Monday, July 06, 2020

A Thin Blue Line? What to do about bad cops. Light is our best friend.

The "thin blue line" is a monicker used to stand for police, asserting they are the slender bulwark which keeps society from descending into violent chaos. A more extreme, adversarial emblem of cop solidarity in the face of oppression by an ingrate citizenry - often appearing on tattoos -  is the skull symbol from the Punisher comic series. These memes have spread avidly, now in counter-beat to “Defund the Police” and both of them elicit hand-rubbing glee in Kremlin basement troll farms. (And so - to an extent - does the ill-chosen phrase "defund the police.")



This time I plan to discuss Police Unions, focusing on how to continue protecting ‘good cops’ while finally delivering at long last on 50 years of solemn promises to ‘eliminate the bad apples.’  Indeed, in the short term we need a slogan like: “Protect both citizens AND good cops from the calamity of bad cops.”

Over the long term, though, we’ll see below that that entire point may be moot. Police forces will professionalize and gain accountability, just as they will get much smaller. 
It will happen for many of the same reasons that are playing out  now, in our streets, and that I predicted in The Transparent Society.

== The debacle of Police Unions - a practical reform ==

The New York Times published an investigation explaining how police unions have amassed political power and blocked change. Ever more it’s become clear that the unions are central to the entire mess and their members need to be told: “You can either continue to reflexively protect all your bad apples, using procedural and contractual and legal maneuvers… OR protect the vast majority of your members who are good cops from the deterioration that those bad apples bring to their working lives. You cannot do both.”

Yes, some of those procedural protections had reasons. If a chief or mayor can fire police officers at-will, that power will often be misused politically, or for graft, or blame-deflection. Moreover let’s be clear that eliminating such protections for civil servants, in general, is the top priority – often stated openly – of the Republican Party, bringing back the spoils system and ending the autonomy that has made the 4th branch of government the biggest obstacle to oligarch feudalism.

So, while we aim to bring the cop unions around, turning them into forces for good, that does not mean elimination of procedural safeguards!

Is there a way to get a win-win? There is… and this method can apply to Teachers Unions, too!  Here’s how.

== Simple, direct and practical ==

Set up FIVE STAKEHOLDERS. City officials, senior cop management, neighborhood citizen oversight commissions… and an annual confidential poll of all officers in the precinct.  All are asked to “name cops you know are rotten, or loose cannons, or threats to public safety or professionalism, or who just scare you.”

The fifth input is automatic… from complaints filed against officers.

Now the rule is simple. If an officer is in the bottom 5% according to ALL FIVE stakeholder groups, ejection for cause is automatic. No appeal. No buyout. No nothing. Get lost.

If it’s four out of five, an appeal is allowed, but the presumption favors firing and the appealing cop bears burden of proof it should be otherwise,

If it’s three out of five stakeholders who denounce him, all of today’s processes play out before an impartial board, with firing entirely up to the board. But even if the officer is retained, she or he is publicly named and warned and given retraining.

If the officer is denounced by just two out of five stakeholders, or just one, the board inquires confidentially into causes and determines if a full hearing is called for, and remedial training is needed, but presumption is made in the officer’s favor the first or second time.

This approach allows the union to stand up for members against capricious bias or political interference, or else a public smear campaign. But if the public in a precinct and the cop’s secretly-polled peers AND a citizen oversight panel all agree, shouldn’t the bad apple get to speak… but then (default) go away?

(Note that this entire process is a matter personnel management and not for dealing with specific complaints of particular crimes or wrongdoing, which are handled separately, though they can initiate this process. Here we are talking about simply saying: "Whether or not your misdeeds are proved: we don't want to work with you anymore!")

The same should hold for teachers. We recall one awful fellow who all the parents and students and fellow teachers hated, who was protected by tenure. With those three stakeholders, plus administration and outcome test scores in play, shouldn’t the same sort of arrangement give us a win-win? A way to protect teachers from any one kind of bias campaign or unfair railroading… but also to eliminate the worst, when diverse and competing stakeholders agree?

It’s called NON-ZERO SUM thinking and one of our goals, after winning this year’s life-or-death fight for civilization, should be to reinstate it as something that we normally try to do. You’ll find lots of other examples in POLEMICAL JUDO.

Of course for now, all of the above is just blather. Sure, it would work and all that, finding a win-win overlap of interests. But with black folks being outright murdered before our very eyes, the time for subtle solutions lies ahead of us by months, not days.

For now, we march. We shout. We must.


== A simpler alternative ==

Discussed on NPR - a much more basic solution using market forces to eliminate bad cops …requiring them to individually have (along with their respective police forces) liability insurance, as we require doctors, lawyers, barbers, and hairdressers to do. Sure, the department subsidizes premiums on a matching basis. Still, cops with bad records will be viewed, properly, as bad risks who raise everyone else’s premiums.

Yes I talk about insurance as the libertarian alternative - never mentioned by libertarians - all the time. Including in POLEMICAL JUDO.


== Did I say it’s about light? ==
        
Will you forgive me if I say that much of this ‘cop problem’ ought to go away organically? And for a reason I discussed in The Transparent Society (see especially page 160!) 

The reason is simple, but you may have to pause and step back a minute.

It's long been proved that criminals are not deterred so much by envisioning punishment, as they are by the relative certainty of getting caught.  It matters far less what penalty awaits than knowing “I’ll be seen and identified, so I better not do it.”

And yes, we are seeing it today, on our streets, as the prevalence of phone-cameras has made it harder to conceal misdeeds performed out of doors. Even back in the 1960s, Martin Luther King credited the presence of primitive newsreel and TV cameras with saving his life, multiple times, and verifying the testimony of civil rights workers before the eyes of an appalled public. As Will Smith recently said: “It’s not that things are as bad as the 1860s, they aren’t. It’s not that things are as bad as the 1960s, they aren’t. It’s that they are filmed.”

What I find strange is that no one seems willing to put all this together and extrapolate what happens when citizens become ever-more omniscient, with their pan spectral Augmented Reality goggles supplemented by tiny drones you can order to peek down that dark alley over there. Do you honestly think one top outcome won’t be less violent crime? 


And if there’s a lot less crime, then won’t there be fewer police, allowing us to hyper-professionalize those who remain?

Oh, once, just for once will you curb the cynical reflex and not just leap to assume the worst Orwellian outcomes? Actually work with me, here.

 Let’s suppose citizens calmly do as recommended in The Transparent Society and elsewhere, aiming light of sousveillance at all elites, preventing Big Brother.

Further let's all strive to ensure that we evade the trap of “social credit” homogenization that is being erected in some countries right now, as a means of conformity enforcement and social control. I go on elsewhere about how we can achieve that.

But no, for now let's stick to the street crime that the Thin Blue Line is set up to protect us from. Now squint and consider a future in which you are safe on any street at night, not because every streetcorner has a cop, but because your own augmented senses guarantee it. Most crime is deterred by us, not by armed agents of the state. 

Is that the ultimate overlap of liberal and libertarian goals? That the thin blue line grows thinner as the need diminishes?

And don’t you think the good cops of today – the best ones who remain – would rather practice their calling like doctors, both skilled and relatively rare?

Yes, we have battles in the here and now. I am as hip deep in those as any of you! 


But we are supposed to be the ones who also lift our gaze farther ahead. And the very trends that make us vexed today may also be the ones offering a path to sunlight.

160 comments:

Acacia H. said...

You're mistaken, Dr. Brin, with your comment about "Fear of Getting Caught" causes criminals to not commit crimes. Instead, it is much simpler: Fear of Being Convicted.

If you want proof, look no further than how most of the trials that those bad cops who DO go to trial end in acquittal. In addition, Donald Trump has stated outright that he could murder someone in the middle of New York City and get away with it. The rich and powerful are able to avoid trials and avoid punishment. It doesn't matter if they get caught because they won't be punished. Likewise, bad cops don't care about getting caught. They will get away with it in court as time and time again they've weaseled out of convictions on the barest of technicalities.

I remember an old Batman TV episode where the Joker was put on trial. His lawyer was sure that they'd get off. The jury found the Joker not guilty. That's when Batman realized everyone in the jury was in fact a criminal (and after a fistfight got the acquittal overturned). If someone buys off the jury (or even part of it) so they're not convicted, then it doesn't matter that they killed someone on live television, they will walk away a free man afterward. This is why bad cops are able to continue to do whatever they want. They will just get away with it.

Now, your idea of using stakeholders to fire bad cops and bad teachers is a superb idea. Let's start with teachers. When this works with the teachers and the Teachers' Unions agree to this... then we turn and tell the police "now it's your turn" and the fact it is WORKING in eliminating bad teachers will destroy most of the bad faith arguments that the police unions will use.

That said, you'll almost never get that 5 Stakeholder decision, because the police are taught "don't squeal on your own" and that they have each others' backs unless you turn on your brethren. The police who DID try? End up fired, forced out, thrown in asylums, and more, all to weed out the good cops who tried to speak up against police malfeasance. Even if it's a secret ballot, IT IS INGRAINED INTO THE POLICE NOT TO TURN AGAINST THEIR OWN. Really, the best solution is to fire them all and hire (or rehire) new police, as happened in Camden, New Jersey.

Acacia

jim said...

David asked
"And if there’s a lot less crime, then won’t there be fewer police?"

Crime rates have fallen by a lot, for example murder is down by more than 50% sense the early 90's. Number of cops has not gone down.

Kevin Drum has a good explanation for what happened here
https://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2018/02/an-updated-lead-crime-roundup-for-2018/

Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

I remember an old Batman TV episode where the Joker was put on trial. His lawyer was sure that they'd get off. The jury found the Joker not guilty. That's when Batman realized everyone in the jury was in fact a criminal (and after a fistfight got the acquittal overturned)


"I just got finished vacuuming the upstairs bedroom. And now it's not upstairs anymore. It isn't anywhere. That's my statement!"

You're leaving out the funniest part. The Joker's (and Catwoman's) lawyer telegraphed the whole thing by not even calling a single witness or making an opening or closing statement.

Although in real life, I don't think the acquittal could be overturned. Double-jeopardy and all. Then again, in real life, the time for noticing "a prejudicial jury" would be before the trial begins.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry, (from last thread)

To be a "voter of conscience" who feels compelled to vote for Trump but was put onto the Democratic slate, one must be a deep cover sleeper agent. Not saying it's not possible, but the likelihood is low.

A slightly smaller version of this WAS attempted in 2012 among GOP delegates to their nominating convention. They don't talk much about this, but Ron Paul supporters DID try to infiltrate their people into State delegations. The plan was for them to vote their conscience ON THE FIRST BALLOT and upend Romney's nomination. They got caught a bit too early and many State GOP parties did what had to be done to prevent it, but they DID try and made quite a bit of ground first.

There isn't much the SCOTUS will do, I suspect, to upend this kind of activity. Primary elections are still a new thing with many aspects untested in court. A State supreme court might way in, but we could wind up with 50 different approaches to the issue.

When a party is in danger of being taken this way, it shows one of their weaknesses. It also shows the strength of the old party-boss system from before primary elections were a thing.

Alfred Differ said...

Acacia,

You're mistaken...

I respectfully disagree. Fear of conviction is secondary.

Let me offer (of course) a personal anecdote to back this up.

My mother's mother was at least a thief when she was young. Likely worse. She was the kind of young woman one didn't have to marry if one got her pregnant. Get it? [My mother had a father because he went against that tradition much to the disgust of his family.]

My little old granny was a fence when I knew here. I learned a thing or two about smuggling from her. Partner choices matter. Products being moved weren't all the same. Putting on a good act for authority was mostly a matter of playing on stereotypes they already believed.

The biggest lesson, though, was about sticking to procedures that appeared so mundane as to not be noticed by authority. Fencing TV's was a bad idea because they were large. They'd be noticed by cops on a casual visit. Fencing jewelry was acceptable. That stuff is small and easily hidden. She ran a grocer's shop in London. Great cover BECAUSE there were oodles of those shops with people coming and going at both the front and back doors. She also looked the part. Little old english granny. So did her sister who was in on it all.

The vast majority of crimes committed are done by people who do not have the means to higher top-talent lawyers to fight a case after getting caught. These people spend a lot of effort to avoid being noticed. When they can't, they spend a bit more effort buying off people who would notice them AND report it. The cheapest way to do that is to serve your local community. They might know and choose not to report anything. That is still all about being caught, though.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Dr. Brin:

Good points.
I agree with Acacia H ("It's how sure you are of being caught AND convicted.") and Jim ("Crime rates have gone down while [the perceived fear of crime] and the number of police have gone up).
Also, I like your 5 Stakeholder System, in theory.
Now if I were cynical, I'd wonder:
1) "How can these be picked so as to influence them and
2) How can I influence them once they've been picked?" ("Silver or Lead?")

As far as using our augmented senses to fight prevent/crime-
there's much possibility for good here.
There's also (as in "The Capture (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Capture_(TV_series), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pB4Egv5mZ3g) the likelihood (or should I say "certainty") that your augmented senses will be hacked to do/show things you don't want them to do AND to spy on YOU...

==========================================================================

On a happier, funnier note (la"!): Upload (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upload_(TV_series),https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZfZj2bn_xg).
It takes place in 2033 (5 yrs before Earth), and has a sort of Brinnish tech-look to it, if not a Brinnian sensibility.
Done by Greg Daniels of The Office, Space Force.

Jon S. said...

The folks who create The Punisher aren't really happy with that whole "police logo" thing, either, as seen here:

https://bleedingcool.com/comics/punisher-police-skull-logo-spoilers/

And light will, I believe, eventually cure us of this plague of police violence - but it may take a while, and it's only just begun to reveal the plague, much less cure it.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"To be a "voter of conscience" who feels compelled to vote for Trump but was put onto the Democratic slate, one must be a deep cover sleeper agent. Not saying it's not possible, but the likelihood is low."

A slightly smaller version of this WAS attempted in 2012 among GOP delegates to their nominating convention. They don't talk much about this, but Ron Paul supporters DID try to infiltrate their people into State delegations. The plan was for them to vote their conscience ON THE FIRST BALLOT and upend Romney's nomination. They got caught a bit too early and many State GOP parties did what had to be done to prevent it, but they DID try and made quite a bit of ground first.


We're not really arguing here. I was saying that it was unlikely that Republicans would be able to infiltrate the Democratic Party's slate of electors. You're describing an intra-party difference of opinion, but the people involved would have all been registered Republicans if not actual Republican officeholders. Which is a different thing, in fact the opposite thing. :)

I did say it was more likely that a Republican elector would turn on Trump (just as some Democratic electors turned on Hillary) than that a partisan Trump-loving Republican would somehow become a Democratic elector pledged to Biden and then pull a fast one.


There isn't much the SCOTUS will do, I suspect, to upend this kind of activity. Primary elections are still a new thing with many aspects untested in court. A State supreme court might way in, but we could wind up with 50 different approaches to the issue.


Yes, the primaries are party affairs that are mostly in the control of the parties, and the state level parties at that. I don't see where the US supreme court has anything to say about them. OTOH, the electors in the general election are in the Constitution, and as the only election we have that is at the federal rather than state level, the US supreme court definitely has a say in where their duty lies.

duncan cairncross said...

The Police
I would say that there are several - lots? - of police forces that simply don't suffer from the American problems

The primary issue is the lack of legal protection - in most countries jobs are NOT "at will" - You CAN sack somebody in those countries but you have to follow procedure and have an actual REASON
If everybody in the USA had that same level of legal protection then the police Union and the teachers "tenure" are not problems

Saying that it is a pain to sack someone in the UK - largely because HR departments appear to be packed with people who don't want to do any actual work
But that is a seperate and minor issue

Beyond that we have the actual role of the Police
The "Defending Public Order" - is ONE role - and that is the role that today's violence levels do not support
The other main role is the detection of crime and the investigation of crime
Here and in the UK the decision to prosecute is not taken by the police
With less resources needed for the "Defending the Public Order" then MORE resources should be added to the investigation
I would also suggest that adding more resources (not police) to rehabilitation would be VERY cost effective

duncan cairncross said...

On another topic I was recommended to read an excellent book

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0769XK7D6/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1594086209&sr=1-1

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About The World -
And Why Things Are Better Than You Think

I think of myself as being quite optimistic about our world - and I got 11 out of his 13 questions wrong!

Well worth a read

I would specifically suggest that "jim" gets a copy

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

We're not really arguing here.

True enough, but this situation is unusual enough that I should point to it. I'm usually an a more optimistic side of the semi-argument in which we usually engage. Not this time. I think you are being too rosy about the Democrats being unlikely to be successfully infiltrated.

1. The Dems aren't very cohesive right now. They are never as monolithic as the GOP, but they are weak right now. The danger scenario involves a popular second-place finisher getting outside support from people they don't properly background check. This can easily happen at county and state levels where they do NOT have the investigative resources. These people can recommend others and the infection spreads.

2. Remember the Dixiecrats? I know some in the GOP who still think of them as Democrats, but are thankful for their votes. The enemy of my enemy and all that. Those of you who are still Democrats don't think of the Dixiecrats and Democrats anymore, though… right? So, who is really being nominated as convention delegates and electors?

Can you imagine this working in the other direction? Is there a former GOP faction that defected in the other direction? Recently? How badly do you need them to win? Bad enough to neglect background checks?

3. In tight elections, it doesn't take much of an infiltration to be effective. Just a few would have changed the 2000 election results. I don't think 2020 will be close, but that doesn't calm me much.

4. There are also the plain old-fashioned bad apples. This goes with #3, but doesn't involve infiltration. It involves epiphany and religious revelation.

____

On this topic, I think I'm more cynical than you.
It's an odd place for me, but my local libertarians have been teaching me to see these possibilities.

Alfred Differ said...

I went through a comic book fan period why I was in grad school. They were relatively cheap entertainment, so I got hooked on certain Marvel storylines. I remember Punisher, but wasn't a fan. Too damn dark.

When I first saw those Punisher tats, my first thought was they must have change the character an awful lot for that to make any sense for the police to wear. When I heard they had not, my next thought was 'WTF? Those people shouldn't be police.'


Lots of cities have police cars with mottos printed on the doors that speak of protecting people. To serve and protect. I grind my teeth when I see them. How dare they! Don't they know their jobs? What the @#$! are they teaching cadets?!

No. Their job is to arrest and deter. Protection comes as a byproduct and is hit-n-miss at best. As a black man jogging at night. Ask the homeless. Ask (f you can figure out how) someone with mental issues.

I'm responsible for my own protection and would be an utter fool to entrust that to someone I am not directly paying for the service. Supporting their wage though taxation isn't enough. What matters is to whom they are responsible when conflicts of interest happen… and they always do.

1. Do they answer to me? Nah. Not unless I'm paying directly.
2. Do they answer to the community? Hah! Who is that? Specify please. Who EXACTLY is that?


I get that they need unions, but they damn well have to stick to their actual jobs. Fabrication of some fairy tale / protection racket should not be tolerated by any of us.

 Ashley said...

@Alfred...

Having recently watched the newish Punisher TV series, which was excellent BTW, I observed that the Punisher portrayed in the show was a lot different to the Punisher in the comics, or the three movies.

I wouldn't say a kinder, nicer Punisher, still a troubled man with a lot of darkness in his life, but moral, a protector of the weak and innocent. Just don't be a bad guy.

So I totally get why some policemen would have tattoos of the new logo.

Pachydermis2 said...

I think we are in substantial agreement for once. Public employee unions are by definition problematic and prone to accumulating power. Favors given and received always bend the political process to favor the pols and the apparatchik.

For DMV flunkies, fine. For sectors that have vital impact on our society both short and long term? Destructive. Police unions, and dare I go there, teacher's unions too often protect the worst at the expense of doing a lousy job for their nominal employers, the public.

Minneapolis is an egregious case. The officer in the Floyd case had multiple abuse of force complaints against him. And he was not only still on the force.....he was a training officer! One of the other cops charged was under his tutelage. The police chief had previously been the head of internal affairs and stepped up after the last abuse of force outrage (and conviction).

So why have there not been calls for the chief's resignation? Oh, the mayor too but at least he can be voted out should he have the brazen shameless affrontery to run again.

Of course this is problematic because the current incarnation of the Democratic Party is an uneasy coalition between public employee unions, silicon valley and black voters. No approach to the Floyd dilemma will fail to alienate at least one of the three. The current trajectory may run the board and lose all three.

Pac2

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"We're not really arguing here."

True enough, but this situation is unusual enough that I should point to it. I'm usually an a more optimistic side of the semi-argument in which we usually engage. Not this time. I think you are being too rosy about the Democrats being unlikely to be successfully infiltrated.


You make good points that I really don't need convincing on. I'm the one who didn't believe Obama could pull off a win until the results appeared on that election night.

However, every one of the points you make about faithless electors would only have been worse had the supreme court decided the other way. The worst the decision did was to leave things as they already are. And in cases like Colorado where the state actually revoked and replaced an elector's vote--can you imagine the turmoil if something like that decided the outcome, the state was challenged, and the rules had to be adjudicated then?

My point wasn't that the decision saved us, but that it didn't do the irrevocable harm that an opposite decision would have.

A German Nurse said...

I think that increasing transparency alone won't solve the problem.

First of all, you'll have to increase training time and quality. 19 weeks seems awfully short to me. Give them the tools and skills to solve problems differently. Use the increased training time to weed out those who will most likely to turn into bad apples, if they aren't already ones. Ideally, give every police officer the training equivalent to a bachelors degree.

Second, tie the promotion and pay advancement scheme to a report system. Only promote those with good grades, and grades should be tied to complaints of this officer. Perhaps make promotion even so rare that they sue each other over the question who gets promoted. Make police departments compete over good apples.

Third, introduce quotas for women and minorities. A department would not be allowed fill a position reserved for a woman or any other group with a white male.

Fourth, install a federal register of complaints. Those departments who don't want to comply or keep their bad apples would loose federal fundings.

Finally, don't sell military gear to the police departments.

A German Nurse said...

Punisher Tatoos/Mentality:
I'd see it as a dangerous form of self-victimization. "Oh, we are the sorry downtrodden servants of law, rejected by the evil society that we are supposed to protect..." It is again Them Against Us Few.

Larry Hart said...

The Punisher in his original 1970s appearances (in "Spider-Man" of all things) was very different from the dark, gritty Punisher as he became widely popularized in the 1990s. In his very first appearance, he was probably meant as a parody of the "Death Wish" type of anti-hero. A goofy villain called The Jackal had duped him into believing Spider-Man was a murderer so that The Punisher would go after him. Punisher really wasn't too bright in that one.

In his second appearance, Punisher ridiculously believed Spider-Man was in on a tour boat hijacking that he was trying to stop,but as soon as he figured out reality, he and Spider-Man teamed up to save the day. In his subsequent appearances, he and Spider-Man were allies, although Spidey had to insist that The Punisher stick to non-lethal weaponry. At worst, the character was a kind of vigilante-porn. The reader could titter over how bad-ass the guy was without there actually being real violence in the stories.

It wasn't until the Bernard Goetz era that I think comics started really glorifying "heroes" who "did what needed to be done", out brutalizing the criminals that society was ineffective in combating. The Punisher, along with others like Wolverine, and even Batman to some extent, became something very ugly during the 90s, and not coincidentally, that's when I started to lose interest in superhero comics altogether.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Lots of cities have police cars with mottos printed on the doors that speak of protecting people. To serve and protect. I grind my teeth when I see them. How dare they! Don't they know their jobs? What the @#$! are they teaching cadets?!

No. Their job is to arrest and deter. Protection comes as a byproduct and is hit-n-miss at best.


I respectfully disagree. "To Serve and Protect" is a mission statement, and if the reality falls short in real life, it's at least there to remind us what the police should be there for. The same way that "All men are created equal*" is there to remind us of what to strive for, even if we're not actually living up to it.

Your way reinforces the idea that the police are not part of the community, but rather a mercenary army of occupation whose function is to make everyone do things they'd rather not do. It's not at all conducive to good relations between community and police.


As a black man jogging at night. Ask the homeless. Ask (f you can figure out how) someone with mental issues.


You're pointing out failures in the system--aspects that large numbers of citizens are now protesting to change. You'd rather enshrine them as the legitimate function of policemen? Replace "To Serve and Protect" with Confederate flags, or burning crosses, or maybe Gestapo insignia?

Hardly the position I'd expect from a libertarian.

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/opinion/trump-mount-rushmore-culture-war.html

...[Trump] promised to veto a defense funding bill that would also take the names of Confederate generals off military bases, and called New York City’s decision to paint “Black Lives Matter” on Fifth Avenue a “symbol of hate” that was “denigrating” to this “luxury avenue.”


How revealing it is that Benedict Donald and those who agree with his sentiments find a plea for fair and equal treatment to be denouncible as a symbol of hate--presumably hate against the inequality and violence perpetrated against a segment of our citizenry. Have we really become a nation of modern day Bundists who see "Jewish Lives Matter" as an expression of hate directed against the legitimate rights of Nazis?

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/opinion/trump-coronavirus-mount-rushmore.html

It’s almost hilarious to hear the guy who belittles and demeans anyone who disagrees with him object to leftists “demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.”


Ya think?

Larry Hart said...

A German Nurse:

Punisher Tatoos/Mentality:
I'd see it as a dangerous form of self-victimization. "Oh, we are the sorry downtrodden servants of law, rejected by the evil society that we are supposed to protect..." It is again Them Against Us Few.


In that case, an X-Men tattoo would be more appropriate. "Hated and feared by those they are sworn to protect."

Lorraine said...

Bottom five percent in five categories? Three times out of ten million, assuming the categories are independent, which of course they wouldn't be.

David Brin said...

"Bottom five percent in five categories? Three times out of ten million, assuming the categories are independent, which of course they wouldn't be."

A good cautionary, Lorraine, properly stated. But yes, as you say, these percentages are utterly reciprocally dependent. Indeed, it is precisely WHEN the groups overlap that this system is designed to be automatic and decisive and save us all money on bureaucratic processes and appeals. When that happens, it's just "go away now; and your name is on a national 'don't hire' registry.'

Gator said...

Dr. Brin, I always appreciate your focus on non-zero sum thinking. A very important idea that we need now and going forward!

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/19/upshot/unrest-police-time-violent-crime.html
I apologize for the paywall link. The key message is "A handful of cities post data online showing how their police departments spend their time. The share devoted to handling violent crime is very small, about 4 percent."
This ties into the fact posted above that in the US certainly, violent crime is down very significantly over the last few decades.
So when people talk about defunding the police they are talking about shifting resources from armed people taught that everyone is out to kill them to funding community services, welfare and mental health personnel. What could be more non-zero sum?
If you don't like the phrase "defund the police" what would be a better phrase? I agree that most conservatives will hear that and think of the lawless hordes that are only held out of their suberbs by the thin blue line. To me it makes total sense to shift resources to where they are actually needed, and there is not much need for armed police in most of America.
End the war on drugs and I bet you take that need down another order of magnitude.

Gator said...

Another interesting collection of facts about crime in the USA, with links to the original data sources.
https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/10/17/facts-about-crime-in-the-u-s/

And the NIJ agrees that it is the chance of being caught that deters crime, not the punishment. Which makes the previous article comment about clearance rates very frustrating. We don't need more cops with guns we need more detectives catching people.
https://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/five-things-about-deterrence#:~:text=Police%20deter%20crime%20by%20increasing,spots%20policing%2C%20are%20particularly%20effective.

frabjoustheelder said...

"Defund the police" may be the worst slogan for a good idea ever.
In regards to the the police using the punisher symbol: https://youtu.be/hn1VxaMEjRU

Larry Hart said...

Gator:

If you don't like the phrase "defund the police" what would be a better phrase?


"Liberate the police"? As in freeing them up from tasks that demean them?

Larry Hart said...

frabjoustheelder:

"Defund the police" may be the worst slogan for a good idea ever.


Yeah, sometimes I think we let Frank Luntz or Vladimir Putin write the slogans for our side.

Stonekettle Station had a good warning about this:

http://www.stonekettle.com/

...
If you don't live in a place like this [the Florida panhandle] , you don't really understand what it's like. The pervasive racism, the entrenched religious fanaticism, the lack of education, and the endless conspiracies pushed by preachers, politicians, and poltroons.

These people really do believe Hillary Clinton murdered four Americans in Benghazi and that she really was running a globe-spanning pedophile ring out of a pizza parlor basement in Washington D.C. They really do.

And they believe Trump is a good Christian man.

But, these people, these white Southern Conservatives here where I live, the pandemic showed them for the first time Trump's incompetence. This is one of the hardest hit states for the coronavirus. People they knew, people they cared about, those people died, some of them, are dying. It wasn't just black people, or Muslims, or "the gays," or liberals in some Northern city, for the first time, Trump's failure affected them personally. They lost their jobs. The stores they shopped at were closed. They couldn't get toilet paper or medications. Suddenly, conservative political pundits were turning against Trump and these people didn't know what to think.

Maybe Trump wasn't making America so great after all.

Does that mean they would have voted for Joe Biden?

No.

They'd never vote for a baby-murderin' demonrat in a million years.

But, they might not have voted for Donald Trump again either.

They might have stayed home.

Now? Now, they're firmly convinced that hordes of "Antifa" are on the way to pillage this shitty little backwater hick Southern town. COVID-19 might kill grandma, but Defund the Police means looters and rapists and rioters, you loot, we'll shoot, and God Bless Donald Trump! There are new Trump 2020 signs sprouting in yards across the Panhandle. The line outside the local gun store is twenty deep.

And they'll be at the polls come voting day, you better believe it.
...

Zepp Jamieson said...

Northern California gets the same sort of zaniness. In early June, when we had our BLM protest (supported by the local police), people on Facebook assured us that thousands of "Antifa" were going to swarm in to disrupt and destroy the town. When I asked why AntiFascists would pour into a town of 8,000 people over a demonstration of several hundred for a cause that was anti Fascist, I got called an "idiot." Another local buffoon assured me today that the pandemic was a hoax, and that the government is overcounting the deaths by 16x. Vanished when I asked why the Trump regime would do that; apparently the overcount is a liberal plot. And we have the usual tiresome mask freedumb crowd, although they have noticeably decreased over the past week as the number of cases exploded.

David Brin said...

Zepp... challenging such fools should start with a demand for cash wager stakes... followed by direct attacks NOT on their factual veracity but rather on their unmanly, no-balls cowardice.

But not if you are cornered or they are armed. Like congregating during covid, say it outdoors, under sunlight.

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

people on Facebook assured us that thousands of "Antifa" were going to swarm in to disrupt and destroy the town.


That kind of thing must be why post-9/11 money had to go to protect corn silos in Nebraska from radical Islamicists.


When I asked why AntiFascists would pour into a town of 8,000 people over a demonstration of several hundred for a cause that was anti Fascist, I got called an "idiot."


That's a case where I would have employed Dr Brin's strategy and demanded a wager. It wouldn't even have to be about money--the loser has to publicly admit to being an idiot.

Because it isn't about something that requires scientific expertise to determine, or a long-term effect about which we may not know for sure who's right in our lifetime. There is a very specific time and place, not at all distant, in which we'd both know who was right and who was wrong.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Hardly the position I'd expect from a libertarian.

You know me better, so a start that leads to that conclusion is likely to have a misinterpretation or two.

"To Serve and Protect" is a sales statement. It isn't their actual job. It is a political mission statement designed to secure funding & community good will. Their job is something different, but can't be done without funding and community support. Therefore the sales pitch. It works too.

It must NOT be elevated to the same level as 'all men are created equal'. I flatly reject that because doing so risks abdication of a right reserved to The People. Your security is yours to secure. It's pretty simple. You can hire others to help do that, but they should answer to you. If there is any confusion about WHO they serve and protect, YOUR security is at risk unless they answer specifically to YOU.

A big point about BLM is that police who are supposed to serve a community's security interests are not. They are serving a subset of the community. That is what ALWAYS happens when it is unclear who exactly is served. That is precisely why they CANNOT serve and protect. Conflicts of interest occur when there is more than one boss.

I'm not in favor of defunding police units. I AM in favor of rescoping and repurposing them. That easily could lead to funding changes.



Now… as to their actual job, the core function is to arrest and deter. If you want them to do more in your community, that's fine up until the point their secondary function interferes with the primary.

For example…

Imagine I'm guilty of hit-n-run, but offer no physical resistance when caught. They can arrest me AND serve the community's interests in how they go about doing it. Maybe they do it peacefully so as not to scare the kids next door, hmm?

Instead, If I resist by shooting at them when they approach my door, they have to prioritize which of their functions must be carried out. Conflicts get resolved in a flash. Instead of being peaceful, their secondary interest of protecting my neighbors from my stray bullets might move up… but it is still secondary to arresting me. If I'm actually breaking the law right in front of them, they are duty-bound to arrest. Right?

The danger with accepting 'To serve and protect' is that my neighbors might abdicate their personal responsibility to protect themselves from me. They might tune out and ignore warning signs that I was an unstable nut inclined to shoot up the neighborhood. If they do NOT abdicate, they might notice and at least warn the arriving police. They might go further and arm themselves. Most importantly, though, I'm likely to be less of a danger to them if they take some responsibility for their own security.

In a community where citizens do not abdicate their responsibility, police can probably go about doing what they do now with little change… except for one thing. How they prioritize their goals when I go bananas and shoot back can safely shift to their core function. Because my neighbors aren't sheep, they aren't relying on a hero shepherd to save them from the choices of their blissful ignorance. They police can still TRY, but they won't HAVE to. Instead, one my my neighbors might take me down from an upstairs window looking down into my house and save them instead. More likely, though, my attentive neighbor would simply be a source of useful information. That matters.

Alfred Differ said...

Because my neighbors aren't sheep, they aren't relying on a hero shepherd to save them from the consequences of their blissful ignorance.


If I could delete and repost, I'd alter that line. It's kinda important and went through a few variations before I wrote at mangled, mashed-up version of it.

The point being, of course, is that we are sons and daughters of our parents who had no intention of raising sheep. Choosing blissful ignorance is sheep-like and a bad option when living among real humans. They'll eat you.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Your security is yours to secure. It's pretty simple. You can hire others to help do that, but they should answer to you. If there is any confusion about WHO they serve and protect, YOUR security is at risk unless they answer specifically to YOU.


I do know you better, but it sounds as if you are advocating a state of perpetual war in which I need to arm myself and shoot first in order to protect myself from any of my neighbors and they have to do the same, and life degenerates into a never ending series of escalations between the Hatfields and the McCoys. I thought the whole purpose of having a society with police forces as well as courts and judges was so that citizens could stand down from DEFCON 1 as it were,and justice could be rendered without regard to tribalism. Maybe "To serve and protect so you don't have to".


Now… as to their actual job, the core function is to arrest and deter. If you want them to do more in your community, that's fine up until the point their secondary function interferes with the primary.


Well, in that case, they did nothing outside their job with Eric Garner or George Floyd. Arrest? Check. Deter? They'll never sell loose cigarettes or pass counterfeit 20s again. Mission accomplished. Under what standard did the police do anything wrong in the cases that are inspiring such emphatic protests?

Maybe the point is that when appropriate, their actual job is to not arrest or deter. For example, if I drive safely and don't run any red lights or stop signs, I am not supposed to be pulled over. When a police care doesn't stop me, he's doing his job. When he does stop and harass a different driver because that driver is black, he is not doing his job, or at least not doing it correctly. He may be arresting and deterring, but he's doing it wrong.

scidata said...

Being post-religious, I can't send prayers in good faith so to speak. However, I'm beaming as many theta brainwaves as I can spare southward. Peace and harmony to America. You are loved.

Larry Hart said...

...continuing,

I do understand the attitude that says it's foolish to give up one's sovereign right to self-defense and rely on someone else to save you from imminent danger. I'm advocating an idealistic version of society in which we can stand down from a state of war because we've willingly ceded certain powers to the forces of civilization which will handle them according to well-established rules of engagement. I understand that the real world doesn't always allow us that luxury.

Still, I have to push back upon what sounds like a world view in which George Zimmerman (who shot Treyvon Martin) and the father/son team who shot that black jogger are allowed to do what they did--confront an individual they thought must be committing some sort of crime and then killing in self defense when the confrontation which they initiated without provocation goes south.

matthew said...

The idea that I have to either protect myself or hire someone to do it for me is dangerous nonsense, Alfred.

What about the handicapped?
What about the destitute?
What about the young?
What about the old?

Now, I *may* (can, in fact) be able to protect myself from most threats.

But your position is such a privileged stance as to render it unusable.
Our society is *not* made up of people with the means to hire private security. Our society is *not* made up of heroes.
It's not supposed to be.

We have a bunch of guarantees written in our foundational legal justification on just this matter.
The requirement that you be able to defend yourself is not in there. Nor is the requirement that you pay others to do the same thing.

Try again.


Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

…I need to arm myself and shoot first…

No. Not even close, but many people fear changing security relationships so much that it is easy to jump that far out and fret over a VERY unlikely future.

First of all, there is no discontinuity to this change of view. One can get there in baby steps. Instead of buying a gun and developing your inner paranoia, imagine taking a class that taught you about situational awareness. That class would teach you small things that you can do without changing the social contract that improve your chances (and your family's) if danger did arrive at your doorstep. Very small things tied to information that demonstrates that the vast majority of security threats CAN be detected earlier than seconds before violence erupts.

Second, if the police in your community do not answer to you directly (doubtful they do), you can hire consultants who do and consider their advice. If the risks you face were particularly high, it might make sense to hire your own security force. For most of us that would be silly, but it isn't unreasonable for us to share in this sense. If you were one of those black joggers, it might make perfect sense to hire your own security or buy into a co-op contract. No doubt the consultants would advice you against running 'while black' in certain neighborhoods, but they could pose as your running coach or give you cover as part of a team of joggers. Either way, you'd be paying them for the service so they'd answer to you, right? No guns needed (likely) as fewer people would think you were engaged in criminal activity. If they did, however, they'd need a lot more force.

Third, the world of tooth and claw is inherently unstable. People band together for a number of reasons with a big one being security. The mistake people make when doing so, though, is to trust the stronger members of their alliance to look after them. In this error, the ally becomes a strong man to whom the security forces answer. The person making this error turns from human into sheep. Anarchy is unstable, but blind support of security arrangements is too.

Fourth, a community with police, courts, and the rule of law is where one winds up through an evolutionary process. If one starts with anarchy and wants to do better, there are many ways forward. I argue the best options don't involve surrendering personal responsibility for security. They involve alliances and a PARTIAL surrender of personal sovereignty.

Arrest? Check. Deter? They'll never sell loose cigarettes or pass counterfeit 20s again

Yup… and in doing so broke other laws we consider much worse sins. 'Arrest and Deter' doesn't give security forces free rein. Neither does 'To serve and protect'. What the police did wrong is violate a number of written laws involving excessive force and unwritten ones (common law) involving equality before the law. Breaking the law (either kind) is not to be tolerated for any reason… especially in 'protecting' us from law breakers.

The danger with our comic book heroes is we normalize breaking rules to accomplish morally justifiable goals. This inclination is damned dangerous. When I'm inclined toward rationality, I argue we are better off tolerating law breakers than we are tolerating law breaking in actions intended to constrain other law breakers. Two wrongs don't make a right. That kind of thing.

A cop pulling you over without cause is violating one of those unwritten laws. No doubt about it. You may not be able to get them convicted in a criminal court, but you probably could make a case in a civil court. Certainly in the court of public opinion.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred
Now I begin to understand you more

You really should spend some time in a country where you don't NEED to be armed and dangerous to be safe!!

Even in the USA you don't need to be armed all the time - and a good percentage of the people understand that

Just chill out and remember that for all of their fears being a policeman does NOT get into the top ten risky jobs in the USA

David Brin said...

We spoke of this. Fighting back against Nazis in an earlier era. This fascinating article even mentions my own dad.

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/gangsters-vs-nazis

TCB said...

In Chicago, blond-and-blue-eyed Herb Brin, who worked as a crime reporter for the City Press, joined the local Nazi party as a spy for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of the B’nai B’rith. He told me, “I joined the Nazi party at the Hausfaterland on Western Avenue across from Riverview Park. It was a hotbed of Nazi activity,” he recalled. From 1938 through 1939, Brin kept the ADL informed about Nazi activities. What the ADL did not know was that he fed information about Nazi marches and rallies to Jewish gangsters. “I marched with the Nazis,” said Brin, “but I came back later with Jewish gangs and we beat them up good.”

NICE.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

It [the slogan "To Serve and Protect" ] must NOT be elevated to the same level as 'all men are created equal'. I flatly reject that because doing so risks abdication of a right reserved to The People. Your security is yours to secure.
...
The danger with accepting 'To serve and protect' is that my neighbors might abdicate their personal responsibility to protect themselves from me. They might tune out and ignore warning signs that I was an unstable nut inclined to shoot up the neighborhood.


But can't the same be said about "All men are created equal"? Accepting that as self-evident risks ignoring the warning signs of white supremacists and racism implicit in the system. Yet, if we fail to assert that we hold that truth to be self-evident--that is, if we change our rhetoric to officially acknowledge that some men are created more equal than others and to accept that those others had better keep to their place or risk reprisal--then something American is irrevocably lost. The assertion is important as an aspirational goal, even if it hasn't yet been fully realized.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Great article mentioning your dad. I wish I had known about him when he was still alive.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH wrote: "That's a case where I would have employed Dr Brin's strategy and demanded a wager. It wouldn't even have to be about money--the loser has to publicly admit to being an idiot."

He was a local, so I invited him to observe the rally and see for himself. I did spot him on the sidelines, giving us all the stinkeye. Over a thousand people showed up, and the local cops took the knee alongside us, including the chief. I only saw one guy who caught my attention, big guy with a Hawaain shirt and batbelt, but he turned out to be a local off-duty medic, there to tend to anyone who got overheated. No commies in black ninja garb, and the biggest threat I encountered was an old lady who was head of the Bioregional Center who insisted on giving me a big hug. All the deathcrows flew away that evening.

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

…is dangerous nonsense…

Nonsense. You already do if you contribute tax money to hire local police. Supposedly they work for you. I'm just more skeptical than most and want to see the chain of answerability.


As for people who can't look after their own security, you are very welcome to contribute to their security too. I certainly do. It is the just thing to do.

You are too hung up on the notion that changing the current arrangement must mean reversion to a world of tooth and claw. That's simplistic. There are many variations in between where we take a bit more responsibility for ourselves upon ourselves.

Larry,

stand down from a state of war

We already have, but there are multiple ways to do it. Some involve a bit more diligence. Others involve a bit more trust. It's not hard to guess that I prefer diligence over trust. I think the founders of our nation did too.

We really ARE winning the battle with our more violent selves. I may advocate more diligence and personal responsibility, but that is because I think it is even better if we do not abandon defensive duties to others who a couple generations later might turn their powers against us. We aren't in any immediate danger of tooth-and-claw communities, but we can do better than complaining about a lack of gun control and abusive police forces.

Alfred Differ said...

duncan,

I already live in a community where I don't need to be armed and dangerous. That doesn't mean I should abandon my responsibility for defense of myself, family, and community to hired guns that do NOT answer to me.

At a minimum, I can pay attention to what goes on around me and report dangers I detect to the forces we hire collectively. I'm trained to do this. It's pretty easy most of the time.

At a slightly higher level of effort, I can train to intervene where lives are at risk. This training can range from first responders for emergencies to intel gathering. It can also include back-rank support of emergency services.

The point being, it's not all about guns and armor. This isn't a comic book hero attitude. It's a Boy Scout attitude.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

"All men are created equal"

I think a lot of people get that phrase wrong. It has two aspects. Secular and Spiritual.

In a biological sense, it is obviously false. We aren't all equally endowed.
In a spiritual sense, it can make sense if you make certain assumptions about souls.
In a legal sense, though, we REALLY need it to be true. Getting there requires us to alter it slightly.

"All men are equal before the law"

There is no point arguing against biological facts except where people have extrapolated differences that aren't backed by evidence. Really. Math skills between men and women are essentially indistinguishable. HOW we do math isn't and fMRI's show this. Big whoop, though, if it doesn't show up at a practical level. We've been wrong SOOO many times about what people can do that we should have learned humility from it. Heh. It's a hard lesson, though.

There is no point arguing against spiritual assumptions unless... well... you are into that sort of stuff. Angels. Heads of pins. (Yes... I know only one angel knows how to dance.)

We CAN reasonably argue about politics, laws, and community norms. For our own safety against the day when 'the other guys' are governing, we need a custom of equality. We aren't there except in the ideal, so this is work worthy of good souls.

So, I tend to use the second version of that ideal in practice and just smile when people use the first version. I'm not convinced there IS a Creator (and inclined to think there isn't), so I'd rather avoid the potential for nonsense.

Jon S. said...

So, Alfred, my security as a nearly-disabled man of limited means should be completely and without recourse dependent on the good will of other people? Have you met other people? These assholes won't even wear a bandana to stop a pandemic, and you think they'd voluntarily contribute to keep a "beta loser" like me safe? Especially when it doesn't significantly benefit them directly to do so?

I don't know where you're living, mon ami, but it's clearly not in the same level of reality as the rest of us.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ on "All men are created equal*" :

In a legal sense, though, we REALLY need it to be true. Getting there requires us to alter it slightly.

"All men are equal before the law"


That's what I take the phrase to mean as well. Jefferson was as much a poet as an essayist, and the Declaration is enduring because of its often-flowery language. I'm even willing to accept the word "men" in there as applying to women as well, just because I can't think of a gender-neutral way to phrase it that sounds as good--much as Stan Lee claims he called his hero "Iron Man" instead of "Steel Man" because the former made a better impression rolling off the tongue.

"Created" was probably politically necessary as a nod to a religious worldview. "Created equal" as opposed to "Are equal" also serves the purpose of acknowledging that some people achieve/acquire more in life than others do while at the same time making it clear that society does not (or at least should not) grant favored status in advance.

* I included an asterisk before and then forgot to add the line from "Hamilton" :

"We hold these truths to be self-evident
That all men are crated equal."
And when I meet Thomas Jefferson, I'm-a compel him
To include women in the sequel!

Tim H. said...

Something relevant at vox.com:
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2020/7/7/21293259/police-racism-violence-ideology-george-floyd
Looks to be a related issue to the unfortunate ability, in these days of the internet, to isolate oneself from ideas that contradict one's beliefs.
Bad enough to have Officers given a deliberately false picture of the (Very real) risk they face, and mostly, only talk to others with the same assumption, picture Officers that are "FOX poisoned" or worse, in addition to their training.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

We CAN reasonably argue about politics, laws, and community norms. For our own safety against the day when 'the other guys' are governing, we need a custom of equality.


That's why I'm firmly on the side of BLM, even though I am not now nor have I ever been black. I don't want to someday have to use the line, "First they came for the blacks, and I did nothing because I was not black." In response to the "ALL lives matter!" sentiment, I would expand the slogan to "All lives matter. Black lives are too often treated as if they DON'T matter. That has to stop!" In deference to the need for a bumper sticker, make that "Black Lives Matter BECAUSE All Lives Matter."

And I dare someone to argue rationally that the same can be held true for "Blue lives". Or that "Blue Lives Matter" doesn't contradict "All Lives Matter", but that "Black Lives Matter" does.

Also, Scott Adams's tweet about "The fact that you asked shows you are not sure" is idiotic. It's not that I'm not sure that black lives really matter. I'm not sure that you (Scott Adams and that ilk) really acknowledge the fact.

I'm sorry, what were we talking about again? :)


We aren't there except in the ideal, so this is work worthy of good souls.


We at least were there in the rhetoric that was allowed in polite company. Donald Trump has worked actively to change that, which is the main reason I believe he is so dangerous to our country that even President Pence would be preferable.

Robert said...

Alfred: "If I'm actually breaking the law right in front of them, they are duty-bound to arrest. Right?"

Not in Canada, at least not immediately. A police officer is not supposed to endanger the public in the performance of their duties. An ideal that is getting bent out of shape as we get more Americanized, but still an ideal.

For example, if they spot you driving and you begin speeding and weaving through traffic to get away they are not supposed to give chase if that would endanger the public.

Robert said...

Zepp: "people on Facebook assured us that thousands of "Antifa" were going to swarm in to disrupt and destroy the town"

The way they present it, it's a win-win for the alt-right.

If no antifa show up, they scared them away.

If protestors do show up, they were right. If there's no violence, it's because the alt-right scared them into behaving. If there is violence, it would have been worse without them being there.

Larry Hart said...

Cynicism normalized.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/Jul08.html#item-9

...
On the other hand, maybe this isn't about the voters at all, and he's [Trump] just lashing out at WHO to make himself feel better. Whatever the case may be, the next chapter of this story will not become clear until the first week in November. Or depending on how fast the absentee ballots can be counted, the second week of November. Or the third week. Or until the Supreme Court picks the president.

David Brin said...

A distrurbing, detailed description of the origins of COVID-19 This was an excerpt taken from an investor newsletter I was sent:
'Growing numbers of scientists studying COVID-19 globally are suspecting it was man-made in Chinese labs. The UK Daily Telegraph ran a report in early June inter-viewing leading immunologists and geneticists. While COVID-19’s genetic code is 96% similar to a bat-coronavirus strain, it is the other 4% that makes it so infectious to humans. This virus is able to bind with human cells 100x to 1000x more efficiently than SARS. And it binds with an ACE2 receptor in human cells far more strongly than in bats! It targets an enzyme in human cells called furin, which works to activate new proteins by cleaving them off after they are synthesized. That’s not how normal bat coronaviruses work, but other highly-contagious diseases like HIV and Ebola target furin. COVID-19 was found to have other HIV-like properties too. Human cells have a molecule called MHC on their surfaces. It acts like a flag to signal the immune system, with changes alerting T cells to kill virus-infected cells. But both HIV and COVID-19 disable this system by pulling MHC molecules into infected cells and destroying them! COVID-19 is highly likely a chimeric virus created by Chinese scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. That’s China’s first BSL-4 lab that has long specialized in bat coronaviruses. It’s almost certain key genetic sequences of human HIV were inserted into bat corona-virus for immune-system research. COVID-19’s symptoms and sometimes-severe damage lingering after the infection have proven similar to HIV. HIV has killed over 35m people since 1981, with no vaccine ever developed despite vast efforts to.’

Larry Hart said...

It shouldn't surprise me really that right-wing talkers like Limbaugh push both the "It was created in a Chinese laboratory" meme and the "It's just the common cold, folks" meme at the same time.

Darrell E said...

Regarding the security discussion between Larry, Alfred and matthew, I think there may be misinterpretation causing points of view to be more distant than perhaps they are.

When Alfred writes, "Your security is yours to secure. It's pretty simple. You can hire others to help do that, but they should answer to you.," I don't think he means that as literally as Larry and matthew seem to have initially interpreted. Alfred, is the point you are trying to make here something like "as citizens we are each responsible to participate in helping to create, manage and maintain our governments and public institutions?" I don't think anyone would disagree with that?

To cut to the chase, it looks to me that though there is a difference in underlying views in the end both sides of this discussion seem to get to pretty much the same place. Perhaps not exactly, but pretty close.

Having said that, Alfred your view that "Protect & Serve" entails or leads to citizens giving up all responsibility for their personal security doesn't seem valid to me. Your point of view is a strange mix of trusting people to be competent and well meaning on the one hand and not trusting people to be competent and well meaning on the other. "Protect & Serve" is exactly the mindset we should require to be instilled in our police culture. And we should define what that means. I see no good reason, and I know of no good evidence to suggest that doing so leads to citizens giving up their personal responsibilities to participate in providing for their own security.

Larry Hart said...

And by mentioning Limbaugh, I was not trying to marginalize Dr Brin's post about the Chinese laboratory. I was just pointing out that the righty talkers are talking out of both sides of their mouths.

In other news, looks like it will be one more day before the supreme court hands down decisions on two cases involving Trump's taxes and financial records. They do know how to ride the suspense.

Tim H. said...

A possibility on SARS COV-2, if the zoonotic virus infected a human with an active corona virus common cold, the bits that made the cold virus infectious to humans would've been available, resulting in a new variety without the involvement of a lab. If it was even partially synthetic and got loose in China, the researcher's families would shortly be required to pay for bullets.

Zepp Jamieson said...

" They do know how to ride the suspense."

Yeah, but today they upheld the right of gawd-struck employers to interfere with your love life. So that as a victory for the marching morons.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Robert wrote: "If no antifa show up, they scared them away."

Only nobody was there to scare them away. Nobody was there to even hassle the protesters, let along Ninja Hitler Swatter elite corps.

gregory byshenk said...

Regarding the Covid-19 origins story, I would want a much better source than the Telegraph, particularly in light of this commentary: A Norwegian-British research paper doesn’t claim the virus causing Covid-19 was man-made.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

My son is autistic and will likely never work for a living. He is probably more dependent on the good will of others than you are. It's not a contest, of course, but he helps ground me so my theoretical view of how things should work doesn't drift out into space.

There are certain topics regarding my son that my wife and I avoid. Conversation deflects when we get near them. Just too painful. One of them involves whether we should move him out to have a life independent of us. He's 21 now and we still treat him as kid. We will likely do that forever. Can't be good for him. Normally we avoid talking about this, but one time we didn't. We looked each other in the eye… and shuddered at the idea of relying upon the state for his future as a grown man. Once we were through that wall, we talked about what and who we did and did not trust including some of our relatives.

My wife definitely qualifies as a Progressive. I don't, but I'm sympathetic. On this, though, we agree. Personal responsibility is necessary. In my son's case, he can't. However, WE can.

I will likely never retire. Any funds I collect have to be passed to her for him. THAT level of responsibility I can take.

____________

It is a mistake to read me as saying we are dependent upon our own resources for our own security. The correct interpretation requires us to avoid abdication. Form the alliances you can, but don't abandon your personal crown.

What does my son's autism have to do with personal security? Well… cops can be a danger to adults who won't take their direction. This is especially true of larger young men who are so socially inept that they scare the women around them. The hero impulse arises quickly in men when they are near scared women. My son's life could be snuffed out in a flash because he failed to obey a cop. So… what am I supposed to do since I know of the danger in advance? Take responsibility! That's what!

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

A police officer is not supposed to endanger the public in the performance of their duties.

The same is true here, but we are soft on charging and convicting them. We like our hero stories so much we will occasionally turn away from grim reality. That's a big part of our barbarism. Not the need for violence, but the need for heroes.

I hope y'all avoid our path. Be sensible about it. An arrest later still counts as an arrest. If the suspect isn't immediately threatening harm to someone, surrounding them and then waiting them out is another kind of arrest. If they can't get out of town, one doesn't even need to surround them. Patience should be allowed since we don't live in a world of Hollywood heroes. We dream about it, but it should stop there.

Darrell E,

Participating in governance is an important step. As long as people do ally and share the costs of a police force, everyone who can should be involved in ensuring the police (who are authorized to coerce) behave. Ideally, this occurs before violence descends on us. Ideally, this occurs before an angry man punches down the SES ladder. The ideal will never occur, of course, but we should try.

Since the ideal is not going to happen, we must also do what we can for ourselves. That means personal responsibility for one's own security arrangements. That does NOT mean guns and the expectation of tooth-n-claw communities. That means non-abdication.

The error matthew and others make when we get onto this topic and I open my mouth is the 'false dichotomy' one. We CAN change our current arrangements by adding personal security without anarchy. This is already provably true because we have many communities that do policing in different ways. Some have citizen 'violence disruptor' groups that are shockingly good at preventing gun violence among people who do not trust their local police. So… there is room for improvement where we get involved as individuals.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

When Alfred writes, "Your security is yours to secure. It's pretty simple. You can hire others to help do that, but they should answer to you.," I don't think he means that as literally as Larry and matthew seem to have initially interpreted.


I'm not really arguing against Alfred so much as supporting my own point of view (actually channeling my dad's) which is admittedly more idealistic than his. I realize that the real world necessitates exceptions to my way of thinking.

Alfred distrusts the ability (or willingness) of society to protect him, and so concludes that protecting himself and his loved ones is his own responsibility. On one hand, that's almost self-evident. There is no system of rules and decorum imaginable that would compel someone to forego self-defense. If society won't or can't protect its members, then what is it for?

The reason we cede certain powers to a well-defined and (hopefully) well run police force and willingly give up using those powers ourselves is to avoid a rule of the jungle situation where disputes escalate violently between individuals and clans. Implicit in this order is that the police and other forces of society are professional in their conduct and treat citizens equally. If the police are on the side of the Hatfields against the McCoys, then we might as well let the two clans fight it out without police. That's the sort of injustice that has been made obvious in the wake of the George Floyd murder.--that it's not just a case of individual cops gone bad, but that the system is designed to preference white middle-and-upper class people over others.

The problem I have with Alfred's notion of self-protection--while agreeing that it is in some sense necessary--is that it leads directly to incidents like the shooting of Treyvon Martin and that black jogger in Georgia. In both cases, the self-appointed protectors of their neighborhoods really thought they had cause to confront the black person in question--and once that confrontation escalated probably did believe they had to kill the black man in self-defense. In what sense can we claim they did wrong other than that armed confrontation of a suspect should be left to the trained professionals?

To the extent that I grant Alfred's point, I use a phrase I attribute to CS Lewis: Self-defense is "medicine, not food.". Even though I don't agree with the context in which Lewis used the phrase, I understand what he meant by it. He was somewhat-defending the right of women to equality even though he wasn't comfortable (Biblically) with the notion. In his view, men should be the protectors and advocates for women, being better equipped to handle those tasks than the women themselves were. But he recognized that men were failing at the job--that they were letting "their" women down--and so the women had no recourse except to take matters of law and citizenship into their own hands. He truly believed that society worked better with men as the head of the household and that God wanted it that way, but that in the real world, the law had to recognize women as independent entities with their separate interests. He poetically described this by saying women's equality was "medicine, not food." He saw it as a necessary thing, but not a nurturing thing.

Again, I'm not advocating the concept that women's rights are bad--I just don't know a better metaphorical way to describe the way I see self-defense as a practice.

Jim Lund said...

David,

Talking about transparency you are circling the core of this but not hitting it. What is needed is feedback in the system. There is no feedback loop to create accountability and shape police actions. Internal review boards and civilian review boards are hobbled and ineffective. Prosecutors and coroners are partners with police, they rarely constrain police behavior.

Transparency--everyone having a camera--is providing clear evidence of widespread criminality and misbehavior on the part of police, and providing evidence that police routinely lie, and that 'good' cops routinely lie to cover for directly criminal cops. This is providing pressure for change. But today, there is still no feedback mechanism--no way to routinely hold police accountable, and so there has been no change in policing and police departments.

Today, cops feel comfortable killing people on camera, feel confident that they won't be held accountable for their actions.

Your Five Stakeholders Rube Goldberg mechanism is unneeded (and the first three legs are the current mechanisms that experience has shown are near useless).

Things are so bad, and have been so bad so long, that there are easier steps--fire police that today have five or more complaints and two or more lawsuits. Very few good cops in that tranche. Could link it to cutting police budgets by 50%, also an easy one--violent crime is down >50% over the last 30 years, but police funding and numbers are higher than ever.

matthew said...

Alfred, sure, I contribute to police payroll by the taxes I pay. Many citizens do not contribute.

The difference you seem to be describing is that anyone that cannot pay in your proposed system would be dependent on charity or good will, whereas under our current system, everyone ideally, regardless of the ability to pay is supposed to be equal under the law.

I understand that "all men equal under the law" is a goal, not a reality, but I certainly don't see how "pay as you go for protection" is any better a way to get us to "all men equal under the law."

In fact, it is much much worse at achieving the "all men equal under the law" goal. We see this in our current two-tiered justice system where there is one justice for the rich and powerful and a second "justice-lite" for everyone else.

And this subject is the root of why I think libertarianism is an active evil force that must be fought every bit as hard as authoritarianism or feudalism. And why I believe the evidence that the Libertarian Party as a political association is an outgrowth of the feudal mindset that our host is so centered on defeating, sponsored by oligarchs who want property to be the root of worth in society.

Your arguments have shown me where we cleave. Thank you Alfred for that clarity.

I will work very hard to not let libertarians or oligarchs or authoritarians win. I don't see a difference in outcomes from the three.

Our only hope is each other, and libertarian thought as Alfred describes is is corrosive to our future.


matthew said...

Dr. Brin (or anyone else), have you looked for the original source article mentioned in your post regarding the origins of COVID-19?

I went looking through the UK Daily Telegraph's archives and cannot find the article referenced in our host's post. If anyone has a link I would appreciate a pointer to it.

David Brin said...

"Things are so bad, and have been so bad so long, that there are easier steps--fire police that today have five or more complaints and two or more lawsuits."

Sorry, that stack of slurs is easy for someone with a grudge to arrange.

I don't think you understand my "Rube Goldberg" of 5 stakeholders. They are meant to NOT overlap very much, so no grudge campaign can cause more than two at a time to indict an officer, but if ALL of them agree "this idiot has to go," then my method says "If it's 5-0 there is NO 'due process!" The SOB simply goes away, because community complaints plus citizen boards, plus city politicians plus police chiefs plus confidential cop polls all overlap only a little and cover all the pertinent space, we can reach a consensus that 5-0 justifies a simpled process.

David Brin said...

Sorry I was passing along something emailed me by a guy I trust. Informal and rumor-level.

Jim Lund said...

How about people pay into neighborhood associations that provide protection to the residents and businesses in the area? Replace the police with a bottom up self-organized solution! People could pay according to how much property they need protected and level of service. These protection organizations could then band together into federations to provide protection for people when traveling--state or regional reciprocal protection/indemnification. Someone had to suggest a libertarian (mafia) solution!

matthew said...

...And now I see the post where Alfred further describes his position. This moderation does make discussion more out-of-sync.

Trying to paraphrase Alfred again, I believe he is now arguing for more involvement and personal input into policing? And personal training to take care of situations where there is no police to rely upon? Am I getting that right?

If I read your revised description correctly, Alfred, how does that differ from our current situation? Just self-reliance? Or community involvement?
How would this increased self-reliance impact the marginalized, the poor, the insane?
How would your system impact those not capable of what you are asking of them?

And most importantly, how does it get us closer to "all men equal under the law?"

Jim Lund said...

David,

"Things are so bad, and have been so bad so long, that there are easier steps--fire police that today have five or more complaints and two or more lawsuits."

Certainly it couldn't be permanent, it would evolve as you suggest. But today, as a one time trigger, it would be fine, and would get the 5% worst cops off the force.

Similarly, your proposed 'confidential poll' would also be gamed--I'm not sure exactly how, certainly 'reformers' would get the black mark. Easiest would be for police to vote out 1/2 or 3/4 of each new class--tenured police would make the raw recruits compete for approval of the established cops and their system.

Pachydermis2 said...

Alfred

Compared to the rest of the thread your musings on the future of your son stand out as the most important contribution. It is a dilemma being quietly faced by many. My parents faced it (with one of my sibs) and largely failed.

Being a parent you wear so many hats. One of them is that of the drill instructor, getting that clueless hayseed of a recruit ready to face a hostile world. In the movies it always works out.

In the real world things are harder.

My sympathies and respect, transmitted over the swirling dreck of the internet, are not of any particular use but you have them nonetheless.

Pac2

Acacia H. said...

As per the KGB motto, Dr. Brin, "trust but verify." ;)

Acacia

David Brin said...

You guys are roaring ahead of me as I am mired in xoom meetings of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program (NIAC). Have fun!

Jon S. said...

Believe me, Alfred, I understand that dilemma quite well. I'm on the spectrum myself; my daughter will never live independently, although we have high hopes for Jason's boy Iain (as his is a less-severe case, albeit complicated by ADHD). This is further complicated by the fact that both kids are half-black (they have the same mother) - I'm sure you can imagine the issues pertaining here.

That, however, is why I maintain that the police must be trained "To Protect and To Serve". They're already trained "to coerce and enforce", which is part of the problem - police forces, by and large, see themselves as separate from and superior to the civilians they're supposed to protect. This requires rethinking how police forces are currently organized and trained, and reducing their functions to those which are proper for their roles. (When Jason's having a PTSD episode, heavily-armed men rolling up to the house do not help.)

Private security, the classic libertarian "solution", would be even worse, for reasons I'm not sure I should go into here - suffice it to say that, barring a winning lottery ticket, we will never be in a position to hire such a force ourselves, nor to contribute to a "neighborhood watch"-style private force (after all, in a libertarian paradise, we'd all be starving anyway). The best-case scenario here, then, would be to find ourselves in the position of the homeowner in Tennessee a while back whose house burned to the ground because it was just outside the area the fire department was paid to protect. (Worst-case is that such private security forces might decide that, as we lack protection, we're valid targets for robbery or other crimes.)

CP said...

I'm skeptical of the article Dr. Brin passed on...

As far as I am aware, the overwhelming majority of researchers who are studying the genetics of the virus directly have concluded that it's natural--the contrary argument is based mostly on circumstantial evidence. Meanwhile the "HIV" references appear to be hype (based on a badly flawed, early article that was retracted). Here are a few articles on the matter:

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-not-human-made-lab-genetic-analysis-nature

https://www.sciencealert.com/the-new-coronavirus-could-have-been-percolating-innocently-in-humans-for-years

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41591-020-0820-9

https://www.sciencealert.com/more-evidence-suggests-pangolins-may-have-passed-coronavirus-from-bats-to-humans

https://www.vox.com/2020/4/23/21226484/wuhan-lab-coronavirus-china

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/coronavirus-covid-19-not-human-made-lab-genetic-analysis-nature

As I understand it, the bat coronaviruses are more virulent but not very efficient at infecting humans. Pangolin coronaviruses readily infect humans but aren't very virulent. Covid-19 appears to be the result of a recombinant event involving the two. The only questions still being actively debated are whether the recombinant event occurred in pangolins, in a third species or in an infected human and whether it occurred in Wuhan or somewhere else in China...

Don Gisselbeck said...

The modern libertarian motto; if you can't compete, die.

David Brin said...

CP I have looked at so many of the statements pooh=poohing the notion of Covid 19 being deliberately modified and I have yet to see one that did not have a frantic quality, plus a paucity of actual proof. Yes, many forms of engineered change leave traces. But many do not. Moreover it it possible to accelerate "natural" changes by orders of magnitude, exactly of the sort that supposedly happened in that Wuhan wet market. The common elements between this bat virus and SARS go beyond simply being distantly related coronas. There are identical stretches of code, suggesting that at minimum someone or some animal with lingering SARS was involved in the accidental or natural set of recombinations.

The number of ways that this thing seems to harm humans is especially worrisome. Having said all that - I do NOT proclaim any certainty, one way or another. It is just very strange that the leadership of Red America - and via their confederate hold on Washington - has resulted in the most advanced nation on Earth soo becoming the one where this nasty becomes utterly endemic.

duncan cairncross said...

"It is just very strange that the leadership of Red America - and via their confederate hold on Washington - has resulted in the most advanced nation on Earth soo becoming the one where this nasty becomes utterly endemic."

Never assume malevolent intent when incompetence is sufficient

Although in THIS case - assume BOTH

Alfred Differ said...

Pachydermis2,

My parents faced it (with one of my sibs) and largely failed.

Yah. I hear you. The arrival of that diagnosis is really close to a death sentence for marriages and financial security in many families. The risk of domestic abuse, child abuse, financial collapse, divorce, and all of that go way up. As if things weren't already bad enough for the kid, families can implode and worse. Even extended families can implode.

Thank you for the sympathy. I'm well into the grueling "do what's necessary" phase and my wife now teaches all those kids in the local elementary district. We got side-swiped by a couple of the risks, but survived with health and finances mostly intact. Not bad, I think. I'll take it and smile. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

This moderation does make discussion more out-of-sync.

Heh. Yah. I get why it has to be done, though. I've had to pleasure of seeing some of crap he's filtering out.

I've learned to wait for you and slow my responses. I've misread you too often and don't intend to do it again.

Your paraphrasing is close.

1) I always advocate for citizen involvement in local affairs. This is especially important at the local level since they are the people you are most likely to collide with when thing go wrong.

2) I always advocate for personal training to cover gaps, but that does not necessarily mean guns. In fact, for parents of special needs kids, guns at home are a really terrible idea. I don't have one. There are many other things to learn besides the 'last resort' type of stuff.

3) I also advocate for training the police, but not as our protectors. I prefer they learn how to de-escalate. I prefer they learn that someone disobeying them doesn't authorize abuse. I prefer they learn enough biology to understand their impulse to punch down the SES ladder. I also prefer they learn that we will fire their asses if they fuck up. Angry citizens are damned dangerous. See the need for de-escalation?

It's never about just this or just that. Personal security is a spectrum of possibilities. Some of us can do more for ourselves than others… and should… since the police don't ACTUALLY answer to us directly. [Anyone doubting that can try this simple phrase on the next cop they meet. "I'm a taxpayer. You work for me." See how far it gets you.]

How would this increased self-reliance impact the marginalized, the poor, the insane?

I suspect it would help. My self-reliance isn't just about my bodily security. It's about accepting that I'm not one of the sheep. That means when I'm not tuned-out, I might spot a danger to someone marginalized, on a low SES rung, or just insane. The cops don't really protect them like we can… if we are trained a little bit.

How would your system impact those not capable of what you are asking of them?

The point is that my personal responsibility isn't JUST to myself. I'm a member of a civilization, right? I'm not authorized by my community to use coercive force in my day-to-day activities, so I go about those activities different. Those activities are NOT purely selfish. They can't be no matter how inclined I am to be a libertarian. I have a family and a job and friends and all that.

Protectors don't need authorization to use force and in the modern world often don't need it.
That's what WE are supposed to do. For us AND those who can't do it for themselves.

Don't abdicate the responsibility, because authorization to use force creates a conflict of interest that is difficult to resolve in moments of anger and immediate threat. You have to do it. I have to do it. Those of us who can have to do it. Don't over-rely on the police.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

I'm sure you can imagine the issues pertaining here.

Yah. It's a never ending grief for the loss of what might have been combined with the usual parental emotional vulnerabilities we create by having any children at all. Talk too much about it and inexperienced people run away.

That, however, is why I maintain that the police must be trained "To Protect and To Serve"

I respectfully disagree. They must first be trained to realize the absence of threat. Think about how a big blundering boy scares a small older woman. It takes training to realize the boy is no danger. We parents get that on-the-job, but our community doesn't unless we expose them and practically force them to learn.

Many years ago, my family was at Griffiths Observatory. My son was enjoying himself. That involved a bit of running around and noise making. We were outside the building on one of the decks and let him be, while watching the adults around us carefully. One lady came up to us and surprised me to the core. She smiled and said she was really glad we took him out with us. In a flash, that smile said she knew exactly what the situation was while her words encouraged us to continue 'training' the people around us while we let our son grow up with less emotional trauma.

I participate in one of the city groups supporting special needs families. It's challenging for me, but has to be done. It is city run, thus city financed, and my libertarian sensibilities aren't disturbed even a little bit. We invite the cops over periodically to teach the kids not to be scared of people in uniform, but also to look at how the cops are being trained. I've never seen a problem yet, but I still watch.

The police CAN protect like any of us, but that isn't their primary function. It is important that we remember that.

To back this up, I'll describe one snippet of training I get every year through my employer. It shows up in the anti-terrorism material and the active-shooter' material. (I am a DoD contractor. The risks to us aren't theoretical.) They teach us all sorts of things, but always come back to make one particular point. If the police are sweeping through an area you are in and they haven't secured it yet, DO NOT expect them to do much for you. For all they know, YOU might be the threat. Don't rush them. Don't make demands. Don't do much of anything except answer questions. Don't be shocked if they hand-cuff you. Just go along with it because they'll sort it out later. When they sweep through, they are NOT there to protect you. They are there to end the threat and possibly arrest those involved.

Other material in those training packets teaches what to do in terrorism and active shooter situations. The training is lengthy and occasionally done with live exercises. That's not for everyone, of course, but many employers should consider at least some of it. It all depends on your level of risk.

As a father of an autistic son, I recognize a heightened risk for my family. Thus I take it seriously… and personally.

Alfred Differ said...

Don Gisselbeck,

That's an incantation.

It's been used by various groups ever since Darwin's theory got mangled for social purposes.


The defense against it is simple.
Show me who says it. Names. Evidence.
Do the homework.

Kal Kallevig said...

@duncan

Exactly!

David Brin said...

Never assume incompetence is sufficient when malevolent intent is overwhelmingly obvious.

Remember Goldfinger's rule!

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Never assume incompetence is sufficient when malevolent intent is overwhelmingly obvious.

Remember Goldfinger's rule!


Or Malcolm Nance's. "Coincidence takes careful planning."

Larry Hart said...

Heh.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-ppp-ayn-rand/in-sign-of-the-times-ayn-rand-institute-approved-for-ppp-loan-idUSKBN248026

(Reuters) - The institute promoting the “laissez-faire capitalism” of writer Ayn Rand, who in the novels “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” introduced her philosophy of “objectivism” to millions of readers, was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of up to $1 million, according to data released Monday by the Trump administration.

The Ayn Rand Institute: The Center for the Advancement of Objectivism in Santa Ana, California, sought to preserve 35 jobs with the PPP funding, according to the data.
...
In a 1962 essay, Rand wrote of seventeenth century French businessmen: “They knew that government ‘help’ to business is just as disastrous as government persecution, and that the only way a government can be of service to national prosperity is by keeping its hands off.”

Darrell E said...

Often peoples' conception of the same term varies from each other and this causes misunderstanding. Probably much of any discussion, assuming good intentions, is to figure out exactly what the other person means by the various terms central to their argument.

Alfred Differ said...

3) I also advocate for training the police, but not as our protectors. I prefer they learn how to de-escalate. I prefer they learn that someone disobeying them doesn't authorize abuse. I prefer they learn enough biology to understand their impulse to punch down the SES ladder. I also prefer they learn that we will fire their asses if they fuck up.

[Jon S] “That, however, is why I maintain that the police must be trained "To Protect and To Serve"

I respectfully disagree. They must first be trained to realize the absence of threat. Think about how a big blundering boy scares a small older woman. It takes training to realize the boy is no danger.

The police CAN protect like any of us, but that isn't their primary function. It is important that we remember that.

If the police are sweeping through an area you are in and they haven't secured it yet, DO NOT expect them to do much for you. For all they know, YOU might be the threat. Don't rush them. Don't make demands. Don't do much of anything except answer questions. Don't be shocked if they hand-cuff you. Just go along with it because they'll sort it out later. When they sweep through, they are NOT there to protect you. They are there to end the threat and possibly arrest those involved.


This seems to be a case in point. Alfred, all of these statements you've made to explain what you mean by your view that the purpose of the police is not to “protect & serve,” all of them are examples of how police should be trained in order to best protect & serve society. In my view and I'll warrant, in the view of some of the people you've been discussing this with. In other words, the reason that the police should be trained in the ways you describe if their purpose is supposed to be to protect and serve is because these methods result in the best outcomes towards that purpose. The point you illustrate with your active shooter training example, I understand. I agree that law enforcement needs to behave just as you described because in those circumstances that is the best way to fulfill their mandate to protect & serve. To protect & serve should not mean that every individual at every moment in all circumstances expects the police to behave towards them like personal body guard servants. That isn't realistic and I'd be really surprised if anyone really thinks of “protect and serve” like that.

What I mean by “the purpose of the police is to protect and serve” is that we, as in our society collectively, use law enforcement and the justice system, and other institutions, as a means of maintaining our society as one in which all of those things enumerated so determinedly in the Declaration of Independence, and many other places, are realized as widely and fully as we can contrive. Or at least that's what we should require of them. The only real choices, either end of a spectrum, are that the purpose of these institutions is to protect and serve all of us or their purpose is to protect and serve only the interests of those with power.

I get that your view is grounded in the belief that avoiding giving up personal responsibility for ourselves and our society is of the utmost concern and you think that granting the police the purpose to protect and serve us will inevitably lead to that. I agree that each of us has all the responsibilities you have described, to ourselves and society. However, I don't think there is any inherent conflict between those responsibilities and police purposed to protect & serve. Granting or requiring that purpose of the police does not entail giving up those personal responsibilities. Just the opposite I'd say.

Don Gisselbeck said...

My self-protection abilities are decidedly noncompetitive. By your earlier logic I should die.

Acacia H. said...

It's not that police need to learn how to identify threats. It's that police need to learn to ignore race when determining a threat - or we need to fire all of the police and have new police trained by the military on proper threat awareness and how to respond as if any and every action they take will be looked at with a truly critical eye.

Because today's American police force will murder Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and darker-skinned Asians without a moment's hesitation but will take an armed white boy and coddle them and talk them down and take them alive. They do this time and time and time and time and TIME again. So then, there's one of two things going on here. Either the police have been trained how to deescalate situations but always forget their training when minorities are involved, or the police are predominantly white supremacists who use the shield on their badge to protect themselves from the consequences of their murdering minorities in the name of "law enforcement."

And I'm fairly certain it's the latter, not the former.

----------

Another problem is that the police have been given the legal ability to enforce laws they make up in their heads. If the police officer THINKS an action is illegal and they arrest someone for that crime, they are not liable for a false arrest because they thought it was a crime. This is entirely too idiotic and while we have a HUGE amount of extraneous laws on the books, there is a simple solution to this: technology.

Seriously. Give the police electronic tools to determine if something is in fact against the law and the seriousness of that offense. Ignorance of the law should not be an excuse for police to harass people for something they didn't do.

Acacia

Zepp Jamieson said...

Sayeth the Doctor: "Yes, many forms of engineered change leave traces. But many do not."

I'm not competent to discuss the fingerprints of genetic engineering, so I won't dismiss that point.
Nor will I pretend that governments don't play around with viruses, looking to weaponise them. The US reportedly has a cache of smallpox available as a last-resort contingency.
But the tactics here make little sense. Supposing the Chinese did weaponise the coronavirus; why would they release it in one of THEIR OWN CITIES? Wouldn't it make more sense to test it in Tibet, or Mongolia, or better still, in an isolated place like San Marino or any of the Polynesian islands. If human testing is necessary, wouldn't you want it where you don't shoot yourself, and can bring it under control easily and quickly?
Aside from the social disruption of any pandemic, COVID-19 seems ill-equipped as a tactical weapon. The contagion rate is relatively low (at worst it has an R0 of 2.3), and the rates of debilitation and death are also fairly low--<20%.
And of course, the fact that the outbreak was believed to be in Wuhan, near a biotech testing facility, has sparked endless conspiracy theories. Would the Chinese INVITE that sort of attention?

David Brin said...

Zepp, the explanation for Chinese release of virus is entirely separate from the much more murky question of artificial viral alteration. The simple answer is that it has already happened, at least several times. Accidental releases have included (no link: only recalled) illicit sales of lab animals to wet markets.

Let me be clear. I am not declaring a zero-sum "I believe this happened!" What I assert is that we are in no position to just shrug-off some very real possibilities that a ferociously competitive and secretive despotic cabal of hegemons might have been taking chances with all of our lives.

Jon S. said...

Alfred, you mistake my point. My fears don't come from their autism as such, nor do I mourn "who they could have been" - the children are people, they will be who they will be, and any expectations I may have had are irrelevant. The extra layer of concern comes from the fact that they're half-Black - or, in the eyes of certain portions of society, Black. Frankly, the only reason Morgana got away with decking that boy in junior high was because her teacher witnessed the boy groping her, and was preparing to come to her defense when she demonstrated that it was unnecessary. As for Iain, well, all we can do is prepare him for humanity as best we can, take heart in the advances society has made since his mother was a child, and hope said advances proceed apace.

I'm also uncertain what you mean when you say "protect and serve". In my view, the proper role of police forces is to protect the people from those who would prey upon them, and to serve the people's interests as best they can within a limited definition. In the case of your son running about in a public place, the proper role of any police intervention would be to make sure he didn't accidentally hurt himself or anyone else; as he's not breaking any laws, there would be no need for any other such intervention.

scidata said...

Re: SCOTUS
How would any other ruling have made any difference? Would the tax records change any confederate minds? Anyone with a soul is already against the Cheeto. The indignant 'vapors' and pearl clutching have grown tedious. Dems need to spine-up before trogish bullies steal their lunch again.

Dr. Brin a ferociously competitive and secretive despotic cabal of hegemons
Sounds like my extended family.

Alfred Differ: In a flash, that smile said she knew exactly what the situation was
I grok that smile -- it's the face of civilization.

The noblest fight is for recognition of the individual. Not their authoritatively assessed value or even potential, but their right to exist. If 130,000 is only a mutable statistical operand, then we are only bacteria infecting the biome. In that reality, caging children, mocking the disabled, and grifting away our posterity are not crimes at all.

Robert said...

Acacia: "the police have been trained how to deescalate situations but always forget their training when minorities are involved"

Alternately, they perceive someone who's a visible minority as more threatening and less likely to de-escalate…

No citations because my computer is acting up, but two related factoids:

1) I read in a social science journal that in terms of feeling threatened by dark skin, even people with dark skin are more likely to equate "dark" with "threat". Which indicated (to the study authors) that there was some societal conditioning going on…

2) When Technicolor was released movies included more car crashes where the car burned/exploded (because that looked much more dramatic in Technicolor). And spinal injuries caused by dragging victims from a car wreck went up, because more people believed that the car would burn/explode (having seen it regularly in the movies). (Learned this in a lecture in the 1980s, so no reference other than "engineering design prof said".)


So, couple that with laws that say if you genuinely believe you are threatened you can use more force, you set the stage for differential use of force even by well-intentioned people.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Zepp, the explanation for Chinese release of virus is entirely separate from the much more murky question of artificial viral alteration.


Yes, whether the virus was created on purpose and whether it was released on purpose are two different questions.

David Brin said...

" Would the tax records change any confederate minds? Anyone with a soul is already against the Cheeto."

Simply untrue. There's higher hanging fruit and the numbers are small... maybe a million. But losing those RASRs would mean the absolute Whig-level crushing of the traitor GOP and save us from DT raving about being cheated.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

So, couple that with laws that say if you genuinely believe you are threatened you can use more force, you set the stage for differential use of force even by well-intentioned people.


The Republican "stand your ground" laws always seem to be used in the sense that a white man feels threatened by a black man, and is therefore justified in killing the black man in self-defense. Even if the white man started the fight, he can cite his fear at the reaction from his victim in order to justify killing him.

Somehow, it's never the other way around--the black man justified in killing the white man who is actually threatening his life. And note how the NRA never mentions that if Treyvon Martin had had a gun, he'd be alive today.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

When Technicolor was released movies included more car crashes where the car burned/exploded (because that looked much more dramatic in Technicolor). And spinal injuries caused by dragging victims from a car wreck went up, because more people believed that the car would burn/explode (having seen it regularly in the movies).


It was during the 1970s at the height of my tv watching when I came up with the theory that highway shoulders must be land-mined, because a car which even began to leave the road would immediately explode. I specifically remember one episode of "Charlie's Angels" in which in which my reaction was "They're not even trying anymore." Literally, the car exploded as soon as it slid sideways, even though there was no impact.

I was gratified to see that "The Simpsons" noticed this and made fun of it, once showing a car skidding toward a tree, then stopping well short of hitting the tree, and then spontaneously setting on fire and exploding anyway.

Acacia H. said...

Concerning the "artificial" nature of the COVID-19 Coronavirus...

It is far more likely than this is a naturally-occurring virus than something man-made. It is known that if you have a bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics living among other bacteria of different species, those other bacteria will develop a resistance to those antibiotics even if they never were exposed to those antibiotics before and were previously not resistant. The same holds true with viruses developing new abilities.

The initial coronavirus was infectious and nasty but not deadly. It then mutated and a second strain broke out. That strain was transported to Europe and from there to the East Coast of the United States. There are in fact multiple strains of COVID-19 and some are more virulent than others.

Here are a couple articles commenting on strains of COVID-19 and their spread. Do note, the more cases of COVID-19 there are, the greater the chance of something truly nasty developing. Trump and Republican State refusal to mandate mask use and allowing the spread of the virus to "save the economy" has allowed for the potential development of truly lethal and contagious strains of the coronavirus. It is going to result in widescale deaths most likely in the next couple of months.

And this is all natural evolution. It is not artificial. These strains were not built and also released. So if this virus can evolve like this now, why could it not evolve into something contagious and nasty at the very start? There is a very high likelihood it is just a natural bug... and pointing fingers at China and falsely claiming they made it is not going to do anything but increase international tensions when we should be working on containing this pandemic.

Acacia H.

Larry Hart said...

scidata:

How would any other ruling have made any difference? Would the tax records change any confederate minds?


I don't know which of the two cases you are talking about, but I find more comfort in the fact that the state of New York can pursue Trump for state crimes without him being able to hide behind "The sitting president is too busy to be bothered". Public revelations from his financial records probably won't come in time to hurt in the election, but the fact that he is liable for prosecution for crimes he can't pardon himself for puts me in my happy place.

David Brin said...

Thanks Acacia for perfectly demonstrating the pehnomenon I described: "And this is all natural evolution. It is not artificial. These strains were not built and also released."

Grand shrugs and declarations do not move me. And that's all I have seen. Not a single 'refutation" of the possibilities of deliberate-altering or accidental release has ever actually, factually refuted a darned thing. All arm-waving and I am boggled by it.

Larry Hart said...

Acacia:

and pointing fingers at China and falsely claiming they made it is not going to do anything but increase international tensions when we should be working on containing this pandemic.


Aside from those who want a foreign enemy to blame, I think there is a natural tendency for us to want COVID-19 to have been created in a laboratory. Because that brings the comfort that to prevent similar outbreaks in the future, all we have to do is not make them in a laboratory. If they can appear in nature for no "reason", that's scarier.

Acacia H. said...

This is the mindset of people who believe in conspiracy theories, Larry. They WANT to blame "The Powers That Be" because that creates a sense that someone is in control rather than there being chaos behind everything. They would rather have the U.S. government remotely control jets into buildings and having faked Al Qaeda's involvement and used shaped charges already in place to blame a small terror organization rather than believe that a score of people could pull off hijacking four jets and causing the damage they did. They would rather believe that COVID was created and released as a bioweapon (or even accidentally released!) than believe it just arose naturally.

David, you are falling into this mindset. Why is it so vital for you to believe that the Chinese made this rather than it being natural and having evolved on its own? And did you bother to click the links I posted showing how this virus has spread and evolved over time or did you just decide it's all "grand drugs and declarations" - especially as if this is a natural virus that evolved then we can never truly prove the Chinese didn't make it because even if China allowed foreign powers into their facilities to check, there would always be claims that "well they have secret labs we don't know about" and the like.

This is the attraction of conspiracy theories. "Earth is flat! All evidence showing otherwise is faked and a result of NASA and other space agencies spending all that money to hide the truth and further their false agenda!" "The Moon Landings are faked and we never made it to the moon, it was just a huge PR campaign!" "Kennedy was assassinated by the CIA rather than a lone gunman using a bolt-action rifle, and you can't fire bullets that quickly using a bolt-action rifle, anyone who actually DOES so is faking it to continue the cover-up!" And on down the line.

When you believe in something strongly enough, all the evidence in the world will not disprove that belief for you unless you take the time to accept your view is in fact biased. You know, Dr. Brin, I used to believe the lies about the Clintons. You challenged me to open my eyes and accept facts. I did so. I moved beyond conspiracy thinking. I could have clung to those beliefs and stated that the evidence proving otherwise was faked. I didn't.

By posting stuff about China making COVID, you continue to legitimize this belief among people who want to blame China and ignore the fact that Trump worsened things by refusing to treat it like the serious pandemic it is. This may not be your intent... but it will still be used as such. These same people will ignore anything you say against Trump, no matter how many facts you offer, but will wave your belief about the Chinese making COVID to "prove their point" against wearing masks and all that because "it's a bioweapon, China needs to give us the cure they've hidden from us" and other bullshit like that.

Acacia

matthew said...

Project Lincoln are proving that a few RASR's can do a great deal of good.

While I can quibble that they, as Never-Trumpers, would have been on the side of America to start with, I can see that keeping them in the coalition to grind down the GOP was a good idea.

Both the "whispers" ad and the ad going after the GOP Senators have been brilliant.

Never forget that the members of that group are fully responsible for getting us where we are; never forget they stood with us now.

And keep an eye on what they do next, if America wins this round. They are untrustworthy allies that deserve some benefit of doubt in the future.

But their America is still not the best America we can build.
We will do better.

David Brin said...

"This is the mindset of people who believe in conspiracy theories"

HAR! I am the one saying "Stop making grand declarations about what's true when the facts are ambiguous!" YOU are the one making grand declarations.

"Why is it so vital for you to believe that the Chinese made this rather than it being natural and having evolved on its own?"

Wait. Is Locumranch back? Seriously? Where'd that strawman come from? Diametrically opposite to true. Heck why not ask me if I've stopped drunk driving?

Heck yeah I click on so-called "refutation" papers and have yet to see one that's not mostly grand declarations that any thoughts of human intervention MUST arise only from conspiracy theories and paranoia. SO who's the fanatic here? There is absolutely no refutation, whatsoever. (Seriously? The lab had some western visitors and that means they were deterred!)

Sorry, but your lecture is shouted at someone other than me. Almost to the degree of slander. Certainly to a degree of stupidity.

Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

This is the mindset of people who believe in conspiracy theories, Larry. They WANT to blame "The Powers That Be" because that creates a sense that someone is in control rather than there being chaos behind everything. They would rather have the U.S. government remotely control jets into buildings and having faked Al Qaeda's involvement and used shaped charges already in place to blame a small terror organization rather than believe that a score of people could pull off hijacking four jets and causing the damage they did. They would rather believe that COVID was created and released as a bioweapon (or even accidentally released!) than believe it just arose naturally.


I have just recently been made aware that it's common "knowledge" among Q-ANON believers that JFK Junior is alive, is a Trump supporter, and was going to appear at the Mt Rushmore rally to announce himself as Trump's 2020 running mate. The mind boggles at the level of expectation people can have for something so ridiculous to happen on such a specific date in such a short time frame. I wish I had known early enough to collect on some bets.


David, you are falling into this mindset. Why is it so vital for you to believe that the Chinese made this rather than it being natural and having evolved on its own?


I think you are misreading Dr Brin's comments. He's not convinced that the Chinese manufactured the virus. He's just not convinced that they didn't. And he's saying that everything he's seen asserting that the virus is completely natural seems to have an air of desperation around it--more like the author hopes it is natural than that he knows so. Or that the consequences of it not being natural are too horrible to contemplate.

Comics writer Dave Sim once said something like "It's not that I believe (X). It's that the part of my brain that doesn't believe it hasn't convinced the part of my brain that does believe it that he's wrong." That's the way I'm hearing Dr Brin's remarks.

Acacia H. said...

You seriously are comparing me to Locu?

David Brin, once you told me to find evidence to prove my beliefs and views on the Clintons.

I now charge you to find actual evidence stating that COVID-19 was a man-made virus. Not just one article that was ambivalent about this.

Back in April, the Associated Press stated: The intel statement said the federal agencies concur “with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not manmade or genetically modified.”

Here is the official press release on this.

On June 9th virologists debunked claims it was manmade.

The lion share of evidence is against it being manmade.

Acacia H.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

Okay. Your situation is more complex than mine. No cop will ever think my son is a member of a minority clade.

Also, the mourning thing might be something more common to neuro-typical parents. I love my son as he is, but my hope for him was murdered. Not completely, though. Some of it survives and must if he is going to have the best future I can arrange for him.

In my view, the proper role of police forces is to protect the people from those who would prey upon them, and to serve the people's interests as best they can within a limited definition.

I think this is a mistake. I get that this is your view and that many would agree with you. I don't. In fact, I think this view creates a danger to you and your family. It's a subtle danger that I hope never materializes for you. It does for others though.

[There was an event in Fullerton a few years ago that still replays in my head as though I'm PTSD. I was at work when I heard the audio replay and had to leave before my anger led to some of my co-workers being hurt. My reaction was intense. Good thing I don't own a gun.]

Take the case of my son running about at the observatory. I'd argue that the police should simply avoid me and my son. If we aren't harming anyone or breaking any laws, my son's safety is mine to ensure. My wife too. (To a lesser degree, the people around us too.) We were both actively engaged in that task, so the police would have been both unnecessary AND a risk. They CAN use force. They are required reporters. In that particular instance, the risk was not worth the benefit. Also, any accident suffered by my son reflects more on me than anyone else.

[I didn't see any police around, but if they were I would have hoped they'd stay away.]

It is safer to rely on people not authorized to use force when it comes to basic security. It's probably better that they are not armed either. I strongly disagree with my libertarian friends on the wisdom of concealed carry permits and open carry rights. I find it astonishing how few of them understand how rapidly their intelligence and wisdom evaporates when they have the power to kill someone strapped to their side.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, just for yuks, here is Hal Sparks doing a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" type review of a right-wing "news"caster interviewing one of those Q-ANON guys at Mt Rushmore. I had never heard of this particular conspiracy theory before, but Hal certainly knew what was coming, even if the "reporter" didn't:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usWQ2VqpMmQ

Alfred Differ said...

Acacia H.

Our host's point is that the evidence AGAINST the virus being man-made isn't there. Most people arguing that it is natural are engaging in blind faith.

It is a reasonable debate to have. No one should mistake him for the clowns who want someone to blame to deflect our attention on their miserable failures.


Single studies are never enough for these sorts of things. Matters of science never are. That's where our host is going with this.

It IS reasonable, but in this charged climate, it might not be wise.
He's not known for timidity, though, so I'll go pop some popcorn. 8)

David Brin said...

If the shoe fits, Acacia. Like Locumranch, you accuse me if things not even remotely related to what I said, which was that man-altered virus is NOT DISMISSABLE as blithely as so many seem frantic to do. You have chosen repeatedly, despite repeated admonitions, in strawmanning me, asserting that I have declared THAT Covid-19 was man-altered.

Are you even remotely capable of parsing the difference between those two positions? You attribute to me a type of certainty that only YOU are displaying here.

And so I reiterate. We know that research took place in trait augmentation in coronaviruses in Wuhan. That is a matter of public record. We know that big nations engage in disease transmission research. We know that such activities CAN be pushed beyond normal guidelines in a nation where coercive hegemons have little fear of whistle blowers. And it is a matter of record that dangerous pathogens have escaped from labs over there, several times before.

We also know that only some RNA altering enhancements are decipherable post-hoc. Others would look identical to natural cross breeding in host organisms. Especially if opportunities for cross species migration are artificially enhanced. Then there are the numbers of traits which have appeared in this thing all at once or almost so.

Finally, the fact that almost none of the articles dismissing any possibility of non-natural sourcing offer convincing proof! Almost all of them engage in grand arm-waving generalities and ad hominem attacks on "paranoids" as YOU did.

Dig it please. I do not have to prove it was man-altered, since I never asserted that it was. YOU are the one making a grand declaration that is provable or falsifiable. So prove it.

David Brin said...

The articles linked to by Acacia are more of the same. Grand armwaved declarations. Take this one:

"No scientist or group of scientists created this virus in a laboratory. That would require insight into [viral] pathogenesis and protein engineering that does not exist," said Robert Garry, Ph.D., virologist at Tulane University.

What hogwash! Viruses can be taught to cross to new species simply by creating highly populated and crowded conditionsthat artificially nurture virulence and contagion. The fact that this route is never mentioned by the pooh-pooers is devastating to their credibility.

"Garry explained that much of the genetic material of the virus that caused COVID-19 is similar to that found in viruses sampled from animals, and was unknown to science until after the pandemic, ruling out the possibility the virus was created beforehand in a lab."

So? How does that refute a thing?

Again, I am not claiming this was man-made! If I were forced to bet, I'd offer 2:1 odds against it. But I'll not be herded into dismissing a blatantly plausible possibility by armwaved generalities.

Alfred Differ said...

Darrell E,

Probably much of any discussion, assuming good intentions, is to figure out exactly what the other person means by the various terms central to their argument.

Heh. Yah. I consider myself fortunate that this debate round happens to be on-topic. I also consider it fortunate that I get to express a libertarian viewpoint and people are ACTUALLY trying to parse me. Pretty cool.

…all of them are examples of how police should be trained in order to best protect & serve society.

Heh. Certainly looks like it, right? The problem I have with that is the 'protection' is a secondary effect and must remain so. When it becomes primary, they can be trapped in a conflict of interest. WHO exactly gets protected?

There is a similar effect in our markets. If I make a widget and sell it to someone, I'm serving their interests… and making a profit I hope. I know precisely who I'm serving in each trade. As it happens, though, others benefit from me doing this. People I'll probably never meet benefit semi-directly if I have more money to spend or the person buying the widget serves them while using it. More indirectly, if many of us are doing this kind of stuff, we are all a little better off. Very indirectly, we are benefiting our community. Adam Smith's invisible hand guides our selfish behaviors into useful service.

It would be a BIG mistake, though, to think my efforts at trade are intended to benefit the community. Maybe partially since I've read Adam Smith… but only at the margins. I mostly ignore the secondary effects trusting that voluntary trade will keep us moderately on-track.

The protection your local police provide is a secondary effect that works BEST if you are also involved at the primary level.

I'd be really surprised if anyone really thinks of “protect and serve” like that.

Be surprised then. I have a brother-in-law with family in LE. They have a pretty good idea who needs protecting and from whom. Their self-image is heroic. At least one of my cousins was in or close to LE. They ALL see this protest stuff as an attack on their intended noble service to us and get livid when we blame them for some of the crap that happens.

The error occurs in thinking it a noble service. It DOES take a lot of courage and a decent sense of justice, but they delude themselves in thinking it noble. Same goes for our war fighters. Service gratefully accepted… if one can provide it while remaining human.

you think that granting the police the purpose to protect and serve us will inevitably lead…

Eek. No. There is nothing inevitable about this. The path is slippery and we can fall on our asses, but that won't always happen. It's just that we can avoid it IF we take note of the banana peel.

duncan cairncross said...

There is one big reason why the Coronavirus is NOT man made and was NOT released intentionally

As a war virus its CRAP - totally useless - effectively it ignores the young and fit and goes for the old buggers

And we see that in its effects on countries - those that have taken even the simplest steps have beaten it

The UK and the USA have NOT beaten it but no war planner would ever do a plan that requires the "enemy" to be completely dumb

I believe that disposes of any "deliberate" scenario

The "it's a lab experiment that escaped" scenario is still possible

But not actually helpful


David Brin said...

Dunca you are trying to be reasonable:

"The "it's a lab experiment that escaped" scenario is still possible ... But not actually helpful"

Well, tort liability would certainly apply! And as a caution that we need world transparency.

And your shrug implies that only death by lung failure is a bad outcome from this thing. I am terrified not by that, but by anecdotal evidence for chronic debilitation in many more people.

But yes, deliberately made AND deliberately released makes no logical sense.

A German Nurse said...

"But yes, deliberately made AND deliberately released makes no logical sense."

Throwing another unproven conspiracy theory speculation into the ring: What if the virus wasn't made in China, but elsewhere? Who might be capable to make it and have a motive to do it? Who, perhaps, left behind evidence incriminating the Americans, and is now, as China and the US are at their throats, the laughing third? Russia, perhaps.

(But I am still perfectly okay with the pandemia being the result of a butterfly event.)

David Brin said...

A clever thriller novel plot, AGN... AND less probable things have happened in this world. The virus origins were clearly Chinese bat caves. But a common web narrative in China is that Americans did just that, and hence your scenario. Always start with "Who benefits?" Itg tends always to be Vlad.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Zepp, the explanation for Chinese release of virus is entirely separate from the much more murky question of artificial viral alteration."

Well, at least man-caused viral alterations. Given the mutagenic nature of viruses, all we really need to do is provide a rich medium for them to acclimate to. Viruses may or may not be alive, but they share with all living things volition, an acquisitiveness. (Not purposefully or planned: I haven't embraced Lysenkoism!)

You're not making an assertion, and I'm not making a refutation. I understand you're saying "This could have happened" and I'm pointing out structural weaknesses in the surmise.

One problem is we have no "patient zero," not in China, nor in Europe where (it's claimed) the virus may have first appeared last December. The Chinese dropped the ball in early days, and one of those failings was that of pinning down the source.

Alfred Differ said...

duncan,

Your attention on this being a crappy war virus is too much on hot wars. It IS useful in a cold war sense where antagonists are after the hearts and minds of potential allies.

As for reliance on the enemy being dumb... why not.

If the cost of implementing the plan is low enough, it is like email spam. People have to be pretty dumb to open those, right? Yet they do.

If your opponent isn't stupid during one round, your forces still learn how to build and deploy. The costs count as training at minimum, but you might get lucky too.

Tony Fisk said...

A virus, as we're seeing, is not particularly targetable.
However, I'll a don QAnon cap long enough to say preknowledge of such a program would help explain the "covfefe" incident.

Now why am I wanting shout "Hail the Trumpod!"? Oh yes. Headgear.

Larry Hart said...

Emphasis mine. If this isn't cause for removal from office, then it's hard to envision what would be. The point isn't even to punish him, but rather to put an actual leader in the office when we especially need one.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/10/opinion/school-reopenings-trump.html

Last month, NPR reported on a mostly Black nursing home in Maryland that didn’t lose any residents to Covid because its director listened to what Trump said about the virus and assumed the opposite was true. “When I heard President Trump say we only had 15 cases and by the end of the week that it would be zero, I knew that it was time to act,” the director said.

This is a president with negative credibility. The more Trump demands that schools open, the more people who’ve paid close attention to him will fear they all must remain closed.

scidata said...

Prediction: Mango Unchained will soon start putting serious pressure on other countries to open their border with USA. It must be jarring when your entire world view begins to collapse in your 70s.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

However, I'll a don QAnon cap long enough to say preknowledge of such a program would help explain the "covfefe" incident.


Heh.

The original covfefe tweet said:
"Despite the negative press covfefe"

He was obviously in the middle of typing "coverage" when he either fell asleep or had a mini-stroke of some sort.

Point being, the "cov" in "covfefe" is understandable without any reference to COVID.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

A virus, as we're seeing, is not particularly targetable.


I see only one scenario in which an intentional release makes sense.

Way back in the 80s, I read a novel called America 2040. The premise was that the Soviet Union had taken over the world except for the US, and America launched an interstellar spaceship looking to colonize a new planet and start over. It was the kind of cheezy, jingoistic plot that Trumpists would probably love today.

So anyway, there's a disgruntled crew member on board--he might have been a Russian spy, but I don't really remember now--who releases a toxin into the ship's water supply, making all of the ship's water undrinkable until a cure is found. Why would he endanger himself as well as others that way? He knew they would find an antidote in time, but he was angry about the American's complacency, their smug assuredness that they could easily overcome any obstacle. He was willing to share in the pain in order to scare the rest of the ship off of their high horse.

That just might be plausible in the COVID-19 case as well.

Jon S. said...

Dr. Brin -

"Garry explained that much of the genetic material of the virus that caused COVID-19 is similar to that found in viruses sampled from animals, and was unknown to science until after the pandemic, ruling out the possibility the virus was created beforehand in a lab."

So? How does that refute a thing?


Logic me this, Doctor:

If, as stated, much of the genetic material involved was "unknown to science until after the pandemic" (emphasis mine), how could it possibly have been used in engineering a virus? That would be, I think, a bit like claiming that an aluminum can on the Nazca plateau may not have been dropped by a careless tourist, but rather is an indicator that the Peruvians knew how to refine bauxite.

____________________-

Alfred, we're just going to have to acknowledge that we're talking past each other here - your definitions of both "protect" and "serve" quite clearly vary from mine by such a vast degree that further discussion would serve little purpose.

jim said...

This discussion about the origins of Covid 19 is just perplexing to me.

Everyone involved in the conversation is fairly intelligent, but many people are having trouble with David’s fairly obvious (to me at least) point that “ if the virus can evolve naturally in the wet markets in china then it can also be created in a laboratory that creates the conditions for bat viruses to comingle with the viruses of a bunch of other animals.”


The only thing that is kind of making sense to me is that Trump is associated with the idea that the Chinese created the virus, therefore that idea must be wrong.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

If, as stated, much of the genetic material involved was "unknown to science until after the pandemic" (emphasis mine), how could it possibly have been used in engineering a virus?


Rogue scientists with hoarded knowledge. Just sayin'

David Brin said...

Choke, are you guys switching monickers to mess with me? First the normally terrific and fairminded Acacia pulls a nowhere-near-me strawman on me like locum, then Jim ... "jim!" -- gets all rational and logical and reasonable.

Jon S. that's known to PUBLISHED science. And even that is silly. The SARS compenents that made Covid-19 so virulent were already known.

But again, I am NOT claiming it was mangeneered! Only that the grand declarations "of course it's impossible and anyone mentioning it is a conspiracy nut" seem not only unproved/unjustified but frankly rather frantic.

TCB said...

I would still push in my money on "Covid jumped from bats to humans outside a laboratory" but I'll leave a 5% chance it was engineered (I assign 100% chance that it technically could be, but only 5% that it actually was). Beyond that I simply note that, as with Donald Trump, I don't need any more reasons to abhor Mainland China. As global citizens, they are much worse than we Americans are, and we are not exactly earning our keep these days.

jim said...

David,

It seems like there is a very tight Overton window for liberals when it comes to Trump. As long as you say the orange man is bad, no really bad no even worse than that, you are OK, but if you start to think that

- moving troops out of Afghanistan -it was good until Trump suggested it , now we are with Lin Chaney and the troops should stay.

Mail in ballots can be problematic - conventional wisdom until Trump says it, now we have many thousands of ballots thrown out in Kentucky because the post office did not stamp them, thousands of other tossed out because people did not sign the envelopes and a close election that might have gone the other way if all the votes were counted. Imagine the result if that situation repeats itself this November. Mail in ballots might come back to haunt us this fall.

There are many other examples I could use, but it seems to me that there is some powerful group think going on with the political left and if one violates that group think you can expect a strong pushback.

Jim Lund said...

Regarding 'engineered COVID-19', Dr. Brin seems to be looking through his SF specs. I do have training and experience in this area and have read the technical discussion of the nature and origin of COVID-19.

There is no existing capacity in the world to create a bepsoke virus, made to have particular properties. I could design a research program to do so, and it would require a moonshot level effort--years, talent, many dollars. Along the way it would require hundreds of small scale human trials. Biology is a tinker's science, it isn't physics, the closest thing is materials science.

The understanding of human immunity, of viral stability and transmission, of cell biology, of every aspect of the what makes a virus a disease, and the particulars of a disease are all poorly understood. Biologists can't cure asthma, can't prevent organ rejection, don't have a full understanding of any viral disease, even the ones that have been studied for a hundred years.

What I'm saying is, biologists can't do the easy things yet. Nearly every tool of molecular biology is something biologists found in the wild and took home, tweaked a bit, cut the thorns off. Every one of the millions of animals, microbes, viruses is a miniature clockwork, a computer chip. Biologists have created or designed basically nothing themselves, only a few paper airplanes, a crappy happy meal windup toy or two.

matthew said...

Federal forces deployed to Portland, OR, as part of Trumps "get tough" messaging.

From The Guardian (I'll quote in full since there is no easy link):

"Protesters who have clashed with authorities in the Pacific Northwest are not just confronting local police, report the Associated Press. Some are also facing off against federal officers whose presence reflects Donald Trump’s decision to make cracking down on “violent mayhem” a federal priority. And it means a significant change in role for some officers.

The Department of Homeland Security has deployed officers in tactical gear from around the country, and from more than a half-dozen federal law enforcement agencies and departments, to Portland, Oregon, as part of a surge aimed at what a senior official said were people taking advantage of demonstrations to commit violence and vandalism.
Agents from different components of the Department of Homeland Security are deployed to protect a federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon


“Once we surged federal law enforcement officers to Portland, the agitators quickly got the message,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing operation.

The deployment represents somewhat of a departure for DHS, which was created after the September 11 attacks and is primarily focused on threats from abroad and border security. Now it is in the role of supporting Trump’s law-and-order campaign, raising questions about overstepping the duties of local law enforcement.

Portland Deputy Police Chief Chris Davis said his department did not request the assistance and did not coordinate efforts with the federal government amid often chaotic clashes that have ranged across several downtown blocks after midnight for weeks.

“I don’t have authority to order federal officers to do things,” Davis told AP. “It does complicate things for us.”

Civil liberties advocates and activists have accused federal authorities of overstepping their jurisdiction and an excessive use of crowd-control measures, including using tear gas and patrolling beyond the boundaries of federal property. Portland police are prohibited from using tear gas under a recent temporary court order unless they declare a riot.

“DHS should go back to investigating the rise of white supremacist activity and actors who are seeking to cause violence against these peaceful protests, that is under the purview of the agency’s mission,” said Andrea Flores, the deputy director of immigration policy at the American Civil Liberties Union who was a DHS official during the Obama administration.

Following Trump’s 26 June executive order to protect monuments, DHS created the Protecting American Communities Task Force and sent officers from Customs and Border Protection and other agencies to Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland.

As local governments in Washington, D.C., and Portland have stepped back to allow space for peaceful demonstrations, the Trump administration has stepped up its effort.

Among the federal forces deployed in Portland are members of an elite Border Patrol tactical team, a special operations unit that is based on the US-Mexico border and has been deployed overseas, including to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bortac members, identifiable by patches on their camouflage sleeves, were mixed in with the FBS outside the courthouse. Others in the unit, which includes snipers, have been stationed in “overlook” positions on the courthouse’s ninth floor.

A former DHS official said Bortac agents were viewed as “highly trained, valuable, scarce resources” and would typically be used for domestic law enforcement in extraordinary circumstances. “These units don’t normally sit around idle,” said the official, who spoke on condition anonymity. “What did they get pulled off of in order to watch over statues?”"

****

Do we want DHS operating in this manner?
Under what authority are they operating?
Disregard for local authority by the DHS is a big deal.

Jon S. said...

I mean, yeah, it's not impossible for the virus to have been engineered. It's also not impossible to fall out of a plane at 40,000 feet and survive - it's happened.

I wouldn't count on it, however. And if the only criterion to dismissal of the idea is taking it to the point of "impossible", then the idea can never be dismissed, because the criterion can never be met. It's not necessarily impossible that the ancient Peruvians figured out a way to make aluminum that they later lost - but it's not very likely.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

we're talking past each other here

Agreed. We HAVE managed to do so with respect for each other and I appreciate that.

On to the next topic. 8)


jim,

There are many other examples I could use…

My fav is the Space Force. I actually agree with the usefulness of splitting them out, but I don't credit Trump with any ingenuity for doing so. He needed a distraction from whatever the atrocity du jour was and some crafty staffer seized the opportunity.

I don't see it as group think, though. It's much more simply explained as anger and disgust. Even an attractive person fails to be for the person who intends to divorce them after trust breaks in a marriage. Anger is like that.

Alfred Differ said...

I suspect people who think it too difficult to engineer a corona virus like the one running about today are mistaken. For the record, I have no idea if it was or wasn't. I'll also wait for it to be studied before jumping to conclusions. However, I CAN imagine a way to do it that wouldn't be far from what we've done in the past and would not require a Moonshot type project.

The Green Revolution required a huge increase in crop output to feed a rapidly growing human population. Fears of famine weren't unfounded back in the 60's because we could see it happening in China when the human population was only a little over three billion. It's worth reading the history of the projects to figure out how we unseated that particular Horseman of the Apocalypse.

It wasn't careful genetic tinkering in the lab. We didn't have that tech back then. We do NOW, but not back then.

What they did was rapidly increase the varieties of our cereal crops. How? Expose the seeds to high radiation environments. Ta da! Variety. Of course radiation also kills, so do it with lots of seeds and grow it all to see what works. Do it again with the next batch while selecting for increased yield. Do it again and again and again. It takes a few years to mature several generations, but it works. We've proven it.

Can this be done with viral agents for mammals? Of course. The way to drive variety is pretty simple. Don't give the virus much of a choice to specialize. Mix the targets it must attack, then select for ones that succeeded. Do it again and again and again. It might not take as many years since the maturation period is measured in weeks. It might, though, if you want particular traits that aren't evident in the first generations. Who knows… maybe a small radiation source would help too.

Did any of this happen? I have no idea.
If it did, someone should be nuked.

Larry Hart said...

jim:

It seems like there is a very tight Overton window for liberals when it comes to Trump. As long as you say the orange man is bad, no really bad no even worse than that, you are OK, but if you start to think that

- moving troops out of Afghanistan -it was good until Trump suggested it , now we are with Lin Chaney and the troops should stay.
...


No, you just don't get it.

It's not that Trump can't suggest something positive. It's that the harm he does more than makes up for any possible local good that may have come from his presidency.

Larry Hart said...

matthew quoting:

The deployment represents somewhat of a departure for DHS, which was created after the September 11 attacks and is primarily focused on threats from abroad and border security. Now it is in the role of supporting Trump’s law-and-order campaign, raising questions about overstepping the duties of local law enforcement.


Brings to mind a line of Humphrey Bogart's in Casablanca (the best movie ever made) :

There are some parts of New York, Major, that I wouldn't advise you to try to invade.

A German Nurse said...

@ DHS deploying federal agents:

What if the federal agents attacked peaceful protesters unlawfully? Wouldn't the local police be forced to intervene and arrest the federal agents for violation of the first admendment? Or are federal law enforcement agents immune to local or state authorities?

What if local police (unlikely as it may be) SHIELDED peaceful protesters from unlawful fed action? (Which could be a clever move for local police forces to regain some of their lost standing.)

Just wondering.

Larry Hart said...

matthew:

Do we want DHS operating in this manner?
Under what authority are they operating?
Disregard for local authority by the DHS is a big deal.


"Welcome to District 12"

TCB said...

DHS and ICE are US Gestapo at this point. Trump commuted Roger Stone's sentence but would have BLM protesters shot; if local police would not obey that order, he would find some who will. All Cops Are Bastards, because they willingly serve oligarchs. Dr. Brin's Protector Caste looks like a chimera to me, now, because it is not one but two clades: military who swear allegiance to the Constitution, and can (provisionally) still be considered protectors of all society; and police who swear allegiance to Order, Property, and Other Police, with the low-other underclass rabble and commoners as the prey and enemy. Our whole system and the consent of the governed are about to break.

David Brin said...

Ah, jim, you’re back! I was worried about you.

Back to spouting drivel, that is.

US in Afghanistan is about three things:

1. helping it suddenly be a modern nation - impossible.

2. preventing the Taliban and ilk from getting another base for spreading terror — we should do that totally differently, by giving them a Pashtunistan and getting out… with it known we can topple them easily. After all these years they know that.

3. helping millions of girls and women to get educations and confidence, which is the only thing that will change the world, forever.

#1 and #2 suggest we should get out. #3 says there would be a terrible price and frankly, so long as the US and collateral death rates are as low as Obama got them to be, and the money costs, I’d invest that quagmire for the sake of the women.

Note I have said all this before. And typically it goes in one of jim’s dogma controlled ears and out the other. He makes no effort to show he understands, nor to get out of the moral swill that he flounders in, wishing to consign m2/3 of the world’s children to misery, ignorance and death by ending ALL ‘globalization” instead of selectively… and consigning the women of Afghanistan to hell.

The rest is just stupid. Oh, mail-ins have problems, but ONE gopper secretary of state… ANY of them… does vastly more cheating. Oh, I am the one saying DT is a shill and cipher.

David Brin said...


Jim Lund where the heck do you live? Seriously? You’ve never heard of viral trait enhancement? It was going on at Wuhan Institute as a study of ways that a future pathogen might break out. They play that dangerous game OPENLY! And not just the Chinese.

Heck look at this weirdly prescient article from 2008
https://www.pnas.org/content/105/50/19944

Larry Hart said...

TCB:

Our whole system and the consent of the governed are about to break.


Which is why I despise the current treacherous occupant of the White House, whether or not he is pulls troops out of Afghanistan at Russia's request.

But I'm not sure which way it is going to break. I suspect you think it will be "We govern you--never mind consent," but I'm wondering if the governed are about to show just what consent really means.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred
I'm completely with you until

If it did, someone should be nuked.

At that stage you leave the sensible to join the Orange Cockwomble in Lala land

TCB
"As global citizens, they are much worse than we Americans are, and we are not exactly earning our keep these days"

That is bollocks!!
As "Global Citizens" China is about a factor of ten better than todays America

China's Belt and Road Initiative is doing exactly what we (the west) should have been doing - developing infrastructure in the poor countries in Africa
Instead of doing that we (the west) have spent the last 100 years either taking wealth from those nations or "enabling" the "elite" in those nations to steal everything that was not welded down
As our host says we have helped them to steal and salt away Trillions of dollars that could have been used in their countries

Will China profit from the "Belt and Road Initiative" ??
Damn right they will profit - but the people in those countries will ALSO profit

"Global Citizens"
How have the two countries treated their own citizens?
The USA has moved from "Best Place in the world" - to about 50th
China has moved from bloody awful and about last in the world to somewhere close to the USA

I decided 20 years ago that the USA was NOT a good place to bring up my family and chose NZ

Back then if the choice had been China or the USA it would have been a no brainer

Today I would have to think carefully to make the decision

"Global Citizens"
War and invasion .....




Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

...but I'm wondering if the governed are about to show just what consent really means.

Isn't that what you do every day? 8)

Barbarians. Remember who we are!

Tony Fisk said...

Talk of educating Afghani women reminds me of the experiences of ABC radio national presenter Emma (now Ed) Ayres. He got involved with teaching music to Afghan children while cycling across Asia on his way to a gig with the Hong Kong Philharmonc. Has been back a few times.

Pachydermis2 said...

Doubtless I am posting just as DB's finger hovers over the "onward" button, but regards viruses...

There is ample precedent for recombined critters arising naturally in China. It relates to the historic conditions of crowding and of close proximity of humans and other species. Probably Europe in the middle ages with livestock, cats, mice, people all under one roof would be the analog. Or the Manger in Bethlehem if you are in a philosophic mood this morning.

Other agents also reflect their place of origin. There is clearly something about Ebola that favors the hot tropics of Africa. It has emerged elsewhere but does not seem to have the epidemiological "legs" to keep spreading.

I mention this as a point in favor of identifying viral infections by their point of origin. Where known it helps you understand the nature of the beasties. Wuhan has been dubbed doubleplusungood, but when considering what mix of wetmarkets, crowding, and assorted other factors might be in play it does provide some framework.

Naturally names are not always fair or accurate. I'm pretty sure the good folks of Marburg Germany are not thrilled that a disease with origins in an African Fruit bat was isolated at their fine university. The Chamber of Commerce of Lyme Connecticut similarly, although to be fair Lyme disease does at least naturally occur there. Both cases are misnomers ala Spanish Flu where good intentions and efforts are not rewarded (and is it not often thus?). You get associated with a nasty bug because you have a free press, or a superb university or a heads up public health department.

Wearing a scarlet letter as a badge of honor does not come naturally to most.

Pac2

TCB said...

@ Duncan, go find out if the CCP is still letting Hong Kong dissidents and Uighurs buy guns.

Nevertheless, I do think the US has become a worse place to live than (for instance) Cuba under Castro. I now believe a good 50-75% of the ill I was raised to think of Communist Cuba was capitalist propaganda. Freedom? Democracy? Civil rights? The US supported a busload of worse despots than Castro, but they were Wall-Street-friendly despots, so our opinion shapers tarred Castro with one hand, and gilded the Somozas and Pinochets and the Shah with the other...

Tangentially, this is my beef with neocons. Overthrowing dictators and spreading democracy by force if need be? I could actually get behind that; it's essentially what we did in World War 2, and even Napoleon did it, in a few places. But what the Bush regimes did in Afghanistan and Iraq was never spreading democracy; they actually spread GOPist corruption, which sullied the name of democracy in places where people would have really liked to try out the real thing.

We just have a few more notches to fall before we get worse than the Mainland, who are themselves getting worse, more authoritarian, etc. Nixon should never have gone to China. Instead of making them more democratic, our money made them a stronger and richer foe of democracy.

Regarding defunding police, The Guardian has a nice piece on Republican hypocrisy: they defund the police we really need, such as IRS, EPA, Dept. of Labor, the Chemical Safety Board, and more.

Larry Hart said...

TCB:

Overthrowing dictators and spreading democracy by force if need be? I could actually get behind that; it's essentially what we did in World War 2,


We defeated enemies in a declared war. Different scenario.


Regarding defunding police, The Guardian has a nice piece on Republican hypocrisy: they defund the police we really need, such as IRS, EPA, Dept. of Labor, the Chemical Safety Board, and more.


But they don't protect your wife and daughter from scary brown people, so those police are not "heroes".

David Brin said...

Lotsa stuff. TCB was right-on in some ways. Bushite betrayals were about enabling cronies to commit vast heists, including Cheney corps that were the only net beneficiaries (other than perhaps the Kurds and Saudis) of the Iraq wars. But Trumpian betrayals are more direct, aimed universally at damaging the US and the West.

But I disagree about helping China rise up. History will call it America's greatest - of many - accomplishment. I remain immensely frustrated that no US figure of eminence is SAYING SO, Answering every Beijing brag with "Your welcome! Now study harder, grasshopper. You still have a long way to go, with our continuing help... as the ONLY folk who EVER helped China, across 4000 years."

Cuba is a tragedy. Castro could have made it THE sincere experiment in centralized allocation socialism... as opposed to the capitalist versions in Scandinaviw, which work. Conditions in Cuba were perfect for an experiment which LET GO and allowed the benefits of democracy and lateral accountability to flourish. Indeed, Fidel was popular! And hence could have had at least 20 years or much more to do all that.

Alas, he was a typical male sonovobitch who crushed dissent even when it didn't threaten his overall authority. We were robbed of something that might have been interesting. Tito tried to do it, but faced far worse conditions, including a population 1/3 of which were intensely insane.

Alfred Differ said...

duncan,

Fair enough. I'll let you talk me down out of the 'nuke them' rafters. Pachydermis2 makes a fair point to support you too. A few centuries ago, the spreaders were probably the Europeans. Dirty, filthy lot they were. 8)


I hope they clean up quickly. I won't tolerate this forever.

As for your other opinions about China relative to the US, you are mistaken. Beware of hype from any of us.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle Station on Twitter:

VP Mike Pence: "The radical left is trying to smear police officers."

And the fascist right kneels on the necks of people until they fucking die.

Tell me, you Aryan Nations looking Stormtrumper, who do you think history will judge more harshly?


Heh. I wish I had thought of "Stromtrumper". I'll sure as heck be stealing it. :)

A German Nurse said...

A song for the current situation:

"Bet you can hear us now", a song by Tom Burton:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PddPiXhhIcI

(Via Beau of the fifth column. I never was into country music, except for Cash, but this one is different.)

Andy said...

Speaking of Planet 9 (in your previous post),

Maybe the reason we can't find it is because... it's a small black hole!

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/07/200712105456.htm

"Scientists have developed a new method to find black holes in the outer solar system, and along with it, determine once-and-for-all the true nature of the hypothesized Planet Nine."

How convenient (suspiciously convenient?) that we might have a mini black hole to experiment with right in our neighborhood. Just waiting for us to get advanced enough to be learn from it. The more knowledge we learn and technology we develop, the more new frontiers which keep conveniently opening.

David Brin said...

kewl.

But now


Onward

onward

Jim Lund said...

> Heck look at this weirdly prescient article from 2008
> https://www.pnas.org/content/105/50/19944

David, I read the article. I think it makes my point for me. Read the abstract and the first paragraph of introduction. This is an exploratory paper in a field barely touched. "However, predicting tenable pathways of animal-to-human movement has been hindered by challenges in identifying reservoir species, cultivating zoonotic organisms in culture, and isolating full-length genomes for cloning and genetic studies." Few tools available for study--"no Bat CoV has been successfully cultivated in cell culture or in animals".

What did they do? The authors recreate a change seen multiple times in the wild, "recombination within Spike has been described often (17), suggesting that the RBDs may be interchangeable between strains". Also note this is one step from an existing virus--they took the bat virus backbone and a section of human SARs Spike gene and combined them. This research pushes the envelope of the possible and likely took 2-3 years. It built off the "existing SARS-CoV reverse genetics system". This a methods paper, "Hot damn, it worked! Let's publish", and doesn't do much to by itself to advance knowledge of the virus. The authors new virus grew in cell culture and (poorly) in mice. The nut of the paper was being able to use DNA synthesis & cloning to recreate an existing bat virus that can't be grown in culture, and then throw in a change to get to grow in human and mouse cells.

So what does this show? An ability to assemble novel viruses. No ability to engineer or design or plan major changes (this was a "one-step from wild" experiment replicating an event already observed in nature), no ability to predict consequences of changes for virus stability, infectivity, or how changes in virus change the disease in humans. Also, experiments in this field are currently very slow, months to assemble a new virus.

Basically, the same place the field of gene therapy was in the 1980s, with a early proof of concept of the technique, but then viral engineering is a much more complicated problem.

And sure, you read a paper like this and you can speculate down a path to a great story set in 2050 or so.