Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Crushing Crazy

Below, I'll offer two lists concerning American conservatism. One recounts "conservative" stances that have always been welcome at the negotiating table... in fact we'd be poorer not to have voices speaking up for them and demanding accountability from liberal zealotry. 

The other list - alas - is much longer, case after case in which conservatives destroyed their credibility by screaming against clear science, genuine progress, or honesty itself. Example after example in which time proved them utterly wrong. From tobacco and smog to drug wars and gerrymandering, it's a long litany that our neighbors want desperately to forget.  

And yes, there were liberal errors, too. Two of them on a par with any single item on the conservative list. I'll cite those, down at-bottom.

First though... let's start with the sort of screeching insanity we're getting today.

== And now, this. What has driven our neighbors mad ==

Broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said it was a “form of psychosis” that caused him to believe certain events — like the Sandy Hook massacre — were staged. Jones, who founded - carried on more than 160 stations - repeatedly called the Sandy Hook shooting a “giant hoax” carried out by crisis actors on behalf of people who oppose the Second Amendment. InfoWars also suggested the September 11 attacks were an inside job orchestrated by the US government.

In a defamation case brought against him by Sandy Hook victims’ families, Jones tried a number of writhing excuses, like: “I’m a performance actor!” Now it’s “a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I’ve now learned a lot of times things aren’t staged,” he said. “So I think as a pundit, someone giving an opinion, that, you know, my opinions have been wrong, but they were never wrong consciously to hurt people.”

Putting aside the fate of this spectacularly evil traitor, the more general key words are Credibility and Accountability. Can we find ways to apply them systematically? That is the core question in The Transparent Society

I've long pushed that people on the sane-Union side of this culture war demand wagers, since the prospect of having actual stakes dependent on their ravings sends these cultists into blind panic, and can force a few RASRs to start admitting their own political psychoses. 

Dig it, the Sandy Hook parents' lawsuit was essentially a forced wager! It proves I'm right - the essence of this war is not left-right or even Putin-Saudi-Mercer-Koch-Murdoch enemies. The essence is the very existence and primacy of objective reality. Demonstrable facts, and the professions that use them.

I am not the only one who sees around us harbingers of hard times for the American Union. I’ve called this Phase Eight of the U.S. Civil War, a recurring mental illness and curse which dates all the way back to 1778. I’ve touted Sean Smith’s novel Tears of Abraham which portrays how many millions might die, if thing get hot, as our enemies – foreign and domestic – clearly intend.

== Defend the defenders ==

The administration is forming a National Security Council panel stacked with climate deniers, which reports suggest is intended to challenge established science, over-riding widespread opposition from former military officials, security experts, and climate scientists. While the Navy has been furious about denialism for a decade, facing loss of Norfolk, the greatest naval base in the world, plus many others, the Air Force is now learning the cost, with a $5 Billion burden repairing bases just from Hurricane Michael alone… money taken away by Trump’s “emergency” wall grab. 

Meanwhile, the Russians are opening twelve new bases along the increasingly ice-free arctic. And Putin and the Saudis giggle over how easy it has been to lobotomize America.

Liberals, dump your obsolete reflexes! This is a time to recognize the men and women of the U.S. military -- despite their crewcuts -- as allies in saving America and the world. 

Welcome them into our Big Tent of national - and world - salvation.

== Hope for rationality ==

This is worthwhile, even if you already knew some of it from my own postings. “A Field Guide to Bad Faith Arguments: Once you recognize these weak tactics in your mentions, you can easily outwit them.” For example, while climate denialists declare “We need more data and the jury is still out!” the cult has sabotaged satellites, cancelled instruments, banned research and silenced scientists, while claiming that any forward movement would leave us all “shivering in the dark.”

A good faith position would be “let’s find out more while taking policy steps that would help us all, whether or not 99% of scientists prove right.” 

This article covers other specious and valid arguments, and you – yes, you - need these insights to do your duty…

… which is to peel just a few RASRs (Residually Adult-Sane Republicans) out of the Fox-Putin hypnosis orbit and into the light. If each of us can manage just a couple, this phase of the U.S. (and world) civil war – the Idiocracy’s all-out war against smartness and all smart people -- will end in a rout.

 Lies are defeated by competition but it should be fair. See my FACT ACT.

== Capitalists who get it ==

This is an essential story about an immigrant who became an American business mogul, who now says "Capitalism is committing suicide." With the steady reduction of corporate investment ROI (return on investment) horizons -- from decades down to mere months -- corporate R&D outside of Detroit and Silicon Valley has plummeted, relying ever more on government research that members of the CEO caste then politically disdain. (The Bush-McConnell-Ryan cuts to US science are vastly amplified, under Trump.)

500 golf-buddy members of the CEO-caste ramp-up compensation packages, secretly divvy-up markets and allocate consumers among themselves, "planning" the economy with specificity that's similar to the Chinese Politburo, but without any long view. Moreover, not a single prediction ever made by "Supply Side" (voodoo) economics ever came true. (Repatriations of foreign held profits weren't even a quarter of the amounts predicted under the 2017 tax cuts.)

This was predicted by Adam Smith, who said that top aristocracies will always turn to cheating, vampirism and passive rentier tactics, rather than risky-productive investment. And recall that feudal-syndicate oligarchy was the hateful oppression that American Revolutionaries rose up against.

... and now the topic I teased about, above...

==  A place for conservatism? ==

I call for a Big Tent that welcomes the saner versions of conservatism -- versions that remind us that market competition is the greatest generator of the wealth that then enables good things. Indeed, before the entire movement was suborned by petro-sheiks, coal barons, casino lords, tabloid monsters and re-branded KGB/Kremlin conspirators, there were American conservatives who staked reasonable negotiating positions on:

- generating market alternatives to government solutions...
- reducing the overhead burden of excessive paperwork...
- only 'picking winners and losers" when there's a clear long range need 
          (e.g. sustainable energy)...
- encouraging responsible gun ownership...
- encouraging voluntary service...
- encouraging entrepreneurship...
- encouraging home ownership and a rising middle class...
- ecological stewardship...
- investment in an educated/healthy workforce...
- investment in infrastructure...
- investment in federal R&D beyond most corporate ROI horizons...
- honest, long range thinking in board rooms...
- defending the right of millions to live demure lives without in-your-face 
         shock confrontation.

Alas, out of all of these goals, only a metastacized, bilious version of the last one remains in today's mutant conservatism. The rest have all been functionally (if not polemically) adopted by a liberalism that already had plenty else on its plate. (And yes, Democrats did all the useful DE-regulating; offer me wager stakes on that, please.)

Let's be clear. U.S. Conservatives are in no position to lecture us, given what they’ve allowed to happen to their movement. Moreover, while conservative skepticism-toward-excess-bureaucracy is welcome, when it is sane, we need to recall how often they have simply been wrong, wrong, wrong, and again wrong... and now want us to forget:

Aid to farmers? Never!
Break up monopolies? Never!
Tobacco? No worries...
Cars and Smog...
Burning Rivers...
The insane War on Drugs...
Resisting Civil Rights* and hating on MLK...
Watergate, defending Nixon long past proof of treason...
Resisting Women’s rights...
Supply Side lies and outright theft of trillions...
Resisting easy fixes to the Ozone Layer...
Unleashing the upsurge in gambling, vice, mafiosi and casino moguls...
Climate Change denialism and science hating...
Claiming moral superiority while Red America scores worse in every moral category
      from teen sex/pregnancy/STD/abortions to domestic violence, alcoholism etc...
Endless Drug War and ever-more supply side never-right voodoo theft...
Most traitor spies since 1955 were Republican...
Most child molester politicians...
Iraq Wars, based on outright lies...
Undermining energy independence...
A proved track record of far worse economic outcomes... 
Gerrymandering and dozens of other blatant cheats...
Open war against all fact-centered professions; science, teaching, journalism, 
        medicine, law and "deep state" public servants...
Kowtowing to Vladimir Putin, Rupert Murdoch, Saudi princess & Trumps...

Skepticism toward "socialism"? Sure, criticism is welcome. But remind your neighbors how incredibly consistently and repeatedly the GOP/dixiecrat stance has been simply, factually wrong.

They know it's about credibility. Name one major gop leader between Reagan and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention. Except for Newt, all were brushed under the rug, including both Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis (friend to boys) Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, Boehner. This shows how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance. And if you disavow those past Republican administrations as incompetent, Russia-hating, enterprise-destroying, warmongering liars, then where is your party’s credibility?

And yes, liberals make mistakes! Their worst: Vietnam and desegregation through forced school bussing. Republicans supported the former more vigorously than democrats. But the latter was titanically evil and stupid and it did more to shatter the Rooseveltean coalition than anything. So don't automatically assume that everything that's PC is automatically correct. I could name a dozen latter-day rants and exaggerations that some of you push, that are not being helpful right now. 

But I don't dare. And that fact is the most damning of all.

Welcome allies and refugees from the madness/treason. Spread the tent. Defeat monsters. Welcome your neighbors.


Alfred Differ said...


I don’t have any words to help calm you. I suspect that would actually require chemistry or a lot of time. I would pray for you, but I’m not a believer so that wouldn’t help much. I’ll offer a few points, but without any real hope behind them. 8)

1. The USA has been through political crises before and will manage. It’s painful, but it is built into the American Experiment where we re-invent ourselves and expand our liberties now and then. Trump is not the first strong man and he won’t be the last. What he will do is offer this generation a lesson in why our institutions are the way they are and why certain traditions exist.

2. Other countries have always pushed our buttons. We push back. Sometimes we initiate the hostilities. Sometimes we don’t. I’m not concerned, though, because no nation on Earth can reasonably challenge us for our spot at the top right now. They may want to, but it’s fantasy.

3. I’m sure the blue arctic event is coming, but my estimate has been pushed to the right lately. Look at the sunspot maximum predictions for the next cycle. It might be a little weak leaving us with a small breather. We are getting better at predicting solar cycles, so I encourage you to look. Unfortunately, a weak maximum will give Denialists ‘evidence’ that climate change is a hoax. They’ll be just as wrong as usual, but that won’t bother them.

4. I don’t know why you think the next downturn will be a doozy. The last one was mostly because it was a financial crisis instead of the usual industrial boom/bust cycle. We aren’t lending as stupidly as we were in the lead up to 2008. I used to work in the financial sector and the sub-prime sector, so I got to see some of the shenanigans. They were lending money to anyone with a pulse. It was nucking futz. We aren’t doing that right now.

The thing to remember about financial crises is that they tend to stick in our memories as horror/nightmares for a generation. Everything gets compared to the nightmare and correlations are spotted even if they are weak.

So… we aren’t likely to do it again in the US for a while. Maybe another 10 to 20 years I figure. What is much more likely is a financial crisis outside the US like the one in SE Asia in the late 90’s that triggered a collapse of the Russian Ruble. Those events can touch us here in the US, but not as strongly as your nightmare reflexes would suggest. I got to see both up close and there are ways we can defend ourselves. I encourage you to do so.

5. The ecological spiral IS pretty grim. The best I can offer is it would be worse with almost 8 billion of us on this Earth if they were starving in similar proportions to what I saw as a kid in the late 60’s. Most people live in urban areas now and that helps reduce our impact, so I think we’ll have time to figure this out. Not a lot of time, though. We didn’t have a lot of time in the late 60’s either, but we worked out the Green Revolution anyway. Pretty amazing.

Alfred Differ said...

The question I like to ask of Conservatives who are pushing back against change is this.

What are you conserving?

That question might produce a useless response like 'our way', but occasionally it produces 'tradition', 'community', or something like that and opens a wary conversation. They usually know I'm up to something and suspect an attack on their tradition or community, but I try not to do that even if it is justified.

Getting them to identify what they conserve is getting them to see where they plant their feet in a defensive posture. While looking at that spot, they might be open to considering that this other spot over here is a slightly better location for their defense. Maybe.

They 'crazy' part of modern conservatism is defending the undefensible. I've seen too many libertarians doing that not to recognize the lunacy. In the end, they wind up making their stance alone because in the pain of their losses, they will grow angry and apply purity tests to their allies. It can't be that they are losing to a superior foe, so it must be that their defenses were undermined by weakness in the alliance. Schism results, but along the way some really crazy stuff gets said and done.

What are you conserving?
Oh? Tell me about that.
How are your actions conserving it?

TCB said...

Alfred, I'm kinda on the same page as Jim. The methane clathrate gun just may be enough to tank oxygen-producing plants and algae long enough to kill all humans, and soon. Maybe not. Hope not.

The next economic downturn, a doozy? Yeah. Probably. Not much structurally has been done to prevent the sort of 2008 crisis again, and yes, we ARE lending as stupidly in 2008. But not on homes. Now it's educational loans, and these are worse because you can't just walk away and mail your keys to the bank on an ed loan.

Also, thanks to Trump's withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the chances of a general nuclear war are creeping back up. We were fuckin' lucky not to have one, by accident, the first Cold War.

It occurs to me that, if we do destroy our world and ourselves, it will have been the 'pillars of the community' who did it.

Not the dirty hippies, the wackadoo tree-huggers, the drug addicts, the illegal immigrants, the godless free-thinkers, the gays/lesbians/trans/misfit etceterae, the abortionists, the witches, the welfare queens, the slackers, the peaceniks, the Bloods and Crips and MS-13, not the socialists, not the labor organizers. No.

It will be the 'decent people' who did it.

David Brin said...

Alfred I gave two lists. The first one is a list of desiderata that conservatives can and have legitimately and arguably defend. They CLAIM to be defending them, still, against socialist-SJW aggressors, pointing at a few dozen drooling lefty SJW assholes and screaming "all liberals are like that!"

When in fact, everything worth defending on the first list is being promoted mostly by... democrats... WHILE they are also pushing for honest governance and a zillion liberal reforms. In fact, the worst crime of RASRs is their failure to get angry over what's been done TO US conservatism by its hijackers.

TCB we need to make clear that Trump/Putin defenders do not get to claim they are "decent people." That's why I crafted list #2.

Even if you view youself as decent people, it should give you pause to see how often your cult was wrong, wrong, wrong.

dang said...

Alfred, I agree with many of your comments, but the part about the USA and war seemed a little understated. Yes, sometimes we're hostile, sometimes we're not, but on the "we're hostile" side includes overthrowing many democratically elected governments and paving the way for years or decades of awful dictatorships. (Guatemala, Iran, Brazil, Chile) Not to mention the invasions of Vietnam and Iraq.

In that regard, there's been a long streak of murderous crazy on both sides of the aisle. That's one that scares me a bit - what will we do next?

I guess I really sound like a downer here. Some days I'm much more optimistic!

duncan cairncross said...

On the ecological question - just recently we do appear to be seeing a lot less bugs - I don't like bugs but that is a worrying thing as the little monsters do appear to be very resilient

But overall we are in a vastly BETTER position that we thought that we would be by now

If somebody had told us in 1979 that in 40 years we would be where we are now we would have been amazed
We all knew that it was going to be so much worse than that

David Brin said...

I still don't get it, Duncan. 40 years ago no one would have bet that ALL species of whale would be around today and doing better... and that might collapse tomorrow.

Yes we'll lose a million species, perhaps. But what matters is genuses.. Species can spin off if we keep the genuses and then restore healthy habitats for them. And I would never say that to a republican, because they would use it as an excuse to let their masters wreck the planet.

Alfred Differ said...


Well... I don't want to imply we are nice in how we set up our empire or in how we maintain it. We aren't.
However, we are generally nicer than any other previous empire.

The thing to remember about us is we look terrible against our own standards and fairly clean (though not squeaky) when measured against previous empires. It's important that we continue to look terrible by our own standards too, though not by failing to make improvements. I don't mind if people want to move the goalposts on us now and then. We do it to ourselves when it comes to liberating each other too, so that's okay.

Remember the Americans who objected to the annexation of Hawaii? Not many do. It's worth looking them up and their argument... and then note that we haven't annexed anyone in quite a while. In fact, we've done the opposite. (For the record, I'd rather offer Puerto Rico statehood than cast them adrift as an independent nation.)

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Forgive my obtuseness, but it's taken until my fourth reading of Existence to get the ironic appropriateness of the surname "Living-stone" for one of the protagonists.

scidata said...

@Larry Hart

Like all good novelists, Dr. Brin has a penchant for meaningful character names.

Larry Hart said...


It occurs to me that, if we do destroy our world and ourselves, it will have been the 'pillars of the community' who did it.

Not the dirty hippies, the wackadoo tree-huggers, the drug addicts, the illegal immigrants, the godless free-thinkers, the gays/lesbians/trans/misfit etceterae, the abortionists, the witches, the welfare queens, the slackers, the peaceniks, the Bloods and Crips and MS-13, not the socialists, not the labor organizers.

Apparently, the "pillars of the community" don't mind destroying the world as long as doing so takes down the hippies, the wackadoo tree-huggers, the drug addicts, the illegal immigrants, etc etc. "Owning the libs" is the hill they are literally willing to die on.

There was an episode of the 1960s Batman tv show in which a villain called The Minstrel announces that he's putting "plan high-C" into action. His henchmen recoil saying, "That could bring the whole world down around us!" to which The villain angrily retorts, "So what? It's their world." As ridiculous as this example is, I think it sums up the wave of authoritarian populism sweeping the world today.

Yesterday evening, I heard a radio pundit cautioning "centrists, both conservative and liberal" that the angry populists feel those centrists have mismanaged society, leaving them (the angry populists) out of any benefit. Thus, they (the angry populists) have no interest in keeping the lights on, as it were. They want radical change, and they don't care about consequences because they perceive themselves to be in an untenable place already. The pundit warned against the tendency of "those elites" to talk down to the dispossessed, to call them un-democratic, or to categorize them as simply the unfortunate casualties of capitalism.

It again made me wonder why everything he said applies in reverse for Republicans. For decades, Republicans have been lecturing us about the necessity of losers in a capitalist system, calling us traitors, and dismissing us as something other than real Americans, and that sort of posturing works just fine for them.

Darrell E said...

I've got family and friends who are conservative. Based both on my experiences with them and with the many other conservatives I come across in meat space, media and on the internet I've come to the following, provisional, conclusions. Most of which are similar to what others here have said before.

Conservatives tend to claim the moral high ground, to exclaim that they are for decency in the face of indecency from liberals. But in reality most liberals and conservatives have very similar ideas about what constitutes decent behavior. Yes, there are some differences but on the ground, in one on one real life interactions between people, they are minor in magnitude and significance. It is only in certain contexts, like politics, that they get magnified into group defining lines that people will metaphorically kill or die to protect. And when you have craven interests formulating propaganda to take advantage of division coupled with typical human group dynamics this causes people to become more radicalized about those minor differences about what constitutes decency. The really teeth-grinding thing about this issue is that the very leaders that conservative folks continue to support, election cycle after election cycle, are very visibly the most indecent assholes around even by conservative folks' own standards, and yet they continue to rationalize this obvious fact away. This is one example of how conservatives deny reality.

There are two general categories that conservatives in the US that continue to support the Republican Party and or Trump fall into. One of those is the deplorables. There really are a significant number of people in the country that are indecent. The second larger group, comprised of many subcategories no doubt, are generally no more or less decent than those they think of as liberals but for various reasons they rationalize away all of the negatives regarding their leaders. These are people against which the decades long propaganda efforts of the Republican Party and its moneyed supporters has been very successful. That propaganda effort has not been aimed against liberals, it has been aimed against conservatives. Despite all of the rather easily available evidence against all this framing and lying these conservatives believe it*. This is another example of how conservatives deny reality.

(*Heck, even many liberals believe it to varying degrees. Not necessarily all of the details. Sometimes it's merely a general disposition. For example that Hillary Clinton is an evil immoral bitch. Despite the fact that all of the conspiracy theories and lies are shown to be false the feeling that Hillary Clinton is an evil bitch that can not be voted for remains.)

Darrell E said...

Continued . . .

That conservatives can remain so loyal to the Republican Party despite all of the negatives, all of the clear evidence of lying and misdirection and even in the face of the Trump presidency, this looks very similar to religious commitment and I think the mechanisms that lead to it are the same. Just as how most people don't choose their religion but instead are born and then raised into it, it seems to me that most people are born into conservatism, and liberalism to be sure, and then raised into it. It is a key feature of the subgroup they've lived in through the formative years of their lives, perhaps their entire lives. It has become a prior commitment. As such it is relatively immune to facts. In the face of facts against their commitment to conservatism they are highly motivated to rationalize a way for the facts to not be a significant blow against their beliefs. Just like religion. For example Catholics that remain Catholic no matter the amount or quality of evidence showing that their church's highest clergy have enabled and covered up egregious abuse and continue to do so. They find ways to rationalize the evidence away ranging from “it's all lies” to “everybody does it” to “yeah that's bad, the Vatican sucks,” but they still go to church and pay their dues which continue to support the Vatican. This is yet another way conservatives deny reality.

This denial of reality thing is the key to it all. These “memes” that have been pushed for decades by the Republican propaganda machine have flourished: we just have a different point of view of the facts, all points of view are equally valid, facts aren't important, we can make our own reality (by denying reality rather than using it as a guide), educated people are snobs, educated people don't get it, what you feel is more important than facts, accepting reality leads to nihilism, accepting reality is immoral, denying reality because you don't like it is something to be proud of, and so on. The Republican machine didn't invent any of these, but they have worked hard to grow them and it has been a very successful effort. The ironic thing is that just as denial of reality on the “right” is peaking so it is also on the “left.” The poisonous fruits of Post Modernism have reached a new peak and while they aren't nearly as influential as reality denialism is on the “right” they are having an impact and they are giving conservatives examples to validate their caricatures of liberals.

So, how to get a significant number of conservatives to accept reality? To see the facts and acknowledge their relevance to any reasonable conclusions? Given how so many remain unmoved even in the face of the Trump era it seems to me that there is no way to do that. How in the fuck are you suppose to convince a women who wears a “Trump Can Grab My Pussy” T-shirt or men that in the '80s were likely wearing “I Kill Commies For My Mommy” T-shirts and today wear “I'd Rather Be Russian Than Democrat” T-shirts? It's not possible. The thing I despise most about the Trump era is that it has caused me to hate. I don't hate conservatives in general, not even close, but I hate die hard Trump supporters.

jim said...

Thank you for caring enough to try and make me feel better.

But I am a pretty calm person these days, I have essentially gone though the stages of grief on these issues and have arrived at acceptance. I have taken up the practice of Stoicism and that has helped a great deal. Focusing on things that I can actually do and accepting that much of what happens is and always will be completely beyond my control.

For example, my old small used car died recently, and I found a great deal on low mileage used Volt. It has reduced my carbon footprint for transportation by another ~80%. It has been kind of fun to tell family, friends and coworkers that I am driving 45 -50 miles on a dollar’s worth of wind power.

Now I know that my actions will not prevent the bad things coming down the road for all of us but it does make it a lot easier to look at myself in the mirror.

scidata said...

Duncan Cairncross: overall we are in a vastly BETTER position that we thought that we would be by now

Some scoff at optimistic views of the future. Especially in America which is currently getting a wee taste of brutal and scary back-sliding. Taunts of Pollyanna and silly SF cosplay are lobbed.

This is a total misreading of Asimov et al. He was no shrinking violet or naive peacenik. He hated and feared fascism like any sane, knowledgeable, rational, humanist would. That was the entire point. He worked in and for the military. He was a proud American who punched oligarchs in the beak instead of shamefully grovelling at their feet.

He and others presented a vision of the future to be longed for. The subtle difference between skepticism and cynicism is the razor's edge that humanity has been 'trekking' across through all of history. Values such as decency, empathy, valor, and true individualism should be embraced, not ridiculed by spineless puppets. No, this is not elitism. This is exactly the opposite. Defeatist, cynical nihilism is not fierce libertarianism. Skeptical optimism is, and embrace of diversity is.

David Brin said...

Look, I know that 90% of redders hate us smartpants too much to come into the light. But the 10% we can reach are crucial. They will tip the balance so hard in many districts that the cheaters will be either daunted or caught. And They are likely to convince another 10% to stay home.

We could do more if any dem pols had the wit to turn reflex anti-elitism away from people-who-know-stuff and onto the power-abusers of 99% of 6000 years. But none has been willing to gamble on Big Perspective.

Lines in the sane. We should all be laying them in front of wavering RASRS. "Trump claims his financials contain nothing shameful and you believe him. What if they do, and he's been hiding important information about criminal activity? Money laundering? Beyond-coincidence Russian connections? Will that be a red line for you?"

A.F. Rey said...

Darrell E, recently had a nice list falacies that Republicans (and many other people) use to deceive themselves, especially about Trump.

o They blame the messenger, reasoning that lying may be bad form, but pointing out the lie is much worse form...

o They convince themselves that what Trump said may not be true in the specific details, but that it properly conveys larger truths, and that is what matters...

o They engage in the logical fallacy (more on those below) of false equivalence, arguing that everyone lies, so it is no more or less wrong for Trump to do so...

o They accept that self-promotion necessarily involves a certain amount of fibbing...

o They embrace what is called a "biased social theory"—the world is unfairly aligned against Donald Trump, so he's right to fight back with any tools at his disposal...

o They buy into what are called fictitious narratives of intention, which (similar to Machiavelli) are the belief that bad behavior like lying is justified in the service of a positive goal...

Trump and his base definitely take self-deception to extremes, particularly by the standards of the political arena, but the behavior itself is not particularly rare.

jim said...

You may want to reconsider your evaluation of the arctic sea ice.
I do not think the sun spot cycle will play much of a role in the first blue arctic event.

The arctic sea ice has already lost most of its multiyear ice, it is thinner and easier to break up and it is more mobile. There is already plenty of heat in the arctic oceans to melt all of the sea ice. Global warming has preconditioned the arctic sea ice, so it is really the weather patterns of that year that will give us the first blue arctic ocean.

The weather pattern you need for the first blue arctic event is a warm spring to get things started, then lots of sun in June and July then a big artic storm late in the summer.

This year had a warm spring in the arctic and the forecast is for a sunny arctic in June and July. If we actually get those 2 months of sunny skies in the arctic this year will be a record low.

I will provide an update about the arctic sea ice around the summer solstice.

Darrell E said...


I didn't mean to appear to gainsay you, I agree with you on this issue. I was just expressing the difficulties that I see.

A.F. Rey,

Thanks for pointing out that interesting article. Seems pretty accurate to me.

David Brin said...

With Catfish gone (I mourn) I deem Alfred to be the fellow who best understands almost any point I make here. But jim is definitely our conscience.

Oh, and I meant line in the SAND... though line in the SANE was likely a blatant mental connection slip.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

So, how to get a significant number of conservatives to accept reality?

Per George Orwell, what finally forces people to accept reality is often when they run into it on a battlefield.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin to RASRs:

"Trump claims his financials contain nothing shameful and you believe him. What if they do, and he's been hiding important information about criminal activity? Money laundering? Beyond-coincidence Russian connections? Will that be a red line for you?"

If I may be so bold, you don't seem to get the fact that the Trump supporters in question would not consider any of those things to be bad in and of themselves. They're bad if Democrats do them, because that constitutes cheating, but they're not bad if Republicans do them, because that's just using any tools at their disposal to keep the world in its rightful order.

Money laundering? I'm sure they'd say that the rules set up by elites are designed to thwart the ambitious little guy, and that Trump is just sticking it to the man. Russian connection? They don't hate Russia any more (Eurasia has always been our friend), and they admire Putin's strong-arm authoritarianism, so they're probably proud of their guy Trump for cozying up to him.

The sad fact is that there is no shared value that you or I can say to convince them to abandon Trump because you and I are the problem. The fact that we don't like the guy is reason enough for them to support him. Anything about him that upsets us becomes a plus. It's like the thing my brother and I used to do when we were toddlers, when he'd want to do whatever I was doing, and I wanted to do something that he wasn't doing. Irreconcilable differences.

Alfred Differ said...


Focusing on things that I can actually do and accepting that much of what happens is and always will be completely beyond my control.

Heh. I’m not so sure you’ve given up on things ‘completely beyond your control’. Look at what you say around here from a bystander’s perspective and you’ll see someone trying to persuade others. Also, if you are talking about what you do to reduce your carbon footprint, that’s ‘demonstration by example’ and is identified even in the Bible as a powerful persuasion method [Matthew 5:16].

That’s not the voice of someone who has surrendered and I applaud from my little corner of the world where I try similar things. For me, I moved closer to where I work. Whether I use carbon fuels or not, I won’t be using as much energy in my commute. Conservation works even better than switching energy sources. 8)

As for arctic sea ice melting away, I DO track it. The multi-year ice is mostly gone and has been gone for a few years. We came pretty close to a blue arctic summer a few years back too. About 10 years ago (on a different site) I was advocating for my GOP friends to take the climate change issue and own it. My friends couldn’t stand the proposed solutions, but didn’t necessarily disagree on the science, so I pushed to get them to dominate the movement and bring with them sane economic solutions. The common derogatory phrase they used was ‘watermelon green’ to point out people who were essentially pushing a socialist agenda. Since I can agree with them that socialism is generally bad medicine, I wanted them in the mix with saner suggestions. Didn’t work, of course. It was as if you all had kooties. I eventually stopped trying that approach, but I kept up my watch on the data and models applied.

I’ve been hanging out at for a few years and seen an obvious trend. There are times when sea ice extent comes up to the 1981-2010 average range, but not often as of late. The yearly charts for arctic ice demonstrate that the likely bands have shifted down. They don’t show a likely collapse any time real soon, but the ice extent is obviously not recovering to the same level after summer melts. We’d expect that when multi-year ice melts and other charts back that up. [There is a chart further down the page showing arctic sea ice older than 4 years is essentially gone.]

Though I do pay attention to the ice, I’m still moderately optimistic for the next 20 years. Sunspots DO matter because they change the shape of the upper atmosphere where we successfully radiate IR back into space. Their reduction won’t be enough to stop the warming, but it does help a bit in the models. Buying time is the point, though. As more people join the modern economy, more people will have something to lose when climate change destroys their environmental assumptions like where they acquire clean fresh water or dump urban wastes. Ricardo had something to say about what fair markets can do when more people join them, so that is the source of my optimism. Richer people stand to lose more, can be motivated easier, and if even a small percentage try to solve big problems more is better.

Alfred Differ said...


I’ve seen your lists in various forms before and mostly agree with the value in the good ones. Occasionally I think you go overboard in accusing them of some of the bad ones, but on average I think you are close enough. Your first list is supposed to be the good stuff for conservatives, though, and I think you are over-reliant on an old definition for ‘conservative’ that historically is a better match for moderate progressives. Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive in many ways and socially conservative in other ways, right? That means many (but not all) entries on your first list aren’t going to sound conservative to current conservatives. No doubt this is part of your point, but fighting them over definitions sounds to me like the same kind of fight some of us liberals wage with progressives over their use of ‘liberal’ for self-identification. They simply aren’t liberals in the classical sense, but they’ve distorted the term and out-number us so the fight can’t be won.

Consider ‘encouraging voluntary service’ for example. Sounds good to me. Who would possibly argue against that? Well… a libertarian would ask ‘service to whom?’ and vary their response a lot depending on your answer. Service to small charity groups? Sure. Service to our nation as a war fighter? Hmm. Service in support of a taxing agency? Ugh. Voluntary service is generally good when freely given, but we might want to think about the nature of the service and reserve judgement until we know. So… would a modern conservative really see voluntary service as a conservative thing? I doubt it. It might sound progressive to them. Since the GOP of old WAS more progressive, they’d be correct too.

Many of your investment notions sound like they are straight from a progressive playbook. Good for Eisenhower or Nixon Republicans. Not appropriate for what they all became when the Dixiecrats were kicked in the gut by Democrats and left to join the Republicans. Getting them to see that, though, will probably be just as hard as it was for Democrats to face to cancer that was named Dixiecrat. It’s easier to turn away from the vile things one’s ally does. It’s easier to adjust what we believe we perceive than face reality. For Democrats of my father’s generation, it was Jim Crow.

Mental dissonance isn’t life threatening and we humans are really good at tolerating it. We are even better at it when people we don’t like try to point it out. That’s why I like to start out by asking them to look at their own feet in the sense of what they are defending. It starts them talking about something they actually like. Budging them a few inches later if I’m successful doesn’t change the frontline of the battle much, but it occasionally alters their willingness to fight certain people… like me. It’s a time intensive approach, though. Lots of talking. Lots of swapped stories. Slim chance of success. It’s not something you are likely to do without lots of dittos, but the rest of us can employ the technique in a distributed sense and change things.

That’s what I see you advocating, though. We don’t have to convince them all of any particular thing. We just have to convince a small percentage to win in close elections. Convince the sane aunt to counter the vote of the nutty uncle. Something like that. Small efforts that don’t appear to do much individually, BUT they add up AND they demonstrate by example which means the technique can be copied by observers.

I do like to think I get most of your points. Occasionally I don’t have much to say that wouldn’t translate as ‘What he said’. Occasionally I’d place a different level of concern on things that you do. Very occasionally I think you’ve gone off the deep end. I think I get the general positions, though. 8)

jim said...

I totally agree with you about reducing demand should take priority over switching energy sources. That is why I stopped flying and why I spent a fair amount on insulation and new windows for my old sears craft home before switching to electricity from wind. Reduce your demand for energy before going renewable.

I think that would be a good strategy for all of us, but if everyone did it (or even if just the people who call themselves environmentalist did it) the economy would crash. So we are in a catch 22 situation.

As far as things beyond my control - I have a fair amount of control over the things I do - so focusing on walking the walk is something I can do, and it really does help when I am talking the talk. If part of the reason someone changes their behavior is because of something I said or did that is great but outside of my control. And I think the credit for changing behavior should go to the people who change their behavior not the people who inspired them.

Unknown said...

I am not the only one to point this out, but there does seem to be a reactionary - I don't use the word conservative for these people any more, because they aren't - wave building in politics worldwide. India and Australia, two justly admired democracies, just returned reactionary governments to power. Britain is still busy Brexiting its own economic grave. Japan has taken steps to reglorify its fascist past.
The odds of concerted international effort to deal with global warming keep dropping, and we don't have much time left. I'm starting to wonder if this is deliberate - the frog turning off its heat sensors because it's just too much bother to hop out of the pot.


David Brin said...

What I said earlier about Alfred & jim.

matthew said...

I think getting the 70% of Americans that do agree on solutions to all actually vote is a hell of a lot more important than trying to peel 10% off of the GOP that do vote. David's RSARs are *hard* to convince because it entails getting them to betray their tribe.

Getting the 50% that don't vote but they agree with 70% with sane policy goals...? That is politics. Obama did it by offering a post- racism society and it worked so well that every racist in the world freaked out.

Build networks, register allies. These things matter. Wasting time trying to scrape a few more RASRs away from their cult? Not nearly as important as mobilizing the youth, the drug users, the hippies and the queer.

David Brin said...

matthew I agree with you. But the DP is already bent on huge get out the vote drives. What use is my contrarianism with that?

There are other elements needing attention:

1- preventing provocateurs from inciting civil war on the Union side.

2- crushing any Steins or Naders, like bugs... except where there's preferential balloting, so they'll learn to make THAT their issue.

3- shattering the mesmerinc spell keeping RASRS in the GOP coalition.

You do not grasp that importance. each added vote in a city is vastly less effective than one less GOP one in a purple battleground. Think it through.

duncan cairncross said...

Re-Getting out the vote

The USA has very low voting numbers compared to the rest of the west


The number of registered voters voting in the USA is not that bad - it's worse but not terrible

The area where the USA is way behind other western nations is NOT "voter turnout" but voter REGISTRATION

A drive to get ALL eligible voters registered would have more effect than getting all registered voters to the polls

Alfred Differ said...


I partially agree, but the toolset for reaching each type is different. A Conservative who is actively trying to defend against a particular change and is active in their community is probably a voter. A non-voter might vocally complain, but probably isn’t as active in their community. Why should they try? The chance is high that they have learned hopelessness. Literally. Like those old drowning rats in a barrel experiments. Teach someone hopelessness and they don’t try to save themselves because they don’t think they can.

My experience with consistent non-voters is they have learned hopelessness to some degree. They can be harder to budge than the misguided conservative who tolerates mental dissonance. Both are worth some effort, but I find that hopeless people are harder for me to move because their attitude is contagious. I can only face them in small numbers with relief time in between. I’ve learned this from experience involving former friends of mine. So… give me a misguided zealot any day. Their energy might be misdirected, but it energizes me.

People who learn hopelessness might admit it someday, but even then they probably won’t try to do anything about it. It takes a lot of effort to pull them out of their personal abyss.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

People who learn hopelessness might admit it someday, but even then they probably won’t try to do anything about it.

Yes, I know too many people who repeat as mantras "Both parties are corrupt" or "Voting doesn't change anything" as a justification for not participating in democracy. They still complain when things don't go their way, though.

john fremont said...

"Both parties are corrupt"

I usually follow up with "Then why do you get wound up when people vote for Dems then?"

Larry Hart said...

Some Democrats might fear a repeat of the mistakes Republicans made when they impeached Clinton two decades ago, but this suggests a lack of faith in their own leadership. Clinton was impeached for covering up sex with an intern. Were Trump to be impeached, it would be for covering up his entanglements, financial and otherwise, with a hostile foreign power, blatantly profiting from his office, declaring himself above the law, and demanding freedom from oversight as the price of fulfilling ordinary presidential responsibilities. If Democratic politicians don’t believe they can make the public see the difference between these two impeachment scenarios, perhaps they are in the wrong line of work.

Larry Hart said...

I should have read ahead. From that same NY Times article:

Besides, the notion that Republicans suffered a devastating rebuke as a result of the Clinton impeachment is overblown. Republicans kept the House in the 1998 midterms, though Democrats gained five seats. Clinton was damaged enough that his vice president, Al Gore, held him at a distance while running to succeed him. In the 2000 election, Republicans won the presidency, kept the House, and narrowly took the Senate, giving them trifecta control of government for the first time in nearly half a century. Can this really be the cautionary tale that’s frightening Democrats from doing all they can to hold a lawless president to account?

A.F. Rey said...

Before impeaching, the Democrats first have to find an actual crime to impeach him for.

Obstruction of justice ain't gonna cut it until we know exactly what he was (is?) hiding and how serious that crime is. Otherwise, 40 percent of the country will excuse his behavior as a justified overreaction to a "fishing expedition" by the Democrats. :(

During Nixon's time, we were horrified by the idea that the President would actively try to cover-up an investigation. But that charge has been leveled at the Presidents so often since then, and the country has become so polarized, it is no longer such an outrage. We need something that will taint Trump to those who don't already see him as tainted. It won't work otherwise.

So the Democrats need to investigate everything they can about him. But until they find that smoking gun, impeachment ain't gonna be on the table.

jim said...

Over at Eschaton, Duncan Black said this:

"I'm not a mindreader and I don't have any inside knowledge about why Pelosi doesn't think crimes are important, but I have one guess. No one in Congress (or, enough of them don't) wants the Barr Justice Department shining a flashlight up their asses. "

There certainly are (at least) several elected democrats that are corrupt and a far greater number can be investigated and portrayed as corrupt.

Now I don't know if Duncan in right but it sure seems to me that our federal government has become very dysfunctional.

I thought the dysfunction was bad under Clinton, but it became way worse under Obama, and now I can't believe how bad the dysfunction is. (and what is even worse is that federal government did function under Bush II and what the government actually did was pretty horrible in my opinion.)

Alfred Differ said...

A. F. Rey,

Before impeaching, the Democrats first have to find an actual crime to impeach him for.

We already have a list and it is growing.

It starts with "Conspiracy to Defraud the United States". The hush money paid to Stormy Daniels was also a crime, but the effort to cover it up involved a conspiracy to defraud us.

To that can be added obstruction charges and to that can be added contempt of Congress charges.

As they continue to work, I'm sure they will also find the bank and insurance fraud Cohen pointed out in his Congressional testimony. Since Trump is trying to block those investigations, we get to add obstruction and contempt charges too.

We already have enough to write the first few articles of impeachment, but I don't mind if they want to keep looking for more. Just call it what it is, though. The House Judicial committee is conducting an impeachment inquiry even when they avoid calling it that.

David Brin said...

Duncan that's why many blue states are doing motor voter, automatically registering you with a driver's license, unless you opt out.

the idea (jim) that the dems are restraining impeachment because they fear light is stunning drivel! DT is desperate to expose anything he can find, already, so are Rupert Murdoch/Fox, plus Barr and the entire right-o-sphere. In fact the biggest outcome from all this is the glaring, nova-level fact that they've got nothing! That they are reduced to trying to rave that Peter Strzok's comments dissing Trump and the Steele Dossier had supposed bias is amazing in this era of "whatabout Hillary's emails!"

Baloney. I believe her reason. The Senate would refuse to convict and we'd have more Mueller-Barr shouts of "exoneration!"

Time it right.
1- prove them all crooks and cauterize them with civil servants armed with court judgements, who ignore every Presidential nuttery.
2- lead in the polls so much you get some GOP defectors.
3. impeach only when you have a Senate, even if that means he's ousted only a week before inauguration, so a crook doesn't stand on the Capital Steps.

David Brin said...

Seriously, the biggest unspoken outcome from all this is what it reveals about Democrats. Essentially clean. DT is already desperate to expose anything he can find, so are Rupert Murdoch/Fox, plus Barr and the entire Koch-Mercer-Adelson-Putin right-o-sphere. After 25 years (and half a$billion) in utterly fruitless Clinton-Obama diggings, we’re supposed to be afraid of their frenzy now?In fact the biggest outcome from all this is the glaring, nova-level fact that they've got nothing! They are reduced to raving that Peter Strzok's comments dissing Trump and the Steele Dossier had supposed bias is amazing in this era of "whatabout Hillary's emails!" When the “tainted fruit” legal doctrine has nothing whatsoever to do with legitimate prosecutorial leads.

The idea that the dems are restraining impeachment because they fear light is stunning drivel! It is part of the desperate “all politicians are corrupt” magical incantation on the right, that you must stomp down, hard. (The parties are in fact diametric opposites when it comes to honesty. There are a few, isolated, slightly corrupt democrats, as there are a few, residual, slightly sane republicans.)

scidata said...

After the fall of Rome, one of the most powerful offices in Europe was Mayor. An example was Charles Martel (Charlemagne's grandfather). Asimov picked up on this in Foundation. Perhaps an end-run around much of the cheating and skullduggery could be accomplished by harnessing and leveraging the power of Mayors. De-facto power is mightier than pomp.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
Motor registration is better than nothing but I have noticed that my son's generation are nothing like as eager to get their driving licences as we were - in their mid twenties and about a third of them don't have driving licenses
That may be a country thing

Larry Hart said...


Perhaps an end-run around much of the cheating and skullduggery could be accomplished by harnessing and leveraging the power of Mayors.

Although he is no longer mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel was great at that during his term. I'm sure the mayors of New York City and Los Angeles are also thinking along those lines.

Larry Hart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

I have noticed that my son's generation are nothing like as eager to get their driving licences as we were - in their mid twenties and about a third of them don't have driving licenses
That may be a country thing

No, the only "country thing" is that we say "driver's licence" over here. :)

I've noticed the same thing among my daughter and her contemporaries. They do get their licenses, but they're not in the same hurry that we were. Incidentally, the same thing goes for sex. I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but they don't seem nearly as obsessed as teenagers were in my day. I think that's because the boys and girls hang out more comfortably with each other all day long--the gender opposite isn't a mysterious other they way it was in my day.

Larry Hart said...

Testing. Is this thing on?

Larry Hart said...

Well since no one else is around, allow me to hijack the microphone.

And this columnist is actually a conservative, although a sane one who has never been on board with Benedict Donald:


The logic of “pro-lifers,” however, would justify even greater violations. Thirteen people die every day in this country awaiting kidney transplants, according to the National Kidney Foundation. We could prevent those deaths by requiring kidney donations to those in need, from anyone with whose organs would be suitable. But we don’t.

And we’d all agree that if someone needing a kidney tried to extract one from someone without her consent, she would be justified in using force in self-defense, including deadly force.

That’s not because we put no value on the lives of those who would be saved. It’s because we put a higher value on the personal freedom and bodily integrity of those who would be compelled to save them.

To force women to go through pregnancy and give birth is a violation of the most severe and intimate kind. It’s not an affirmation of life. It’s a denial of the humanity of women.

Ayman Hossam Fadel said...

"Liberals, dump your obsolete reflexes! This is a time to recognize the men and women of the U.S. military -- despite their crewcuts -- as allies in saving America and the world."

There'll never be any progress until USA ends its global empire.

David Brin said...

AHF you are welcome here. But your lack of historical perspective is disturbing. Please name another nation across 60 centuries that was tempted by great power, that applied their time as "Pax" with greater respect and popularity in the world... or that admitted its mistakes, as we do re: Vietnam etc. And empires, even well-meaning ones - make huge mistakes.

Name another that taught its children - and the world - to be critical and reflexively attack their own tribal elders. You cannot.

The American Pax, for all its many faults, allowed 90% of nations to spend 5% of GDP or less, rather than history's normal 50%, on arms and defense. Are you even dimly aware of what that meant?

David Brin said...

A wide-ranging interview during our recent appearance at BayCon, the wonderful SF Bay-area science fiction convention (which broke all attendance records.) Fanboy Planet Podcast Episode 550.

David Brin said...