Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Back to Carson and Trump… and other ideal men!

Last political posting I broached my what-if scenario (1:4 odds) that the powers in the Grand Old Republican Party will try for a brokered convention aimed at throwing the nomination to Paul Ryan. Now let's have a glance at why they are desperate to do this. 

Hate-government propaganda has reached a point where having a scintilla of experience at public governance is poison to a GOP candidate. Our parents in the Greatest Generation would be appalled by this betrayal of everything they fought for, using government as one tool in their ambitious kit. Even more so, they'd be stunned by the boomer and GenXer candidates’ stunning self-obsession.

Donald Trump puts his name on everything and coats his homes with gold. Ben Carson's homes are plastered with paintings of himself (including selfies with Jesus) and blowups of press clippings, even in the baths. Carly Fiorina touts friendships with people who openly loathe her. Ted Cruz calls himself the only Republican with any cojones. What's with the frail egos of these GOP front-runners? Trump's blaring self-touting and Carson's relentless humble-brags say a lot about their followers - our neighbors who would foist such people on us.

== Oh the scenarios! ==

What an entertaining season.  I wrote much of what follows in this posting back when Ben Carson was the flavor of the moment. (It's still fun stuff so read on!) Now it's all Donald Trump again.  Before I go on though...

If Trump gets the GOP nomination, will other goppers (many of them calling him “unhinged” or a “bigot” or "jerk") support him as the other candidates have signed a pledge to do? They used that pledge to corner Trump, now it is they who are cornered. But this article points out why they’ll back him, if he gets the nom:

 “Let’s say you’re a Republican politician who is sincerely disgusted by Trump’s demagoguery. Here’s what you’d have to consider on the other side of the scale. If Trump becomes president, he’d inevitably fill the 3,000 or so appointed positions in the executive branch almost entirely from the Republican government-in-waiting currently camped out in think tanks and advocacy organizations; those people will then proceed to advance conservative goals in every agency of government. He’ll appoint conservative judges who want to overturn Roe v. Wade, undermine laws protecting worker and minority rights, and so on. He’ll carry out a pleasingly belligerent foreign policy. And perhaps most of all, he’ll sign most everything the Republican Congress delivers to his desk, which could be quite a lot; repealing the Affordable Care Act would be only the beginning.”  

Good point.  And yet, recall he’s the only GOP contender not utterly beholden to Rupert Murdoch and the Saudi co-owned Fox News, or to the Bush-Cheney clan.  My own guess is that a President Trump would not appoint the normal GOP factotums.  Oh, but even if he swore to to that, is it worth choosing a maniac?  Well, given that measurable outcomes from both Bush presidencies were 100% negative in every single category, I’d call that a plus in Trump’s favor. 

On the other hand, well, he is a screeching solipsistic bully.  See this article drawing interesting comparisons to the 1920s racist mogul Henry Ford.

Since collating and preparing this piece (in bits) I find that the news cycle keeps shining new lights on this madness. Jeb Bush calling Donald a "jerk" - while declaring support for whomever is the eventual nominee (Oh, multiple ironies!) Then the exchange of respectful praise between Trump and Vladimir Putin! After Fox spent the last several years kvelling and adulating Putin at every turn, crafting a cult of respect-idolatry around the Russian leader (which I dissect and demolish here), Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes must feel personally hurt when Putin goes and heaps praise on the fellow Fox least wants and can least control. See a satirical website,, promoting Putin as Trump's running mate.

Seriously, just like Putin, the man has a seriously high IQ. Trump knows that Outcomes eventually matter to swing voters. Outcomes from governance -- metrics of US national health across the board -- were steeply negative across both Bush presidencies and nearly all metrics of US national health were positive across the Clinton and Obama administrations. This set of diametrically opposite outcomes includes conservative desires like economic activity, entrepreneurship, deficit trends and military readiness. That kind of fact chops away at dogmatic loyalties and starts to tug at some voters sense of self-interest. 

 Hence, Trump recently actually said he hopes for a US economic bubble collapse soon! 

"I don't want to sound rude, but I hope if it explodes, it's going to be now, rather than two months into another administration."

... an openly treasonous sentiment that makes Donald Trump a genuine republican after all, through and through.

But then the cycle veers again!  And now it's Dr. Ben Carson, prying his way back into headlines by saying he is thinking of bolting the Republican Party.  Also he's still beating Trump in one place... on Facebook.  And so... 

I== The other entertaining one ==

Though he's fading, can we linger a little with the other fun-one?  I agree with essayist Amy Davidson that too much has been made of Ben Carson's exaggerated tales about his personal history.  

For example, the 'knife' and 'hammer' stories tell us more about his intended audience -- redemptionist Christians -- than about his actual character.  To them, his past does not show a messy, volatile personality fizzing below the surface, now asking for control over nuclear missiles. (A man who actively prays daily for the world and the United States to come to an end.) Rather, to his core base, these stories fit a specific narrative, that he is a reborn, his past sins and flaws washed away in the blood of the lamb. 

In other words, Carson is tailoring his life story to get support from the radicals who vote in GOP primaries. So? I agree with Ms. Davidson that this is yawner stuff.  No, Davidson urges that we pay attention instead to other Carsonisms:

"He has been utterly dismissive of climate change, and he has fostered the idea that vaccines cause autism. The numbers for his tax plan, insofar as there are any, don't add up. He has said that Joseph, of the coat of many colors, built the pyramids in order to store the grain of the seven fat years… troubling not because we expect our Presidents to be up on the distinction between Early and Middle Kingdom dynasties but because Carson presented it as an example of why one should reject the theories of experts and scientists and turn, instead, to the Bible.

"Similarly, his claim that none of the signers of the Declaration of Independence had experience in elective office, when a great number of them did, is significant not only because it is false but because it speaks to a particular view of history and politics. (Carson later amended the statement to say that none had federal experience. Of course, they couldn't have, because there was no federal government when the Declaration was signed.)  (Brin note: Some of them had served in royal offices, which was the “federal” of their time.)

Davidson continues: "He has suggested that President Obama might declare martial law, and that the 2016 elections might be cancelled amid scenes of untenable civil disorder. He has compared Obamacare to slavery and to Nazism. He has also made what PolitiFact judged to be outright false statements in the last Republican debate about his ties to a nutritional-supplement company. (In contrast, PolitiFact rated Carson's description of West Point's 'scholarships' as mostly true.) Perhaps the problem isn't that the media is too partisan but that, in looking at Carson, there was a hope that there might be a non-partisan way to address a campaign whose success is hard for observers of American politics to understand."

How one is tempted to want him to be the GOP nominee! So that America's endlessly reviving Civil War may come ironic full circle, with an African American man leading the Confederacy's latest attempt to destroy the Great Experiment from within.

Indeed, were there a "moderate" on the GOP side, with a shot at the nomination, I'd say Carson would likely be the Republicans' traditional VP pick -- the usual, stark-jibbering-loopy choice to help keep the crazy wing mollified.... and maybe draw some black vote.  Were Jeb still viable, I would lay money on a Bush-Carson ticket.  (Lately? Money is moving to Ted Cruz as the inevitable, Nixon-like VP choice.)

Almost certainly the Iowa Caucus winner will (once again) not be the nominee. (What's the point of these things, again?) The decision will again emerge from South Carolina... the irony that tops them all.

Oh, but just when you think Carson has plumbed to very bottom of the Silly Ocean, there’s this:  “Various scientists have said, ‘Well, you know there were alien beings that came down and they have special knowledge and that’s how they were,” Carson said, at a graduation speech at Andrews University, in 1998. (BuzzFeed found the video.) “You know, it doesn’t require an alien being when God is with you.” 

Um – let’s look at that again: “Various scientists have said, ‘Well, you know there were alien beings that came down…” 

Oh, please try that “the parties are all the same,” malarkey on us, now.  The only hope of US conservatism is for the few remaining sane fellows to rise up and denounce what Rupert Murdoch has done to your movement.

== Strange bedfellows in the war on reason ==

Islamic leaders from 20 countries at the International Islamic Climate Change Symposium concluded their two-day summit in Istanbul, Turkey by issuing a formal declaration on global environmental issues. The declaration — which was clear to stipulate that climate change is both real and “human induced” — was equal parts theological and scientific, using an Islamic moral lens to insist that world leaders take immediate action to assist our warming planet. Thus joining the Pope and nearly all Jewish leaders and so many others in demanding we pay up on our obligation to future generations.  Who does this leave out?  

Not Protestants, per se. Methodists and Episcopals etc have no truck with the War on Science.

Rather, it is being waged by two groups in the world today. Muslim jihadists and a special sub category of protestant Christians called “Book of Revelation fetishists.”  Those relishing the schadenfreude thought that the world can be treated like disposable toilet paper, because it will all end soon, in an orgy of vengeful blood and eternal torment for whomever they dislike.  In that scenario, anyone calling for “creation tending” and care for the planet we were given must be a satanic being trying to defy heaven’s plan.  And the fact that they are clearly morons, does that come into it, anywhere?

== Political Miscellany ==

Under the category of you-knew-this-already…. The House science committee is even worse than the Benghazi committee, with most of the republican members vociferously hateful toward science.

A new browser plug-in will highlight the names of U.S. politicians in news articles, letting you hover over them, creating a pop-out that informs you who their major donors are.  A great way to verify that their pronouncements and stances are - yes - bought and paid for.  Says the 16 year old designer of the App: “It is my hope that providing increased transparency around the amount and source of funding of our elected representatives may play a small role in educating citizens and promoting change. If you use the extension when reading about a Congressional vote on energy policy, for example, maybe you’ll discover that a sponsor of a bill has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. Or maybe you’ll learn that the top donors to a member of Congress who opposes tort reform are lawyers and law firms.” The motto of Greenhouse is: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” As in the color of cash. 

== A falsifiable hypothesis ==

Winding up, let us take note of an actually interesting and testable suggestion from someone on the far right! "At a time when most college campuses prohibit guns, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. thinks the opposite should be the case -- urging his school's students to be armed, especially in light of this week's massacre in San Bernardino, California."  Yes!  By all means, let us test the mantra of the gun cult that "an armed society is a polite society," as coined by the hyper conservative longtime editor of Analog Science Fiction, John W. Campbell.  Let all students at Liberty University be the first to volunteer to create such a society.

A university campus is perfect.  Almost everyone is there completely of his or her own volition, knowing in advance the school's quirks.  And they are relatively isolated and contained.  Sure the surrounding communities should be consulted and accommodated. But by all means, Jerry, get on with it. Arm every co-ed, jock, cheerleader and Book of Revelation apocalypse fan. Let's see how it goes.

And finally… How on Earth did this SMBC cartoon actually come true?  At least in the Crazy Party...


Anonymous said...

Texas is about to do the same, forbidding public college dorms from forbidding CCP holders from having guns in their rooms. But so not expect anyone to learn any lessons in the Confederacy. Supply-side economics was dismissed decades ago, but it does not stop governors like Brownback from trying it again. Our "labs of democracy" only work when science and rationality are applied. How long must Mississippi keep shooting itself in the foot before changing it's ways? We should find a African-American billionaire willing to fund the migration of all the blacks from Alabama to Mississippi, turning it into a blue state overnight. I have long promoted the idea of educated blue state citizens willingly moving to small population red states for a few years to save money and strategically effect the balance of government. Then we can give statehood to DC and Puerto Rico and push an amendment making voting an automatic right for all citizens. Maybe ditching the electoral college and a few other Constitutional updates.


Kevin said...

If this parade of clowns were lining up to run some other nation into the ground, I would find the whole thing hilarious. Not so much now. (I wonder if showing up at a Trump rally wearing a brown shirt and a Sam Browne would even raise an eyebrow.)

Alfred Differ said...

carry-over from SpaceX comments on last thread....

My feelings regarding SpaceX success with landing the booster was a mix of happiness and relief. Mostly relief. Some of us have been working the reusability issue for a generation now. It’s a tough nut to crack open. Investors are understandably wary of technical risk, so it was a compound problem involving engineering tests and bite-sized business goals that could be financed with small money. Masten and Carmack deserve a lot of credit for the first real, commercial cracks. Lots of people look back to the Delta Clipper, but that wasn’t small money, thus difficult for private efforts to replicate. (Drive by Mojave Airport here in Southern California and you’ll see the monument to those to tried.)

Relief. Finally someone has proven we were right. Small money efforts drew the guys with deeper pockets who could scale up. I don’t feel like I wasted my time so much now. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: (from last thread again)

Unfortunately, this argument about what is 'going on inside the heads of those involved' can only support my thesis on the pending Western Mental Health crisis brought about by modern social complexity & information technology dependence.

non-sequitur. You still appear to be assuming our cognitive requirements are more complex now AND we are failing to produce coping mechanisms. You might be right about the first, but I’m not quite convinced because we might be dropping old social requirements as we add new ones. I’m not sure how we would know except when old people complain about young people not doing things the right way. Don’t they always do that, though? As for the coping mechanisms, I am fairly sure we ARE developing them and even carrying some around in our smartphones. Last I checked, I can observe several of my vital signs with a hear monitor strapped to my chest, a watch at my wrist, and an app on my phone. If I do, I can (possibly) head off health complications and some of the associated stress sources.

I suspect that a fair measure would show most of us are insane. Self-destructiveness is one measure, but the one I use most is a willingness to make a tool of oneself to another. Pretty nutty… but… so what? I doubt this measure has gone up recently. Our ability to notice it HAS, but that would just make it a selection effect bias. You can’t fix what you don’t know is a problem, though. Getting a snootful of impressions every day of the insanity might drive us to develop coping mechanisms. I’ll settle for that and take the risk of something worse.

Alfred Differ said...

We've only tried to amend the electoral college system a bazillion times. I think it counts as the most tried and failed for amendment turf. I'd rather fix gerrymandering. That doesn't appear to require an outright miracle anymore. 8)

Regarding South Carolina determining who the GOP candidate is, I think that is worth a serious cultural cruise missile.

Regarding our neighbors foisting these folks on us, my neighbors are pretty vocal about being clear it isn't their fault. I have more than a few friends who are red voters, but they aren't happy with the current state of affairs and point out that the dollars behind current campaigns can be used to track who has done the foisting.

DP said...

The bottom line is that Trump is creating a 3rd party before our eyes, and his follower love him because of his racism not despite it:

The Dirty Truth Behind Trump’s Success? What if Trump is winning because of his racism and bigotry, not despite it?

But there’s another possibility that challenges this sense that Trump feeds—and feeds off of—false consciousness. What if Trump’s racism attracts supporters? What if his bigotry is the point?

There is no question that Trump has run the most unapologetically racist and nativist campaign since George Wallace made his first national play in 1964. And, like Wallace before him, it’s been successful, drawing tens of thousands of people to massive rallies across the country. Trump probes their fears, excites their passions, and gives them voice in a way they love and understand. “We have losers. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain,” Trump declares.

These voters may feel anxious about their economic status. But they also hold racial and cultural resentments. They’re worried about their futures and they dislike immigrants, Muslims, and blacks.

This new Third Party will be a White Power party of people who love Trump because he has validated their racism and allowed them to be open about it:

More broadly, whatever economic troubles middle-class white Americans have suffered over the past generation pale in comparison to the struggles of black and Latino Americans, who have lower incomes and far less wealth. A political movement that primarily resonated with people seized by economic anxiety would have a very different look than Trump's.

When Joe Posner went to a Donald Trump rally to ask Trump supporters why they support his proposed ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, they were not very ambiguous: They support the ban because they think Muslims are dangerous.

A Trump fan on Twitter who labels himself @Non_PC_guy explained to me fairly clearly that he is concerned about the "browning of America" and used a hashtag that stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident.

America has a black president, and he has presided over the most diverse set of executive branch appointments in history and the most diverse federal judiciary in American history. The share of the population that was born in a foreign country has reached a level not seen in generations, and even many liberals (including Barack Obama!) are expressing profound anxiety that the youngest cohort of Americans are using their clout to impose a freedom-ravishing regime of "political correctness" on the country.

These are profound demographic changes, and they have real consequences. The weight of Hispanic voters in the Democratic Party coalition is a key reason that backing a "path to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants has become a core item on the Democratic Party policy agenda. And the weight of African-American voters in the Democratic Party coalition is a key reason that Democrats are becoming much more attentive to complaints about the ways African Americans are treated in the criminal justice system. Whether you like these changes or not, they are unquestionably real and significant, and it's natural that attentive citizens would form opinions about their merits and that some people would end up on the "these changes are bad" side of the argument.

Expect more white identity politics as the white electorate shrinks

DP said...

For a really brilliant analysis of the 3rd Party being created by Trump you have to read the following.

It’s something new in American politics, a Populist Right Wing party who hates BOTH rich Wall Street elites AND brown skinned immigrants (populism isn't just for Lefties anymore):

White Middle Americans express heavy mistrust of every institution in American society: not only government, but corporations, unions, even the political party they typically vote for—the Republican Party of Romney, Ryan, and McConnell, which they despise as a sad crew of weaklings and sellouts. They are pissed off. And when Donald Trump came along, they were the people who told the pollsters, “That’s my guy.”

They aren’t necessarily super-conservative. They often don’t think in ideological terms at all. But they do strongly feel that life in this country used to be better for people like them—and they want that older country back.

...A majority of Republicans worry that corporations and the wealthy exert too much power. Their party leaders work to ensure that these same groups can exert even more. Mainstream Republicans were quite at ease with tax increases on households earning more than $250,000 in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the subsequent stimulus. Their congressional representatives had the opposite priorities.

This year, they are counting for more. Their rebellion against the power of organized money has upended American politics in ways that may reverberate for a long time.....

...The Republicans have their equivalent in the battles between “Wall Street” and “Main Street” candidates. Until this decade, however, both parties—and especially the historically more cohesive Republicans—managed to keep sufficient class peace to preserve party unity.

Not anymore, at least not for the Republicans.

The Great Recession ended in the summer of 2009. Since then, the U.S. economy has been growing, but most incomes have not grown comparably. In 2014, real median household income remained almost $4,000 below the pre-recession level, and well below the level in 1999. The country has recovered from the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Most of its people have not. Many Republicans haven’t shared in the recovery and continued upward flight of their more affluent fellow partisans.

It was these pessimistic Republicans who powered the Tea Party movement of 2009 and 2010. They were not, as a rule, libertarians looking for an ultra minimal government. The closest study we have of the beliefs of Tea Party supporters, led by Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist, found that “Tea Partiers judge entitlement programs not in terms of abstract free-market orthodoxy, but according to the perceived deservingness of recipients. The distinction between ‘workers’ and ‘people who don’t work’ is fundamental to Tea Party ideology.”

...It hoped to squeeze $500 billion out of the program from 2010 to 2020 to finance health insurance for the uninsured. You didn’t have to look up the figures to have a sense that many of the uninsured were noncitizens (20 percent), or that even more were foreign-born (27 percent). In the Tea Party’s angry town-hall meetings, this issue resonated perhaps more loudly than any other—the ultimate example of redistribution from a deserving “us” to an undeserving “them.”

DP said...


Yet even as the Republican Main Street protested Obamacare, it rejected the hardening ideological orthodoxy of Republican donors and elected officials. A substantial minority of Republicans—almost 30 percent—said they would welcome “heavy” taxes on the wealthy, according to Gallup. Within the party that made Paul Ryan’s entitlement-slashing budget plan a centerpiece of policy, only 21 percent favored cuts in Medicare and only 17 percent wanted to see spending on Social Security reduced, according to Pew. Less than a third of ordinary Republicans supported a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants (again according to Pew); a majority, by contrast, favored stepped-up deportation.

...When Trump first erupted into the Republican race in June, he did so with a message of grim pessimism. “We got $18 trillion in debt. We got nothing but problems … We’re dying. We’re dying. We need money … We have losers. We have people that don’t have it. We have people that are morally corrupt. We have people that are selling this country down the drain … The American dream is dead.”

That message did not resonate with those who’d ridden the S&P 500 from less than 900 in 2009 to more than 2,000 in 2015. But it found an audience all the same. Half of Trump’s supporters within the GOP had stopped their education at or before high-school graduation, according to the polling firm YouGov. Only 19 percent had a college or postcollege degree. Thirty-eight percent earned less than $50,000. Only 11 percent earned more than $100,000.

What set them apart from other Republicans was their economic insecurity and the intensity of their economic nationalism. Sixty-three percent of Trump supporters wished to end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil—a dozen points higher than the norm for all Republicans. More than other Republicans, Trump supporters distrusted Barack Obama as alien and dangerous: Only 21 percent acknowledged that the president was born in the United States, according to an August survey by the Democratic-oriented polling firm PPP. Sixty-six percent believed the president was a Muslim.

Trump promised to protect these voters’ pensions from their own party’s austerity. “We’ve got Social Security that’s going to be destroyed if somebody like me doesn’t bring money into the country. All these other people want to cut the hell out of it. I’m not going to cut it at all; I’m going to bring money in, and we’re going to save it.”

Jumper said...

If you know of some way to "track" dark money, Alfred, we'd all love to hear it.

Laurent Weppe said...

"The Dirty Truth Behind Trump’s Success? What if Trump is winning because of his racism and bigotry, not despite it?"

Trump is peddling a very specific fairy tale to his fawning audience:
"You are intrinsically superior, you belong to the natural elite, the fact that you are not on top of the food chain, the fact that you suffer from anxiety and material discomfort can therefore only be the result of a cabal of underserving inferiors conspiring against their natural betters"

Stroking the audience's ego has always been the most important part of far-rightist grifters. Why, you ask? Because on one hand authoritarianism is all about submitting oneself to whoever looks like the strongest bully in order to receive preferential access to the scraps falling from the lord's table, but on the other hand, Humans in general have an hardwired disgust toward cravenness and are quick to build up resentment toward a bully's lackeys to the point that it can override their (also hardwired) aversion for open conflict.

Bombastic bluster is therefore indispensable, not only to keep mobilized all the angry aging Whites who are pissed at their economic situation but lack the fortitude to target the actual nepotistic profiteers of the system, but also as a form of Chewbacca Defense:
The goal is confuse the "enemy" (in this case, the non-authoritarian segment of society) with swagger and the pretense of rebellion (sure, Trump voters don't like Wall Street elites at all, but they have absolutely no intention of actually harming this group which, unlike recent brown skinned immigrants, has the resources to punch back if threatened) because the minute the non-authoritarians unanimously say "Wait a minute: these are not rebellious people: these are a bunch of cowardly lickspittle who would sell their own neighbors to the most sybaritic of the oligarchs in exchange for meagre handouts", they'll stop wondering how to convince people to not vote for Trump and start making plans to subdue Trump's voting block.

David Brin said...

Irony... America's "face" is not changing because of illegal immigration, which democrats have always controlled and reduced while republican presidents savage the Border Patrol (while TALKING about beefing it up.)

America's "face" is changing because of legal immigration, which Democrats ARE responsible for! Dems like legal immigrants who can join unions and become voters. Goppers like ILLEGAL immigrant who can be bullied and drag wages down.

In other words, Trump supporters would be right to blame dems for America's "face" changing. But they are too stupid to see the real picture. But they aren't alone. I have yet to see a single journalist point any of this out.

Treebeard said...

Personally, I'm an unapologetic tribalist; I prefer to live around people like myself rather than have alien tribes invading my territory willy-nilly. I feel closer to my own kind culturally and psychologically, I find them more attractive, I'm less like to contract diseases, and I simply feel more secure.

This is a completely normal viewpoint which I shouldn't have to defend -- it's proven itself over hundreds of thousands of years and isn't evil or strange in any way. Which is why the moralist, scolding language that we hear so much of these days is so baffling to my kind, and falls largely on deaf ears. It's like trying to convince me that I shouldn't like pale-skinned brunettes because you have some ideology according to which that's bad -- you're not only pushing an arbitrary moral viewpoint, but you're fighting my most primal instincts.

So I'm happy to see someone like Trump demonstrating how deluded our present opinion-makers are, and giving a big middle-finger to the radicals who think my kind are supposed to negate our basic instincts and rights in the name of an ideology that is in practice a form of ethnic genocide. I, and millions like me, simply don't want the "face" of our society changed -- we were never asked, and we never gave anyone permission!

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

Re: Falcon 9 landing
"mostly because we've been there before with the Shuttle's booster system which was also considered 'reusable' until it failed catastrophically upon reuse."

I'm not sure why people think they are somehow being somehow more realistic-cynical when they bring up the Shuttle in a discussion about F9 reusability. The calm, oh-so-wise elder, seeing beyond the overenthusiasm of younger types who don't have the elder's long experience...

The Falcon 9 is the cheapest US/Euro launcher and one of the cheapest launchers in the world, as an expendable launcher. It doesn't need to re-fly 50 times to be cheaper than the Shuttle. Or cheaper than EELV. Or cheaper than Ariane. It's already there.

Likewise, it doesn't need to have billions of dollars spent on it to make it reusable, this is already its reusable design, fitted with engines which already survive dozens of restarts and reuses.

So unless the arguer is saying they believe the Shuttle would have been cheaper if NASA had built a new Orbiter, new engines, and new SRBs for each launch, then the Shuttle still actually proves that reusability lowers costs for any given design. The Shuttle just happened to be an incredibly expensive design to start with. A 130ton-to-orbit spaceplane, built with 1970's technology.

Paul451 said...

Also from the last thread:

"Modern social complexity is (literally) driving a significant proportion of our population insane; hence the growing social tendency to suicide

Actually the suicide rate has declined. And the highest suicide rates in the US are in rural states, eg Alaska (21/100k compared to a national average of 13/100k), Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming (20/100k), Colorado (17/100k), W. Virginia, Arizona, Oregon (16/100k), and Kentucky, Idaho, N Dakota, Oklahoma (15/100k).

The lowest rates of suicide, are DC, New Jersey, New York (6/100k), RI, Mass. (7/100k), Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland, Illinois (8/100k), and California (9/100k).

You see similar patterns with firearms deaths. Alaska, Louisiana (19/100k versus the national average of 10.6/100k), Alabama, Mississippi, Wyoming, Montana, Arkansas (17/100k), Oklahoma, Tennessee, New Mexico (16/100k) S. Carolina, W. Virginia, Missouri (15/100k), and Arizona, Nevada, Kentucky, Idaho (14/100k).

States with the lowest rate of firearm deaths: Hawaii, Massachusetts (3/100k), New York, Connecticut (4/100k), RI, New Jersey (5/100k), New Hampshire (7/100k), and Minnesota, California (7/100k).

[ The nation with the highest suicide rate... is Greenland (100/100k!), that pinnacle of 21st century modernism. (Iceland is just 11/100k, so it ain't the cold/dark.) ]

Drug overdose rates are less bifurcated. Highest and lowest are W.Virginia (32/100k versus a national rate of 13/100k) and N. Dakota (3/100k.) Otherwise there's no modern/rural, large/small, or Red/Blue divide: Texas/New York (10/100k), Kansas/California (11/100k), Alabama/Illinois (12/100k), Alaska/DC (15/100k), Arizona/Penn. (18/100k).

(There has been an increase in drug overdoses in the US (and only the US) over the last decade or so, which seems to be primarily related to the over-prescription of Oxycodone and Hydrocodone. So physician, blame thy self.)

duncan cairncross said...

Extending Paul451's comment about suicide

Suicide and guns
Suicide by gun is almost 100% effective
suicide by other means is a lot less "successful" - and a the majority of survivors don't do it again

I had a look at suicide by country
If the guns in the USA cause greater success then I would expect to see higher suicide figures
It's a bit woollier than that
Countries that have "honorable suicide" as part of their culture top the table
(like Japan at 18/100,000)
Countries that have a lot of church pressure against suicide are at the bottom
(Like the UAE at 3/100,000)
So I compared the USA to the UK
The US suicide rate is 12/100,00 double the UK one at 6/100,000

Then to Italy because the US is a LOT more religious than the Brits
Italy - 4/100,000

So I would say that the evidence is that guns effectively increase the suicide rate in the USA by between 2 and 3 times

Marino said...


Then to Italy because the US is a LOT more religious than the Brits
Italy - 4/100,000

aside our rightwing politicians pandering to our own brand of Religious Right mostly on gay issues, we're a very secularized country, very low church attendance, civil law marriages growing and chirch marriage declining and so on

Tim H. said...

Plenty of irony here, descendants of German and Scotch-Irish immigrants whining about the latest immigrants. What gets my attention is AtomicZeppelinMan's lumping Kansas in with the confederacy, the original jayhawkers must be spinning in their graves!

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Marino
I'm a Brit (now a Kiwi) who has lived in the USA
I know you Americans are not nearly as religious as you claim
BUT you are still one hell of a lot more religious than the Brits

Your idea of "very low church attendance" is an order of magnitude more than than the UK

Just count the pubs and divide by the churches
In the UK there are a lot more pubs than churches - in the USA it's the opposite

Another example
I was called up for jury service here (NZ) a few years ago
Out of the 12 in the jury only 4 swore on the Bible - the rest of us took a non religious oath

I found this
It says that the UK church attendance is 12% and the US 39%
IMHO that is true
The UK 12% go once a year
and the US 39% go once a week - or more often

Laurent Weppe said...

"I know you Americans are not nearly as religious as you claim"

Marino was talking about Italy

DP said...

Treebeard: "I'm an unapologetic tribalist"

AKA a racist.

What you are missing is that "pure" societies like "pure" bloodlines (God how I hate that trope in medieval fantasy literature - as pure as Aragon's bloodline was he should have resembled the banjo playing kid in "Deliverance") or even pure dog breeds, tend to be stagnant, inbred and jacked on many levels.

Your pure tribalist comunity is the cultural equivalent of marrying your sister.

Healthy societies OTOH require the stimulous and ferment of multi-ethnicity, muti-relgions/philosophies and multi-culture. Society needs diversity to be healthy just like nature needs biodiversity or investments need a diverse portfolio. Its why cosmopolitan urban area (aka Blue America) are culturaly and economically vibrant and why isolated backwoods areas (aka Red America) tend to be backward and moribund both creatively and economically.

You want to see how beautiful and succesful a future mutli-ethnic/multi-cultural America will be? Read Ben Wattenbergs "The First Universal Nation".

In the meantime I leave you with Bill Murray's inspiring speech from "Stripes":

"We're all very different people. We're not Watusi. We're not Spartans. We're Americans, with a capital 'A', huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts! Here's proof: his nose is cold! But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw "Old Yeller?" Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end?"

We multi-culti liberal mutts will advance boldly into the future.

You and your purebred kind will sit on the porch playing the banjo.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Your pure tribalist comunity is the cultural equivalent of marrying your sister."

I can already picture Brin pedantically typing "That's why the feudalists all secretelly want to become barons using their Droit de Seigneur to rape their house-servants and produce as many bastard children as possible so that their genes don't die at the bottom of the inescapable inbreeding pit produced by aristocratic endogamy".

Paul SB said...

The sapling's latest missive on "instinct" is a clear call for more education on what "instinct" actually is, and what it actually means, because he is right that there are millions of people who feel the same way he does. Those perceptions, even though they are based on mostly wrong ideas, drive behavior.

It's unsurprising that he focuses on tribalism and sexual attraction, and there is a lot of science there that bear on the subject. But first, there are a whole lot of misconceptions about what instinct is. People assume that instinct is something akin to software that automatically drives certain behaviors when specific circumstances arise. But humans aren't robots programmed in factories. The whole point of neurons that can myelinate specific pathways and grow new dendritic connections is specifically to create a mechanism for behavioral flexibility, so we can adapt to different circumstances. This pits our limbic systems (System 1, in Kahneman's terms) against our frontal lobes (System 2), and if you know anything about these systems, you know it is the lazy, sloppy thinkers who rely on System 1, that System 1 thinking is characteristic of small children and adolescents, System 2 far less developed in apes than hominids.

An MRI study back in the early 2000s Caucasian people look at pictures of faces, and found that their amygdalas, the limbic structure most active in processes fear, lit up with activity when the faces they were shown were African-American. African-American amygdalas had the same reaction to Caucasian faces. This finding was hailed as proof that we are "hard-wired" for racism. But the story doesn't end there. The same team decided to try this experiment again, but they were more selective about the faces they chose. When Caucasian amygdalas saw the faces of famous African-American people like Bill Cosby or Eddie Murphy, they remained quiet. Likewise African-American amygdalas were not triggered by famous Caucasoids like Dick Van Dyke or Howard Cosell. Looks like even instincts can change in the face of experience. (And sexual attraction, while he may be most attracted to Snow White, if you line up the best of every ethnicity on the planet, males of all ethnicities will drool like Pavlov's dogs. Or, as Raymond Firth once put it, whenever two populations come into contact, they may or may not bleed, but they will most certainly breed.)

Paul SB said...

The suicide data and discussion makes for an interesting context. Paul451's comment about Greenland vs. Iceland (that it's not just about the gloomy weather) is to the point. Psychologists have known for decades that prolonged periods of gloomy weather lead many people into depression and suicide. They refer to this as Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD for short). This turns out to be driven by our variable sensitivities to a neurotransmitter called serotonin, which is a general nervous system agonist (an activator). People who are more sensitive to its action are more likely to suffer depression and suicidal ideation during times of low sunshine, and conversely are more irascible during times of high sunshine. Now you would think that in a place like Greenland those people who were most sensitive to serotonin would have died out a long time ago. However, there are other factors at work besides instinct. Compare the economies of Iceland and Greenland and you will see that people in Iceland have a lot more to live for, and much better prospects for an improved future. So here again experience trumps instinct. If you go through WHO list of suicide rates you'll see some patterns. There are a lot of really poor countries at the top of the list (#1 Guyana), countries with a cultural tradition of honorable suicide, as Paul pointed out (#2 South Korea), high population density countries (#3 Sri Lanka) and low sunshine countries (#4 Lithuania). So instinct schminstinct! I'll drool with Pavlov's dogs over any number of beautiful female hominids from any region of the globe, thank you! I'll get my oxytocin conversing with people (of either sex) from anywhere. And if we can find ways to deal with the issues that lead to suicide, homicide and any number of similar issues all over the world, I will encourage their use. Why? Because I am not a slave to my instincts. I know they are real forces within the personalities of all people, but none of us are slaves to them UNLESS WE CHOOSE TO BE. What makes humans human is their very ability to make that choice. What makes lazy, ignorant fools the lazybrains that they are is their unwillingness to learn what is actually happening between their own ears.

Acacia H. said...

In an example both amusing and sad, I recently saw on Facebook a post using SpaceX's own landing of the lower stage of a rocket after reaching orbit as an excuse to be anti-government and suggest private companies can build roads (this being anti-government because they are advocating an Anarchist society with no public infrastructure). They then dismissed my theorizing what would happen - tolls for each section of privately-owned road. People building dams to keep water to themselves and selling for high prices the water to people who'd been downstream. And the like.

They even said "well a group of armed people can go up and take it back by force!" They then dismissed my comment that first, the people who built that dam would have guns and their own defenses, and second, he's advocating warfare. (So much for an Anarchist society being peaceful.) They even said "that's what negotiation is for!" while ignoring the fact that if a group of people live upriver and dam that river to keep the water for themselves, they have no reason to negotiate with those downstream and are even in a better defensive position with the dam already for driving off an armed offensive.

One other person pointed out that the only reason SpaceX was able to land a rocket on its tail was because of the 50 years of work NASA put in, as well as the work NACA put in before there was a NASA. He was ignored as well.

It just proves my point that Anarchism is a utopian ideal that will never work in practice. The anarchists all say "but people will negotiate and be polite!" and fail to consider that without government preventing mob violence, the anarchist society would fall apart and descend into tyranny as a charismatic individual gathers together supporters and then forces his or her rule on others by force of arms... and kill any who resist, while disarming those who don't.

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

Bit of last thread on a bit of the new thread:

Trump in the WaPo article,
"Isn't it sort of nice if, like, countries that we're always fighting with, maybe we get along?"
"This would be a great start. If you think about the money we spend fighting on everybody -- and we have to rebuild our country."

In the last thread, LarryHart & PaulSB noted that post-9/11, you were only allowed to say "some of this is the US's own fault" if you were on the far-right/religious-right.

Can you imagine the synchronised outcry from the Right's politicians, media and comentariat, if someone like Hillary Clinton said exactly what Trump said, word for word? "Did you hear Clinton this week? Eddie, roll the tape. {video clip} ... 'Sort of nice if, like, maybe we get along'?! How does that kind of weak, gullible, pollyanna idiot get taken seriously as a candidate for President of the United States of America? The Democrats have a lot to answer for. More after these messages."

(Indeed, that was a rightwing meme during the 2012 midterms, when Obama was recorded saying to Medvedev, "This is my last election. After the election I have more flexibility," resulting in "Obama is surrendering to Putin!" hysteria from the Right.)

Paul451 said...

Re: Anarchocapitalists on dams.
"They even said "well a group of armed people can go up and take it back by force!" "

Indeed, perhaps we'll even create a system to oversee the use of such an armed force by allowing the entire population to periodically vote to appoint representatives, which we can call... oh I don't know... the "government" (taken from the Latin "gubernare", to direct or steer.)

LarryHart said...


Personally, I'm an unapologetic tribalist; I prefer to live around people like myself rather than have alien tribes invading my territory willy-nilly. I feel closer to my own kind culturally and psychologically, I find them more attractive, I'm less like to contract diseases, and I simply feel more secure.

This is a completely normal viewpoint which I shouldn't have to defend...

Your position is understandable to a point, but in the real world, you have to get along with "them" as well as with "you". Unless you want or propose to be in a perpetual state of war with everyone else, if you want to live in an enclave of your own kind, you have to allow the rest of humanity their own places as well. Once "your kind" expands to administer an entire continent or an entire planet, you can't reasonably assert that the entire continent or the entire planet belongs only to the people you feel comfortable having a beer with, and that everyone else should find their own continent or their own planet.

It's especially ironic that the descendants of white European invaders think that permission for other people to "invade" their country is theirs to give. Unless your family came over on the Mayflower, your kind were probably detested as an unwelcome invader as well. So now that you're here, America is yours and screw everybody else?

I, and millions like me, simply don't want the "face" of our society changed -- we were never asked, and we never gave anyone permission!

Well, I never was asked nor gave permission for my body to become that of an older man either. Now that we know that, what do we know? Reality doesn't ask our permission, and as Captain America once put it, "It's not a question of letting, Mister. It's a question of getting out of our way."

David Brin said...

Laurent you said it better than I could.

Daniel: Old Yeller… gets shot at the end?!?! Waah.

re the ent: I have shown that one’s horizons (of inclusion, exclusion, exogamy, opportunity, worry) are largely determined by fear levels. How amazing that such people, with close-in horizons of tribal boundary actually think they are “brave” men, when in fact all metrics show them to be deeply deeply fear-drenched people.

Rob H. Also, SpaceX is funded largely off govt contracts, as postal contracts and Rooseveltean-built airports got commercial air off the ground. Above all, I point out that the Greatest Generation, who built the most vibrant capitalism in the world, after overcoming the Depression and Hitler and containing communism, would have laughed in the anarchists’ puerile-pimply-pampered faces. That generation’s favorite living human was Franklin Roosevelt.

LarryHart said...

I'm not as unsympathetic to Treebeard's rant as I may sound. Freedom to be left alone, not to have to participate with other people, or to "hang out" with a like-minded crowd, in and of itself, are things that Americans are free to do, should they so choose.

What Americans cannot do (qua Americans, that is) is to insist that everybody else get out of their way so that they can interact only with their own sub-group everywhere, or that their own subgroup is the rightful owner of all that is of value. You can live in a lily-white suburb if you so choose. You can't pretend that the entire metropolitan area or the entire country or the entire planet be a lily-white suburb.

You think you and your kind are the only ones who would rather not be saddled with inferior types? I also like to be surrounded by my own kind, by which I mean people who would rather live and let live than look for reasons to war on their neighbors. I never asked, nor did I give permission, for my country to be driven to ruin by the superstitious, violent, authoritarian obstructionists which are the current Republican party. If I have to live with the America I've got, not the America I wish I had, then guess what? You darn well have to as well.

If you feel some aspect of life you used to enjoy is being lost, chances are it's not so much that your inferiors are stealing it away, but that some wealthy powerful corporation has made that thing into a "monitized" commodity and sold it to some other possessor of capital.

Your frustration is understandable, but you're aiming your retaliatory fire in the wrong direction.

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: The only way I know to track that money is from the shadow it leaves across the land. I make an effort to meet unapologetic partisans and then listen to them and what they say between the lines.

The rank-n-file people I know in the GOP are upset, but not at Trump’s non-PC speech. They are upset in their belief that he is going to get trounced, thus Bill Clinton’s encouragement to Trump looks like a winning move.

One of the partisans I know is awful quiet right now. He wouldn’t do that if his preferred choice was doing well. Silence from him suggests he is very busy politicking right now. Since I know he hates clowns running in HIS party, I’m sure he is trying to support a palatable social conservative and that isn’t Trump.

I don’t think the rank-n-file GOP folks really run their party during the primary phase. I believe Lessig got it right when he refers to us as Lesterland. It’s true enough in the Democratic Party too much of the time, but small donations matter often enough lately to offer hopeful exceptions. As long as that holds, I think I can safely NOT blame my neighbors for foisting Trump on me because most of them are not Tea Party types. They like populism, but they also like to win.

Alfred Differ said...

Using SpaceX to support an anti-government position flies in the face of Musk's own approach. He is more balanced. There is no doubt he is taking money from government customers, but if you talk to him he is making sure his company doesn't become an owned contractor. He has some private ideas in mind and sufficient finances to protect his independence.

The anti-gov position that DOES make sense involves past actions where NASA and DoD defended their budgets with whisper campaigns. The effort aimed at driving certain contractors out of the industry and keeping others captured by the customers. It makes a lot of sense from the perspective of a customer dependent on few providers to support thousands of jobs, but the libertarian will object on ideological grounds. I know entrepreneurs whose companies when down the toilet to such campaigns, so this isn't conspiracy nonsense.

Those of us who wanted to put a stop to it had to find a way that didn't involve a frontal assault on the castle. It has taken a generation, but we are mostly there now.

Alfred Differ said...

My real complaint isn’t with Trump, but with the people who think supporting him is a good idea. They obviously haven’t read “The Road to Serfdom” because if they had, they’d recognize which chapter applies. The Strong Man Who Can Make Things Happen is a well understood section supported by lots of history.

I think it is worth watching the recent Roosevelt documentary on PBS. Theodore Roosevelt was such a Strong Man. He could have been a disaster for us, but we lucked out with him being a basically decent human being. Would we luck out with Trump? Cruz? Time will tell if we choose to find out, but why take that risk? It’s a terrible idea to force a Plan to work on us. That approach gives us the Strong Man AND a failed Plan AND messy consequences.

Alfred Differ said...

I’m not all that inclined to call Treebeard’s tribalism racism until he activity supports policy that enforces belief that his tribe is better than another. What he knows is less important than what he does. Smacking him for his beliefs looks too much like the actions of the Thought Police.

@treebeard: Be what you want to be, but understand that some of us are saddened by your preference for tiny horizons of inclusion. We fully intend to make your way go the way of the dodo, but not out of personal animosity for you. People like me believe the meme you advocate is deadly and we’ll put a knife in it with every opportunity. Understand that knives aren’t aimed at you, though.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, while I generally agree about the Thought Police, we are not the Thought Police. The Thought Police are not free citizens participating in an exchange of ideas, they are (fictitious) authorities who unfairly manipulate people to keep the memescape the way they want it, to support their own authority. We are just ordinary people expressing our ideas, feelings and beliefs, and we have as much right to them as he does to his.

As far as what people say versus what they do, well, this is a blog, not a village. Unless someone is sending out viruses, there is no "do" here, there are only words. Are all words equally acceptable? First Amendment rights are protected for very good reasons that I am fully in agreement with. But there are exceptions, like shouting "fire!" in a crowded theater. How might we react differently if it was Jihadi John on the other end? Words can, and do, inspire violence and criminal action. We have no right, as citizens, to censor anyone here, but we can certainly argue against attitudes that have been used to inspire murder, genocide, discrimination and blatantly unconstitutional (and unconscionable) policies. Most people today look upon past actions like the Chinese Exclusion Act with shame. What kinds of things were many Caucasian citizens saying (and doing, there were quite a few murderous riots against Asian people back then) that led to such legislation? Exactly the stuff this guy goes on and on about.

I would not put a gag on anyone, because it is everyone's right to say whatever is on their minds. But when they make reprehensible statements, I feel inclined to make moral arguments against them. Better still, when they make reprehensible statements that are based on unexamined assumptions (like his preferences being "instinctual" when in reality those "instincts" are shaped by lived experience) and false premises, then we have much stronger, much more pragmatic arguments. The best defense against ignorance is knowledge, not censorship.

Paul SB said...

David Brin said...

Laurent you said it better than I could.

I thought Laurent sounded a whole lot like Richard Dawkins there. While I don't like Dawkins' militant atheism, he certainly knows how to look past words into motivations and put 2 and 2 together.

Jumper said...

I was thinking Laurent said it better than I could, then David actually said what I was thinking.
I let a different "tribe" into my life and they all improved my life immeasurably. They were and are all smart, some of them extremely so, and I prefer their company to the frowny ent. My exogamous bent is justified. I'm more likely to end up the handyman / servant though...

Fie on your tribes: "Genius, all over the world, stands hand in hand, and one shock of recognition runs the whole circle round." -- Herman Melville

Treebeard said...

So Larry, maybe you should support secession movements so you can keep these troglodytes out of your lands? Surely “the right to live around your own kind” is a foundational maxim of any sane society. What's the purpose of a “nation” if it forces people to share borders and power structures with people they despise? It seems absurd and pathological to me. “When in the course of human events”, so forth...

Alfred, my meme is hardly “deadly”; it has survived hundreds of thousands of years and there are still billions of humans around. It might be deadly to some fantastical notion of how the future *must* be, that you maybe got into your head watching Star Trek growing up, but that's your problem, not mine. Trying to put a knife in tribalism is like trying to slay the sex drive, or eradicate “evil”, or some other ridiculous crusade. Best of luck, but please stay out of my territory.

If there is any memeplex we can call deadly, it's surely the one that has given us the industrial capacity and scientific knowledge to kill each other and the world on an unprecedented scale. Autistic-savants for whom nothing is sacred or taboo, with the hubris to think they can re-engineer and control the entire world, including the memes of every human mind, are surely the ones most likely to lead the world to ruin. Maybe these are the memes we need to put a knife in?

LarryHart said...


So Larry, maybe you should support secession movements so you can keep these troglodytes out of your lands?

I fantasize about the New Confederacy seceding, just as I fantasize about the Christianists being taken up in the Rapture, leaving the rest of us to go about the business of running a country. So in a way, yes.

I'm not sure how it would keep anyone out of "my lands", though, since the Republicans I have to talk to every day live right here in Illinois. Governor Rauner isn't going to secede and go somewhere else, more's the pity.

The difference is that, as an American and a believer in democracy, I understand that Illinois or Chicago or even my particular suburb is no more "my land" to forcibly evict you from than it is your land to forcibly evict me from. I don't want to live in perpetual war with you. If you are threatening to kill me, then yes, I'd want to kill you first, but I'm not out to preemptively kill you just because I despise you for your looks. (And sorry, but if you really do literally "despise" people for their ethnicity, then Alfred is wrong, and you are acknowledging racism. If the shoe fits...)

And maybe therein lies the chasm across which we can't really communicate. I have no idea where you live, but I'm guessing it's a rural community. I live in Chicago. It's never been anything but a hodgepodge of multiple ethnicities and national origins since the 19th century. Diversity is not something I feel has been forced upon me by 21st century liberals. Sure, people do tend to congregate in neighborhoods and suburbs among their own kind, but "their own kind" is not particularly defined by race or national origin, although that does happen. More often than not, it is defined by socio-economic status, education level, or professional status. Firemen tend to live in one place, or doctors in another place, that sort of thing.

What's the purpose of a “nation” if it forces people to share borders and power structures with people they despise?

You don't think you can live in a lily-white homogeneous neighborhood and still despise the family next door? If you as a Trump supporter have to share borders and power structures with supporters of Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush, how is it any better better for you just because they happen to be white? The point of any society is to mediate between people who don't necessarily like each other personally so they can live peacefully without internecine violence.

As for "what's the purpose of a nation?", you're forgetting what makes America exceptional in that regard in the first place. We've always been a man-made "nation" formed with the ideal that a rational set of laws and customs allows people to live in a superior manner than they do as subjects of a king or emperor. We are not Denmark or France or Germany or Japan--nations in the sense you mean where participation is genetic. If you want to live in one of those nations, why don't you go back to (I presume) Europe wherever your ancestors immigrated from? I get that you want to live in a country of, by, and for white, English-speaking Protestants, but that's not what America is.

Really, I'm curious what your preferred endgame is. A race war for control of the country? A Nazi-like "master race" who controls the wealth and power, with everyone else as sub-humans? Separatist city-states who contiunally purge themselves of those not deemed worthy? What is it you are agitating for?

Jumper said...

"Chief despiser" is a hell of a job description, especially for a tree. And what a tree! They tried to tap the ent for syrup and bile ran out. Ew! What a tribe that is. Knot-headed, Tolkien-reading bigot trees.

David Brin said...

Well expressed, oh ent, unusually so. And well-expressed utter-drivel. Dig this well; your meme controlled nearly all human cultures for 4000 to 8000 years and delivered nothing but poverty, pain and suppression of progress. The few times a competing approach - enlightenment - lifted its head, you troglodyte-macho feudalists crushed it in order to ensure father to son inheritance of ownership of everyone else’s children.

You think you can fool us now, by spouting our OWN values back at us? Live and let live? Let a hundred flowers bloom in their own gardens? Feh. We may be liberal and tolerant and diversity loving and all that, but we are not fools. Not all of us.

Allowing feudalism to regain power won’t just set up another, equal garden. You zero-summers will be content with nothing short of the enlightenment’s total destruction. It is a direct, existential threat to every human possibility that might rise above peasants slaving for masters in chain mail on a hill.

YOU guys led the world to ruin. And today's proto-feudalists are striving to ruin the one renaissance of science and flat-open-fair competitive systems and loose cooperation that has wrought all the hope the world has ever known.

If we win, there will be places for guys like you. You can set up your D&D and Creative Anachronish enclaves, if you like. But your weapons acquisitions will be watched. And every child abuse will be stopped. And commons like the earth and air will be protected. And every wife will have the right to pack up her kids and go to some other enclave or to the big city, leaving bullies behind to mutter in their beer. But amid those umbrella fundamentals, sure, you can swing your swords and preen and act all tough and maybe (after signing waivers) kill each other…

… while the rest of us build starships.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "I thought Laurent sounded a whole lot like Richard Dawkins there."

Last month I was compared to a far-left huckster parasitizing the french body politic.
Now I'm being compared with a retired Oxfordian who pollutes the zeitgeist through the repetition of far-rightist memes on his twitter account.
What did I do to deserve that? *Goes in tear hugging a dog in a corner*


* "We are not Denmark or France or Germany or Japan--nations in the sense you mean where participation is genetic."

I often say that while Nations are artificial constructs, these are nonetheless real while ethnicities are little more than convenient fictions. All the countries you name here didn't start as ethnicities (hell: France, like Russia and Saudi Arabia is named after the gang of bullies who plundered the country, then subjugated its population and told them "From now on you will call us Your Majesty and Milords or we'll kill you") but as monarchies, where loyalty to the crown was either enforced through the crown's superior firepower or pretty much non-existent (see: most of the HRE's history and the Sengoku period): when the feudal regimes ended and the countries modernized, the new elites invented a convenient lie "Hey guys: turns out you're all members of the same tribe: yes, even you Jews, Cagots and Burakumins, please forget about the centuries of segregation our forefathers imposed on you okaythankyou"

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Marino

Were you talking about Italy?
I've never lived there but

I found this
It says that the UK church attendance is 12% and the US 39%
And the Italian - 31%
So a bit less than the USA but nearly three times the UK rate

I still stick with

The UK 12% go once a year
and the US 39% go once a week - or more often

I have no idea what "a regular churchgoer" is in Italy - weekly? Annually?

Italy still has a nice low suicide rate - without the guns I would expect the USA to have a similar (or lower) suicide rate

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

when the feudal regimes ended and the countries modernized, the new elites invented a convenient lie "Hey guys: turns out you're all members of the same tribe: yes, even you Jews, Cagots and Burakumins, please forget about the centuries of segregation our forefathers imposed on you okaythankyou"

The American right-wing is doing that now. Jews and Catholics are now part of the "big tent", and all is supposed to be forgiven, I guess because they support Israel and oppose abortion. In my lifetime, Sheldon Adelson and Antonin Scalia wouldn't have been allowed in their country clubs.

Paul SB said...


Now I'm being compared with a retired Oxfordian who pollutes the zeitgeist through the repetition of far-rightist memes on his twitter account.
What did I do to deserve that? *Goes in tear hugging a dog in a corner*

Sorries! I have only read a couple books of his and seen him on a video or two. I don't even have a Twitter account, so I had no idea...

And as far as nations & ethnicities go, I'm afraid the US public education is sadly lacking in its history curriculum. It's mostly propaganda, and anything that doesn't fit into our culture's narrative that divides all humanity according to the color terms we learned in preschool gets glossed over. Most people here have never heard of the Franks, and if they know the Gauls at all it's from the old Asterix & Obelix comics.

The sapling says that tribalism isn't going away any time soon, and he's probably right about that, not because it amounts to instinct - that's just naturalization in the anthropological sense - but because ethnicity is too politically useful. Larry's comment about how Jews and Catholics are now being "allowed in" the conservatives' club is part of the pattern. Ethnicity serves all sorts of political purposes, from creating a base to unite behind a leader to the old divide and conquer. In the US we've taken it a step further: our political leaders perpetuate the fiction of 'race' so that the lower socioeconomic classes continually fight each other instead of uniting against humanity's real enemies. It amazes me how many people here just don't see that their ethnonationalist/religious hatred bullshit is precisely the opposite the democratic principles this nation was founded on, and the republic they force every school kid to swear an oath to every day in class. They are dupes, plain and simple, being manipulated by our self-serving, unscrupulous 'elected' masters.

I'm heading out of town for a couple days, taking the kids over the river and through the woods... so if I don't participate for awhile, that would be why. Later!

locumranch said...

All things are Tribal & all things are Feudal and, if you argue otherwise, you are engaged in self-deceit.

Feudalism, most often defined as "A political and economic system based on the holding of all land in fief or fee and the resulting relation of lord to vassal and characterized by homage, legal and military service of tenants, and forfeiture," is the prototypical hierarchical military command structure and, as such, it is virtually indistinguishable from our current democratic, academic & federal hierarchical models, insomuch that hierarchical selection may or may not be based on participation, popularity, merit, wealth or heredity and that "homage, legal and military service" of citizen tenants quickly becomes both mandatory & involuntary, up to & including forfeiture of privileges & properties.

Even in the most putative of representational governments like the USA, the average citizen tenant remains indebted and ever subject to a graduated fief & fee structure (taxes), hierarchical obedience (homage), occupational enslavement, involuntary incorporation, legal rigidity & selective military service. Local representation remains subject to regional oversight; regional authority remains subject to state overrule; state rule remains subject to a federal bureaucracy; and the federal bureaucracy remains subject only to its (increasingly insular) self.

All things are Tribal: A democratic polity elects a government that represents itself; Academia educates, graduates & propagates by self-perpetuating tribal criteria; Climate Scientists only support, validate & certify the findings and projections of other dull-y certified Climate Scientists; and Inclusivists (aka the 'Tribe of Otherness') tend to self-select & exclude all others on the basis of a rather narrow progressive belief system.

This is especially true of the StarFleet Model: The StarFleet Command Structure is a self-perpetuating aristocratic hierarchy self-selected by an established Officer Class; mid-level StarFleet personnel are subject to arbitrary reward, discipline & punishment; and the Red Shirted involuntary citizen/tenant/serfs of StarFleet are sent to certain doom without so much as a 'how do you do'. And, of course, the NexGen StarFleet Academy is notorious for rigorously excluding all those who fail to conform to its progressively narrow, intellectual, anal retentive, type-A and self-loathing (inclusivist) stereotype.*

* This is part of the StarFleet Oath, is it not, a willingness to die for Cultural Relativism while pledging unfailing obedience to an inflexible military command structure?

Robert said...

David, the links in this post are fantastic!

Did you look at the very bottom of the Trump/Putin link? My guess is that the funding notice at the bottom is part of the joke, but it would have been great if Kasich had had a "what the hell - why not?" moment.

Recently we've had two decent to good (pre-takeover, Eisenhower/Ford) Republican presidents and two appalling (post-takeover, nepotistic Big Oil) ones. For some reason the good Republican presidents found it necessary to obtain the Democratic nomination...

So from 2002 on I've voted Democratic. For Kerry I had to hold my nose a little, for Obama not at all, and for Hillary a lot (for Bernie not at all; I've lived in Europe - he doesn't bother me).

On the Revelation groupies, I've been amazed that so few of them have thought that God might ask them what they did to His Earth. One would think that a literal reading of Genesis would at least tell them that we're caretakers.

Bob Pfeiffer
Ruddock '76

David Brin said...

Solid thoughts, Bob P.

As for locum's latest screed of utter counterfactuals, one word applies to every assertion.


May you all experience warmth and joy and prosperity and augmenting accomplishment amid a civilization that does likewise.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

"If we win, there will be places for guys like you. You can set up your D&D and Creative Anachronish enclaves, if you like. But your weapons acquisitions will be watched. And every child abuse will be stopped. And commons like the earth and air will be protected. And every wife will have the right to pack up her kids and go to some other enclave or to the big city, leaving bullies behind to mutter in their beer. But amid those umbrella fundamentals, sure, you can swing your swords and preen and act all tough and maybe (after signing waivers) kill each other…

"… while the rest of us build starships."

Puts me in mind of James White's Galactic Federation, in the Sector General stories. There were three general classes of people in most species: the run-of-the-mill members of the Federation, mostly pacifistic; the so-called "naturals", who were allowed to maintain reserves wherein Federation law was secondary to their own; and the Monitor Corps, who kept galactic peace - a job which occasionally entailed permitting two groups of "naturals" to have a war. Said wars were limited to tactical weapons, and held in areas set aside for that very purpose. (Dr. Conway, the main protagonist, was appalled at first to find the despised Monitor Corps stationed at Sector General, which was after all a hospital - but found his attitude toward them somewhat improved after spending a double shift treating the victims of one of these "naturals" wars, between a group of Earth-humans and Kelgians.)

I think the tree would find himself quite at home in a Natural's Enclave. His only disappointment would be all those galactic citizens out there that he couldn't rule over.

David Brin said...

Actually my answer was presaged in Heinlein's story "Covenant" in which all US adults are asked to actually sign the amended Constitution plus the set of rules of whatever State they choose to live in. If they don't like the rules move to another state. If you refuse altogether, you are sent to Coventry, a vast territory where you can do as you like... but others can do it to you, first.

Of course all our dreamy anarchists or proto-feudalists think they would be top dog. Instead of the almost certain bitches and kibble.

Seriously guys, Cash in your savings. You'd have enough money to hire many servants in Somalia, Zimbabwe etc. In fact, you'd have servants in India, where you'd likely NOT be murdered in the first week. Go. Just go.

Acacia H. said...

That is the thing Anarchists don't get. It's like those people who look forward to a Zombie Apocalypse. They think "I will survive!" when in fact in most circumstances they'd be one of the first to die... and that those first who died were the lucky ones.

I harbor little delusion that I'd probably die within a week of a zombie apocalypse. I'd survive that long because I don't go out much. Well, except that I now have a young dog that needs to go outdoors and I'd probably be et because I'm not going to just kill him or keep him indoors creating messes and the like. So let's say within two days now.

If the social order broke completely down, there would be rioting and massive numbers of deaths over one month. However, the rural areas would not survive unscathed. Because people would be able to flee the cities... and after seeing the first wave of deaths from rural people "repelling urban refugees" they'd shoot to kill rather than hope to find someone who'd help. And it may very well be groups like street gangs and the like, who work together already and who are armed, who end up making it out into the rural areas and becoming the new marauders that prey on rural areas. The smarter ones would even be sure to use scouts, determine areas that will resist, and kill everyone there.

There would be no peaceful growth of Anarchists working together to create a better society based on firearms, negotiation, and mutual respect. That is an anarchist utopian dream that is even more imaginary than Star Trek.

Rob H.

Laurent Weppe said...

"If the social order broke completely down, there would be rioting and massive numbers of deaths over one month. However, the rural areas would not survive unscathed. Because people would be able to flee the cities... and after seeing the first wave of deaths from rural people "repelling urban refugees" they'd shoot to kill rather than hope to find someone who'd help. And it may very well be groups like street gangs and the like, who work together already and who are armed, who end up making it out into the rural areas and becoming the new marauders that prey on rural areas. The smarter ones would even be sure to use scouts, determine areas that will resist, and kill everyone there. "

That's pretty much Barjavel's novel Ravage's plot (Ashes, Ashes in english).

(Spoiler aplenty incoming)
On the eve of WWIII the laws of physics suddenly change and electrical conductors become insulators, causing the technology-dependant cvilization to collapse within weeks. Eventually all who remain are pillaging marauders facing survivors from the vestigial rural class (most of the food is produced in vertical farms in the pre-collapse civilization) alongside a handful of city-dwellers who managed to escape the marauders and band with the farmers. The farmers-urban alliance manages to defeat the marauders and their leader establish a luddite, patriarchal autocracy which in the book's epilogue takes its first step toward its own collapse when a bright man born after the fall figures out to make steam engine and murder in anger the luddite autocrat who ordered the destruction of his invention.

Jumper said...

The ironic thing is that roving bands of temporarily successful predators would have some form of "taxation," not allowed to keep the booty personally.

David Brin said...



to star wars!