Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The most important bill of the 21st Century, so far.. that and "supply chains..." and Jim Crow

H.R. 1, the For the People Act of 2021, is the first truly crucial fight in Congress that will pit the parties in desperate, zero-sum struggle. For the Republican Party it will be life-or-death, since in its present form it simply cannot survive an end to the cheats that let it maintain overwhelming power, despite losing all but one presidential election popular vote and almost every Congressional popular vote across 30 years. HR1 also pretty comprehensively addresses a laundry list of many (far from all!) of the recommendations that I made, in Polemical Judo

This will test Democrats to the fullest degree. Not only must they suffer zero defections in the Senate and use their best tactics to get past filibusters and suffer no more than half a dozen in the House – testing my hypothesis that the blatant morass of blackmail that pervades Washington is mostly a GOP problem – but this will be when the masters behind the GOP will surely summon their Supreme Court majority into the fray.  


You should look at the provisions in HR1, which would sharply curtail congressional gerrymandering, provide for automatic voter registration, overhaul federal campaign finance laws, increase election security against foreign interference, strengthen government ethics rules, empower small donors, expand lobbyist disclosure (“drain the swamp”), and more. Most of these reforms would be implemented for the November 2022 general election, with the exception of some redistricting and public financing changes that would go into effect later.


Those few of you who live in areas where a marginally sane and honest Republican legislator might be swayed, you are duty bound to track HR1 and apply what pressure you can. The rest of us? Use this bill to quash the inevitable rise of far-left splitters who chafe at any hint of loyalty to our coalition of national and world salvation, eagerly seeking any excuse to slam and betray Biden, Pelosi and “DNC sellouts.” Here’s the proof to hammer those ‘summer soldiers’ with the pure fact that they got nuthin’.


Oh, noteworthy: some of these reforms do what I recommended on the 1st page of Polemical Judo, actually enacting the "good parts” of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 Contract With America, that bait-and-switch pack of promises that the GOP utterly betrayed, first chance. So hammer your rightists with that choice irony, and defy them to defend opposing any of these reforms. Fox n’ Putin-pals will rail against HR1! So it is up to you to read the summaries aloud to your uncles n’ such and get them to see truth.

 

The only core reason to oppose HR1 is racism... fearing the vastly diverse Democrat surge of voters actually using their rights.  There’s a way for them to deal with this threat, though! Kill the GOP and replace it with a party of conservative-but-sane grownups who believe in fact and honesty and the future... and who at long last will leave Dennis Hastert’s curse behind and negotiate with us, like neighbors. Like Americans. That kind of conservative party might actually draw in some of the rising classes of minority business owners etc. and actually survive demographic collapse.
 

Here’s how to get involved in just about the most important piece of legislation of the 21st Century.

 

== Meanwhile, down in Georgia... ==

Stacey Abrams’s Fair Fight org reports: “Georgia Republicans once again showed their contempt for voters as two of the worst voter suppression bills since Reconstruction continued to move quickly through the state legislature: SB 241 would end no-excuse mail voting, implement new ID requirements, and add witness requirements for mail voters- in essence, creating one of the most restrictive absentee voting laws in the entire country and resulting in some of the worst voter suppression since Jim Crow.  Meanwhile, HB 531 is a desperate attempt to force the legislation onto the floor before Crossover Day. The bill would restrict dropbox access, add new ID requirements for mail voting, and restrict weekend voting among other provisions, all of which demonstrate just how unrelenting the GOP-led Georgia legislature is in their attacks on voting rights.

In Polemical Judo I reveal a jiu jitsu tactic that can demolish “voter ID laws,” NOT by opposing them frontally – goppers can claim that means we plan to cheat – but over the matter of compliance assistance (CA). 


Republicans always whine for CA whenever some new regulation affects business, demanding state aid for companies to comply. In this case, the metric is simple. Answer this: If a state heaps new ID requirements on poor voters, women etc, do they accompany it with major funding to help the poor etc. GET the required ID? 


This standard is so clearcut that even Trump-appointed judges would be hard pressed to find an excuse, when most of these cheater/Jimcrow states are closing DMV offices in poor areas, rather than allocating funds for compliance assistance.

 

This is one of many legal or legislative or political maneuvers that no politician or lawyer on the good side of this civil war phase has had a glimmer of brains to notice, alas.

 

== Those who know the dangers – know we’re better led, now ==

 

“Biden Signs Order Seeking Homegrown Fixes For Shortfalls Of Foreign-Made Items.” No way Fox can spin this. Republicans blocked Obama efforts to deal with crippling dependence on hostile foreign sources for our industrial supply chains. Then the problems were deliberately made much worse under Trump. ("America First" meant first to be ripped off by foreign oligarchies.) 


To be 'great' has to entail reducing vulnerabilities. And this act of Biden's is a first step toward ending GOP-induced frailties. If it is in time.

 

== And finally... irony... 

 

Want irony? Look at this map of where US citizens face terrible years ahead from flooding – as I described in both EARTH and EXISTENCE – and guess where climate denialism is strongest.“  

 

 

130 comments:

Tim H. said...

The National security concerns implicit in off-shoring were talked about at the time, but were hand waved away as being inferior to the plight of business folk fed up with American labor*, after all, if we really had to couldn't we just nuke them? I suspect well placed campaign contributions also helped quiet those voices. Something that wasn't thought about enough is "Creative destruction" is the destruction is easier and faster than the creation part, rivals for global influence won't wait for us to rebuild capabilities we threw away so someone could have an immense pay day. My guess is that if the GOP succeeds in thwarting Biden, there's a chance that capitalism, as practiced by Wall $treet, will be an example of how not to run an economy. If Biden succeeds, ample opportunity for wealth creation will remain, though people who're more comfortable with an unmistakable separation between theirselves and the lower classes may have issues.

*And blissfully, or willfully ignorant of the prospect of a clientele with less spending money.

Tim H. said...

This is interesting:
https://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2021/02/500000-dead-need-to-be-piled-in-front.html

Perhaps in a hypothetical Hillary Clinton administration, COVID deaths might've been halved, because she would've hired for ability, rather than whatever "Drumph!" was hiring for, and the GOP would have no hesitation to blame each death on her, personally.

Dwight Williams said...

People who want a stricter and crueler enforcement of the separation between themselves and those they see as "lower classes" are already having issues with this proposal. Worse, they're acting on those issues in order to continue enforcing their own desires. Hence the need for HR1 in the States.

Canada, it seems, leaves such issues divided between the feds and provinces. Which makes things for us more complicated.

David Brin said...

Yay this! “Rep. Pressley makes case for postal banking to raise revenue and advance ‘economic justice’.” (You’ll have to scroll down past the deJoy nonsense.) I lived in the UK and in France, where even the poorest citizens had simple accounts at the Postoffice, enabling them to save and build credit, customers who commercial banks not only have ignored but actively spurned and drove off, despite their promises in the 1960s, when ‘reforms’ ended postal banking in the US. This would not only help millions of the poor to uplift themselves, but would decisively be a money maker for the struggling USPS.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/02/24/dejoy-hearing-usps-live-updates/?fbclid=IwAR3Fx7M7j9j73MlnTVpyQ8qpmLZk-xPc3SuK6c4fMkHSiBG2z2PslpODomE

Restoring the US Post Office Bank was one of my 31 consensus goals that ALL democrats could agree on and that should be done together (with a few sane Republicans) ASAP.
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/07/debate-special-shall-we-let-them-divide.html

Dwight Williams said...

There are people arguing that Canada Post should also resume postal banking as a business with the same goals in mind. We were, I think, similarly foolish in getting our post office out of that business back around the same time we transformed said post office from federal department to crown (IE: publicly-owned) corporation. If memory serves, the NDP and Greens are on board. The Liberals are waffling, and the Conservatives are flat-out opposed.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everybody: Re: U.S. Senators and Representatives who are considered vulnerable/persuadable:
I've done a little research, and found who is considered electorally vulnerable in the Senate and House, and (presumably) open to persuasion/influence in legislation.
The great majority of the remainder can tell us/others to (in the words of the legendary "Shoresy" of Letterkenny, Ontario): "Give your balls a tug."
...................................................................................

Re: U.S. House of Representatives: Representatives to Influence
According to Balletopedia
(https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_House_of_Representatives_elections,_2022#Battleground_elections)

The 52% Club
On November 12, 2020, Jim Ellis of Ellis Insight identified a group of districts he called The 52% Club. Ellis said that these districts, where the incumbent won re-election with fewer than 52 percent of the vote, could be "some of the most competitive early targets in the 2022 elections."[1] Those districts and incumbents are listed in the table below along with whether we considered the district a battleground in 2020.

The 52% Club
District Incumbent 2020 battleground?
Iowa's 3rd Democratic Party Cindy Axne Yes
Michigan's 8th Democratic Party Elissa Slotkin Yes
Minnesota's 1st Republican Party Jim Hagedorn Yes
Missouri's 2nd Republican Party Ann Wagner Yes
Nebraska's 2nd Republican Party Don Bacon Yes
New Jersey's 7th Democratic Party Tom Malinowski Yes
Ohio's 1st Republican Party Steve Chabot Yes
Pennsylvania's 17th Democratic Party Conor Lamb Yes
Virginia's 2nd Democratic Party Elaine Luria Yes
Virginia's 7th Democratic Party Abigail Spanberger Yes
===========================================================

Re: US Senate: Senators to Influence:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_United_States_Senate_elections
(These show vulnerable senators and their vulnerability is estimated by three pollsters.)

Incumbent
2022 election ratings
State
PVI[1]
Senator
Last election[c]

Pollsters
Cook
January 25,
2021[2]

IE
February 10,
2021[3]

Sabato
January 28,
2021[4]


Overall[g]
Cook
D - 50
R - 48
2 tossups

IE
D - 46
R - 46
8 battlegrounds

Sabato
D - 50
R - 49
1 tossup
==========================================

Arizona
R+5
Mark Kelly
51.2% D (2020 special)[d]
Lean D
Battleground
Lean D

Georgia
R+5
Raphael Warnock
51.0% D (2020 special)[f]
Lean D
Battleground
Lean D

Nevada
D+1
Catherine Cortez Masto
47.1% D
Likely D
Battleground
Lean D

New Hampshire
D+1
Maggie Hassan
48.0% D
Likely D
Battleground
Lean D

Pennsylvania
EVEN
Pat Toomey (retiring)
48.8% R
Tossup
Battleground
Tossup

North Carolina
R+3
Richard Burr (retiring)
51.1% R
Tossup
Battleground
Lean R

Wisconsin
EVEN
Ron Johnson
50.2% R
Lean R
Battleground
Lean R

Florida
R+2
Marco Rubio
52.0% R
Likely R
Battleground
Likely R


gregory byshenk said...

David Brin said...
Greg B you keep missing the point. YOU are accusing the United States of America... as an organized institution, as a nation in general, of committing a systematic strategy that would under many lights be considered a campaign of repression against allies. YOU are the one bearing burden of proof for such a calumny, that runs against all stated policies and treaties and could be interpreted as a series of acts of war. And as proof of such a deliberate campaign of repression, anecdotes do not suffice.

David, I am not suggesting "a campaign of repression". Such a 'campaign' is simply unnecessary, as the USA is in general agreement with its European allies - at least most of the time. The question at issue is: what happens when there is not agreement.

In these cases, the USA does indeed attempt to pressure its allies to do what the USA wants. I've provided multiple examples of such just from the last couple of years - and there are more (attempts to punish European companies for "violating" US sanctions policies, for example, among other extraterritorial claims).

Let me turn the question around, since you won't accept any examples. Can you provide any examples from the last twenty-five years where the USA and Europe were in disagreement about some non-trivial matter where the USA did not attempt to apply pressure?

Given how implausible that sickly-sweet alluring meme is, with its voluptuous sense of outrage toward a purported Big Bully, my own anecdotes - while not DISproof - are vastly more valid because they weaigh against an assertion that is patently absurd in its own right.

First, I am expressing no "outrage"; merely attempting to point out differences in perspective, and what seems to me a blind spot for almost all USAans. Second, what makes this assertion "patently absurd"? Plainly the USA has not qualms about exercising its power - up to and including via military action. Plainly the USA is willing to engage in actions against supposedly "friendly" states, at least up to and including espionage against "friendly" governments. Given this, on what basis do you assert that it is "patently absurd" that the USA would exert pressure to achieve its own goals - even against "allied" states?

Note that I am not making any claims that the USA is some sort of "evil empire". As you point out, the "American Empire" is perhaps the least oppressive of any that have ever existed. The problem, I think, is that USAans by and large don't like to recognize even that much. Too many USAans, include sane ones, consider it a given that the USA "the good guy", and thus that any objection makes other states "the bad guys". This isn't helped by the fact that, for the last seventy-five years, no one in the USA has experience dealing with other states as equal partners.

Larry Hart said...

The Senate parliamentarian ruled that a minimum wage hike can't be part of a budget reconciliation bill. So it can't pass the Senate without 10 Republicans on board.

I'd say, the House should pass a stand-alone bill to raise the minimum wage and send it to the Senate. Make Republicans go on record voting against it. And then do it over and over again.
As many times as they tried to repeal Obamacare.

David Brin said...

Thanks LH. This makes clear why dems should insist that all filibusters be old-fashioned talk kind. Not only would it exhaust many of the old farts and thus limit the times it's used. It would in cases like this make a single senator the FACE of why you are still busting your ass for $10.50.
And for that reason the aim should not be to END it altogether! Because somedays dems may need it to block something heinous. And being seen talking endlessly against something BAD will actually be good and favorable optics.

As for Greg, I am tired of his dodging around: And I am paraphrasing: "You're bullies! No I didn't say bullies, but sometimes kinda heavy-handed... except when you are horrible bullies! But sure, mostly you mean well and have had overall good effects and helped Europe achieve peace and plenty and freedom after 5000 years of horror... but also BULLIES waging horrible aggression against friends!"

I am sick of the dodging and weaving. and then claiming it's me. My position has not changed an iota.
I ask COMPARED TO WHAT?

Compared to any and every other time any nation was ever tempted by great power? AND had to keep a fragile peace while threatened by forces ready and eager to commit horrific evil?

Or compared to the rising standards of behavior and justice that NO other era or peoples thought remotely possible and that the US preached for in vain, in 1919 at Versailles, and that the US later 90%+ established in 1945? Standards that have been preached relentlessly by Hollywood propaganda, which is the ONLY reason millions - including GB - believe such high standards are possible at all?

High standards that we HAVE TO FAIL, or else they weren't set high enough?

No other empire so willingly took in crit and citokate and issued regrets for so many earlier imperial actions. And many of those regrets were called for! Helping topple Allende was an insanely aggressive and unnecessary over-reaction, for example.

Only dig this. Allende and Moussadegh were going to happen anyway. Seriously, SHOW ME THE CIA TANKS IN EITHER CASE. Show me the CIA troops storming the palace. They did not happen and did not exist. Yes, shamefully a dozen or two operatives were there, passing out cash and egging on the Chilean and Persian officers WHO WERE GOING TO DO IT ANYWAY.

Seriously, where does this myth of CIA super-competence come from? Yep, they snap their fingers, like Thanos.

You want a mea culpa from me? Vietnam. A wretched horror built on lies and politicians too scared of 'looking weak' to admit we had been lured into a trap, way over our head, while killing a million people who sincerely thought they were fighting an invader. THAT makes me roil in shame.

Anyone calling EUROPE our VICTIM, on the other hand, can kiss my heinie. And try telling it to anyone who remembers Nazis. Or Stalin. Or Hungary 1956 or Prague 1968 or Poland and Afghanistand 1980, or...

Alfred Differ said...

Gregory,

I think it is more accurate to say that most Americans pay little to no attention to what their government does. Period. Good and Bad. We prefer our fantasies.

There is ALSO a belief system that we are the Good Guys. Exactly what qualifies varies among us, but that's just variation in the fantasy.

There is ALSO muscle behind these fantasies that is directed occasionally by those who would exercise power.

All that is the barbarian nature of our culture.


As for not applying pressure, I think you miss the point. All nations apply pressure if they can. It's just that we are exceedingly wealthy and can afford to apply it globally. If our Navy can reach you, we can pressure you at least three ways. If not, then it's just 2.5 ways.

This isn't immoral on its face. One has to look at the details to determine that.

duncan cairncross said...

I agree that the American Empire is about the least offensive empire ever - although the British Empire came close

The annoying thing is not the way that they pressure every other nation - that is to be expected

The annoying thing is their "we are always the good guys" attitude

America can do some awful things but ALWAYS claims to be the "white hats"

If somebody else - some other nation - does something then they are evil incarnate - if the Americans do exactly the same thing they are still "the good guys"

I suspect that this community is aware of the occasions that this happens - but a lot of "America" is simply completely unaware

One of the classic illustrations in the film about Pearl Harbor - where the Japanese are "evil" for attacking a Naval base - but at the end the Americans going to bomb civilians are somehow the "good guys"

Der Oger said...

You tend to trivialize things a bit, doctor. It was more than a few handful of operatives with a bit of money. Way more. And what happened in Chile happened in every country in South and Middle America, over a period of 40+ years. The Refugees at your southern border? You created them all by yourself, mostly. Some of the drug cartels, too.

That said, we were willing partners in crime back then. And that said, Europeans have less reasons to complain about American Imperialism; we were the few that got out lucky and even profited by it. Maybe it is linked to racism. Maybe it is the belief system that there are lesser people beyond our borders that are there to obey, to serve and to be plundered. Oh, and to stay were they are and not to bother us at our home.

Gregory was right, in my eyes: We are more often aligned than not, and the US have used strong pressure when we have disagreed. Since you mentioned Russian Gas, some facts: An overwhelming majority of our population supported Nordstream II, and what little support the US had within the conservatives was crushed when the companies involved in it were sanctioned and threatened. The same majority believes it is not about freedom, but about forcing us to buy your gas at higher prices. Plundering our wealth.

And then there is what happens if Empires fall. It is always ugly. It behooves the leadership of a province to make preparations in the event of the downfall, to lessen the impact on it's own citizens. Yes, with all imperial glory, the US send drones to another countries and another world; yet, children freeze to death in Texas.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/texas-family-devastated-after-11-year-old-boy-found-dead-in-freezing-home/ar-BB1dPYxy?scrlybrkr=63f3bb52

No Sir, we don't want that here. We don't want to be dragged down that rabbit hole you are running into, being consumed in a self-destructive, vicious circle of exploitation, greed, nationalism, tribalism and hatred.

@Alfred:"If not, then it's just 2.5 ways."
You lost a considerable amount soft power, at least in the last two decades. So reduce that number.

Also, "American barbarism" might be an explanation, but do you have an idea how to overcome this?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

There is ALSO a belief system that we are the Good Guys. Exactly what qualifies varies among us, but that's just variation in the fantasy.


There are two variants on this particular fantasy whose proponents don't recognize that we want the same things. The version that conservatives complain about liberals doing is that we want to keep being the good guys. We want to take notice of the ways we deviate from being the good guys and fix it so that we make sure we really are the good guys.

OTOH, the right insists that we always are the good guys, and that it's wrong to claim anything else, no matter what we actually do. That trying to fix things means admitting that there's something that needs fixing, which means complaining about America.

Now this is me, but I don't think the two sides are equally blind. The right-wing argument is delusional in the sense that they can call for Mak[ing] America Great Again at the same time they complain that (say) Colin Kaepernick is un-American for protesting an American injustice. You'd have to work to convince me that the liberal side is similarly self-contradictory.

David Brin said...

Der Oger, it is the nature of argument to take opposing sides. And while I point out major flaws in the "evil American Empire" meme, I do not deny the fact that evil was done... and I have fought those flaws that generated the evil all my life.

But your rant is simply laughable. Your blanket statements are simply false. A grain of truth here and there does not make a silo full of wheat. If you actually believe those cliches... well... all I can say is wow toward my species's ability to believe anything - especially when it feeds sanctimonious delusion.

scidata said...

Self-deprecation is what makes the American Empire so unique. Denis Leary provides proof:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrgpZ0fUixs&list=RDUrgpZ0fUixs&start_radio=1

As is often the case, this ties in with AI. Irony is the key to true intelligence. I think I've made the Christopher Hitchens argument previously in CB, so I won't repeat it. When I talk to scientists about the double-bind dilemma, they often think I misspoke and actually meant double-blind. Nnnnope. Loss of the ability to perceive irony is a fatal condition. It happened to Rome. It happened to Germany ~1930. It happened to Asimov's Galactic Empire ~1 F.E. It's happening right now to the GOP.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everyone: While we remember OGH's discussion of recycling phosphorus, this pissing contest has grown tiresome...
This is what I propose- Go here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_interventions_by_the_United_States and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_electoral_intervention#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20study%2C%20the,the%20identity%20of%20the%20winner.

and decide for yourselves if the interventions since 1975 have:
1) benefited the people of the nations involved
2) been worth the expenditure in blood and treasure to the American people.
(If you wish to go deeper, see if you can determine who urged intervening and why, and who for the contrary).

What I believe: America is (overall) a good country.
"My country: when right- to be kept right. When wrong: to be made right."
However, for the previous four years (and on numerous previous occasions, both during the "American Century" of 1945-1975 and since then) we have very much been the "bad guy," both around the world and domestically. This is going to take a lot of hard work and meaningful actions to undo, and we have ~75M Americans (1/3 of adults) who would like us to go back to being the "bad guy," even if they think we're actually the "good guy".

If we wish to continue this discussion, I think we should talk about "American exceptionalism": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_exceptionalism


David Brin said...

I do not accept the "compromise" Keith offers. It makes no effort to offer glimpses of the balancing events and facts which made the nations of the Warsaw Pact scurry to join NATO the instant that they could, despite generations of Leninist/Stalinist propaganda. Those folks knew and cared a LOT more about these tradeoffs than do comfy 21st century intellectuals on their couches, who know nothing about what Stalin did to Ukraine in the "holodomor..."

Or Hungary 1956 and so on. Or what a stalinist Iran would have done to the balance of power. Or why a million or so Filipinos fought and died at the side of what simplifying simpletons call their "oppressors." Or why the nations of Asia are desperate for the US to rejoin the TPP and maintain a strong presence there to counterbalance China, which has NO record of such 'interventions."

Now why would that be? If anyone has cause to hate us, it's the Vietamese... who simply DON'T! Could it be that they know something you don't know? Could it be they sense the difference between a fumbling, sometimes temperamentally violent and occasionally corrupt, but overall WELL-MEANING empire that does a lot more good than harm... and every other alternative, past and present?

No, I don't accept as the final word a web article that reflects the zeritgeist of self-criticism THAT WE INVENTED. And that would be extinguished the very instant that the USA was no longer around to keep it living.

Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

...and we have ~75M Americans (1/3 of adults) who would like us to go back to being the "bad guy," ...


I think that's what they actually mean by "Make America Great Again".

David Brin said...

They would have us go back to the sort of solipsism that has dominated every other empire and periodically rears up to seize our own. We share a determination to fight that! But what's a 'bad guy" if every other nation that was tempted by power did worse. Is "human nature" the bad guy? Is evolution, that reinforced aggressive male dominance-seeking with prodigious reproductive advantage?

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

So reduce that number

Heh. You might be missing my point.

There is hard power and a couple of forms of soft power. The hardest of the soft ones involves financial threats like what we did to the British during the Suez Incident in the late 50's. The softest of the soft ones involves cooperation with a nation's economic interests with the implied threat that we can withdraw that support.

Consider an example. Ukraine lost control of Crimea a few years ago. We don't have a lot of hard power options there that don't involve Turkey's unlikely cooperation in having a couple of our nuclear aircraft carrier fleets operating in the Black Sea AND NATO cooperation for land forces from your nation working east and south around the Carpathians. That's a lot of ground to cover through Poland and western Ukraine before our land forces got anywhere near Crimea. Long before then, the Russians would remind us of the expenses involved.

So, for hard power our options are reduced to arming opposition efforts.
For harder forms of soft power, we can freeze assets and drive certain people out of large portions of the world market IF many of the rest of you consent. The softer variants would look like US support of interests for Germany, Poland, Romania, and anyone else that might be interested in being less than a lap dog for Putin.

Our former President managed to @#ck us over in so many ways when it comes to getting consent. He also took steps to screw our actual hard power exercise in eastern Ukraine. That's what fundamentally drove the first impeachment effort even though the actual crime he committed had a different name. Don't think we've forgotten how to do all this more effectively, though.

What Ukraine needs, though, isn't really US intervention. They need our money and weapons, but what they really need is German and Polish support in pressuring Russia's financial interests. Putin might not be deflected by diplomatic words, but he does notice financial hits that threaten his ability to pay the people he wields. What Ukraine needs to be a bit more cohesive is your application of soft power and work started on a new wall alliance involving the Baltics, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. What are the chances of that, hmm?

Alfred Differ said...

duncan,

Your Pearl Harbor illustration doesn't really work. No one with any sense of history is surprised when the barbarian kills a few civilians. We are relatively good at avoiding that when we choose, but we do not make that choice when we are utterly pissed off.

Japan's attack was a sneak attack. That's what pissed us off and partially fueled the fire bombing. Most of the fuel to nuke them came from their unwillingness to admit obvious defeat in lost battles and in the overall war.

The angry barbarian DOES murder innocents. "Let God sort them out" is the battle cry. That doesn't make us the bad guys though. Just barbarians. They aren't the same.



Der Oger,

This is the better place to answer your last question.

Also, "American barbarism" might be an explanation, but do you have an idea how to overcome this?

Yes. Help us grow up.

We all do eventually.

The question is how much damage the children will do before they mature?

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Now this is me, but I don't think the two sides are equally blind.

Heh. Of course they aren't. Nor are the consequences of each side's blindness of equal impact.

I think you are oversimplifying things, though. The MAGA folks are often honest in their delusion. They think your side has done bad things. Very bad. To Americans. To The American Way.

The key to this is that we don't agree on a single version of The American Way.

I'm sure you can think of a few Captain America issues where this conflict took different shapes. Where we debated what America actually IS.

Lots of us think we know, but our visions only partially overlap.

Alfred Differ said...

Keith,

I don't think it is worth debating much about the morality of US actions during the Cold War. The truth is we WERE AT WAR. I don't mean to shout at you. I just want to ensure I emphasize that point. War's are ugly.

To be very, very blunt about it, the US was at war for most of the 20th century. Some look at it as one big, multi-phased war. Some look at them as three world wars. Either way, we fought world wars and won them all. Along the way, we did some ugly, stupid things, but we avoided some even uglier and stupider things too.

The world is better off too.

We aren't responsible for all the good that came out of the trauma, but we did help some.

One interesting change happened through all that fighting. We got better at not killing civilians. One does not have to target them directly to kill them. Historical wars in Europe after about 1600 are horrific events for the locals. Germans died in huge numbers during the 30 Years War because combatants chose to fight there. Famine, Disease, worthless coinage, etc. We have a pretty good handle on what all those causes are now and proved our willingness to tackle those during the 20th century. Civilians still died, but fewer after the fighting was over.

Another interesting change happened too. The US got better at using soft power. We don't have enough people to field large armies nor the stomach to fight the old way of European dukes and kings. We prefer force multipliers. The biggest of those takes the form of soft power. In learning this, we became an empire less inclined to kill people.

That means your wikipedia pages you linked don't begin to scratch the surface. They can't because they don't know all that we are doing. None of us do. For example, if you think you know how the US was involved in Ukraine's over-throw of Russian control, I'd bet you don't. I know at least one US based NGO was involved without US government consent. You aren't likely to find that in the official history anywhere. The folks involved prefer not to be poisoned.

gregory byshenk said...

David Brin said...
As for Greg, I am tired of his dodging around: And I am paraphrasing: "You're bullies! No I didn't say bullies, but sometimes kinda heavy-handed... except when you are horrible bullies! But sure, mostly you mean well and have had overall good effects and helped Europe achieve peace and plenty and freedom after 5000 years of horror... but also BULLIES waging horrible aggression against friends!

I will note that I did introduce the word "bully". I point out only that the USA not-infrequently treats its supposed "friends" poorly.

I am sick of the dodging and weaving. and then claiming it's me. My position has not changed an iota. I ask COMPARED TO WHAT?

I would ask you to put yourself on the other side of the exchange.

If my husband locks me in the basement when I displease him, should I be comforted when he says: "I am doing this because I care about you - and don't forget that Al down the street beats his wife and then locks her in the basement"?

Would MLK be comforted if someone told him: "one hundred years ago you would have been a chattel slave, so you shouldn't complain"?

You are quick to recognize things in the past that were done badly; can you at least consider that maybe some things being done now are also ill-advised?

From the point of view of non-USAans, if some state chooses to trade with Russia, or China, or even Iran - it is not up to the USA to decide. Do you feel that it is the place of the USA to decide whether Germany may trade with Russia?

David wrote...
No, I don't accept as the final word a web article that reflects the zeritgeist of self-criticism THAT WE INVENTED. And that would be extinguished the very instant that the USA was no longer around to keep it living.

Come on, David, do you truly believe that the USA "invented" "self-criticism"? Something that goes back to the classical age, and was well-formulated by Cromwell ("I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”) more than one hundred years before the USA existed?

Do you truly believe that no one else engages in self-criticism, and that it is only the USA that preserves self-criticism?

Even apart from the question of its truth, the second sentence is extremely troubling. If someone thinks that something critical "would be extinguished the very instant that the USA was no longer around to keep it living", then that can end up supporting the greatest atrocities. Does it not justify just about anything to ensure that this great good continues? This has the ring, not of self-criticsm, but of fanaticism.

If you truly "share a determination to fight" solipsism, then I urge you to truly consider criticism. That is one way to avoid the kinds of errors made in the past - which to my mind is better than looking back twenty-five years later and then recognizing the error.

Larry Hart said...

Question: When the treasonous Republican Party essentially cements their one-party rule in various states no matter what the voters say, how can the rest of us be considered bound by the votes of their Representatives, Senators, and Presidential Electors?

When in the course of human events...

https://www.salon.com/2021/02/27/republicans-roll-out-tidal-wave-of-voter-suppression-253-restrictive-bills-in-43-states/

Republicans across the country responded to record voter turnout by unleashing a flurry of legislation aimed at restricting ballot access, citing concerns over unfounded allegations of rampant voter fraud that they themselves stoked for months.

At least 253 bills with provisions restricting voting access have been introduced, pre-filed, or carried over in 43 states, mostly by Republicans, according to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, dwarfing the number of similar bills filed at this point in 2020.

Many of these measures are in response to a "rash of baseless and racist allegations of voter fraud and election irregularities" that former President Trump and his Republican allies promoted for months without any evidence, the Brennan Center report said.

"We are about to be hit with a tidal wave of voter suppression legislation by Republican legislatures throughout the country," warned Marc Elias, a prominent Democratic attorney and founder of the voting rights advocacy group Democracy Docket, who batted back many of the election lawsuits filed by Trump and his supporters. Elias said in an interview with Salon that he fears this could result in a historic "contraction of voting rights like we have not seen in recent memory."

"Republicans are doing this because they think they can gain an electoral advantage from making it harder for Black, brown and young voters to participate in the process," he said, adding: "This is the reaction of a party that knows it can't compete for a majority of the votes. So it is acclimating itself to minority rule through a number of tactics. Gerrymandering is one piece of it. But certainly, voter suppression is a big piece of it."
...

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

But what's a 'bad guy" if every other nation that was tempted by power did worse

Simplistic example: Protecting weaker nations we share common interests with is being the good guy. Implying that if they don't pay up, we'll let Russia overrun them is drifting in the wrong direction. Actually giving preferential treatment to strongmen dictators over our allies is being the bad guy.

I understand why you object to the terminology. But to me, we're the "good guy" when we listen to the better angels of our nature and aspire to the ideals we ostensibly set for ourselves, such as justice and equality before the law. To me, being a "good guy" is an aspirational goal that we keep trying to live up to even when we (temporarily) fall short in practice.

Benedict Donald was insidious because he encouraged us to listen to the worst voices within us--first to stop being ashamed of our worst impulses, then to give in to them, and finally to embrace them proudly. He made being a bully into an aspirational goal, even when we're not yet being so bad in practice.

Larry Hart said...

To end the early morn on a better note, at this time of year, I always feel the world to be pregnant with hopeful possibility as we ditch the six consecutive months with seven-or-more letters in their (English language) names and enter the six consecutive months with less-than-seven letters.

But it's been a long time since that optimism actually seemed to have some basis in reality.

Pappenheimer said...

I am ALL for HR1, but even if it passes in a useful form, certain states (many of which were directly named in the Voting Rights Act of 1965), will appeal any attempts to enforce its provisions on their corrupt and suppressive voting systems all the way to an equally corrupt and vote-suppressing Supreme Court majority. (Sorry for the run-on sentence.) We may need court expansion as well as HR1 to get anything done.

David Brin said...

Re Alfred’s distinction between bad guys and barbarians. “One interesting change happened through all that fighting. We got better at not killing civilians.”

Something I’ve never seen is commentary on the meaning of “acceptable collateral deaths.” In WWII it seemed a very high level. Firebombing cities (preceded by heavy leafletting saying “get your women and children out of town!) was justified by “you guys started it and the civilian population is not lifting a finger to topple the jerks who do horrid crimes in their names.”

The ratio declined in Vietnam but was still obscenely (by our current standards) high. We watched it decline steeply later in Iraq 1&2. In the balkans, a dem prez was pilloried for a civilian-to-military death ratio much less than one and the ‘surgical’ philosophy is converging toward “police’ levels of acceptable ratios. Which is what ought to happen if the age of barbarians is ending.

“The key to this is that we don't agree on a single version of The American Way.”

Nope. The key is that blue and Gray... I mean red... don’t agree over any definition of what “verified reality” means.

------
Greg is ignoring every point I make and answering with strawmen, and hence I see no further point to this. Except to answer:

“Come on, David, do you truly believe that the USA "invented" "self-criticism"?

ABSO- FREAKING LUTELY! 1) You utterly misunderstand the Cromwell quote which means the diametric opposite of what you claim. and (2) while anecdotes of self-crit exist in the past - e.g. Pericles in Thucydides… they are anecdotes. NO ONE ELSE taught the youths of the world, especially their OWN youths, to relentlessly scrutinize the possible errors of their own tribal elders. SHOW me other cases!

YOU are a member of a generation that’s been TRAINED to voice self-crit at high volume, at tsunami levels. It truly is egotistical for you to imply - as you do - that you invented it when you suckled it from every movie and TV show since you were a babe,.

But then you utterly (ironically and without a bit of awareness) prove my point with
“If you truly "share a determination to fight" solipsism, then I urge you to truly consider criticism. That is one way to avoid the kinds of errors made in the past - which to my mind is better than looking back twenty-five years later and then recognizing the error.”

Yup. You invented it. I congratulate you.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

The key to this is that we don't agree on a single version of The American Way.


And it's up to each of us to persuade a consensus of the virtue of what we think America is. And to recognize that we must be open to persuasion if the POV of others which we hadn't considered has legitimacy.

Where I draw the line is when a faction's version of "what America is" actively precludes persuasion. "We're fixing it so that no matter how many voters you persuade, we always win." Once persuasion and peaceful transition of power are foreclosed, then all that's left is resistance. In the words of my conservative former-buddy, I am not going to negotiate peacefully with my murderers.

And I do recognize that the Party Opposite thinks we are comic book supervillains every bit as much as I think that of them. All I can say is that they're wrong and I'm right. :)


I'm sure you can think of a few Captain America issues where this conflict took different shapes. Where we debated what America actually IS.


Most notably, right after Watergate. The issue from which I oft quote that line about "It's not a question of letting, Mister" is from 1974.

And later in the 80s, the government became tired of Cap acting independently and replaced him with a more jingoistic right-winger. The replacement wasn't played as a villain per se--he was genuine in his patriotism (though in my view, misguided as you say about "What America is"), and in the end, he grew a bit as he learned more about what being "Captain American" implied.

Then again, it was a 1970s book whose adventures were set back in the WWII era (THe Invaders) which had Cap engaging in dramatic irony, saying something to Bucky about "Let's just make sure we're still the good guys when we win." I obviously remember that one too. :)

Der Oger said...

@Alfred:
"Germans died in huge numbers during the 30 Years War because combatants chose to fight there."

While not wrong, in some cases (like Magdeburg) killing, raping and plundering a settlement was a prize given to the common soldier. Not unlike ISIS or warring groups in the developing world.

Re: Eastern Europe:
While the assumption is right that they entered EU and NATO as soon as they could, and communism was abandoned, some states - especially Hungary and Poland - are transforming into right-wing authoritarian regimes that would make Goppers proud.

So, communism /socialism is not necessarily the problem as much as it is authoritarianism and populism.

David Brin said...

"While the assumption is right that they entered EU and NATO as soon as they could, and communism was abandoned, some states - especially Hungary and Poland - are transforming into right-wing authoritarian regimes that would make Goppers proud."

Yes? Human males often try to find excuses to become dictators with harems. That is the NORMAL human condition. Our enlightenment efforts to escape that trap is the unlikely miracle we are fighting for.

"So, communism /socialism is not necessarily the problem as much as it is authoritarianism and populism."

WHile they fall into the same overall category of "normal male driven despotism" your sense of scale within that spectrum, spanning 99% of human cultures, depresses me. Look up the word "holodomor" and tell me how that's happening in Poland.

Der Oger said...

"WHile they fall into the same overall category of "normal male driven despotism" your sense of scale within that spectrum, spanning 99% of human cultures, depresses me. Look up the word "holodomor" and tell me how that's happening in Poland."

I wrote "Are Transforming Into" and not "Already Are". Do I have to wait until they built concentration camps before I can make a statement on it?

And, should I ignore "minor" transgressions until the big ones happen? Is having killed only a few hundred thousands really better than having killed millions?

David Brin said...

I truly wonder what has happened to the AIR some of you are breathing! Seriously, Der Oger? You would accuse me... ME???... of being complacent about the return of male-rationalizing despotisms across the globe?

It's like Greg lecturing me "Have you ever heard of a thing called "criticism"? "

The entire Enlightenment Experiment is on the line and if it fails... the way oligarchs toppled Athens and Florence... the oligarchs will ensure it is never tried again. And the loser will likely be the entire Milky Way galaxy.

So yeah, I'm in this fight more than you are, sir. But oversimplification does... not... help.

Larry Hart said...

I said to Alfred:

And I do recognize that the Party Opposite thinks we are comic book supervillains every bit as much as I think that of them. All I can say is that they're wrong and I'm right. :)


While I realize how arrogant that sounds, I also have to go "Come ON!" at some point.

We can have a reasoned disagreement (or even an emotional disagreement) over whether Christianism or socialism is more dangerous to our future. Even over what if anything to do about climate change, or whether quarantining for COVID does more harm than good.

But when one side's voters actually believe that Democrats are a cabal of child molesters, or that we haven't actually been a country since 1871, or that vaccinations are a way for Bill Gates to introduce mind-control nanobots into our bodies--I'm sorry but it is no longer a matter of opinion that such people are so delusional as to be unfit to govern.

Larry Hart said...

I also said:

But it's been a long time since that optimism actually seemed to have some basis in reality.


In case it wasn't clear (and it's not), this was meant to be followed by an implied "...until now, that is." I've been going through the motions of feeling better about the spring and summer months without really feeling that much better during the Trump/COVID era, but now I'm actually feeling that old magic again.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everybody:
(It seems to me that are very few minds willing to be changed here...)
What we're talking about involves both
1) what actions has the US performed and
2) how those actions are perceived abroad

Re: the former (and @ Alfred):
IMHO, many of the regime-changes the US has government assisted/carried out during the Cold War involved the replacement of one regime (popularly elected or not) by a right wing dictator waving the flag of anti-communism and/or pro-American business interests. These major regime changes include Mossadegh (Iran), Arbenz (Guatemala), and Allende (Chile). (If I am mistaken in my numbers/nature of the regime changes: show me and I can change my opinion.) I believe the US to have been on the wrong side in these cases, with particularly disastrous results in the case of Iran. However, subsequent to the Cold War, we conducted a beneficial action in the Balkans. In Iraq after thousands of Americans military and scores of thousands or Iraqi civilians dead, and over a $1T spent (not including the likely larger amount to be spent on veterans health benefits) we replaced a murderous dictator with a pro-Iranian satellite government.

Re: the America's perception abroad:
As before, I believe that America needs to do a lot to repair its image abroad (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/19/even-before-capitol-riot-most-people-in-germany-france-and-the-uk-had-concerns-about-u-s-political-system/, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/09/15/us-image-plummets-internationally-as-most-say-country-has-handled-coronavirus-badly/, https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2020-01-15/us-trustworthiness-rating-dives-in-2020-best-countries-report), but from what I'm seeing, that's possible with the new administration (https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2021/01/19/british-french-and-german-publics-give-biden-high-marks-after-u-s-election/) though there are serious concerns (https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2021-01-11/present-destruction).

Have I cherry-picked search results to advocate my opinions? ABSOLUTELY!
That's why here's the link to my Google search of "Opinion of America by Other Nations 2021" (https://www.google.com/search?ei=vA88YPzDHo_x-gStpLDIBA&q=Opinion+of+America+by+Other+Nations+2021&oq=Opinion+of+America+by+Other+Nations+2021&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EANQlzBY7p4BYKKzAWgCcAB4AIAB4gGIAdQKkgEFNi41LjGYAQCgAQGqAQdnd3Mtd2l6wAEB&sclient=gws-wiz&ved=0ahUKEwj8kfi4x43vAhWPuJ4KHS0SDEkQ4dUDCA0&uact=5)
Go research and decide for yourselves, or pick a search that you prefer and do likewise.

Alfred Differ said...

David,

The key is that blue and Gray... I mean red... don’t agree over any definition of what “verified reality” means.

Yes, but No.

I agree that we don't have an agreement on 'verified reality' right now, but I see it as more of a tantrum thrown by children who aren't getting what they want, so they damn well intend to refuse to admit to anything. Anything at all.

They can't even face the golden calf analogy for that shiny Trump statue rolled into the CPAC event while the rest of us did jaw-drops.

Tantrum.

As is typical with that behavior, there isn't much to be done until the energy is exhausted.



Der Oger,

raping and plundering a settlement was a prize

Yes. I didn't mean to imply villagers died under cannon fire very often. There were so many slow deaths they faced as armies moved through their area even if no battle occurred.


Also, your particular brand of democratic socialism isn't a danger. Most of us over here know that. Authoritarianism is. Hayek described the path in gruesome detail.

That said, all early warnings are met by skepticism by the rest of us which we hope is justified. Be a social T-cell if you like, but don't be shocked when others don't experience the same highly-tuned response. T-Cells do by design. That's their job.

Alfred Differ said...

Keith,

For your examples of regime change during the Cold War, I think you have it basically right. We favored authoritarians who would do our bidding. The Soviets, though, prefer authoritarians who did their bidding. See the difference? No. Well… we WERE AT WAR. See it now?


After the Cold War, I think history will record two fundamental US errors. The second Iraq war and an attempt to nation build in Afghanistan.

I have no issue with us toppling Saddam. About damn time. Also… he was our responsibility since we propped him up to fight Iran earlier. Also… well… the first Iraq war made sense because we couldn't let that monster control 25% of the oil supply. Removing him in the second war allowed us to kill is sons too. Monsters.

Iraq is traditionally the war zone between the Ottoman and Persian empires. Nation building there is a futile exercise unless one plans to war with both empire cores… which is utter stupidity even for the US.

Nation building in Afghanistan is senseless. Helping some of them into the modern era is not, but that means education and trade. NOT fashioning a government to lead tribes who often can't tolerate each other.

The world is a messy place. Occasionally we think we can make it better. Sometimes we are right, but more often we don't try in any organized way. Consider Africa. Most of the time we stand aside in any official sense.

Watching just the officials, though, completely misses how Americans really influence the world. MOST of what we do nowadays is done through trade and NGO's. Count the dollars spent if you can. MOST of what we do isn't official policy of any administration.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

I don't want to sound like I'm supportive of restricting the franchise. There ARE times when I wish certain people wouldn't vote, but that's more about what they choose than in recognizing their claim to a right to vote.

Having said that, I'll point out that most of American electoral history has been about precluding persuasion. Even expansion of the franchise has often been about ensuring a particular electoral outcome.

1. Lincoln pushed for Nevada to become a state in time for the 1864 election. Why? Heh. Same reason some of us advocate for DC and PR to become states now.

2. The Virginia portion of land ceded to make DC was given back to Virginia in time to prevent a growing abolitionist movement in western Virginia from forming a large enough coalition to take power in the Commonwealth. Imagine how different the Civil War would have gone had that not happened in time.

3.
a) Woman's suffrage occurred first among the thinly populated western states in the US. One might wonder why they weren't perceived as a threat out here when all it took was a few of them to bunch together to change an outcome.

b) One strategy for pitching passage of a constitutional amendment for women to vote in the old Confederate states was as a way to dilute the few remaining black voters. White wives were likely to support white supremacy, right?


I understand the line you draw. Very 'comic book hero' of you. Justice is a virtue and all that. In the details, though, expanding persuasion options to some dilutes others who WILL see you as precluding them.

I'm still inclined to take your side, though.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The key is that blue and Gray... I mean red...


"White" is more appropriate than either.


...don’t agree over any definition of what “verified reality” means.


Alfred Differ replies:

Yes, but No.

I agree that we don't have an agreement on 'verified reality' right now, but I see it as more of a tantrum thrown by children who aren't getting what they want, so they damn well intend to refuse to admit to anything. Anything at all.


That's the danger with rules and procedures which are intended to give a minority some defense against being rolled over when the goal of that minority becomes obstructionism. It's ironic in a bad way that Democrats can control the Senate--even to the extent they did in 2009--and have 59 votes not be enough to pass anything whereas the Republicans' 41 votes were enough to obstruct everything. Because the Republicans didn't care about governing--obstruction was all they wanted to do--this meant perversely that 41 Senators could always get their way while 59 never could.

I doubt that's what Madison and Hamilton intended. Even my cat Hamilton would see the flaw.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I understand the line you draw. Very 'comic book hero' of you. Justice is a virtue and all that. In the details, though, expanding persuasion options to some dilutes others who WILL see you as precluding them.


The only voters I think should be denied the franchise are those who demonstrate that their interest is in undermining the country. Since no such restriction could be written to include the mind-reading necessary to enact it in that way, I'd be reluctantly ok with "those who are convicted of treason or insurrection or (whatever legal wording is necessary to make the point)." For the same reason I wouldn't want the CEO of my company to be secretly shorting the company's stock, or I wouldn't want Louis DeJoy to run the post office in such a way that his contracting business makes more money as the Post Office fails, I likewise have a problem with voters whose express goal is to undermine democracy being allowed influence over the government, let alone the outsized influence the Treason Party currently enjoys.

I realize this is more of an emotional argument than something that would likely stand Constitutional muster. I know that something about our current system is badly broken even if I don't know how to fix it.

jim said...

Larry said
‘ It's ironic in a bad way that Democrats can control the Senate--even to the extent they did in 2009--and have 59 votes not be enough to pass anything whereas the Republicans' 41 votes were enough to obstruct everything. Because the Republicans didn't care about governing.”

Larry, Larry, Larry,
you know, it only takes 51 votes from senators to change the rules of the senate (or 50 + the vice president). If the democrats wanted to they could have changed the rules of the senate and passed what they wanted. They did not choose to do so.

Kind of like how Obama’s justice department did not choose to uphold the law regarding war criminals or wealthy banksters. Or kind of like how K Harris is not overruling the senate’s parliamentarian and rule that 15$ minimum wage is OK for the reconciliation bill. Democrats have plenty of power, they just don’t use it.

(and yes I am a horrible splitter for pointing this out, lol)

matthew said...

We *do* have a constitutional remedy for the current GOP nonsense - the 3rd section of the 14th Amendment, which was designed to keep former confederate office-holders and military officers from running for nationwide office.

"Section 3

No Person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability."

We even have a way to make it reversible if a super-majority votes for reversing.

What we don't have is the will to call the events surrounding the January 6th insurrection by their true name, at least not by a majority in Congress. We have the Dianne Feinstein / Joe Manchin style centrist that really do not want any such accountability for the GOP. Blackmail, or senility, or lack of political will, I dunno. There is a time for judo, but there is also a time to throw cheaters out of the ring in the name of a fair fight. It's time to use the constitutional means we possess to make clear the price of trying to overturn a fair election.

David Brin said...

Loathe as I am to say it, Jim is at least 60% right, this time.

Larry Hart said...

jim:

you know, it only takes 51 votes from senators to change the rules of the senate (or 50 + the vice president). If the democrats wanted to they could have changed the rules of the senate and passed what they wanted. They did not choose to do so.


My understanding was that that is only true at the start of a new Congress when they vote on the fact that the old rules still apply. After that, the old rules still apply, and it takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster to eliminate the filibuster.

True, they could do what Harry Reid did for cabinet nominations, and then McConnell did for supreme court nominations, which is essentially claim something that obviously isn't true is true. It ultimately works as a tactic, but it does degrade the institution, and I can see why it would stick in the craw of Senators who care about the Senate.


Or kind of like how K Harris is not overruling the senate’s parliamentarian and rule that 15$ minimum wage is OK for the reconciliation bill.


Again, yes she could do that, but she would essentially be asserting a lie. Raising the minimum wage is not part of the national budget. Saying that it is is "calling a donkey a horse." Republicans did the same thing when they failed to convict Trump twice. I know that, since they are doing it, we should be doing it too, but I'm not sure I want to destroy the village in order to save it.

Do we really have to become them to beat them?


Democrats have plenty of power, they just don’t use it.


You're intentionally conflating what Democrats can actually get away with with what Republicans can. They're not the same thing.

I just happen to be re-reading "Cerebus", so I very recently came across Dave Sim's essays on Mama's Boys. In there, he mentions the fact that nice guys bemoan the fact that the girls seem to go for the a-holes, and worse--that acting like a-holes themselves doesn't "work" for the nice guys. Dave says that's because the women sense a kind of sincerity from the a-holes--what you see is who they really are. I'm reminded of this essay when I contemplate Democrats trying to act like Republicans in order to win as Republicans do. It doesn't work.

Now, much as I'm taking up the contrary position, a part of me really would like to see Democrats do exactly as you want and run roughshod over the Treason Party and dare the voters to punish them for it. The only thing is, I think voters would punish them for it, even though they don't punish Republicans for the same thing.

David Brin said...

My sense is that many Senators wistfully hope for days to return when a large minority could stop a slim majority and make them pause and think & negotiate. But that can be achieved by returning to the talk-only filibuster... especially if it's once per term per senator. THAT Schumer could have forced. That pisses me off.

Larry Hart said...

The argument that Kamala Harris should disregard the Senate parliamentarian is the same argument that Mike Pence should have disregarded the electoral votes of states he would prefer to have voted differently. The one is just as much allowed as the other. The only reason that Republican state officials in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Arizona (not to mention Mike Pence) defied Trump's election meddling was respect for the rule of law. If we tell them that whatever an official can get away with is fair game, there's no coming back.

And unfortunately, Republicans will win at that game.

Or to put it another way...

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Der Oger said...

"I truly wonder what has happened to the AIR some of you are breathing! Seriously, Der Oger? You would accuse me... ME???... of being complacent about the return of male-rationalizing despotisms across the globe?"

No. Just no. No need for a hyperbole.

You coined the Empire term iirc, and I started this whole debate with "It is better to have no Empire, than having one, no matter how benign it is." plus "The ugly reality is, we need an empire for our protection". plus "Most of the time, the allied nations, mine included, were willing partners in crime." Yes, we did win the cold war (maybe more narrowly than we think), but we did so by doing horrible stuff that comes back to haunt us to this day.

One additional note:

The US "Empire" - if it is one, and not an alliance of western democracies and economies in which it happens to be the most influential - is neither "good" nor "evil". We cannot finally evaluate it's place in history until it's end, and I am sure most readers here would like to prolong that (inevitable) moment. Maybe, in a few years, a Trumpist Gopper or someone else is elected and blankets the known world into oblivion with nuclear weapons. Maybe civil war tears you apart, creating a number of smoldering and radiating territories with armed bands of people wearing red and blue hats. Maybe the orbituaries that are already prepared all over the planet are too early by a century or five. And, from a strictly historical standpoint, *every* empire advanced humanity a bit, either itself or through the opposition against it.

It does what an Empire must do to gain and maintain power, no matter how benevolent it's goals might be. Is this world a better place than 20, 40 or 80 years ago? Most certainly. Have some of the actions to achieve this state been unnecessarily cruel, devastating and have long-lasting negative effects until today? Also, most certainly.
(And again I say that Western Europe has participated willingly in many of the "Empires" policies, and benefited from it. Google "Colonia Dignidad" and follow down the rabbit hole.)

One of the real tragedies of our policies is that many who started out as social reformers got the "Communist Label" to easily gain support and approval in their removal and assassination. So we backed murderous cliques of oligarchs and exploitative companies to install regimes of right-wing terror to, well, to prevent possible regimes of left-wing terror. The real "communists" showed up later in the conflicts, like self-fulfilling prophecies.

The irony is that many of us have bought so deeply into "left vs. right" propaganda that it poisons political and historical discourse to this day, and makes governing impossible at some places. Many of those countries still have either festering wounds or scars from those years that are barely allowed to heal.

(snip. I exceeded 4096 characters.)

Der Oger said...

Part II: & also @Alfred: "For your examples of regime change during the Cold War, I think you have it basically right. We favored authoritarians who would do our bidding. The Soviets, though, prefer authoritarians who did their bidding. See the difference? No. Well… we WERE AT WAR. See it now?"

Even in war there are things that are forbidden and sometimes even punished.

We should take responsibility for what we have done. This means looking at it, accept being held accountable for it, make amends and reparations, and then moving forward, ensuring it won't happen again.
Saying "Sorry, we did it. We ask for your forgiveness".
A Geneva Convention for Cold Warriors, Intelligence operatives and Anti-Terror-Fighters, maybe. A ban on extralegal killings, "advanced interrogation techniques", secret prisons and "disappearances". Perhaps thinking of a "War of Assassins" codex used in Dune.
Perhaps, suing companies that took advantage in these countries, and making them pay for their support of the dictators.
A central memorial for the 400.000 victims of Operation Condor, and like events.
Joining the Rome Statute, if we have not already. (Get rid of that damn Hague Invasion Act. Its ridiculous.)

Taking accountability has multiple benefits, in the long term.
It helps healing rifts and wounds, as well as internal dissent between factions in the perpetrators nations. Former opponents might become, in the long run, allies. Your history cannot be weaponized against you any longer, because, hey, you did your time and are a member of society again. You gain some authority in advancing humanity, because, well, you believable don't want to repeat your own barbarism (though to manage that feat, you actually must have looked at, understood and accepted your responsibility.) Finally, you come to peace with yourself and can at least lighten the burden of guilt you carry.

"And the loser will likely be the entire Milky Way galaxy."
I am most certain that the Milky Way won't shed a tear if we perished. Either there is no one else, and we are unique, so no one will weep for us. Or sapiency is more common, and so the extermination of another sentient species might be, too. Perhaps there are sophonts out there whose favorite pastime is ... to bet on species making it to the stars or go bust? Perhaps they are already watching us, and we are nothing more than a sitcom or Space Soap Opera for them ... or like watching dolphins and simians on BBC nature programs ... well ...

Der Oger said...

@Alfred: "Be a social T-cell if you like, but don't be shocked when others don't experience the same highly-tuned response."

I like that metaphor. Thank You.

I am mainly here to understand your culture better, and to improve on writing in English, but I take that as an invitation. As a side effect, I am getting more into our own post-war history/politics, understanding my own culture better.

David Brin said...

Der Oger says (and I agree): "The irony is that many of us have bought so deeply into "left vs. right" propaganda that it poisons political and historical discourse to this day..."

Alas, his two recent missives are so utterly oiverloaded with loaded assumptions, pre-weighted "givens" and outright falsehoods that I see no point in further discussion. It truly would be a waste of time. I know he means well, but the ahistorical fabulations that he waves around are clearly important to him and my time is better spent elsewhere.

Der Oger, you have made your assertions and in the interest of citokate - and in honor of your politeness and decency - let's just let them stand as having been said.

---
Oh but then you go into more interesting territory than trite and at-best half true political clichés:

"And the loser will likely be the entire Milky Way galaxy."
'I am most certain that the Milky Way won't shed a tear if we perished.'

I am afraid my top Fermi Paradox theory is ever increasingly that we are a fluke in sapience and likely to be the "progenitors" for millions of other races, if we get out there. If we don't, it's possible no one will,

scidata said...

Oooh. Fermi Paradox.

Humanity as the first and only original progenitor is indeed a compelling solution. And very Asimovian too, which is icing on the cake.

There is of course the 'zoo keepers' solution. All sapient species conspiring to keep us in the dark explains the Great Silence equally well. And is more plausible, even if just on a purely statistical basis.

The first, and most endearing, Hanks-Ryan film was "Joe Versus the Volcano" (1990). In the opening scene, Joe spots a lone daisy desperately trying to survive in the cracked pavement outside of the depraved, idiotic, soul-crushing "rectal probe" factory he works at. This impulse to save a seedling might be universal. (For selection advantages, not romanticism)


My own favourite is simply that we don't know enough yet. Bacteria in a dish might well furiously debate their 'observations' back and forth. I've hashed this out previously with Dr. Brin; I cherish it because it proves than I'm not a Brin sycophant (I've been accused of this by ex-communicated CB trolls :)

David Brin said...

Good lord, who would accuse ANY of you of being fanboy sycophants? I can't think of a one of you I haven't hollered at or been hollered by, from time to time. Well, Alfred and I nearly always agree, but that's because he's the SMARTEST of you smartasses! Except for Catfish and Ilithi Dragon, who only show up now and then....

That's no insult! You're a great and smart and ornery bunch, a much smaller community than follow say Wright or Doctorow, because _ (I figure) we argue and don't hold "Show me how much you AGREE!" rallies. Anyway, you agrgue like folks whose parents taught them how not to be jerks. I hope I come across that way to you...

...even though, in fact, I was raised by wolves.

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred and Dr Brin agree

Is that great minds?
Or the alternative??

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Each of us here tends to agree with someone else here to some degree. There IS overlap between us.

I can be a smartass too. Got a lump on the inside of my lower lip from HS when I learned I wasn't smart ENOUGH to avoid angering those who didn't agree with me and I made it clear I thought they were kinda stupid.

We all overlap to some degree. Where we don't often isn't worth a busted lip. It often isn't worth trying to convince a possible ally that we are right-er than they are. Fighting over details often IS kinda stupid.

Wisdom comes with age supposedly.


Der Oger,

The social t-cell notion is David's. I got it from him years ago.

Here is another for you. It isn't really a US empire. Reality is much closer to hegemony. We are far from being all equal in power, but a great deal of what the US can do requires the consent of other nations... like yours. That's why we can't have you all unify... not that there is much chance of that.

Tony Fisk said...

Raised by wolves, eh?
So... you're Mowgli to the rest of us Bandarlog?

Robert said...

Alfred: The angry barbarian DOES murder innocents. "Let God sort them out" is the battle cry. That doesn't make us the bad guys though. Just barbarians.

I would argue that, in a civilized world, barbarians are the "bad guys".

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Anyway, you agrgue like folks whose parents taught them how not to be jerks.


They tried. But it was actually Dave Sim who taught me how not to be a jerk. Even though he was mostly being a jerk at the time.

Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/02/opinion/veterans-capitol-attack.html

Soldiers assigned to protect the Capitol during the inauguration were vetted for extremist views. And the military services are renewing efforts to prevent recruitment of extremists and to stop radicalization among the ranks.


Makes sense, right? Soldiers assigned to protect the Capitol should not include those who are intent on attacking the Capitol.

Yet, voters who are intent on undermining American democracy are allowed to direct the process of American democracy. And states whose governments undermine democracy are allowed representation--oversized representation, actually--in Congress and in the presidential electoral college.

Just sayin'

jim said...

Larry
Instead of thinking about politics as good vs evil, think of it like basketball.

The Democrats think basketball should be played with 1950’s norms But the Republicans play basketball with 1990’s norms and are kicking the crap out of democrats. It is time to stop whining about how you don’t like how republicans play ball and start playing using the new norms (the real rules never changed) and try and win.

Mitch McConnel changed the norms of the senate by filibustering everything once that black man became president. If the democrats want to, they can change the norms so that the senate operates by simple majority rule. Then pass good and popular policies and get re-elected. (or just whine about how the republicans are too strong and clever but the democrats are just weak and can’t do anything without republican help. Then watch as voters sour on how weak and ineffective democrats are.)

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

In a civilized world, a barbarian IS a bad guy? Well... could be. Depends on what you think a barbarian is. I see quite a difference between a barbarian and a monster.

Through much of our story telling history, we've cast wolfs as sinister characters. Some cultures don't, but pastoral types have a tendency to cast anything that steals the sheep that way. They aren't, though. The more we learn about them the more we see their emotional and social structures, recognize them, and realize we successfully grafted some of their descendants into our families BECAUSE of their similarity to us.

Barbarians aren't sinister, evil monsters ravenously consuming, raping, and murdering. They are quite human. You can stand next to one and recognize their emotional and social inclinations as similar to your own. It's in their collective behavior that they mark themselves.

1. I'm not wrong, but if I am I don't accept your judgement.
2. I understand better than you do.
3. I have every right to act upon what I know is right.
4. If you take my side, you are important.

That's a bad guy? Nah. If it were, our children would be bad guys. Every single one of them.

We're just young.


Der Oger,

We should take responsibility for what we have done.

We do, but in the barbarian's way. Our way. When we decide it is time.

See? You might notice Robert calling us on it? And Larry? Especially Jim?

You can help us grow up, but it takes effort and patience. It's the same kind of help our Canadian neighbors have been offering for decades. British relatives too. It works... slowly. Cultures mature.

Larry Hart said...

jim:

The Democrats think basketball should be played with 1950’s norms But the Republicans play basketball with 1990’s norms and are kicking the crap out of democrats. It is time to stop whining about how you don’t like how republicans play ball and start playing using the new norms (the real rules never changed) and try and win.


I'm not in as much disagreement with you as it might seem. What I'm cautioning, though, is that you seem to argue "Republicans are winning, so we need to play like Republicans so that we can win too." I'm saying it's not that simple. And for reasons mentioned yesterday, I can't help hearing, "A-holes get all the girls, so if I act like an a-hole, then I'll get the girls too!" And we all know how well that works out.

I don't know enough basketball minutiae, so I'm going to switch to baseball to address your analogy. Say, Republicans are adept at making that quick double-play where the second baseman doesn't actually touch second base, but the umpires give him the "in the vicinity" benefit of the doubt and call the out. Meanwhile, Democrats make sure their second baseman actually touches the bag before throwing to first, even though they sometimes aren't quick enough to retire the batter, or they sometimes get their second baseman bowled over by the runner sliding into second. So you argue, "They win because they take advantage of a norm that we don't, and it costs us plays. We should play the way they do." And in theory that makes sense.

In practice, it doesn't work, because the Republicans have worked the refs. In the analogy, the umpires would call Republican runners safe at second if our second baseman doesn't actually touch the bag, even as they continue to let Republican fielders gat away with the same play.

In actual fact, it's getting worse than that. We're almost at the point (if not there already) where it is decided that the umpire is free to call safe or out depending on whatever he wants the outcome to be, no matter what actually takes place on the field. That's what Trump tried to coerce Georgia officials into doing, and what Hawley and Cruz and company insisted that Mike Pence do. It didn't work this time, but the Republican state legislatures seem intent on making sure it can happen in the future.

David Brin said...

And that... Duncan... is why you get paid at the top end of the Contrary Brin citokate wage scale!
Poke away my friend!

David Brin said...

Yes, Democrats have been playing stupidly. That is WHY I wrote Polemical Judo, offering 3D tactics to get out of trench warfare and gas attacks, at which the enemy excels.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Yes, Democrats have been playing stupidly. That is WHY I wrote Polemical Judo,...


And you get upset all the time that your suggestions aren't being noticed. But here's why I wonder how effective they would be.

A judo move on my part would be to notice that my vote isn't needed in Illinois, and I would much rather help swing North Carolina. So I register my permanent address as a golf resort in the Tarheel state, and vote from there.

Any chance I'd actually be allowed to do that?

Any chance that, by not allowing me to do that, a precedent would be set that would prohibit Donald Trump from doing essentially the same thing?

The fact that the answer to both questions is "no" demonstrates my point that Republicans don't win because they play better, but because they've captured the refs--"the refs" being either the voters or the courts or maybe both. Because it is generally accepted though unspoken that Republicans are meant to be protected but not bound by the law.

David Brin said...

LH... ingoring your snark ("all upset" feh on you buddy!)... I believe the dems should tell pass a bill that every US citizen who lives outside one of the 50 states may register in ANY state they choose!

Especially if goppers block DC and PR statehood. PR folk could help tip Florida and DC folks could make a movement to all be "from" Alabama and tip it hard blue. Goppers would likely manage to make it "the nearest" state. Pity. But still it would tip things a bit. Not as much as statehood...

matthew said...

PR statehood bill was introduced in the House today, with *bipartisan* sponsorship.

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/article249592598.html

Note that the principal GOP sponsor is from Florida. Split the GOP coalition, one vulnerable vote at a time.

This *will* be filibustered in the Senate. But it may make Manchin / Sienama blink at eliminating the filibuster. And Rubio will either have to support it, or give up his dream of being FL governor.

Note that the corresponding bills for DC statehood have no GOP sponsors, at least at this time.

Der Oger said...

Dr. Brin:
"Der Oger, you have made your assertions and in the interest of citokate - and in honor of your politeness and decency - let's just let them stand as having been said."

I am perfectly okay with that. Let's agree to disagree.

Alfred:
"You can help us grow up, but it takes effort and patience. It's the same kind of help our Canadian neighbors have been offering for decades. British relatives too. It works... slowly. Cultures mature."

I don't have the intention to change your ways of thinking. Change management is something that works notoriously difficult online, isn't working well with confrontational approaches, and is easier with younger people than with older people.
And I am not representative for all of my people - even by our Overton window, I am quite left of the center. I am a union member and worked as a works council representative of an regionally important employer for several years, giving me some insights into progressing social change and dealing with resistance to it. I like to be an innovator, and sometimes just love to brainstorm on things, but I am not a skilled agitator or wily puppet master. Having patience isn't one of my most pronounced virtues. Yet, I am okay with that, and I have in many instances come forward with an idea that got voted down on or got flak for; only to have seen it being picked up later by a more silent, skilled, and well-connected person, who got it past the rampart. I don't care who gets the credits as long as progress occurs in any way.

David Brin said...

Well, well. Being a union person does not necessarily translate as any kind of "far" left. I come from a Union-supporting family that marched with King and Bobby. There was NO force in American life more vigorously anti-Stalinist than the US labor movement including the AFl-CIO. (1950s GOPpers wanted isolationism, not vigorous containment.)

Try looking up lifelong union organizer Eric Flint, who (like me) feels contempt toward the splitters who would wreck a winning coalition over minutia of hairsplitting "cancel" correctness.

Robert said...

jim: If the democrats wanted to they could have changed the rules of the senate and passed what they wanted.

As I understand it, they couldn't do that unless all of them backed it, and two Democratic senators refused to, so no change. Ditto with overruling the $15 ruling — all it took was one Democrat refusing and it was no-go.

So Manchin has decided that it is important that Republicans can block legislation, and there's nothing the rest of the party can do to stop him.

Robert said...

Alfred: You can help us grow up, but it takes effort and patience. It's the same kind of help our Canadian neighbors have been offering for decades.

Your country is nearly a century older than Canada. With all due respect, I'm calling bullshit on "we act that way because we're not grown up yet" as an excuse. You've had more than enough time.

duncan cairncross said...

Der Oger

I technique I have used a number of times is to misattribute your idea

"Hey boss - that idea you had last week - I was not too keen on it at the time but now that I have thought about it its a bloody good idea"

Works more often than it should!

David Brin said...

" I'm calling bullshit on "we act that way because we're not grown up yet" as an excuse. You've had more than enough time. "

Oh who are you to lecture about "more than enough time"? 6000 years of brutal feudalism-lobotomization and built-in injustice were rarely illuminated by a few experiments in an alternate attractor state... Periclean Athens, DaVinci's Florence... and they were all first shattered by internal dissension and then crushed by oligarch coalitions.

Only one ever got legsfor more than a century and got universal education combined with science and systematic mini-revolutions of inclusion that took us from lordly domineering castes and slavery to the very verge of actual civilization. And the stars.

Once. That has happened once. So how the hell do YOU know what's "more than enough time"? Yes, every subsequent, grinding, painful step forward should have been obvious and taken in one swoop by Jefferson and Adams and the like. Only YOU weren't there, Robert. And given that 6000 years... and how narrowly this experiment squeaked by crisis after crisis... a simplest hypothesis is that enlightenment is HARD.

Or everyone would have done it.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

I don't have the intention to change your ways of thinking.

Heh. Just talking to us is enough. Be the example of whatever you think good behavior is. Tell stories of that good behavior too. Not just here since a number of the regulars aren't USians.

Kids don't grow up to be the adults they are told to be. They grow up more like the adults they witness. It's not that we are kids, but we see those who interact with us. See?

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

I'm calling bullshit

Heh. Go right ahead. I'm a barbarian and don't give a fig. 8)

A bit more seriously, we've morphed into something different at least five times since our nation was born. These United States became The United States along the way, but we were both expansionists and isolationists. We aren't really ONE nation and never have been.

I'll get to the point, though.

It's not often someone successfully attacks us at home. When they do, we react like it's something new.

1. The burning of DC was quite some time ago, but afterward we largely decided not to annex Canada. No need. The Brits were moving on.

2. Our Civil War changed everything by pointing out that our Revolution wasn't really over. It didn't end in 1865. It didn't end in 1877. It's still underway. In it we ushered into the world modern warfare and proved we can be hell bent on blowing every one to hell and back. Note how this mattered a century later when 'hell bent' meant preventing Soviet domination of Europe.

3. The attack on Pearl Harbor caused us to change yet again by NOT retiring our Navy. Our founders would have freaked at what we tried to do next in the war and afterward resulting in something would-be emperors had wet dreams about. We dominate the oceans militarily… and through that arranged things so nations going to war with each other need our permission if our navy can reach them.

4. Do I need to mention Vietnam? A war that wasn't 'just' unpopular? During a Cold War when we were potentially both savior and agent of damnation? Post-Nam US was a different place again.

5. The 9/11 attack drove us insane for a time and we lashed out at potentially one billion people.

These aren't the behaviors of a mature culture. How is it that others handle it better?

One possible narrative is that they can't defend themselves as well as we can (distance is a huge benefit for us), so they get the snot kicked out of them more frequently than we have. I learned a lot in HS fights about how to avoid fighting. I wasn't good at it, but by the end I had learned how to bluff better. That's a 'growing up' lesson since guys who don't learn it have a lower chance of ever growing up at all.

The US has not been beaten up very often. Where exactly are we supposed to learn those hard lessons about what we can't do? How exactly does a barbarian learn not to be a barbarian? Wisdom through Age? Pfft. He gets his teeth kicked in by a younger, more vital barbarian when he gets a little bit too old and slow. We aren't there yet. It's very unlikely to happen this century. Someone will try, but they won't succeed. Or maybe we'll just get old and slow if no one is up to the challenge. The nation that does that, though, won't look like the US as we know it today.

In the meantime, we will generate a few side effects like opening the space frontier and binding the world into a giant market. Barbarians do things like that because they don't accept what they don't believe. The only tolerated dissonance is the one they think is theirs. Not yours. CERTAINLY not yours… because barbarians are certain.

David Brin said...

Wow. This time I disagree with a LOT of what Alfred said!

But it sure was entertaining!

duncan cairncross said...

Its been 20 years since I lived in the USA - but I will still add my tuppence worth to Alfred's comment

The problem with the USA is not "barbarism"
It's - FEAR

Back when there was a good and valid reason to be afraid - before the USSR imploded - Americans were not noticeably afraid

Today "Fear" is all important

9/11 happened - I was horrified - and then the USA did EVERYTHING than Bin Laden wanted

He published his "Wish List" - and Bush 2 followed it to the letter

Not everybody - but a large minority of Americans spend their lives in sheer terror

These are the people who vote for the Orange Cockwomble

I really do not know how to get back to the America that is NOT afraid

Der Oger said...

Breaking news over here:
The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BVS), domestic intelligence service, has declared the far-right party AfD to be a "Case of Suspicion". This has several consequences:

1) The party can be surveilled by "Intelligence Service Means", using undercover agents, informants and the full array of surveillance technology available to them;
2) All public service employees and officials (which, contrary to ordinary employees, normally enjoy heightened protections and benefits) including teachers, policemen, judges and soldiers who are linked to the party should become nervous. They can be removed from office if investigation shows that they have espoused radical views or acted in a radical manner, an thus endangered the constitution they are sworn to protect.
3) It is one of the steps to legally ban a political party during a lengthy process.

The AfD scored 15% during the last federal election, and hold 5% to 25% of seats in every state parliament. It started as a euro-sceptic libertarian party but radicalized in the last few years.

Larry Hart said...

Don't forget the big day tomorrow. On the Originalist Constitutionally-prescribed date of March 4, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 19th president, and then arrest Joe Biden--or is it the Joe Biden robot?--and restore freedom to the galaxy or whatever.

Trust the plan.

W1JOACW8D !

(When One Jumps Off A Cliff, We All Do)

Larry Hart said...

It's Twitter, but worth reading this thread by Stonekettle. All 22 tweets of it.

https://twitter.com/Stonekettle/status/1366428204685283329

...
Any fool can be brave when they are too stupid, too ignorant, too AFRAID to BE afraid.

And risking the lives of others for your own bravado isn't courage, it's terrorism.
...

Larry Hart said...

And sorry, but while I'm there, Stonekettle says "Trust me" on this thread. I agree.

https://twitter.com/KT_So_It_Goes/status/1366156444723269635

...
Trump is still speaking. a tiny dentist’s stool on an inspector gadget arm type thing has popped out of the podium for him to prop up on, and he’s shifting one ass cheek on and off trying to get comfortable. the podium looks to be rocking free of the half inch bolts

the podium has toppled. “don’t pay the podium guy” trump yells from the floor. he’s picked himself back up and is now asking the stagehands to look for hunter biden’s laptop beneath the buckled floorboards that popped up when he fell.

gotta give him credit he is right back into his speech. people are leaving and it’s visibly uncomfortable because in the fall trump’s trousers tore at the seat and somehow there is a red tie hanging out of the hole like a dog tongue. apparently this is his “backup tie” he says.
...

Der Oger said...

Hey boss - that idea you had last week - I was not too keen on it at the time but now that I have thought about it its a bloody good idea"

My then-Boss did it all by herself, so that route was closed.

Another tactic was proposing The opposite of what I intended, only to be voted down in the exact fashion I wanted it. Or feeding moles with misinformation.

Robert said...

David: Oh who are you to lecture about "more than enough time"?

Alfred was asking for help growing up, such as was offered by younger neighbours. That's why I called it a bullshit argument.

If the younger neighbour is more grown up then the problem isn't lack of time.

Violence, maybe? The American homicide rate is 10x the Canadian one, and that held true even when Canada had no gun control laws*. What in American culture sees violence as an acceptable solution to problems? Is this linked to right-wing extremism, both the militias but also the current Republican Party?

Religion? From the outside, America seems crazy-obsessed with religion, especially Christianity. Do extreme religious views correlate with what Alfred called barbarian behaviour?


*And interestingly, contrary to American mythology, towns in the "wild west" had and enforced gun control laws within town.

Robert said...

Alfred: The burning of DC was quite some time ago, but afterward we largely decided not to annex Canada.

Made for a great song, though:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7jlFZhprU4

(Note: actually by Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie, not by the Arrogant Worms.)

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Bound to happen eventually.
Still not going to fight you over any of it, though. 8)


My use of 'not mature' is not intended to imply 'immature', though.
It's just that there are hard lessons we haven't faced culturally. Not yet.

David Brin said...

Der Oger your tricks to get things done in business remind me of this Asimov story that I refer to in FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Alley

Robert continues with utter, utter horseshit. Because Canada has an official birthday later than 1776, that means (1) it is a totally separate civilization then the US and (2) its nice reputation was achieved in no time, no problems, starting from zero.

Stunning loada crap from every conceivable angle. Hey! California became a Republic and 1845 and allied itself with the US and has been culturally distinct ever since and has been forced by treaty to pay trillions into US coffers, but still have accomplished vastly more, with similar population, than Canada ever has, in every single area of human endeavor!

What? That's not a fair comparison? Says a fellow whose entire north and probably whole country would have simp[ly been TAKEN by the USSR by now, except for protection it received without having to pay for it?

There are ZERO ways Robert's assertions aren't utter drivel. The 60% of Americans who are civilized are AT LEAST. as civilized as you guys are, fellah. We just have to deal with a confederate population that much bigger than your Alberta.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Back when there was a good and valid reason to be afraid - before the USSR imploded - Americans were not noticeably afraid

Today "Fear" is all important

9/11 happened - I was horrified - and then the USA did EVERYTHING than Bin Laden wanted


I noticed that very thing during the aftermath of 9/11. I was expecting Republicans to lead the charge for masculine courage, and instead they pushed the meme that everything is threatening and scary. Cowards who willingly die a thousand deaths.


Not everybody - but a large minority of Americans spend their lives in sheer terror

These are the people who vote for the Orange Cockwomble


Apparently by now, inspiring fear so that we'll vote for Republicans to protect us has become a self-perpetuating, winning strategy.


I really do not know how to get back to the America that is NOT afraid


For the most part, Blue America is not afraid the way Red (White) America is. The good news is there are more of us than them. The bad news is that more geography is controlled by them than us, and that unfortunately counts in our system.

Dwight Williams said...

We are not that separate a civilization in Canada. Much as many of us still wish, dream, plan and - in some cases - act to make it so.

We had the issues of achieving whatever independence we do have from both the UK and USA...and in the latter case, the combined forces of history, geography, commerce, technology and cultural flows have served to compel us to some sort of partnership. You have seen everything from the Autopact to the original Reagan-Mulroney FTA deal to NAFTA 1 and 2 (and I will not use the acronym demanded by Trump and his cult of us for the latter iteration of NAFTA). NAFTA 2.0 seems to put stumbling blocks in front of our making our own arrangements with other (coalitions of) nations henceforth, at Trumpist insistence via Messrs. Lighthizer, Navarro, Kudlow, etc..

We didn't start exactly from zero, not really.

We're also trying to deal with the consequences of the bad choices of France, Great Britain and our own selves in our dealings with our Indigenous relations across the centuries. We are not as nice as we want to be, not yet. We're certainly not as kind as we ought to become yet. There is still much work to do.

And now, thanks to the aforesaid Trump, we're now thinking over the possible need to truly become the empire the Indigenous nations consider us to be and distrust with some cause, if only to protect against Xi and Putin, and as insurance against Trumpism's resurgence. It may already be far too late for that...precisely because we left our defence too much to Washington's grace and mercies.

Treebeard said...

(Hello again, it’s been a while, the conversation looked interesting so I decided to drop in.)

To the foreigners criticizing America, remember: the defining characteristics of America, besides barbarism, are messianism, exceptionalism and narcissism. When you criticize America for these things, you’re attacking America’s basic sense of identity. It has a unique mission to save the world, a big arsenal, and to hell with you if you don’t like it; just be happy you aren’t speaking Russian or German. It all started with those wacko Puritan settlers, and it never went away. The native peoples called out these crazies from day one, and we know what happened to them. You’re dealing with a mad culture, a crazy empire, where even the smart people are nuts. We know the fate of all empires is collapse; it only remains to be seen whether this maddest of all empires will end with a whimper or a bang.

Anyway that’s my perspective, from living here most of my life but spending time in other places and unplugging from the American unreality show. Good luck arguing with barbaric messianic narcissists; it’s noble to try to talk Americans down from their ledge, but your energy is probably better spent elsewhere. History will take care of this delusional empire, as it has every other one before it.

Robert said...

David, where did you get the idea that Canada is nice? I know many Americans don't know much about Canada (or other countries), but I always figured you knew better. For example, Canadian mining companies are engaged in utterly reprehensible conduct throughout the world, and our laws are set up to protect them.

I'll give you Alberta. It doesn't have veto power over our government, though. Nor is it 40% of our population.

Get back to Alfred's original argument, that Americans can't be considered 'bad guys' because they are barbarians, and they need time and help to grow up. I'm saying that (a) I don't think being a barbarian precludes being a 'bad guy' as well, and (b) if time is all that's needed to civilize barbarians then as America has had more time than one country he mentioned as helping I don't think 'we need more time' is a good argument.

Robert said...

duncan: The problem with the USA is not "barbarism"
It's - FEAR


I read somewhere that the further Americans were from likely targets, the more they were afraid of terrorist attacks. So while urbanites shrugged and carried on, rural and small town America got afraid.

Don't know how true that was, but it sounds plausible. And 'afraid' seems to map quite well to 'red voter'*.

I wonder if people who are less fearful are the ones who primarily leave for urban centres (because change is scary, and moving is change), so thinly-settled regions are self-selecting for fearfulness. No evidence for it, would happily argue over a beer** about it.

Certainly it looks like the modern Republican Party has decided that keeping voters fearful is the best way to stay in power. (Back after 9/11, someone showed that changes in the official 'threat level' were correlated with Bush's polls — when his popularity started slipping you could expect an announcement about another terrorist threat.)


*And does anyone else find it ironic that among right-wing voters being 'red' has gone from a deadly insult to a badge of pride? Like, does anyone study history anymore?

**After we get our shots, of course.

gregory byshenk said...

David, just a note: I am making no claim that I invented self-criticism, only that the USA did not invent it, either - and that the USA is not the world's sole defender of such - which were your claims that I was responding to.

David Brin said...

Yeow! Treebeard chimes in! And politely! (While offering some of that ol' dyspeptic grumbling charm.) Well, well. That's one way of looking at things. Ignoring the fact that this enlightenment experiment is DIFFERENT than the litany of past grotesque and far-far-crazier empires that came before. And that difference is the only chance humanity has, to escape that gruesome pattern.

Greg... no you absolutely claimed (albeit implicitly) that YOU and a few others like you invented citokate. It fizzes from everything you say, including lecturing me repeatedly about citokate and the value of criticism. (Seriously! You actually did that!)

Not only do you implicitly make that claim, you utterly ignore when I implore you to look in a mirror and ask when and how and where-from you got that reflex.

Oh, you aren't the only idignantly self-righteous critic of the only society ever to preach relentless corrective criticism, without showing the slightest interest in how or why you came to be this way... or any of the other inherent ironies. I just had hoped for better from you.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

I read somewhere that the further Americans were from likely targets, the more they were afraid of terrorist attacks. So while urbanites shrugged and carried on, rural and small town America got afraid.


You might have read that here, although it was certainly also noted elsewhere. Anyway, that's exactly what happened. And just as with Trump, federal funds allocated for post-9/11 hardening of targets went to Republican constituents rather than Democratic cities, so it ended up protecting (for example) grain silos in Nebraska instead of (say) tall buildings in New York and Chicago.


Certainly it looks like the modern Republican Party has decided that keeping voters fearful is the best way to stay in power. (Back after 9/11, someone showed that changes in the official 'threat level' were correlated with Bush's polls — when his popularity started slipping you could expect an announcement about another terrorist threat.)


Yeah, I kind remember that too--the predictability of it all.


*And does anyone else find it ironic that among right-wing voters being 'red' has gone from a deadly insult to a badge of pride? Like, does anyone study history anymore?


In fairness, they don't see "Red states" as corresponding to "Communist". In fact, I believe that, around the 2000 election when tv networks solidified the specific use of one color for Democratic-voting states and one color for Republican-voting states on their electoral maps, they purposely avoided the connotation that would have come from using red for Democratic states instead--that they would be calling Democrats communists.

I also recall a brief moment in time when FOX used the colors opposite of everyone else. I wasn't sure if that was meant to call Democrats communists, or just because blue is generally considered the "good" color on a map. In any case, back then I wasn't avoiding FOX like the plague the way I do now, but whenever I saw one of their maps, it looked strange compared to the other networks' maps. But ultimately, Blue State and Red State caught on and entered the lexicon, and FOX had to go with the flow.

Pretty obviously, the choice of red and blue come from the American flag colors, and in that vein, I think it would be much more appropriate to use "White states" for Republican.

David Brin said...

Oh, Greg? Show me (!) another mythic system that encouraged in nearly all of its myths for the young citizens they raised (like you) in which almost every myth preached suspicion of authority and an eagerness to criticize the powers of their own society. The challenge has been out there for 30 years. But maybe you'll be the one to come up with an example.

I'll wait. Probably an awful long time.

Der Oger said...

"Try looking up lifelong union organizer Eric Flint, who (like me) feels contempt toward the splitters who would wreck a winning coalition over minutia of hairsplitting "cancel" correctness."

I differentiate on "Cancel Culture" and "Splitters".

Some "splitters" are genuine victims and their defenders. Their experiences have to be taken seriously and to be discussed.

Others are not. I sometimes think that those who pretend fighting for equality for "others" and "othered" are just in for the satisfaction of their narcissist egos and are as authoritarian as those they pretend to fight.

The former deserve to be differentiated from the latter.

Alfred Differ said...

Duncan,


Fear isn't anything new for us. The problem is that we tune out. Those who make the claim that we don't realize we are bad guys DO have a valid point. It's not so much that we are bad guys, though. It's that we don't realize… what we do. We don't think all that deep about it.

When I was taught about situational awareness, I was taught five mental states we occupy. They are a little over simplified, but they suffice to make the point.

1. Tuned Out - We are barely paying attention to what goes on around us. It happens when we read good fiction or daydream in class. World goes on while we mostly live in our inner space. We can do this for hours on end, but probably not the same exact thing for all those hours.

2. Watching the world and relaxed - We are noting what goes on around us, but expecting no trouble. We miss many details and probably can't recall more than broad brush strokes later, but we aren't facing inward. The inner space and incoming evidence aren't in conflict. We can do this for about 20 minutes before lapsing into the inner space for a tuned out period.

3. Watching the world and expecting unspecified trouble - We are concerned and looking for details in the evidence around us for what is wrong. We aren't sure what it is, but we are pretty sure it is something. The inner expectations we have of the world around are are calling for a general alarm. Most of us can do this for a few minutes before lapsing into state #2 through exhaustion. People raised in very stressful environments can carry on much longer, but mostly because they have a hard time breaking out of this state.

4. Spotted immediate trouble and a necessity to act - Danger is immediately apparent and action jumps to mind. Whether that action is wise or not isn't debated. There is no split within us enabling inner debates. Action is required immediately. We can stay in this state for a few minutes, but collapse in exhaustion if the danger isn't immediately obvious. People raised in stressful environments can get from #3 to #4 much easier than they can get from #3 to #2.

5. Catatonic - We KNOW there is immediate danger and ACT, but our human mind is barely involved. Flight! Fight! Freeze! The animal within rules all decisions. We can do this about as well as any other primate, but exhaustion arrives quickly and leaves the human mind uninvolved for long periods afterward too.


America as a whole is often Tuned Out to world events. Occasionally we get surprised and freak out jumping straight to #5. We are at our most stupid when we do. Ideally, some of our protector-caste is NOT tuned out and blocks catatonic over-reaction by pulling war plans from the cabinet and acting on them. Our most surprised people might accept those plans as if they were their own.

When I point out that we haven't been beaten up very often, I suggesting that we haven't learned the necessity of having many of us in state #2 watching the world and others in that same state watching the watchers. The lump on the inside of my lower lip was largely caused by me confusing my inner space predictions about what the bully was thinking for what he was actually thinking. I wasn't in #2 when the punch arrived. When it did, I flashed to #5. Definitely the kind of mistake a kid makes, hmm? We do that as a nation too, but we'll learn not to (so much) eventually.

Barbarians are typically tuned out, but don't think they are. They know damn well they are right(eous). It's that inner space certainty that occasionally enables us to do the impossible at the risk of doing the stupid.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Heh. It's not courage if

1) one is too ignorant to realize the danger,
2) one is too immune to be in danger.

Can Superman be courageous? Hmm. Not the same way as Batman.

Alfred Differ said...

Robert,

It's not about time. It's about experience.

Have we had a war of religion? Europe has had a few.
How many peasant rebellions have we experienced? Every generation in Europe used to have at least one.
Has our civilization collapsed and had to be rebuilt? Nope.
Has our empire collapsed before? Nope.
When was the last time we had a foreign army doing battle with us inside our border? Same question but within our States?

There is a whole lot of crap we haven't had to face yet.
It should shock no one that we aren't mature in our understanding of what can't/shouldn't be done.
It SHOULD shock people that we are as nice as we are. It's not like we have to be.

Do extreme religious views correlate with what Alfred called barbarian behaviour?

They most CERTAINLY do. 8)

What in American culture sees violence as an acceptable solution to problems?

The Good Book says we aren't supposed to be so judge-y, but we don't really believe that. If a bush burst into flame next to one of us and told us to be less judge-y, we'd assume it was the Devil talking… because we just don't believe otherwise… even when we say we do.

Barbarians can live with mental dissonance as long as the parts of it are all theirs. Never yours… until we appropriate it.

——

Now… having said all this… we aren't ALL barbarians. Culturally we are. Individually we aren't. Not entirely. It's just that when you cobble together the jigsaw puzzle it is a messy picture suggesting we've got a lot to learn yet.

While we get on with that task, though, we shall change the world simply because we believe we can and damn well intend to make a go of it.

Alfred Differ said...

Treebeard,

You've fallen victim to the lure of the easy answer to hard questions.

It all started with those wacko Puritan settlers

Hah! Europe was full of wacko dissenters before and after them. There was a time when all Protestants could be counted that way too.

Nah. We got a wonderful example of 'selection effect' when only some of them came over here.


Gregory,

Whether you made a previous claim like David claims or not, I'll avoid the debate. I don't want to go back through and figure it out.

1. the USA did not invent it [self-criticism]

True enough. What we did was liberate it to a degree not tolerated in any European nation acting as a source of our immigrants. We are also inclined to dignify at least some of the people engaged in the act.

2. USA is not the world's sole defender of such

True enough again. What we've done is defend it, fail in some ways, recover and try again, fail again, recover and try again, etc. Along the way we've developed institutions that are both defenders and risks to it when they grow too strong. Also, we've developed a cultural inclination to treat self-criticism as our religious dogma even though we don't agree on what to criticize. Finally, there is a ratchet at work here. Our failures don't lose everything no matter how gloomy some of the doom-sayers think things are.

Der Oger said...

One CNN article related to the flooding map part of the blog post:

https://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2021/03/us/climate-gentrification-cnnphotos-invs/

...indicating that exposure to the elements increasingly also becomes a question of social equality.

Tim H. said...

This amuses me, someone has declared March 4th to be "Weird Pride Day". As we humans manage to simultaneously be absurd and remarkable, they have a point:

https://neuroclastic.com/2021/03/01/march-4th-is-weird-pride-day/

In one way or another, we all qualify.

Larry Hart said...

What we already know about Republicans and elections...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Pres/Maps/Mar04.html#item-1

Republicans will defend their opposition to the bill [HR1] on the grounds of the Constitution and states' rights, but that is just the cover story. It is really about power. In reality, a large majority of Americans do not want what the Republicans are selling, so winning elections is all about trickery. Fundamentally, here is the Republicans' business model. It has four major points:

Money: The Party is largely funded by millionaire and billionaire donors. Yes, there are small donors, too, but Republicans have been far less successful with small donors than the Democrats. It is the big donors who matter most. They are intelligent people who want something in return, namely tax cuts for rich people and corporations and less government regulation of business. But there aren't nearly enough of these people to win elections.

The culture wars: The biggest bloc of Republican voters are evangelicals. They don't care so much about economic issues but are very motivated by abortion, gay rights, trans rights, and similar "culture war" issues. The big donors tend to be libertarians and really don't like the government interfering in peoples' private lives, but they have to put up with this stuff to get their tax cuts, so they pretend it isn't there and just ignore it.

White grievance: Donald Trump was a political genius of sorts. He was the first to truly realize that a lot of working-class white men don't care much about tax cuts or abortion, but don't like the demographic changes that have been occurring in the country the past 40 or 50 years and their gradual loss of political power. He exploited this to the hilt and got elected in 2016 largely on account of it.

Voter suppression: Even with a lot of big donor money, evangelicals, and resentful white men supporting the GOP, that is not quite enough to win elections. That is why this fourth pillar—voter suppression—is so critical. Without it, Republicans will lose a lot of elections 52% to 48% or thereabouts (except in very red districts and states) going forward. If voter suppression is taken away from them, Republicans will never be able to win a presidential election again, and they know it. That is why killing H.R. 1 is a life-or-death cause for them. Democrats know this, too, which is why the bill is H.R. 1 and not H.R. 2305.

...

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

If a bush burst into flame next to one of us and told us to be less judge-y, we'd assume it was the Devil talking…


When Dave Sim became religious and monotheistic, but not actually a member of a specific religion, that is exactly what his position boiled down to. If an inner voice suggested something he already believed, that was God talking. If it suggested something he didn't already subscribe to, it must be God's Adversary. *


because we just don't believe otherwise… even when we say we do.


Even though I don't believe in the supernatural, I respect a lot of the values that come to us from the New Testament. Which is why it surprises me in a bad way how many self-described Christians don't subscribe to those values, and in fact believe that their Christianity allows them not to subscribe to them.

Back to Dave Sim, who insists that he is not a misogynist, but is accused of that because he quite vocally isn't a feminist. Back when he was an irreligious, hedonistic secular-humanist, he believed that feminists failed to see the inconsistency in their belief system because they were too religious--distracting men by making them go to church and such. When Dave found religious monotheism, suddenly feminists failed to see the inconsistency in their belief system because they were atheists, keeping otherwise God-fearing men from contemplating the sublime.

* Dave's take on "God's adversary" is peculiar, though I've heard it's not unique to him alone. He thinks the the Biblical YHWH (typically the capitalized "LORD" in English) is not another name for God, but actually an earthbound spirit which believes itself to be God. Or at least an equivalent to God. Or rather, it frets about the fact that it should be God. In the Old Testament, when "the LORD God" tells the Israelites to do things that we now consider to be stupid or evil? That's not God, but God's Adversary pretending to be God. And the Hebrews think they are worshipping the real God when they are actually tricked into worshipping YHWH posing as Him.

Larry Hart said...

Somewhat relevant to the art of prediction, as well as why being right doesn't necessarily translate to convincing others:

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/03/opinion/progressives-conservatives-think-again.html

...
The risk is excessive admiration for one’s own brilliance, preening at one’s own righteousness, and inordinate scorn for the jerks on the other side. It was the Republicans’ hubris after the 1991 gulf war — won in 100 hours — that led the G.O.P. to march obliviously into the catastrophic Iraq war a dozen years later.

Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, has a smart new book out advising us to “Think Again,” in the words of his title. He explores in part what goes wrong when smart people are too righteous, and he offers a paean to intellectual humility.

Research finds that the best people at making predictions (did you know that there are prediction tournaments?) aren’t those who are smartest but rather those who weigh evidence dispassionately and are willing to change their minds.

Likewise, math whizzes excel at interpreting data — but only so long as the topic is banal, like skin rashes. A study found that when the topic was a hot one they cared about, like gun policy, they blundered. Passion swamped expertise.

There are a number of biases in play, including the “I’m not biased” bias. That’s when we believe we’re more objective than others, and it particularly traps intelligent people.

“These biases don’t just prevent us from applying our intelligence,” Grant writes. “They can actually contort our intelligence into a weapon against the truth. We find reasons to preach our faith more deeply, prosecute our case more passionately, and ride the tidal wave of our political party.”
...

David Brin said...

LarryHart & Alfred you might enjoy my theological play.\\

http://www.davidbrin.com/escape.html

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

you might enjoy my theological play.


My wife bought it to me for Christmas.

Anonymous said...


... barbaric messianic narcissists ...

An absolutely brilliant take on the North American mentality, as irrefutable as the "featherless biped" human descriptor as opined by Socrates.

"Barbaric" in the sense of unsophisticated,vulgar, uncouth or animal;
"Messianic" in the redeeming & uplifting sense of The Island of Dr. Moreau; and
"Narcissist" in the sense of an island scientist convinced of his own infallibility.

Now, receive the Law of Dr. Moreau:

Not to go on all-fours; that is the Law.
Are we not Men? For...

His is the House of Pain.
His is the Hand that makes.
His is the Hand that wounds.
His is the Hand that heals.

Evil are the punishments of those who break the Law.
None escape. None escape.


Best

David Brin said...

Treebeard AND Locumranch? Our misanthrope cups runneth over. Jim was only enough to keep full the one on the eco-left.

Alfred Differ said...

Oh Lord
Won't you buy me
A Mercedes Benz?


Larry,

I'm of the opinion that our intellect spends most of its available calories rationalizing what our other parts already decided to do.

Only when that lower layer is indifferent does intellect drive.

Only when that lower layer worries there might be danger does it listen to alarms from on high.

Only after age 25 when those brow lamps are finally wired up right is there much of a chance those alarms will be heard.

Where the heck did PSB go? I owe him a debt of gratitude for that book recommendation. 8)


David,

Okay. It's in my cart for the next book purchase. Likely this weekend.

Der Oger said...

"Barbaric Messianic Narcicissts": I'd say that the "Messianic" part is more pronounced during the Democratic administrations (FDR, JFK, Obamu'adib) and the "Narcicisst" part more during the Republican times (Nixon, Reagan, The Donald).

Over here, we give messianic narcicissts a chance - though we dispose of them fast if they don't deliver or are discovered to not living up to their image. Merkel understood that perfectly, and that's why she got sixteen years in office.

Gerhard "Comrade of the Bosses" Schröder? Lost office when the Alpha Macho Wolf attitude became unbearable, and he attacked the mass media for being critical of him.
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg? Stumbled over plagiarism, and lost his Doctor title and political future.
Sarah Wagenknecht? Isolated by more pragmatic members (which, ironically, include old socialist cadres from the former communist half of Germany.)
Next to fall might be Jens Spahn, poster boy of the conservatives and Federal Secretary of Health. Allegations of corruption, drinking wine while preaching water, buying a villa in Berlin, and most importantly, the slow progress of vaccinations may have destroyed his dream of becoming the first gay chancellor of the Republic.

We are a post-heroic society. Those few icons we have left are either scientists, journalists, artists and soccer stars, or resistance fighters executed by the Nazis.(Interestingly, there are only a few of such icons derived from their resistance to the communist regime.) No universally revered military or political leaders.

Der Oger said...

Alfred, you asked for good stories. I'd point to three things:

- The Basic Law: Our constitution. Try to read it, it is there in English. To my knowledge, South Africa adopted it after the fall of the Apartheid. Retroactively, it served as a framework to allow for changing into the culture we are today. When you are interested in other laws, then look up the Works Constitution Law (which heralds back to the Weimar Republic). It provides a framework how to democratize companies.
There are only two things I'd like to have changed: Extend the minorities protections to LGBT people (article 3), and to include a mechanism how to deal with a national crisis outside the State of Defense (such as a pandemy). But the latter one is a tricky deal, to avoid the pitfalls of hollowing out democracy and empowering a dictatorship. The bumbling inefficiency we have with the current crisis and with our 36 domestic intelligence services and law enforcement agencies is *by design*.
- Look into the Visit of the Shah in 1967 and the surrounding protests. It was the key defining moment that propelled societal change from an authoritarian culture to a liberal one. The Extraparliamentary Opposition formed and grew, and while some of the movement radicalized to become the RAF terror organization, it birthed the Peace Movement and the Greens, and led to the Socialdemocratic/Libertarian Reforms of the 70s.
- Immigration and Integration. Look up how many different cultural groups of refugees, working migrants and asylum seekers we have integrated during the last seven decades, IN ADDITION to a failed communist state and 3 million German-Russians. I even see a small flow of Americans deciding they have enough of the US and coming over here. Racism and attacks against newcomers are still a thing, though. But I think that will be dealt with in the next decades.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Treebeard AND Locumranch? Our misanthrope cups runneth over.


Maybe the world really is returning to normal.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

On the American character:

"Barbarian" -- well, sort of. We certainly have a barbarian subculture, which was at one phase our dominant subculture, and strongly influences us to this day.

What we have been overall is a Volkwanderung culture. The "barbarian" aspects of such are the things that get remembered most strongly -- at the crest of the advancing wave, the "frontier" one might say -- atrocities are strongest, and subside as the invading culture recognizes the virtues of construction over those of conquest.

A volkwander culture always considers itself superior, because it must. Even if the actual cause of the migration is Malthus-like population pressure or the abhorrence of a societal vacuum, the individuals carrying out the invasion must self-justify land-theft and all the heinous acts that go with it -- so they latch onto some aspect of their culture and laud it, thus making it a tool to lord it as well.

Once settled, humans act like humans and form social contacts, interbreed, et cetera, and ethnogenesis takes place. Germanics and post-Romans, Normans and Saxons, Aztecs and Spaniards, blah blah ethnicitycakes. However, the effect is delayed substantially in North America by three oddities of our particular volkwander:

(1) This is one of the rare volkwanders whose primary driver was depopulation (via plagues, though famines have also caused these in history). There were also cultural factors, and population pressures in certain parts of Europe; but the biggest driver was that the Mississippian culture that had dominated the immediately pre-European North American continent collapsed under the weight of the Old World's germs.

That culture had not been as densely developed as those further south, either, and as a result, there just weren't enough warm bodies in the successor First Nations to hold the land, and no prospect of having enough warm bodies anytime soon. Like the Roman Empire after the plagues, it was not so much a question of if but when the land-theft took place and who were the benefactors, which leads to:

(2) There was an unusually wide means of access for the invaders -- by which I refer to transatlantic navigation. Every European culture with a merchant marine tried colonization of one sort or another. Yes, even Italy -- at one point, the Knights Hospitaller held Caribbean islands! This supercharged the volkwander, including both competition and cooperation. American immigration policy since well before the Revolution has always been about reaping the benefits of volkwander; we just change our desires and definitions over time.

(3) The Middle Passage. Thanks to the lack of warm bodies (#1) there weren't enough people to work the land the way early volkwander lords usually do, and thanks to the ready access (#2) it really wasn't feasible to bring folks over from the parent culture to replicate the usual volkwander culture. Thus the slave trade. It's important to note that the effective involuntary volkwander of Africans to the Americas was a by-product of the original intent: to have disposable humans to work to death on Caribbean plantations. It was only much later that the side-gig of having an enslaved land population composed entirely from migrant ancestry came about.

The result is that the usual volkwander patterns got shot to pieces. There just weren't enough First Nations to influence the barbarian vanguard much, and so the dominant cultural conflicts and mergers have been between the unusually diverse invader cultures. Because of this, later American frontier history (Manifest Destiny and suchlike) have not usually been analyzed as a volkwander. But it started as such, and that set patterns in American culture and identity that are fading much more slowly than usual because the usual mechanisms are not in place.

Fortunately, there are compensating factors.

Larry Hart said...

John Fugelsang on Twitter imagines an Abbot and Costello "Who's On First?" conversation between Jared and Trump:


-Who's that guy who leads China, Jared?
-Xi, sir
-No it's a guy
-Xi
-A guy!
-That's his name
-Who?
-Hu was the last one
-Who?
-Yes
-Who is the leader of China?
-The last guy
-I'M NOT ASKING ABT THE LAST GUY I WANNA KNOW THE GUY NOW
-THE GUY NOW IS XI
-Who?
-THAT'S THE LAST GUY

David Brin said...

LH hilarious. Was that all of it? I JUST ADDED THE LAST 40% (below) JUST NOW, MESELF.

-Who's that guy who leads China, Jared?
-Xi, sir
-No it's a guy
-Xi
-A guy!
-That's his name
-Who?
-Hu was the last one
-Who?
-Yes
-Who is the leader of China?
-The last guy
-I'M NOT ASKING ABOUT THE LAST GUY I WANNA KNOW THE GUY NOW
-The guy is XI.
-Correcting pronouns now? Are you going PC?
-It's PRC
-Oh what crap. Who started all this?
-That would be Deng
-Dung, crap, when did all this...
-Wen was Hu's number two
-You're asking Me? HOW SHOULD I KNOW WHEN WHO DID NUMBER TWO?!
-What?
-Now there's a Chinese WATT? Which Watt?
-Who?
-THAT'S THE LAST GUY!

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

We are a post-heroic society.

I have to agree… and it shows in how you all approach certain problems. Many of your neighbor nations are further along in that sense too.

No universally revered military or political leaders.

We might get there some day, but probably after the kinds of hard lessons your people learned. Had the Cold War gone hot, we'd probably be a lot closer now.

So… You can see why I'm not in a rush for us to learn? The world would be better off with us arriving in that future via a soft landing.

Immigration and Integration

Mmm. What about the Turks?

Integration is a multi-generation project that fundamentally changes the mother-society.

Over here we call it assimilation, but that only happens when small numbers of particular groups come here and have no option for support from family back home or a large 'community' here. It utterly fails to be assimilation when the incoming people don't need to change… or were there first.

There is a large swathe of the southwestern US that was taken from Mexico in our war with them in the late 1840's. That doesn't mean the people who lived here left, though. They just got overrun… for a while. Now-a-days the scales are tipping the other way. Our region of the US is politically part of the us, but culturally a borderland. Integrated? Not really. Partially. As the generations go by we get Catfish's ethnicity cake.

The point I'm making, though, is that this borderland region isn't exactly American according to Americans who live elsewhere. Even according to some who live here. No one is being assimilated. We are simply changing.

Are you ready for that? With the Turks and/or other refugees? The challenges are huge and tear at a society's foundations. The way WE do it looks messy and alarming, but we usually manage without locking kids in cages. Usually. It's an ugly process, though. Especially among barbarians.

Alfred Differ said...

Catfish 'n Cod,

I'm adding volkwander to my vocabulary. Thanks. 8)

The 'barbarian' term I'm using comes from my reading of geopolitics theory where they carefully define a nation as 'a people' instead of a formal post-Westphalian State.
1. e.g. Thailand is a sovereign state composed of at least three nations. Their internal power struggles can be cast in terms of control of the state by nations in conflict.
2. Iran is a state composed of a few 'nations' which should surprise no one since it is the seat of the old Persian Empire.
3. Turkey occupies the old Ottoman core region and a broad portion of Asia Minor where the Ottomans managed minimal control often through force and secret police. The 'Ottoman' regions that had a stronger affinity were taken from them, but weren't part of the 'Ottoman' nation.

etc

'Barbarian' is meant to imply a particular set of behaviors for a nation. These behaviors are sufficient to carve an identity from blank stone or by cut it out of some other nation. The barbarian nation is self-focused and damn near immune to external belief systems that could alter that identity. [In our host's language, they have their incantations.] If they find themselves in close proximity to other strong identities, the carving can be quite bloody, but it need not be. The point of the behavior set is to establish, defend, and propagate the identity. Memic birth & procreation.

HOW a barbarian nation forms is likely to be as you describe.

WHAT a barbarian nation becomes as it ages is fairly well documented. They lose their inclination to demote the belief systems of others. They'll ponder the possibility that those other systems might have something useful in them to be adopted. Bits and pieces at first. Appropriation at first. Credit to the creators might be considered a little later. Tolerance shifts from co-existence to intermingling and inter-marriage. Trifle becomes Cake but not Bread. Not yet.

HOW a barbarian nation becomes that next form is also documented, but we have to be ever watchful for history written to serve the victorious.

scidata said...

There were many harbingers of AI in the 19th century, Shelley's "Frankenstein" being one shining example. It seems like rich hunting grounds for alternative history fiction. The Difference Engine genre perhaps.

“Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating.”
- Carl von Clausewitz

Describes human psychology quite well me thinks. Of course, AI labours under no such illusion. Its intellect is more of the vast and cool and unsympathetic variety. Let's just hope it never opens envious eyes. Transistors would make short work of peptides.

Der Oger said...

@Alfred:

"Mmm. What about the Turks?"

First of all, "the Turks" aren't a cultural, ethnic and even religious monolithic group. From the 2.8 million people in our borders who have a Turkish origin, only one-half of them would be called Turks, the rest are Kurds, Yazidi and Armenians. Also, while many are the descendants of workers that have been recruited in the 50s to 70s and decided to stay (which makes some of them the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the original immigrants), some have immigrated for political reasons or to unify families. Some groups hate each other with quite an intensity.

Some stayed apart and form rather isolated and conservative Islamic communities, but many - especially of the 3rd and later generations - developed some sort of hybrid identity, holding on to both cultures. Some fully integrated into this society and are Germans but by the color of their skin. Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin, the founders and owners of BionTech and developers of a CoVid Vaccine, are 2nd generation Turks. As a voting Block, they lean left.

Also, keep in mind that Turkey for a long time was a sort-of democratic state and mostly secular; that changed during the Erdogan regime. From all muslimic countries, they were most similar to our own.

"Integration is a multi-generation project that fundamentally changes the mother-society."

One misconception about our country is that we have no cultural differences between our ancestral tribes anymore. Urban, Rural, Swabs, Frisians, Bavarians, Hanseatics, East Germans, West Germans, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Roma, Sinti, Sorbs, and so on are still visible identities and mentalities. The differences are not so pronounced that we go to war with each other, but it can be very tangible at times (Like proposals to rebuild the wall, or the collective eye-rolling when Bavaria proposes a new law and order policy. And so on.) Turks are just another tribe (actually, many subtribes) we have added.

There are forces at work that resist change whenever it occurs. It creates frictions, but I don't fear it. I only fear to move backwards, into colder, greyer times. But changing we do, moving forward, as a whole.

Try a Döner "Mit Alles", by the way.

Doug S. said...

Hey, remember Holocene Chat?

https://www.timeout.com/newyork/news/this-new-platform-lets-you-party-with-friends-in-virtual-worlds-030421

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

Heh. You are saying all the right things, so I'm going to remain optimistic for you and your immediate neighbors.

The 'Turks' aren't just Turks. Indeed. That is true about immigrants from any of the old empire cores. The Marmara Sea definitely counts as one of those. Lots of tribes moved there. Even the actual Turks.

Take a good look at some of the Americans showing up near you and you'll find tribal differences too*. None of our sovereign states are really just one nation.

I knew a guy from Germany a few years back. Gay as all get-out. Occasionally pointed out that he was safer in the US even though some of us were quite phobic. He went back eventually, though. Found good work and people who managed to tolerate him. Heh. His comments about Bavarians stuck with me though. It was quite obvious there wasn't one unified Germany except as the usual, useful fiction for how we organize legal systems.

Your neighboring tribes have learned hard lessons ours have not. That's a big difference between us. As long as we remain relatively friendly and tolerant of each other, though, we might notice something useful you do and imitate it thinking we originated the idea. Don't be shocked if within the next generation the US is all concerned about Climate Change and thinks we were always the most concerned. Wouldn't be true, of course, but it would be the behavior of a barbarian.

* One error many Americans make about 'Spanish' speaking people in the south-western states is to think they are all Mexican. Most of them are Americans, of course, but the recent immigrants are from many of the states of Central America and a bit further south. Also, many of those states aren't composed of a single nation. We get a lot of indigenous people migrating too. Makes for quite a hash in our school systems because it's not enough for the teachers to be bilingual. These folks are from old empire cores too. Aztec, Maya, Inca. Enough of them survived for us to see them here in the barbarian's border lands.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

One misconception about our country is that we have no cultural differences between our ancestral tribes anymore.


One might make a similar observation about the United States.

Daniel Duffy said...

>Alfred: I'm adding volkwander to my vocabulary.

Remember that word.

"Volkwanderung" is what global warming looks like.

The Syrian mass migration a few years ago was triggered by war which was triggered by ethnic conflict which was triggered by movement of desperate farmers into urban areas looks for work which was triggered by drought which was triggered by climate change.

The result was the Brexit vote to protect the UK from being swarmed by brown skinned migrants (the economic arguments were always bullshit cover for racist motivations).

matthew said...

Joe Manchin (booked on four Sunday shows today) says that he is open to reforming the filibuster back to a "talking filibuster." I'm not sure I agree, but lines up with what I understand as David's position on the matter.

matthew said...

I had the same thought as Daniel - that Volkwanderung (Volkswanderung?) was an important word to add to my vocabulary for the years to come.

I think the M*GA attitude in the US is coming from the exact same source as the Brexit vote. The fascist far right in both the US and the UK realize deep down that climate change is real and that it will cause great migrations in the world. Racism becomes overlaid with added fear of losing majorities in democratic countries. Build the walls before the horde comes calling-type of belief systems.

Funny thing is, the places where the assimilation goes both ways, where Alfred brilliantly described as "Trifle becomes cake not bread," those places will dominate over the bunker-types both creatively and economically.

Bunker down for the emergency in tribal groups model or synthesis / additive growth / creative pruning of society model.
Those are the two societal models we're seeing in the build up to a period of climate-driven rapid changes.
There are places in the world that will innovate their way through climate change. The best of them will be the best at assimilation through synthesis, I suspect. At the least they will be the most vibrant market of ideas.

scidata said...

Manchin might be swayed by a "West Virginia Enlightenment" pitch. Confeds can be reached - they're certainly not all shamans. Perhaps a day-trip to Green Bank.

Larry Hart said...

matthew:

Bunker down for the emergency in tribal groups model or synthesis / additive growth / creative pruning of society model.
Those are the two societal models we're seeing in the build up to a period of climate-driven rapid changes.


It's been a while (year 2000, IIRC) since I read the very first 1632 novel, but I believe that those were the two competing philosophies which presented themselves once the citizens of the West Virginia town understood that they had been transplanted into seventeenth century Germany*. The "bad guy" wanted to build a wall and use superior firepower to keep the Germans out. The "good guys" wanted to build a society incorporating the best aspects of German and American civilization.

* Synchronistically, two locations being discussed in some form or another right here and now.

David Brin said...

Manchin is doing a dance that I don't disapprove-of and that might even be coordinated with the White House. I'll withold judgement till I see if the electoral reform bill passes and the filibuster is adjusted in ways that no longer serve enemies of the Republic.

Okay then,

Onward

onward