Sunday, September 06, 2020

Chapter Five: The All-out War on All Fact People.

 I've been posting (for free!) chapters of Polemical Judo, in hope that at least a few of the ideas may percolate through some of you to where they'll do some good.  

Last time we offered: Chapter 4: End the Cheating First! with detailed inquiry into voting machines, gerrymandering and all the things that all sides of the blue coalition, including honest Republicans, should care deeply about fixing. Here, below, we'll offer the first half of Chapter Five which deals with The All-out War on All Fact People. Chapter 5 is so long that I must split it in two, saving for next time a set of specifics including "counter-incantations" that neutralize the common attacks by fact-haters. (Or start fresh with Chapter 1.)

But First... just a few paragraphs updating one of these tactics from the perspective of early September 2020.

== The Core Vulnerability -- his claim that he 'knows people' ==

The inability of any Democrat leader… even alphas like AOC … to grasp the obvious is beyond all reckoning. Take how they react to almost weekly defections from Trump’s orbit, when he is denounced by yet another former trusted aide or relative (“a weakling and a loser!”) or else someone in his orbit is arrested (“I barely met him or her!”)  Democrats pounce each time: “Surely THIS outrageous case will break his hypnotic hold on some of the cult!” But every time, the mad confederate right only loses a thousand here, a fed-up thousand there. And smartypants pundits scratch their heads, never realizing this failure is their fault! 

Surely you can see by now how each case - taken separately - gets waved away by MAGAs and by RASRs (Residually Adult-Sane Republicans). They do it by cauterizing and encapsulating each case and nodding as Tucker &co. attack the latest defector individually.


A far better judo-move is to go to the heart and gut of the Generality!  All right, so maybe General Kelly was a wimpy coward who couldn’t take the heat, and Gen. Mattis is a treacherous dog, and Gen. McMaster was unreliable, and (take a deep breath) Michael Cohen is a betraying weasel and Reince Priebus an establishment sellout and Rex Tillerson a Davos conniver and John Bolton an opportunistic war-mongerer and Paul Manafort a Kremlin agent and Jeff Sessions a slimy betrayer and Roger Stone an incompetent plotter and Steve Bannon a crooked sneak and Tony Scaramucci a no-talent loser and Dan Coats and the Vindman colonel-brothers chose country over president (how dare they!) and Rob Porter and David Sorenson abused their wives and Rick Scott and RudyG went crazy and John Dowd and Sally Yates were too-nerdy and Tom Price and a dozen others used their departments as private piggy banks and Gordon Sondland  and David Shulkin proved disloyal and Michael Flynn and Corey Lewandowski were fine fellows who stupidly let themselves get caught red-handed…


…and all right, it goes on and on and on. In fact the list of just those fired is immense and I only included famous cases where Trump had chosen them in the first place. Never mind all the mid-rankers and the separate all-out assaults on auditors and neutral Inspectors General and civil servants. That’s not the issue here.


No, the issue is that, alas, not even those clever folks at the LINCOLN PROJECT seem to GET how to hammer home one paramount lesson from all this! A lesson that is completely aside from any matter of policy or politics, or even defending those defectors! It’s an aspect of it all that’s immune even to the paranoid “deep state” incantations of the MAGA-incel-QAnon mob. Here’s the ultimate and utterly inarguable crux:


”Let’s suppose every excuse offered by Trump in each case was valid. 

Even if Donald Trump is on the side of God and every single person who ‘betrayed’ him truly was a bad egg… 

...What does that say about Trump as a JUDGE OF HUMAN CHARACTER?” 


He bragged ‘I have the best people! No one is a better judge of people than I am!’ 


But in fact, no TWENTY other presidents - combined - were ever as ‘betrayed’ by personally hand-picked aides - as Donald Trump has been. And isn’t appointing good people - smart and  competent - job#1? Even by his own standards, demanding only loyalty, what a history.


Indeed, if there’s one towering fact that’s absolutely proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is Trump’s stunningly bad record at judging human beings.


Maybe because it takes one to know one.


...and now...


== And now Chapter 5 of Polemical Judo ==


Here I risk ire by asserting that the innocents and minorities we all see suffering aren’t the mad-right’s main or only targets for destruction. Some of society’s “elites” stand in the way, blocking a feudalist coup. These are oligarchy’s enemy-who-must-be-destroyed.

 

 

Chapter 5

 

The War on All Fact People

 

 

I may be ostracized for saying it, but the core values of the Fox/Putin-led oligarchic putsch aren’t racism or sexism or nativism. [1]

 

Oh, the foremost victims  – those most deeply hurt – are minorities, women, immigrants, non-binaries, the disempowered, millions of children and vulnerable others! To varying degrees, they are the ones suffering pain and gross injustice. And sure, bigotry’s dog-whistles have incited America’s worst elements into violent rage. In The New York Times, Charles Blow summarizes: they support Trump because he is mean to the people they like to be mean to.[2]

 

“Trump’s own punitive spirit aligns with and gives voice and muscle to American conservatives’ long simmering punitive lust. And this insatiable desire to inflict pain has particular targets: women (specifically feminists), racial minorities, people who are L.G.B.T.Q. and religious minorities in this country. In short, the punishments are directed at anyone who isn’t part of, or supportive of, the white supremacist patriarchy.”

 

Still, turn your gaze upward from pathetic Nazis and jibbering supremacists, to their masters and hypnotizing controllers. Ponder what those masters need. To them, bigotry is incidental – a leverage tool. Their bid for total power is not blocked by the powerless. But it might truly be thwarted by other, competing “elites.”

 

Consider the bleak prospects for enlightened civilization across this current battlefield. With our elections cheat-stolen, our courts stuff-stacked with shills, millions incited into populist madness, and wealth disparities skyrocketing, just one force stands in feudalism’s way. The new lords must neutralize the counter-effectiveness of our fact-professions.

 

Scientists.[4]                 

Civil servants.                 

Journalists.

Law professionals.         

Teachers.                     

Doctors.

FBI agents.                 

Intelligence agencies.               

Statisticians.

Skilled labor.            

Law professionals.                

Economists…

 

…and yes… the U.S. military officer corps, the third best-educated and most soberly responsible clade in modern American life.

 

Oh, pity the poor plutocrats! Across 6000 years and almost all continents, lords had simply to snap their fingers, foreclose on poor families, and wave around swords (or wands or catechisms or writs). Nowadays, they keep getting hemmed in by nitpickers, law-followers, investigators and their ilk, armed with procedures, evidences and attention to ‘rights.’ No wonder a top Republican objective – voiced early in his administration by Donald Trump – is to eviscerate 140 year old civil service protections and put all public servants under the political thumb. [5]

 

You know that all of the professions listed above – and more – have been assailed for years, from daily assaults on “fake news” or “lame-stream” media to climate science denialism, all the way to accusations of “deep state” conspiracy by our defenders who best understand this dangerous world, including many of our most accomplished men and women in and out of uniform. A professor at the Naval War College, Tom Nichols, wrote a book about this: The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge,[6] summarized in Foreign Affairs as: “How America Lost Faith in Expertise And Why That's a Giant Problem.”[7]

 

It’s an all-out assault – not just on this specialty, or that one, but against every variety of folks who know stuff. Why haven’t opposition politicians made this a core issue? One just as pressing as alt-right bigotry?

 

This isn’t zero sum! Nor does this point downplay the racist poison spewing across our sullied nation. You know that nothing is more useful in combatting intolerance than the flood of facts that disproved almost every prejudiced stereotype. Moreover, if things go badly, all the fact folks will go up against the wall, just as quickly as the antifa or trans activists, if not sooner.[8]

 

 

“The point of modern propaganda isn't only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”

- Former world chess champion Gary Kasparov

 

 

OTHERS HAVE NOTICED: FACTS ARE THE ENEMY

 

A good start would be to emphasize that it is all fact professions who are targeted, and hence the very notion of fact itself. Earlier I quoted commentator Thom Hartmann, who said: “When liberals talk about “elites,” they mean rich people. When conservatives talk about “elites”, they mean smart people.” 

 

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times denounced[9] the new Know Nothing Movement, finishing wisely: “Investigate. Read. Write. Listen. Speak. Think. Be wary of those who disparage the investigators, the readers, the writers, the listeners, the speakers and the thinkers. Be suspicious of those who confuse reality with reality TV, and those who repeat falsehoods while insisting, against all evidence, that they are true. To defend freedom, demand fact.” 

 

Alas, the advice was bereft of useful proposals, or anything like polemical judo.

 

Meanwhile, I challenge you to find a day when Donald Trump or his surrogates weren’t attacking journalism – kettles attacking pots as “fake news.” Just in August 2019 it was revealed that an operation run by conservative operatives reportedly scoured more than a decade of social media history from reporters who are seen as hostile towards Trump, in order to find potentially damaging posts that can be used against them.[10] And yes, I meant “I challenge you,” because that phrase is key to a weapon too little used against the madness. I talk about wagers, especially, in this volume.

 

More recently, an editorial in the Washington Post spoke out about: “For Trump and his cronies, draining the swamp means ousting experts.” [11] And all through the federal government, especially the State Department, large numbers of highly skilled pros have been leaking, then hemorrhaging away. But all of that is old news… and an ongoing – ultimately lethal – treason against the nation that (alas) we are getting used to. 

 

My own contribution is to dig. Down to where the sickness has its deepest polemical roots. And as usual, it starts with something healthy… the most fundamental American reflex, taught to us in every film and story: Suspicion of Authorityor SoA.

 

Again - every citizen is convinced that some elite group is conspiring to be Big Brother! Liberals perceive plots by aristocrats, Mafiosi and faceless corporations.[12]Conservatives denounce schemes by snooty academics and faceless government bureaucrats. What few of us admit is that any power center could be a gathering place for connivers – including elites you happen to like. 

 

By itself, healthy skepticism toward officious castes is irksomely healthy. But if manipulated just right, SoA can be used as a tool by conspiring elites, as we saw when Hitler diverted German populism with baseless charges of a vast Jewish conspiracy. What our more recent New Lords needed was to rouse red-populist ire toward all smartypants elites, diverting onto those natural foes all the attention that might otherwise notice their oligarchic putsch. 

 

It called for spreading a series of clever memes that are never stated explicitly. Because if stated overtly, they are obviously insane.

 

 

‘The rest of the world is warily watching the

 continuing assault on what the president 

calls the “dishonest media,” a smear chillingly close

 to the Nazi-era term “Lügenpresse”, or “lying press.”’

–  Gary Kasparov

 

 

ANTI-FACT INCANTATION #1:

ABSURD NUMBERS

 

You start with the most “SoA” of the MAGA nostrums… “Those snooty (academics/scientists/journalists/teachers/deepstaters/etc.) are in a grand conspiracy against truth!” Or else: “They’re all conformist lemmings, charging in the same direction, in blind obedience to habit!” 

 

The common thread connecting those two magic spells? Every knowledge caste shares the same un-American traits that undermine their credibility: uniformity, obstinacy andbullying officiousness.

 

Right. Okay then, let’s see. According to Google in North America there are roughly :

 

~ a quarter of a million professional journalists... 

~ half a million scientists...[13]

~ a million medical doctors…

~ a million university professors…

~ a quarter of a million military officers…

~ 150,000 economists…

~ 2.8 million civil servants at all levels…

~ 3.7 million teachers…

… almost three million nurses… 

 

…and that just begins a long list of professions who are almost daily disparaged, as Fox and other right wing media imply – without ever saying so explicitly – that all of them are engaged together in a deliberate conspiracy.

 

What… all roughly ten million of them? A vast conspiracy without any leaks? Wow, that’s some competence and focused determination!

 

Faced with that absurdity, the backpedaling begins, either by splitting off the professions, one at a time, or else claiming the real cabal is only at the top, with all the middle and lower ranks in ignorant, lockstep compliance to dogma. (Of course the journalists and pundit “scientists” employed by Fox are the rare free spirits.)

 

Well, well. Having been both a journalist and a scientist, I’ll attest that there are no more competitive humans.[14] Anyone who knows these professions also knows that each member lives on individualist ambition to be the next one to break a big story, to topple a giant, to smash a standard assumption, or to make a scoop. When a vast majority of scientists do believe the same thing, it’s not by obeisance to credentialed authorities, or some imaginary consensus. It’s because the current model of the world in that particular field has survived repeated and relentless challenges! So far, that is. And not only challenges from eager young postdocs, but from a flourishing and rapidly growing community of amateur scientists.[15]

 

(Today's experts have largely welcomed the amateur trend. Scientists compete with each other to get PBS shows explaining the latest discoveries! And there are now countless opportunities for citizen science[16] – ways for aficionados to get involved in projects in astronomy, biology, ecology and so on.)

 

Above all, theories shift and change as evidence accumulates, and those models with bad predictive records are abandoned. (Hear that, “supply side economics”?)


But sure, it's healthy for some citizens to express wariness toward that “elite.” Even (ungratefully) toward all of the smartypants castes whose inventiveness and curiosity engendered way more than half our wealth. In theory, one can imagine a technocratic dictatorship of nerdy know-it-alls – pushy, conformist, patronizing perfessors. It’s not wholly unreasonable to fret that scientists will act like old-time priests and lords and guild-masters, erecting barriers, preventing interested outsiders from joining the fun. And yes, at times we do see glimmers of old fashioned guild-protection. Still…

 

––

 

Which seems more likely? A grand ‘conspiracy’ of ten million scientists, journalists, teachers, FBI agents, professors, doctors, and intel/military officers? All those smart-but-unwise eggheads are plotting against the salt-of-the-Earth everyman?

 

Or that 5,000 golf buddies in an incestuous CEO caste connive secretly with parasitic Wall Streeters, casino moguls, Mafiosi, “ex”-KGB agents and inheritance brats? Oh, you never heard it put that way before?

 

––

 

Let’s concede that it’s not unreasonable to subject any intelligentsia to SoA scrutiny. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville expressed surprised admiration that villagers and townsfolk were arguing and managing their affairs quite fine without overseers appointed from above. In his “Funeral Oration” the great Athenian champion of democracy, Pericles, said that “lack of learning combined with sound common sense is more helpful than the type of cleverness that gets out of hand, and that as a general rule states are better governed by the man in the street than by intellectuals.” Though both of these sages commended two necessary ingredients: widely open education and calm. Especially the calm that it takes to argue productively with your neighbors.

 

Fortunately, ‘technocracy’[17] – or ‘rule by the smartest’ – is unlikely and impractical, for dozens of reasons. (Have you ever tried to herd cats? Now try getting ten million highly competitive, confidently curious and irksomely well-informed scientific "cats" to agree on an Orwellian agenda.) 

 

As for journalism, these are the men and women who trained to ask eager questions, to probe and get exposed to diverse, opposing points of view. Sure, as individuals they can be biased! Sometimes outrageously so. There is every reason to be glad we live in a society with many, diverse media – some of them amateur – all sniffing for errors. That is the essential ethos I convey in my book The Transparent Society. [18] And did I mention that Suspicion of Authority is a good habit, overall?

But when it means hating experts in principle and in general, then SoA has metastasized. Gone cancerous. A good reflex, it’s been turned against us.

 

“If you have the facts on your side, pound the facts.

 If you have the law on your side, pound the law.

 If you have neither on your side, pound the table.”

– Traditional advice to new lawyers.

 

 

    ANTI-FACT INCANTATION #2:    

EVERYONE KNOWS THAT…

 

The War on Expertise is insidious. It depends on some magic spells that draw their power from being implicit and never spoken overtly or aloud. The core meme starts with something everyone knows to be true. We all know that: 

 

Just because someone is smart and knows a lot, they aren't automatically wise.

It's true! We all know examples of intelligent, knowledgeable boneheads. In fact, that nostrum is so true that it thrums as a deep assumption, at the back of all our minds.

 

Alas, in the same way that Suspicion of Authority is wholesome – till it goes toxic – this true statement has been twisted into something cancerous:  

 

All people who are smart and know a lot are therefore automatically unwise!

The first statement is true and we all know it. The second is so insanely wrong that anyone declaring it is instantly revealed as jibbering loony. And yet, the latter is now a core catechism of the Confederacy! Because they’ve been allowed to leave it implicit. 

 

Don’t let them! Make it clear that’s what they mean. Or else make them deny it. Either way, you’ll do major judo moves.

 

 

If “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” 

then we should add that "Those who have learned from history 

will almost certainly repeat it anyway, because bias rules over truth."

– Thad McIlroy

 


ANTI-FACT INCANTATION #3:

CONFRONT THEM OVER FACT CHECKING

 

We’re all frustrated by the effectiveness of the “fake news!” incantation, which should be refutable by simple tabulations of competitively verified facts. Fact-checking services are supposed to do this, yet all have failed to make a dent in the impervious wall of Confederate falsehoods and denialism, not only regarding climate change but the more than ten thousand tabulated Donald Trump lies[19]

 

That’s because every fact-checking service is dismissed – on Fox and rightist media – as ‘biased,’ for the basic reason that most of the falsehoods found by these services are Republican sourced. In the realm of “Sez you!” relativism, this is clear evidence of bias.

 

Alas, nearly all frustrated fact people keep playing sumo over this! They seem to believe if they just pile the mountain of evidence higher, that will finally give fact checkers more credibility. But instead, the reds only dig in. You cannot win this fight with sumo.

 

A far better approach? Directly challenge every high level person who repeats that accusation: 

 

Okay, you claim every existing fact-check service is inherently biased. In that case, will you now join a bipartisan effort to design a new fact-verifying service? One you’d trust?

 

Challenge every Fox pundit and GOP Congressperson or factotum: 

 

Always complaining about biased fact-checkers, why have you never offered to help set up something neutral and trustworthy? Not a policy or political body, but one (or several!) charged with a single task: helping us tell true from fake? 

 

Will you come to a conference, next week, ready to nominate august, reputable conservative men and women to serve as co-supervisors? How about retired, Republican Supreme and Appellate Court judges? Sandra Day O’Conner? Former President Bush? Warren Buffett? Retired admirals and generals? Eminent conservative statisticians and related experts, respected by their peers and known more for quality than dogma? Do you have no such sages to propose? How can that be? 

 

Why won’t you join a non-partisan effort to help us sift truth from lies?

 

Yes, you’ve seen this recommendation earlier and will confront it repeatedly, throughout the book, because it works, and because no one tries it on the national stage.

 

No, the Foxites won’t cooperate, for obvious reasons – above all because almost any reputable conservatives they name, even experts who are partisan, will wind up shredding the “fake news” nostrum. 

 

Instead, Hannity & co. will rail that you’re trying to set up an Orwellian “Ministry of Truth.” Yes, even when you offer to help set up many competing fact-checking services. (See The Fact Act below.) 

 

They’ll squirm away. But their repeated whinnying, waffling evasion will look terrible. And that is judo.

 

 

 

“Our countrymen have recovered from the alarm into which art and industry had thrown them; science and honesty are replaced on their high ground.”  

- Thomas Jefferson, upon entering office

 

 

 

ANTI-FACT INCANTATION #4:

APPEALING TO ANTI-AUTHORITY

 

 Sayeth the indignant defender of individualism: 

 

Anyone who suggests that experts in a field merit respect is declaring that everyone should bow down to experts and obey them. I won't!

 

Bullshit. Scientists invented “Question Authority”! Did I mention they tend to be the most competitive of all humans, forever going after each other like gunslingers at high noon? 

 

Hell yeah, you should start any topic by checking with experts! Begin with a tentative assumption that they know what they are talking about. (They do, at least 90% of the time.) Then look for others who knowledgeably disagree! Sometimes (rarely) the dissidents prove right and experts wrong! "Consensus" in science is very real when it comes to crafting useful predictive models of the world. But go ahead and show us (with burden of proof on you) that the consensus is wrong here! Or over there! It's how science advances.

Just this, though. When most of the people who know the most about a subject are seen to agree, despite their competitiveness, then it's generally wise for policy to begin by paying heed to expert advice. Especially when our children’s future is at stake, it makes sense to enact policies that follow expert advice, while funding research to see if they are wrong! You can – and should – do both, in parallel.

 

(And note that this syndrome, while less rampant than on the right, certainly festers on what we might call the far-left, among “post-modernist scholars,” or else those aura-reading types who proclaim that objective reality will bend to their triumphant will[20].)

 

I’ll go to specifics in a later section, dialing into environmental denialism. But it’s pertinent here. When 99% of people who understand climate and weather say we're all in danger, shall we do nothing, only obstruct, at the behest of coal barons, oil commissars and petro sheiks? Shall we both ignore expert advice and defund research – the satellites and instruments and avidly competing groups – that might prove the experts wrong? Or prove them right? Because that has been the upshot of climate denialism.

 

 

Late note: "In a time of climate change denial and vaccine resistance, scientists worry they are losing public trust. But it's just the opposite, a survey released Friday finds. Public trust of scientists is growing. It's on a par with our trust of the military and far above trust of clergy, politicians and journalists . . . " The survey by the Pew Research Center finds 86% of those surveyed say they have a fair amount or a great deal of faith that scientists act in our best interests. And that's been trending higher."[21]

 

 ------

Next time - part two of Chapter Five... a set of specifics including "counter-incantations" that neutralize the common attacks by fact-haters.



------ 
footnotes from Polemical Judo.

[1] I expect some to torch me as a bigot and Nazi-enabler for saying that. Others will hang around, knowing that I yearn (from the bottom of my heart) to destroy racism and intolerance! If I could reverse the male-female ratio in positions of power around the globe I’d race to press the button! Still, it’s my job to notice traps and debilitating clichés. And so, I must reiterate, their paramount goal is power. Hence, it is not the powerless who the Kochs, Mercers and Putin fear most. It is those with some power to keep enlightenment values and accountability alive.

 

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/opinion/trump-immigrants-punishment.html

 

[3] The war on expertise. http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/waronexpertise.html

 

[4] Revealed early in Chris Mooney’s The Republican War on Science.

 

[5] October 12, 2019, White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller ranted on Fox News that there's a "Fourth Branch of Government," consisting of the civil servants. A point where I agree, only I hold that civil servants have saved and protected us for 3 years. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Z2-r0oh5tI&fbclid=IwAR2_LdYbRy8PEXIhgHDq39fSh10J1pk_ZBpJSL0lhNRgrt2f9CAMQIGm6Vg

 

[6] The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge, by Tom Nichols. http://amzn.to/2pr4k0s

 

[7] How America Lost Faith in Expertise Foreign Affairs, March/April 2017 https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-02-13/how-america-lost-faith-expertise

 

[8] Of course these groups overlap, bigtime!

 

[9] “Why Trump Lies.” LA Times, April 3, 2017. https://www.latimes.com/projects/la-ed-why-trump-lies/?fbclid=IwAR2w7sK8fjjd4wkpogdvUk7bcLqFkhtSGzDFc1iqYz4jU1HIAcB93e3GE0w

 

[10] “Operation Targeting Journalists Seen Unfavorable to Trump Is Allied With the White House: NYT.”

 https://www.thedailybeast.com/operation-targeting-journalists-seen-unfavorable-to-trump-is-allied-with-the-white-house-nyt

 

[11] Ousting experts. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trump-is-draining-the-swamp–of-needed-experts/2019/08/08/7ec457e4-ba12-11e9-a091-6a96e67d9cce_story.html

 

[12] And yes, I suppose that makes me a “liberal,” for now. Because that paranoia happens to be the one that’s true. As of now.

 

[13] We should honestly make a distinction, here. Google says there are about 6.9 million “scientists and engineers. And we all know many engineers who are reflexively and obstinately RASRs: Residually Adult Sane Republicans, only gradually letting facts drag them away from GOP loyalty.

 

[14] Nearly all top scientists are eclectic - also artists or authors or musicians. Fiercely competitive "young guns" - recently tenured professors with secure funding - are most ferocious of all, seeking some paradigm to topple. Contrast this to Fox myths that scientists are wimpy lemmings, yelping around the most "consensus-accepted" theory and hugging boondoggle “grants." This includes the rich folks in weather analysis who (using the same equations and data as climate researchers) can now predict hurricane paths and transformed the old, joke of a 4-hour "weather report" into a ten day miracle of prophecy you and your red uncle rely upon. Once, the U.S. right admired science. Now it’s at full tilt war. Thirty years ago, 40% of US scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 3% and plummeting. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

 

[15] As I explain in this video, the 20th century's professionalization of everything served humanity well, but could not continue. That vast trend is fast being replaced by an era when hundreds of millions will have side avocations, wherein they are almost as capable as their day-work. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zw9_Q9FzljI

 

[16] Amateur science: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_for_Amateur_Scientists

 

[17] Technocracy had some supporters during the darkest days of the Depression and as an answer to communism and fascism, as well as the apparent failure of western democracy. See the film version of H. G. Wells’s “Things to Come.”

 

[18] The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? (1997), winner of the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. http://www.davidbrin.com/transparentsociety.html

 

[19] 10,000 tabulated Trump lies. https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/29/politics/donald-trump-lies-washington-post/index.html

 

[20] “Thoughts, Prayers And Rejecting Political Hobbyists,” https://www.bobcesca.com/thoughts-and-prayers-2/ 

 

[21] Trust in science is rising. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/08/02/747561031/poll-finds-trust-in-science-is-rising

57 comments:

Don Gisselbeck said...

A proposal, every high school student should take a scientific literature unit. Students would be given a half dozen full papers from Science or Nature covering a broad selection of knowledge. They would then read the abstracts with explanations and scan the rest paying attention to graphs, tables and sources. Then they would take a day trip to the local university library and browse the scientific literature stacks, taking down random volumes and thumbing through them. This could go a long way towards giving more respect to expertise.

TCB said...

"The inability of any Democrat leader… even alphas like AOC … to grasp the obvious is beyond all reckoning."

Ever get the impression most of these folks spent spent years getting really good at tennis, and then found out they were expected to play football?

Alfred Differ said...

Don Gisselbeck,

I think it would take more than that. Spending a day thumbing through journals picking up details from graphs and tables and such would give some people the impression that we were teaching them how to approach New Scripture.

You have to build the social graphs implied by references. Forward and backward. Figure out who is getting cited without authors really understanding how the cite relates to the paper. Spot academic factions and identify journals by where their editorial staff is on the landscape.

Paraphrasing the papers is equally important... especially around sections that address other papers negatively. Paraphrasing the paraphraser in other words.

With all that, they have a chance of appreciating expertise.
Without it, they risk blind trust or distrust.

reason said...

Atrios keeps having as a byline the ironical "the best people". Www.eschatonblog.com .

Deuxglass said...

"The inability of any Democrat leader… even alphas like AOC … to grasp the obvious is beyond all reckoning."

It's because the Democrat leaders are all betas. The alpha are the big donors and they do not want change which is why we get the betas saying they will "fight for" and never manage to get around to actually winning. The really important things keep getting buried. An example would be stock buybacks. Before 1982 they were forbidden because they were seen as being stock manipulation. In 1982 the SEC under pressure of Reagan passed rule 10b-18 which made it legal. All it was was a rule change. All we need to do is change the rule back to what it was before. No need to change the Constitution or consult the Supreme Court. Just have the SEC change the rule but will it ever happen? Never as long as the big donors call the shots.

Another one is the Citizens United ruling in 2010 which allows corporations, who by the way are controlled by big donors, to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns. Obama, Clinton and just about every Democrat and many Republicans in government denounced it vigorously. Do we hear about it during this election? Not at all. The Democrat leaders are the bitches. The donor class are the alphas.

Larry Hart said...

From that blog posted above by reason :


By more than 2 to 1, voters feel the way to end the protests is to make police reforms and address discrimination, not to use law enforcement to punish protesters. Even @realDonaldTrump’s own backers aren't overly convinced the latter approach is better.


Maybe we Americans aren't as gullible as I was afraid we were.

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

The alpha are the big donors and they do not want change which is why we get the betas saying they will "fight for" and never manage to get around to actually winning. The really important things keep getting buried.


Coincidentally, in my fourth reading of Earth, I'm just getting to the point where our host, via a character's revelatory dialogue, reveals that very phenomenon. The bit about how moderates and problem-solvers were all bought off or threatened or killed so that paranoia and extremism and violence was insured seems depressingly prescient.

BTW, if it seems like I'm on the same book for a long time, I like to savor my novels. The first time I read The Postman, it took me the better part of a summer. OTOH, when I first met the woman I would later marry, she was going to be flying from Illinois to California, and I lent her my copy of that very book to read on the trip so that she'd be thinking of me. When I talked to her long distance (long before cell phones), I asked her how far along she was in the book, and she had finished it on the plane. Fortunately, this character flaw is something I can live with. :)

BTW again, my record holder is Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis, which took me more than a year to finish. True, I did interrupt it for some other books in the middle, Still...

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

The Democrat leaders are the bitches. The donor class are the alphas.


Any wonder that guillotine futures keep going up?

And when I finish re-reading Earth, my next novel is going to be A Tale of Two Cities. I figure it's my last chance to read it while it is still set in the past rather than torn from today's headlines.

Jon S. said...

All that "alpha" and "beta" crap is about as useful as the old Left-Right nonsense. It's based on an observation of wolves from different packs kept in captivity; as the original author later noted when he saw the use his work was being put to, you might as well try to draw conclusions about normal human society by observing San Quentin or Rikers.

Humans don't "knuckle under" for shit. We can sometimes pretend, but then we wind up breaking free and/or seeking revenge later.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass, I guess we'll find out whether the Democratic Party is as tightly controlled by its own oligarchs as you claim, or if their political caste may have been radicalized and incentivized enough to tell their backers "don't pull strings, these things must happen."

Money is one thing. - eliminating it from politics is impossible, but its influence can easily be halved. The thing that worries me is blackmail. But even blackmailed dems must be seen taking action, major action, next year. And those actions cannot but make things better for further reformers.

Jon S. your vehement stance against categorization is righteous and well-said... and wrong in the sense I was using the term, not from wolf packs but from Brave New World. Alphas are able to re-evaluate their assumtions and society's. That doesn't always mean they'll change it. But at least they can notice the clichés. If you are offended by the term, the how would YOU monicker such people?

David Brin said...

I approved one troll message that came through my excellent spam filters because it was pur Trumpist QAnon stuff. But I guess in went to an earlier thread. Raving, cherrypicked conspiracy jibbers. Clinton sold uranium to Russia! (She didn't block Russian investors from buying an interest in a Canadian company that owns to ore lodes that contain some uranium. After 25 years and half a billion dollars in 'investigations" that's what they have to yowl about!

scidata said...

Larry Hart: my next novel is going to be A Tale of Two Cities"

That book is a nexus of proto-Asimovian thought; many names pop up while researching it. The Dickens-Lovelace-Byron-Shelley trail is an entire world unto itself. Going back just a bit further, computational psychohistory really began with the 'Super-intelligence' theory of how Laplace avoided the guillotine. And things get very Scottish, which always draws me in.

Compare:

"What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books." - Thomas Carlyle

"Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is." - Isaac Asimov

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Yes, that troll comment went to the previous thread. I didn't make it past "The Russian collusion has been proven false..." before deciding life's too short.

Meanwhile, while I've actually got the page in front of me, here's the passage from Earth that I've been calling depressingly prescient. Page 587 in my paperback edition:

"...but Pedro, you remember how things were during the weeks before the Brazzaville Declaration, don't you? Back when delegates started flying in spontaneously from all over the world to declare the antisecrecy alliance? How many people died in mysterious accidents before the delegates overcame all obstacles and ideological distractions and at last built a momentum that was unstoppable? Then how many world leaders had to be deposed before the masses had their way and theAlps were finally put under seige?"

"Half the presidents and ministers had secret bank accounts to protect," Pedro replied, "So naturally they tried to obstruct. But in the end, they failed--"

"They didn't fail. They were used. Used up in delaying actions.
...
Why do you think the was lasted so damn long, hmmm? The Swiss people didn't want to take on the whole damn planet!
...
The real manipulators wanted Helvetia completely destroyed. The war had to cost so many lives, so an exhausted world would exult in its victory and desperately want to believe it was over."

Larry Hart said...

Given that the troll claims to have purchased Sundiver and then deleted it after reading the foreward, you should maybe thank him for the donation. :)

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

I am afraid not. If the donor class had been sufficiently radicalized then we would have seen at least someone like Warren as the candidate but what we got was Biden who is an empty vessel into which the donor class can pour whatever they want into. The donor class is not worried because they have both sides covered now. Trump of Biden, it doesn't matter because either one will do.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, just one more line from Earth, because this is the one I was really thinking of...


"The smart ones [oligarchs] saw Brazzaville coming and prepared. They saw to it that all the reasonable Helvetian and Cayman ministers were assassinated or drugged and that every attempt at compromise, even surrender, was rejected."


Place names aside, this is happening today before our eyes.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass I have no illusions about Biden. He is a Delaware Senatr so I don't expect him to take any soet of lead on one vital issue - the sheltering of corporate identities - that I care about, deeply. I do expect some dems to demand some incremental steps in that direction and he will have to concede.

Beyond that, YOU are the utterly deluded one, making broad accusations without offering a scitilla of actual fact to back them up. And without those facts, all you have is yammered incantation spells. Biden knows that his political survival depends on crushing the present day GOP and that can only happen if cheats like gerrymandering, lost registrations, no-audit voting machines and no-rebuttal lie-channels are fixed and money at least half removed from politics. And if those things happen...and competent managers are appointed to replace lunatics and traitors... and NOTHING ELSE, then YOU will be better placed to push the AOC-Bernie thing.

As it happens, that is NOT all that will happen. But even that much leaves you better plavced for your wants. And hence, what you said is simply an all-out lie.

Tell you what. Show us how any one of these five challenges are wrong:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/08/five-devastating-rebuttals-to-use-with.html

Lorraine said...

I always liked Huxley's alpha-beta-etc system. It's a perfect mix of imprinting, conditioning and brainwashing, and even a dash of fetal alcohol syndrome. It's the only thing I've ever heard of (even among other sfnal things) that I think would be capable of solving the problem where a college education is a generally necessary but definitely not sufficient condition for having a career. The Brave New World program literally eliminates envy, replacing it with pity, including pity for people in higher-status categories. Our idiot-plot popular culture, of course, also programs us with messages of "you wouldn't want to be upper class, nothing there but backstabbing and intrigue" in all kinds of pop culture, but I suppose particularly soap operas. Or even more so, the stock "missing white female" story that pops up in the local news at random times and in random places (perhaps Poisson distributed?) and there's this content pipeline that conveniently aggregates all news stories that fit the pattern of violent crimes affecting the upper and middle classes, gives them the "true crime" treatment for distribution via Dataline, 20/20/20, etc.

David Brin said...

I liked Warren and she'll be a shaker in the Senat. But this is drivel: " If the donor class had been sufficiently radicalized then we would have seen at least someone like Warren as the candidate..."

Just because one clade of the rich knows it's time to reform and re-establish some Rooseveltism for their own sakes, that doesn't mean they won't want at the top someone who will listen and weigh their concerns. So? The very desperation with which the inheritance brat and carbon lodr and Casino wing of aristocracy desperately CHEAT shows they fear above all reforms that end cheating! And those are the reforms that are absolutely guaranteed to happen under Biden-Harris-Warren.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Regarding the war on the "brains" caste, I'm in one of the clades: a civil servant (a librarian, actually). Some decades ago, the civil servants in our state unionized, which I didn't mind, but the last several years have seen the union giving away many of our hard-earned gains. We lost the right to strike, the automatic biennial longevity raises (in other places, this is COLA), and several other benefits were quietly removed. Membership got no response to speak of when we wanted to know what we had gained when we gave up those benefits; even the woman who is our local union rep was unable to dig out an answer from the higher-ups (and she was not happy!) When asked if we could find out what was on the table during negotiations and why the decisions were made, we were told that it had to remain secret because of ongoing negotiations, which is rubbish. Several of us wanted to know if we could jump ship to the teacher's union, which is much more effective at protecting their members, but were told they don't want us! Unions are getting quietly co-opted in the ongoing work to neuter working class intelligentsia.

Deuxglass said...

Larry Hart,

Reading about the French Revolution is a good primer. For the USA, once the professional upper middle class realizes that instead of working for the 1% they can actually divvy up the 1%'s assets among themselves with a little help from the lower classes. They could easily supersede them and take over the power, wealth and assets formally belonging to the 1%. Most would jump into their planes and leave but their wealth is 99% in assets they can't take with them. Their shares, bonds, real-estate even outside the country would be "confiscated" with the keystroke and the titles legally transferred. Like the French nobles they would be alive but much poorer and as before what they had left would be rapidly drawn down. The 1% should know this but they are incapable of changing their behaviour by themselves. The leopard can't change it's spots They "ask" to be taxed more yet they tell their professional flunkies to find ways to not pay taxes and pressure their beta elected officials to make legal moats around their monopolies. The French nobles were not dumb but they were perched on a house of cards where the interlocking pieces held together only if no part of it were touched. There was no resiliency, no flexibility. They saw themselves as being France and that without them France would be nothing. When they fell France survived very nicely and dominated Europe. Too bad they invaded Russia but hey, nobody's perfect.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Above I gave you two facts; Section 10b-18 of the SEC and Citizen's United. You ignored them because you have no answer. I would like to have a yammer from you on these two things. I would say they are key. You seem to have an overwhelming confidence in the Democrat leadership. You forgive them everything. Good thing they have people like you. Otherwise they would have to change.

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

The donor class is not worried because they have both sides covered now. Trump of Biden, it doesn't matter because either one will do.


I won't presume to read your mind, but I earnestly hope you don't conclude from that that "it doesn't matter" to us.

I'll consider the end of the blatant Trumpist assault on Constitutional government itself to be a win for now, and worry about "owning the donor class" in the future. First, we have to neuter the Brownshirts and the Republican officeholders who cower at their mention. If doing so involves compromise with rich people, I can live with that.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

Humans don't "knuckle under" for shit.

Sure they do. Many.
Can't get them all, though.
Some won't and that's a source of variation among us.

That's also the source of new feudalists after old ones inbreed their lines into biological ineptness. Specialists vs Generalists. Meta-stable.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass you are teetering into troll territory. I did not answer Section 10b-18 because I totally agree with you that it and Citizens United were treasonous travesties. But you are only interested in their value as attack catechisms and hence yowl at me that I agree with them, when I have denounced them for many years.

You have shown not the slightest sign of grappling with my Five Challenges, and insist on a false equivalence incantation that damages our coalition. I suppose you fear the possibility that you might be proved wrong.

Again:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/08/five-devastating-rebuttals-to-use-with.html

Don't skim, if you have an ounce of honesty. Actually read it.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Maybe we Americans aren't as gullible as I was afraid we were.

I wouldn't use 'gullible' for us. I'm more inclined to use the term 'tuned out' in the sense of situational awareness.

Imagine yourself reading a book that pulls you into the incantation for a few hours. During that time, the world could be burning down around you and you might not notice. That is 'tuned out'.

We each imagine the world around us relative to our perceptual model. Most of the time we remain entranced. We 'sense' what we believe to be there, but it's really just biased confirmation of bits of our perception model.

Occasionally the model fails and we are stuck. Moving forward requires us to set aside the entrancement briefly to observe something approximating objective reality. Not quite objective, but closer.

That's where we are.
Many annoyed Americans having to look more closely at reality.
We'd rather not.

Larry Hart said...

Deuxglass:

Reading about the French Revolution is a good primer.


And Alfred here has warned me before that A Tale of Two Cities is propaganda rather than a historical account. However, I have a slightly different take, or at least speculation on that. I wonder if Dickens was writing an analogue to what Arthur Miller did with The Crucible. That play ostensibly took place during the 1692 Salem witch trials, but he was using the witch trials as an allegory to really write about the McCarthy-era red scares and blacklists, which were going on at the time. I wonder whether Dickens was using the tropes of the French Revolution to write commentary on more current events.

Likewise, I suspect that his depiction of the workhouses and such in Oliver Twist were meant as a 1984-style self-defeating prophecy. If he wasn't describing the way things actually were at the time, he was describing the way he thought they were headed absent a course change.

Larry Hart said...

TheMadLibrarian (appropriately named) :

Membership got no response to speak of when we wanted to know what we had gained when we gave up those benefits;


Forgive my naivety here, but doesn't membership have to vote yea or nay on an agreement? I mean, if you don't even know and can't find out what benefit you get from the terms of a negotiation, why not vote it down?

TCB said...

Did you hear the one about the dyslexic student who submitted a book report on A Sale of Two Titties by Darles Chickens?

Robert said...

Forgive my naivety here, but doesn't membership have to vote yea or nay on an agreement?

Exactly. You see the final agreement, but not all the horse-trading that went into it. And depending on the situation, the choice can be between "bad deal" and "no deal".

In Ontario the government passed a law that limited public servant pay increases to 1% — less than the rate of inflation. Of course, they did this after giving the police (and civil servants who work for the police) over 2%. This may be unconstitutional — wouldn't be the first law the Conservatives passed that has been overturned — but that requires a court verdict or two (or three) and takes years to resolve.

So we got less than I wanted in the last round of negotiations (actually lost ground) but if we pushed much harder we've have been hit with no increase. Our union took the unusual step of publishing all the details of the negotiations as they happened, because the government was lying to the media about what was happening at the negotiating table (and other bad-faith bargaining tactics). So this time it was really obvious that we had the choice of a bad deal or no deal — and no deal would result in a legislated contract that would be worse.

Larry Hart said...

TCB:

Did you hear the one about the dyslexic student ...


No. How does it go? :)

Larry Hart said...

Lorraine:

Our idiot-plot popular culture, of course, also programs us with messages of "you wouldn't want to be upper class, nothing there but backstabbing and intrigue" in all kinds of pop culture, but I suppose particularly soap operas.


A particularly recent, popular example is "Game of Thrones".

duncan cairncross said...

Very interesting article about Democrats and Unions

https://www.alternet.org/2020/09/the-conventional-wisdom-is-wrong-todays-democrats-are-more-united-in-support-of-organized-labor-than-the-new-deal-dems/

The thing I found most interesting is just how fast Americans unionised

"In just ten years, the number of union members in the nation would increase from just 3.5 million in 1935 to 14.3 million in 1945,"

And just how long the de-unionising process has been going on

The peak was about 1954 with about 35% and its been dropping steadily ever since

Today's Democrats are much much more "Union Friendly" than at any time in the past

TCB said...

Some new thinking about COVID: The bradykinin hypothesis.

It's above my head, but based on analysis using a supercomputer at Oak Ridge, researchers suspect that COVID messes up levels of a substance called bradykinin. Starting in the nose via the plentiful ACE2 receptors in cells there, COVID tricks cells elsewhere in the body (like the lungs) into upregulating their ACE2 receptors also.

Covid-19 is like a burglar who slips in your unlocked second-floor window and starts to ransack your house. Once inside, though, they don’t just take your stuff — they also throw open all your doors and windows so their accomplices can rush in and help pillage more efficiently

Then it massively increases levels of bradykinin:

As bradykinin builds up in the body, it dramatically increases vascular permeability. In short, it makes your blood vessels leaky. This aligns with recent clinical data, which increasingly views Covid-19 primarily as a vascular disease, rather than a respiratory one. But Covid-19 still has a massive effect on the lungs. As blood vessels start to leak due to a bradykinin storm, the researchers say, the lungs can fill with fluid.

Finally, in the lungs COVID increases production of hyaluronic acid, thickening the fluid in the lungs: “it’s like trying to breathe through Jell-O.”

All hypothetical, but they're looking at ways to counteract these effects.

Interestingly, Jacobson’s team also suggests vitamin D as a potentially useful Covid-19 drug. The vitamin is involved in the RAS system and could prove helpful by reducing levels of another compound, known as REN. Again, this could stop potentially deadly bradykinin storms from forming. The researchers note that vitamin D has already been shown to help those with Covid-19. The vitamin is readily available over the counter, and around 20% of the population is deficient. If indeed the vitamin proves effective at reducing the severity of bradykinin storms, it could be an easy, relatively safe way to reduce the severity of the virus.

Daniel Duffy said...

"Reading about the French Revolution is a good primer."

We will soon have French Revolution levels of inequality as measured by the GINI Coefficient (a measure of income inequality):

http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/politicalcalculations/2013/12/05/the-major-trends-in-us-income-inequality-since-1947-n1757626/page/full

In 1968, America’s GINI Coefficient was 35.

By 2015 it had grown to 49, a growth rate of 0.31 per year.

The GINI Coefficient in France in the late 18th century at the start of the French Revolution was 59.

http://www.piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/MorrissonSnyder2000.pdf

Only 10 points higher than it is now in America.

At our current rate of growing inequality we Americans should be storming the Bastille by the mid-2040s.

Alfred Differ said...

TCB,

Also from that article

Increased bradykinin levels could also account for other common Covid-19 symptoms. ACE inhibitors — a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure — have a similar effect on the RAS system as Covid-19, increasing bradykinin levels. In fact, Jacobson and his team note in their paper that “the virus… acts pharmacologically as an ACE inhibitor” — almost directly mirroring the actions of these drugs.

By acting like a natural ACE inhibitor, Covid-19 may be causing the same effects that hypertensive patients sometimes get when they take blood pressure–lowering drugs. ACE inhibitors are known to cause a dry cough and fatigue, two textbook symptoms of Covid-19. And they can potentially increase blood potassium levels, which has also been observed in Covid-19 patients. The similarities between ACE inhibitor side effects and Covid-19 symptoms strengthen the bradykinin hypothesis, the researchers say.


Well... that tempted me to go look up how my BP medication works. Turns out I use a calcium channel inhibitor.

However, I had to cringe at other descriptions in the article. I'm all too familiar with fluid/blood leaks in the lungs and kidneys. You don't need a lot of HLA to get that hydrogel-like experience in your lungs. Your own immune response (inflammation) will drive a lot of fluid generation and some congealing to make it easier to cough up. I wears you out, though. Suffocation by exhaustion is some scary shit.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

However, I had to cringe at other descriptions in the article. I'm all too familiar with fluid/blood leaks in the lungs and kidneys. You don't need a lot of HLA to get that hydrogel-like experience in your lungs.


That was my reaction when I heard some details of the 1919 pandemic. People whose lungs had been essentially shredded. What a horrible way to go. And now, it seems we're in danger of that again.

TCB said...

As I recall, the storming of the Bastille started like any other riot. The government sent out the troops, as it had done many times before. But this time, the soldiers set up their cannons and pointed them, not at the rioters, but at the Bastille.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

And now, it seems we're in danger of that again.

Yes. Some. If we use our hard-won knowledge, though, we can mitigate a lot of risk. My personal fear on this topic is WONDERFULLY motivating.

________

There are lots of ways to make hash of your lungs, but nothing quite beats the self-inflicted method we call 'smoking'. Suck in a potent insecticide AND acquire a permanent physiological adjustment so you need more of it AND fill your lungs with a sticky tar. Ugh. How dumb do I gotta be?

My brother did this. His kids all think he was a wonderful dad, but on this they agree he was really stupid. Now he's gone and I have no humor for self-inflicted idiocy.

Stay safe my friend. 8)

TCB said...

A couple of bits of good news on the election front:

Kanye, as of now is only on the ballot in 12 states, and only one or two of those are swing states.

Meanwhile, in the swing state of North Carolina (where I have already filled out my ballot and will drop it at the elections office today), North Carolina Court Wipes Out Voting Restrictions Designed to “Secure White Supremacy”

On Friday, a North Carolina court dramatically expanded the number of voters eligible to participate in the 2020 election. The state may not disenfranchise citizens who owe fines, fees, and other debts from a felony conviction, the Wake County Superior Court ruled on Friday. And while the court limited its order to those affected by wealth-based voter suppression, its reasoning portends a broader ruling in the near future that could restore voting rights to 70,000 more North Carolinians on probation or parole.

That could give Biden the state right there.

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred,

In seventh grade, I picked up a still-smoldering cigarette off of the ground and tried a puff. Yuck! Haven't smoked a day in my life since then. I've kissed a smoker or two in my lifetime, and that reinforces the fact that I made the right decision. I wouldn't want to inflict that on someone I love.

As Sideshow Bob on "The Simpsons" said to Marge's sister Selma, "While kissing you would be like kissing some divine ashtray..."

reason said...

TCB re Covid19 & Vitamin D - now that IS interesting.

1. Dark skins refuce vitamin D especially in Northern latitudes and in the winter half year. That coukd explain both highet AS death rates and the fall in death rated in the summer.

scidata said...

Either this 'Seldon Crisis' is successfully navigated, or the 'Foundation' temporarily falls. In either case, I'm very glad of my devotion to citizen science. Widespread scientific literacy is the only way through the 'Great Filter', if there is one.

Pappenheimer said...

It's possible that this whole "multicellular life form" gig was a bad idea. It's certainly made us more vulnerable to extinction.

Larry Hart said...

They can count me personally among the recipients described below:

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Sep09.html#item-6

...
Similarly, the campaign's approach to direct-to-voter advertising (e.g., mailers) has been buckshot-like, rather than laser-focused. Countless people (including some of our readers) have reported receiving very expensive Trump mailers (with things like "VIP" gold MAGA cards), despite being lifelong Democrats who have never voted for a Republican. If you drop a buck per voter taking moonshots like that, you're going to burn through a mountain of cash very fast with considerably less than a molehill's benefit.

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/09/opinion/trump-portland-kenosha.html

This is encouraging:

The Hill put it this way:

The Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll finds that 58 percent of voters say Biden would do a better job of curbing violence in cities and 57 percent say he’d do better addressing civil unrest. Fifty-nine percent say Biden is better equipped to solve the nation’s issues on race and policing. By a margin of 54-46, Biden leads Trump on establishing law and order. Biden is viewed as the candidate best equipped to bring the country together by a 61-39 margin.


This shouldn't be in question, but unfortunately is:

The biggest imponderable of all is whether Trump will attempt to subvert the election directly, whether he will accept results he does not like, what unfathomable lengths he might go to — and whether the Republican Party, the Senate and the Supreme Court will stand firm in support of democracy or abet Trump in his reach for unconstrained power.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

When I read that you accused me of turning troll I immediately wondered how you found out that I am eight feet tall, grossly overweight, hairy, smell bad and covered with green skin. After thought and a quick wiki read I realised that you were referring not to what I am having been born a this way, which would be out of your character, but to what I had said. Unfortunately the definition of troll is rather vague so I ask you what was it that I said and also would you please set up some rules to give some guidance for the future. As your Blog is named Contrary Brin, I would assume that you do not mind contrary opinions as long as they are coached in in acceptable way. What I ask is what are the rules to follow to be accepted by you, the creator, manager and owner of this blog?

Signed,

Orgghad the Bone Crusher (aka Deuxglass)

Darrell E said...

My father used the old "Here you go (holds out lit cigar), have a puff!" treatment on me when I was 7 or 8 years old. I wouldn't vouch for this method but it did work on me. I still remember the instant, violent, seemingly near death experience, and once recovered thinking that my father was a dick. Never in my life so far have I had the slightest interest in smoking. Not that it did much good. Instead of smoking I chewed tobacco from about age 13 to about age 41.

A.F. Rey said...

Speaking of Brave New World, has anyone else seen the new limited series on Peacock? It's rather slow, has been "updated" with an AI computer and such, and has more sex and nudity than an HBO series. But it is beautifully produced, thoughtful, and doesn't jam it's message down your throat. Grant Morrison was involved, for you comic books nerds out there. It also has some nice touches, like the Savages being portrayed as American rednecks (the Savage Lands are located in the American midwest, no less!), and the Soma being kept in these little click dispensers that everyone carries around. The biggest running gag is that, whenever there is an emotional scene in New London, you immediate hear click, click, click, click as everyone start popping Soma to calm themselves. :) We also recognized a GoT alumnus, one that didn't make it through the first season.

Can't whole heartedly recommend it, but it did keep our interest through all six episodes.

Larry Hart said...

It's about time that someone--on the right even--notices that the right-wing has their own version of "cancel culture".

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/clarence-page/ct-column-donald-trump-atlantic-military-cancel-culture-page-20200908-6vumyzp52bba3anlx5nlz6ucxy-story.html

...
Trump called on Fox News to fire her [FOX reporter Jennifer Griffen] , but her colleagues who covered the White House defended her credentials and reporting.

They included Fox anchor Bret Baier, who pointed out a particular irony: Trump’s pressure to fire a journalist comes on the heels of his recent speeches denouncing “evil people” on the left whose “cancel culture” is “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.”
...


I suppose the difference is that when someone ticks off the right wing, no one should have to call for them to be boycotted or fired--people should just cancel them without being told.

Their dig against liberals is that we don't tolerate dissent. Really? Like they do? No, what makes us evil is not that liberals don't tolerate dissent. It's that liberals don't tolerate dissent. We're guilty of trademark infringement.

Robert said...

Just wondering what people think of the prepress paper about the Sturgis superspreader event:

http://ftp.iza.org/dp13670.pdf

More than a quarter of a million new infections? Over $12 BILLION public health care costs?

Larry Hart said...

Worth reading the entire thing, a good description of just why "Hating the people they hate" is such a powerful motivator:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/08/opinion/biden-trump-humiliation.html

...
Humiliation, in my view, is the most underestimated force in politics and international relations. The poverty of dignity explains so much more behavior than the poverty of money.

People will absorb hardship, hunger and pain. They will be grateful for jobs, cars and benefits. But if you make people feel humiliated, they will respond with a ferocity unlike any other emotion, or just refuse to lift a finger for you. As Nelson Mandela once observed, “There is nobody more dangerous than one who has been humiliated.”
...
Unless Biden finds a way to speak to the sense of humiliation felt by many working-class voters, Sandel warns, even Trump’s failure to deal with the pandemic may not be enough to turn these voters against him. The reason? “Resentment borne of humiliation is the most potent political sentiment of all,” Sandel explains.
...


And a hopeful prescription at the end:

Trump’s goal in this campaign is to separate Biden from Biden voters by making it as difficult as possible for Biden voters to vote. Biden’s goal should be to separate Trump from Trump voters by showing that he respects them and their fears — even if he does not respect Trump.

Darrell E said...

A pretty good article by Nick Cohen at The Guardian.

All extremists threaten us… but it's the radical right we should fear now

His main point has been made here on this site many times, I've made it myself in various places many times over the past year, but it is nice to see it well stated in a major publication. Some excerpts . . .

"But in this terrible year, it is worth saying that moral equivalence is not the same as practical equivalence. As the world stands, the fight against the radical right is a fight for the preservation of liberal democracy."

Check. The situation is bordering on or is already at "existential threat." Safeguards have been decimated and of the few remaining some are hard pressed already (decent professional civil servants) while some are "last resort" because they have serious risks "if it comes to that"(for example military refusing orders).

"Both fights are essential but the difference in scale is so enormous it barely makes sense to put them in the same category."

Check. Both-siders are being tools. There is a huge disparity in scales. Differences in scale matter. In the real world it's all there is.

"Trump has the power to threaten the American constitution. He has stuffed his administration with cronies and relatives, and damned thousands of Americans to needless deaths from Covid-19. He is hoping to retain power by encouraging far-right terrorism and ballot rigging. Given the anarchic glee that Trump and the Republicans display when they block defensive measures against global warming, his defeat is a necessity not just for the United States but for humanity."

Check. The bad shit is coming right from the top of the Right, the highest authority. And it's really bad shit.

"However vicious it may be, the far left has not overrun the western centre-left as the radical right has overrun mainstream conservatism. Labour MPs were willing to give up their careers to fight against antisemitism and the toleration of totalitarian ideas and regimes. Compare that with the US, where only Mitt Romney and a handful of Republican politicians have risked losing office by fighting to stop their party becoming Trump’s personality cult."

Check. The far right has had, and has been, in control of the RP machine at all levels, State and Federal, since the Tea Party at a minimum while the far left has never and does not now, even remotely, have control of the DP at any level. And the entire RP machine is on the hook for the disaster that is the Trump administration. They have protected it and enabled it from day 1.

"Conservatives have written with accuracy about how cancel culture and political correctness have moved disgusted voters rightwards. They always forget to mention that the converse also applies. Trump has destroyed America as an example for the world to follow and authorised every reaction against it. Extremism begets extremism. When you have an unapologetic racist as American president, all opposition is legitimate and the most zealous opposition can feel the most legitimate of all."

Check. Though I don't necessarily agree with "all opposition is legitimate." But perhaps Cohen means to say merely that such a view is an inevitable response given the provocation, rather than a strict literal meaning of the phrase.

Darrell E said...

Just watched the official Dune trailer. It looks promising. I already like it better than Lynch's abomination, but that isn't a difficult hurdle to clear.

Not sure that Pink Floyd's Eclipse is a good match for the theme or vibe of the story though. A bit incongruous using a dreamy stoner song from one of the most iconic stoner albums in Rock history for the soundtrack for a novel like Dune. Though I guess that mind altering Water of Life fueled orgies and Kwizat Haderach timescape-trips is sort of congruous.

David Brin said...

Great discussion. Sorry I was so late clicking "approve all" especially since my spam filter has so gloriously improved.

Deuxglass, although you were snippy in that comment of yours a while back, I overstated with "bordering on trollery." And I apologize for that.

But do not expect any patience here with false equivalence. If you try that stuff, be ready with factual comparisons. And at minimum know the facts that I present here:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/08/five-devastating-rebuttals-to-use-with.html

If you can refute them, fine - even though they are nearly all public record. If you want to claim "all that is irrelevant" then be prepared to make a real case.

Do NOT expect to come here and rant splitter "DNC plotters" slogans concocted in Kremlin basements with impunity. It's garbage aimed at weakening any chance we have of saving the Revolution.

I'll be posting "onward" soon.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

Either this 'Seldon Crisis' is successfully navigated, or the 'Foundation' temporarily falls


I feel like we've been conquered by The Mule. Hopefully, we recover as well as Asimov's Foundation did.

David Brin said...

onward

onward