Saturday, May 23, 2020

Five Covid items you don't (yet) know... plus Bat viruses and Wuhan collaborations and recent science updates

As the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates, infectious diseases can have profound influences on their host populations. Human evolution has unquestionably been shaped by past infections. However, humans have also shaped pathogen dynamics and virulence via a multitude of factors, like settlement, agriculture, technology, rapid long-distance travel, medicine, and global economic integration, continue to shape epidemics and the human host populations. The most recent CARTA virtual symposium explored how infectious agents and humans shape each other’s evolutionary trajectories. The IMPACT OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE ON HUMANS & OUR ORIGINS

== Covid (covfefe?) insights ==
(1) Word has been issued that we need worry less about "fomites" or physical objects and surfaces carrying infectious viruses. Many of you first saw the word "fomite" in my novel Existence which dealt with an unusual (speculative) kind of interstellar virus, and the unusual "surface" that carried it.   

(2) Also spreading is a fact we should have known months ago, had there been pervasive testing - that exposure in outdoor air, especially in sunshine, is much less dangerous than in enclosed spaces and over extended periods. Good to know, but still no guarantee. Keep washing.

(3) You'll hear that it takes a 'minimum dose" of virus to get infected - at least a thousand or so - and that one or two won't do it. I doubt this! We need to recall that the dosage minimum thing is statistical. There are undoubtedly cases in which a single inhaled virus has led to disease and death, because if that one virus got very, very lucky, it will have hundreds of immediate replicant offspring. All right, I am glad researchers estimate a rapid falloff below say 1000, but it's not to zero. Now, having said that, what might happen is that a single point infection could trigger sufficient immune response to deal with the isolated site. One hopes.  

(4) Talk of a widely distributed vaccine by October is misinformation and dangerous. Yes, there are groups with tentatively promising vaccines! And Biden is right that this is a time for lots of international conversation, sharing and cooperation, bringing forward for testing the best ten or so from wherever... exactly opposite to the Trumpist idiocy. And yes, Biden and Gates are right that we should invest now in the factories to mass produce vaccines, when ready. But there is still reason to do the full test program on 100,000 subjects, rather than immediately 100 million.

Remember the 1976 Swine Flu? Gerald Ford's only dynamic presidential action was to rush out an untested vaccine - (for this he gets an aircraft carrier named for him?) - one which triggered a flush of Guillain-Barré syndrome... which spurred the start of our modern, insane-ingrate festival of anti-vax lunacy. We cannot afford a repeat on any large scale. 

Now consider this added flaw in a rushed vaccine. There is something called  Antibody-Based Enhancement... where some viruses take advantage of earlier exposures to related strains, by hijacking the very antibodies your body employed against the earlier strain and then using your own antibodies as penetration aids into your cells! It's why Dengue can sometimes be far more lethal the second time you get it and why Dengue vaccines are used only sparingly. Hence it isn't just the virus that must be visualized. The antibodies we're counting on should be checked to make sure they can't be turned into trojan horses! (The Nanome company makes spectacular molecule visualizing products letting you AR-dive into complex proteins.) And hence, while we can speed up and support science, and enlarge the studies rapidly, there still must be studies.

Get ready for the Covfefe Administration to announce spectacular vaccines (and brag that Two Scoops invented them, himself) before the election, as Sinclair Radio jocks veer from "it's a hoax!" to "we're the scientists saving you!" To which the answer must be "You first!" No seriously. In front of cameras, roll up your sleeves. You first.

(5) Perspective on the project to collect bat samples and study hundreds of species of corona virus, in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. While our present troubles may still turn out to have spilled from a careless lab release, it’s worth noting that there are very good reasons for these data collection projects and collaboration - in careful ways has always been and always will be desirable.

(6) Oh, read about the incredible wave of GOP suck-ups ingratiating themselves with Trump by loudly declaring they are taking and touting hydroxy-Q… declaring “If it was bad, Democrats would WANT him to take it!” No, that’s your desperately hate-drenched psychology. It’s not how our - sane - minds work.

== Health: public and personal ==

How to quarantine in ways that will effectively limit transmission while helping the quarantined to experience comfort, not fear - so others will cooperate if their turn comes? And so the un-infected can be released quickly and so that economic disruption is minimized? See “Quarantine Methods Across the Ages.” The case of the cruise ship in Japan is horrific, maximizing both torment and chances of cross infection among the tightly packed passengers. Maybe, in addition to rush-building new hospitals, China should have erected quarantine centers that have the look and feel of resorts? Without expensive surfaces but with basic amenities - including hiking & frisbee golf (much easier to set up than regular golf), and easily divided into secure zones, as each quarantined person processes along one track or another.

Certainly the Japanese should have done this for those poor cruise ship passengers. Business travelers and vital industrial workers could be processed efficiently and with good optics.

And more...   Autism appears to be at least somewhat associated with alterations in the cells that provide the myelin coatings for nerve cells.

We all know we should exercise more. But this article lays out what science knows, as of this year... and it's pretty darn overwhelming. I used to joke that if exercise extends your life by exactly the amount of time you spend exercising, then isn't it a wash? (A joke I usually told in the locker room, while finally catching my breath.) But apparently you make a big profit on the deal, so that's one joke to retire.

America's most widely consumed oil causes genetic changes in the brain: Soybean oil linked to metabolic and neurological changes in mice. Soybean oil. Wean the fried foods habit. Sorry.

== That Can-Do Spirit... ==

A colleague called followers to write me “suggesting David Brin write a graphic novel, about responding to a crisis by folks working together to overcome problems, not sitting around and giving up because we don't make things in the USA any more.” 


In fact, I did that! TINKERERS, explored a wide range of reasons people offer for US industrial decline... 


…then how we'll fix it the old-fashioned way, recovering our talent for poking any problem — as individuals and small groups — innovating with ingenuity, agility and élan.  

It's available online! Not the best art. (Many images were  web downloads. Including Morgan Freeman? Peter Lorre? Seriously?) 

Still, I think you’ll have fun. And it’s cheap! (Free!) And the message is even more fitting for these times, as I and many others try to help "tinkerers" solve our currently critical medical supply shortages.

And did I mention the whole thing is FREE at:

And there’s a curriculum STUDY GUIDE, taking students through the historical and other references. Maybe ideal for a home schooling session?

81 comments:

TCB said...

Some good, and very fresh, COVID vaccine news: Lancet reports good early results on one vaccine trial.

This trial has no placebo control group, as it is meant to see if the vaccine is safe, well tolerated, and provokes an immune response.

Quote: The Ad5 vectored COVID-19 vaccine is tolerable and immunogenic at 28 days post-vaccination. Humoral responses against SARS-CoV-2 peaked at day 28 post-vaccination in healthy adults, and rapid specific T-cell responses were noted from day 14 post-vaccination. Our findings suggest that the Ad5 vectored COVID-19 vaccine warrants further investigation.

Further tests will involve such things as determining best dosage. Note this is not the only vax under development, any massive rollout is a year away, etc.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

About a month ago I heard an NPR interview with a virus researcher who has worked at the Wuhan lab. What she said is very roughly as follows:

There's a very small possibility that the virus escaped that lab, but the overwhelming likelihood is that it jumped to humans another way. We know what protocols the Wuhan lab uses, as some of them were developed there, and she speaks well of them overall. She and other scientists from that lab went to caves in China to collect bat coronavirus samples, in full boots-and-suits-and-breathing-apparatus kit. They would gather samples with swabs, put them into liquid nitrogen, and it would be kept that way at the lab. Samples were only thawed when someone wanted to work on them; many times you couldn't get the sample to grow at all. And here's the corker: sometimes, while gathering samples in a cave in full protective gear, they would run into groups of tourists wearing t-shirts and shorts.

fin

TCB said...

Regarding covid viral load: I heard that the virus causes localized lesions in the lung. So (here's how I picture it) an infected cell bursts, infects its immediate neighbors, and you get something reminiscent of a bad pimple in your lung. If you get just one, your immune system can generally clean it right out. Maybe you don't even notice. But a heavy viral load might give you fifty or a hundred pimples all at about the same time, in different parts of the lung. (This isn't even factoring in virus that gets into the blood stream and goes after kidneys, etc.) That alone handily explains how healthy doctors and nurses die.

Ahcuah said...

Dr. Brin: You'll hear that it takes a 'minimum dose" of virus to get infected - at least a thousand or so - and that one or two won't do it. I doubt this!

I dispute this (while acknowledging I am more than willing to be overruled by expert opinion).

If I get a dose of, let's say, 1,000, although it is multiplying rapidly, my immune system has a decent chance of catching up and overwhelming it. However, if I get an initial does of 100,000, doing the same amount of multiplying rapidly, my immune system cannot catch up until horrendous damage has been done.

The relevant question isn't whether one gets "infected", it's whether one's immune system can keep up with what the initial dose is doing.

Bob Neinast

Pachydermis2 said...

Carrying over the ideas for new (and better) Star Trek series, German Nurse proposed a series based on a ship trading on the fringes of Federation space. Promising....it is territory that has seen Nicholas van Rijn and assorted Andre Norton stories do well.

You'd have to figure out how the Ferengi fit in. And in a commercial sense it would be a tough sell. Not enough explosions.

T. Wolter

David Brin said...

Actually I said that very thing about the immune system possibly pouncing on a one-site infection. But it's still a game of odds.

As for the lab-escape hypothesis, didn't an earlier virus escape? And I read somewhere that lab techs have been caught pretty often smuggling out animals to sell at wet markets.

TCB said...

I believe the interview I heard was with epidemiologist Jonna Mazet, who is quoted in this NPR article linked to the one Dr. Brin links in the main post. However, this article doesn't include the anecdote about tourists in the caves...

THIS is the interview I heard. With Mazet and Daszak.

Anonymous said...

Because of problems with Canola oil and Soybean oil, I switched to peanut oil long ago.

David Brin said...

I've been passing through some anonymous postings lately, but be warned. I generally just let the system flush most of them. On occasion I glance to see if one or two seem cogent and non-venomous. But if you plan on hanging around, I recommend getting a recognizable and verifiable monicker.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding barbarians, i was improvising off of Friedman (Stratfor) again. In his 100 year prediction book, he spent some pages explaining his approach to geopolitics. Predicting individuals and small cultural movements is fraught with danger. Predicting nations is a more stable context, but you have to know them for what they are. For example, understanding Russian paranoia requires a sense for history and how the Muscovy core was invaded from every direction over the ages. Mongols, Rus, Poles, and who knows how many came up the Volga from the Caspian. Understanding the US requires a similar depth. He called us barbarians, but took the time to explain it. Kinda like your teen-ager explanation in Tinkerers, we are what we are and that changes slowly enough to support long range predictions.

At the core of his explanation was the distinction between Nation and State. Thailand is a State composed of at least three Nations. Their inner turmoil can be understood as a conflict between these Nations for State power. How many nations exist within the United States? Your multi-phase explanation of our Civil War supports at least two. I've seen plausible arguments for ten. When presented with an external threat, though, we are just one. One extremely powerful, wealthy, and barbaric nation.

I forget where I read them, but he offered two small story snippets in support.

One explained his original impression of his own father. When he was young, he thought his father knew seven distinct languages. He learned later that his father mostly knew how to say "How much for that chicken?" and "Please don't shoot." It made sense once he explained where he came from. That little corner in western Ukraine near the border of Hungary, Poland, and… well… states have come and gone there quite a lot in the last few centuries. His father wasn't a barbarian. He was a survivor.

The second involves (I think) his own wife dealing with airport security while on travel with him in Eastern Europe. They got stopped by security who seemed very concerned about their baggage. He got concerned. He knew 'police' could do things. She got annoyed. Turns out she was trying to get a sword home without him knowing about it. Birthday present or some such. It simply… did… not… occur… to… her… that security was a potential threat. He sweated, but she behaved like an American, complained that they were messing up her surprise, and they let it go. No doubt with some head shaking and eye rolling. She was the barbarian while he was the survivor… rather like his father.

Writing this in fictional form would present quite a challenge for readers who aren't enough like us to understand that much of our power comes from an unspoken agreement NOT to do certain things. Eric Flint's 'Melissa Mailey' being interpreted by downtimers as a duchess in the shower scene from the first book shows an example. She isn't. She's an American Barbarian and portrayed as such when it finally occurs to her later what the refugees feared. It… simply… didn't… occur… to… her… earlier. 8)

After a few weeks thinking about Friedman's description of us, I grew rather attached to it. It's not all that flattering, but it feels SO true. I look around on Twitter at people actually doing things to attack the pandemic's cause and symptoms and I see it more and more.

Heh. Counter-attacking one of the Four Horsemen!

Not just in the US, of course. How could it possibly be just us? Pfft. Didn't start here. Won't end here. And it's more contagious.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Oh, read about the incredible wave of GOP suck-ups ingratiating themselves with Trump by loudly declaring they are taking and touting hydroxy-Q… declaring “If it was bad, Democrats would WANT him to take it!” No, that’s your desperately hate-drenched psychology. It’s not how our - sane - minds work.


Yeah, er...[choke]...ahem.

Actually, I do fantasize that Trump is taking the stuff and that it causes him no end of trouble. Which is not the same thing as me saying I would forcibly inject him with it. But if he wants to self-Rapture, who am I to say otherwise? Freedom and liberty.

Nevertheless, that's hardly the point. Democrats and other sane minds don't berate Trump for taking the drug himself. We berate him for encouraging others to take it. And it won't be the Democrats and sane minds who give him credence enough to take his word for...anything. It will be his own MAGAts who do that.

"Who's the more foolish, the fool, or the fool who follows him?"

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everyone: Re Autism Updates-
I'm on the board of two non-profits (AASCEND.org tsgteam.org) that work with people who are on the Autistic Spectrum, aka:"*Otties"/"Auties" (pronounced the same way).
I'm either on it, or damn close to it- never been diagnosed. (It's damn expensive to do so as an adult in the USA.)
I suspect many of us here are (as well), or have someone close to them who is.
I'm very much in favor of treatments, preventions, etc. which would allow those severely impacted by autism to have normal, functional lives. However, in my own case (I'm fortunate to have family, friends, and work I enjoy which comfortably supports my family and me)-
I wouldn't want something like the hypothetical cure alluded to in the linked article.
I LIKE the way my mind works: apparently, rather differently from the great majority of either "enties" or "auties". I feel that most folks have something like the "brain fever" mentioned in OGH's "Foundation's Triumph" which makes them incurious to ask non-ordinary questions or come up with non-linear ideas.

If I were growing up now, I'd have wished for my parents to say:
"Keith, these are the things we'll help you learn how to do to get along with most people here. It's as if we're visiting a foreign country and need to learn their customs and rules. Some of the things may seem strange or foolish to you, but those are just how they are. We've learned that it's better to see people as they are and not as we'd like them to be..." Well, those weren't the parents I had, and that wasn't the parent I was, so ONWARD...

SWA,

KH

*"On the Spectrum"/"Autistic"

yana said...


Just passed 75th of V-E Day, in August we'll mark 75 past V-J Day. Not a lesser historical turning point comes next year, V-C Day. It's Vaccine Day 2021, and there will be a round of memorials in 2031, and in 2046, and a huge party in 2071. Will the world go right back to where it was after the Pause? Don't be daft. There's the wee matter of the vaccine being only good for a few years.

Some scoff at my suggestion of a coming medocracy, but consider that VacDay 2021 is only the beginning. By 2022, we might discover the mechanism which makes a human immune system forget about coronavirii. That means we could tailor a person's boostershot rate individually. Some need a bump every year, some folks might go 4 years. A great advance for science. But it still means 100 million extra doctor visits per year in the USA alone... soon nudging 3 billion worldwide.

Right, take a second to re-read that. Two point five billion inoculations every year. Four billion by 2040. Bends the entire world's political system into a very new shape.

Look to Brazil now. Public health officials are quitting, to be replaced by soldiers, yes, Soldiers running the offices of doctors. Don't need to be very bright to see how that turns out, politically. Bolso is up for election in 2022 after 300,000 deaths. Unless they oust him sooner and replace him with a doctor.

This year, if you walk into Walmart with a t-shirt saying "Twamp Killed My Grandma" you stand a chance of a fistfight. Next year, walk into a bakery with the same shirt, and they'll give you a free cookie.

Tony Fisk said...

While I do have fantasies of the resident getting defenestrated into a tar barrel, and being railroaded off east along Penn. Ave. tied to a golf buggy, or encountering vengeful seagulls on the fifth hole, I also recognise a sick man in need of care. Just get him out of there!

Re: Tinkerers. Here's a cool application of tensegrity. Sound principles, applied in a non-intuitive manner.

reason said...

Larry Hart, exactly - it is the bad example. It is even worse if he only says he is taking it or is taking a small dose.

Daniel Duffy said...

Alfred,

We are 9 nations economically:

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/07/03/where-do-borders-need-to-be-redrawn/nine-nations-of-north-america-30-years-later

We are 11 nations culturally:

https://www.businessinsider.com/the-11-nations-of-the-united-states-2015-7


We are 2 nations politically:

http://www.viewsoftheworld.net/?p=5003

David Brin said...

Alfred I understand your point and George Friedman's. Alas it gets muddied by the fact that Hitler declared in his book "We are the barbarians," with the intent of smashing the Olde Order.

Pachydermis2 said...

Regards barbarians.

Etymology is rather slippery but supposedly the term goes way back to ancient Greece. People who were not Greek and who spoke other languages were regarded as at a minimum, strange. It sounded to Greek ears like "bar-bar-bar".

I think this is germane to the modern world. I've had occasion to comment that some of the discord we experience is because people don't always use words in the same way. My taking "traitor" and "treason" more literally for instance.

So do people one one side of the widening political divide really think that the strange folks on the other side are saying something that sounds like "blah-blah-blah"?

It may be so.

T.Wolter

Keith Halperin said...

@ Alfred: Re: Barbarian Americans-
I think this relates to how as a nation, we have typically been very good at reacting to quickly moving crises (COVID-19 perhaps being an exception), and not good reacting to slowly moving ones (Climate Change, aka, “The Slowpocalypse”).
========================================================================================

@ Daniel Duffy: Re: American Nations-
Thanks. I really like this sort of thing and familiar with Garreau's and Woodwards books.
I call your 2, 9, or 11 nations and raise you
68 (https://info.kantarmedia.com/hubfs/SRDS/PDF/Claritas/ClaritasPRIZMPremierSegmentNarratives2015.pdf) or

71
(http://www.researchwizard.org/sites/default/files/MOSAIC-Consumer-Groups-And-Types-Profiles_0.pdf)

Two different geo-demographic segmentation systems.
===================================================

@ Yana:
A while ago I suggested a protest march in Washington with a large, very diverse crowd of marchers with particular video focus on attractive, Anglo-types (for the swing-state voters).
Pan in to one 8-10 year old girl- she carries a sign with a picture of a pleasant and kindly-looking elderly woman on it, and beneath the picture are the words:
“Trump lied and Grandma DIED.”
===========================================================================================

@ Everybody; Re: A More “making animals as smart as people” aka, “uplifting” topic-
I'd previously mentioned how Star Trek seems to be going the way of the Marvel Shared Universe and maximizing the number of programs it has. Perhaps the same might be advisable for the Foundation Series, of which OGH was a participating author.
I have a few suggestions for additional works in the series:

For adults:
Foundation's Farrago- A complicated, lengthy mishmash of developments taking place 500-700 FE.

Fund the Foundation- Toward the end of the 1000 years, Galaxia is running out of money and has to run a galaxy-wide Kickstarter campaign after unsuccessfully attempting pledge drives via hyper-wave.

Foundation's Fiasco- what can I say?
....................................

For younger readers:

Find the Foundation- “Where's Waldo?” IN SPACE! (Actually, wasn't that pretty much the plot of Second Foundation?)

Foundation and Fun- Activity book for budding nerds.
...................................................

Cookbooks:

Feed the Foundation

Foundation's Flambe

10k Tasty Yeast Recipes from the Mycogen Sector
...............................................

Misc.

Foundation's Fundamentals- a concordance similar to Contacting Aliens:
An Illustrated Guide to David Brin's Uplift Universe

How to Win the the Galaxy and Influence People
- The Mule

==============================================

SWA

Acacia H. said...

We're not good at quick moving disasters. Look at Puerto Rico years after it was devastated by a hurricane... or New Orleans after Katrina. It took years and many people died.

What we're good at is reacting rapidly when a primarily-white and fairly-wealthy group of Americans end up inconvenienced or troubled by an incident.

Acacia

Keith Halperin said...

@ Acacia:
But America IS rich, white, Christian men (and their God-given, sacred property), that's what the "America" in "Make America Great Again"stands for.
Islamo-commie libtards like OGH keep trying to say otherwise, but it's all prophesied there in the Bible. I know because President Trump (Best President EVER!) said so in his tweet.

A German Nurse said...

Dr. Brin:
I enjoyed Tinkerers and identified factors that affect us, too (namely, outsourcing of jobs). Whole chunks of our cold-war industry have migrated to the eastern EU states, for example.

What I would add is cheating, which comes in myriad forms: Bribery, industrial espionage, frauds like the VW affair. I don't know if it is just more visible these days or the actual cheating level has increased, but I perceive it to be higher than, say, 20 years ago. Cheating not only sidelines more honest competitors, it also decreases the cheaters need and therefore ability to innovate and improve products and services. (I am not convinced that the regular, national intelligence communities do not participate in industrial espionage.)

Re: Officer Devotion from last thread: What I can relate to is trying to uphold high professional and ethical standards in a toxic work environment. There is no easy answer to this dilemma, but after my own experiences with it, I'd resign.
You'll always lose if you stay, either by compromising too much, warping yourself, or being disgraced when your resistance is discovered (toxic bosses don't just fire you, they try to humiliate you in addition).
It may sound heretic, but, after all, being a captain of an aircraft carrier is just another job. And you serve the common interest better to withdraw your abilities and standards from those toxic bosses; if you remain, you [I]will[/I] be abused.
Yet, I can totally understand the desire to stay, to persist and resist.
Perhaps [I]too well[/I].

reason said...

Just a brief comment that some western nations seem to have the Corona virus beat - NZ is an obvious example. But another one is intriguing - Slovakia. Has Trump in-law problems?

Alfred Differ said...

David,

Hitler declared in his book

Well... yes. They were. The average German wasn't, but his core followers were.

Fortunately for the world, we are nicer.
One doesn't need a minimum of three genetically pure grandparents to join us. 8)

His book was published almost 100 years ago. [18 Jul 25]
I intend to recognize the date in history by helping take back some of what he stole from the future.
The uncle I never met bombed his regime. I get to help ensure that isn't necessary again.

Daniel,

Those are some of the sources I had in mind. I rarely keep track of them to cite later, but when they make some sense they adjust my perception model by adding new nodes in the analogy mesh.

We call ourselves a melting pot, but it's really a chunky stew.
... and I'm more than OK with that. Some of the most beautiful (in and out) kids I've met are hybrids.

Tim,

"blah-blah-blah"

I'm quite convinced of it.

I find it quite challenging talking to one of my Maryland cousins. We are in sync on many things at the level of ethics and wildly out of sync politically. My father was something of a black sheep, though, so (technically) I'm the one that is discordant.

Of course, I don't care much. I AM a barbarian as is my cousin.

Alfred Differ said...

Keith,

I'm either on it, or damn close to it- never been diagnosed.

If you are, it doesn't come across in what you write. I'm sensitive to this since my son (21 yrs now) is squarely on-spectrum with a full diagnosis since kindergarten. I look at some of what he does and recognize my inclination to do it too, so I get the 'damn close' part. Any workaround that enables one to build internal models of another person's emotional state, though, will wipe out much of my ability to detect whether they are on the spectrum. I suspect you have at least one functioning workaround.

Thank you for serving us all on those non-profits.
It matters.

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

Two stories for you involving USN captains.

1) The Captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt recently sent a message up the chain of command warning of the impact the virus was having on his crew. One quote is "if we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors". He asked for evacuation of some of his crew. It was the kind of letter that can embarrass a superior 1) who downplays the risks and 2) if it leaks. Someone DID leak it and he was relieved of command. For what? Embarrassing his superior. One of them somewhere up the chain, but probably not his immediate superior. He didn't leak it as far as we know, but creating that kind of message also creates the risk. For that, he is responsible.

Chances are very high he knew exactly what the risks were and chose to do it. Why? Because his duty was to his crew and not his career. Why? It's likely that is the kind of person he is. Why? Because if you aren't, you don't get promoted that far up the chain. Why? That's the nature of USN culture.

Part of that culture involves blaming the CO for the actions of others under their command, but that only works if another part of the culture requires them to act for unselfish purposes. Without the second part, we'd wind up with officers who accepted illegal orders. We'd wind up with more who chose to follow stupid orders. Someone leaked his memo and likely broke classification rules in doing that, but he got the punishment. [Maybe the leaker did too. They won't want to talk much about that.]

On departure, his crew cheered him. They re-enforced the culture in doing so by making it clear they accepted that he did the right thing. In taking the risk by writing the memo AND in accepting being relieved of command for it, they said he was doing it right. He's on his way to California now. San Diego.

In the meantime, the acting Secretary of the Navy resigned after relieving the Captain. I've seen his resignation message. Boiler plate stuff. Probably written for him. The decision to relieve the Captain is being reviewed too. The impersonal nature of the departure message and the public statement that the USN is pondering whether things were done correctly speaks as loudly as the Captain's crew did to those who know the coded language. The term is "Unsat".

tbc

Alfred Differ said...

(continuing)

2) The Captain of my local command of a few years ago resigned his command after a failure involving crew safety occurred on another ship where our people were the cause. Two captains were impacted by that failure. Ours and theirs. Both were immediately screwed because events like what happened (no one was harmed… but could have been) go into their records. Permanently. There was no doubt that our people screwed up. Our Captain immediately initiated an investigation, called upon the IG to give us a harsh go-over finding everything that could possibly be wrong, and then resigned. Doing all that cleared the deck for the next captain who could come in owning the terrible results of the inspection and issue the orders necessary to improve.

It is VERY unusual for a naval captain to resign their command. The custom is for them to be relieved by a superior. We were all a little surprised at the breach, but we also knew the event was a career ending one for him. In hindsight, he was simply admitting it early. We had an acting captain for a while and then a new one… who owned the IG results and demanded better.

Our former Captain did not slink out, though. He did what was right for the command and then handed his responsibilities to someone in the chain below him who he should have already been prepping to take command should the need arise. In times of war, those needs arise often. In times of peace they are less frequent, but officers are still responsible for succession planning. He acted upon his plan and for that he has my respect.

As for the people who actually caused the safety event? Well… named in the IG report along with every little process failure along the way. Useful for the next captain, no?

_______________

The point of these stories is to show it isn't just about upholding professional standards. These officers eventually embody those standards. They aren't upholding anything. They are simply being the people they are. Making sense of this requires cultural context. Without that, one can easily read them wrong.

Not all our active duty people manage to embody the culture, but the career folks often manage something close. Even among the enlisted people, this happens. If you want to watch a daily example of this, watch StoneKettle on Twitter when he barks at former naval people who violate the culture's rules. He had a strong opinion about our former Acting Secretary of the Navy. He has lots of strong opinions, but his reactions around Navy people makes the other opinions look passive.

David Brin said...

The Navy is the most firmly professional and loyal service. Though the rest of the officer corps is likely Marshallian, too.

The toughest job in the world is a ship's executive officer, who must scour the ship daily for any sign of error. Survive that and mere command is a relief.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"I'm either on it [the autism spectrum] , or damn close to it- never been diagnosed."

If you are, it doesn't come across in what you write. I'm sensitive to this since my son (21 yrs now) is squarely on-spectrum with a full diagnosis since kindergarten.


I also suspect that I would show up on the spectrum, albeit on the high-functioning end. My suspicion stems from the fact that eye contact is almost painful for me, although I've been practicing it since the last time I had to interview for jobs. A memory from my early youth--my parents apparently had to explain to teachers that I wasn't ignoring them when I looked away as they talked. Their assertion was that I was pointing my ear at the speaker rather than my eyes.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

I would say it doesn't come across in what you write either, but I've paid attention to your posts for longer. If you still find it physically painful to make eye contact, you are quite possibly correct.

It would offer a useful explanation for some of the give and take between us too when we are trying to figure out how the other person interpreted what we really meant. That interpretation challenge alone isn't enough to convince me of anything. (Written words carry a tiny fraction of what we would communicate face-to-face.) Painful eye-contact, though, would cause me to re-interpret. Perception model phase change. That kind of things. 8)

Still... you obviously have decent coping methods. Doesn't matter how we get there if we can do that since each of us is a variation on a theme. 8)

scidata said...

I don't have many connections at NASA. I have a few more at the Canadian and European Space Agencies (CSA & ESA). Their excitement about America returning to manned launches is really great to see. It belies the common "the world hates us" crap that xenophobes often spew. Go Dragon. Go USA.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I would say it doesn't come across in what you write either, but I've paid attention to your posts for longer. If you still find it physically painful to make eye contact, you are quite possibly correct.


Making and holding eye contact feels to me as if I am being intrusive to the other person. I know intellectually that it is expected, but it feels like an invasion of personal space.

When I had to start interviewing for jobs in 2016, my wife implored me to be sure to make eye contact with the interviewers. I had to tell myself that this is expected behavior--that the other person isn't going to find it an imposition even though that's what it feels like to me. I think I handled it well, as long as I was aware of the dynamic.

What worked well for me was to practice making eye contact when the interviewer was an attractive woman. I'm not at all sure that's what my wife had in mind :) , but the experience is pleasant enough that it helps overcome the reluctance. Having a woman hold my gaze and smile back is good incentive to keep going. At first, I felt like a metaphorical rapist doing so, but it became clear that that sort of thing is expected human behavior, not an act of violence. It became almost a game--or a dare. "I keep being told that I'm supposed to do this. If it really is an imposition, tell me. Really. Otherwise, I'm going to keep doing this. I'm not hearing anything, so you must be ok with it."

If I had known at 16 what I learned at 56, I wouldn't have been an incel for as long as I was. :)

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Still... you obviously have decent coping methods. Doesn't matter how we get there if we can do that since each of us is a variation on a theme. 8)


At the climax of Kurt Vonnegut's Jailbird the dying Mary Kathleen says to the narrator something along the lines of, "I know you don't have a heart, but you try to act the way people who have hearts act." She meant that as a compliment, sort of. I've often felt that that was a good description of me.

Cari Burstein said...

Personally I've never been good at eye contact, and I've also been told I might potentially be on the spectrum, but it manifests differently in women so it's hard to tell. However I really can't tell how much of my difficulty with eye contact stems from innate discomfort versus being drilled into me since I was a child that it was rude to stare. I've never been very good at picking up the nuances of social niceties so I have a tendency to overcompensate based on what I was told when I was a kid. There's a fine line between eye contact and staring I just never really got.

I also think it's very difficult to judge spectrum behaviors based on writing. Having the time to think through what you are intending to say and edit it is a very different experience from in-person communication. People I communicate with regularly online are often surprised when I mention I find group interactions in person difficult. I just do much better in an environment where I can think about what I'm going to say before I type it and don't feel as much stress over how to modulate my conversation with others interjecting or where is appropriate to look.

David Brin said...

Huh. I clicked okay to publish a couple of drivebys by two libertarians declaring that free and fair markets require the current catchism of "no use of force"... and property protection. I would answer if they showed up here... but weirdly I don't see them.

Libertarian incantations have gone down a rabbit hole of paying absolutely no attantion whatsoever to either biology or human history. Too bad! Because there's a lot to contribute down at the most basic levels of Adam Smith and approaciating the "c-word" of competition. Alas, the current catechisms just have no bearing on the real world, but do neutralize a force that feudalists might have feared.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

I just wanted to thank Larry Hart for his post. He just put into words for me something i have unwittingly trained myself to do for years for the exact reasons he laid out.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

...two libertarians declaring that free and fair markets require the current catchism of "no use of force"... and property protection.


Doesn't property protection require a use of force, at least sometimes?

Or was that your point?

Keith Halperin said...

@ Alfred: Thank you. Our group is planning a Virtual Ice Cream Social in a few weeks via: ZOOM, and you/your son son is/are welcome to attend. (If interested, we can discuss off-line.)
I have some characteristics, which I can moderate or control to a degree-
"informing people against there will" for example. Some things I don't get too well-
so if someone at work wants something, I'll often repeat it back to them (orally or in writing) or ask for it (in writing). If it's not someone I feel comfortable with, I prefer text to audio to video to live- I can be more in control and have to be less"on guard".
Workarounds: part of my thing about behavioral economics, cognitive neuroscience,geo-demographics, etc. is a desire to figure out and classify people in the abstract- that way I have (presumably) less of a problem in the concrete (as an individual). e.g., if I know that giving you a warm cup to hold briefly before you talk with me makes you think of me more "warmly", then that's the sort of thing/rule/algorithm I'd like to know about...
This also goes to my thing about changing an opinion about a major subject based on new evidence:
In my case, it was that my father (not on the spectrum) taught us that:
1) Appearances don't matter - it's the person inside that counts and
2) If you give people the facts in an understandable way you can get them to see your way.
Unfortunately (as it took me a very long time to realize this), neither of these are true in most circumstances- cognitive biases are very strong.
IMHO, many of my autie compatriots don't know or believe this, or do know it and can't/won't accept it...

@ Larry H and Cari B: Re:Eye contact-
It's hard for me too, in stressful situations. I've heard a workaround is to stare at the middle of someone's forehead, but I haven't tried it. I've suggested telling someone when it's likely to be a problem (like an interview):
"Sometimes when I'm in situations like this, I find it a bit stressful and tend to avoid eye contact as much as might be hoped for. I hope you're OK with that..."
Thus:
1) Control something if it isn't too hard, and if it IS too hard:
2) Put it right out there (in a positive, empowering way) for THEM to have a problem with...

Cheers,
KH




David Brin said...

Actually, this is one of the admirable parts of recent libertarianism... they do not demand an absolute end to the state. Indeed, they believe the state should have an absolute MONOPOLY on use of force, and then must be fiercely supervised and restricted. But a courthouse is accepted by these libertarians... especially the ENFORCEMENT OF LEGITIMATE CONTRACTS. And that means enforced if necessary by state force (e.g. the sheriff coming to evict you for non-payment of contractual rent.)

This is actually not half bad, as magically-simplistic ideological incantations go. It has a fairly strong moral grounding and successfully lets devotees of this libertarian catechism present themselves as the most elevated humans in the spirit of Gandhi,

Problems ensure immediately, alas, in utterly ignoring all of human history, all of biology and...alas... the consequences when the true enemies of freedom gain political leverage and make the contracts and laws warped in favor of elites.

In fact, this is a stance that might be negotiated with! If it were put forward in good faith. It almost never is. What it generally does is allow the reciter to ignore what really created and maintains a decent civilization in the face of humanity's genius at delusion. Flat-fair-reciprocal competition.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

With your description of your coping mechanism regarding eye contact, I'm tempted to move you back off the spectrum in my mental understanding of you. A bit or lots of bits I'm not sure, but enough that any bet I made regarding the outcome of a legit test using DSM standards would involve you not showing enough symptoms to count.

As Cari points out, written content online isn't enough. No one should take me seriously. I'm just describing an internal model I keep of people I meet and interact with often enough to name it. My internal model of you is named 'Larry' and when I do it right, it is useful to me at predicting you. What did real-Larry mean by statement X? Internal-Larry tells me. The more work I put into Internal-Larry, the more synchronized the two of you are.

Lots of people have a hard time with eye contact. LOTS. Actual pain, though? I don't think many of us go there. What we get commonly is stress. It is damn hard work collecting all the information that comes in. Since so many social rules revolve around… well… social interactions… getting this wrong leads to serious consequences. Stress from the work involved and stress from the risk involved add up. That kind of pain is pretty typical. Immediate pain isn't.

Lots of people have a hard time stringing expressive language together for improvisational speech. LOTS. It is a highly complicated task that depends heavily on context. We are expected to do this WHILE paying attention to all the other social queues! Good luck! More stress, head aches, and fatigue result. Know your limit like one should with alcohol. Don't go past it.

________________

The best measure I've found for a quick test of 'on-spectrum-ness' is this.

1) Can you look at/listen to another person, silence your inner dialog/judge/interpreter, and 'consume' the information they are sending to you through body, tonal, and lexical languages? (Most content arrives as body and tonal language.)

2) If yes, can you use that information to build an internal representation of that other person that improves with time at simple prediction statements? (e.g. What is their favorite color? Ask only if you must. Did they notice you pass gas? Don't ask. Do they have any tells that indicate when they are being less than truthful? Definitely don't ask because they probably don't know themselves.)

3) If yes, do you LIKE this process? (It's okay to not like it if you aren't good at it, but when you get things right, do you want to do it again?)

The first question gets at what you are doing with sensory input. Some autistics are blocked there. Usually the best we can do is get them information through a different channel.

The second question gets at the purpose for humans having big brains and spending so many calories supporting them. Your peers are both allies and threats.

The third question gets at the reward mechanism within you. Are you self-dosing on the necessary hormones that promote the behavior? If not, you won't do it because it is really hard work.

________________

I remember my youth well enough to recall being terrible at processing the input. My models of others looked too much like me which made them utterly useless. Got punched a lot for it as a kid. I was self-dosing, though, and eventually broke through enough to put aside some of my dumber assumptions. It's still hard work, but my internal reward system drugs me when I do it right.

Alfred Differ said...

Strictly speaking, property protection does not require a use of force. What you are willing to do when someone violates social norms says a lot about which libertarian caucus you would find most appealing.

There is also the distinction around WHO intrudes on your property rights. It is very different to have your neighbor do it compared to having your local government do it. It's different again when a 'foreign entity' does it. One of the common threads that holds the various libertarian groups together is an agreement that your neighbor should not be able to 'use force' against you directly and should be largely unable to get government to do it on their behalf absent a large consensus on the general principle being applied and peer/jury review of the particular details.

A relatively innocent application of all this can be found in zoning laws. If the auto-mall near the freeway wants to erect a large sign with animated ads on it (changing electronic billboard), they might reasonably expect to do so on THEIR property. That sign could block the view of the ocean for the rich folks on the hill, though, who bought their property with the expectation of the view. So… who owns the intervening airspace?

I've seen some libertarians argue that zoning laws are allowed and others demand these folks be tarred and feathered for their heresy.

In practice, though, the rich folks take the auto-mall folks to court. This is a use of force because the threat is implied. In some states, they can also get initiatives on the ballot. That's another use of force, but one involving the people's implied power instead of government. The People's power turns into government power if they win.

How is this avoided without the use of force? Well… The people on the hill talk to the auto-mall folks and work something out. Part of the problem is the hill people think they own more than is on the title. Zoning laws are about all those things that are NOT commonly transferred when purchasing property, so the real issue is with the underlying real property rights registration system. A lot of battles could be avoided by tinkering with that system so people know what they actually own and can be called cheaters when they usurp other rights.

Won't happen overnight. Registration of real property claims within US territory involves an institution of many parts that hasn't been worked over in ages. There are probably still places where women aren't allowed to own X. Native People too. Hmpf. There are still some states where first cousin marriage is criminally punishable and others where it is fully allowed. Seriously won't happen overnight.

If anyone wants to see an author try to work out (in fiction) how some of these institutions might work, they can check out the webcomic called Quantum Vibe. He tries. I'm probably not a member of the caucus he would find most suitable, but I recognize the value in his effort to tell stories that put alternate social institutions on display.

yana said...


in a previous thread, Alfred Differ thought:

"It is the States doing so because they were the entities being represented in the Senate. Important difference that we muddied when we forced Senators to be chosen by popular election much later."

Deuxglass thought:

"The federal level can blame problems on the states and the state governors can blame the federal government for the same problems and all parties are right."

Hah yes but look over there, the 13th Ammendment names "slavery nor involuntary servitude" as barriers to voting, which "Neither ... shall exist within the United States," and it gives the escape clause for racists of the 1860's: "except as a punishment for crime ... duly convicted,"

But then there's Amm 15, pretty clear when it says: "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged" and with a glaring spotlight Amm 15 outlaws disenfranchisement for a "previous condition of servitude."

Now skip to the 10th Ammendment, the last word in the Bill Of Rights,

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

OK then, who are these people? The phrase "by the People" only appears twice, in Article I, early in Section 2, about how to seat a House Of Representatives. The second time is in the 17th Ammendment, the one about Senate elections.

Begs the imagination, what if the combofix is to repeal the 17th Ammendment about Senators and revert to the original Article I, S3: "chosen by the Legislature thereof," but also take a very fine scalpel to the 14th Ammendment, Section 2, removing the phrase "or other crime," and after "reduced in the proportion" in the same Section, simply append the phrase "rounded up"

?

This puts the onus on the Various States, to make sure that all citizens over 18 are provided the unabridged right to vote. If not, then they lose one Senator and a Representative in the House. If citizens need a document to vote, and the State does not make sure they have that document, then they lose representation in Congress (and presidential Electors).

If they disenfranchise anyone, for any reason short of "participation in rebellion," (according to 14A:S2) then for example #FilthyFlorida drops several Electoral College votes. Swing state? Not anymore, now takes a place alongside the other states crippled by their own racism. Most red states would lose 2 members of Congress and see their local legislature reduced in number. The smaller State lej would now choose Senators, but only one instead of two.

yana said...


It's a favorite tool of institutional racism, to disenfranchise felons and then expand the definition of "felony" onto minor crimes that are more prevalent among, you know, minorities. But if disenfranchisement is limited to only "rebellion," then the smart conservaracist response would be to push full voting rights but overlay rampant gerrymandering.

That's where we trust the system. Such blatant cheating must become even more blatant, before it can fail. All the rationalizations for gerrymandering and voter suppression today are diluted into soft soothing suburban dogwhistles. Once they are more quickly boiled of flesh, down to a bone which is only defensible by resorting to pure racist philosophy, they reveal as glaringly un-American. Fixing casual disenfranchisement forces the real cheating into the light.

Reading the Constitution, seems they were not interested in listing crimes ala Hammurabi or Moses, but thinking more about a method, for making the unknown injustices of the future stand out like purple thumbs ripe for legislation. This has worked so far, by intoning the magic words "by the People of the several States,"

There's a Constitutional reason why Article II comes after Article I. This subtlety is ignored by today's crop of racists, at times unremembered even by some organs of our judicial branch.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Actually, this is one of the admirable parts of recent libertarianism... they do not demand an absolute end to the state. Indeed, they believe the state should have an absolute MONOPOLY on use of force, and then must be fiercely supervised and restricted. But a courthouse is accepted by these libertarians... especially the ENFORCEMENT OF LEGITIMATE CONTRACTS. And that means enforced if necessary by state force (e.g. the sheriff coming to evict you for non-payment of contractual rent.)


Yes, I get that libertarians are ok with the state enforcing property rights. What seems disingenuous to me is that they have no concept of the commons, let alone any method for the community to enforce its rights not to be despoiled. To misquote Captain Kirk, they don't beLIEVE in public property.

Thus a factory owner has an absolute right to spew poisons into the air and water on his property, and the fact that that poisoned air and water then flows onto my property (and in general out to our property) is just too bad for everyone else.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Lots of people have a hard time with eye contact. LOTS. Actual pain, though? I don't think many of us go there. What we get commonly is stress.


Yeah, that's more like what I meant. When I said eye contact was "painful" I meant "painfully difficult".

What Cari said about childhood admonitions is relevant as well. "Don't stare--it's rude." "Be sure to make and hold eye-contact." I'm socially terrible with contradictory instructions, because I always feel naggingly like I'm doing something wrong anyway, and self-contradicting rules simply guarantee that I can be scolded no matter what I do. It's like the Kobiashi Maru test--a no-win scenario.

My thing about practicing eye-contact with attractive women is part of a more general coping mechanism that turns that around. Instead of concentrating on the fact that no matter what I do I will be scolded for it, concentrate on the fact that no matter what I do there is some sort of positive payoff. "I enjoy this sort of interaction. I know it's an imposition on the other person, but everyone tells me I'm supposed to do this. If I'm scolded for it, I have the pleasure of having demonstrated that I was right and they were wrong all along! If not, I have the pleasure of enjoying this woman's gaze without reproach, and if she returns a smile, even more so."

Darrell E said...

I don't know Alfred. It's true that we can and have devised all sorts of mechanisms to provide property protection that avoid the overt use of force, at least physical force, but underlying all of them is the actual use of force. The actual use of force can be, and has been in many societies, made less violent, less physical, at least at higher levels. But ultimately, for people that aren't deterred or compelled by those higher level controls the final recourse is still to do things to them, or forcing them to do things, against their will. Or, ultimately, putting them in cuffs and taking them to jail.

I don't see that changing. Not even in a Star Trek future. Given the realities of human behavior and variability I don't see how law and order in a human society could ever be possible without the ability to compel rule breakers to stop breaking rules and ultimately to render them incapable of doing so. There is certainly room for improvement in how we do this but however benignly or indirectly a person can be compelled against their will it is still a use of force.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Part of the problem is the hill people think they own more than is on the title. Zoning laws are about all those things that are NOT commonly transferred when purchasing property, so the real issue is with the underlying real property rights registration system. A lot of battles could be avoided by tinkering with that system so people know what they actually own and can be called cheaters when they usurp other rights.


That is a very insightful observation.

I think I might be a libertarian if they would acknowledge that actions you take on your property spill over and despoil my property and our property (i.e., air and water pollution), and that therefore your rights are not absolute as they conflict with my rights and ours.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Registration of real property claims within US territory involves an institution of many parts that hasn't been worked over in ages. There are probably still places where women aren't allowed to own X. Native People too. Hmpf. There are still some states where first cousin marriage is criminally punishable and others where it is fully allowed. Seriously won't happen overnight.


With the COVID thing going on, many people are probably in violation of local ordinances which prohibit the wearing of masks. :)

Some deeds in certain suburbs of Chicago still have restrictive covenants that prevent the property from being sold to Jews. I think the house I grew up in had one of those, which shows how much they were enforced, even in the 1960s. But they're still on the books, just like those laws which require drivers of automobiles to have someone walk ahead of the car ringing a bell so as to warn the horses.


If anyone wants to see an author try to work out (in fiction) how some of these institutions might work, they can check out the webcomic called Quantum Vibe.


I second the recommendation. I followed that one for years when it was still coming out in chapters. One of the most compelling pieces of serial fiction I've seen in some time.

Larry Hart said...

So now in Trumpworld, truthfully asserting that a liar is lying is an infringement on the liar's free speech. And the government is allowed to curtail the free speech of a private entity in order to combat that private entity "violating" the government's free speech rights.

The #SAD thing is that this sort of thing is now a "dog bites man" story. In other news, the sun rose in the east, and water is wet.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/May27.html#item-3

...
Presumably you don't need us to tell you how the President responded when his tweets were labeled, in so many words, as lies. But in case you do need us, the answer is: white-hot rage. Here is his immediate response (followed later by several additional tweets) :

...

...Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!


...

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, I've noticed that Blogger has a tendency to hold onto posts and then release them later on even when approved. The order of posts has changed in the past with new posts showing up between existing posts I'd read. This is probably what happened with the libertarian posts. If you look through the posts you'll hopefully see them now.

Acacia H.

Jon S. said...

As one blatant example of laws staying on books unenforced out of inertia or, y'know, whatever:

Loving v. Virginia decided in 1967 that "anti-miscegenation" laws in the US were in violation of the Constitution.

Alabama finally repealed their (unenforceable) anti-miscegenation laws in 2000. 52% of the state voted in favor of this repeal.

Acacia H. said...

I'm sorry, but I honestly cannot see how anyone can support the Republicans . In eight minutes of discussion, a Pennsylvania Democratic Representative explains how the Republican Representatives knew they were infected with COVID-19 and didn't reveal it, wear masks, and exposed the Democratic politicians to the disease. All while arguing why social distancing is not necessary and why it's safe to open up businesses again. And this also explains one other thing - why Libertarians are wrong in assuming that businesses should be the ones to regulate whether they are open or not during a pandemic.

If politicians cannot be trusted to quarantine themselves after testing positive because they are busy trying to enact change to benefit themselves and their corporate masters while protecting corporations from lawsuits or the like, what makes Libertarians honestly believe that a business would consider what is best for the employees and customers? And it's not even like most people can afford to sue if someone got seriously ill because of corporate malfeasance. The people would be SCREWED over by corporations without government regulation.

The Republican Party has turned away from what is best for the people and considers only what is best for corporate profits. A lot of people are going to get badly ill and many will die because under Republican rule, government is no longer of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Acacia H.

Alfred Differ said...

yana,

Altering the 14th amendment. yah. I see the point, but I'm super reluctant to poke that wasp nest. My suspicion is we'd lose the fight over just how it gets amended. There are a LOT of us who don't like birth-right citizenship. I'm not one of them, but I'm pretty sure I'm out-numbered.

As for the 17th, we fought a civil war partially because of the previous arrangement. Disempowering State Legislatures choosing Senators doesn't matter much when the State can pick and choose who votes. Federalizing the franchise, though, would be a mistake. Too much risk from centralization. I can just imagine how my neighbors in California would react when out-voted by the Southern bloc and told who may and may not vote.

As for removing duly elected representation in either house of Congress for anything short of acts of war, I'm opposed. There will be no end to the tinkering they'll want to do with that. I know that's a slippery slope fallacy type of argument, but my fear would be quite real.

I'm pretty optimistic that 'The People' will fix the franchise problems. Bit by bit. Sometimes peacefully, sometimes through violence. It's up to us to decide which response is appropriate to which stimuli.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

they have no concept of the commons

Some of them do, but often deny as meaningful terms like 'social justice' and 'common sense.' That some things are shared is obvious. The problem is when YOU try to enforce consequences on ME regarding use of common property. (I'm personalizing the pronouns because use of force is easiest to see when you imagine your own hand in it.)

When they get into trouble is in disagreeing on basic things like virtues and vices. You've heard this before. Justice is a virtue that occurs only in a social setting. Courage too. You can't be Just or Courageous if no one knows. Something else maybe. Justice is about unspoken rules around what we expect/demand of others in various settings. If we don't agree on rules, major conflict happens. Accusations of immorality soon follow.

Does the auto mall owner have a right to erect the big sign? No. They can CLAIM a right associated with their ownership claim. The next question is whether the rest of us accept it. No government is needed for us to decide. In fact, it's NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. The hill people will likely deny the claim. The rest of us get to decide whether their denial is… Just. Queue opposing armies. Stage is set for battle.

In your case a property owner poisons the commons. They can claim a right to do so. The rest of us will likely deny it and threaten force if the poisoning continues. Do we have a right to threaten force? No. We can make a CLAIM and see if it floats. We don't have to threaten force, though. We can squat on the property and disrupt activity causing the poisoning. Do they have a right to threaten force to stop us? No. They can make a CLAIM and see if it floats. If any side actually uses tooth and claw… well… you have to be alive to make future claims.

This pattern of claims is what the virtue Justice is. A person is 'just' when they respect the process in a social setting (everyone can see them) and they mostly get the rules right. That means their claims are largely supported.

Where libertarians are often unified is their disgust at a community's willingness to use force against them when the real disagreement is over rules of justice. Poisoning isn't the point. What they want is a rule set that largely lets them be.

I think I might be a libertarian

I usually say "Most Americans are", but I want to be careful. Most Americans are classically liberal, but uneducated in their own history. They think they know, but most history they are taught is worse than garbage. It's propaganda.

Dig deep and you'll find that much of what Conservatives conserve is also classically liberal. Unfortunately they are just as ignorant and mix in a bunch of illiberal crap appropriate for royalists.

What you likely are is classical liberal with a strong dose of progressivism. Those aren't the same. They come into conflict often. Abolitionists were Progressives first and Liberals second. Belief that you know best how a community should operate is quite progressive, but also illiberal hubris. Sometimes Progressives are right, though, so a lot of us are a philosophical mix that is occasionally combustible.

You'd find some libertarians deeply offensive… and some friendly and understanding. Different mixes.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

You are fully off of my list of near-autistics now.

Yes. Justice is very difficult to figure out. Some compensate in interesting ways, but your story regarding the rewards of eye contact shows you are self-dosing. That's enough. Doesn't matter how long it takes.
What I'll point out is that success at 'eye contact' or any other social interaction with less attractive people also rewards. Do it right and it is life changing.


How?

It's another of those virtues. Love.
You've heard me describe it as an act of copying.
Those partial copies change you and you've already shown you self-dose enough to reward the attempts you make at building them.


That's the real tragedy of autism. It blocks Love.
Not completely, but enough to screw over a person.
Teaching work arounds to them is critically important.

yana said...


Alfred Differ thought:

"Federalizing the franchise, though, would be a mistake. Too much risk from centralization."

100% agree. The right is a state right. The Constitution already says it. But Amm 14 says:

"the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion
which the number of such [male] citizens shall bear to the whole number of [male] citizens [twenty-one] years of age in such State."


So the idea of federal control over federal representation is firmly enshrined. 14A grants this control over "the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress"

But 14A immediately includes "the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof" So the federal power over state elections exists, but does not infringe on franchise. Only over enumeration.

The idea of federal control over state elections does not start with a baseline of "here are things you must not do," but instead "if you do certain things, you forego certain things." Yes, it's an implied application of force, as one might be wont to boil it to. But it's a feathery force, not so leathery. God bless the Consty.

On the other hand,

Alfred Differ thought:

"'The People' will fix the franchise problems. Bit by bit. Sometimes peacefully, sometimes through violence. It's up to us to decide which response is appropriate to which stimuli."

I repudiate that. The OP paragraph started with "I'm pretty optimistic" but if violence is on the table, then i rebuke the author's wet refuge in optimism.

The whole reason the US exists is to anticipate revolution, accommodate revolution, institutionalize revolution. Thus prevent blood, compared to previous revolutions.

If it's still up to a vagary of stimuli, then obviously we are not at a more perfect union. In order to reach it, in my opinion, the political participation of one person should outweigh the power of ten people who think extrapolitical violence is appropriate, for any stimulus.

Anonymous said...

Robert here,

Acacia wrote: "what makes Libertarians honestly believe that a business would consider what is best for the employees and customers?"

A lack of appreciation for history?

By the end of nineteenth century, food was dangerous. Lethal, even. “Milk” might contain formaldehyde, most often used to embalm corpses. Decaying meat was preserved with both salicylic acid, a pharmaceutical chemical, and borax, a compound first identified as a cleaning product. This was not by accident; food manufacturers had rushed to embrace the rise of industrial chemistry, and were knowingly selling harmful products. Unchecked by government regulation, basic safety, or even labelling requirements, they put profit before the health of their customers. By some estimates, in New York City alone, thousands of children were killed by “embalmed milk” every year. Citizens–activists, journalists, scientists, and women’s groups–began agitating for change. But even as protective measures were enacted in Europe, American corporations blocked even modest regulations. Then, in 1883, Dr. Harvey Washington Wiley, a chemistry professor from Purdue University, was named chief chemist of the agriculture department, and the agency began methodically investigating food and drink fraud, even conducting shocking human tests on groups of young men who came to be known as, “The Poison Squad.”

Over the next thirty years, a titanic struggle took place, with the courageous and fascinating Dr. Wiley campaigning indefatigably for food safety and consumer protection. Together with a gallant cast, including the muckraking reporter Upton Sinclair, whose fiction revealed the horrific truth about the Chicago stockyards; Fannie Farmer, then the most famous cookbook author in the country; and Henry J. Heinz, one of the few food producers who actively advocated for pure food, Dr. Wiley changed history. When the landmark 1906 Food and Drug Act was finally passed, it was known across the land, as “Dr. Wiley’s Law.”


https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/312067/the-poison-squad-by-deborah-blum/

Talking with folks who've fallen for the belief that the invisible hand will solve all problems is like talking to all fundamentalists: evidence and counter-examples are ignored in favour of received dogma and just-so stories.

(Book recommended, by the way.)

Also worth reading (unless you're depressed), is IBM and the Holocaust.

https://www.ibmandtheholocaust.com

scidata said...

A thoughtful and insightful appraisal of the current leader of the Senate.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_qPCOzkYDg

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Larry,

You are fully off of my list of near-autistics now.


Well, that's a load off my mind.

But seriously, good to know.

Larry Hart said...

"Lock her up! Lock her up!"

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/May28.html#item-8

...
If [Tara] Reade's plan was to make up a story about Biden so the DNC would panic and show him the door (as happened in the Al Franken case) and then replace him with her favorite candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), it doesn't look like her plan is going to work out so well, and she could possibly end up in prison.

Alfred Differ said...

yana,

The right is a state right.

Okay. I might be over-reading what you propose. It's just that I'm very reluctant to tinker with #14. It fundamentally altered the balance of power in our nation. Adjustments are likely to have unexpected consequences. Once we open the floor to amending it, I think the loons will out-number us. I would expect serious conflict to occur on exactly how it was amended. When we can't agree on how an amendment should be worded, we shouldn't be enshrining the victor's words into the Constitution. If it can be helped, that is the worst time to amend.

but if violence is on the table, then i rebuke the author's wet refuge in optimism

While I would be disappointed if blood began flowing in the streets, it would not dim my optimism. There has always been an implied threat that we will water the Tree of Liberty. I'm supportive of amendment #2 for that purpose.*

As for us existing to prevent the blood flow, I strongly disagree. It would be disappointing that we didn't find a better way, but we ARE barbarians. We spread a particular kind of revolution. We are modern day Levelers (look up the term and its associated group from the English Civil Wars era) with the advantage of knowing we CAN and HAVE succeeded… and we are filthy rich enough to continue the fight.

I'm generally for keeping fights non-bloody. We've been succeeding at this lately. Let's keep it up. However, I don't consider it a constraint. If the oligarchs push hard enough… off with their heads. Same for their allies.

matthew said...

Alfred, I seriously doubt your definition of Courage as a Virtue with no meaning if there are no witnesses.
Courage is an internal conflict, not an external affectation. Courage matters most to the individual showing it.
Our current coward POTUS is a great example of this - many of his most destructive moments have come about because *he* knows internally that he is a coward and he tries to project a public show of "courage" to overcompensate for his knowledge.

Alfred Differ said...

The invisible hand doesn't solve all problems. People who believe that haven't read Adam Smith (or Hayek's longer-winded version) enough to get the point being made.

The Invisible Hand isn't some beneficent Hand of God or anything like that. It is simply an observation that market forces occasionally steer our selfish impulses in virtuous directions. I use the term 'virtue' because Smith was employed as a philosopher. His subject area centered on 'virtue ethics'. His 'Theory of Moral Sentiments (TMS)' book considered why people do what they do from a virtue ethics perspective. TMS examined a few things, but left out much of the discussion associated with Prudence. 'Wealth of Nations' focused strictly on Prudence and that's where the invisible hand gets mentioned. Barely mentioned.

(The book at never got published focused on Justice. Smith really WAS a moral philosopher.)

Hayek's extension observes that knowledge for 'what is' and 'what can be done' is inherently distributed. There is NO WAY it can be centralized sufficiently to enable a 'planner' to optimize fully. What works best is decentralized optimization where knowledge gets applied at the point and time it is available. That requires a market structure. That does NOT mean all problems will get solved. That does NOT mean the best outcomes will occur. It DOES mean that most of the knowledge available to us will get used as best as can be imagined by those using it.

It's that 'as best as can be imagined' thing that should catch our attention most. That's why we liberate our neighbors… even the smelly ones. That's why we dignify their choices… even the failures. That's why we educate everyone… even the leeches.

Popper's extension on this shows you'd need far more than a super computer to centralize knowledge for a planner. You'd need a time machine and the history of the universe. All of it. The universe is inherently open in the sense of indeterminism. No central planner can exist within it. Ever.


My beef with the naive interpretation of Invisible Hand is that it is a faith/religious position. We imagine God existing and guiding us and then assume too much of His involvement in what we do. When someone says "There is a purpose in everything" I actually cringe. That attitude enables some of the worst evil I can imagine. The kind of evil that occurs when we choose not to oppose evil.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

There has always been an implied threat that we will water the Tree of Liberty.


The tree of liberty is watered with the blood of patriots (and tyrants). I think most people who use that slogan expect it just means they'll rise up against the leaders they don't like (*cough* Obama *cough*), kill them, and then eat from the tree. They miss the meaning that every so often, a patriot has to be willing to give his life--to be shot--in the fight to preserve liberty.


I'm supportive of amendment #2 for that purpose.*


In the 1700s, a well-armed militia might be able to hold off government forces with their own guns. It's not going to work now. The state has the means and the will to escalate a conflict indefinitely until the private individuals are out gunned and outnumbered. The only way that white militias currently get to hold off federal agents is because those feds are willing to defer to them rather than look bad by killing a bunch of white people. But even in that case, the state won't have infinite patience with violence directed against their own persons.

A
I'm generally for keeping fights non-bloody. We've been succeeding at this lately. Let's keep it up. However, I don't consider it a constraint. If the oligarchs push hard enough… off with their heads. Same for their allies.


I'm with you there, which is why I keep touting guillotine futures as a potential growth industry. I do not subscribe to the comic book theory that if Batman were to kill The Joker, then Batman would become every bit as bad as The Joker. "You offered me the lives of my crew."

Keith Halperin said...

How does a non-libertarian like me determine (without asking) if a libertarian group/individual says that excess private concentration of power is bad or that private concentration of power is good. ISTM that many pro-libertarian groups have been set up by oligarchs like the Kochs, who would be in the latter category.)

Re: That's the real tragedy of autism. It blocks Love-
I don't agree, at least by my interpretation:
A person may not feel "love" for someone or something (I do, BTW.), but still be able to display it. If I didn't FEEL anything for my partner, but I KNEW that by being kind and considerate, expressing interest in them by my conversation, and being affectionate my partner would feel loved and happy, and I did those things: then I would be a "loving" partner.
Let's take it down a notch or two:
Let's say you and I knew each other, and I think you are a pleasant and wise person- good (and possibly useful) to know. I get to know you better, and every few weeks, I talk to you, ask about how you're doing, comment on what you say, and you do likewise. You mention that you're moving in a couple of weeks so I ask you if you'd like some help loading and unloading (because that's what a kind and considerate person would do), and I help you out, and afterwards we have a couple of beers and talk some more, you thank me for my help, and off I go. Emotionally, I really don't feel much about you, but I know that by doing these things makes others happy, and that's often a good and useful thing... Am I your "friend"?

IMHO, thoughts, feelings, and intents are only externally significant when they lead to particular actions.

Cheers,
KH

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

The Invisible Hand isn't some beneficent Hand of God or anything like that. It is simply an observation that market forces occasionally steer our selfish impulses in virtuous directions


The Invisible Hand is how evolution happens. Things occur which are self-sustaining, and therefore sustain themselves. Other things occur which are not self-sustaining, and they fade away. The things that sustain themselves become "the way things are". The virtue of accepting reality and learning to live in the bounds of reality produces individuals and societies which more or less are happy--or at least comfortable--with "the way things are". That's what makes the Invisible Hand appear virtuous.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

That attitude enables some of the worst evil I can imagine. The kind of evil that occurs when we choose not to oppose evil.


I'm looking at you, Mitch McConnell. Sean Hannity. Lindsey Graham.

Jon S. said...

"You've heard this before. Justice is a virtue that occurs only in a social setting. Courage too. You can't be Just or Courageous if no one knows."

I have not in fact ever heard that before. And hearing it now, it makes no sense to me. If I make a decision that results in an action I believe to be just, or courageous, how can this only occur if observed by others? Are my ethics subject to the rules of quantum determination?

Is the man who carries out a solo suicide mission during a war in order to defeat the enemy and save his comrades not "courageous" simply because no one else is there to see it?

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

Re: That's the real tragedy of autism. It blocks Love-
I don't agree, at least by my interpretation:
A person may not feel "love" for someone or something (I do, BTW.), but still be able to display it. If I didn't FEEL anything for my partner, but I KNEW that by being kind and considerate, expressing interest in them by my conversation, and being affectionate my partner would feel loved and happy, and I did those things: then I would be a "loving" partner.


I don't have an autistic son and Alfred does, so caveat emptor and all, but I think what Alfred was describing is that the autistic person would have trouble understanding the "by doing X,Y, and Z, my partner would feel loved and happy" part. He'd find it difficult if not impossible to judge actions/choices in terms of another person's point of view.

BTW, that makes me agree with Alfred that I'm not autistic myself. Because I'm a translator. I can understand others' points of view well enough to explain them to yet other people. I was also terrified of having children, not because I don't like them (a la Bill Maher), but rather because I feel for them too much. When the child suffers, I bleed for her. I've learned to live with that, but that is what discouraged me from wanting children most of my life. And again, that's the opposite thing from "not understanding another's feelings or point of view."


Let's say you and I knew each other, and I think you are a pleasant and wise person- good (and possibly useful) to know. I get to know you better, and every few weeks, I talk to you, ask about how you're doing, comment on what you say, and you do likewise. You mention that you're moving in a couple of weeks so I ask you if you'd like some help loading and unloading (because that's what a kind and considerate person would do), and I help you out, and afterwards we have a couple of beers and talk some more, you thank me for my help, and off I go. Emotionally, I really don't feel much about you, but I know that by doing these things makes others happy, and that's often a good and useful thing... Am I your "friend"?


That's kind of what I was trying to describe with the Vonnegut quote that I said was a good description of me. This gives me an excuse to look up the exact quote:

Mary Kathleen O'Looney's last words to the narrator toward the end of Jailbird :

"It's all right," she said. "You couldn't help that you were born without a heart. At least you tried to believe what the people with hearts believed--so you were a good man just the same."



matthew said...

So, Trump has crossed another "red line" test - He has given an executive order to force a private company (Twitter) to cease their free speech (fact-checking his lies regarding vote-by-mail). It certainly is a distraction, and stands a very large chance of being overturned by the court that ends up hearing it. But that does not change the fact that his actions today violated the Constitution.

So, residual conservatives still reading here - Does this "red line" test alarm you? Is it unconstitutional? Is Trump violating his oath of office by the Order? Is this action impeachable?

White House statement here:
https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-preventing-online-censorship/

matthew said...

It is important to note that, in the Executive Order I linked to above, the DoJ are being tasked with determining, within 60 days, if a company is acting in accordance with the POTUS's wishes.

See:
"(c) The Department of Justice shall review the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform identified in the report described in subsection (b) of this section and assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices."

Barr doing the dirty work again. A weaponized DoJ attacking either a) a publisher (if that is the meaning of Section 230, or b) a private company (with free speech rights given by Citizens United). Judgement from the DoJ to be offered BEFORE an election that will be waged primarily through social media.

Conservatives, flashing red lights yet? Feeling a little queasy about what a Democratic POTUS could do with such power? Or just secure in the fact that the GOP won't lose if the DoJ shuts down the free press / a private company's free speech rights?

duncan cairncross said...

Now I understand why I keep disagreeing with Alfred

"Popper's extension on this shows you'd need far more than a super computer to centralize knowledge for a planner. You'd need a time machine and the history of the universe. All of it. The universe is inherently open in the sense of indeterminism. No central planner can exist within it. Ever."

When he is talking about a "Plan" or about changing the economy he is thinking about some sort of PLAN - an all encompassing unchanging entity

While when I talk about a "Plan" I mean a human scaled plan - something limited in extent and with lots of fallbacks and alternative routes

I agree that Alfred's "planning" will never work - but it's simply a strawman!
Nobody is talking about such plans!!
On THIS planet making plans is almost always a bloody good idea - just don't fall in love with them

Second Amendment
My main issue with the Second Amendment - which was created to keep the Slave States happy by ensuring that they would always be able to have armed militias to keep the blacks under control - is that historically "Armed Citizens" almost always support the oppressors and Tyrants

The classic "western" shows this
The "dog bites man" situation has the armed villains oppressing the citizens
The "man bites dog" - which makes the story - has the gunmen helping the citizens - and this is the "Story" BECAUSE its unusual

Armed Citizens have been "Brown Shirts" for 99% of the time

I would also add that today having armed citizens makes the actual armed forces MORE likely to use lethal force

I cannot imagine the British Army obeying orders to oppress the British people - but after a few shots had been fired and with a couple of dead squaddies THEN I think that they WOULD

I have no personal knowledge of the US Army but I would think it would be similar - nothing like a few dead comrades to make bad orders appear good

Keith Halperin said...

@ Larry H. re: Autism-
Yes, I can agree with that. There are some of us so impaired (intellectually, perhaps?) that we cannot do what needs to be done to function socially. There are others who are caught in the trap you just mentioned- we try (and fail) to understand WHY something is done, and ergo, don't do it (even though we are able to). People in this category should stop trying to understand WHY something is done and (apologies to Nike) JUST DO IT!

An analogy: IMSM, the actual mechanism of aspirin's functionality wasn't known until 1971, but (nonetheless) it usually worked. Those who need to understand why a particular social practice, custom, manner, etc. is done or refuse to do it would be like people who refused to take aspirin until its functionality mechanism was discovered!

While I certainly can't compete with sayings from my *mother's Daily Echo student newspaper at Shortridge High School (in Indianapolis) colleague Kurt Vonnegut,
I'll throw out a couple of relevant aphorisms from very different decades:
“When you say Spud, just put your mind on hold.
Do what you’re told, and open a cold,
Refreshing Spud. Just watch your life go by.
No need to try. When you’ve got Spud.Ohhhhh Spud!"
-SNL 1975.11.22

AND

"If you want people to like you, just go along with what they say and have fun."
-Silicon Valley, S05E02

Cheers,

Keith "Trying to Keep the 'Ass' Out of Aspbergers" Halperin


*It's my only claim to fame! :(

Robert said...

Alfred wrote: "The kind of evil that occurs when we choose not to oppose evil."

I rather like Peter Watts' reply to Edmund Burke:

Edmund Burke once said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. I think that begs a question.

If you do nothing, what makes you any fucking good?


https://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=5370

Larry Hart said...

matthew:

It is important to note that, in the Executive Order I linked to above, the DoJ are being tasked with determining, within 60 days, if a company is acting in accordance with the POTUS's wishes.


In the spirit of my conversation with Alfred about finding the positive side of a lose-lose situation, I wonder just exactly what Trump can threaten to do to Twitter. He can't shut them down--that would be like cutting his own mouth off. He can cow them into not pointing out his lies, sure, but he gets away with so much s%%% on Twitter now because they see him as a profit generator. If he becomes more of a negative than a positive in their corporate view, they could shut him down for violations of their terms of use.

Sure, Trump could enrage his followers against Twitter for doing so, except...how would he get the message out?

And even in the event that he goes and puts Twitter out of business--hey, my slogan would be "Today Twitter, tomorrow Facebook!" Let him shut them all down. I wouldn't cry.

matthew said...

Trump knows that this election, like the past three POTUS elections, will come down to engagement on social media. It is where the slim undecideds get their information. Loyal readers will recognize this assertion from my posts of 4, 8, and 12 years ago.

With this EO, Trump is working the refs. And testing his limits. And setting a precedent. And testing his (masters') blackmailed and suborned judiciary. And covering up his crimes. And distracting away from 100k deaths. And getting his loyal 20% ready for their "boogaloo." And setting the stage for civil war. And destroying America.

He is a hostile actor in the POTUS.

And it only takes 5-4 in the SCOTUS to uphold whatever he wants to do.

Alfred Differ said...

matthew, Jon S, and others,

Okay. Maybe I haven't said it here in a while. Or clearly. I'll try again.

1. 'Ethics' is a system of the virtues.

2. 'Virtue' is an educated habit of the heart enabling one to exercise their will to do good.

[MacIntyre's definition is "A virtue is an acquired human quality the possession of which tends to enable us to achieve those goods which are internal to practices and the lack of which effectively prevents us from achieving such goods."

The western system was described by Aristotle and contained four virtues.
Courage, Justice, Temperance, and Prudence.
It was extended by Aquinas to include Faith, Hope, and Love.

In practice, virtues are character traits. They don't exist without effort to acquire them. They don't exist without definitions that emerge from the community. They are individually defined by exemplars. Ebenezer Scrooge is overly prudent while Alonso Quixano is insufficiently so. Mary practically defines Love for Catholics. Our comic books are full of simplified characters focusing too much or two little on one of the virtues.

Most importantly, virtues are the character traits for which we advocate. Whether we are raising well-adjusted children or punishing mal-adjusted neighbors, we have these traits in mind. Ideals almost in a Platonic sense.

Of the seven in the western system, only prudence involves actions that can be done in a private setting and still be called virtuous. How we acquire prudence is a separate issue. The practice of it is intensely private because it all happens within your own mind.

Of the seven, courage and justice absolutely require a social setting. They cannot be done in private. They can be ACQUIRED through private actions, but courageous and just behaviors are not unless they occur in a public setting. They might still be admirable, but they aren't courage and justice. They are something else.

Of the seven, faith and hope absolutely require a 'transhuman' setting. Transcendent. This is not because anything supernatural is required, but because they rely on the existence of ideals to which we can be faithful or hopeful. In Aristotle's view, these virtues were reserved for the Gods. No mere mortal could hold the traits. Imitate maybe, but as a weak shadow. Aquinas altered the stage to reflect the system in the Roman Church.

———

If you take some time to read Alasdair MacIntyre's 'After Virtues', you'll see he talks a lot about the effort and process for acquiring these character traits. Our interior dialog, goods internal to practices, and rewards received all matter in HOW we learn them. What they are, though, is different. The definition of a trait and how it is acquired are not the same.

So… when I argue for courage and justice requiring a social setting, I'm not discussing HOW one becomes courageous or just. I'm pointing out that the trait is owned personally, but isn't active without the right setting. In the same manner, I'd argue prudence can't be done in a socially. There is no such thing as 'social prudence.' You can be prudent at the bazaar, but those of us near you won't see the actions. They are in your head. What we can see are the consequences. For courage and justice, we CAN see. They aren't in your head. They are manifest in your external behaviors. So are the consequences.

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

If you do nothing, what makes you any fucking good?

That's a wonderful example of the social nature of 'justice'.
When we see 'good' men doing nothing to oppose evil, we SEE the injustice.
If they could get away with it without us noticing, we might still think them good.

David Brin said...

Amazingly diverse & productive discussion.

Even Popper could not make Hayek put two and two together, alas, and realize that economic allocation decisions made by a too-narrow population of 100,000 government bureaucrats (subject to competitive pressures and transparent accountability) certainly has no worse a track record than allocation by tinier clades of kings and feudal lords across 99% of 6000 years… or cabal’s of conniving CEO caste golf buddy monopolists.

Re the Second Amendment and the Insurrectionary Recourse, Duncan I refer you yet again to my essay about that. A thousand guys on rooftops with AR15s could not keep out the Army… IF the soldiers were committed to pulverizing them. But Bosnia showed us that a thousand dads with bolt action rifles can cause enough stink to make that decision really difficult. see
http://www.tinyurl.com/jrifle

Alfred Differ said...

duncan,

It's not a strawman. If you are looking for a fallacy I'm potentially committing, it's the one involving slippery slopes. After much give and take with you, I understand that you advocate for human scale plans. The difference between us is probably were we draw the line regarding acceptable risk as scale grows.

My main beef 'scale too large… but still human' is that many are willing to go WAY beyond that and place faith where it is undeserved. I've seen it all too often. Faith in leaders is our traditional failure process. Whether political, spiritual, or family leaders, they are mere humans. Amazingly capable beings, but not Vinge-ian Transcendants.


I hear you on how armed citizens typically side with authority. I get it. I don't own any guns myself, but I reserve the right to oppose tyrants as I choose. In a modern conflict, I don't think a gun would be all that useful. It is more likely it would be used against me… or I'd harm someone I'd later regret harming. Still… I am sovereign unto myself. I doubt anyone could persuade me otherwise.

David Brin said...

Great discussion. !! But onward

Stay here if you like.

But onward


onward

Robert said...

Duncan wrote: "I cannot imagine the British Army obeying orders to oppress the British people - but after a few shots had been fired and with a couple of dead squaddies THEN I think that they WOULD"

My grandfather was in the British army during the Anglo-Irish war. When dementia hit he ended up reliving those days, which is the only way we heard about his combat experiences.

His section was on patrol when they were attacked. Their Sergeant was one of the casualties. The survivors couldn't fire back, because the shots were coming from a crowd that included women and children. This wasn't a matter of orders; this was a moral choice the squaddies made.