Problems With Private Political Speech

Matt Reynolds reports in NewScientist (10 June 2017, paywall) on the use of technology to tailor political messages to voters during the recent British election campaign, and I found it disturbing. Keeping in mind this was published before the elections actually took place:

A shadowy battle is being fought in the Facebook feeds of UK voters. Political parties are using the online giant’s wealth of data on its users to send precisely targeted adverts that they hope will swing this week’s general election. But there is little clarity about what the ads are saying.

These “dark adverts” allow political parties to tailor a message to pop up only in the newsfeeds of specific audiences, leaving non-targeted people unaware. These adverts don’t appear publicly anywhere, which is raising concerns about their content.

“It’s fundamental to a healthy democracy that claims and promises made by candidates and parties before an election should be open to scrutiny and challenge. Dark ads made over closed social media platforms are not,” says Martin Moore of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at King’s College London. …

A small group of online vigilantes aims to find out what’s in the messages. Who Targets Me? is a browser extension that extracts every political advert that 6000 volunteers stumble across in their Facebook feeds.

“We’ve tracked over 1100 versions of the same message from the Liberal Democrats alone,” says Louis Knight-Webb, co-founder of the project. Some adverts targeted Facebook users more likely to be concerned by funding cuts to the military, while other people saw a similar ad about grammar schools.

1100 variants? How many convey true information, and how many don’t? And how do we know?

I know this is for a British election, but the technology is nationality-neutral, so it matters to me. While I agree with Mr. Moore, I’ll take it a step further and state that political speech, because it conveys ideas concerning how we are governed, which is a group activity, should be a shared experience. Part of having an effective discussion is having agreed upon entities – from the meanings of words to the offered policies of candidates for offices.

If the speech is private, then by definition we have little chance of actually having a discussion because our assumptions may easily differ. It’s as if we have a candidate who vows to raise the military spending at one venue, and to cut it at the next – with no way to verify the asshole isn’t talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Except I’m wrong, as these folks with the Who Targets Me? app are providing a way to catch clashing political messages.

And I wonder how this can effectively regulated.

That Darn Climate Change Conspiracy, Ctd

Those who are both against immigration and are climate change deniers may soon find themselves in a tight situation. Stephanie Leutert explains on Lawfare:

A few weeks ago, during a trip along the Mexico-Guatemala border I met a group of climate migrants. The three Hondurans—two brothers and their childhood friend—were all heading north after three years of unusual weather in their community of San José in the Copán district of western Honduras. They explained that the seasonal rains were coming too late and the hot, dry periods were lasting too long, leaving the soil more like dust than fertile land. Without decent crop yields, the families spent down their savings until they finally ran out of money, food, and the capacity to wait for better weather.

To learn more about their story, I called the local government office of Santa Rosa near the brothers’ hometown. Josselyn Hernandez, the administrator who took my call, confirmed that the weather was indeed shifting in the area. But the issue wasn’t just the rainy season’s unpredictability. Severe storms were rocking the region as we spoke, ruining crops and displacing entire families. “It rains every year,” she explained during our call, “but never with this intensity.”

These are not just a few fluke weather years. Studies consistently show that Honduras is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to the effects of climate change. The western section of Honduras is particularly vulnerable to reduced precipitation and extreme or unpredictable weather events. Projections estimate a 10 to 20 percent decrease in rain over the next 30 years and a 2-degree Celsius increase in the average temperature.

The sad part, of course, is that by dropping their denial, they could help remedy the other. After all, people, by and large, are homebodies, preferring to stay home when possible, and just make that trip to a foreign country a vacation – or a war. American ancestors left for various reasons – religious intolerance and economic hardships being two of the most popular. As climate change decreases crop yields and makes conditions unlivable in equatorial regions, we may see more migration – not less.

If you don’t like immigrants, building a wall is simple minded. Many issues, including climate change and our agricultural export policies, must be examined in turn with an eye towards how we’re ruining other countries, and therefore enticing their citizens to our country.

And foreign aid may not be enough. We may have to change our behavior, not only with direct regard to the wall, but towards questions of agricultural subsidies designed to help our farmers “win” – and thus ruining the economies of other countries. There are consequences to winning, just as there are to losing, and these need to be assessed in terms of our futures.

Word Of The Day

Bannerstone:

Bannerstones are artifacts usually found in the Eastern United States that are characterized by a centered hole in a symmetrically shaped carved or ground stone. The holes are typically ¼” to ¾” in diameter and extend through a raised portion centered in the stone. They usually are bored all the way through but some have been found with holes that extend only part of the way through. Many are made from banded slate or other colored hard stone. They often have a geometric “wing nut” or “butterfly” shape but are not limited to these. More than just functional artifacts, bannerstones are a form of art that appear in varying shapes, designs, and colors, symbolizing their ceremonial and spiritual importance. [Wikipedia]

I ran across this in an unfortunately print-only version in the July/August 2017 issue of Archaeology. The article, “Set In Stone,” by Eric A. Powell, suggests that bannerstones may have been used with atlatls, but not in the manner traditionally thought. Rather, hunters after white-tail deer and equipped with atlatls would have been required to hold certain poses while the deer, so suspicious, was lulled into a vulnerable position. The bannerstones would have worked as counterweights for the motionless hunter. Experimental work seems to support this idea.

And the article has some gorgeous pictures.

When Guinea Pigs Pay For The Privilege

NewScientist (10 June 2017) reports on a fascinating new trial:

TRANSFUSIONS of young blood plasma may cut the risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and heart disease in older people, according to a controversial new study which …

“I don’t want to say the word ‘panacea’, but there’s something about teenagers,” Jesse Karmazin, founder of start-up Ambrosia, told New Scientist. “Whatever is in young blood is causing changes that appear to make the ageing process reverse.”

Since August 2016, Karmazin’s company has been giving people aged 35 to 92 transfusions of blood plasma from people aged between 16 and 25. So far, around 100 people have been treated. …

None of the people in the study had cancer at the time of the transfusion, but Karmazin’s team looked at their levels of proteins called carcinoembryonic antigens. These chemicals are found in the blood of healthy people at low concentrations, but in larger amounts can be a sign of cancer. The levels of these antigens fell by around 20 per cent in the blood of those treated, the team found.

Karmazin says the team also saw a 10 per cent fall in blood cholesterol. This may help explain why a study last year by a different company, Alkahest, found that heart health improved in old mice given blood from human teenagers.

Ambrosia also reported a 20 per cent fall in the level of amyloids – a type of protein that forms sticky plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease.

The problem? No control group – and …

The fact that they all paid $8000 to be included, as well as the study’s lack of a placebo group, has attracted much criticism.

Obviously, we can’t be bleeding our children just so us oldsters can feel better – although it’d put a wonderful spin on the old Hansel and Gretel story. And whether the effects are real or merely placebo-related is a powerful question that may be further polluted by requiring participants pay for the privilege.

But it does fit with earlier studies involving old mice and young blood – from both young mice and young humans. So intriguing, yet so compromised. And why? Because Big Pharma can’t make money off this treatment – directly. I wonder if they figure it’s impossible to synthesize, or impossible to patent?

Stirring The Hate Pot

Once again, mail has come across my desk leaving a trail of slime, and try as I might, I find I must step on it and make it squeal. It’s quite long, and I’ll take it apart here and there, including the lead-in, supposedly added by someone on the email thread.

An interesting and observant article by a Brit using a literary pseudonym. Worth reading and considering. Applicable to both the UK and the USA.

A literary pseudonym is a polite way of saying I’m stepping into the mud and don’t wish to get my lacy cuffs the least bit dirty, so let me cover myself in a white sheet … if it’s a Brit, let him stick his name on it. No name? This is where we discard any presumption of positive antecedents and ask ourselves, what is this guy really promoting?

Though our stars tend to rise and fall in opposition through the years, your reputation for adventure, fearlessness and a legendary hunger for more lingers, and for the most part we find that admirable—no, more than that—we find it astonishing.

We may denigrate your American whisky (as well as your tendency to spell it with the Irish ‘e’) as you joke about our pasty faces and reliance upon dentures but we are cousins—if not always kissing—and share a rich common language, culture, customs and cuisine. We are more alike than different in nearly every respect but these: One, we are a constitutional monarchy and Two, despite what you may have heard we really, really envy you your guns.

America has always seemed the dangerous, glamourous older brother. You were the cowboy, the gangster, the astronaut and the comic book hero of our collective imaginations. You were the captain of the debate team, dating the homecoming queen and cruising through life in your ’55 Chrysler, one hand on the wheel, elbow on the door, working on that car tan.

OK, we get it – our eyes are full of stars and God has kissed our grits. Got it. About as useful as paper packing at a polka ball.

The 40’s, 50’s and 60s were perhaps your finest hours. During World War II you were overpaid, oversexed and over here, breaker of hearts and hymens. The winds of heaven tousled with a loving hand your perfect hair, the sunlight glinted off your straight, white teeth. After the war you invented rock and roll and corn dogs and forty-seven million things to do with sugar including LSD, and we were dazzled.

While we were washing under our arms from basins of cold water in cold rooms in a bitterly cold country, you were inventing the hot tub. At the cinema, we would bask in shimmering visions of your highways and high fashions, your Endless Summer California culture, your glittering skyscrapers and flawless pavements, then trudge home and tune in the wireless for a Parliamentary debate on whether or not we could afford to clean centuries of coal smoke from our cracked and blackened buildings.

While you were bringing Caesar Salad, Martinis, Bananas Foster, Baked Alaska and the almighty, sacred Hamburger into the world, we anticipated the prospect of instant mashed potatoes finally becoming available down the local shops. We were unimaginably insular; it is within living memory that people in Britain believed spaghetti grew on trees.

This guy’s good, intimating more Godliness going on, skipping the part where Britain was literally on the front lines of World War II and suffered terrible damage to its physical structures while the United States, while losing a lot of young men’s lives and a few ships, suffered little damage to the actual States (Hawaii not becoming a State until 1951). We didn’t have to rebuild, so of course, through this accident of geography, we managed to move ahead of our European competitors.

Despite pretensions to polite behaviour we relished your films and television programmes like The Godfather, The Maltese Falcon, The Third Man and White Heat; more recently The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Deadwood—the more violent the better. We admired Clint Eastwood’s entire oeuvre. We devoured books like Lonesome Dove and the works of Steinbeck, Hemingway, Mark Twain and Raymond Chandler. Some of us even like bluegrass but those people are mainly in the looney bin. We treasure pretty much everything about you, but we’re British so you don’t hear us mention it very often.

He’s spending a lot of time, and giving us way too much tongue, buttering us up. The anticipation is exasperating, honestly.

Some Britons flinch when one suggests ever needing a gun in Old Blighty but don’t believe the lukewarm protestations. As the past few years have unfolded any remaining hesitation is apt to change, and soon. What we are beginning to remember is that for thousands of years everyone on this island was armed at all times with daggers—with swords if you could afford them, with throwing axes and longbows for truly special occasions. Personal defence was not just a choice, it meant accepting full responsibility for individual safety beyond city or castle walls. Defending ourselves with grace and strength and skill was something we once took great pride in.

Ah, and here we go. “Secretly, we want to be armed to the teeth just like you!” Let the paranoia begin, as I discussed here a few months ago – surely the Democrats will disarm everyone! Oh god they hate guns! Well, no, Bernie himself is for gun rights. But, Democrats look around and see so little good coming out of them – children dying, massacres, and right-wing denial of reality so strong that some law enforcement personnel believe that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax.

Guys, if you can’t see the horse’s ass, maybe you’ve got the cart hooked up wrong. (Contact me if this seems obtuse.)

Our downfall can be charted in three separate events:

A word to the wise: trying to hit multiple targets with one bullet will dissipate the effect. This guy is really quite ambitious.

Two hundred years ago, give or take a couple of decades, Sir Robert Peel established a full-time, professional and centrally-organised police force with the passing of The Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. It was not well received at the time; the public felt they did very well already with night watchmen and personal vigilance and besides, who was expected to pay for it? And why hadn’t the people been consulted? As things usually go between governments and their subjects, government had its way. We turned our weapons over to legally-sanctioned protectors and began to soften as a people.

Here we see a basis for conspiracy laid. The big bad government has big bad plans for you, so you just watch out! Indeed, this can be seen as a subtle use of the Deep State meme developed recently by the Far Right to explain why they are so very ineffectual in the governance department – it’s because the institution itself is against us! Well, no. As a former “member” points out, this is just characteristic of big institutions, especially when the new policies are of an extremely dubious nature.

So let’s just ask a simple question: should we have simple night watchmen tackle The Crips, a notorious street gang? No? I didn’t think so.

In the midst of austerity after The Second World War, universal healthcare for all was rolled out to tremendous fanfare, followed by a steadily increasing system of welfare for mothers and children, later for pensioners, then veterans and civil servants. There was in the early days some shame associated with taking a government handout but practice makes perfect and before long anyone with a doctor’s note affirming a sprained wrist or dodgy knee could sign on and be supported for life. No one asked this time who would pay—no one wanted to hear the answer anyway. And we grew softer still.

Yes, indeed, we’re so soft when we’re suffering from pediatric cancer, aren’t we? It’s all our fault, our child lying in the hospital bed, wracked with pain, and since we’re just factory workers, we can’t afford the life-saving drugs. All our fault, isn’t it?

Listen. If you believe this bozo, then you need to come up with an answer to the above.

There’s a reason people come together to work on problems – because many problems are bigger than any one of us can solve. The Brits decided that the essential randomness of illness made it an appropriate target for collective action, and regardless of the competency of the implementation of their plans, the reasoning is not inappropriate.

Blaming people for illness is the actions of a child.

Simultaneously, the government threw open its doors to the former colonies, or rather the brown colonies. Indians, Pakistanis and Caribbean Islanders answered the call to serve as a labour force and in short order became a demographic who never actually seemed to leave. Politicians had discovered the lucrative stand of virgin timber that was the immigrant class and promised them anything, even citizenship, in exchange for their vote. And vote they did, until their children grew up, stood for election themselves and were voted in by their own people on the colour of their skin. When native Britons asked why they were never consulted on allowing this flood of immigrants they were called racialists. Since Britain had just finished dealing Jerry a bally good hiding, any accusation of holding Nazi sentiments was social poison. Hence we softened our principles and muffled the warning of our hearts.

Apparently, one of those principles was racism. But here we see someone warning that having the principle of color-blindness leads to disaster (on the quite sound observation that a principle that leads to bad results is not a principle worth holding). I keep waiting to hear about the black prime minister of Great Britain, and how he (or maybe it’ll be a she) was such a disaster – but since Great Britain hasn’t had a black prime minister, perhaps our doughty anonymous Brit doesn’t know what he’s babbling about.

This is how we joined the invertebrates.

Self-shaming, the clever maneuver of the terminally shameful.

Now we are facing Islam, though not many know that what is happening today is just another battle in a very old war.

From the 16th to the 18th centuries upwards of two million Europeans were captured and sold as slaves in Tunis, Algiers and Tripoli. These weren’t people who were taken at sea but from their beds, in the dark of night in coastal towns and villages in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, up into Wales and along the west coast of Ireland, as well as throughout the Mediterranean. Why who would do such a thing, you may ask—the Barbary Pirates, of course—Muslims.

More sober estimates are of “… 1 million to 1.25 million white Christian Europeans were enslaved in North Africa …” [Wikipedia quoting Professor Robert Davis of Ohio State University], which is still a substantial number.

More importantly, this is a red flag – because I’ve noticed someone spreading bullshit apparently has to inflate every possible number that might support their position. So you go and check on something and you see it did, in fact, happen – but not at the asserted scale. That tells me something about the writer – that there’s rot at the core of their argument, and they’re desperate to cover it up by stirring the hate lying dormant at the heart of all our souls.

And finally, wars are fought between cohesive entities. The Barbary Pirates have been gone for a very long time. And if someone wants to try to point out that slavery is a characteristic of Islam, one can find approving references to slavery in the Bible.

This carried on for two hundred years with only sporadic and half-hearted interruption. England talked a good game and now and then ransomed a lord or two out of slavery, but what’s a few missing Cornish fisherman, their wives and children here and there? It wasn’t until American ships began to be attacked and raided for goods and slaves that investors studied the situation and concluded, “You know, this could be bad for business,” and went to war.

Ummmmmm … no. Investors existed in Great Britain as well as America, and generally investors don’t like to fight wars. As it happens a coalition of European countries, in concert with the United States, resulting in a couple of small wars, followed by raids, culminating in France placing Algiers under colonial rule. Doubt it? Go do the research. Don’t rely on this bilious bozo OR me.

First though, in the interest of fair play, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams made the perilous journey across the Atlantic to London for a sit-down with Sidi Haji Abdrahaman, the envoy from Tripoli. When asked what right the Barbary pirates had to force Americans into slavery, Jefferson recorded the ambassador’s answer in two letters and his personal diary:

“He replied that the right was founded on the Laws of the Prophet, that it was written in their Koran that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise”.

So, not a lot’s changed then.

Such is one of the problems with most religions – an adherence to inhumane laws. Even when they are discarded, there is always the threat of returning to them, as we often see in the extremist cults who believe we should be stoning witches, because the sheer fluidity of religious activity, underpinned by the shallow philosophy that The Book will tell us how to behave, is open to constant and miserable manipulation. However, once one has committed to living a life based on principles, there’s a better chance of making progress with less chance of regression, although there’s always a different variety of mistake that may be made.

In any case, the dryly cynical observation that little has changed applies to far more than the writer might wish us to think.

In an Anglo-Dutch-American alliance three campaigns of The Barbary Wars were fought and the Muslims were at last subdued and colonised. Client kings and strong men were installed and until the present day Muslims have remained a benign tumour on civilised society.

Note how the above paragraph has little confirmation with the prior paragraph which gave investors the credit for the war? And yet, for all that, the writer must inflict an epithet on a huge number of people who want no more than to live their lives.

It was a stunning victory and Francis Scott Key composed a song to mark the occasion. The original verses included:

And pale beamed the Crescent, its splendor obscur’d
By the light of the star-bangled flag of our nation.
Where each flaming star gleamed a meteor of war,
And the turban’d head bowed to the terrible glare.

It wasn’t a huge hit at the time though after the War of 1812 he dusted it off, rewrote some of the more laboured lines and it eventually became the American National Anthem.

Were you taught all this in school? No? Nor I. Why is it that where our history intersects with Islam it always seems to either vanish like morning mist or become corrupted into making the Christian world into the bad guys and aggressors?

Because it was a long time ago, and far, far away. Much further away than today because, back then, it was sailing ships and couriers, not telegraphs and biplanes, or the Internet. Not to mention the barbarism often accompanying colonialism is not attractive to the home population, so there’s certainly no effort to promote the history.

This brings us to the current mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the platitude-puss Pakistani with links to Hamas, Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. When he’s not scurrying along the baseboards he’s raring up on his two hind legs and sporting the most punchable, weapons-grade constipation face this side of the Atlantic. It doesn’t take an adept in Texas Hold’em to ascertain that Khan’s tell is one of a man who is eternally biting back what he really wants to say.

Nothing like a little blatant ad hominem to rile up those hormones, is there? Meanwhile, I did a little research and noticed that all the web sites preaching Mayor Khan is a terrorist are right wing sights. Mainstream and left wing sites ignored the entire subject, with the exceptions of The Guardian in this article, which surveys the various claims, investigates a few, and finds little to nothing to them, and Snopes.com, which fact-checked certain claims and found them to be false.

Within an hour of the latest cultural enrichment, Khan is on hand with fair-minded and reassuring statements like, Terrorism is part-and-parcel of living in a big city or London is one of the safest cities in the world. Meanwhile, the poisonous flood of piety and bloodlust threatens to drown us all.

What people in Britain are gradually coming to grips with is that Islam teaches that this life on earth is merely a stepping-stone to Paradise and that Muslims must stop at nothing to attain it. To paraphrase Kyle Reese, they can’t be bargained with, they can’t be reasoned with, they don’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear and they absolutely will not stop, ever, until all non-Muslims are dead or enslaved.

Is that right? In the past they’ve actually recognized the right of other religious groups to retain their religious identities, while demanding a tax to be paid in return for this privilege. Now, this was a while ago, and it certainly appears ISIS isn’t giving lip service to that old custom, but it serves to puncture this attempt to stir up the fear so useful in manipulating you, the reader.

For politicians, though, hope springs eternal; just fire the old PR firm and hire a new one. Hence, the RUN•HIDE•TELL campaign is off to a rocketing start. Of course, scruffy young tearaways were quick to deface the posters by substituting the last word to read RUN•HIDE•SUBMIT but the kings of PR, the Americans, have gone us one better with DRAW•AIM•SHOOT as the only viable response. We respect this, of course, because we love your guns.

In other news, on 28 May 2017, police sent a helicopter and combat-ready police to confiscate a karaoke machine from a backyard BBQ because the hosts played a song mocking Osama bin Laden. Bear in mind this was four days after bomb and bloodshed at a concert attended by teenaged girls in Manchester Arena. Several days after the karaoke caper, the horrific massacre on London Bridge took place. Clearly, prioritising threats could do with some work.

Our current PM, Barren Cat Lady, famously stated upon her election, “Brexit means Brexit.” We’re still waiting. After the London Bridge Massacre she said, “Enough is Enough.” At this rate she’ll probably say,”Potatoes are Potatoes,” next and the media will still stand up and applaud it.

But now I am just lobbing outrage darts at the page so I’ll wind this up.

Governments which no longer guarantee the security of their citizens are worthless, and those that disallow the right to defend oneself are worse than negligent, they are clearly dangerous to support in any way. People here are beginning to get this, but I still feel it’s too late to prevent the rivers of blood alluded to by the brilliant Enoch Powell, king of ‘racialists,’ true patriot and martyr.

As I write this it’s less than seventy-two hours till we march once more unto the polls to vote in an election that probably won’t make a bit of difference except to take our Brexit away for good. And yet it could also upset the entire apple cart as well. Such are the times we live in.

My American friends, you are surely aware that you don’t have to own a gun to fight like hell to retain your right to bear arms, as well as the freedom to play anything you damn well please on your karaoke machines. Preserve those rights, defend them, they are more precious than you know. Never sell them. Never soften.

They say a falling knife has no handle and yet our British politicians keep snatching it in mid-air, then expressing astonishment and dismay at the cuts on their hands.

Based upon past experience they’ll just carry on trying to catch it while the rest of us bleed to death

And so our call to another Crusade comes to an end. It’s really a bit exhausting, isn’t it? The fear. The hate. The manipulation.

Is there danger? Of course. Extremists are always with us, sad to say, but now their firepower is more than a dagger, a sword, or even a trebuchet. And that’s the real danger, on either side of any ocean you want to name. They blow up car bombs in Iraq, and blow up government buildings in Oklahoma City. They use cars to kill people on bridges, and they use rifles to kill doctors in churches. The firepower is frightening. Now you don’t have to raise an army to impose your extremist position. You just buy some weaponry.

But they are extremists. They may come into power, occasionally, through ruthlessness and dishonorable means, whether it’s the knife in the back, or incessant lies – the rungs on the ladder to power are often different. But the extremists are the same. Power, power, power.

And so it is with this writer. British? Maybe. Misrepresenting facts? It’s our usual mishmash, isn’t it? All to serve an agenda not worth a moment of our time. Who taught us to hate? Who taught us to love? It’s worth thinking about it. And with a little research, we know where this dim bulb comes out.

This Is No Time To Be Chewing On Our Innards

Elsa Kania on Lawfare notes the world is changing, and old wisdom about China may need to be discarded:

It is clearly a mistake to underestimate China’s competitiveness in this space based on the problematic, even dangerous assumption that China “can’t” innovate and only relies upon mimicry and intellectual property theft. That is an outdated idea contradicted by overwhelming evidence. It is true that China has pursued large-scale industrial espionage, enabled through cyber and human means, and will likely continue to take advantage of technology transfers, overseas investments, and acquisitions targeting cutting-edge strategic technologies. However, it is undeniable that China’s capability to pursue independent innovation has increased considerably. This is aptly demonstrated by China’s cutting-edge advances in emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, and quantum information science.

I’d add that the vast majority of the Chinese population can be below average in creativity, and it doesn’t matter. Remember, computers are multipliers; if the right team of Chinese researchers is brought together by, say, the People’s Liberation Army, their work can be spread quickly through the replication automatically associated with computers.

And Elsa’s article is vastly unsettling. Consider this:

Indeed, China aspires to lead the world in artificial intelligence. Under the Thirteenth Five-Year Plan, China has launched a new artificial intelligence megaproject. “Artificial Intelligence 2.0” will advance an ambitious, multibillion-dollar national agenda to achieve predominance in this critical technological domain, including through extensive funding for basic and applied research and development with commercial and military applications. In addition, China has established a national deep learning laboratory under Baidu’s leadership, which will pursue research including deep learning, computer vision and sensing, computer-listening, biometric identification, and new forms of human-computer interaction.

And now consider who’s in charge in Washington – a bumbling, weak fool in the White House, an ideologically driven Islamophobe (or two) as his advisor, and Congress controlled by such power-hungry folks that they’ve shattered the political norms which have kept this nation going for 200+ years, and appear certain that however they stumble and screw around, all will be well because they think of themselves as the chosen ones.

U.S.S. Oklahoma, capsized after the Pearl Harbor Attack.
Source: PBS.org

Meanwhile, China has its own problems, but its government / governing Party is a forward looking group fixated on technological advancement in service to their own national mythos of superiority – and a determination to prove it in the future. Indeed, their pursuit of technological innovation as a pathway to world domination has some unpleasant reminders in my understanding of the run up to World War II, wherein the Japanese worked hard on developing naval air power, while the American and British navies disregarded the potentialities of naval air power in favor of the old standbys of the great battleships. This failure to look into the future nearly cost both nations their futures.

I do not think the War Department Department of Defense has that problem – but I think the GOP has lost its focus on the outside world. I do not think they perceive other nations accurately, and I think their flawed understanding of governance is leading them to believe they can fund the US government on the cheap without regard to the expenses of defending the nation against future threats on future battlefields. They do call for greater spending on war materiel (but not diplomacy, which is another indicator of their foolishness), not because of forward thinking or innovative new approaches, but because building a new aircraft carrier group brings a lot of cash to Congressional districts. Do we really need so many aircraft carriers today?

Or someday will they constitute the new & disastrous Battleship Row of Pearl Harbor?

These incompetencies could be covered up so long as the Democrats held the Presidency and had qualified people to fill it, but with the rejection of Clinton in favor of Trump, we’re left with a leadership of extraordinarily dubious quality.

And an external challenge our leadership may have trouble recognizing, much less meeting.

Bated Breath For Tomorrow, Ctd

It appears the GOP fall in satisfaction was not enough to boost the Democrats in the special elections in Georgia and South Carolina, as CNN is reporting the GOP has retained the Georgia and South Carolina seats, although neither by convincing margins:

Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff in a high-stakes special election for a Georgia House seat on Tuesday, denying Democrats their first major victory of the Donald Trump era.

Handel led Ossoff by 4.8 percentage points with more than three-fourths of the 6th District’s precincts having reported their results at 10 p.m. ET, in the most expensive House race in US history.

The South Carolina seat is somewhat closer. Just for fun, let’s update the line graphs:

Data Source: Ballotpedia and CNN

Data Source: Ballotpedia and CNN

(Yeah, I need a better charting tool.) As we can see, the Democrats made significant gains, echoing the dissatisfaction we saw in the Gallup poll cited here. The GOP may have technically won, but it appears the wave of reaction to the buffoonery in the national GOP is having a real impact.

In fact, the winners of these two races may be sighing with relief that they did not have to vote for the AHCA. But what will happen if the Senate follows through with their own bill and the House has to vote for the new bill? Are these winners going to run screaming from the room – or will they embrace this opportunity to show their loyalty to Party over constituents?

And the Democrats must regroup and try to understand how they’ve failed in Montana, Kansas, Georgia, and South Carolina. All are Republican strongholds, but it’s worth asking the question – was the candidate in each case up to the task? Or were they quixotic candidates selected by fragmented, limping locals who didn’t realize the seat might be available to a strong candidate with a record of local governance? Or have they failed to cultivate and train such people? While there’s certainly an attraction to finding that candidate with no experience but lots of face recognition, generally the best candidates are folks who’ve served on councils and in state houses, as they can demonstrate their competency in running these sorts of things – and, if they are prone to corruption, you can maybe catch them at it before they make it to the national level. Not that this always works, but it’s an approach with some likelihood of success, no?

The final word? The Democrats make strides in key strongholds, but don’t break through the barrier. Keep working at the local level, as state houses are almost as important as Congress.

We’ll reform the GOP back to acceptability only by beating them at the polls.

Belated Movie Reviews

Uh, line, please.

After Midnight with Boston Blackie (1943) features the usual cast of recurring characters and actors, engaged in verbal and physical pratfalls, all while looking for the diamonds stolen – I think – by a man just released from jail. Wracked by a terminal cough, he determines to get them to his now-grown daughter; in his way are some determined criminals who have an ill-defined link to him.

For all that he’s dying, a gun in his face is sufficient to get him to cough up the location of the diamonds; he is swiftly terminated thereafter. From then on it’s a race to figure out where they’re located, how they disappeared (never revealed in this TV version), and just why the hell is The Runt marrying a woman at least 6 inches taller than himself – and what does she see in him? While this is a subplot without merit, at least the presence of World War II and the resultant blackouts actually plays a useful part.

As is usual with these recurring series, the tension isn’t in the mystery and its resolution, but in the interactions of the characters, and this script, I fear, could have benefited from another rewrite or two.

1984, Istanbul

Nineteen Eighty-Four and Turkey have a certain affinity to each other as Turkey slides into the grasp of governmental madness. The artist Asli Cavusoglu, in the context of an exhibition in Istanbul named “Doublethink: Double Vision“, has an interesting comment as well as a work, as noted in AL Monitor by Nazlan Ertan:

One Article From
Cavusoglu’s Newspaper

For Cavusoglu, the silver lining of “1984” is the possibility of an erring totalitarian regime. Describing her recent work, which opened simultaneously with the Biennale in Venice, she told Al-Monitor that the Turkish regime’s “moment of error” came during last year’s attempted military coup. “What we saw in the July 15 attempted coup was the realization that Turkey’s institutions had become an empty shell,” she told Al-Monitor.

Her recent project in Venice wanted to outline uncertainty, unpredictability and polarization. The project, called “Future Tense,” is a newspaper where the day’s news is interpreted by fortunetellers, astrologers and clairvoyants. “Parallel to the increasing censorship and move away from being a state of law, a number of fortunetellers and astrologers emerged. Astrologers and clairvoyants were getting invited to newscasts, warning us about bombs by looking at the angles of the stars in the skies, providing us with a date for a rebellion depending on the position of Mars. The way they play with the language helps them avoid any censorship. I found 50 soothsayers of different political orientation and ethnicity and asked them what they thought would happen. They replied in their own way — and a very pluralistic paper [which Cavusoglu distributed in Venice] was published,” she said.

“The different clairvoyants have found a way to escape censorship in a totalitarian regime. I aim to show both with my made-up newspaper and with my work in the Pera Exhibition that censorship creates a new language,” Cavusoglu said, echoing Pepperstein’s statement that doublethink is just a beginning, in art as in politics.

Her work, which I did not read thoroughly, has a certain taste of Nostradamus to it. Take that as you will.

And What Would This Break?

Famed author Margaret Atwood has written an opinion for The Guardian:

But now I have been asked the following question: if given the chance, what institution would I myself reform? To which I reply: what institutions do we have that are both in need of reformation and powerful enough to be worth the trouble? And the risk, as once you start reforming, heads may roll. Many candidates spring to mind: international banks, the oil business, big pharma, and so on.

But of them I know little.

So I would choose to reform plastics. Are plastics an institution? Not in the sense of having a pope, or even a small cabal of leaders. But they are surely the modern equivalent of a universal religion. We worship them, whether we admit it or not. Their centre is whatever you happen to be doing, their circumference is everywhere; they’re as essential to our modern lives as the air we breathe, and they’re killing us. They must be stopped.

So long as crude oil prices are low, this will have a hard time happening, although not all plastics derive from petrochemicals. But if those prices get boosted, then so will be the price of plastic.

And there’s a whole industry waiting to spring into existence if it does, because of all the artifacts plastic has enabled; not just made cheaper, but really permitted to exist at all. In order to keep them around, we’ll need replacements.

Of course, that brings up the topic of whether or not we should want to keep them around. Our Western world is positively fraught with things, isn’t it? Perhaps we’d have more time to think if we had less things to do with. But that might have some negative impacts on our economic model of constant growth. A bit of a sticky wicket in a nation of continually growing population… so perhaps we need that replacement industry after all.

Bated Breath For Tomorrow, Ctd

Today is the special election day in Georgia and South Carolina. I ran across this fascinating poll from Gallup yesterday:

I was speculating last night that the Republican leadership has apparently strongly bought into wagon before the horse syndrome – that is, because of who they are, anything they do is right, and therefore they can do anything. This is a pothole that many religious sects can fall into, and at this point the GOP is acting a lot like a religious sect.

But apparently the balance of the party is beginning to have some doubt about our direction, that is, that we’re being directed by a driveling (yep: driveling) lying madman, and a bunch of henchmen in Congress – not that they entirely trust him, as this analysis of a recent bill indicates. But the AHCA, the secret Senate of same, all to Trump’s cheerleading – it’s all of the same poisoned well. But the typical GOP voter does watch, does evaluate – and is beginning to to realize that our deviations from political norms over the last year, no matter how much they benefit the GOP, have endangered the country. Perhaps they are not so sanguine concerning the Russians as the President.

Given Trump’s close association with Handel in Georgia, today’s elections should be a barometer of how much this disappointment – a 17 point drop in a month, and a 3 point drop among independents as well – will have real world impact, even if the two Democrat challengers are relative unknowns.

Word Of The Day

fulsome:

  1.  a :  characterized by abundance :  copious
    describes in fulsome detail — G. N. Shuster
    fulsome bird life. The feeder overcrowded — Maxine Kumin
    b :  generous in amount, extent, or spirit
    the passengers were fulsome in praise of the plane’s crew — Don Oliver
    a fulsome victory for the far left — Bruce Rothwell
    the greetings have been fulsome, the farewells tender — Simon Gray
    c :  being full and well developed
    she was in generally fulsome, limpid voice — Thor Eckert, Jr.
  2. :  aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive
    fulsome lies and nauseous flattery — William Congreve
    the devil take thee for a … fulsome rogue — George Villiers
  3. :  exceeding the bounds of good taste :  overdone
    the fulsome chromium glitter of the escalators dominating the central hall — Lewis Mumford
  4. :  excessively complimentary or flattering :  effusive
    an admiration whose extent I did not express, lest I be thought fulsome — A. J. Liebling

[Merriam-Webster]

An interesting word. Noted in “The Senate GOP’s plan to repeal Obamacare: don’t let anyone see their bill,” Dylan Scott, Vox:

“This has really been a committee of the whole. This really has provided very fulsome and genuine input from every Republican senator,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told reporters last month when asked about the plan’s development in private. “There’s certain things you have to do, before you open it up to the public. … This to me has been an open process. I don’t know how else you would have done it.”

Senator Johnson may refer to definition 1, but I fear definition 2 may be more accurate.

Pointing Fingers Are Not Always Trustworthy

Architect Lloyd Alter on Treehugger.com presents a short analysis of the disastrous Grenfell apartment high rise disaster in London in reaction to a Daily Mail article proclaiming it to be the result of a preoccupation with green building materials. His conclusion:

In this case, the fire came from the outside. Note how on the original drawing [omitted – HW] submitted to planning, the cladding is zinc. Somewhere along the line it was changed to Reynobond PE, a sandwich of thin aluminum with polyethylene in between. This is similar to Alucobond, and both are very common cladding materials. I have used them myself in the last building I designed as an architect. It acts as a rain screen; there is then a two inch cavity and attached to the building, six inches of Celotex RS5000 polyisocyanurate rigid insulation.

The problem is that the originally specified zinc is totally non-combustible, whereas the Reynobond is not. We do not know why the change was made, but it is obviously, in retrospect, significant. According to The Construction Index, alternatives were available. “Reynobond PE is not as fire retardant as the alternative Reynobond FR, which has a mineral core, but it is lighter and so easier to install.”

What appears to have happened is that the Reynobond’s polyethylene core caught fire and the stack effect in the two inch gap made it spread almost instantly. Apparently it got hot enough that the supposedly flame-retardant polyiso charred as well, putting out tons of smoke, possibly contributing cyanide and other toxic gases. The vinyl framed windows also melted, letting the toxic fumes into the suites very quickly.

And this was interesting, too:

Literally for decades I have complained about the North American way of designing apartment buildings, with two big pressurized stairs and a corridor in between, all designed to be big enough to evacuate the building in minutes. The Europeans had so much more design flexibility with their single stairs and units opening up onto landings.

But in retrospect the North American approach of Get out fast and get out now appears to be a whole lot better than the European one of Stay put and we will rescue you. As an architect, reading the story about the young Italian couple calling home while they wait to die was like a stab through the heart. I will never complain about the two exit requirement again.

He also notes that there are already some folks who want to use this tragedy to condemn wood buildings. Modern wood construction using cross-laminated timber doesn’t burn like this, but instead chars and takes literally hours to catch fire – not moments, as happened in London. I gotta hope that a careful, sober analysis takes place and takes precedence, rather than permitting commercial interests to use this to trash an up & coming competitor, using the political world’s “post-factual, post-policy” faux-approach to conducting business.

That’s Bad On Its Face

And so maybe that’s why he’s not running again. Wisconsin, which elects its Supreme Court justices, will have an open seat in 2018, as Justice Gableman has declined to seek a second term. A “reliable conservative,” the Journal Sentinel has an unsettling report on Gableman’s climb to power:

As a Burnett County circuit judge, Gableman in 2008 unseated Justice Louis Butler, becoming the first candidate to defeat a sitting justice in more than four decades.

Almost immediately, he faced charges from the state’s Judicial Commission, which concluded he had lied in a campaign ad that described a case Butler handled as a public defender. The state Supreme Court split 3-3 in 2010 on whether Gableman had violated ethical rules for judges with the ad.

The matter spurred more controversy when the law firm Michael Best & Friedrich revealed it had not required Gableman to pay for the firm’s legal defense of him in the ethics case.

Gableman went on to hear cases involving the firm without disclosing his financial arrangement with it. He ruled in favor of the firm’s clients at least five times, according to a review of cases the Journal Sentinel performed in 2011.

Quid pro quo? It sure feels like it. And it’s incumbent on the judiciary to be the disinterested third party, not tangled up in politics or commercial interests – or even have the appearance of same. I’d say Gableman failed that requirement; and perhaps, looking at the mood of the electorate, he’s decided not to waste the time and energy of a failing campaign, especially as the Democrats already have two energetic candidates signed up for the battle, ready to use his own actions against him.

All speculation on my part.

We May Have To Visit Rome In A Few Years

Because of this report in Archaeology (July/August 2017):

“The barracks were abandoned and completely forgotten in the third century A.D., when the Aurelian Walls were built to protect Rome against attacks,” says Rea. Now, after more than 1,700 years spent in oblivion, the garrison is poised to return to its original hustle and bustle—but not without precautions being taken. Project architect Paolo Desideri says, “The new line requires us to excavate to a depth of 130 feet, so the entire ancient Roman site will be moved and stored safely. Later, the barracks will be replaced at their original depth.” Passengers catching a train will be able to see the barracks through a large glass window. Desideri explains that the Aurelian Walls will also be exposed, so commuters can have the same view that people had in antiquity.

I do realize this has been done before, but it just sounds so interesting.

Limited Interest Data Sets

In American Conservative, Rod Dreher has a Hallelujah! moment upon the discovery he may have been right all along about sexual orientation:

Wait, so you mean not everybody is “born this way”? You mean that it’s not simply nature, but also nurture? I’m so confused.

Actually I’m not confused at all. The “truth” in this matter has always been “what works to advance the cause.”

But for those who want to grapple honestly with this issue, these data from Patrick Egan show pretty clearly that the nurturing that culture provides does make a big difference.  Therefore, for communities who wish for their children to remain heterosexual, to form heterosexual marital unions, traditional families, etc., neutrality on the matter of sexuality will result in five to eight times as many people claiming homosexuality or bisexuality as would have otherwise been the case. (There have also been skyrocketing numbers of people claiming to be transgender.)

Andrew Sullivan is appalled:

But the obvious explanation for these numbers is a simple one: it is that millennials simply have much less shame about sexual orientation than older generations. Growing up in a world of legal marriage equality, that should not be surprising. Gallup suggests as much: “It’s likely that millennials are the first generation in the U.S. to grow up in an environment where social acceptance of the LGBT community markedly increased. This may be an important factor in explaining their greater willingness to identify as LGBT.” It may also, in some way, be “cool” to identify as bi in your teens or in college in a way it wasn’t before. It doesn’t tell us anything meaningful about much else — and certainly not whether they will have a gay relationship in the future.

For me, this affirms the observation that a value of a dataset is inversely proportional to the number of ways it can be interpreted. We see two here, as Rod tries to spin it to his position that heterosexuality is the only true way, but our fallen society (nurture) is corrupting us. He is making the mistake that believing all the data is true. In the absence of an admission by the surveyors that they truth drugs on respondents, we know that’s a risky assumption. Furthermore, as I’ll elaborate on later, he assumes all the biases and factors of the data are constant over time.

Andrew sees this graph as a measurement of a societal fear, reasoning that earlier generations in which admitted homosexuals (and therefore bisexuals) were excluded from traditional society would have lower rates of such admissions. This position also has some problems, as this is obviously a snap survey and not a survey over time, by which I mean all questions and responses were collected within a few weeks to perhaps a year; in that time gap, there would not be a meaningful shift in societal norms. Therefore, the 90 year olds are operating in today’s society, not that of 70 years ago, and thus not biased by obsolete societal norms. This critique may itself be critiqued by observing that the very presence of those societal norms of 70 years ago will distort today’s data as some “true bisexuals” will have buried that attribute of their personality and answer as heterosexuals. Again, the shame they learned 70 years ago may inhibit the answers of those 70-90 year olds who know they are bisexual – even in an anonymous survey.

I’ll raise a question of my own: what is the life expectancy of a bisexual, and has it varied over the years? I strongly suspect the answer is Yes, relative to the general population it has been negatively biased but the bias has been generally reduced as years have advanced. In fact, thinking about it, the HIV epidemic impacted the bisexual community – and therefore life expectancy of key respondents. This leaves Rod high and dry, since the population bias brought on by premature deaths will bias the responses in this survey, irrespective of societally-induced answer bias. So we can interpret this dataset to reflect the premature death biases introduced by both deadly plague and now-obsolete traditional societal norms for the bisexual community. Once again, the value of this dataset is reduced because of what appears to be valid but clashing interpretations. Unless there’s more information available about the survey and how it corrected for various factors, well, this dataset is rapidly becoming worthless.

Isn’t statistical data analysis just bloody fun?

And here’s the oddest thing: I think Rod is really just riding a hobby horse into the ground. I’ll dispense with the normal lampooning and hyperbole, and simply tell my reader that, living in Minnesota most of my life, I was witness to the struggle over Minnesota Amendment 1 of 2012, the amendment to ban gay marriage. According to Wikipedia, while polls were volatile, generally the pro forces began on the high side but fought a losing battle, and the Amendment was defeated, 51.19% to 47.44%. The shift in public opinion, that movement from the blind acceptance of a dubious interpretation of a book written more than a millenia ago (and then assembled by a group of men, picking parts and rejecting others), to actually thinking about justice, just behavior, and when being inclusive is good or bad, was truly one of the more inspirational periods in Minnesota history. I only regret the margin of defeat wasn’t much greater.

Just as the relegation of women to a small number of roles within society ultimately impairs society by eliminating their genius from the inputs which make society, the suppression of other citizens because of behavior & attributes of no negative consequence also impairs society. I think we’ve made good, positive strides forward not just by defeating the Amendment, but by having that public discussion, and exhibiting the societal plasticity to recognize this old prejudice for what it was – a prejudice.

A Fascinating Turn, Ctd

Recently I mentioned a large gathering of humpback whales. Tony Wu has produced a fascinating pictorial of another party with sperm whales on bioGraphic:

Hundreds of sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) swam to and fro, their huge bodies elegantly twirling and twisting through the water as they socialized. Bumping, jostling, and rubbing themselves against one another, they were exuberantly tactile, their behavior appeared almost euphoric. I felt like a gatecrasher at a wedding, so obvious was their delight in each other’s company.

As my eyes took in this secret spectacle, my ears were assaulted by a cacophony of excited whale chatter. Creaking and crackling, clicks, buzzes, and pops permeated the water as the whales pinged one another with sound. Pulsating rhythms pregnant with meaning penetrated my body. I “felt” the connection between the congregated cetaceans as powerfully as I heard it.

Moving together in groups several dozen strong, the whales occasionally descended to deeper water, but largely stayed near the surface, giving me a privileged view.

More of these absolutely fascinating pictures are available at the link, above.

When Political Culture Coarsens, Ctd

In line with this thread, candidate Karen Handle (R) in the special election for the Georgia 6th district Congressional seat has reported receiving threatening letters, as reported by the Washington Examiner:

Republican Karen Handel said on Thursday law enforcement are investigating the delivery of threatening letters and a suspicious substance to her home in suburban Atlanta and those of some of her neighbors. …

“This afternoon we had some suspicious packages delivered to our house and to our neighbors. The packages contained threatening letters and a suspicious substance. The police were quickly notified and street is now being blocked off. We will continue to coordinate with law enforcement as necessary,” Handel said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

I certainly hope Ms Handel remains in the race, regardless of her politics. Letting haters of any stripe triumph is a loss for our nation.

Whimsical Clubs

Steve Benen on Maddowblog discusses the recent announcement that President Trump is now the subject of an FBI investment and triggers a disrespectful thought in my mind:

In fact, going into this year, only two American presidents have ever been the subject of federal criminal inquiries — Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton — and both ran into trouble in their second terms.

This small club, however, now has a new member, with Donald Trump facing his own criminal investigation. Time will tell what becomes of the ongoing federal probe, but MSNBC’s Ari Melber raised an interesting numerical point yesterday: when Nixon first faced a criminal inquiry into his misconduct in office, he’d been president for 1,580 days. For Clinton, it was 1,835 days.

For Trump, it was 145 days.

So do you think Bill sent Donald a congratulatory telegram on his admission to the club? Maybe he even has a pin Trump can wear on his lapel?

Why The Progressives Seem Destined To Be Stuck In Their Ghetto

Being an engineer, and thus burdened with this irrational urge towards excessive precision, I should preface this screed with the statement that my main exposure to progressives is The Daily Kos Spam mail, so perhaps it’s atypical. But, well, consider this representative paragraph:

While this is the common thought process of the red-faced American bunker dweller, it is not normal logic for any supposedly functioning member of society. The man remains paranoid and only barely hinged, and we cannot suppose his behavior will improve as the pressures of the office continue to rapidly mount. He might indeed fire the special counsel; he might institute a brand new war just to bask in the praise of his generals. There are no limits, and no external Republican forces willing to rein the lunatic in if he were to do any of those lunatic things.

It’s insulting – not only to Trump, which I don’t mind, but also to their fellow Americans. It’s callow, condescending, pretentious, and fairly much designed to ensure their agenda, their plan for America, is viewed with distaste, even outright loathing, by anyone not in their little tribe.

You worry about our future robot overlords? Given the attitude of the progressives, I’d say the conservative’s worry about future Progressive overlords is nothing to dismiss. There is a certain know-it-all attitude that was brought to a sharp point by my recent post concerning Professor Steinberg’s desire to teach ethics and wisdom, because they strike me as smart people – but not necessarily wise people.

I do read selected articles from The Daily Kos Spam, not because I agree or disagree with their opinions, but mainly for topics that might interest me. Rarely are they worth quoting; I’m actually more likely to wash myself afterwards. And these are folks for whom I could sympathize – because their arguments, stripped of their withering condescension, often make good sense.

On a related note, I’ve been meditating on this article by Nick Hanauer in Business Insider for about a month now. Note this guy’s attitude right from the get-go:

From the fear-mongering headlines marking passage of $15 statutes in New York and California, you would think nobody ever dared raise the minimum wage before.

“Raising minimum wage risky,” the Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader tersely warned.

“Raising minimum wage hurts low-skill workers,” the Detroit News bluntly declared.

“Even left-leaning economists say it’s a gamble,” Vox solemnly cautioned.

Nonsense. We have been raising the minimum wage for 78 years, and as a new study clearly reveals, 78 years of minimum-wage hikes have produced zero evidence of the “job-killing” consequences these headline writers want us to fear.

In a first-of-its-kind report, researchers at the National Employment Law Project pore over employment data…

I don’t know the precise political position of Hanauer – so I shan’t lump him in with the callow progressives. But he’s definitely out to score political points on our conservative siblings and up the resentment quotient, not to win an argument. Why do I say that? I mean, we can always say that by winning, we mean we’ve vanquished the enemy, driven him from his lands, burned his crops, and raped his women and children. Right?

But we’re not having an argument with an evil enemy, we’re having this argument with our fellow citizens. These are our fellow taxpayers, the folks who grow the food we eat, drive the trucks, invent new medications, doctor our wounds, and run our clothing stores. They’re not our fucking enemies.

And, having read Libertarian rags for 30 years, I know somewhat how the argument runs – this isn’t just some vague theological gesturing, the economic case is built on reasoning concerning how businesses, faced with higher labor costs, will reallocate resources and classify tasks. Some tasks will be moved from the maybe necessary category to the unnecessary category, and management will work to drive productivity even higher, and thus jobs will be lost.

It’s an understandable argument, even for non-economists like me. I’ll bet it makes a lot of sense to businessmen, especially those who think that being a businessman makes them an economics expert.

So when Hanauer uses this new study, a “first-of-its-kind report,” as a war club to beat up a position with which he disagrees, I’ll tell you I very deliberately picked war club as a metaphor. There will be no quarter in the war Hanauer wants to fight.

And that’s the problem – going to war with the other side. Losers in America are rarely appreciative of being losers. They brim with resentment, with grudges, with a sullen, hidden vengeful attitude.

Worse yet, today we have a GOP that should be incandescent with pride over controlling the government – but is instead showing itself to be incompetent in all but one respect – getting itself elected. It can’t govern, it can’t formulate a governing philosophy, write competent bills, or damn near anything else (did they win the Congressional baseball game?). The Party faithful are having their faces rubbed in their leaders’ absolute failures.

And then having some dolt call their economic reasoning idiotic to their faces?

Resentment will just reign supreme. We’ve had to deal with that since at least the Civil War. It’s not been pretty.

Let me be clear: I am separating the message from the messenger. If the conclusions of the study are confirmed, which is another point which bears noting, then I think that’s fascinating. But this sort of finding shouldn’t be used to call someone else an idiot. It’s unproductive. We’re all in this together, folks, and we should be working together on understanding how economics works. It’s not enough to say that the guys with degrees are working on it, because this is a science that impacts all of us. And, as we should all know, the GOP is currently not even paying attention to experts – only to ideology. Therefore, new knowledge like this should be integrated with the common (and academic) understanding of economics, that understanding that many folks share concerning the dismal science, and shown how it overrides or swamps the reasoning I mentioned above.

It’s commonly understood that getting knifed in the back leads to hurt feelings, but getting knifed in the front generally also leads to hurt feelings. Delivering a superior argument requires neither, though – just a mature messenger.