Saturday, December 22, 2012

On Smart Division of Labour in a Propaganda Enterprise

 Here is an email I wrote to a historian friend in February 2012 concerning the current (back then) "last nail in the coffin of the AGW Hoax"

I've never seen a time when so many normal seeming people readily swallow so much totally unjustified and worthless nonsense.  My mother showed me a letter to the editor of her newspaper which started out characterizing Obama as a Marxist ex-street hustler and was telling me it had some good points, and not blinking at the crazy characterization.

I had one insight the other day when my wife passed me an article which seemed to say that a credible climatologist had shown there was no increase in carbon dioxide in the last 150 years.  Ever heard of this? At the time, it was hard to miss in popular "conservative" blogs, where the followup discussions were full of language like "final nail in the coffin of climategate".

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Where to Begin (a "Truth Project" worthy of the name)? (#5)

Over the years, my thinking on why I should bother have developed and gotten clearer.

Theoretically,  with the Internet, we have immediate access to almost infinitely more "information" than was at our fingertips even 30 years ago.  But most people will probably agree that "most people" (but a different "most people" from themselves) are systematically mislead by information sources they trust.

Where to Begin (a "Truth Project" worthy of the name)? (#4)

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.
Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning (1605), Book I, v, 8. [Link on the right is to a free Kindle version - help yourself]

Over the years, my thinking on why I should bother have developed and gotten clearer.  Like most pithy sayings, Francis Bacon's overstates the case.  Still, I like it.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Where to Begin? #3

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power."
--Thomas Jefferson to W. Jarvis, 1820.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where to Begin? #2

The vast majority of people would prefer a simple comfortable life.  Why are so many diverted into some radically different, destructive and self-destructive path?

Where to begin?

It is December 3, 11 years after "9/11".  What is the world like today?  There are so many contradictory opinions.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Right Wing Dad - Great Resource, but ...

I took a look at the latest on, namely (it may not be the "latest" by the time you read this).

This blog does a great service simply by bringing to light a lot of the misinformation that gets circulated in anonymous emails, which urge the reader, if a "true American" to forward it to as many other upstanding Americans as possible.  The fact that citizen X receives this email from Aunt Sally, clearly seems to weaken the skepticism you'd normally have about anonymous claims coming out of nowhere.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sic Semper Tyrannis

I've been mulling over how these words are floating around on the web.  It is Latin for "Thus always to tyrants" or something to that affect.  Since it is most famous for having been shouted by John Wilkes Booth as he killed Abraham Lincoln, and supposed (by some) to have been said by one or more of Caesar's assassins, the implication is that tyrants always are, or should be, killed.

Why this phrase?  A huge segment of the American public has convinced themselves that Obama is the worst tyrant ever to "reign" in America.  Google the phrase and you will get 100s of thousands of links which at a first look seem to be to right wing blogs, etc.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Liquidity Crisis (The Current Recession) Like Medical Shock?

Medical shock is a kind of failure of circulation.  All over the body cells get too little oxygen, and in some cases, blood pools in places where it isn't needed.  Sounds a lot like a liquidity crisis to me.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Practical Epistemology Recycled

[Originally posted April 2010, but has been reworked a couple of times.  The original (with some comments) is at]

Wikipedia defines epistemology as "the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge". Traditionally it has led to questions like whether we can really know anything, and discussing the qualities of different kinds of knowledge like logical or mathematical knowledge.

How much attention has been paid, however, to the question "Who can I trust?" -- perhaps far and away the most important epistemological question that anyone can ask.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Civil War of 2016

"The Civil War of 2016" is the title of an editorial in the Washington Times, dated Aug. 7, 2012, based in turn on an article from the Small Wars Journal.  The Washington Times clearly wants to suggest that the article, in the "respected" SWJ gives reason for concern that the U.S. military is making plans for wars on American soil against American citizens.

The SWJ article does indeed posit the scenario that
"In May 2016 an extremist militia motivated by the goals of the “tea party” movement takes over the government of Darlington, South Carolina, occupying City Hall, disbanding the city council, and placing the mayor under house arrest."
and asks what should the army do, and proceeds to give answers.

Whittaker Chambers on Ayn Rand

[Originally posted Sunday, May 30, 2010 at]

Whittaker Chambers on Ayn Rand

Whittaker Chambers spent a long time in the American Communist party and came to regret it, writing a book called Witness, about his experiences, and also serving as star witness against Alger Hiss in his perjury trial when Hiss denied his association with Chambers in the Communist underground in the mid 1930s (My impression, impressionistic as it is, is that Hiss did perjure himself). The case remains controversial, but Hiss was sentenced and spent 3-4 years in prison. The Hiss case also helped launch Richard Nixon's career as he played a leading role in getting Hiss convicted.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jonah Goldberg says Only Extremists can Build Bridges.

Sound counter-intuitive?

I was reading the intro to Jonah Goldman's just released The Tyrrany of Clichés.  The intro can be accessed the "Tyrrany Blog", created to promote the book.

So here is how he views extremism or some true-blue ideological position vs "the center".  The ideologist of one stripe will build the bridge across the river.  The one of another stripe won't build the bridge at all, but the moderate or centrist will build it half way across the river.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A few new thoughs on Climate Change (and Geoengineering "solutions")

This is in reaction to some discussion I read at

One thing few people seem to appreciate is that just about any big aspect of global climate from the gulf stream that warms Europe to the Monsoon could be balanced on a knife-edge, and we don't know how unstable these things are.  Unfortunately, there has been too much emphasis on changes in the average global temperature on the order of 1-2 degrees C, and many people imagine the warming would be evenly distributed, when the greater probability is that some places will get a lot hotter, or wetter, or dryer and some maybe even a lot colder.  Might it all balance out?  Even there is some balance in the rearrangement of the climate, areas that have been built up and heavily invested in become deserts while some deserts become the new breadbaskets.  To take advantage of the "balance" would require vast redistributions of population.  Geoengineering schemes might plausibly balance the change in average temperature but they won't prevent great shifts from taking place.

It isn't that some elite wants to determine the "proper" temperature.  We should be coming from an essentially conservative reluctance to roll the dice and spread changes around the world that will be lot more drastic than an evenly distributed climate change of 1-2 degrees C.

Some day hopefully in at least a couple of hundred years, the climate might change drastically on its own, as it's done often in the past, but by then there's a chance we might understand the system well enough to manage it.  At this point we don't, and attempting to do so means somebody making decisions for other nations which may not stand for it.

For some of the basis of this point of view, read _With Speed and Violence_ by Fred Pierce, a journalist who is indepent enough to sometimes get on Joe Mann's shit list.

Another thing that makes all this alarming to me is that the right seems to thrive on climate denial very largely because it reinforces the idea that EVERYBODY BUT Fox and friends, the the right wing think tanks are the big liers.  See http://therealtruthprone would guess from a chJonah Goldberg, National-Review,ange ofoject.blo... for elaboration of that.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What are the Conditions for Nonviolent Resistance to Win against Authoritarianism?

I googled { "Gene Sharp" "Occupy Wall Street" } because I'd just learned of the documentary movie about his work, How to Start a Revolution, and an aside that it was being picked up as the "official" something-or-other of OWS, silly as that may sound
Why silly?  Sort of reminds me of states having state birds and state flowers -- seemingly as an absolute necessity (and less mandatorily, sometimes, state muffins).  So, should every "movement" have an "official movie".
  So in the list of google hits was a 2001 article from The Nation, "Path of Least Resistance" which asked:

Yes, nonviolence is a noble ideal, but do you really think it would stop a Hitler?" Or a street thug, a dictator, a death squad?
   Pacifists are long accustomed to these questions, mostly thrown up by self-proclaimed realists. And they get the put-down message: Nonviolence is a creed only slightly less trifling than hippies sticking flowers in soldiers' gun barrels.
Here is what I think, and I can only say this is based on a lot of reading on "totalitarian" regimes ...
(Why the quotes?  The idea of "totalitarianism" as an ideology seems wrong to me. Communism, especially, did not start out with that as an ideology; rather it had a fatal flaw of starting out committed to goals that could only be achieved by incredibly concentrated power, but there is just too much to say about this)
... some regimes are impervious, at least in the short to medium run, to non-violent resistance.  These are regimes, like North Korea, Stalin's USSR, Mao's China, Nazi Germany, Saddam Hussein's Iraq ... that are in some sort of permanent state of emergency and terror that ferociously attack the slightest indication of insubordination or heresy, and are not afraid to annihilate whole classes of people who had no idea of resisting the government, just to be sure nobody is missed.

A useful book that opened my eyes was <Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution: A Political Biography, 1888-1938. The eye-opening fact for me was that a huge majority -- something like 90% -- of the original plotters and operatives of the revolution were annihilated mostly by judicial murder.  Does this sound like a case of excessive do-gooderism?  The nanny state run amok?

The death of Stalin started the USSR on a course of trying to find its way back to normalcy, which was very pronounced in the first years under Khrushchev ... but the status quo was too pathological for one man, and a semi-illiterate peasant and an embarrassment to many in the leadership ... to bring about.

Still, there was an important transition, from total terror eminating from one man, to more of an oligarchy -- rule by a class, ironically, the Communist party.  The party had deposed one seemingly absolute ruler, and no leader would again exercize such a balance of terror over even his closest lieutenants as Stalin did.  The ruling class came to expect some kind of civility among rough peers. This class became comfortable; committed to a stable and relatively calm life.  And over decades, they became more clear headed, and many perceived, in at least some part of their psyche, that the current state of affairs was a farce.  But for anyone subject to the judgement of peers, to admit this to anyone else, remained too dangerous and would cause the whole rether comfortable (for apparatchiks) system to come crashing down unless such heretics were quickly expelled and hidden away somewhat, as was done to Khrushchev.

[to be continued]

Global Warming a good thing? Will save us from Ice Age?

This is priceless.
A story at

reports that some scientists at Cambridge calculate that carbon emissions and global warming could stave off the next ice age, which would otherwise be due in 1500 years.

are getting quite carried away with it; when they get tired of saying global warming is a hoax, they like to say OK, if it's not a hoax, then more C02 and warmer climate is a good thing.
Newsflash: C02 is not a poison (and no climate scientist thinks that it is) -- yes, it makes plants grow.  Well, water is not a poison either, but flood victims all over the world (especially this past year) can tell you there is such a thing as too much water.