Friday, July 24, 2020

Reflections on science and human nature

All right, the news comes so thick and fast that no postings of mine can keep up, except to share with you a deep hope that our professional protector castes - who defeated Hitler and stymied Stalin, Mao and bin Laden and created an unbeatable alliance of free peoples - are on the ball. (Ironically, this is the first year in ten that I haven't consulted with one or another of those agencies, offering warnings that all-too often came true.) 

And so, for sanity's sake... in order to recall that 'sanity' is even a thing... let's step back and take a bigger perspective.

== The Pursuit of Truth ==

For example, a selfish argument for making the world a better place: this video on Egoistic Altruism about the key concept of our times - the Positive Sum Game - is very persuasive.  

Consider also the insights of Roger Bacon's pursuit of truth....This year marks what is believed by many to be the 800th birthday of an especially courageous truth seeker, the English polymath Roger Bacon (1214 - 1292). Though other scientists came before him, his breadth of study has led many to call him “the first scientist.” Were he alive today, Bacon would likely be pursuing the truth about such matters as the coronavirus and its effects on society, as well as the need for personal and political virtues to overcome it.”

Bacon believed that the improvement of human life, both personally and socially, depends on the eradication of error. To correct what ails society, it is necessary to restore respect for learning, real-world experience and the pursuit of truth. So long as people go forth with a false map of reality, they will lose their way and never reach their true destination." 

Roger Bacon argued that there are four causes of error
1) weak and unworthy authority, 
2) longstanding customs, 
3) the opinions of ignorant crowds, and 
4) the hiding of ignorance through displays of apparent knowledge…What people often lack, Bacon believed, are not correct answers but the best questions.

Further “…he called for experimentation, but not only in the sense of a scientific laboratory. He believed that people should put their ideas on trial, seeing how well they fare when tested in the real world of experience. What doesn’t hold up should be rejected.And this essay’s author adds: The last thing any good political leader needs is to be surrounded by yes men.”

To which let me add my own guideposts, in the form of a Questionnaire on Ideology which some of you have taken, carefully designed to get you to interrogate - at least briefly - some of your own 'fundamentals.' A whole lot more challenging that Donald Trump's dementia test.

Take it, if you dare!

== Experimental evidence against cynicism about human nature ==

Since 1951, one novel has typified the cynically pessimistic view that human beings are inherently nasty and selfish and brutal. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was certainly a masterpiece, presenting us with Jungian archetypes like the hero, the hunter, the mystic and the civilized man – and it ripped away the na├»ve notion that civilization is anything more than a veneer, whose restraints, if ever loosened, meant immediate return to chaos.

Or else something worse than chaos – a return to the form of ‘government’ that dominated maybe 99% of the last 6000 years. 

Certainly these are topics I’ve chewed upon, in works from The Postman and Earth to The Transparent Society. And yes, while deeply impressed by Golding’s novel, it was a very Hobbesian view of us. I hoped and prayed and gathered evidence that he was wrong.

And it seems the experiment was run, pretty much perfectly, when, almost exactly cribbing from Lord of the Flies, in 1966 half a dozen Tongan school boys had to survive as castaways on a rocky islet for 15 months… and they exhibited absolutely none of the nasty traits that Golding implied were inevitable. Cooperating to an almost obsessive degree, caring for each other, resolving disputes and setting broken bones, they innovated and retained their compassion up to the moment of rescue, and later served together on a fishing boat.

This is important, because cynicism is the poison being spread not just by the entire Putin-Murdoch right but also some elements on the left, catering to the ingrate laziness of those who dislike what’s demanded by the contingently optimistic among us. 

Hard work and maybe a little heroism, to help save a planet and civilization that’s been very good to them.

== The Science of Deception ==

Inside corporations' war on science: we've seen an excess of bogus science paid for by companies seeking a pre-biased outcome are familiar from tobacco and Big Oil industries  - to sugar, chemical and pharmaceutical companies. There are ‘studies' denying health harms from smog… even while - in my childhood - it was physical agony to breathe. Similarly, for months, the Fox network promoted the idea that the coronavirus was a hoax.

See the recently published book - The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception. David Michaels dissects the methods many corporations use to sow doubt, uncertainty and confusion in the public sphere. Michals comments, "It's mostly because the laws are written in a way that parallels the criminal justice system. So the assumption is that exposures, pollutants, chemicals are innocent until proven guilty." 

And finally... Caltech’s “The Lonely Idea” podcast demonstrates how top scientists nurture curiosity that’s impudent and challenging – diametrically opposite to the “herd mentality” accusation hurled by those who would never recognize a fresh idea, themselves. And here's another good one.


78 comments:

Larry Hart said...

Ok, I missed the "onward" last post and did a rant that probably won't make me popular. I'm not going to repeat it here, but if anyone is curious, I'd be interested in a response.

Daniel Copeland said...

To be fair, Lord of the Flies was a portrait not just of "people stuck on an island" or even "young men stuck on an island" but "young men from the privileged class of an imperialist world power stuck on an island".

Larry Hart said...

TCB in the previous comments:

...read Derek Lowe's series of essays on Things I Won't Work With.


Heh. I was particularly amused by the warning about concentrated peroxide.

In college, I worked at the Illinois State Water Survey which did air and water quality measurements, and so used a variety of chemicals. One day, I had a nasty bike collision that left one knee really scraped up and riddled with pebbles and stuff. Knowing that it was a good idea to put peroxide on a wound, I did so without realizing that the bottle at the workplace was almost-if-not-pure peroxide rather than the usual 3% mixture.

I'm sure it killed any possible infection, but it hurt like f###, and the knee was bubbly and streaked with white for weeks afterwards. And after reading TCB's linked article, I have to wonder how lucky I am to be alive and not permanently disfigured.

God apparently looks out for children and idiots, or however that saying goes.

Alfred Differ said...

Gotta go read more of those warnings now. Should be worth a dark chuckle.


I knew a guy who concentrated peroxide for his rockets. Got away with it for a long time. Played it safe. His equipment still managed to blow up one day punching a hole through his trailer floor. Firemen were quite interested in the stuff that looked like water dripping onto the leaves below... and causing them to smoke and burn.

Lost a different friend to his peroxide distillery equipment.
He survived his third degree burns for a few days.

Peroxide splits into steam and free oxygen with little prompting. So... scalding free energy and the oxidizer to make nearby stuff combust. Ugh. You are safer playing with liquid oxygen... but don't do that either.

duncan cairncross said...

Talking about chemical safety

I help out as a lab assistant at our local High School
One of the KEY takeaways from that is ALWAYS label with the strength (Molarity) of the chemical

We used to have MSDS sheets
Today they are SDS
And they are becoming almost completely USELESS as every company is covering their arses by listing ALL chemicals as being toxic and dangerous!!

IMHO there should be a "Kitchen" rule
If it's safer than the ingredients we use in cooking
And a "Cleaning" rule - if it's safer than we use to clean our houses

And YES the molarity of the solutions we give the kids is an important part of that

Robert said...

if anyone is curious, I'd be interested in a response.

It's very 'in' right now, but she's not saying anything new. I've heard the same kind of thing for decades.

There are, demonstrably, places where racism and sexism get free play. There are cases of unconscious bias. (The orchestra audition example is classic.) But there are also other factors that get ignored by activists with an agenda. To paraphrase Will Rogers, it is hard to get an activist to admit the problem is different, if their speaking engagements depend on them not believing it. :-)

Here is a book that I found quite interesting.
https://susanpinker.com/the-sexual-paradox/

You might also like this one.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unwanted_Advances

(Both about sexism rather than racism, but in my experience the arguments used by speakers are often the same.)


I agree with the writer that attending a seminar, no matter how expensive, won't have much effect.

Robert said...

duncan, I use the MDSD for dihydrogen monoxide to tach my students how to read an MSDS.

One change to the safety rules is that teachers are no longer allowed to dilute chemicals themselves, unless the diluted solutions are used or destroyed the same day. So we have to buy pre-diluted solutions at outrageous prices, or stop doing as many labs (because who has prep time to mix chemicals every morning, rather than once a month?). (And with budget cuts, guess which happens?)

A few years ago I was at a conference and ended up chatting with a teacher who was also health-and-safety officer for her school board. She said that if sports were held to the same standards as science classes they would be cancelled: one student gets injured in a science lab and regulations are brought in so it doesn't happen again, while a student getting injured in phys ed is almost taken for granted.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

It's very 'in' right now, but she's not saying anything new. I've heard the same kind of thing for decades.


Without rehashing too much, I think what really bothers me is that the anti-racist article asserts my notion that everyone should be treated equally under the law is in itself racist, because democracy and rule of law themselves are white values, oppressive to other cultures. So then what are we supposed to accept if equality is a bad thing? If anti-racists assert that acceptance of reality is a specifically white value, then I think they're making the opposite point of what they want to.

And it implicitly accepts the white supremacist notion that America is a white nation, opposing the KKK and Nazis only to the extent that instead of venerating the whiteness of America, they denigrate it. But both sides will eventually run into Reality, probably on a battlefield.

David Brin said...

Lefty postmodernism is all its guises is dangerous lunacy that would be deadly if it were more widely shared. Fortunately, 99% of the poor and minorities know that their pragmatic self-interest lies in steady, assertively propeled, practical reform.

scidata said...

The most interesting thing at Boca Chica right now is the rapid assembly of a launch viewing area. Obviously configured for dignitaries (restaurant, partially built out of Starship fins, some wooden (non-slip?) steps and ramps. The powers that be are tripping over each other trying to get tickets, I'm sure. Texas' 38 electoral votes are at stake. Starship could tip the balance either way.

David Brin said...

scidata - " Texas' 38 electoral votes are at stake. Starship could tip the balance either way."

Especially if a lot of pols and electors are within shrapnel range.

A German Nurse said...

Dr. Brin:
"Lefty postmodernism is all its guises is dangerous lunacy that would be deadly if it were more widely shared. Fortunately, 99% of the poor and minorities know that their pragmatic self-interest lies in steady, assertively propeled, practical reform."

I challenge that assumption.

Steady, assertively propelled practical reforms are the way to do it, yes, but we Westerners would not have to fear the rise of populism, or to deal with situations and countries have been lost to autoritarian populists, if your statement was true. Even if the majority of voters who brought those people into office just protested against the current political establishement - the damage is done, the power transferred to people who will stop at nothing to destroy liberty and rule of law.

Many democracies rely on divisiveness to regulate the distribution of power. I believe this to be an inherent flaw, because, sooner or later things can spiral out of control. Extremists rely on this divisiveness, especially when playing the "Poor Working Class" against the minorities. Centrists do and did that too, but they always lose against the fringes because they are just better at it.

And reforms ... let's say, you must be faster in rebuilding the house than it is about to decay, or blown away in the next storm. If you do not enough, or too late, it will falter and fail, and provide ammo to the extremists. Pure Centrists are less about ideology and more about pragmatism, yes, but also about macchiavellian opportunism to obtain and maintain power.

Just curious: Which "Lefty Ideas" do you deem dangerous?

David Brin said...

1. Marxism as most see it is magical mumbo jumbo based on fantasies. Not the excellent historiography of the younger Marx. But the guru stuff later served as incantatory props for some of history's worst monsters.

2. I specified anti-science post-modernism, which is more incantation voodoo and deeply dangerous and noxious hate-magic aimed at every single thing that enabled this society to rise above one imperfection after another and put most of the world's children into school. Especially reciprocal accountability in all its forms, which enabled us to rise out of voodoo/incantation/catechism-drenched darkness and which postmodernists shield themselves from, behind oceans of polysyllabic noise.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: Especially if a lot of pols and electors are within shrapnel range.

That thought had occurred to me. Frantic running and screaming, with some unfortunates hindered by bone spurs. But if a steely-eyed missile man did emerge, he might have November sewn up. Much at stake -- Texas is in play. Hold on to your buts. (I get my phraseology from SF and space movies.)

duncan cairncross said...

Robert

How is it possible to "not permit teachers to dilute solutions" ??

It is not that bad here (NZ)

I made up some transparent blast shields for one of my teachers - she likes to do a demonstration where she connects 230v mains to each end of a pencil
I also showed her where the breakers were for that mains outlet

Science at school should be FUN

A German Nurse said...

"Science at school should be FUN"

Yes. But chemistry offers so much more than explosions and colourful flames. I remember brewing alcohol and creating dye colours.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I heartily approve of Derek Lowe and his fine chemistry blog. Some of the best times in science class were doing experiments. I remember making flash paper, using Bunsen burners to make glass pipettes and bent straws out of tubing, and demonstrations of what happened when you dropped magnesium into water. I doubt that a teacher could get away with any of that today.

TCB said...

There's a subject I'd like to poke at while it's fresh on my mind, which is vaguely parallel to the politics of naming US aircraft carriers after Republicans or conservative Democrats.

I'm referring to the politics of naming military operations. It seems the deployment of unidentified federal officers into Democratic cities, at the behest of Trump and Barr, has been given a name: Operation Diligent Valor. Now, it's remarkable, and appalling, that a domestic operation would be given an operation name as if it were a foreign war. More remarkable and appalling that we don't know who these men really are. Maybe they're DHS, maybe Border Patrol, maybe actually contractors from Erik Prince's Blackwater/Xe/Academi or other outfits. How easy it would be for actual civilian far-right militias to be given uniforms and blended in with these mystery Feds... as has been done in many a banana republic

But what I've wondered for some years is, how did we get these propagandistic operation names?

This represents a form of propaganda I noticed, I think, at the time of the Grenada invasion of 1983, although it may have really begun earlier during the Vietnam War. In World War 2, for instance, the US military would name planned operations in ways intended to conceal as much as possible from the enemy in Nazi Germany or Japan: so the D-day invasion was called Operation Overlord, the attempt to capture a string of bridges in the Low Countries was called Operation Market Garden, and so on. If you're one of Hitler's spies, the name Market Garden tells you nothing about what's being planned.

Beginning with the Vietnam War bombing campaign called Operation Rolling Thunder, and certainly when the Reagan administration called its Grenada invasion Operation Urgent Fury, the US armed forces began using operation names seemingly for public relations purposes and not for secrecy. Nearly every major military operation that I can think of, since then, has a propaganda name, seemingly meant to convey a flavor both macho and self-righteous to the general public.

Grenada, 1983: Operation Urgent Fury. some medical students are being harassed by Cuban soldiers! We're going in to kick some Commie ass!
Panama, 1989: Operation Just Cause. Manuel Noriega is a drug kingpin!
Kuwait, 1990-1; Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Sabre. Saddam done invaded Kuwait! We're going in!
Iraq, 1991; Operation Provide Comfort. Oops, now Saddam is attacking the Kurds and others we encouraged to rebel. Here's some food!
... since then it's been Operations Provide Promise, Deny Flight, Uphold Democracy, ... Infinite Reach... Enduring Freedom (that's the Afghanistan invasion) and Iraqi Freedom (that's the invasion of Liechtenstein, I mean Iraq)...

It seems to me that the Obama administration didn't engage in much of this Operation Public Relations bullshit... but then Trump comes in, and now sending jackboots into American cities has a Foreign Invasion Public Relations Name, Operation Diligent Valor. Riiiiiight.

David Brin said...

TCB really good point.

Larry Hart said...

@TCB,

Admittedly from fiction, but I always got the idea that British operation names were kind of randomized with the intent that they carried no revelatory information. I figured America just doesn't roll that way--didn't realize it was a recent phenomenon.


Enduring Freedom (that's the Afghanistan invasion)


Was going to be "Infinite Justice" until various Muslim allies objected.


and Iraqi Freedom (that's the invasion of Liechtenstein, I mean Iraq)


Originally called Operation: Iraqi Liberation (OIL), which someone thought was cute but apparently didn't realize it would be noticed unfavorably.

Dave said...

“I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time -- when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.... The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites, lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”
-- Carl Sagan (1934-1996) in The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995)

Alfred Differ said...

Sagan certainly did paint a dark vision of a world to be prevented. He wasn't alone in it either. Rarely, though, do we get a chance to ask authors of such darkness to review their work in later years. Occasionally we do, but not Sagan. That's a shame because while his vision is one we should avoid, there were already plenty of signs that we were.

By the mid-90's were were already a service economy. That ship had long sailed away. His concern that awesome technological powers were falling into the hands of very few, though, was utterly off target. As for his worry that no one representing the public interest can grasp the issues? Sorry. That's his ego speaking. Whose issues again? The Public? Pfft. Many have claimed they represent them in the past and many more will continue in the future.

And please don't defend the notion that America is being dumbed down. Every older generation claims that about the youngsters.

______

Some authors, however, do get the chance to speak again after portraying a dark vision of our future. One is James Burke. Remember his Connections series? The last episode got a tad dark and went on about a possible future where we were either controlled by computers or chose to smash them. He advocated for us to get involved, so it wasn't all doom and gloom. Don't like where this is all going? Have a say in it!

History shows he was utterly ignorant of what was really happening in the world of computing devices and the software that ran it all. He could see what was happening at the surface and was reasonably worried about it. He did not see what was happening among the amateurs who had pilfered UNIX and built hobby machines. How could he, we might ask? The author of Connections should have considered that because the whole point the series drove home was unseen creative connections by the countless thousands and millions that happen when humans mess about with things.

The dark possible futures Burke described in the last episode were already being prevented by the time he finished Connections. No elites had the kind of control of those machines that worried him. Those elites didn't KNOW that, but it was already true. By the time Burke did his next series, he didn't portray those dark possibilities anymore. Instead, that series ended on a higher note about possible futures both bright and dark. By the time he did the third and fourth ones, even those dark ones were missing from his scripts.

______

Sure. The darkness Sagan described is a future to be avoided, but we already are. In fact, we already were when he penned it. Were we in danger of clutching our crystals in the mid-90's? No. We most certainly were not. We were about to wrap the Earth in fiber optic cable and bring market access and education to BILLIONS. Look back. Many of you were there. You didn't have to know at the time that we were going to do all that. Burke shows why.

Human innovators don't need most of us to be knowledgeable of what they do. They'll do it anyway. And now there are BILLIONS who can.

Alfred Differ said...

From where I sit, most operations are still given names that are somewhat randomized to hide the intent of those acting. Usually military and intelligence projects acting under cover. The ones that are not are very special. They need the support of a home front.

Vietnam taught us the importance of a home front when engaged in a conflict. It's a simple truth. Many things our forces do require visible support from home. Therefore, those projects have to be sold to the public.

This is nothing new. In fact, it is so old that we identify propaganda quickly. In this case, the marketing folks thought they needed TWO words to sell us. It's not just Diligent or Valor. It's BOTH! Yah! That should sell them on masked vigilantes!

Meh. We suckle on SOA practically from birth. If the administration had NOT tried for a sales pitch, I would have been even more suspicious. But they did. And it's obvious. To everyone with even half a brain.


Support on the home front IS needed for certain efforts and that means the public must be sold on each one. This is true of both good and bad projects. We'd be isolationists if no one made those efforts. Is that so bad, you might ask? Sometimes no. Sometimes yes. Sometimes the protector caste needs us to look outward at threats and 'do something about it'. Most American's don't want to spend much time thinking about the whole world, though. We care about what we care about and that rarely involves global threats. (Note how many of us resist thinking about climate change.) What's to be done about that? Well… Cute little project names are the easiest tricks to try.

reason said...

Dave, very good and aposite. But doesn't that suggest that the real problem is the media. That too many journalists are ignoramuses. We need polymath journalists. Don't know how we acchieve that though.

Pachydermis2 said...

Dave

Sagan was spot on. But did not go further to mention that even science can be perverted.

The decline of our educational system is a big part of our current malaise. We may differ in our opinions regards what young people would conclude were they able to think critically, insightfuly and bravely. But we can surely agree that absent such abilities they will follow any light in the dark. Be it a brave beacon held aloft or some foolish and malicious will-o-the-wisp.

Pac2

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...

"Without rehashing too much, I think what really bothers me is that the anti-racist article asserts my notion that everyone should be treated equally under the law is in itself racist, because democracy and rule of law themselves are white values, oppressive to other cultures. So then what are we supposed to accept if equality is a bad thing? If anti-racists assert that acceptance of reality is a specifically white value, then I think they're making the opposite point of what they want to."

I agree. I'll go a bit further. Claims like this are simply ludicrous. On a personal level I tend to want to give members of groups that have suffered oppression and inequality some license to overshoot because I think they deserve it and that the rest of us should be tolerant. I'm also in agreement that racism and gender discrimination are still significant issues in the US and I am all for shining light on that and working to correct those things.

However, over on the far end of the left wing, the wing I fall on, these people are not liberals, they are not about equality, they are not about fairness, they are not about free speech, they are not about any of the enlightenment values that many people identify with the left in the US.

I agree with Dr. Brin that the attitudes and philosophies of these groups on the far left are a direct evolution of post modernism in university humanities departments. Intersectionalism, gender studies and whiteness studies are direct offspring of post modernism, and they are even worse. If you want to experience some serious incredulity and perhaps a bit of nausea spend some time reviewing studies published in academic journals that cater to these fields.

I disagree with Dr. Brin about how serious of a problem the far left currently is. A few years ago I would have agreed with him. Compared to the problems presented by right wing extremists they weren't even a blip on the radar. But now, today, I think we, the larger majority of us on the left, should be taking our far left much more seriously. Not the least because they are a liability in our fight against the right. Their influence in universities, companies and journalism across the US, and some other countries, has grown and is having an impact, often for the worse. I used to believe that their underlying motivations were noble, fighting against racism, gender discrimination and other oppression. Motivations I share. But I believe that a significant number of people on the far left are motivated by much baser things.

A German Nurse said...

@Pachydermis2: "Be it a brave beacon held aloft or some foolish and malicious will-o-the-wisp."

This could well be the core problem of many democracies. It isn't about having the better intents, methods or agendas, it is about who burns brightest, attracts the most souls stumbling through the darkness.

It even applies to nations: Remember when most western democracies (and some autocracies) followed the bright shining light of the US? And now, with the guiding beacon dimming and faltering, they slowly set the course of their ship towards other ports. Safe or not. Now, that our former benevolent protector-overlord turns inwards to deal with his own domestic mess, the rest of us has to grow up and mature fast, or we will be gobbled up.

You are right on the value of school education, too. The rise, rule and downfall of fascism was addressed various times in my school days, from various angles. Watching Schindler's List was mandatory, also reading the White Rose letters. I assume now that it was no coincidence that the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of Caesar and Augustus were discussed in length, too.

Larry Hart said...

TCB:

Grenada, 1983: Operation Urgent Fury. some medical students are being harassed by Cuban soldiers! We're going in to kick some Commie ass!
Panama, 1989: Operation Just Cause. Manuel Noriega is a drug kingpin!
Kuwait, 1990-1; Operation Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Sabre. Saddam done invaded Kuwait! We're going in!
Iraq, 1991; Operation Provide Comfort. Oops, now Saddam is attacking the Kurds and others we encouraged to rebel. Here's some food!
... since then it's been Operations Provide Promise, Deny Flight, Uphold Democracy, ... Infinite Reach... Enduring Freedom (that's the Afghanistan invasion) and Iraqi Freedom (that's the invasion of Liechtenstein, I mean Iraq)...

It seems to me that the Obama administration didn't engage in much of this Operation Public Relations bullshit... but then Trump comes in, and now sending jackboots into American cities has a Foreign Invasion Public Relations Name, Operation Diligent Valor. Riiiiiight.


From a podcast by Bob Cesca:

"These all sound like dildo names"

Larry Hart said...

@Darrell E,

In my admittedly over-simplified definitions, "liberals" are champions of the powerless, while "feminists" are champions of women's interests and...I don't know what to call them, but "black activists" are champions of black people's interests, etc. Liberals are allies of those other advocacy groups to the extent that their legitimate rights are not respected, but the alliance ends at equality. In Dave Sim's nightmare world where feminists really do control all the levers of power and actually abuse them, liberals should no longer be fighting for even more power for women. Feminists would, but liberals should not. Otherwise lies Monty Python's "Dennis Moore" sketch.

I find myself firmly on the side of Black Lives Matter because they are saying the opposite of what their enemies claim about them--that black lives should matter more than any other. No, that's what Blue Lives Matter or White Lives Matter are really saying about their own groups, and what All Lives Matter is meant to imply. As long as BLM is essentially saying "Black Lives (should) Matter precisely because All Lives Matter", they've got an ally in me against those who are out to assert that they don't matter. If they ever start saying what their enemies claim they're saying, then they'll lose me.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

I disagree with Dr. Brin about how serious of a problem the far left currently is. A few years ago I would have agreed with him. Compared to the problems presented by right wing extremists they weren't even a blip on the radar. But now, today, I think we, the larger majority of us on the left, should be taking our far left much more seriously. Not the least because they are a liability in our fight against the right.


I think you're mistaken about our host's position. He's the one who often brings up negative examples of the extreme left and is accused of both-sidesism when he does. I agree that he does assert that the right is the bigger problem, and in that I am in complete agreement. You even tacitly agree by stating that a big danger of the extreme left is that they make it harder for us to take on the right (almost as if they were deliberately planted for that reason).


Their influence in universities, companies and journalism across the US, and some other countries, has grown and is having an impact, often for the worse.


I'll diverge from you on "companies". Corporate America has too long defended amoral and immoral activities in their single-minded pursuit of profit at all costs. If they're swinging toward a moral conscience--even going too far in that direction--I'm willing to let them, for now.


I used to believe that their underlying motivations were noble, fighting against racism, gender discrimination and other oppression. Motivations I share. But I believe that a significant number of people on the far left are motivated by much baser things.


That's a disillusionment that liberals seem destined to have to live with time and time again. I was in my twenties when it fully hit me that my generation was not all against racism, sexism, or anti-Semitism. It's a hard lesson which makes me more sympathetic than otherwise to people who are suspicious of me being their ally. Because I've learned to be suspicious of everyone myself.

Larry Hart said...

A German Nurse:

The rise, rule and downfall of fascism was addressed various times in my school days, from various angles. Watching Schindler's List was mandatory,...


Make me feel old, why don't you? I was old enough to teach school when Schindler's List came out. :)

A German Nurse said...

@Darrel E:
"But now, today, I think we, the larger majority of us on the left, should be taking our far left much more seriously. Not the least because they are a liability in our fight against the right."

I believe that idea is part of the tragedy that befalls the left again and again. It is almost an historical constant that on the left fringe group rise that deliver ammunition for the right wing against the moderate/centrist left (whereas the extreme right, and their atrocities, are mostly ignored), and almost never the other way round.

Why do these movements radicalize themselves? Five suggestions:
1) The lack of societal progress. If your dreams and hopes for the future are stymied and squashed again and again, people become disillusioned and do not believe in the process anymore.
2) Self-Fulfilling prophecy. If leftist ideas are branded as dangerous time and again, people who will start to behave accordingly, form political echo chambers and turn to these people they believe to be allies and leaders. (Just think about the influence McCarthy, Nixon and Reagan still have in the US.)
3) Overreaction to protests. Security clampdowns on protests are a sure way to incite unrest, and thus benefit the formation of radical groups. Eventually, someone will make a mistake, and the next level of radicalization and violence is entered.
4) Political and socioeconomic instability. If the general trust of the population in their government is shaken, and basic societal structures are eroded, unrest becomes more likely and violent.
5) Toxic Leaders. Narcissism combined with Charisma and enabling structures form destructive, toxic leaders. I have made the observance that far-right and far-left leaders aren't so much different in terms of personality traits and authoritarianism.

The first four ingredients can be influenced by governing. The fifth one never, because those leaders are always part of human society; they can only be contained, isolated and starved off of their supporters by governing wisely and reforming steadily.

David Brin said...

Toxic leaders, yes. Supercharged on either feral ambition or super-sanctimony. But let's not forget deliberate agents provocateurs in the pay of the other side.

TCB said...

It's starting to look like the uniformed thugs in Portland are, indeed, from Erik Prince's Blackwater/Xe/Academi and now known as Triple Canopy. The Lead Federal Agency Responding to Protesters in Portland Employs Thousands of Private Contractors,
Congress needs to shine a light on the use of private security firms, including ‘Blackwater’ legacy companies, in Trump’s response to ongoing civil rights protests


For Trump and Barr this serves two purposes. It makes their jackboots anonymous and unaccountable; and it funnels government money into a Trump-linked private company. And by the way, Blackwater should have lost its corporate charter years ago.

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart,

Just to clarify, I'm not in tacit agreement that the right is a much greater danger to society than the current far left. I am fully in agreement with that. No doubts about it. But I do also think that it is appropriate, even necessary, for us lefties to criticize anti-liberal attitudes and behaviors of our own far left. I don't think doing so is any sort of betrayal. I don't think it hurts us in our fight against the right. Rather, just the opposite. Tacitly approving or accepting what the extremists on your side do is something we associate with the right, for good reason. We should not do the same.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

But I do also think that it is appropriate, even necessary, for us lefties to criticize anti-liberal attitudes and behaviors of our own far left. I don't think doing so is any sort of betrayal. I don't think it hurts us in our fight against the right. Rather, just the opposite.


You get no disagreement from me there. We have to keep our own bad apples from spoiling the bunch, especially when they are deliberately planted in the bunch. Which means more than criticizing the collective movement as if the excesses were an essential part of that movement. The extremists have to be disavowed, and if possible, shown that they are not part of the real movement at all. What I mean is--when a protest over police brutality toward black people contains a few rioters who loot a store, we should not simply mourn that the "protesters" turned violent.

I know others here have already said that we shouldn't call the looters "protesters". I want to be clear on this point, though. It's not that the entire protest movement has become "rioters" or "looters" instead of "protesters". Rather the rioters and looters have distanced themselves from the still-legitimate protest movement, and have in fact joined its enemies. They might be purposely discrediting the movement, or they might be taking advantage of the chaos for fun and profit. In either case, they are enemies.


Tacitly approving or accepting what the extremists on your side do is something we associate with the right, for good reason. We should not do the same.


Agreed, if that's not already clear.

Don Gisselbeck said...

When the rich plunder the poor of his rights, it becomes an example to the poor to plunder the rich of his property, for the rights of the one are as much property to him, as wealth is property to the other, and the little all is as dear as the much. It is only by setting out on just principles that men are trained to be just to each other; and it will always be found, that when the rich protect the rights of the poor, the poor will protect the property of the rich. But the guarantee, to be effectual, must be parliamentary reciprocal.
Tom Paine

A German Nurse said...

@TCB: I see a third benefit using mercenaries. Trump and Barr circumvent any would-be agents and their superiors who owe their allegiance to the constitution; perhaps they have learned from the last time and so avoid the same type of backlash they had when they used the military against the protesters.

They were hired to provide a certain outcome, and I believe less and less each day the outcome has anything to do with pacification.

Larry Hart said...

I sometimes regret my ignorance of what's out there in right-wing world (though not enough to poison my brain with it).

My brother just sent me this link below. I had heard a right-wing caller to Hal Sparks's show refer to the "plan-demic", but I thought he was just being cute on his own, not that it's a thing.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/sinclair-delays-interview-containing-fauci-covid-19-conspiracy-theory/ar-BB17bybQ?ocid=bingcovid

Sinclair Television said on Saturday it would delay airing an interview with a conspiracy theorist who claims baselessly that Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, created the coronavirus behind the current pandemic.

Dr Judy Mikovits, a former research scientist, is behind the widely discredited Plandemic video, which makes a string of false and outlandish claims including that any coronavirus vaccine will kill millions and that beaches should not be closed because the sand and ocean will somehow treat Covid-19.
...

scidata said...

The entire dark/light, authoritarian/enlightenment, fear/hope debate can be summed up as:

How're you gonna keep them down on the farm, after they've seen Par-ee?

Brutal repression and cheating won't work ultimately. This isn't the Bronze Age ME. It'd be like playing whack-a-mole against a vast field of moles, many of which are clever and resourceful. (Caddyshack?) It goes back to the profoundly ignorant 'trillions of bullets' threat. Of course, that won't stop them from trying :(

"We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on." - Richard Feynman (Sagan was wicked smart, but he weren't no Feynman)


BTW: I hope that people are gathering and cataloging all the 'rigged election' utterances. Turnabout is fair play.

Jon S. said...

If those are mercs in Portland, I hope they were smart enough to demand their pay in advance. Donnie has a history of stiffing his contractors, after all...

Robert said...

Larry:

I think what really bothers me is that the anti-racist article asserts my notion that everyone should be treated equally under the law is in itself racist, because democracy and rule of law themselves are white values, oppressive to other cultures.

Like I said, it's old rhetoric. I was hearing complaints about the 'patriarchal dogma of linear science' back when I was studying engineering in the 80s, from the more radical feminists at university. Pointing out that they happily used the products of the patriarchal system, such as eyeglasses, internal combustion engines, electric light, tampons and/or sanitary pads, etc just triggered what might be considered high-volume conniption fits.

This wasn't about getting more women into engineering* — they were equally critical of the (few) female engineers for promoting 'linear patriarchal values' rather than 'holistic female-centred ways of knowing'.

From this cartoon:
http://www.wastedtalent.ca/comic/cold-and-calcluating-bunch

Catalyst: I fear for the project with a group of "Feelers" in it. Your bridge might collapse, but it would feel really bad about it!

Jam: Hey, it's alright as long as everyone feels okay and is happy about the decision to let the bridge collapse ;)


In three decades of working in the education system, I've encountered the same rhetoric over and over. And I've come to cynically view it as another tool for certain people to get and hold power. It's about shutting down viewpoints and voices. Feminism, anti-racism, anti-anti-semitism — all can be co-opted by a lunatic fringe that has realized they can make a pretty good living feeding off other people's sincere desire to improve.

(It's also a way to dodge accountability, because their feelings/opinions are as valid as any objective metric, so must be acted on or you are sexist/racist/anti-semitic/whatever.)


*At the time less than 10% of engineering students were female, and there was a lot of prejudice they had to overcome to get there. Things are better now, even if they aren't perfect.

Robert said...

Duncan: How is it possible to "not permit teachers to dilute solutions" ??

By establishing it as a policy, which if you are found breaking potentially means dismissal…

When I started teaching science, we used to buy acids and bases in concentrated form (or just buy the solids) and make up stock solutions and store them in labelled containers.

We are no longer permitted to do that. We can still mix solutions*, but only on the day they are to be used in the classroom. Any unused solutions are to be disposed of at the end of the day and fresh solutions made the next day. We can also use pre-mixed solutions we have purchased from authorized suppliers**.

I should point out that in Canada, science departments do not have lab technicians. All equipment maintenance, lab prep, supply management, etc must be done by the teachers.

I think what happened is that there was an accident and a container wasn't properly labelled, and the ministry put the blame on the science teacher for mixing a solution that was too concentrated, and issued this new policy. (Like 'pilot error', it is also a way of avoiding legal liability.)

Or possibly authorized suppliers got someone at the ministry to change the rules so that they could sell cheap solutions at a huge markup. I know that bulbs for ray boxes cost $2 from the science supplier, $0.25 from the auto supplier*** — but the science department isn't supposed to be purchasing automotive supplies.



*Making a 0.1 molar HCl solution by diluting the 1 molar solution, for example.

**Of course, no one knows how many time that single pre-mixed solution container gets quietly refilled.

***They are just dome light bulbs. Just as the $5 accelerometer springs are $0.50 lawnmower motor springs.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Robert

Do you have a link to your procedures and safety systems around experiments?

I'm always willing to steal a good idea and we don't have the sort of central systems support that I would like
So I'm making a system for my school

I'm surprised you don't have lab technicians - Teachers are expensive compared to retirees like me - they have just started paying me something - I was helping for the last couple of years just because I could

Daniel Duffy said...

Meanwhile in China we may be seeing the mother of all black swans. Catastrophic storm forecast for Chengdu China - 40 inches in 2 days Wednesday through Friday (same as Harvey in Houston) - in addition to recent massive flooding in south China. Chengdu province lies directly above the 3 Gorges Dam, which has been showing sings of failure and in any case was not designed to manage climate change induced flooding of this scale.

"While an outright failure of the dam may not be the primary danger, nonetheless its geopolitical consequences are staggering to contemplate. It would be a black swan of epic proportions, China’s Chernobyl moment. A tsunami-like wave from a breach in the Three Gorges Dam could wipe out millions of acres of farmland right before the autumn harvest, possibly leading to famine-like conditions. As it is also the world’s largest hydroelectric power station, a failure would lead to huge power outages. Low-lying cities of millions along the Yangtze’s banks cities could become uninhabitable and the death toll could be staggering."

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/the-risks-of-chinas-three-gorges-dams-flooding/?fbclid=IwAR0BvaeBMMeawnV_UU48BnFyMKAyNnXpKeHy7uO_fMQA1vJYaPVpbehaIoE#:~:text=A%20tsunami%2Dlike%20wave%20from,lead%20to%20huge%20power%20outages

Worst case scenario: 30-60m high wall of water moving 100kph over 1000km distance killing 300 million people.

Most likely scenario: Over topping the dam leading to serious flooding downstream causing major damage to Chinese manufacturing and agricultural areas.

Be careful as a lot of the "reporting" on the dam (include satellite photos of the dam which have been doctored) comes from Taiwanese sources. But something is up. China just made it biggest ever purchase (1.76 million tonnes) of American corn.

https://www.agriculture.com/news/business/china-makes-its-largest-ever-purchase-of-us-corn

duncan cairncross said...

The GOP "blows" another FBI confidential source

How the hell can the FBI work when its confidential sources are outed like this?

The F.B.I. had approached the expert, a man named Igor Danchenko, as it vetted the dossier’s claims. He agreed to tell investigators what he knew with an important condition, people familiar with the matter said — that the F.B.I. keep his identity secret so he could protect himself, his sources and his family and friends in Russia.

But his hope of remaining anonymous evaporated last week after Attorney General William P. Barr directed the F.B.I. to declassify a redacted report about its three-day interview of Mr. Danchenko in 2017 and hand it over to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Graham promptly made the interview summary public while calling the entire Russia investigation “corrupt.”

….Transcripts of recordings released in April resulted in the identification of a confidential F.B.I. informant who had agree to wear a wire when talking to George Papadopoulos, a former Trump adviser who was convicted of lying to the F.B.I. Other released transcripts of a Russian diplomat’s conversations with former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn revealed that the bureau was able to monitor the phone line of the Russian Embassy in Washington even before a call connected with Mr. Flynn’s voice mail.

David Brin said...

Duncan got a link for that re Danchenko? This will enrage the "deep state" men and women who protect us.

The Three Gorges Dam is in danger, though perhaps not as much as appearances might lead one to believe, as the sloping-claybed dam design is very hard for a flood to completely destroy. But in that worst case it would be an epic catastrophe. The middle case would be plenty awful, with much destruction... in which case China would discover what its leaders try so hard to forget... that they've had one friend across the last 4000 years. And that friend will be there.

The least case? Major silting problems behind the dam.



Pappenheimer said...

Going back a long way in the discussion, but the British did try to make sure their code names for military operations had no relation to the plan - with some limitations. It was related that Churchill urged some name changes, saying he wasn't going to have men die in Operation Lollipop (for example).

And, of course, the German Wacht am Rhine was (iirc) deliberately chosen to suggest a defensive strategy.

TCB said...

Sources galore for the Danchenko story. It has blown up in the last day.

New York Times story: The F.B.I. Pledged to Keep a Source Anonymous. Trump Allies Aided His Unmasking.
After a Russia expert who had collected research on Donald Trump for a disputed dossier agreed to tell the F.B.I. what he knew about it, law enforcement officials declassified a road map to identifying him.


"The F.B.I. had approached the expert, a man named Igor Danchenko, as it vetted the dossier’s claims. He agreed to tell investigators what he knew with an important condition, people familiar with the matter said — that the F.B.I. keep his identity secret so he could protect himself, his sources and his family and friends in Russia."

"But his hope of remaining anonymous evaporated last week after Attorney General William P. Barr directed the F.B.I. to declassify a redacted report about its three-day interview of Mr. Danchenko in 2017 and hand it over to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Graham promptly made the interview summary public while calling the entire Russia investigation “corrupt.”

Robert said...

Do you have a link to your procedures and safety systems around experiments?

https://stao.ca/resource/safety-mindedness-teacher-training-resources/

I'm trying to locate an online copy of Safe ON Science, the STAO publication for teachers. I have a printout of the PDF, but am getting an error from the STAO website. I could email it to you if I had your email.

For administrators:
http://ontariodirectors.ca/downloads/health_and_safety/English_Guides_Dec_3_2013/Secondary%20Science%20Education%209-12%20Revised%20Draft%2025.pdf

Teachers are expensive compared to retirees like me

Teachers are free. You don't think we get any extra money or time for prepping labs and maintaining equipment, do you? It's considered part of the job.

Possibly of use to you. Not safety as such, but some useful resources.:
http://science.robertprior.ca

Also useful:
http://newsletter.oapt.ca

A really cool (and cheap) set of microscopes suitable for younger students. I bought my own classroom set, because at least that way I had microscopes we could use outside.
https://www.foldscope.com

Tony Fisk said...

"The Secret War" was a fascinating series on the clandestine activities of British and German armed forces during WWII.
One episode concerned the German technology for guiding bomber squadrons to their target via radio beams, and the countermeasures employed. German projects went by various codes like "Knickebein" and "Wotan", and the British spent some time puzzling over their meaning. "Knickebein" means "crooked leg" and refers to the bombers following a curved 'crooked' path maintaining constant distance from one signal until they encountered the targeting beam. In the case of "Wotan", the epiphany came when it was noted that Wotan was a God with one eye... wait, what? Aha! That's it: one eye, one beam.

Lesson: treat your code names like your passwords.

TCB said...

Meanwhile, Hurricane Hanna destroys a section of Trump's border wall.

TCB said...

I think it's good to review this Andy Griffith clip every now and then. How things are supposed to work in America.

scidata said...

Latest release of GPT natural language AI has demos for pun-filled funny stories, and conversational AI representations of historical figures (Newton, Lovelace, Curie, Feynman, but no Voltaire or Jeanne d'Arc as yet).
https://www.gwern.net/GPT-3

Who'd have thunk?

Darrell E said...

scidata said...
"Latest release of GPT natural language AI has demos for pun-filled funny stories, and conversational AI representations of historical figures (Newton, Lovelace, Curie, Feynman, but no Voltaire or Jeanne d'Arc as yet).
https://www.gwern.net/GPT-3

Who'd have thunk?
"

Brings to mind a couple of stories. The Heechee Saga by Frederik Pohl in which the main character, Robin, has an AI therapist modeled on Albert Einstein.

The other is one of Fred Saberhagen's great Berserker short stories, though the name eludes me at the moment. In the story, after a Berserker attack a human ship is left with no more pilots but has fighter craft to spare. The fighter craft are controlled via a neural link. A passenger on the ship happens to be a historian who makes AI reconstructions of the personalities of long dead historical figures to try and understand history better. His era of special interest just happens to be WWI. He just happens to have with him several AI modules of many of WWI's most famous aces. The Red Baron, Albert Ball and several of their fellow aces win the day, this time fighting on the same side.

Anonymous said...

William Golding was an alcoholic with a low opinion of himself, and he put himself into the book as Ralph. The message of the book is "it would only take one of me to ruin things." The Tongan castaways didn't have one of him.

A German Nurse said...

@TCB: LOL.

Hanna should become a meme as Karen has become.

David Brin said...

"William Golding was an alcoholic with a low opinion of himself"

Read PINCHER MARTIN to see how deep it goes.

I know some nice Karens!
Change it to Ivanka. Then the only ones hurt earned it.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I know some nice Karens!


Isaac Asimov (paraphrased from memory) :
"We've known for centuries that 'oxygen' is a misnomer, but what can you do?"

A German Nurse said...

I thought that Ivanka would rather be suited to be a Marie-Antoinette type of spoiled brat ... then I googled her second name ... and to top this of, I just watched a Netflix ad about a new series starting in October: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iGDpEKhFyY ... chilling.

George Carty said...

Just saw "A German Nurse"'s comment on the previous post bringing up the sex assaults in Cologne on New Years' Eve 2015.

As a Brit that was the first point when I seriously suspected that Leave might actually win the upcoming EU referendum. I also wondered if the attackers were actually shabiha dispatched to Germany by Assad, under orders that ultimately came from Putin...

Larry Hart said...

The New York Times tells us what we probably should have already known...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/27/opinion/anne-applebaum-twilight-of-democracy.html

...
Like Applebaum, I’m astonished to see erstwhile Cold Warriors abase themselves before Vladimir Putin. But I think she’s working from a mistaken premise about what once constituted conservatism. Liberal democracy per se was never the animating passion of the trans-Atlantic right — anti-Communism was. When the threat of Communist expansion disappeared, so did most of the right’s commitment to a set of values that, it’s now evident, were purely instrumental.
...
There were always some American conservatives who really were in it for laissez-faire economics. But it’s now clear that those conservatives were wrong about their movement’s animating passion. So too with those on the center-right who thought their comrades were opposed to authoritarianism on principle.
...
Conservatism, he wrote, seeks to “make privilege popular, to transform a tottering old regime into a dynamic, ideologically coherent movement of the masses.” Seen this way, corrupt autocratic populists like Trump and Viktor Orban of Hungary fit quite neatly into the tradition Applebaum was once part of.
...

Larry Hart said...

I'm pretty sure Dr Brin has successfully identified this already...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Jul28.html#item-3

Conservatives really aren't paying good attention to [chief justice] Roberts. He knows what is important and what is not. He knows that LGBTQ rights and religion get lots of media coverage, but what really matters to him is keeping Republicans in power via gerrymandering, voter suppression etc. On the latter kind of cases, he is an unwavering supporter of the Republican Party. To mask that, he votes with the four liberals from time to time in the hopes that everyone is distracted by bright shiny objects and fails to notice that what he really cares about is keeping Republicans in power. With this mix of rulings, he can claim he is just calling balls and strikes (even if baseball itself is in trouble, as described below). Conservatives seem to be unable to comprehend that he is on their side on the stuff that really matters long term.

Larry Hart said...

The link below carries a live feed of Barr's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. I don't know what it will link to later.

But apparently, the Republican line on the clearing of Lafayette Square for Trump's photo op is that the protesters had set fire to the building and that it was necessary to clear them out to make way for the fire trucks. That's what Jim Jordan (R) was referring to when he asked Barr, "Would St John's Church even be standing today if federal agents hadn't acted?"

I never heard that particular allegation before. Is there any meat to it, or just some made up talking point that viewers of FOX or Sinclair would already know as fact? (Not that those are the only possibilities)

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/28/us/politics/william-barr-house-judiciary-hearing.html

matthew said...

Around 60 days ago, at the beginning of the George Floyd protests, I said that there would be right-wing agitators trying to change the protests to riots. I was asked to provide proof of the assertion.

Minnesota:
https://www.startribune.com/police-umbrella-man-was-a-white-supremacist-trying-to-incite-george-floyd-rioting/571932272/

Richmond:
https://www.wsls.com/news/virginia/2020/07/27/police-richmond-riots-instigated-by-white-supremacists-disguised-as-black-lives-matter/

Note that the Hell's Angel biker "Umbrella Man" in Minneapolis has not been charged with his crime.

Larry Hart said...

matthew:

Note that the Hell's Angel biker "Umbrella Man" in Minneapolis has not been charged with his crime.


So Trump justifies sending in the stormTrumpers to quell legitimate protests because those protests turn into violent riots--by those very stormTrumpers.

The sad part is that none of this is a surprise. Liberals mostly take for granted that outside agitators will be used to discredit them, and right-wingers probably knew this all along and quietly cheered the agitators on while simultaneously believing that this proved how evil the protesters were all along.

Larry Hart said...

@matthew,

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments below the Richmond story. I don't know how far down you have to go to find one that isn't an assertion that the fake news is making up the white supremacist angle, because I had to stop reading before I hit one. One of the last comments I got to was "And now they're saying the same thing about the Minneapolis riots!" As if that's so effing hard to believe.

I grieve for our country.

A German Nurse said...

Re: Bacon

I sometimes noted during my career that, in hospitals, physicians in mental health often used their academic degree to force compliance with their orders, even if they were not grounded in best practices and scientific studies available. Their academic titles sometimes became a fig leaf for authoritarian behaviour mixed with classism and social chauvinism.

It is a culture not grounded in continual academic enlightment, but it is clearly silverback territory.

Weak and unworthy authority? Often. Hospitals are often feudal, authoritarian systems. In emergency situations it might be necessary to have clear responsibilities, but most aren't emergencies. A few years ago, a surgeon could get away with throwing used scalpels at you in the OP room.

Longstanding Customs? Yes. Hierarchies, informal networks, resistance to change, stigmatization of clients, covering up and protecting bad apples. Some things date back to the Nazi times.

Opinions of ignorant crowds? Absolutely. Again, stigmatization of clients, disapproval of changing scientific evidence, and mass media depicting healthcare providers in traditional roles.

The hiding of ignorance through displays of apparent knowledge? Most definetly. Mental health especially* seems to be a paradise for bad actors, impostors and self-declared guru snake-oil salesmen**.

*Look up this one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gert_Postel, for entertainment value.

**I sense Jordan Peterson might be one of them. Anyone here confirming or contradicting my suspicions? Would like to know if he deserves the hype or if it would be a waste of time.

Wonder if that is a pattern only for my country, or if the english-speaking countries are also afflicted.

Larry Hart said...

Emphasis mine. Oh, if only...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Jul29.html#item-2

...
The "lizard people" doctor is Stella Immanuel, who also believes that endometriosis is caused by sexual intercourse with demons during the course of dreams, that most medical treatments are designed to implant humans with alien DNA, and that the government is at work on a vaccine that will cause people to give up religion. The other doctors' bios aren't much better.


She says that as if that would be a bad thing.

Larry Hart said...

What we already knew. Emphasis is in the original...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/29/opinion/trump-republican-party-racism.html

After Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential race, the Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus, commissioned an internal party study to examine why the party had won the popular vote only once since 1998. The results of that so-called autopsy were fairly obvious: The party needed to appeal to more people of color, reach out to younger voters, become more welcoming to women. Those conclusions were presented as not only a political necessity but also a moral mandate if the Republican Party were to be a governing party in a rapidly changing America.

Then Donald Trump emerged and the party threw all those conclusions out the window with an almost audible sigh of relief: Thank God we can win without pretending we really care about this stuff. That reaction was sadly predictable. I spent decades working to elect Republicans, including Mr. Romney and four other presidential candidates, and I am here to bear reluctant witness that Mr. Trump didn’t hijack the Republican Party. He is the logical conclusion of what the party became over the past 50 or so years, a natural product of the seeds of race, self-deception and anger that now dominate it. Hold Donald Trump up to a mirror and that bulging, scowling orange face is today’s Republican Party.
...

A German Nurse said...

Trump and Esper are planning to withdraw 12.000 soldiers from Germany:

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/07/29/politics/us-withdraw-troops-germany/index.html

""The current EUCOM plan will reposition approximately 11,900 military personnel from Germany, from roughly 36,000 down to 24,000, in a manner that will strengthen NATO, enhance the deterrence of Russia, and meet the other principles I set forth," Esper told reporters, referring to US European Command which oversees US military forces on the continent."

Operation Silver Plate.

Robert said...

Larry, for what it's worth Congressman Jim Banks (Republiscam, Iowa) is also pushing hydroxychloroquine in the emails he sends supporters*. A couple of days ago he reproduced a letter from Harvey A. Risch, who is apparently a professor of epidemiology at Yale, touting the drug as a treatment if given early enough (and describing doctors who perscribed it as "courageous").


*Which I'm not, but I've somehow ended up on his mailing list.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@German Nurse: Your descriptions of medical culture are completely accurate -- except that there is a 30+ year old pro-Enlightenment revolt underway worldwide against the feudal-authoritarian heritage of medicine. "Evidence-based medicine", backed by:

* payers public and private,
* legal and liability,
* quality officers,
* medical education specialists, and
* last but not least, admins and governments

-- was created for the precise purpose of combating the most common and worst possible rationales for many (if not most) medical practices: "Because I say so" and "Because that's what I was taught". I know for sure that this is an international movement including the US, Canada, UK, the Scandinavian and Low Countries, and many Commonwealth nations, and partial participation in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and other locales.

Germany's Nazi heritage might put it behind the leaders in this movement -- but then the USA, though the participant with the greatest momentum, isn't in the lead either. Britain's NHS structure has made them a more thorough implementer of evidence-based practice.

Take heart; know hope; yes we can....

...and yes, Peterson is a Pythian oil-man par excellence. The only worth of his material is to keep abreast of which flavor of Kool-Aid is being guzzled presently.

@Larry / matthew: Agents provocateurs were predictable and predicted, but now the long heritage of antidemocracy in America is starting to work against them. Sure, the agitprop works well on the optimal target population, but that population is no longer central to the American experience, or the American identity -- despite their collective delusion that they are and always should be. Meanwhile, we've gone through several cycles of essentially the same tactics -- the Redemption; the anti-Fusion/anti-Progressive riots; the Klan Resurgence; the (first) Civil Rights movement. Some of these were hushed up for a while, but memories are coming back... and both the Klan and the Nazis are by now unquestionably Bad Guys in the American common mythology. This makes it easier to nail down provocations and say "same song, umpteenth verse".

Emblematic of this trend is the continuing rejection of Trumpism by the suburbs. Soccer moms have no patience for escalating brawls when their families are under threat of disease -- especially when the thugs are happy to tear-gas other soccer moms.

I'm not mourning for our country. I'm mourning for the segment that's embracing a doomed path... and will pay a very steep price for their folly. Many of those I once called friends and neighbors are among them.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@German Nurse: Your descriptions of medical culture are completely accurate -- except that there is a 30+ year old pro-Enlightenment revolt underway worldwide against the feudal-authoritarian heritage of medicine. "Evidence-based medicine", backed by:

* payers public and private,
* legal and liability,
* quality officers,
* medical education specialists, and
* last but not least, admins and governments

-- was created for the precise purpose of combating the most common and worst possible rationales for many (if not most) medical practices: "Because I say so" and "Because that's what I was taught". I know for sure that this is an international movement including the US, Canada, UK, the Scandinavian and Low Countries, and many Commonwealth nations, and partial participation in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and other locales.

Germany's Nazi heritage might put it behind the leaders in this movement -- but then the USA, though the participant with the greatest momentum, isn't in the lead either. Britain's NHS structure has made them a more thorough implementer of evidence-based practice.

Take heart; know hope; yes we can....

...and yes, Peterson is a Pythian oil-man par excellence. The only worth of his material is to keep abreast of which flavor of Kool-Aid is being guzzled presently.

@Larry / matthew: Agents provocateurs were predictable and predicted, but now the long heritage of antidemocracy in America is starting to work against them. Sure, the agitprop works well on the optimal target population, but that population is no longer central to the American experience, or the American identity -- despite their collective delusion that they are and always should be. Meanwhile, we've gone through several cycles of essentially the same tactics -- the Redemption; the anti-Fusion/anti-Progressive riots; the Klan Resurgence; the (first) Civil Rights movement. Some of these were hushed up for a while, but memories are coming back... and both the Klan and the Nazis are by now unquestionably Bad Guys in the American common mythology. This makes it easier to nail down provocations and say "same song, umpteenth verse".

Emblematic of this trend is the continuing rejection of Trumpism by the suburbs. Soccer moms have no patience for escalating brawls when their families are under threat of disease -- especially when the thugs are happy to tear-gas other soccer moms.

I'm not mourning for our country. I'm mourning for the segment that's embracing a doomed path... and will pay a very steep price for their folly. Many of those I once called friends and neighbors are among them.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

*Which I'm not, but I've somehow ended up on his mailing list


I feel your pain. I'm somehow on a mailing list that gets surveys like this one (emphasis is in the original) :

Do you want to bring America's economy roaring back and stop the Liberal Democrats from using the Chinese virus pandemic to turn our nation into a failed Big Government Socialist country like Venezuela...

...And earn a limited-edition MAGA hat while doing so?

David Brin said...

Moving onward soon, but carry on...

jim said...

The Democratic Party’s platform could not bring itself to represent the preferences of the vast majority of democrats in terms of Medicare for All or Mamajuana legalization both at ~80% democratic approval.

It looks like K. Harris vote in the Senate to continue with our forever wars was a bid to show Joe she is good with his past warmongering and will support such activities in the future. Which may be important given Elon Musk’s recent tweet “We will coup whoever we want! Deal with it.” Refereeing to the recent coup in Bolivia and threatening (promising?) future action to seize the raw materials he wants.

Will Joe Biden start talking about how effectively Obama and he deployed the federal goon squads to break up the Occupy Movement and neuter the Black Lives Movement? That is the kind of real leadership that appeals to suburban republican security moms and never Trump Republicans. Corporate Democrats are much more effective at hippy punching and keeping black folks in their place than Republicans.

David Brin said...

I'll leave jim's jibber-jabber here as the last word. Enjoy the sanctimony rush, fellah. At best you are useless to us. But carryon.

onward

onward