Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Facebook: Maximizing Conflict

"The maximization of […] implied the maximization of inter-human hostility. All the existing sources of this phenomenon were tapped, and those proving particularly fruitful were patriotism, parochialism, xenophobia, ochlophobia, racial, religious and linguistic differences, and the so-called ‘gulf between the generations.’ " – John Brunner, The Jagged Orbit

In Brunner’s novels, it was arms sales, but in our world it seems to be engagement. Facebook promotes conflict. Genocide in Myanmar, violence in Kenya, India South Sudan, the United States. Brexit. Personal conflict: I’ve seen Facebook wreck long-standing friendships by throwing conflict in people’s faces.

The Jagged Orbit was one of a quartet of novels that Brunner wrote exploring future trends. The trends explored in The Jagged Orbit were racism and proliferation of lethal weaponry. The other novels in the quartet were Stand on Zanzibar (overpopulation), The Sheep Look Up (environmental destruction), The Shockwave Rider (rapid social change and ubiquitous computing.) Despite many failures and arguable sexism, Brunner got a lot right. Notably, the works are strongly anti-racist and global in perspective.

The Jagged Orbit ends on a hopeful note; the terrifying artificial intelligence goes insane and breaks down, the arms dealers suffer a setback, and one of the characters embarks on a project of unification. Our current situation…is not so hopeful. We’ve got a world of people who’ve been encouraged to be hostile to each other. Entire countries have already broken down in genocide. And there seems no-one with enough power willing to act to reduce the conflicts.

Monday, July 3, 2023

"AI" and the World

Statistical language models like ChatGPT are exactly the reverse of fictional artificial intelligence. Instead of a disinterested logical machine, we have something that mirrors human language with all its faults and virtues, a distorted mirror of ourselves. They can be useful in producing unreliable but grammatical prose and winkling out obscure computer language syntax (large language models are basically very large grammars), but they are more error-prone than humans, have no executive function, and are without conscience.

Friday, June 30, 2023

Tweets On the Roberts Court and the Past Weeks Execrable Decisions

 Chief Justice Taney IInd, STFU

With 303 Creative, Taney Court II, er, the Roberts Court, has taken a long step towards bringing back Jim Crow. They may have gone the whole way.

The master [Chief Justice John Roberts] objects when the slaves point out his hypocrisy.

This Supreme Court has an honesty problem.

I think the Court was willing to decide Moore [a voting rights case] as they did because their patrons are sure they will win the next election.

The Supreme Court is now arbitrarily creating standing based on fraudulent litigation. What is left of the rule of law? And Justice Kagan agrees with me.

How does one teach law when the highest law court is corrupt?

We can argue over expanding the Court, but at least let's remove the two Justices [Alito and Thomas] who are on the take.


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Religion and Slavery

[This is a very short note on a very big topic. I don’t know enough to write more, but with all the religious justifications of slavery and colonialism flying around, I think it is worth a note.]

The original teachings of great old-world religions reject slavery and colonialism. Exodus in the Tanakh, of course. But also many of the non-Jewish followers of Jesus were slaves, and Jesus preached to a colonized people (“Render unto Caesar…”) Mohammed criticized slavery and laid down rules of conduct for the relations of slaves and masters. Gautama Buddha specifically forbade the ownership of slaves, and the very word nirvana means “liberation.”

How then did all of these religions come to embrace slavery and colonialism? One answer is that, slavery being such a huge feature of the cultures of the times, all these teachings address master-slave relations; they could hardly do otherwise. Over time, this was converted into an acceptance and even validation of slavery. Christianity and Islam both limited the prohibitions against slavery to their co-religionists, so that Christians enslaved Muslims, Muslims enslaved Christians, and it was open season on pagans. In Rome, Christianity became the state religion, entirely vitiating the anti-colonial stance of Jesus teachings.

I don’t know enough to write more. But, if these teachings are in any sense divinely inspired, then the divine rejects slavery and colonialism.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Patronage, the Supreme Court, and Jane Austen

These very rich people who Justice Thomas and Justice Alito call friends are not friends at all; they are patrons. We have forgotten enough of the aristocratic social order that we don't immediately recognize it, but that is what they are, and Thomas and Alito are their proteges, a word I had to look up, since the usage and concept have fallen out of US society.

“I have been so fortunate as to be distinguished by the patronage of the Right Honourable Lady Catherine de Bourgh whose bounty and beneficence has preferred me to the valuable rectory of this parish…” – Mr Collins, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Abolitionist Jane Austen probably heard similar language from the defenders of slavery.

Sunday, June 25, 2023

To A Communist, Supporting Trump

If my political faction made one of the greatest mistakes in history, I might be tempted to never think about it again, but I hope I would have the courage to acknowledge it and learn from it.

“Nach Hitler kommen wir.”

You are repeating the mistake of the KPD [the 1930s German Communist Party]; the public is much more likely to jump right than left. The left, to be an alternative, must stand for the best choices in the present, not some imagined future.

[In response to an objection to allying with the democratic socialists, the SPD.] I know that history. I also know that had the KPD been willing to form a coalition with the SPD the NSDAP (Nazis) would not have come to power. Instead, the KPD, probably encouraged by Stalin, chose to try to outwait the NSDAP, in one of the biggest mistakes in 20th century history.

There was a communist group that tried to unify the German left. They called themselves Antifaschistische Aktion or, for short, Antifa. 

[In response to the argument that Trump is no threat.] After four years of stepping steadily towards the right. After concentration camps. After a nearly successful insurrection which would have made Trump president for life, I think you are ignoring a few pieces of data. I know, I know. “No fair remembering stuff.” Same thing you're doing with German history. 

Thursday, June 8, 2023

The Technological Singularity: a Few Links

 [For those of you who are wondering how this got there; it was misdirected. I have copied it to the sister blog Shinycroak, where I generally put this sort of article.]

 (I wrote, and then discarded, a reply to Claire Berlinski's articles on AI; she entirely believes in the TESCREAL arguments. On the way, I gathered a few links and I figured I'd record them here.)

Vernor Vinge's original 1993 essay, Technological Singularity.

“The Singularity: a Panel with Science Fiction Writers Vernor Vinge, Charlie Stross, Alastair Reynolds, and Karl Schroeder,” 2013. Link (video.)

“I believe that the creation of greater-than-human intelligence will occur during the next thirty years. I'll be surprised if this event occurs before 2005 or after 2030.” – Vernor Vinge

Seven years to go.

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Biden, Wealthy Republican Donors, and the Debt Ceiling Settlement

(I lack insider information to confirm this, but I do think it is likely.)

I'm glad there is a debt ceiling deal, that the the world financial system is still standing, but I think it is more of a temporary ceasefire than a great victory.

Biden is being lauded for his negotiating skill. There is something missing from the equation: the money Republican representatives get from the very rich. I think the very wealthy Republican campaign donors mostly don't want a default, not yet anyway, maybe not ever, and they leaned on the House Republicans, so that they made a deal. I think also that those same donors very much want the Democratic left frozen out of the Congressional governing coalition. They don't want stronger labor laws, higher taxes on the extraordinarily wealthy, or environmental regulations that make fossil fuel reserves valueless and so they're prepared to make a deal, even with the hated Democrats. (It is, I think, not a coincidence that weaker regulation on fossil fuel development is part of the deal.)

I think this gives Biden a lot more credit than he deserves, though I do give him credit for taking yes for an answer. He had a lot of support from the people who fund his opposition. The opposition is still fascist and, independent of their funders, would happily burn the world. They're fascists. They prefer violence to compromise. 

 This deal also affirms the dominance of wealth in our politics. The problem with this approach, as I wrote in 2010, is that “sooner or later there's nothing left to give to the rich.”

I'm glad there is a deal, but it still seems to me more of a temporary ceasefire than a great victory.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Tweets and Toots

To create socialism in a society, Enlightenment values must first be present, or you end up with state capitalism instead - that's what happened in Russia and China.

Spoutible, with its ill-defined ban on "adult content," is falling right in with the fascist anti-LGTBQAI+, anti-sex line.

If the House Republicans destroy the faith and credit of the US government, they will be granting a boon to that modern slave empire, China.

Repeal the debt ceiling.

Could someone please hurry up and create a decent Twitter alternative already?

CNN will present the fascist and the non-fascist side of every issue?

LLM-generated content is partially garbage, and depends on human input. I don't think he's got a business model there.

Because their god wants children to die of preventable diseases. Sounds more like the devil in angel drag, but what do I know?  

I was today years old when I learned of the existence of the ammonium ion.

"I hate Illinois Nazis." (All right, he was actually from Missouri.)

A DOS attack on the world economy. Great, wonderful.

How many judges on the Fifth Circuit have taken bribes the way at least four of the "conservative" Supreme Court judges have?

It takes work to make yourself as much of a jerk as Elon Musk.

Well, Mr Musk, aren't you the little antisemite?

If my political faction made one of the greatest mistakes in history, I might be tempted to never think about it again, but I hope I would have the courage to acknowledge it and learn from it. (German Communists in the 1930s, but also conservatives now.)

There's plenty of other damage covid can do, too. You don't infect yourself with dangerous diseases.

By 2035, the Chinese economy will be the largest in the world, and it runs on coal and slavery.

Has any candidate, regardless of how corrupt, ever lost an election for being tough on crime?

Fk AI safety; I want to stop AI thievery.

Just in case you were wondering why Elon Musk caved so promptly and completely to the Turkish government, the Turkish government is hiring SpaceX to launch its satellite.

The Louisiana House doxxing Black children.

These days, instead of shooting people, tyrants deny health care.

Making deals with the world's largest human rights violator, a country which literally runs the biggest slave system in history, is not going to end well.

Draft ASHRAE proposal “Control of Infectious Aerosols” out for public review.

Woke up this morning to my phone informing me that Washington State is shutting down its covid exposure app. Thanks, guys.

With the hosting of a Trump campaign rally, CNN is not a news organization anymore; they are a fascist propaganda organization.

Trump is a groomer.

So when do Republicans repudiate the man guilty of sexual abuse? If they don't, when do women abandon the Republican Party?

“SFO becomes first US airport to formally launch airplane wastewater testing for emerging Covid-19 variants.”

A Supreme Court code of ethics is not enough. The bribery and rape claims ought to be investigated and, if true, the justices who did these things ought to be removed.

CDC director Walensky resigned unexpectedly as the covid state of emergency ended. It looks to me like she could not take fronting for the Biden administration any more. Our betters seem to have decided that the uncontrolled spread of covid is an acceptable cost.

If you put criminals in charge of your legal system, then the law itself will become criminal.

My hobby: quoting NRA firearms safety rules to ammosexuals.

The first Infinity Award recipient is Octavia E. Butler.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

On Profit and Politics in Media

(In answer to Jim Wright here.)

Profit is the excuse; politics is the reason. Trump isn't the ratings draw he was in 2016. (see to this point.) But CNN still hosted a Trump campaign rally.

Ever since Marx, it's become customary, on both left and right, to analyze political conduct in economic terms and for the very rich this may be valid. But, as we see time and time again, a major faction of the public acts on identity, not profit.

Time was, the USA, remembering the rise of fascism, had anti-fascist media law and regulation. This was abandoned as part of the Reagan Revolution. I expect that the country club Republicans of the 1980s, much like the German conservatives of the 1920s, felt that the public would then support them, the natural rulers of society. Instead, as in the 1930s, the public swung towards fascists, while the left opposition tries to outwait the rising tide of authoritarianism.

And here we are.

(A version of this has been posted to Jim Wright's comments.)

Monday, May 1, 2023

Tweets and Elephant Cries

One thing we risk losing in attacking the US founders is separation of church and state. Does that mean we should ignore their flaws? No, not at all. But are we to discard all the thinking of the Englightenment because of their flaws?

There is a well-trodden path from suppressing sexuality to authoritarianism. When you see attacks on porn (I don't mean pornographic abuse) be wary. Digital comstockery is a thing.

If you have nothing real, you cling to symbols.

Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism all rejected slavery and colonialism in their beginnings. They have not always kept to their ideals, but if divine inspiration means anything at all, it appears that the divine hates slavery.

It took literal centuries of philosophical effort to get to the point where, despite his hypocrisies, Thomas Jefferson could write, "All men are created equal" and have it widely accepted. We forget this at our peril.

So. Five of the six "conservative" judges on the Supreme Court are now known to have been bought; the sixth seems to be a resentful second-rater.

To keep vulnerable people safe, you need to use a respirator before they're in your office. Putting it on after the fact works no better than stubbing out a cigarette does to cleanse the air.

Our intellectual property system is unreasonably biased toward monopolists and is disastrous in health care (and software, but that's another story.)

There are no reasonable Republicans left. Surely that is obvious by now?

Apparently Elon musk just doesn't like safety features and that is why there is no launching pad safety at SpaceX.

The first response to this story should have been, "It sounds like anti-trans propaganda - is it a plant?" And of course it was. It's only because of anti-trans editors like Chait that it got so far.

The reason that so much manufacturing has been sent to China is because the Chinese government is willing to put their people to work in slave and near-slave conditions. Some of the very wealthy really like that. Not only do the get cheap labor; they get to crack the whip, or at least hire people who will. Are we going to refight the Civil War on a global scale? “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” – Lincoln

You sure you're not channeling ChatGPT?

Torture victims remember; torturers often do not.

Friday, April 28, 2023

Labor Conditions in China and the Civil War

The reason that so much manufacturing has been sent to China is because the Chinese government is willing to put their people to work in slave and near-slave conditions. Some of the very wealthy really like that. Not only do the get cheap labor; they get to crack the whip, or at least hire people who will.

Are we going to refight the Civil War on a global scale?

“I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.” – Lincoln

Thursday, April 27, 2023


[This is about a week’s Tweets, some edited a bit. It’s an unusually discouraging list, partly because of a great deal of discouraging news and partly because of the continuing deterioration of Twitter under the management of Elon Musk.]

  • White collar criminals are treated with kid gloves, all the way through the legal process.
  • [In response to “US must cooperate with China to fight climate crisis” from someone who really ought to know better]: because making trade deals with the world’s biggest human rights violator has worked out so well in the past four decades.
  • [On the new “protect the children” internet bill, co-sponsored by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)]
    Connecticut – where even the men are Karens. This digital comstockery will be the death of us yet, or at least the inauguration of a new age of prudery and hypocrisy. Teenagers have to have access to adult social life, or they never become adults. What the fascists want to do here is forbid the blocking of fascist propaganda, something right out of 1984.
    Freedom of speech has to also include the freedom of silence, or it is no freedom.
  • The ammosexuals are bringing back dueling.
  • There’s probably questions Chief Justice John Roberts doesn’t want to answer under oath. Three of the six conservative justices are compromised; I wonder what a sharp interrogator would winkle out about the others.
  • The Michigan legislature is Democratic for the first time in decades. Give them some time.
  • [In response to claims that covid causes immunodeficiency like AIDS] There is no reason to believe such claims. It may sometimes cause immune problems, but if those were as severe as AIDS, it would be obvious and widely known.
  • [On the debt ceiling negotiations] Over the cliff we go.
  • Hume acidly observed that, in the 1745 Jacobite Rising, Edinburgh had been better-defended by its chamber pots than its available forces, the Scots still being forbidden a militia.
  • The Supreme Court has lost its credibility. One Justice is a bought man, another accepted a bribe, a third is an alleged rapist, and the Chief Justice himself is covering for them. Our last mechanism of conflict resolution has failed. The Senate bloody well ought to do something. The Democratic leadership ought to do something.
  • One wonders just what Chief Justice Roger Taney, er, John Roberts does not want to be asked under oath. Perhaps he, too, in involved in corrupt dealings.
  • Don’t elect bad cops mayor.
  • With Disney a contract is a contract until it’s not.
  • Ron DeSantis is probably on the autistic spectrum. Which shouldn’t disqualify him as a candidate. But he’s also a religious fanatic with a fondness for torture, which should.
  • We need regime change in Mississippi and Tennessee.
  • Compulsive rapists never have just one victim.
  • When people as rich and powerful as Elon Musk and Peter Thiel support terrorism, it isn’t terrorism anymore – it’s revolution.
  • [The Republican leadership is] trying to get people to participate in pogroms, starting with sexual minorities, just like the Nazis did. Once they’ve got people willing to do that, they’ll move on to other groups.
  • I hate the way Twitter buries tweets containing links.
  • [On the mifeprestone decision] I think even the Supreme Court’s “conservatives” are having second thoughts. My guess is they break out the bucket of gray paint, and come up with some vague but nasty 7-2 decision, with the conservatives going narrow on standing and the liberals making a broader argument.
  • These “justices” identify with the stalker. They are probably harassers themselves.
  • This place is turning into the Sunnydale of the Internet. “Bored now.”

Friday, March 31, 2023

The Second Civil War

We have multiple states in open rebellion against federal policy. They are led by Texas and Florida, which is turning into a theocratic fascist state under the leadership of religious fanatic and retired torturer Ronald Dion DeSantis. There is a hostile Supreme Court, also dominated by the theocrats. There is talk of secession. This is not dissimilar to the situation which Lincoln faced, before the first Civil War broke out. Only–what are the seceding states protecting? Racism, to be sure, but we don’t hear open talk of that. We do hear open talk of the evils of sexual minorities, but there are not that many of them and they are not useful as wealth. It is not like the old South, where much of the wealth of the slave states was bound up in slaves. So, what are the secessionist states fighting to protect?

Masculine supremacy, especially white masculine supremacy. Women forced to work. Women forced to bear children. Women forced to accept rape and harassment.

The Second Civil War is a War on Women.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Abortion, Dobbs, and Health Care

Here is an account from Texas explaining that obstetricians, gynecologists, and obstetric nurses are now either leaving or planning on leaving the state and, in some cases, the profession. They don’t want to be required to harm patients. They don’t want to watch patients get sicker and sicker until, finally, a life-saving abortion can be carried out. Some facilities are shutting down their obstetrics units. Others are unable to care for people with serious complications of pregnancy – obstetricians don’t want to work in rural Texas and don’t want to face the risks of practice in a state where they are likely to be subject to terrorist attacks, even if they follow Texas’s draconian laws. Here we have a report of an Idaho hospital planning to stop delivering babies, because they cannot hire obstetricians.

In anti-abortion states, and sometimes in pro-choice states where “Christian” hospital systems are involved, medical personnel are now expected to watch patients sicken and die because of arbitrary misogynistic laws and rules. In some cases, they are expected to lie to patients as well. In a well-known case in Bellingham Washington, a pro-choice state, a woman nearly died miscarrying because the physicians at the Roman Catholic PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham were unwilling to perform an abortion until she was in agony – didn’t even inform her she was at risk.

In states where abortion is outlawed, the health care system becomes, when a patient needs an abortion, a system of brutal control and punishment. This cannot fail to corrupt all participants in the system. What kind of people stand by and watch a woman suffer, possibly die, when they know they could prevent it? And yet this was the norm for a century before Roe. A generation of practitioners will be corrupted and go on to work in other states.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall --but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other." – Lincoln

Monday, March 6, 2023

Tracking: tweets and elephant cries

[This has been an exceptionally depressing two weeks in political news. Somewhat edited for clarity.]

  • I will remember March 4, 2023 as the day when, echoing the Nazis, Michael Knowles, a “conservative” religious fanatic, called openly for the erasure of transgender people.

Covid, Three Years On

This is an attempt to organize at a very high level what we have learned about covid in the past three years. It is much more for myself than any broader audience, and is not a completely or extensively footnoted article; if I were going to provide cites for what is now largely common knowledge it would have to be a much longer and more extensively researched piece. I have generally stuck with moderate sources and information, attempting to avoid both denial and unreasonable fear.

The disease is real and the reality is enough.

Where sources conflict, for instance studies of the risk and incidence of long covid, I have attempted to chose plausible median data. This reflects both skepticism of extremes and of over-precision; many people demand precise numbers, and on these matters precise numbers are difficult to come by.

Once I post an article, I usually leave it standing with only minor changes, but in the case of this article I will correct errors as they are reported to me.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Romancelandia, LGBTQAI+, et al v Bouzy

You don’t remember it (it was passing away in my youth) but there was a time when gynecological information was kept from women. It is for that reason that Our Bodies, Ourselves was published, and was a radical act in its time. Such material was banned as obscene in the past, and will be again, if the misogynists have their way. These bans, regardless of how well-intended, are invariably enforced over-broadly, and Spoutible will be pressured to do so. There is a huge, mean-spirited, well-funded, and largely successful movement that is working to that goal.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Covid, the media, the medical literature, and SCIENCE!

I recently had an extended Twitter discussion with an antivax lawyer, and he pointed out that he knew a lot of people who had had covid who didn’t have long covid symptoms. This isn’t likely. He probably assumed this was so because those people didn’t talk about it, and didn’t have big, obvious disabilities.

One gets a different picture of covid from reading the medical literature than from casual conversation with people who have had the disease or most of the major media sources. The people he knew may not have talked about long covid symptoms, or recognized them. Many doctors, even, don’t.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tweets and Elephant Calls

Here in the United States we have had a massive outbreak of invertebrate spinelessness.

Controlling Airborne Diseases: Tuberculosis and Covid

Controlling Airborne Diseases: Tuberculosis and Covid

Another airborne disease, tuberculosis, was suppressed during the 20th century. Could we do the same with covid?

Thursday, January 26, 2023

We beat tuberculosis. We can beat covid.

A distant family member died of covid today. Utterly unnecessary. And I realized: we beat tuberculosis, another airborne disease, which used to kill 1 in 7. We can beat covid. Why aren't we trying?

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

President Biden's Imagination

I don’t think President Biden has much imagination. This comes through in his remarks about covid, where he just doesn’t imagine what it’s doing to the country and the world. It’s the same thing, I think, with his handling of the insurrection. He doesn’t see that it’s a political hazard and that it may yet take over the country, especially if capitalist leaders throw huge numbers of people out of work. That’s what brought the Nazis to power in Germany and it might bring the extreme Republicans to power here in the United States.

This doesn’t mean that Biden is an evil man. A lot of the commentators I follow seem to think he is, but I think they mistake his limitations for evil. He seems to be a decent and devout man and he’s gotten a lot done. But he seems unable to imagine many parts of the future and take precautions against foreseeable disasters. It is as if our country is a pinball and flippers and traps and all the rest of the panoply of a pinball machine are operating. We have no idea where we’re going to end up, because our leaders can barely look past the next trap.

On the Recent Tech Layoffs

Apparently the Federal Reserve and various influential financiers are very bothered by the favorable labor market. So the Fed plans to raise interest rates and, despite very good profits, several major technology companies are undertaking extensive layoffs.

In what is used to be called a layoff, in the auto industry, say, people are let go because of seasonal downturns or because sales are bad. Employees recognize that there’s a reason, even if it’s one they don’t like very much, and they have an expectation that they will eventually be called back. That’s not at all what these firings are - they are entirely arbitrary and the employees know it. These firms have broken the trust of their employees, and the best will think twice before hiring on again with these firms - it will become a matter of employees looking at more reliable employers for work, or establishing their own businesses - very much an option available to most tech workers. So these companies have managed to reduce the quality and output of their workforce. If this, plus the Fed’s interest rate increases induce a recession, people will get angry and they’ll turn out and vote. It may just hand the country to the Republicans, the way the great depression handed Germany to the Nazis.

Why is the capitalist elite so stupid?

Notes On Russia, and the Russia-Ukraine War

(I have written this, rather than a much longer essay. I hope it will be of some value.)

  1. One of the questions that has haunted me since the beginning of the Russia-Ukraine war is “How is it to be ended?” And the best answer I see is “With Russia pushed back to its border, and that border guarded,” which is not a happy answer. Russia is still a nuclear power, and in extremity may turn to weapons of mass destruction.

  2. The Russian populace is thoroughly propagandized, and the overwhelming majority believes in this war. Russia needs a second glasnost, opening, so that its people see the truth. For Russia, if it comes out of the fugue it is in, it has to go on to something else. What it had is over. Communism failed. Oligarchy failed. So, then, what?

  3. The peace of Europe is not adequate, as the post-World War I peace was not adequate. The German nationalists were allowed to regroup and to evade the reparations by inflating the Deutsch Mark (and destroying most people’s savings, creating a disaffected population which could easily be propagandized by the Nazis.) (That was muddled economic history, I've struck it out.) What would a positive world peace that included Russia look like?

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

An Argument for Arresting White-Collar Criminals Like Common Thieves

If someone commits a simple physical crime, a murder, say, or a mugging, the police apprehend them as soon as possible, and holds them while the prosecutor decides what charges to bring. But in white collar crime, there’s an investigation, the appropriate prosecutor decides what charges to bring, goes to a grand jury, gets an indictment and, finally, the suspect is brought in, perhaps even politely asked to come in.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Inaction Against Authoritarianism

It seems to me that the Justice Department is being made the whipping boy for decades of Democratic inaction against the rising tide of racism and authoritarianism and damn if I think it’s fair. Justice Department lawyers are apparently working very hard to build an airtight case against Trump and his merry men, but if it hadn’t been for decades of inaction on the part of Democratic leaders and elected officials it would never have been needed in the first case.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

On Conflicts Among the House Republicans and Policies

Joanne B. Freeman, the redoubtable author of The Field of Blood, about violence in the antebellum Congress, offers a timely New York Times op-ed about antebellum conflicts over the House Speakership. I like the history given in the op-ed very much, but I think she gets current politics wildly wrong when she writes:

The resulting speakership struggle was not about an issue. It was not
about a policy. It was about power. Kevin McCarthy’s reported
concession to empower the extreme right by making it easier to oust
him as speaker was a surrender of power — and that’s all a potential
speaker has to offer in today’s political climate. Promises to support
key bills or logrolling mean nothing in a party that has very little
real planned legislation and very few policies.

The leadership struggle was also about policy; whether to make some modest compromises with the Democrats or to go full on fascist. Unlike slavery, which was sectionally popular in the antebellum period and therefore had sectional representation, the policies of the fascist wing of the Republican Party are, when stated plainly, popular with very few, and Republican policies overall are, when stated plainly, still minority policies.

So Republicans do not state them.

The modern Republican party is dominated by a coalition of business interests, nationalists, militarists, white supremacists, and religious radicals. They oppose social insurance programs and support white supremacy. So the only way they can win elections is by lying about their goals and taking advantage of flaws in the US political system. They have to pretend to be about nothing to take advantage of wavering low-information voters, but they are very much about tax cuts for the rich, gutting social insurance programs, and white supremacism. (And, for some reason, the gold standard, beloved of US aristocrats from the very beginning, bah!)

The Republican leadership is not honest about what they support and, in fact, when much of the public is told what Republicans support, they simply do not believe it (to this point, see Data For Progess’s polling), but never doubt that they have policy goals, and that the conflicts both with and within the Republican Party are about policy as well as raw power.