim, you should really parse whether I should deem it worth my time to engage with you. I like you. But you utterly ignore every point that I raise in carefully parsed lists, pretending they never were posted, to a degree that I find depressing, when you later chide me for not posting sober, adult lists of points.

Do you want me to re-post them? Just so you can ignore them, again? So you can pounce on my reference to BK’s genuine and knowing lies about kinky sex as beneath us? Even if those were BK’s ONLY perjuries (they weren’t) they go to his shouted declarations that ANY perjury of any degree must be utterly disqualifying.

But no. I listed cogent points directly answering each and every higher-level objection to this obscene appointment, and you did not address a single one of them. Instead, all we got was “I was all set to start a discussion on the merits of the Kavanaugh nomination…”

No, sir. You were not. You never were and remain that way. I am glad you did not say that under oath.

Moreover, your taking a “vacation” from a place where cogent listings of mature points can be found is sad. We truly are desperate to reach you! If we cannot get through to a man such as yourself, then the confederacy truly is impenetrable and this is gonna get very, very harsh.

Larry Hart said...

donzelion:

"What country will take American refugees running from American Fascism?"
We're not finished yet. Think: things were hopeless in the '70s,...


If I thought we were finished already, I'd be petitioning for asylum in Denmark.

But I also think it's foolishly optimistic not to think about what might need to be done.

Remember how I said that even the fact that we believe Kavanaugh (and/or Trump) plausibly could have molested women bodes badly, whether not they did so? In like fashion, the very fact that it's not ridiculous to wonder about the need to be a refugee from Fascist America is frightening in and of itself.

Larry Hart said...

Bob Neinast (redux) :

on '#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans'

Understand that I started using that hashtag in response to Republicans like Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Bob Corker, even Ted Cruz at one point, who talked a good game about respecting civility and decorum and having lines they would not cross, and then caving into Trump and the brownshirts when it was time to walk the walk.

I did not start out wanting to condemn every member of the party. I came to understand that there was no point in expecting anything better from them.

Are you familiar with Dr Brin's novel The Postman? If so, you may remember Dena explaining to Gordon that there were millions of men who were neither good nor bad, but they were irrelevant. They didn't move the needle. That's how I perceive Republicans who don't like the direction their party is going, but won't do anything to change it.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin to Tim W:

If we cannot get through to a man such as yourself, then the confederacy truly is impenetrable and this is gonna get very, very harsh.


Sadly, some of us have already arrived at that conclusion. Your sentence is true, and the "if" clause is true, so the conclusion must be as well. Some may be able to tell themselves, "I can't allow myself to believe that, because the implications are just too horrible to contemplate." I, unfortunately for myself, am not constitutionally able to think that way. Belief is not something I choose to do--almost the opposite thing.

locumranch said...


Progressives like Matthew tend to define 'diversity' as thinking, believing & acting exactly as they do.

They systematically embrace a multiplicity of genders, ethnicities, creeds & cultures, except for the traditional gender 'male', the ethnicity 'white', the creed 'Christian' & any culture with the capacity to stand against them.

This, their system, is an all-encompassing fascism (Mussolini's definition) which keeps 'everything in', leaves 'nothing outside' and allows 'nothing against'.

David calls this 'Otherness': This desire to include (as in 'absorb', 'envelop' and 'engulf') the Other in order to destroy it's individuality & uniqueness.

Thus, the Left seeks to CONSUME the Right. Like a hungry amoeba. Or, the Borg. To make the individual one with the collective.

Diversity is an euphemism for Ingestion.


Best

David Brin said...

Made up paranoia, locum. Sorry. But you assume we are like you, and thus you assume we would kill or oppress you, if achieving the power to do so. But that's your bag, not ours. We... are... nothing... like... you. And secretly, in your heart, you know it. You know that all the smartypants types and their future-lookers and horizon seeker supporters won't oppress you, though you'll send us to camps if you get the chance.

It confuses you.

===

Dang!

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/ad-ted-cruz-tough-as-texas-slogan_us_5bbc1c11e4b0876edaa1207c

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | But I also think it's foolishly optimistic not to think about what might need to be done.

I think I'd be more inclined to become a hidden bomb maker than a refugee. Not that I want to scare my current employer, but I'd likely stick around and fight. There is a reason I put rocket pins on my blue kepi. 8)

yana said...


yana thought:

"In my experiences, every time someone resorts to a dictionary, i know i've won the argument. At that point, if i simply keep to the merits of my position, i won't need to introduce any new points."

locumranch thinks: "It's a well-established rhetorical technique."

This is so, but half of people see it as a refuge and half smell blood in the intellectual waters. The bigger one's lecture hall gets, the less one can rely on dict nor thes, but rely on simple human empathy, Oh No, A Liberal-sounding Thing!

It's not joy, seeing someone trapped like full-on La Brea style, in an attempt to keep traditions alive in a democracy which was specifically designed to keep the human stew churning.

yana said...


donzelion thought:

"That's not entirely a useless position"

The paragraph which precedes this, you get it.

"In 2005, I was convinced Americans would never recognize... foolish, wasteful, simply stirring up right wing stooges"

Was with ya, in a goofy hope to suppress the repressionist vote in 2004. Didn't know then, that every nudge from center the national pendulum gets, it sends a shockwave out into one absurdland or the other.

Darrell E said...

Alfred Differ & donzelion,

Thank you both for the interesting responses. I agree with Alfred about transcendents but I don't agree that they are equivalent to a god of DCT. It seems to me to take a lot of rationalization and a lot of evolution to a much more liberal conception of DCT to get to an equivalence. And even then there is a world of difference between someone taking inspiration from an idealized model they are fully aware only exists as a concept in their, and perhaps some others', minds and someone believing that there is a magical agent who's commands they are obligated to obey and to consider moral regardless of any other consideration. I know that such liberalization has happened. A significant percentage of Christian sects have evolved to much more liberal interpretations of Christianity. But I think DCT is simply a failed philosophical / theological concept and is only interesting in an archaeological sense.

I don't think there is anything about DCT that is worth retaining, except for historical purposes. A liberal Christianity doesn't need DCT and would be better off simply dropping it. Modern liberalized conceptions of DCT are usually modified to avoid precisely what DCT was originally conceived to assert. For one example, Modified Divine Command Theory which links morality to human conceptions of right and wrong by some torturous rationalizations starting from the premise that God is omnibenevolent. If you've reached the point where your conception of DCT is intentionally modified to deny the whole point of the original conception it seems to me you should just toss it in the garbage. This seems to me to simply be grasping for rationalizations that allow a person to hold onto some part of cherished ancient beliefs in the face of cultural evolution which has been largely driven by the secularization of modern society.

My understanding of DCT is in agreement with William Lane Craig's. His conception of it is quite accurate in my experience. If your god tells you to kill all the men and take all the women and children as slaves then those actions are moral, so no worries. I am happy, or relieved rather, that there are some liberalized conceptions of DCT these days but I don't think they are any more valid than the original. Just less odious and less dangerous.

By the way, I'm not trying to argue either of you out of your positions, just figured it would only be polite to return the favor of explaining mine.

Darrell E said...

donzelion,

"As a moral system, "a thing is good because God commands it" rather than "God commands the good" creates plenty of questions, no few of which make politics complex. But as rational beings, "what exactly is it that God commands" lends itself to issues of interpretation that revert to "what is" - and a fixed faith that there must be some discoverable truth underlying all else. That's not entirely a useless position."

I agree, that is not an entirely useless position. But neither DCT or Christianity more generally readily or uniquely leads to that position. The only reason they can lead there is that just about any position can be arrived at from just about any other position by creative rationalizations. Just as often, perhaps more often, Christianity has been used to inhibit inquiry into underlying truth. Especially if methods, direction and results were not approved by religious authorities. That is still true today.

I think I completely agree with your take on Rand.

Again, not trying to argue with you, just dumping some thoughts.

Larry Hart said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I think I'd be more inclined to become a hidden bomb maker than a refugee.


Maybe, but I'd want my wife and kid somewhere safe first.

And what I'd absolutely want to avoid is being one of those people stuck in Austria in 1939 because they refused to believe things were bad enough to flee in 1933.

Larry Hart said...

Oh, gotta love the snark:

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Oct10.html#item-1

Trump himself floated the name of his daughter Ivanka [as Nikki Haley's replacement], saying she would make a great pick, but that he would get attacked for nepotism. That now makes two things that the President wishes he could do with her, if not for their being related.

Twominds said...

No time for more, but this article / opinion piece remined me of the recurring theme here of 'it's OK if Republicans do it'

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/brett-kavanaugh-democratic-party-fallout-anger.html

Jon S. said...

I'm put in mind of one of the overarching themes of the videogame Fallout New Vegas, especially in the Dead Money DLC - that an unhealthy attachment to the past (the "Old World Blues", to quote another DLC) can be a worse affliction in post-War Mojave than radiation poisoning. The scourge of Caesar's Legion, enslaving and pillaging from Arizona to Utah, was started by a scholar who thought his history books pointed the way to the future, because he thought history was cyclic. The Brotherhood of Steel, meanwhile, authors their own versions of misery because they think that high technology in the hands of the common folk will inevitably lead once again to another Old World, and another nuclear war. And the conflict that will eventually arise between the player character and the man calling himself "Ulysses" will be due in large part to Ulysses' inability to move past a terrible incident from his youth (the Courier once delivered a package to his hometown, and fighting over it led to someone setting off a remaining nuke underground, destroying the Divide). Ulysses wants to cast this, and the ongoing conflict between the Legion and the New California Republic over control of Hoover Dam, in terms of past ideologies fighting, because like so many he can't let go of the past and begin a new future.

In Dead Money, you have a rogue Brotherhood Elder who wants to seize the weapons of the Sierra Madre Casino to wipe out all life in the Mojave, a ghouled pre-War entertainer still obsessed with robbing the place blind, and a Brotherhood assassin sent after the Elder who can't let go of her goal, even after he's trapped himself in the Casino. None of them can, in the arc-words of the DLC, "let go, and begin again".

Sounds applicable to the modern situation to me...

A.F. Rey said...

I think I'd be more inclined to become a hidden bomb maker than a refugee. Not that I want to scare my current employer, but I'd likely stick around and fight.

As any good strategist will tell you, you should always have a back door, just in case.

Remember the Alamo! (As a counter-example.) :)

Jophur call girls? What?

Ew! Just, ew! :p

Although, if you think about it, since they were rings...no, no, don't go there, Andrew, don't go there... :)

matthew said...

Alfred says "There is a reason I put rocket pins on my blue kepi. 8"

As I've said here before, on mine are the crossed cannons. Metallurgist, yo! Blue armies gonna need ordnance.

But my wife and kids will not be here. (Ok, maybe the elder girl - she's at the age where she gets to decide to stay and fight)

matthew said...

So, big change of subject - who burned Fancy Bear?

https://thehill.com/policy/international/410584-russian-troll-farm-hit-in-arson-attack

It could be:
a) Russians themselves cleaning house. Timing is wrong, though, since bot activity is reaching its peak before the elections.
b) US Gov't. Frankly hard to believe, since all three branches of the US government are controlled by a party that wants and needs Russian interference in the midterms.
c) USINT acting without explicit permission. Frankly scary but entirely possible.
d) Governmental action by a foreign liberal democracy. My most likely guess. I could see Merkel ordering it. France has a history of not being shy about using extra-legal means ("Rainbow Warrior, anyone?) and Macron seems to like being a cowboy. UK is right out since the Torries need Russian help as much as the GOP...
e) Motivated private citizen? While I was traveling last weekend, my passport certainly doesn't have a Russian stamp. Not sure where Larry was though ;)
f) Other? Any ideas?

I suspect that this event may cause about three days of lesser Russian bot activity, which, given the timing, may be a crucial little blip.

Alfred Differ said...

full-on La Brea style

That's worth a smile this morning. Evokes a smell in my memory since I've been there. 8)

The thing about tar pits, though, is that they DO churn. It's just very slow. The people who jump into them see this as a feature and not a bug. We should take note of this as it is the rate of change (especially the rate of change of the rate of change) that makes some people oppose the progressives. They can be moved, but not quickly. Just mental viscosity.

Alfred Differ said...

When it comes to protecting the wife and child, I suspect California is one of the safer places to be. Not all places in California, but I know roughly where I would take refuge if needed.

My wife and I actually joked about this many years ago while out on a hike near here. It's not funny anymore, but that location would still work as a message drop.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

When it comes to protecting the wife and child, I suspect California is one of the safer places to be. Not all places in California, but I know roughly where I would take refuge if needed.


Yeah, I tend not to think of that option, since my wife has an irrational aversion to California. There might be more important concerns, though.

I'd hate to leave some of the hot babes I work with, though, and I don't see a way to bring them along. Wait, did I say that or think it?


It's not funny anymore,


Exactly my point. The once-unthinkable has become all too plausible.

David Brin said...

Onward

onward