Saturday, July 17, 2021

Let's bring PREDICTION into politics, as it works in science!

 How well can we predict our near future? It's a perennial theme here, since my many jobs almost all involve thinking about tomorrow (Don't stop! It'll soon be here.) 

In fact, my top tactical recommendation from Polemical Judo is to make politics more about who's been right more often. Whether it's about using wagers (it works!) to get yammerers to back off, or simply comparing real world outcomes from each party's policies, or the vastly more important recommendation that we track predictive success in general... there's really nothing more useful and important that we aren't already doing.

== Prediction redux ==


This article well-summarizes the findings of Wharton Professor Philip Tetlock (author of Superforecasting: The Art & Science of Prediction), whose research between 1984 and 2004 showed that the average quality of predictions – explicit and honest and checkable ones – made by experts was little better than chance:


Open any newspaper, watch any TV news show, and you find experts who forecast what’s coming. Some are cautious. More are bold and confident. A handful claim to be visionaries able to see decades into the future. With few exceptions, they are not in front of the camera because they possess any proven skill at forecasting. Accuracy is seldom even mentioned… The one undeniable talent they have is their skill at telling a compelling story with conviction, and that is enough. Many have become wealthy peddling forecasting of untested value to corporate executives, government officials and ordinary people who would never think of swallowing medicine of unknown efficacy and safety but who routinely pay for forecasts that are as dubious as elixirs sold from the back of a wagon.”


Though looking closer, Tetlock found that there were actually two statistically distinguishable groups of experts: the first failed to do better than the chimp (and often worse) but the second beat the chimp (though not by a wide margin.)


Following up – (and I’ve written about this before, including a damn good short story!) – "Tetlock’s Good Judgement Project, which commenced in 2011 in association with IARPA  (part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in the U.S.), found that (somewhat above-average) ordinary people, without access to highly classified intelligence information (but given access to broad-unclassified information), could make better forecasts about geopolitical events than professional analysts supported by a multi-billion dollar apparatus." (The parentheticals I added, because they matter!)


“It turned out that the top forecasters in the Good Judgement Project were 30% better than intelligence officers with access to actual classified information, and 60% better than the average.


I’ve been on this topic for decades because I think there’s no more important project imaginable than a broad spectrum effort to find out who is right a lot!  Elsewhere I called for predictions registries which – voluntarily or involuntarily – would track forecasts and outcomes. At minimum, it would be a way of giving credibility to those who have earned it!  Moreover, it would let us study whatever methodology (even unconscious) was leading to the better results.


== And the best prediction tests are wagers! ==


Here’s a fascinating tale – about a wager between Kevin Kelly – founder of WIRED Magazine – and Kirkpatrick Sale – author of numerous tomes (Rebels Against the Future) denouncing technology, modernity and calling for a mass world population culling, leading to a simplified life of hand farming villages. 

To be clear, I am partisan – Kevin is a friend and his ethos is very close to mine. 6000 years of history and even more millennia of archaeological findings show how utterly miserable life was for denizens of those “pastoral’ societies, yes even the horrifically brutal owner-lords who crushed freedom in 99% of human societies; even they suffered from parasites and soul-crushing ignorance and the surprise death of almost every child. That experiment has been tried, and absolutely always failed to deliver the happiness that Sale romantically claims they did. 


In the mid-2000s, Sale cofounded the Middlebury Institute to promote the idea of secession. If states peeled off from the union, the theory went, Sale’s decentralized vision might get a little closer to reality. He was disappointed that the movement did not gain steam when George W. Bush was reelected. His romance with decentralization even led him to a blinkered view of the Confederacy, which he lauded for its commitment to concentrating power locally.”

But I digress. The crux is that Sale accepted a bet from Kelly, over whether by 2020 the world would be a hellscape. “
Sale extemporaneously cited three factors: an economic disaster that would render the dollar worthless, causing a depression worse than the one in 1930; a rebellion of the poor against the monied; and a significant number of environmental catastrophes.”


 So how does today’s world of 2021 compare? Yes, these are dangerous times and the questions of class struggle and saving the planet are still... very serious questions. Their shared editor adjudicated at the end of 2020, and twisted himself into a knot to give Sale the benefit of the doubt... yet still he ruled in Kelly’s favor, because, um... aren’t you reading this in comfort and real hope for better times?


While the topics and facts about the 25 year bet are interesting, it is the meta that interests me! For the wager itself is a process for cornering the dogmatic! One I have been pushing for a decade as the only way it’s ever possible to pin dogmatists against a wall of actual facts.


Oh, you won’t make a cent. Kirkpatrick Sale has refused to accept that he lost, despite adjudication by the agreed-upon judge, who bent over backwards to concede some points to Sale. Only a cad would do that, but you’ll get the same result when you corner a MAGA fanatic with a wager demand. As any of our ancestors would testify, across 6000 years, anti-modernist, science hating, pastoralist-feudalist-nostalgist-romantics are also rationalizing liars. They won't pay any wager or ever recite the holy catechism of science: "I might be wrong."


But that’s not the point.  For unlike Sale, your average MAGA lives for Macho. And refusing to either bet like a man or pay up leaves him exposed as a pants-wetting, wriggly-squirming weenie. And that savaging of his manly cred matters! It shatters their circle jerks – their nuremberg rallies of magical lie-incantations. 


And their wives (who can still vote) notice.


It doesn’t always work perfectly. But it is the only thing that does work.


== Trickle Down? It’s not just a phrase ==


Okay, the right is yowling over the proposed price tags for Biden/Democratic interventions, Yes, on paper $6 trillion is more than the estimated $4 trillion that Republicans have spent on their versions of stimulus... Supply Side gifts to the aristocracy.  I admit that the total is bigger.


However:


1. Biden will not get it all.


2. Biden is a sincere Keynesian - unlike the maniacs to his far left who subscribe to MMT "Modern Monetary Theory," which is almost as insane as Supply Side! 


 A sincere Keynesian spends freely during harsh times to do needful things to grow the middle class... then uses boom times to pay down debt or at least keep deficits below GDP growth.  That wing of the Democratic party has credibility at keeping that promise!  Clinton, Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom... all used good times to pay down debt. Again let's bet over whether republicans have ever been more fiscally responsible. Ever.


If Republicans were sincere, they would now say "all right, our method failed, so it's your turn to try yours. But we demand assurances that the pay-down part of the cycle is part of the plan." And sprprise. If they demanded that, they'd get it, But that's not what they are after.


3. The most important factor though is effectiveness of investment.  BOTH parties seek to pour trillions into stimulus - with this difference. Supply Side (SS) stimulus of trillions added to the coffers of the rich does not work even slightly!  Adam Smith said it wouldn't, and once again the Scottish Sage of 1776 proved right. 


Very few of the open-mawed recipients of SS largesse ever invested in R&D, new products or productive capacity. Most poured it (as Smith said) into rentier properties, capital preservation and asset bubbles. And bizarre plutocratic, gilded-excesses like NFTs. Key point: Money velocity plummets to near zero!


That last one is the ultimate refutation. Perhaps some Republicans sincerely believed in Supply Side, in the beginning. But after FOUR perfect failures, it is now nothing but a mad cult, doubling down on magical chants and incantations.


In contrast we know that a trillion in infrastructure spending will at-minimum rebuild bridges and pump up Money Velocity (MV). It will very likely reduce poverty and help poor kids to become Smithian competitors. History shows that it will stimulate small business startups. It will pump R&D and domestic-sourced production. And it cannot hurt to spend some of it to reduce pollution.


(In fact, McConnell has openly said he opposes all this because it might actually work.)


Okay yes, I admit this. One Keynesian excess -- "guns & butter" during Vietnam -- resulted in overheated MV and hyper inflation. That is a danger!  One that few economists fear right now (see below).  But that was an exception. MOST Keynesian interventions did result in booms and increased tax revenues off higher economic activity and resulting deficit reduction.


This is about the difference between one system that is largely proved, that has some dangers but is based upon factual historical experience... versus another that has utterly failed FOUR TIMES, that is scientifically utterly disproved, and that is now nothing more than a cult of chanted incantations. 


This isn't about 'left' vs. 'right.' It is about sane vs. insane.


Both sides want to 'invest' budget-busting trillions of stimulus. With the difference that one method stimulates and eventually pays for itself while the other is voodoo.


 I think it's time to go back to the wisdom of the Greatest Generation, who built the American Pax and infrastructure and universities and the biggest thriving middle class and the beginnings of social justice and the best time in the history of our species.


And finally.... 


Show me anyone who predicted this - and explicitly - earlier than in  my novel Earth and my nonfiction The Transparent Society. See this study: “Body-Worn Camera Research Shows Drop In Police Use Of Force.”  


No seriously. That's not a brag, but genuine curiosity. I can think of one example, though it's kinda extreme.


104 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

My experience has taught me there is also a group that does worse than the chimp when making predictions. Their foundation knowledge is simply wrong and they fail to notice most of the time.

As for the folks who do better, my experience says they refrain from making some predictions. Trimming some outside their field helps a lot with their stats. That’s the approach I try when investing.

Unknown said...

Excellent post. As usual, you help me keep my sanity in, well, not-so-sane times. As for prophecy--well, did anyone do better than SF's own Robert A Heinlein? I'm hardly the first to point out how uncannily his "Future History", written from 1939-41, forecast the history of the past 80 years. Nehemiah Scudder is knocking on the door. We went to the Moon, and had a hiatus in space travel after. We had The Crazy years. But what happens now is up to us--the Scudders are *not* inevitable, and RAH himself would have been the first to agree with that. For all his eccentricities, he was SF's greatest figure, and I wish he were still with us...

David Brin said...

I still have my SCUDDER IN 2012 t shirt.
See my riff on Heinlein...
https://david-brin.medium.com/heinleins-future-history-coming-true-before-our-eyes-10356a95556a

Alfred Differ said...

Tony Fisk, (from last thread)

I often wondered what there was about Newton's Laws of gravitation I was missing that allowed this scramble for places.

The main thing people miss is that closed, elliptical orbits only happen for two-body problems. Real problems involve multiple bodies and non-compact masses. At best, elliptical orbits turn into 'kissing' ellipses that vary slowly over time. Chaos gets involved quickly when one tries to figure out whether perturbations accumulate changes or average out.

In the case of Jovians moving inward, it is mostly about how they interact with their proto-planetary disk environment. There are ways to drag them down close to the parent star which would clear everything below them. With a couple of large Jovians, though, one might get halted by the resonance gaps the other creates. Simulating these scenarios is involved and messy, but quite possible with modern computing hardware.

Earth is pretty big for an inner system planet and would alter options for nearby neighbors. The resonance between us and Venus speaks to something going on.

Then there is relativity. For long duration simulations, it would be an error to stick to close to Newtonian physics. Even weak-field corrections for GR are enough to cause orbit precession. We can see it with Mercury.

Tony Fisk said...

Morning Alfred,

You are correct to point out the chaotic nature of gravitational dynamics when the number of bodies involved is greater than two. It doesn't come automatically to me, as it was glossed over when I did undergrad physics (due to the lack of computational power available, and because astrodynamics* wasn't a focus at Melbourne). I will admit it took me a while to get my head around the gravitational slingshot effect, until I realised there were *three* bodies involved.

But there is another important force to consider in the early formation of a planetary system: the electric and magnetic fields that are generated by all that dust. I recall one guy at Monash (whose name I can't recall offhand) was using them to model predictions about the outer planets as the Voyager craft were exploring them.

* as opposed to nuclear astrophysics.

Tony Fisk said...

... Anyway, my basic point is that I understand why folk have some sketchy ideas about how planets move around.

Robert said...

The main thing people miss is that closed, elliptical orbits only happen for two-body problems.

I believe you also need to assume point masses, although I'm not a physicist so could well be wrong about that. I do know that my Handbook of Astrodynamics devotes a lot of pages and more math than I remember to handling the orbital complications that result from Earth's gravitational anomalies.

Possibly Dr. Brin, as a bona fide physicists, could weigh in on this?

David Brin said...

Weigh in? Hm, well, you don't need a ppoint mass for a perfectly homogeneous sphere, since any force above the surface feels the same gravity as if it were a point mass.

Of course Earth is oblate and we actually use that oblateness to do sun synchronous orbits, that get twisted by just 1/365 of a circle each day. So that it's always orbiting over the same amount of daylight and same sun angle. That nifty trick depends on Earth not being spherical.

Likewise, that's the love handle the moon grabs while transfering momentum vis tides.

TCB said...

Alfred Differ starts the convo by saying: My experience has taught me there is also a group that does worse than the chimp when making predictions. Their foundation knowledge is simply wrong and they fail to notice most of the time.

I noticed, in the early years of the present Century, that the journalists who correctly predicted that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would be mires and catastrophes, and that other Bush policies would also give bad results, tended to lose their jobs. Those who made bad predictions (which were pleasing and useful to the aristocracy) tended to keep their jobs, indeed tended to prosper.

duncan cairncross said...

Trickle Down - Supply Side
Is intended to increase the supply of CAPITAL - which for most of our history would have been a good idea

Until the "invention" of the Stock Market

Since then and especially in the last 40 years there has been more than enough "Capital" - in fact capital has been chasing too few opportunities (which is why some companies have piles of capital)

So "Supply Side" was like giving the man who lives in a desert some more sand

No wonder it did NOT lead to an increase in economic activity

Tony Fisk said...

Dipping into gravity again, Newton showed that n bodies orbiting a centre of mass could be treated as a point source located at the centre of mass. This is of some use in calculating the orbit of the n+1 body/satellite that orbits outside all those other masses, as in the non-point source Earth. However, such a satellite does *not* experience a simple elliptical orbit. Took me a little while to figure out why. Basically, those 'n' bodies that comprise Earth are not in orbit, but are held in a rigid, rotating geometry called a rocky planet.

I wonder what an economic theory would look like where wealth was considered as a gravitational force.
Also one that factored in sado-masochism.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Since then and especially in the last 40 years there has been more than enough "Capital" - in fact capital has been chasing too few opportunities (which is why some companies have piles of capital)

So "Supply Side" was like giving the man who lives in a desert some more sand


That's a different way of saying what I've been arguing for years. Which is that "trickle down" is exactly the wrong metaphor for what capital does in the system. Money doesn't disperse from high concentration to low concentration--it's more like gravitational attraction where high concentration pulls more of the stuff in. So if money is "trickling down", then the wealthy are "down" in that system--they're the planetary source of gravitational attraction.

Giving more cash to the wealthy is not a means of having it trickle down to the poor. It's a means of bypassing the trickling down and just putting it where it would otherwise end up anyway after doing useful work. If the system is metaphorically a hydroelectric dam, then the Supply Side argument amounts to "If we route the water around the turbines and send it directly to the bottom of the dam, it will get there faster. Yay!"

Jonathan Armstrong said...

Our forecast, which art in Limbo
. . .
In Politics, as it is in Science
. . .


About as plausible as the original, IMO

scidata said...

Just a quick thought on WJCC. After watching the Google talk from last August (for the third time*), one possible reason for the 'Big 5' obstinance became clear. They barrage Dr. Brin with endless suggestions of great languages (as does CB), some of which are Google's (of course). Herding cats. A potential way out is to strongly advise agreeing on a single, non-proprietary language. BASIC is a great choice (for all the Kemeny reasons I've laid out in CB and the QuiteBASIC one too). Of course, FORTH would be my choice for all the reasons I've laid out CB. There is one FORTH reason I haven't mentioned yet. FORTH would be a much easier sell to confederates and red states. The Green Bank, W Pennsylvania, outside-media corporations, outside-academia pedigree is nigh-on endless. It's not only syntonic, it's outright Bohemian. It's truly 'merican.


*Endlessly fascinating to me - collapse, prediction, Fermi, human augmentation, WJCC, TASAT, etc, etc.
(I even have a wee bit of experience teaching in McLean VA !)

David Brin said...

If I focused on just one of fifty passions, I might have accomplished something. Say with nagging the Big Five into doing something about the lack of clear, totally shared tutorial programming languages. Or my interface patents, or whatever. Alas, I am a diletente.

--
LH nice parallel with Marx's notions about how business cycles will result in capitalists re-forming feudalism.

Treebeard said...

On a slightly different topic, it’s fascinating, almost science-fictional, to me that one Fremen-like tribe has now defeated the three greatest empires of modern times—the British, Soviet and American—and driven them out of their homelands: the Pashtun. Yet they never seem to get any positive press, despite their repeated success. I think it’s time to recognize their way of “Pashtunwali” as the most robust, competitive, battle- and time-tested societal model on the planet, which has now defeated imperial Monarchism, Communism and Democratism in succession.

You say it’s barbaric, oppressive and regressive? If it’s so backward, why do they keep winning? If war is the father of all things and of all things king, then Pashtunwali is clearly the future, and the demoralized, defeated and retreating empires of fake democracy and progress belong in the dustbin of history with their monarchist and communist predecessors. I look forward to a future book by a Pashtun scholar—“The End of Empire and the Way of the Pashtun”—documenting the triumph of Pashtunwali and its inevitable global ascendance in the coming age.

For those who want to get out front of the arc of history, some of the pillars of Pashtunwali are:

* honor (upholding the autonomy and ways of the Pashtun)
* revenge (immediate justice, as opposed to rotting uselessly in prison)
* hospitality (providing sanctuary for anyone who asks)
* jirga (direct democracy councils)

In the 1980s, the USA was smart and backed the Pashtun against the imperialist invaders. But in the 1990s, history-ending hubris overcame them and they made the Pashtun their enemy—a blunder that would cost them thousands of lives, trillions of dollars, and a humiliating defeat of the kind that brings down empires.

Finally, I will note that it’s prophesied that the Great War at the real End of History (the literal end of time and the universe) will begin in Afghanistan, with men waving black banners and marching West. Maybe this is where we are in the timeline. You may not believe it, but many of them do.

In any event, and in light of the above facts, I say, in the spirit of Paul Muad’Dib: “long live the Pashtun!”

Robert said...

Which is that "trickle down" is exactly the wrong metaphor for what capital does in the system.

For decades I've assumed that the "trickle-down" theory of economics was the capitalists pissing on the rest of us.

Always liked this Will Rogers quote:

"The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickles down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellows hands."

Also, this is an amusing jab from Denmark:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXecLXlzEXE


And totally off topic (except Denmark), here is why you should wear a helmet while raiding:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0m-c4GixUpg

David Brin said...

Danish helmet thing. Har!

Larry Hart said...

TCB:

I noticed, in the early years of the present Century, that the journalists who correctly predicted that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars would be mires and catastrophes, and that other Bush policies would also give bad results, tended to lose their jobs. Those who made bad predictions (which were pleasing and useful to the aristocracy) tended to keep their jobs, indeed tended to prosper.


I am grateful and admiring of our host for not taking that path of least resistance. More than anyone else here, Dr Brin would be able to eke out a comfortable career writing stories and essays which flatter the powerful. That he and those like him choose not to go that way is a testament to character, and perhaps the only way the rest of us survive.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

I look forward to a future book by a Pashtun scholar—“The End of Empire and the Way of the Pashtun”—documenting the triumph of Pashtunwali and its inevitable global ascendance in the coming age.


Except that if they believed in scholarship, they would no longer be what you admire about them.


In the 1980s, the USA was smart and backed the Pashtun against the imperialist invaders. But in the 1990s, history-ending hubris overcame them and they made the Pashtun their enemy


Before 9/11? The way I remember it, we were more friendly than most nations toward the Taliban, and continually curdled our relationship with India by favoring Pakistan. And even after 9/11, George W Bush had to be dragged kicking and screaming into demanding relief from Pakistan. He'd have preferred to just attack Iraq and be done with it.

* * *

Robert:

Always liked this Will Rogers quote:

"The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickles down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellows hands."


Exactly my point. I remember canards to capitalism in the 80s and earlier to the effect that the top capitalists were so clever and so shrewd that if all of the money were to be redistributed equally, those same top capitalists would soon have all their money back. It was supposed to be an argument that the rich deserved their wealth, and that redistribution was futile--the poor would always be with us and the rich would always win. But it left out the part about the money doing useful work in circulation before it ends up in the same pockets it came out of.

The mistake of Supply Side is in assuming that the point of the hydroelectric dam is to get the water to the bottom rather than to spin the turbines.

The idea that there is no difference between a rich man spending money and ending up with the same money back in his pocket vs his never spending the money at all is flawed in the same way as the argument that, because we'll all be dead in a billion years, nothing matters.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

Also, this is an amusing jab from Denmark:


It's annoying to be cheering for other countries when they put us in our place, but I've been doing it more and more. The nadir was having to root for Kim Jung Un when he and Donald Trump traded insults.

Just yesterday, I said something about it being harder and harder to feel good about America, and my teenager admitted that she hasn't felt good about America for some time. She's studying biology, and it drives her nuts when someone says that the pandemic is over or that it's time to lift all COVID restrictions. And we live in Chicago, where she's not surrounded by stormTrumpers all day long the way my brother's family is in central Pennsylvania. His teenager expects a hot Civil War as inevitably as we boomers used to expect a nuclear exchange.

Paul451 said...

Quoted within the article:
"government officials and ordinary people who would never think of swallowing medicine of unknown efficacy and safety [...] elixirs sold from the back of a wagon."

{laughs} Spending on alt.health outweighs all prescription and over-the-counter regulated drug spending put together. And Congress actively excluded alt.health from oversight of the FDA.

Paul451 said...

Alfred Differ,
"My experience has taught me there is also a group that does worse than the chimp when making predictions. Their foundation knowledge is simply wrong and they fail to notice most of the time."

Applying what TCB said more broadly:

I don't believe the worse-than-chimp predictors are doing so because they are reaching outside their area of expertise. I believe that it's because the point of the prediction is not to make an accurate prediction, it's to sell a story to justify the thing they already want to do.

This applies both at the national/international policy level, the government consultant or the cable-news expert, as well as at the level of individuals.

Paul451 said...

Re: MMT being "crazy left".

MMT wasn't created by the left, but by dull economists. And it's fully consistent with Smith and Keynes, much moreso than our current monetary system.

Most of the left (including influential leaders) aren't aware of it. The radical left tend to be return-to-the-Earth, neo-pastoralists, like Kirkpatrick Sale, neo-communists, or single issue obsessives. None of them would see MMT as more than just tinkering around the edges.

The monetary system we (western nations) have is not just the fiscal-side where governments spend into debt or pay down debt. Because that alone isn't good enough, even when they do it right. The institutions on the monetary-side had to develop entirely separate systems to create and remove additional money in order to make up for the failure of fiscal policy to be able to provide the necessary "levers" to keep the economy stable (or at least limiting the instability.) But the restrictions on how the monetary-side (such as central banks) can operate make it vastly less useful than...

MMT merely strips away the fiction of "government debt". Governments and the monetary institutions create and remove money. By accepting that reality (that it's a thing that already exists, that happens now) we can design a more efficient monetary system, where money is created and removed primarily on the fiscal side.

In place of debt, you have a calculated requirement placed on the creation/removal of money each year based on economic activity, growth/inflation/etc. Within that limit, governments can also move money around society using its levers of taxation/spending. But the net effect of the tax/spending needs to stay within the limit.

Again, this is, in effect, what happens now. It's just hidden behind layers of fiction and clumsy workarounds.

It might be that governments need the fiction of "government debt" to maintain spending discipline. But MMT just replaces that with a different number that is much more direct. IMO, it forces a deeper discipline on the fiscal-side.

It may also be that just as the concept of "printing money" is seen by the political and investor class as an unalloyed evil, due to their primal fear of inflation; the concept of "destroying money" may trigger an even more deeply rooted fear. Emotionally, they may not be able to mentally process the way MMT works.

And of course. some of those that do understand it, may have realised that the inefficiencies of the current system of creating and removing money comes at their own benefit. For them, the failure of the system is the point.

Paul451 said...

Treebeard,
Afghanistan "has now defeated imperial Monarchism, Communism and Democratism in succession."

There's a difference missed by people who like to dole out their pithy, "Where empires go to die" line as if they are being clever. Britain and Russia (like Rome and Greece before them) were conquering to acquire resources to feed back to the empire, and to establish control for their supply lines to the subcontinent and Asia in general. The goal was to stay.

The US's goal was not to stay. Success meant leaving. Staying happened because they failed.

The US goal was vaguely "fighting terrorism" and when the Bush administration got bored and wandered off after their real target, Iraq, it was replaced with an even vaguer idea of creating stability or building schools, or... something... they weren't sure what. Into that policy vacuum stepped the opportunists and grifters. Whether the local warlords, or US/international logistics companies and PMCs. In other words, American forces ended up propping up wealth-extractors. And that was what the Afghans knew how to recognise, and knew how to fight.

Had the US gone in with a proper Marshell-type plan, a real purpose, I believe they would have achieved more. Because even in the vague absence of purpose in US policy, the goal never to stay.

Even better, if they hadn't ignored the DoD's preference of standing off and attacking the actual AQ camps, ignoring the Taliban completely after they refused to hand over the AQ leadership. No boots on the ground except special forces deployed in specific raids.

--

As for the Pashtun conquering the world, there's no ideological surge of would-be Pashtuni around the world, even amongst people like you. For you, it's a toy philosophy to wave around at Enlightenment-types, a game you play, not something you actually care about.

David Brin said...

A couple of million girls and women who went to school and got used to the notion of self-respect is a partial victory that the Taliban are going to have trouble cramming back into a bottle.

drf5n said...

Wow, Covid did a number on M1 money velocity: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/M1V

Zepp Jamieson said...

Difficult, but not impossible. Remember that in 1978, Iran was a modern and largely secular society, embracing science and high tech. Westerners--including Jews--were welcome. It wasn't a paradise by any means, put people were used to casual attire and freedom for women. And the Taliban don't mind brutality when it's called for.

duncan cairncross said...

Treebeard gets history all wrong (as usual)

Afghanistan was one of the most advanced and secular nations in that area until it got a One Two blow from the world's superpowers

The first hit was from the Soviets - culminating in an invasion

The second hit was actually harder - but not as obvious

The USA replied to the Soviet strike by paying a fortune to the religious nutjobs - the Taliban was created by that error - it was NOT the Taliban that defeated the earlier empires!

The Soviet invasion cost Afghanistan a generation

The error of supporting and backing the religious nutjobs has cost several generations

Alfred Differ said...

TCB and Paul451,

I'm not really disagreeing. What I'm suggesting is that the worse-than-chimp group isn't always 'just' spinning an incantation. The problem is worse than that.

For an example, check out some of the early videos Hans Rosling did where he talked about measuring what people knew about the world. A fine example was one talking about conditions in Bangladesh. Simple questions ask of his audience produced TERRIBLY incorrect answers. Literacy level? Average real income? Children per mother? They did worse than random and not just in that one video.

Rosling's point focused mostly upon using statistics to defeat that kind of ignorance. The point I'm making is people can't be THAT wrong without something fundamentally wrong with how we learn about the world. If we were just making shit up as we went, we should score more random on multiple choice questions. We often score worse than random on topics that don't have an obvious axe to grind for us.

Der Oger said...

A couple of million girls and women who went to school and got used to the notion of self-respect is a partial victory that the Taliban are going to have trouble cramming back into a bottle.

The next time we invade and occupy a country like Afghanistan we should consider training female soldiers. I have the vague idea that they resist longer than their male counterparts.

Larry Hart said...

What we already knew about evangelical hypoChristians...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Senate/Maps/Jul19.html#item-9

It [ "Jesus and John Wayne" ] was written by Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a history professor at Calvin University, a Christian school, who was trying to understand why evangelicals could vote for a man (Donald Trump) who violated just about everything Jesus preached and stood for. What she discovered during her research is that while evangelicals nominally approve of Jesus, in reality, the men much prefer tough, militantly masculine men who embrace patriarchy, submission of women, sex, and power.

Our staff theologian is on vacation now—he needed a rest, for Christ's sake—but as best we can tell, that describes John Wayne's persona pretty well but Jesus not so much. So Du Mez' thesis in the book is that when evangelicals voted for Trump, it was on account of his personality and behavior, not in spite of it. He was not an aberration. He is precisely what they wanted. Wayne has been dead for 40 years and wasn't running, but Donald Trump was a passable substitute (although it would have been interesting to see Trump on a horse). Heck, they both even managed to avoid the draft (albeit for different wars).

How did it happen that evangelicals worship John Wayne instead of Jesus? Du Mez says that a number of the top evangelical preachers, including John Piper, James Dobson, and John Eldredge, preach a mutually reinforcing message of white Christian masculinity and this is what attracts some men to the religion, not the Bible. In that light, if your mental model of the savior is someone who fights evil with his guns a blazin' (like the Duke) then if you subsitute "mouth" for "guns," Donald Trump sort of fits.

Robert said...

A couple of million girls and women who went to school and got used to the notion of self-respect is a partial victory that the Taliban are going to have trouble cramming back into a bottle.

They managed it once before. In the 70s Afghanistan was a modernizing, fairly secular state which emphasized education, including education for girls. People in the cities, including women, could wear Western clothes without being assaulted/killed.

Then there was the Soviet-backed coup and invasion, and America backed the religious nutters who managed to roll Afghanistan back to the middle ages (if you were female) — all in the name of opposing communism.

I've heard people claim that it was the Afghan War that brought down the Soviet Union, and therefore supporting the Taliban was a good move by America. Which may make geopolitical sense, but I wonder if the female half of Afghanistan would agree that their being sacrificed was worth it.

Pappenheimer said...

Back when I was in high school during the Jurassic, I found a bunch of Futurist magazines at the USIS library (please note that the USIS has long since changed its name because it sounded too much like a TLA). The idea the Futurists had was not just to try to predict the shape of things to come, but also to provide a guide map to a more desirable future. And no, they didn't succeed very well at either goal, but kudos for the attempt. They had 3 variations of possible outcomes, of which the best was something like "investment in the future" and the most likely was "muddling through".

They did not include the variation "deliberately screwed over", even though that appears to the one we are living in now.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

Then there was the Soviet-backed coup and invasion, and America backed the religious nutters who managed to roll Afghanistan back to the middle ages (if you were female) — all in the name of opposing communism.


America in the 80s seemed to back evil dictators as long as they fought communism. In fact, the evil part was probably considered a feature, not a bug--a requirement for successfully resisting the red stain.

I have the uncomfortable feeling that had Hitler come to power during the Reagan years instead of the 30s, we would have considered him a useful ally.

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer:

They did not include the variation "deliberately screwed over", even though that appears to the one we are living in now.


Mid-century sci-fi futures typically predicted things being better--faster, easier, more exciting--in general. Not for one subgroup of humanity at the expense of others.

What optimistic sci-fi failed to predict--and what I didn't really understand until the 2016 election--is that for an incredibly large portion of the population, harming others is an essential part of their satisfaction.

We once dreamed of a future without bullying or the need for bullying, and instead we find ourselves facing the Revenge Of The Bullies (tm) who consider societal protection of others' rights to be an infringement on their God-given freedom! The Declaration of Independence proclaims an inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, but how does that work when my happiness in and of itself is a source of someone else's unhappiness?

Robert said...

The point I'm making is people can't be THAT wrong without something fundamentally wrong with how we learn about the world.

Rosling's point was that the world changes, but people's view of it doesn't. What they learned when they were younger tends to stick around, even when it's no longer true.

It's not just how people see Bangladesh. I've had arguments with teachers about university requirements, because they can't comprehend that things are different than when they went there a decade ago… (or three decades ago, but the younger teachers honestly aren't much better at acknowledging change).

Also, people forget where they learn things, and often take even fiction as fact. For example, the invention of Technicolor increased the rate of spinal cord injuries in car crashes! What happened was that movies started showing cars bursting into flames, because it was visually dramatic. Moviegoers internalized that as 'crashed cars burst into flames' and so started pulling people out of wrecks that they thought might burst into flames at any moment. Not only an unintended consequence, but also an example of fiction shaping how people saw the world.

The way we recall information isn't conducive to correcting either of these problems — most of the time we just 'know' something, and don't (or can't) recall when/where we learned that to evaluate how accurate it might be.

Larry Hart said...

Something mentioned here a few weeks ago led me to HBO Max to watch the older episodes of Babylon 5, as I never consistently watched the series until my wife dragged me in at season 4.

The bits with the Night Watch are scarier now then they would have been back in the 90s. Pretty much torn from today's headlines.

(Also, while the Minbari caste system seemed suspiciously derivative of the Gubru, the "First Ones" are undoubtedly rip-offs of the Progenitors.)

matthew said...

When I took part in the Forecasting World Events study that the Doc referenced above perhaps the most frustrating part was being part of a team that was sabotaged to fail from the beginning as part of the experimental design. My personal forecasts did well enough that I was rated a Supercaster (top 2%) for 5/6 of the rating periods. My team, however, did not do so well. We had 4 active members out of 14 and one of those members was actively antagonistic to the others. The team makeup would change from season to season but overall there was very little "wisdom of the crowd" work being done, despite repeated efforts to reach out.

I later found out that this was part of the experimental design of the project ("What happens if we set up a team to self-sabotage"), though I have no proof that my team was one of those targeted for that condition.

The trick to their style of forecasting was to make selective bets. Once I got the first few months under my belt I could see which categories I did well in (Middle East and Russian politics) and which I sucked at (North Korea, Euro, and finance). I would build a portfolio of predictions centered around my strengths with safe bets, chose a few wild long-shot type bets, and leave the bad areas alone. Also, changing a prediction in the face of new evidence *really* worked well to shore up bad bets.

This last wrinkle is at odds with the idea of a prediction registry since I would be on the record as holding one position, that then changing the odds in the face of evidence. Not at all how our political pundits operate. :-/

It was an interesting, frustrating, experience but I stopped FWE after the author monetized it. I'll do free work for a study but not to enrich others with my work.

My news-reading habits from the experience have mostly stayed with me. That probably paid for my time, right there.

David Brin said...

I see no reason why altering one's bets in the face of new evidence should be forbidden.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I see no reason why altering one's bets in the face of new evidence should be forbidden.


It depends on the object of the betting.

There is a good reason why bets on a horse race aren't taken after the race begins. New information alters the odds. And it would be ridiculous to allow such bets after the race is over and the outcome is generally known.

However, if the point is not so much to win a prize as to guide society in positive directions, then I would agree with your statement above.

TCB said...

Upthread, Larry Hart said:

I am grateful and admiring of our host for not taking that path of least resistance. More than anyone else here, Dr Brin would be able to eke out a comfortable career writing stories and essays which flatter the powerful. That he and those like him choose not to go that way is a testament to character, and perhaps the only way the rest of us survive.

And I am just quoting that so that it is said again.

scidata said...

Static firing of Super Heavy going on at Boca Chica. Looks good, but I'm worried about the noise. That alone may give FAA all they need to shut this puppy down.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin says: I see no reason why altering one's bets in the face of new evidence should be forbidden.

Hell's bells, that is sports betting in a gawdam nutshell! "Biff McGrunion has a torn ACL and he's on the disabled list for at least two weeks. The Warthogs don't have another decent quarterback, so the Vegas line has the Outcasts up by three on next Sunday's betting line."

This of course is because it's a new game and a new bet. If you want to alter an ongoing bet, that is at least a partial concession... so it depends on the original terms of the bet.

(Wanders off and starts reading about scientific bets... serendipitously finding this cool page about new imaging of the galactic center, with superheated gas and magnetic lines in x-ray and radio wavelengths.)

https://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2021/gcenter/index.html

TCB said...

Also very cool: Could Apollo 11's lander ascent stage still be in lunar orbit? Maybe! And if so, it could be recovered and put into a museum. Math done by citizen scientists.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBHbLV7xEhc

David Brin said...

Of course there's a PENALTY if you change your bet! And it depends whether you can find takers for the new bet that hedge the old one!

TCB & LH yeah, I'd be LOADS richer if I either sucked up to the mighty or wrote the same stuff over and over and over again...

scidata said...

Re: career path choices, especially for writers

The real trick is to not 'suck up to the mighty' while simultaneously avoiding romanticism (unlike Wilcox or Emerson). There may indeed be the ghost, but there's also the machine, and it holds our hopes for posterity too. There's grandeur in this view I think.



Catfish 'n Cod said...

I fail to see how that's not an entirely new bet. If it's not, I'm fuzzy on how the old and new bets interact.

We need an interaction to make sure people don't play invisible pink elephant, but what to do?

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@LH: why not visualize elites as being at the BOTTOM, supported by the innumerable threads from the providers above them? Then gravity would trickle down from the working to the middle to the elite class... and as more concentrated at the bottom, the strain on the economy increases.

Pashtuns as conquest barbarians? Yeah, that would make some sense IF they were a self-sufficient society, or even an effective scavenging society, and IF they had mobility and power projection beyond the Afghan environment. None of these are in evidence. The Taliban are effectively proxies of Pakistan, who want a non-threatening buffer on the other side of the Khyber Pass so they can devote all their attention to India. I can imagine a futuristic techno-barbarian migration scenario, but it ain't a Pashtun one.

Oh, and still on Afghanistan: @Duncan IIRC in antiquity, Bactria was a much more agriculturally productive center of civilization due to an extensive irrigation network. That network was destroyed by invasions late in antiquity, leading to the all-dry Afghanistan we know today.

@Paul451: If MMT is merely a more effective restatement of present Keynesian-based policy, what makes it superior? The 'fiction' of government debt is part of the Chinese wall between the money supply and the political process. I get the idea that there could be a better way to do the accounting; I'm just not sure that having 'experts' inform legislatures what they are and are not allowed to do with money is going to be very practical.

On Minbari: prior art for both JMS and our gracious host is the three-estate system of the Western Middle Ages. Priests, nobles, commons = Religious, Warrior, Worker = Propriety, Beam & Talon, Cost & Caution.

@Dr. Brin: how are the new and old bets related? how are we avoiding the invisible pink elephant problem, where continuous evidence produces continuous revision of predictions that never get resolved?

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

@LH: why not visualize elites as being at the BOTTOM, supported by the innumerable threads from the providers above them? Then gravity would trickle down from the working to the middle to the elite class... and as more concentrated at the bottom, the strain on the economy increases.


I thought that was what I said. If you think of the wealthy at the bottom of the waterfall or dam, then money does indeed trickle down the way matter does in a gravitational field--from low concentration to high concentration. But that makes obvious the fact that, to goose the system, more money needs to be given to the poor at the top, not to the wealthy already at the bottom.

The "reasoning" behind supply side is that the wealthy are at the top, and that if we fill their coffers enough, some will splash out and fall down to the rest of us. Except that in that model, money acts less like water and more like helium.

What I really don't get is how those who viscerally oppose the idea of "paying people not to work" can justify Supply Side economics, which is essentially that very thing.

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

On Minbari: prior art for both JMS and our gracious host is the three-estate system of the Western Middle Ages. Priests, nobles, commons = Religious, Warrior, Worker = Propriety, Beam & Talon, Cost & Caution.


Yeah, except that I think Cost and Caution is more like "bureaucracy" than "workers". I imagine that the Gubru working class is actually their client species.

GMT -8 said...

Just a quick comment so you would not think that I have gone away. I want to spend some quality time reading the proposed legislation for the President's tax plan concerning income taxation of capital gains upon the death of a taxpayer. This is my area of specialty. I need to find the actual language of a proposed statute; for now I only see summaries.

My thought: this won't affect the top 1%. Most estate planning strategies have the donors transfer property to irrevocable trusts fairly early. There will be a battle of the brains between the treasury department lawyers and private practice lawyers regarding intended consequences and unintended consequences; my money is on the private practice lawyers.

People in the 90 to 99 percentile of income will be the ones who potentially get hit by this tax. Fortunately for them (and unfortunately for the government), the same avoidance planning techniques used by the top 1% can be scaled down and used for less affluent clients.

My guess is that this won't become law. If it does (via the reconciliation process), then it won't raise nearly as much money as anticipated. But, the tax bar will profit immensely. Lots of people with estates between $2 million and $11 million will need to do a lot of tax avoidance planning.

Back to work now. If anyone knows where I can find the actual proposed language, let me know.

David Brin said...

Of course the First Estate... the lords... will fight like hell to maintain their tax free status, as happened in 1787, while the churches do likewise. And it may lead to similar results. Which means it is an IQ test on today's 'lords' backing the GOP/Fox/KGB putsch.

They actually think this doesn't end either in Rooseveltean reforms or in tumbrels.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

The nobles were Second Estate; the priests had the advantage of literacy. Hence the 'tradition' of sending younger sons into the Church -- where they could grab the powers that couldn't be secured by blows to the head. First Estate was also the oldest, and for a time the only, true international organization; priests could call on resources that warlords could not.

Of course centuries of intermarriage among the thugmasters, and of blue blood poured into ecclesiastical offices, eventually made the distinction mostly irrelevant. Which is why the Church declined in Europe in fairly direct connection to the decline of local aristocratic/autocratic power.

Tax exemption was THE privilege in parts of Europe for a time; that was the cutoff from bourgeois to petty nobility.

Unknown said...

Re: Pashtuni Fremen

I'd recommend checking out Bret Devereaux's "Fremen Mirage" articles on his Unmitigated Pedantry website. Being poor does not give you a military advantage. Living in a...less than lush...area makes you harder to conquer, and harder to rule if you're a decentralized bunch of squabbling tribes. Compare toppling the Inca to conquering all Scotland. In both cases, the terrain is rough, but the Scots didn't (and don't, really,) have a slot in their society marked "Supreme Ruler".

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

They actually think this doesn't end either in Rooseveltean reforms or in tumbrels.


My wife, who never even wanted a gun in the house for self-defense, is ready to go to war. I've actually become the conciliatory voice, whereas she just wants all Republicans to die. And when I say "conciliatory", I mean I respond that you can't go on record like that--you have to just hope it happens anyway without your incriminating express blessing.

TCB said...

@ Larry Hart, it's starting to be discussed whether covid foolishness, stoked by the Republicans' own ruling clique, may kill so many of their voters (and far fewer Democratic voters, who are far more likely to get vaccinated) that it actually puts the Repubs at a disadvantage in coming elections despite all their cheating.

Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad...

GMT -8 said...

I had a chance to talk with Frank Herbert back at the 1984 Worldcon; I missed it. I thought I would have another chance. That seems to happen a lot in life.

Anyways, I never bought Herbert's theme in DUNE that a harsh environment is a good breeding ground for the toughest warriors. Israel is the proof that the theme is wrong.

That said, a modern technological society cannot defeat a backward society like Afghanistan unless where the rebels are hiding in the terrain the modern society is willing to commit genocide. In Dune, the empire could have wiped out most of the Fremen but not all of them. The empire would never be able to wholly control Arrakis, but the fremen would not have been able to project much power off of the planet.

Larry Hart said...

Did Tom Brady switch political sides as well as changing teams? This is weird.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Senate/Maps/Jul21.html#item-5

Anyhow, the immense glory of the Green Bay franchise notwithstanding, the actual news here is that the [Tampa Bay] Buccaneers visited the White House yesterday. This is the first time since 2017 that a Super Bowl champion was invited to visit the president...and actually showed up, intact. Quarterback Tom Brady, who himself skipped a visit in the Trump years, and also one in the Obama years, even went so far as to joke about his team's surprise win: "Not a lot of people think that we could've won. In fact, I think about 40% of the people still don't think we won. You understand that, Mr. President?" Biden responded by nodding and saying that he does indeed, understand. Brady kept going, adding: "We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me Sleepy Tom. Why would they do that to me?" The quarterback used to be friends (or, at least friendly) with Trump. Not anymore, apparently.

Larry Hart said...

The perfect metaphor for trying to save anti-vaxxers:

https://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2021/07/why-were-so-fucking-angry-at.html

One night long ago, I saw a small cat in an underpass during a downpour in Louisiana. I was driving home in the dark when my headlights caught a glimpse of an animal that was cowering on the sidewalk as the puddle down there started to become a flood. Part of me wanted to keep driving, but another part said, "No. Turn around, asshole," and I listened to the part that didn't wanna think that I let something drown. So I went back. It was late, like about two in the morning, and few other cars were on the road. I stopped in the underpass, railroad tracks above me, and I got out. There I saw the cat, just a bit older than a kitten, and I approached it, using as soothing a voice as I could. But when I got close, it hissed and clawed at me. What the fuck was I doing? "Goddamnit," I thought because I knew I couldn't give in to the voice in my head that said, "Fuck that cat. Go home." I went back to the car and found a large towel in the trunk.

When I approached the cat again, it hissed, spit, did that weird growl-meow thing, and tried to claw me. I sat on the sidewalk with the towel and waited, talking gently. I knew it was wet and freaked out, but I wanted to help it. At one point, I reached out to try to pet it, but the little shit just fucking ripped my hand, and really, I kind of wanted to kill it myself right then. Instead, I tried again to soothe it, but it wasn't happening, and the water was gonna be up to where the cat was gonna have to swim for it and probably not make it. So, screw it, I covered my hands in the towel, reached out quickly, and grabbed the damn cat, wrapping it in the towel while it screamed and tried to claw. "Stop it! I'm trying to fucking help you!" I said, obviously expecting the cat to understand me. I put it in the passenger seat where I could hold the towel closed. Yeah, I know the cat was panicking, but it was this or probably drowning or getting run over or something other horrible thing. Eventually, through cat magic, it got out of the towel and was free in the car. Fortunately, it didn't attack my face. It just hissed and leaped onto the floor in the back, hiding under the seat. I stopped at a gas station to get something for my bleeding hand. When I got out of the car, the cat leaped out and ran under the barely open garage door. As it was running away, I muttered, "You're welcome, you dumb fuck." I don't have strong opinions on cats in general one way or the other. I mean, I'm allergic as hell, but I don't hate them or anything. However, I hated that cat, and I would have saved it again if I had to.


Larry Hart said...

TCB:

it's starting to be discussed whether covid foolishness, stoked by the Republicans' own ruling clique, may kill so many of their voters (and far fewer Democratic voters, who are far more likely to get vaccinated) that it actually puts the Repubs at a disadvantage in coming elections despite all their cheating.


The Judean Peoples' Front "crack suicide squad" from Life of Brian comes to mind. "That'll show them!"

Hal Sparks (on WCPT radio) has a theory about all the new laws disenfranchising likely-Dem voters and allowing legislatures to intervene in results. He insists that the point of the laws is not so much to keep Dems from voting as to convince their own voters that voting is worthwhile. Because Trump's own rhetoric has convinced Republicans that it's all rigged against them anyway, so there's no point participating. That's certainly how we won two Senate seats in Georgia and thereby the Senate.

scidata said...

Re: crazed cat
Daniel got paid in the end, proving that empathy is our most powerful evolved trait.

Re: Fremen
Romantic, but not actually predictive. Such Believers are more slaves than conquerors.
Asimov pitted the fevered religious Anacreonian horde against a refrigerator salesman.
David vs Goliath, with the outcome never in doubt really.
BTW, have a look at Malcolm Gladwell's 2013 analysis if you haven't seen it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziGD7vQOwl8&t=620s

Re: Frank Herbert
Although I loved DUNE, I'd vote for THE WHITE PLAGUE as his most prescient work.


Robert said...

it's starting to be discussed whether covid foolishness, stoked by the Republicans' own ruling clique, may kill so many of their voters (and far fewer Democratic voters, who are far more likely to get vaccinated) that it actually puts the Repubs at a disadvantage in coming elections despite all their cheating.

Highly unlikely. The mortality rate isn't that high among the general population, so unless Republicans are significantly more geriatric/immune-compromised than Democrats you won't see an effect — unless losing grandma makes them change their vote, and we've already seen that that often causes them to double-down (especially now that they can blame your current president).

Treebeard said...

Pashtunwali is not an ideological surge so much as a cultural surge. It’s not going to be broadcast on your media, announced in manifestos or debated in the salons of Western intellectuals. It will be totally off your radar, sub-rosa, spreading from person to person, clan to clan, region to region Fremen-style, creating new facts on the ground until one day it erupts in your capitols and you will be shocked like the Romans back in the 5th century or the Arrakins in the 102nd. That’s how these things roll.

I have to LOL @ the continuing politicized covid hysteria. So few people are dying from covid who weren’t already at death’s door that it’s not a blip on any political demographic. But the morbid thoughts about mass death of political enemies is perhaps telling about the spiritual state of this society.

BTW, I found a very interesting and intelligent British writer named Paul Kingsnorth who touches on a lot of our host’s favorite themes, but takes a truly contrarian position. Here’s one of his latest: https://paulkingsnorth.substack.com/p/a-thousand-mozarts. It’s about how the Enlightenment gave rise to the dominance of the Machine mentality and the reign of elite technocrats like Bezos, Gates and Musk. Billionaires preaching “more, more, more”, pursuing their rationalist abstractions, control freak ambitions and the reign of quantity at all costs, at war with the past and all rooted communities and traditions, regardless of their unpopularity or the mass pathologies they create, is really what this revolution was always about and where it was always headed.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

I have to LOL @ the continuing politicized covid hysteria. So few people are dying from covid who weren’t already at death’s door that it’s not a blip on any political demographic.


Few people are dying now because the hospitals aren't currently overwhelmed with COVID patients. That's already changing in some places, like my state's neighbor Missouri. Not to mention the mistake your ilk makes in asserting that if you survive a thing, no harm has been done. I know what doesn't kill you proverbially makes you stronger, but that does not seem to be the case with COVID.


But the morbid thoughts about mass death of political enemies is perhaps telling about the spiritual state of this society.


Do you even listen to yourself? This is funny considering your wet dream of a Fremen style jihad sweeping across the planet.

Larry Hart said...

From Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novel, the eulogy that Matthew the Raven gives to the late Dream King will be--with some incidental changes--an appropriate eulogy for the dream of the United States of America.


I was told to say whatever was in my heart.

And I thought I was going to say something about how he was my boss, and how he gave me a second chance, and how he trusted me.

About how sometimes he treated me like he thought I was an idiot, and sometimes treated me like he was my boss, and sometimes--very occasionally--treated me like a friend.

I was going to say something about how he died.

And about how that's what I wanted to do too.

But that isn't what's in my heart. Not really.

He was the most important person in the world to me, and he's gone.

And the kid, Daniel...well, he was a good kid, and he's gone too.

But you can't kill dreams. Not really.

I mean, despair may be the thing that comes after hope, but there's still hope, right? When there's no hope, you might as well be dead.

What's in my heart?

A lot of sorrow. A little regret.

And the memory of the coolest, strangest, most infuriating boss...friend...boss...I ever had.

That's what.

scidata said...

The shambling undead strawman of the busy-body control-freak globalist seems to be in full effect with this Kingsnorth chap:

Wikipedia: Kingsnorth founded the Dark Mountain Project, "a network of writers, artists, and thinkers who have stopped believing the stories our civilisation tells itself"

The only effective antidote to such a perceived cabal of mind controllers is the pro-diversity, pro-literacy, pro-science, pro-transparency, pro-human, pro-freedom, open, individualistic, pluralistic, convivial, calmly forbearing, you guessed it, Enlightenment. Also, it seems to always be the mythological, romanticist, longing-for-the-golden-past writers who spray dark warnings about story-tellers. Find a mirror. Gaze into it for a time.

Fear of the Machine was addressed long ago by Asimov of course:
"I do not fear computers, I fear the lack of them."

David Brin said...

Wondered when we'd get the next ent-raving. Not a rug-pooper so he's welcome. Of course what's SO interesting about the intellectual extrema of MAGA-lala-land is that they say some things with dollps of truth... like the Pashtuns are tough and sometimes empires over-reach and that tech zillionaires need to be watched lest they be dangerous...

...while still utterly, utterly lying!

1. Kicking the Taliban in the teeth in 2002 was utterly called-for and said "attacking us has consequences." the following occupation was handled dumb like all things Bush. But since Obama, the ACTUAL cost of "America's longest war" has been very low by such standards. Low casualties and low in money, actually. While:
a. two million Afghani women went to school and gained confidence and
b. we have the only military in the world whose soldiers all have combat experience, refining methods and doctrines for years.

2. I am LESS anguine that we and the Afghans planned good contingencies to deal with the inevitable Taliban advance. I know how *I* would propose dealing with it.

3. Go to hell with any lectures about Bezos and Musk, you stunning hypocrites! Sure we need to focus attention, scrutiny and corrective forces, especially on Zuckerberg etc. But for YOU slaves of petro-sheiks, oil boyars, "ex"communist commissars, KGB agents, casino moguls, inheritance brats, hedge predators and Nazis to lecture us...???

Musk & Bezos are in the open - watched - and at least they are using their money on interesting things. YOURS are parasites, top to bottom, doing everything they can to bring Karl Marx back to relevance.

HAR! All you deserve is utter, utter comtempt for that stunning - and pathetic - attempt at blame shifting. Election stealers who accuse us of it. Child-sexual predators - a whole political party PACKED with them! - who then make up stories that it's democrats! Perverts down the line.

And cowards who never, ever, ever stand up like men to offer wagers to back up their fact-free assertions.

Der Oger said...

@Dr. Brin:
I know how *I* would propose dealing with it.

It was about dividing up the country, with anyone (especially women) wanting to leave either half being able to do so, right?

I am afraid they would always have wanted the whole cake. They might get it, in two to six months if current predictions are accurate and nothing unexpected happens.

In trying to keep it, that is where their difficulties might start. They never had absolute control over their territory, even in the height of their power. They are a guerilla force, and a very effective one, but not a well-oiled government apparatus. They are completely dependent on Islamabad and God-knows-whom else, so let's assume these powers would not have been okay with having that other state at their borders they could not control.

And finally, I am not sure what a patriotic, historically educated Afghan might name it if the country would be divided again by the world powers, as the British did. (Just remember, it existed as a nation since 1747.) That idea has a colonialist smell, and merely proposing it might lead to a massive number of new Taliban recruits.

David Brin said...

All watched over by machines of loving grace..
Richard Brautigan

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

Also, it seems to always be the mythological, romanticist, longing-for-the-golden-past writers who spray dark warnings about story-tellers. Find a mirror. Gaze into it for a time.


The abyss stares back.


Fear of the Machine was addressed long ago by Asimov of course:
"I do not fear computers, I fear the lack of them."


Also, "That's why knives have handles."

GMT -8 said...

Well, I am part of the tax elite. I've represented the government in litigation against wealthy buggers who won't pay their fair share. The lawyers representing those bastards had the nerve to question my ethics just because I was trying to make them pay more (and I was disputing some of their bait and switch litigation strategies). I did my job too well. The bastards got me fired.

You may disagree with some of my views Dr. Brin, but I hope you understand that I want to make everyone pay a fair amount of tax. I don't make it to many conventions these days, but I will go out of my way to see you at a con again. The last time we met was in Columbus, Ohio; you put a lovely autograph in a copy of INFINITY'S SHORE that I was buying for a marine biologist friend.

GMT -8 said...

Your wife never met me. I think after a few hours she might make an exception.

TCB said...

scidata mentions the David and Goliath story. Long ago, I read Joseph Heller's novel God Knows. (Heller is best known for Catch-22). In God Knows, the aged King David reminisces about his life. Of the fight with Goliath, he says he almost felt sorry for the guy, because killing him was too damn easy. David says, more or less, that anybody who was any good with a sling would have had a hard time missing the big galoot's forehead. (It's an enjoyable book).

David Brin said...

Enjoyable riffs here. GMT I am now sure of my 1dt impression. You are a fellow who loves to poke... but has some grounding and honor. Pokeaway. This is home for pokers.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Feral cats are... feral. There's not a lot to be done for them unless you can imagine them being something they aren't... which is tame or domesticated. They simply aren't.

[My mother died a crazy cat lady. Used to rescue them whether they wanted it or not. Had over 70 of them in the house one time we checked. Nuts. Bonkers. Thought we were going to have to burn the house down.]

People are MUCH more domesticated than feral cats. Even our confederate neighbors. They might not shit in the litter box you set out for them, but they probably won't try to kill you right away. They might actually talk long enough to decide whether to hate you or not. Maybe.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Congratulations to our so-called ent, who has managed to be personally AND professionally AND politically AND philosophically insulting, all in a single sentence.

He crows that "So few people are dying from covid who weren’t already at death’s door that it’s not a blip on any political demographic."

Meanwhile down the road:
‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’: Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients

The especially horrifying nutgrafs:
“A few days later when I call time of death,” continued Cobia on Facebook, “I hug their family members and I tell them the best way to honor their loved one is to go get vaccinated and encourage everyone they know to do the same.”

“They cry. And they tell me they didn’t know. They thought it was a hoax. They thought it was political. They thought because they had a certain blood type or a certain skin color they wouldn’t get as sick. They thought it was ‘just the flu’. But they were wrong. And they wish they could go back. But they can’t. So they thank me and they go get the vaccine. And I go back to my office, write their death note, and say a small prayer that this loss will save more lives.”


Meanwhile I'm still working on reading, much less digesting, Unknown's suggested reading on the 'Fremen Mirage'. It's good stuff -- not as an analysis of Herbert, but of the romantic (and Romantic) notion of the moral and military superiority of barbarians.

Paul451 said...

Catfish 'n Cod,
Re: MMT "restating the current Keynesian policies" more effectively

It doesn't restate, it restructures. As a pleasant side-effect, it encourages Keynesian policies.

Strictly, it doesn't require Keynesian policies; in theory, you could still pro-cycle (pumping booms, exacerbating busts.) But the very structure makes anti-cycling more likely.

Whereas the current system seems designed to encourage pro-cycling. For example, the fiction of "government debt" has created the perception that it is the same as household or business debt; where you "invest" in good times and "tighten your belt" in bad. Not just encouraging, but virtually insisting on boom/bust pro-cycling fiscal policies.

Re: "experts telling the legislature what they can do with money"

Already happened. The power to create and remove money was taken away from the legislatures and given to the unelected monetary-side, such as central banks. But that monetary system has no fiscal power and so is extremely limited in where it can direct that money. That makes their "levers" crude and often harmful to the real economy where people actually live. A perfect example of the ineffectiveness is the response of the US Reserve Bank to the deflationary period following the GFC, where they expanded the monetary base three-fold, yet the velocity of money continued to trend negative, and most of the US regional economy never recovered, all the way up the Covid crash. Tripling the supply of money couldn't halt deflation, let alone create inflation, for over a decade. Any engineer would tell you that such poor control-response suggests a really shitty mechanism.

Larry Hart said...

GMT -5:

Your wife never met me. I think after a few hours she might make an exception.


Since Dr Brin hasn't mentioned his wife lately, I assume you're referring to me saying that my wife wants all Republicans to die. That was somewhat of a hyperbolic statement. By "Republicans", I meant those who are actively undermining our society, which does unfortunately include almost every Republican in a position of political power.

Larry Hart said...

@GMT -5,

Here's an example of what I was referring to. The guy referenced in the clip below...I wouldn't have personally acted to harm or kill him. But I can't say I'm sorry he's dead. Same with Ashli Babbit. Same with Herman Cain.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/19/opinion/trump-covid-extremism-loneliness.html

One of the most vivid characters in Bender’s book is Randal Thom, a 60-year-old Marine veteran whose wife and children left him because of his drug problem, and who spent time in prison. “The rallies became the organizing principle in his life, and Trump fans loved him for it,” writes Bender. “Like Trump himself, all of Randal’s past mistakes didn’t matter to them.” When he got sick with what he believed was Covid, he refused to go the hospital, lest he “potentially increase the caseload on Trump’s watch.” (He survived but died in a car crash on his way home from a Trump boat parade in October.)

David Brin said...

" the romantic (and Romantic) notion of the moral and military superiority of barbarians."

Fascinating thing about Ayn Rand was that she put entrepreneurial INVENTORS into the mythic slot of rapaciously unstoppable vikings, who deserve to take what they want. It is a conflation that's acturlly rather original!

Like the way her teleology is utterly maxian but then stops at Marx's penultimate stage JUST before proletarian revolution, when a hyper narrow caste of inventor/viking lords has seized all capital... and shouts THIS is good! Freeze it here!

And in her mind it really freezes in place, because there are no children. No heirs to make the reader realize it's just gonna be the same damned cycle of spoiled, bratty-privileged feudal owner-inheritance lordship as happened across 99% of history... giving rise to... Marx.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Fascinating thing about Ayn Rand was that she put entrepreneurial INVENTORS into the mythic slot of rapaciously unstoppable vikings, who deserve to take what they want. It is a conflation that's acturlly rather original!


I believe she would say that her entrepreneurial heroes are the only ones producing value, and that rather than "taking what they want", they're the rightful owners. It's everybody else who is living parasitically off of them.

Doug S. said...

As for the Pashtun in Afghanistan: they can only win because we Americans don't care enough. If we really wanted to, we could conquer Afghanistan and do the same things to the Pashtun that we did to the American Indians, that the British did in the Second Boer War, that China is doing to the Uighurs, and that we would have done to Imperial Japan if they didn't surrender. The thing is, though, there was no follow-up to 9/11 and Afghanistan doesn't have any wealth worth stealing, so we don't lose much of anything by simply walking away. If we had a good reason to colonize Afghanistan the way we colonized the American West, we probably could. But we don't. So we aren't.

They're not stronger than us, only strong enough to be more trouble than they're worth.

Alfred Differ said...

Little comment regarding bets and changing them...

For anyone struggling to imagine how these would work, take a bit of time to learn how futures and options markets work. When our host speaks of a trusted escrow agent, he's pretty close to the notion a 'clearing house'. Someone has to hold the bets. Someone also has to help define them clearly enough so they can be unambiguously adjudicated. Someone transfers money around.

In such markets, there are also players called 'market makers'. They pick up odd bets whether they believe in the opposing position or not and then establish other bets such that they hedge risks. If they do it right, they win a little bit either way. In a sports gambling environment, they are like the bookie except they don't establish odds.

Changing a bet happens all the time in futures and options markets... by buying or selling contracts that counter an earlier one. In fact, if you are NOT doing this when you dabble over there, you are at a disadvantage to those who do.

As for penalties, they apply sometimes and not other times. If I own a contract and think someone else would like to own it, I might sell it to them for a fraction of my potential win and run with the money. Is that a penalty to me? Yes and no. If I cash out I gain some and lose some.

What actually matters in pricing these things is pretty straight forward. Volatility, strike, and time. Easy to learn the basics. From there things get complicated because players tend to take complex positions. Spreads, straddles, etc. There is a LOT more to bet on than "X will happen by date Y."

David Brin said...

Bill Calvin... THE Bill Calvin? Fellahs we're in the presence of greatness. See THE RIVER THAT RUNS UPHILL and THE THROWING MADONNA.

---
Ayn Rand took her "deserving viking" romanticism to include rape. Roard and Galt can have whatever they desire.

----
Doug says some things that are repulsive - if true in themselves - but also totally irrelevant for a pax imperium that has improved its karmic position each generation, especially since WWII. What we proved in "America's longest War" (actually not, in several ways) was that we could get 2 million Afghani girls through high school as extremely low imperial cost to us in $ or US lives... but sure. It was still too much. But we're the 1st since Alexander to leave un-crushed.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Ayn Rand took her "deserving viking" romanticism to include rape. Roar[k] and Galt can have whatever they desire.


Yeah, but they only desire what they correctly deserve, because they're perfectly rational.

And in her mind, it's not rape, because the women want it too. And they know they could stop it with a word if they so wanted, but they don't want to. Because, you know, they so admire the perfect man and are grateful that he completely rationally desires them personally. No greater honor and all.

I don't mean to defend Ayn Rand, but I do think I understand her.

* * *

The "no children" thing is especially bizarre, as at different times, she makes a point that her good characters don't even enjoy eating without there being a particular purpose that the resultant energy is to be put to. They can't simply enjoy the taste of food, but rather have to view the act as "stoking an engine", and if the engine isn't for some productive purpose, then there's no point. And yet, her good characters copulate with wild abandon, and not only are those liaisons never once fruitful, but they never even consider the possibility that procreation might be a biological consequence of sex. Or a reason to have sex.

I'd call that a contradiction if such things existed in her philosophy. :)

Der Oger said...

But we're the 1st since Alexander to leave un-crushed.

Hmmh...

Let's contemplate for a while on what Bin Laden/Al Quaida set out to achieve, and what has happened in the twenty years since to our political culture, personal liberties and privacy, and values.

One could come to the conclusion that they have tricked us into destroying the very things we swore to uphold, defend, and import into those countries we dabbled with.

And it is not over yet, at least not on this side of the Atlantic. News today said that daily 1000 refugees cross the Turkish border, and Lukashenko/Putin weaponize them, too.

But maybe, September ends, now.

Alfred Differ said...

Looks like Bill Calvin's comment wound up on the previous thread.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

One could come to the conclusion that they have tricked us into destroying the very things we swore to uphold, defend, and import into those countries we dabbled with.

You wouldn't be the first over here to bat that idea around like a cheap, plastic beach ball at a baseball game. It's a side amusement people enjoy when the ball passes close by and then they move on as it either moves away or returns too often.

As ideas go, it has serious problems.

1. We weren't tricked because the undercurrent behavior has been there a very long time.

2. The ideas we swore to uphold aren't fragile. They are anti-fragile up to a point. Our failures to uphold them act as lessons for the next generation.

---

I offer you an American example. During WWII, we built our own concentration camps and sent our citizens of Japanese descent there. War powers gave our Executive branch considerable leeway to breech our rights as citizens. SCOTUS actually decided against those who wanted to be freed.

All of that is a dark lesson for us that we never quite got around to making illegal. We simply agreed we wouldn't do it again. Should be good enough, right? Oops. No. We did it again under Trump to people crossing our border from the south. What lesson do we take away this time? Will we fix it? I'm not sure yet, but I'm quite certain the old solution of agreeing not to do it again won't be believed anymore.

At present, we are more concerned about voting rights, but other civil rights were seriously breeched by the previous administration. We will have to deal with that... and can... because the ideals to which we hold are NOT fragile.

Robert said...

I'm quite certain the old solution of agreeing not to do it again won't be believed anymore.

Um, not to burst your bubble, but that 'solution' hasn't been believed for generations by those of First Nations ancestry. Treaty after treaty broken as convenient, with the empty promise that 'this time we'll keep our word'.

https://www.vox.com/first-person/2019/9/23/20872713/native-american-indian-treaties


The ideas we swore to uphold aren't fragile

Who do you mean by "we"? Because from outside, it looks like nearly half your population doesn't hold those ideals — or doesn't hold the same ideals you do — and they have the same Constitution you do.

David Brin said...

The details of how and when treaties were broken would surprise partisans of either extreme. The real problem was that no matter who committed some kind of border outrage... a corrupt "Indian Agent" delivering sickly cattle, or white bandits or young native toughs disobeying chiefs... no matter how it happened, the resulting 'war' would be lost by the natives.

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

Not disagreeing with you, but I will invite you to count the people who take sides and check if there isn't a useful trend. We don't always have numbers that go so far back, but sometimes we do.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

"The ideas we swore to uphold aren't fragile"

Who do you mean by "we"? Because from outside, it looks like nearly half your population doesn't hold those ideals — or doesn't hold the same ideals you do — and they have the same Constitution you do.


Even before Alfred responded, my thought was that the confederate side swears to uphold a very different set of ideas, Constitution or not.

And his point seemed to be that the ideals that the Enlightenment side upholds are resilient enough to (eventually) overcome the attacks on them.

Larry Hart said...

The whole "God gave us diseases for a reason" argument against vaccination would maybe carry more weight if those same people would renounce firearms as unnatural attempts to defy God's will. I mean, if vaccines defy evolution by allowing weak humans to remain in the gene pool, then don't guns do the same thing?

Robert said...

Even before Alfred responded, my thought was that the confederate side swears to uphold a very different set of ideas, Constitution or not.

But they see their ideals in the same Constitution you have.


if vaccines defy evolution by allowing weak humans to remain in the gene pool, then don't guns do the same thing?

Follow the money. Those pushing the anti-vax* agenda are getting very rich off their efforts. Likewise those pushing guns.

https://www.counterhate.com/disinformationdozen


*I've been informed that anti-vaxxers consider this an offensive term. Apparently they prefer "vaccine aware", but I prefer "child-murdering f***wads".

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

"Even before Alfred responded, my thought was that the confederate side swears to uphold a very different set of ideas, Constitution or not."

But they see their ideals in the same Constitution you have.


So? I'm sure they see pink elephants when they've ingested wood alcohol too. Doesn't mean they're really there. Sorry, but there's nothing in the Constitution about white supremacy or a Christian nation or owning the libs.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter, though. The Constitution is a blueprint for running a democratic/republican form of government. It's not the source of Enlightenment ideals.


"if vaccines defy evolution by allowing weak humans to remain in the gene pool, then don't guns do the same thing?"

Follow the money. Those pushing the anti-vax* agenda are getting very rich off their efforts. Likewise those pushing guns.

I know. I just like pointing out the inherent contradictions in their so-called reasoning, even though I've come to understand that they don't give a crap about consistency. They even believe the parts that contradict the other parts.


*I've been informed that anti-vaxxers consider this an offensive term. Apparently they prefer "vaccine aware",


And this should matter to me why?

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

But they see their ideals in the same Constitution you have.

Yes. Indeed. That because it is all there. Sorta.

I can say that with a grin because our Constitution is quite short and most of what people think is there simply isn't. Our first amendment speaks of freedom of religion, but few have actually read it well enough to understand that it merely bars the feds from depriving us of that right. For many, many decades, our SCOTUS interpreted that as 'active' efforts to deprive us which allowed cities and states to set up religious entanglements with certain communities as long as they didn't bar others from expressing themselves. That all changed when the SCOTUS decided we had 'de facto' deprived citizens of their right which caused a new test to be applied that checked for 'passive' efforts. The amendment itself didn't change. Case law caused the SCOTUS to re-interpret.

Our Constitution doesn't say much of anything except some basic things about how to lay out the federal government. All the rest is what we think it says and much of that isn't supported by SCOTUS decisions. Doesn't matter to us, though. It's there! We know DAMN WELL what it means! Heh.

The thing is… our confederates are a flavor of old school liberalism. Most Americans are one flavor or another. Conservatives are often 'conserving' liberal ideals. Enlightenment thought was FAR from unified on how to go about liberating us from coercion. At least three major camps existed. Scots/English, French, and German.

Our confederates descend from people (and their ideas) who lived on the border between Scotland and England before the UK was born. They were NOT nice people and had a damn good reason to stick it to authority. Unfortunately, their anger can be easily manipulated in ways that leads to blood in the streets, but don't think they don't believe in their variation of the Enlightenment. It's just that their horizon of inclusion is considerably smaller than what many of us elsewhere can tolerate.

Robert said...

Got this little tidbit in the mail today from Jim Banks:

Early this week, I had the honor of being named as a potential member of the House Select Committee to investigate January 6.

As the Ranking Member, I was prepared to ask Speaker Pelosi the questions that no one wanted to ask. Chief among them, why was the U.S. Capitol unprepared and vulnerable to attack on January 6?

The American people deserve the truth about what happened on January 6. Unfortunately, Speaker Pelosi is afraid of the facts.

That's why less than a day later, Pelosi announced that she rejected my appointment to the select committee.

As a member of Congress and an Afghanistan veteran, I’m disappointed in this unprecedented move. It is well known that those of us in the House Minority will fight for our country and for the truth. This proves again this was a stunt rather than a genuine effort to follow the facts.


Which sums up what I'm getting from other far-right sources — the problem wasn't the attackers, it was the authorities who allowed them to attack, and didn't stop them…

Larry Hart said...

Enlightenment values:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/history/ct-opinion-flashback-green-book-chicago-20210723-go3n7e3rrnhb3f3lzlfzjfwkle-story.html

...
That same year, the final issue of the Green Book was printed.

Victor Hugo Green might not have mourned its passing, had he lived to see it. In the introduction to his book from 1948 to 1951, he predicted:

“There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment.”


* * *

A breath of fresh air regarding right-wing messaging:

https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/rex-huppke/ct-transgender-youth-sports-bill-law-anti-lgbt-west-virginia-akransas-huppke-20210723-lmypjjsgnfeyjngkvjhqei55fi-story.html

...
“The second big, foundational problem with the defendants’ argument is that, to state the obvious, the people on one side of a disagreement do not get to unilaterally declare their position to be uncontroversial, because that is not how the concept of ‘controversy’ works. Put another way, the defendants might be wise to accept that, once you are in a heated argument with multiple folks about whether your position is uncontroversial, there is a good chance that you may have already lost.”
...

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Our Constitution doesn't say much of anything except some basic things about how to lay out the federal government. All the rest is what we think it says and much of that isn't supported by SCOTUS decisions. Doesn't matter to us, though. It's there! We know DAMN WELL what it means! Heh.


That's what I was getting at above. The original 1787 Constitution, without even the Bill of Rights, says very little about values. It's mostly a dry detailing of how the mechanisms of the federal government are laid out. The venn diagram of "Establishment values" and "the Consitution" mainly overlap in the preamble. Or as Hamilton put it in the musical, "We won the war. What was it all for?"

The Bill of Rights and some subsequent amendments more clearly state values, but they are hardly supposed to be an exhaustive list. In fact the entirety of the Ninth Amendment is that the rights explicitly stated are not the only rights inherent in the nation:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.


So when reactionaries insist that gay rights or women's rights or transgender rights are not Constitutionally recognized because they were not explicitly considered in the eighteenth century, they are themselves being willfully ignorant. And Alfred is correct that the courts establish new rights--not by fiat (well, not always)--but by recognizing in a ruling that certain behaviors which had not been previously questioned do in fact violate someone's rights.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

but don't think they don't believe in their variation of the Enlightenment. It's just that their horizon of inclusion is considerably smaller than what many of us elsewhere can tolerate.


You are right as is often the case. Neither the Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence has much to say about who the document applies to. And that is what much of the internecine warfare in the US is about.

The best case I can make for our side is that the phrase "We The People of the United States" doesn't exclude any particular people. So therefore, the letter of the law applies to everyone, whether or not that's what the framers or the current guardians had in mind.

David Brin said...

Did I say onward? Please go to the latest thread.

onward

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

Which sums up what I'm getting from other far-right sources — the problem wasn't the attackers, it was the authorities who allowed them to attack, and didn't stop them…


And those authorities aren't the occupant of the White House or his justice department. No, it's the Democratic Speaker of the House who is somehow at fault for...what exactly?

As I say, they have no interest in consistency or reality. They think that they can overcome reality by force of will and propaganda. I admit I can't wait for reality to catch up to them on a battlefield (metaphorical or otherwise).

The Republican Party should really be designated a terrorist organization. I'm not kidding.

Larry Hart said...

and again...onward!