I spent the last few hours listening to Maajid Nawaz in conversation with Sam Harris on the Waking Up podcast. This is the first time I’ve heard him speak and he seems like a honest, earnest person.
…except for this one thing. This one thing that drives me absolutely nuts.
It is the Democratic party, not the Democrat party. That is how the word is properly used. Pouty Republicans and conservatives who want to discredit the Democrats invented (or reinvented) this little conundrum of wordplay as a dogwhistle to separate themselves from the rest of the liberal press, and anyone who uses this dogwhistle is either a member of the conservative press or is blind to the subtleness of word usage that propagandists rely on to spread their message.
You see, Republicans want to rob Democrats of the subliminal linkage of the Democratic party and the democratic process; and they are attempting to do this by pretending that words when used as a party name should not be conjugated in the same way. This is false and it sounds forced when spoken.
I have a hard time believing someone is being truthful with me when they take the time to pervert the english language in this way, purposefully using a word incorrectly to call attention to the difference between a process and a party name.
The Democrats are far more democratic than the Republicans currently are. It is the neoconservatives who used to be Democrats, Democrats who had no problem perverting the democratic process when they were Democrats, who are now perverting the democratic process by denying the vote to larger and larger sections of the population in efforts to keep their Republican conservatives in power for a few more terms before the inevitable shift of power occurs.
The true test of whether the Democrats are democratic will come when, having regained power, they return to the undemocratic ways of their past. Will they adopt the same perversions of the process that they previously practiced? That their neoconservative soon to be neoliberal power brokers will want to reimpose but now from the other side? Vote suppression? Gerrymandering? Or will we force them to create systems which are actually unbiased and open for the first time in US history?
Will we pass the test our forebears failed, or will we fail as they have?
As for the rest of the subjects of the podcast, they were thought-provoking if not outright wrong on many points. How many times will I have to hear the false conservative talking point “won’t say islamic terrorist?” I’m hoping I have heard it for the last time. We’ll just have to see how much difference there is now that the conservatives have everything they’ve ever wanted since 1980. Now’s your chance boys. How bad can you fuck it all up? Sadly, we are about to find out.
Included in the errata label because I once had a tendency to do this myself. A failing I have since corrected so isn’t preserved on this blog. But still, I’m trying for absolute honesty here. Well, as close to honesty as any human and his public diary can be.
I tuned in (very briefly) to watch Hillary Clinton testify before the latest of 8 separate investigations into #Benghazi, the most investigated event in US history and one of the most notable wastes of taxpayer dollars since whatever military weapons system was last funded by Republicans.
I say briefly because I had no stomach for listening to the latest Republican pretender attempt to justify yet another investigation into these events; as if the investigations weren’t patently politically motivated the last 6 times (at least) that they were embarked upon. So the minute that the look-alike for the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz started speaking, I tuned out and went on to some other news item.
The Republicans are running around in terror at the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton. They’ll do anything, say anything to avoid the future where they have to acknowledge her (or any woman) as the leader of the United States. I myself have a pretty demonstrable hatred for Hillary Clinton, as a walk down the memory lane of this blog will easily demonstrate.
It bears mentioning that I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 in the Democratic primary specifically to lend weight to the candidate most likely to be President that year. 2008 was the last year I pulled the lever for the Libertarian Party in the general election. In 2012 I voted Democratic, only shifting my votes down ballot in an attempt to unseat local Democrats that I really don’t care for and have held offices for longer than I think is healthy. I voted Democratic because in 2012 it was an undeniable fact that Republicans were opposed to anything Obama did just because it was Obama who was doing it. It made me question how many other things Republicans are opposed to just because Democrats are in favor of them.
I changed my opinions in 2012; I confess, I’m a flip-flopper. It’s the kind of thing that happens when you aren’t an ideologue, aren’t married to concepts that could prove to be unworkable in the real world. Having seen that Obama was doing a pretty good job at being President, better than I myself had expected prior to the election, I had to revise my opinion of Democrats in general, and of Obama and his cabinet selections in particular.
That wasn’t the only thing that changed. As the blog entry A Big Bowl of Crow goes into, I finally had to come to grips with some of the cognitive dissonance that I’ve been struggling with since I filed for and got disability. The government has saved my family from ruin (albeit that it was dragged kicking and screaming into the effort) Accepting that fact meant that a number of other dominoes had to fall in sequence afterwards. Namely; that socialism is not a dirty word, that socialism is not opposed to capitalism but is actually opposed to feudalism (strange as that may sound) and has never actually been credited for the benefits to the poor it has inspired since being introduced a few hundred years ago.
Part of this change has required me to revisit my beliefs about healthcare and other complex systems which rely on funding from government in order to do the necessary and valuable jobs that modern life demands. Understanding that Hillarycare probably was a better plan than Obamacare has turned out to be. Grudging acceptance that Hillary Clinton was a damned good Secretary of State, largely because of the way she dealt with Republican criticism, rather than in spite of it.
So it is with some trepidation that I face 2016 and acknowledge that I really don’t have a problem with a President Hillary Clinton. No one is more horrified by this than the tiny voice in the back of my head. It’s hard to argue against the logic of this. Let me spell it out for you.
When it comes to Presidents, for the foreseeable future, I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic. The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole. If they were to nominate someone who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them. I don’t see much chance of that since none of the more than 10 potentials vying for the nomination meet this criteria.
Third parties are a joke, in case you are wondering what about the LP & Greens? I’ve wasted far too long working on third party issues (again, look at the history of this blog if you doubt it) The experience was invaluable, but having the power to effect change means actually winning elections, something that third parties in the US have failed at doing in every election since the beginning of the country, with the notable exception of the one where Republicans became the alternative to Democrats. From that time forward it has been D’s or R’s and it will remain that way until the next big shakeup on the level of ending slavery occurs. I don’t see anything remotely on that scale occurring this year. Could be wrong, but I doubt it. I’ll be writing more on this subject in the future, if I ever manage to get my notes in order.
I’m not opposed to Bernie Sanders, given my revised opinion on socialism. I don’t think the rest of the US is as willing to think outside the box as I am in large enough numbers to make a difference, so I don’t think his prospects are good outside of the primary process. What the Democrats have to avoid doing is giving away the election to the Republicans as they have historically done many times in the past. While a goodly portion of the young people on the street really do seem to feel the Berne, will they show up on election day in enough numbers to secure victory for the Democrats for the next four years? That really is the only question.
Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the election among the betting public, in those areas of the globe that allow betting on Presidential races. One of the mantras that I still hold to is follow the money, and the money says Clinton will win. Of course, we still are a year out from election day, and a lot of things can happen in a year’s time. Barring the appearance of a really centrist Republican nominee (one that isn’t named Bush) or a bad fumble on the part of Hillary, we’re likely to see her taking the oath of office in the early days of 2017.
I’m sanguine with that fact.
I have said on several occasions on various social sites “no one can compete with Hillary in full campaign mode”. Many people may not remember the campaign that was run for Bill before his time in the sun. These guys were fast on their feet. The best that money could buy and they earned every penny. Front and center in all of that was Hillary Clinton, and now she is the candidate herself.
Hillary’s South Carolina ad came out last week. When I said “no one can compete” this is what I meant.
Hillary Clinton is still the overwhelming favorite to win amongst the betting public. Bernie Sanders’ support is still high, but it isn’t as high as Barack Obama’s was when he won against Hillary, when she surrendered to public pressure and yielded the floor to the Democratic favorite. That is one of the differences this time, her opponent is not a Democrat. While I agree with much of Sanders’ goals, I don’t agree that he is deserving of the party’s endorsement just because he gets a majority of the popular vote. The process is what it is, and if Hillary gets the nomination by working the process, that makes her the better candidate. Perhaps Bernie should have joined the Democrats years ago and then he too could be a Democrat rather than just seeking the bona fides of the Democratic party.
I stumbled across this in my news feed this morning. My fellow liberals were attacking this Senator for the stupidest tweet ever. Hyperbole aside, this isn’t even a remarkable example of the kind of thinking that goes on in libertarian and conservative circles in their attempts to justify their beliefs concerning small government, the evils of government. Far from being the stupidest tweet everthis is much more like standard operating procedure in any subset of humanity that is trying to justify their unjustifiable beliefs.
I can’t count the dozens of times I’ve gotten in an argument with a small-government type who insisted that laws create crime, ergo fewer laws means less crime. Less government equates to more freedom. Less regulation yields a fairer, free-er marketplace. It makes sense, if you stand back and squint at the concept for awhile. The mind is amazingly agile at creating justifications for things that you believe, whether or not those beliefs are justified.
If you were to approach one of these small government types and suggest that the behavior in question, let’s say murder for example, remains egregious or unacceptable even if the laws don’t exist, they would probably brush the argument off as reductio ad absurdum, without realizing that the argument is legitimate in any case. The thought never crosses their minds, or is easily diffused with some other simple heuristics. People are peaceful and don’t murder. It is government that murders, not individuals defending their rights.
What happens when individuals without government have competing claims, though? What if neither of the parties involved actually knows who has prior claim to property, as another example. Who is defending their rights and who is the transgressor? What authority will they empower to potentially strip their claim from them? The thought that government might have been created specifically to address these kinds of conflicts doesn’t even occur to the anarchically minded, small government types. Can’t occur to them, in a general sense. To contemplate how laws and government serve a legitimate purpose brings on cognitive dissonance, which the believer will avoid at almost any cost.
Apply double-think (thank you George Orwell) like that illustrated above, and you can reverse cause and effect and suffer no cognitive dissonance.
The ACA isn’t good in the estimation of the libertarian and conservative mindset. It can’t provide a benefit, because it is a bad program. The people who benefit from the program can’t actually be benefiting; that would be an admission that the program isn’t bad, that it served some larger purpose. The blind assertion that healthcare is a personal choice rules out any possibility that healthcare might be a public good. That the group as a whole benefits when the health of individuals in the group is improved. That poor people will economize with healthcare to the detriment of their health if they are allowed to include those costs in their calculations of how much money they have to spend on other necessities. Things like food, shelter, etc.
No, the ACA is bad in their estimation, so ending it is good. How then to justify denying care to millions of poor people who will not get care without the ACA? It extended false hope of being seen as valuable while remaining poor. The poor cannot be of value because they are poor and beneath notice. Insurance is for those who can afford it. Everyone else should get to the business of getting wealthy or dying, makes no difference to those who have the benefit and don’t want to share access to it.
As the date shows, Robert Reich posted that status quite some time ago. I saved it for this article I’m writing now. I knew I would get around to writing it at some point in the future, because I knew I’d stumble across some idiot who hadn’t bothered to check his beliefs before posting something stupid on the internet.
The ACA is unpopular precisely because it shares the benefits of living in the US with the poor people who cannot afford those benefits without help. There is no other reason for opposing it, because it has been demonstrated to be a benefit to those who did not have access to healthcare before it was instated. There is no cost-based reason for opposing it, because the US government already subsidizes everyone else’s healthcare in the US, with tax dollars taken from the pockets of the poor as much as from anyone else in the nation.
The poor are a hated group in the US. The hatred of the poor for being poor (generally by poor people who can’t admit that they themselves are poor) is so pervasive that it is masked by quite a few other prejudices which are really just a shorthand for saying poor people. The sooner we Americans realize this, the sooner we can escape some of the delusions which entrap us. Delusions which shackle us to concepts which no longer serve a useful purpose.
The SCOTUS did as I expected and interpreted the phrase “the state” to mean the US government (which is also a state; i.e. government) the fact that anarchists and small government types would willfully spend millions of dollars to contest the meaning of one word in one phrase in a several thousand page set of laws simply speaks to the desperation motivating the people who brought the suit.
The case was, in other words, a sophisticated game of gotcha, based on what was, again, essentially a typographical error. The case was only about trying to destroy the law by denying insurance to millions and setting in motion a death spiral of raised premiums, cancelled policies, and more rate hikes until the system collapsed.
So that is that. The ACA will stay in force for the foreseeable future. If the Republicans want to overturn it or modify it they are going to have to come up with a better plan than just throwing the poor back out in the cold (as the lawyers in the case alluded to with their response “deal with it”) but I doubt that the Republican party leadership really wants the law repealed. There is little doubt the base of the party does, which is why you get the kind of hypocritical pandering from their representatives that I started this post with.
In the end, the poor will exact the cost of their existence from the system, whether the government factors that cost into the calculations it makes or not. Personally, I’d rather they had access to the cheaper preventative care rather than have them clog the expensive and already overburdened emergency care system. That will mean building out the system more than it is now. Recruiting healthcare professionals to fulfill the needs of the poor. Making it easier to become a doctor or a nurse. You know, economic investment.
Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008,
The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.
Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today. That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.
I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I’m ready.
No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.
If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked in a program as complex as Social Security is and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint. The program could be made solvent, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.
If the program fails it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.
When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer. Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment. The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future. If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.
That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.
State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.
The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place. I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?
This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future. One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care. That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.
In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.
The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.
The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.
It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive. That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people. If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.
If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us. If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive. Life should mean more than that.
On every issue there are people who want to move in a particular direction, and generally it is true that there is a majority that is happy with the way things are.
Back when we first started writing down ideas, codifying the world as we saw it, the world was ruled by divine right. Kings, Czars and Emperors abounded, all of them claiming to have their power because god granted it to them. But the people at the bottom of the chain of power suffered horribly and died for want of even basic care; food, water and shelter could be and were denied to them by the more powerful amongst them.
Many excuses were made for why this was so, but in the end the people in the middle of the chain came to believe that the suffering of the bottom could be alleviated by sharing the wealth present at the top. To this end, they began to cause trouble. They started providing care for the less-well-off (the dreaded poor these days) educating the lower classes about the wealth available to the upper classes because of the combined efforts of the group as a whole.
When enough of them understood their plight, and the artificial nature of it, they began to form together as groups, pressing their rulers to provide to them some of the benefits that the rulers enjoyed. Through the ages, forums and then parliaments were formed, attempting to gather to themselves some of the power held by the rulers. As this form became more common and more powerful, it just so happened that the supporters of the king happened to be sitting on the right side, whereas the people demanding change, more power (the liberalizing influence) were sitting on the left.
Left has always been the side of darkness. Most people are right handed, while those who are left-handed are seen as peculiar (Sinister is another name for the left side) it is seen to be proper that the right hand be dominate. At earlier times in history, left-handed children were forced to use their right hand until it became dominant to all external appearances. To this day left-handed people die younger, generally of injury inflicted by tools and machines created in a right-handed world.
So it was probably not by chance that the supporters of the king were seated on the right side, the correct side, of the aisle. After all, supporting god and king was the way to be in those days. However history has progressed, and kings are almost extinct. Where they still exist in the civilized world they retain a figurehead status with no real authority beyond the title they hold. Where they exist in the rest of the world, they are no better or worse than other people. Tending toward dictatorship in the more perverse, and benevolent father in the more enlightened.
However the verbiage of Left and Right remain; the Left being those who generally wish to change the status quo, and the Right being the group which favors the way things are or even better were.
Except that memory is flawed. The way things were never was; or only was because of elements or structures which no longer exist. The way things were relied upon variables which ceased to be, and so the way things were cannot be re-established.
There are other words for those who want things to stay the same. When they do so because they fear change, the word is coward. When they do so because they cannot see that change has already occurred it is called delusional. It is only when change will make things demonstrably worse is that word prudence, or caution. It is only then that the second definition of right (to be correct) applies here. The changes which are forcing themselves upon us through technology and an imperfect understanding of the closed system which is our habitation known as the Earth are inevitable. We cannot deny their occurrence because reality will assert itself until it kills us all if we do not admit that change has occurred. The changes which we can afford but are being resisted (universal healthcare as one glaring example) will occur either now, or at greater cost in the future.
So today, now, the Right are not right they are simply right, as in seated in the section reserved for those who are in love with the past in an demonstrably unhealthy fashion. Creepy.
Paul Harvey dominated the radio waves when I was growing up. It seems fitting to title a corrections post after his iconic radio narration; the hallmark of which was telling you teasing parts of the story in advance, then pitching you on whatever his advertisers told him to pitch that week, and finally getting to the truth of the story in the final segment. Well, I don’t know that this is the final segment of the story or not, but I do have some corrections to offer on a particular subject which is bugging me at the moment, and it has something to do with truth.
Steven Novella is currently in a debate on his blog NeuroLogica with a 9-11 truther; and while I am unable to even read the articles from the 9-11 truth side of the argument, I felt the desire to offer a comment for Dr. Novella’s excellent rebuttal of the truther argument. So I wandered back over here to my blog, looking for the well-reasoned arguments that I’ve presented in the past, only to find that none of the reasoned arguments I remember on the subject have ever been posted to this blog. Every Single Thing I’ve EVER written on the subject of 9-11 on this blog is bullshit, up to this point. No seriously, go look, I’ll wait.See what I mean? I was (I might still be) completely clueless on the subject, far too gullible even still. The entries are a blatant example of the malleability of the moment and one’s experiences in it. When I wrote that crap, I believed it (well, the plagiarism-level cut and paste on the subject of the 9-11 mosque isn’t too bad, but then I didn’t write 9/10’s of that) and it’s only been my experience online in various threads and sites that have refined my thinking on the subject of conspiracy theories in general and the attacks on 9-11 in particular.
If I had to point to a specific moment in time or a piece of literature in particular that affected my thinking on this subject, it was Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War a book suggested by Buck Field just as a passing side-comment while we were discussing the failings of the first Abramanation. I’ve often marveled at how the apparently insignificant contents of conversational banter can have immense ramifications on the thinking of an individual (probably why I’m so fond of Connections and other works by James Burke) reading Deadly Decisions did that for me. Suddenly all the conspiratorial thinking that fogged up my reason lifted, and I could just glimpse the million monkeys banging on keyboards producing, if not Shakespeare, then at least all the catastrophes of history that seemed to defy explanation. Humans as a group are not too bright and are prone to make decisions that lead to very, very bad outcomes.
Case in point, the attacks on 9-11. Paraphrasing the chapters in the book detailing the failings that lead up to the attacks, the attacks were ultimately successful because that is how human systems fail. The CIA was tracking the terrorists until they arrived in the US. Once they were on US soil, the FBI claimed jurisdiction and promptly flushed the investigation. Not once but three times President Bush and his cabinet were advised that attacks on targets in the US using commercial airliners were being planned. None of the signals were acted upon, and nothing more is needed to explain the inaction beyond the observation that human systems fail in this fashion. The only way to end these kinds of failures is to alter the way we think about the systems we create.
Ultimately no one is to blame for the attacks on 9-11 beyond the 11 men who successfully hijacked the planes and flew them into the buildings, because they were the ones who took those actions.
Some of the content I’ve posted other places follows, starting with proper reference links;
There were a lot of firsts for the WTC. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been hit with a plane traveling 500 miles an hour and had its fire proofing removed from its trusses. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever had its steel columns which hold lateral load sheared off by a 767. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been a building which had its vertical load bearing columns in its core removed by an airliner. For Building 7, in all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been left for 6-7 hours with its bottom floors on fire with structural damage from another building collapse. Not the Madrid/Windsor tower did not have almost 40 stories of load on its supports after being hit by another building which left a 20 story gash. The Madrid tower lost portions of its steel frame from the fire. Windsor’s central core was steel reinforced concrete. In all the history of high-rise fires, not one has ever been without some fire fighters fighting the fires.
I find it amusing, reading the thread I pulled this reference quote from. So much crap in my head at that time; but I was starting to work through it, call it into question, laugh at it, then discard it. I wish there was something worthy of posting from that period that I wrote. There isn’t. Just more of what is already on the blog that I don’t need more of. Well, maybe this bit;
I love the way they say “collapsed in their footprint” as if that’s even the case. Watch the full video of the collapse, and you will see the outside skin peeling away OUTWARD as the upper floors collapse through them. One can duplicate this effect with a couple of cardboard paper towel rolls. The upper floors landed in the footprint, because the perimeter structure guided those floors down onto it, as it sheared away and impacted the structures around it. Those ‘explosive’ puffs of smoke? Smoke and Air escaping through the fracture points as the upper floor forced the compressed air beneath them out (also replicatable with some basic home items) This is a pretty straightforward structural failure, and the engineer who designed it was devastated by it. Watch the video of him discussing it, if you don’t believe me.
When the US shot down a civilian airliner, back around gulf war one, I first noticed this unwillingness of Americans to accept facts related to tragedies. There were all these theories about the plane being loaded with corpses and flown into restricted airspace, that it wasn’t the US that fired on it, etc. Silly complexifying theories that just got in the way of understanding what really happened. This 9/11 truth stuff is nothing but more of the same. Got no time for it.
That bit and the bit where I laugh at Alex Jones for claiming that he predicted 9-11.
Alex Jones lives in Austin. The syndicated radio show comes from the local AM station that I listened to (3 to 6 pm weekdays. Jeff Ward, best radio show in Austin) A couple of my friends from my time at the local LP were part of his blue windbreaker truth squad (or whatever they called themselves) They all believed what he said implicitly, but to me it’s a lot like professional wrestling. It’s real to them, but that doesn’t make it true. Has anything that he’s promoted breathlessly in the last 20 years come true? The secret prisons? Any of it? He’s playing to his market, and he’s pretty good at it. Like Coast to Coast, there’s just enough truth buried in the exaggerations to make you pause. But in the end it’s entertainment, not science. If he predicted 9/11, then I predicted 9/11.
It was a common argument in LP circles that an attack on the US was inevitable, because of our military adventurism. Hell, it was a rare day that went by where we DIDN’T talk about what form of attack might occur, and how that would be the end of freedom in this country, because the average American was completely unprepared to understand the costs of our military adventurism, and wouldn’t realize that our foreign policy lead us to this place.
The last debunking article I’d read was this one.
At a certain point, though, debating science and theory and ideas is an exercise in futility, because the hypotheses of conspiracy theorists are not grounded in any kind of a larger understanding of the real world. “This sounds really mean,” says Erik Sofge, a reporter on the original Popular Mechanics piece and an occasional contributor to Slate. “But really, it’s like arguing over the marching speed of hobbits.”
Here’s the article where the AIA signs off on the NIST reports and distances itself from Richard Gage, the man behind AE911Truth.
All of Gage’s so-called evidence has been rebutted in peer-reviewed papers, by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, by the National Institute for Standards and Technology, by the American Society of Civil Engineers, by the 9/11 Commission Report, and, perhaps most memorably, by the 110-year-old engineering journal Popular Mechanics.
What is more interesting than these bizarre and debunked conspiracy theories is the way that Gage places his AIA membership front and center in his presentations. He seems to be attempting to cloak his organization in the officialdom of the venerable 155-year-old professional institution, even as AIA wants nothing to do with his organization.
Chris Mohr (this guy) is convinced that he has rebutted (not debunked but Rebutted, disproven, shown to be invalid, answered satisfactorily, etc.) Richard Gage, and was even featured onstage in a video with Gage that Gage’s own people refused to release, as he details in the opening seconds of the video playlist here. The videos are as riveting as watching paint dry. I don’t recommend them.
Healthy skepticism, it seems, has curdled into paranoia. Wild conspiracy tales are peddled daily on the Internet, talk radio and in other media. Blurry photos, quotes taken out of context and sketchy eyewitness accounts have inspired a slew of elaborate theories: The Pentagon was struck by a missile; the World Trade Center was razed by demolition-style bombs; Flight 93 was shot down by a mysterious white jet. As outlandish as these claims may sound, they are increasingly accepted abroad and among extremists here in the United States.
To investigate 16 of the most prevalent claims made by conspiracy theorists, POPULAR MECHANICS assembled a team of nine researchers and reporters who, together with PM editors, consulted more than 70 professionals in fields that form the core content of this magazine, including aviation, engineering and the military.
In the end, we were able to debunk each of these assertions with hard evidence and a healthy dose of common sense. We learned that a few theories are based on something as innocent as a reporting error on that chaotic day. Others are the byproducts of cynical imaginations that aim to inject suspicion and animosity into public debate. Only by confronting such poisonous claims with irrefutable facts can we understand what really happened on a day that is forever seared into world history.
The rabbit hole of 9-11 conspiracies these days begins and ends with Building 7. Because of the positioning of the building on the site, it’s odd construction, et cetera, proponents of conspiracy theories always seem to point to building 7 as the most inexplicable part of the catastrophe.
However, it really is explainable, and the explanation isn’t implosion; the buildings didn’t disintegrate into dust, nor did they fall completely in their own footprints. Building 7 did not collapse at free fall velocities. 18 seconds per seismic monitoring; twice as long in duration than ‘free fall’. I’ve toured ground zero, more than once. As a former architect I’ve studied the damage around that area numerous times. If you understand the structures, then you will understand why they failed the way they did. There’s nothing mysterious or inexplicable about that day and it’s events, not even the fact that W. ignored warnings in advance of the attacks. That is also completely normal human behavior.
Thirteen years and still no defectors from the group that set the bombs? Not one shred of documentation from the (and as a former architect, I know what documentation is required) thousands of pages of diagrams necessary to pull off a job of this magnitude? No significant amount of explosive residue (I have to say significant, because there was all kinds of materials in the buildings including trace amounts of explosives. Not enough to bring down the buildings) that leads to the culprits who made it? Nothing? Whereas (in that book I’ve already linked) you can find references to the CIA program that tracked the hijackers. Documentation for the meetings at which W. was warned of plans to attack with planes. In the NIST reports you can find explanations of how the structures failed the way they did. Etc. Etc. Etc. Mountains of evidence that support the explanation that planes struck the buildings just like we all saw, and the resultant damage and fires caused them to collapse, and to bring other buildings down with them. And against that mountain of evidence you have…?
The NIST report has been altered! It is full of errors
Anomaly hunting does not prove a counter argument; it simply points out anomalies in the data presented. In other words, because the government falsifies data, it doesn’t prove that the buildings were imploded, or the planes remote controlled, or whatever fanciful tale you prefer over the hard reality that occurred that day. In order for the data to be ‘falsified’ you have to prove intent to deceive, rather than simple error involved in a complex determination of structural failure. Discounting all of the documentation accumulated on this subject because of errors in certain parts of the data is engaging in fallacious reasoning.
Anomalies in the data occur. That is reality not human nature. Building seven fell the way it did because that’s the way it’s particular frame failed with the damage it received. The side facing the twin towers fell first because of the damage it sustained, and it pulled the visible portions of the building back and down with it, making the collapse look “odd” from the perspective of the street (the only perspectives available) but is quite well explained by the NIST reports if you care to actually read them.
We knew about Watergate within the year that it occurred. MKultra within a decade of it’s ending. The NSA programs currently running stayed secret for less than a few years. The timeframes whereby secret operations remain unknown is getting shorter and shorter, and the more complex the operation, the less likely it will be able to remain secret for any amount of time.
The Manhattan project is another example of “open secrets”; like the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in it’s own way. Anyone involved could have (and did) relate the incident when they felt they were clear of reprisal. Where are the confessions for the people involved in the implosion of building 7?
There is no magical waiver for illegal operations documentation, coordination and manpower. Complex operations must be documented and coordinated. The more complex, the more documentation and manpower. People talk, and documents will be found. That is what happens. The claim that this doesn’t happen in this special instance is completely irrational.
The possibility of using thermite to cut steel does not equate to thermite being used to cut steel in this instance. I can cut steel with a cutting torch, it does not mean they used a cutting torch to bring down the WTC. Even if it were possible, there has not been enough residue found on the debris to conclude that it was used in this fashion. Once again, anomaly hunting is not evidence. Paraphrasing another skeptic; Making selective choices amongst competing evidence, so as to emphasize the results that support a given position, while ignoring or dismissing any findings that do not support it, is a practice known as “cherry picking” and is a hallmark of poor science or pseudo-science.
I love this wikipedia page. It is a page heavily edited by 9-11 truthers and it brings up and then dismisses with evidence every objection to the NIST report. It is an excellent illustration of how all of these arguments have been had before, by people more informed than either side of an imaginary argument between me and whoever is reading this.
The desperation in truther mentality is quite amusing. Conspiracy theorists in general go through the years convinced that there is some nefarious plot afoot that will destroy civilization as we know it if it isn’t revealed to the world.
…however, these same conspiracies have been floated for decades. The builderburgers, the Rothschilds, The JFK assasination, 911 truth, etc, etc, etc. Weirdly, the world just keeps on turning, never noticing that the plots go unchallenged by the vast majority of the population. How is it that these conspiracies have failed to take over the world? When these groups have been actively conspiring now since before the First World War?
Column 79 held up the building?
Column 79 in WTC7 being the first to fail (as suggested by the NIST report) makes perfect sense, since the penthouse which is seen to drop before the facade of the building does, has a corner on column 79. Had any other column been suggested to fail first, you would have to explain the kink in the facade (which is visible) and the premature disappearance of roof structures in that area.
Anyone who thinks therefore only 79 held up the building doesn’t understand structure or the phrase “progressive failure”(which, contrary to the internet meme, has nothing to do with Obama) wherein the tall buildings we occupy are carefully crafted latticeworks of interlocking support members, the loss of any one of which can lead to the entire structure collapsing. Any first year engineering student understands this theory.
…and if you have other questions, you might want to peruse this link for answers before postulating anything else that makes you look like an idiot.
Progressive Failure is the exact mechanism of crafted structures that implosion methods exploit in order to bring down buildings. All of the building collapses on 9-11 represented sobering problems for future engineers, because engineers specifically attempt to design buildings to not do what those buildings did anyway.
Anyone in the AEC community who clings to the implosion theory for the WTC structures is engaging in a well known psychological evasion technique, probably due to an emotional need to prove someone else is to blame aside from the engineering community. Consequently it’s actually surprising that so few architects and engineers are truthers. This speaks to the strength of the evidence, rather than the weakness of the individuals involved.
Hindsight is always 20/20. Conspiracy theorists rely on this while spinning their theories. There’s no room for the knowledge that things were different and seen differently before the incident; so the idea that you might not conclude that what we after the fact would see as a threat, would not be seen as a threat at the time. That there were vested interests denying that America could be attacked directly, and that attempts to investigate the conspirators before the attack were actively discouraged by these interests. That the government was warned multiple times prior to the attack, but then modified the narrative to remove these references after the fact, and that this is simply the way human systems have been shown to operate.
What brought down the buildings? Waiting for proof that it wasn’t planes, fire and construction techniques that lead to their collapse is waiting on someone to manufacture evidence. Because nothing of any credible significance has ever been found that says otherwise.
Do you know that my personal crusade in life (in the philosophical sense) is not merely to fight collectivism, nor to fight altruism? These are only consequences, effects, not causes. I am out after the real cause, the real root of evil on earth — the irrational.
So this image showed up on my Facebook feed today. What followed the image in the comments was the predictable feeding frenzy that you witness when your throw bloody meat to sharks. Today’s cleaner, nicer internet breed of human doesn’t seem to understand the dirty nature of real life as it was before the internet made it possible to live and never leave your house.
For the record, she said these words, at least according to Wikiquote (couldn’t find it in the Lexicon, but I remember reading them) although I prefer the quote that follows it, the one I started this post with. There you have it, Rand gives us all permission to steal from native peoples. That is, if you just blindly do what someone who lived before you and wrote influential works tells you to do.
Blaming Ayn Rand for the plight of native peoples around the world is no different than ending every observation of fascistic tendencies with the phrase “like Hitler”. In reading her works it’s easy to see how her ideas can be turned to evil, how they could be seen as evil when they are brought up out of context in an image like this. It’s no mystery why people like Paul Ryan and others cite her writings when they want to punish the poor and reward the rich. I myself, as someone who still (provisionally) self-identifies as objectivist, cringe at the words above, and wondered at Rand’s blindness to the fascistic applications her ideas could give credence to.
But then we’ve moved a very long way along the knowledge curve since Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum immigrated to the US in 1926. Rand herself didn’t even understand what it meant to be “objective”, or rather, the barriers to objectivity that stand in the way of even the most clear-headed observer, something we’ve discovered and proven in the last score of years or so. Motivated numeracy alone can lead one to deny proven science if it conflicts with your political views, so consequently most of the people who adhere to Ayn Rand’s labels and words have even less of a clue about the pitfalls of thinking oneself perfectly objective on a subject.
What she was trying to express about primitives and their rights to continue the nomadic lives they had lead, can’t be illustrated simplistically with concepts like property and profit; it makes her look mean and cheap, which may or may not be an accurate description of Rand the person. You certainly can’t explain the process of national expansion to people who accept the natural fallacy without question, even if you really, really try.
It pays to reflect that the followers of the dominant philosophical ideal of the time, state socialists, had no problem taking life and land from anybody for any reason that they deemed suited the cause of the people (which in state socialist terms meant the body politic) the defense that Rand is offering is at least logical, if bereft of emotion.
Better to ask the people encroaching on tribal lands without negotiating in good faith with the natives what their goals were beyond profiting themselves. Too bad none of them are around to ask anymore.
You might well ask well how should I interpret those words, then? As I’ve done previously when people ask about Ayn Rand (unlike other Objectivists) I point them towards The Passion of Ayn Rand; Book or The Passion of Ayn Rand; Movie (Helen Mirren is great in the latter) because that is what someone who knew her but was kicked out of the inner circle really thought about her and her life. If you want to see what the most negative parts of her life look like from outside, there is no starker image than these.
On The Other Hand, if you really want to understand what she was trying for with her work, I recommend the documentary Sense of Life rather than her fictional works themselves. You can’t get an overview from them. You certainly can’t get a feel for her at all, from either the detractors who have always hated her, or the mindless randroids who take her name in vain these days.
It is worth observing (hindsight being 20/20) that without people like Rand, people willing to state that it was OK to not sacrifice yourself for the good of the many, that you could lead a worthy life without being poverty stricken and suffering, that we wouldn’t be living in a world that is rapidly seeing the decline of dictatorships as vehicles of social change; that dictatorship is now almost a quaint historical artifact, like feudalism. Social change is once again in the hands of the people. Right or wrong, where it belongs; with individuals willing to work for change.
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been facing the world’s worst case of writer’s block, for quite some time now. Anyone who knows me, read this blog, or runs across this new post will probably figure that out pretty quickly. My first post on the blog since stumbling across the solution to my problem was the one redefining myself; but even so, I’ve found it insurmountably hard to write. I guess I need to keep reminding myself of this fact;
I have stopped being honest with myself. Time to tell myself the truth.
I was a libertarian for 20 years because of the idea that individuals doing the ‘right thing’ voluntarily was the best solution. In the end, some systems require support whether we want to contribute or not though. If the answer is not then force has to be applied. Otherwise human nature will dictate that no one will pay for the systems, since most people will only do what they are required to do. I have no answer for “what if people won’t pay?” other than to state “I will shoot you myself”. I don’t rely on the state anymore than I am required to; and yet the state does many things which are of use, one of them paying me for my disability. I would ask “why did I have to spend three years fighting for something which I clearly need?” you might ask “what makes you think you deserve it?” I deserve it, because I paid for 20 years on a contract that the government should honor.
I have never been an anarchist, which is (as my redefining post pointed out) what libertarians really are. I find anarchists to be some of the most delusional (and generally harmless) people around. Humans have always adhered to some form of tribal authority and work best in groups aligned on a common goal. An individual can survive but it cannot thrive without the group and it’s ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ compiled results. To suggest that we can simply do away with governments and tribal authority and replace it with nothing is to ignore reality; and the solutions offered by anarchists as a replacement don’t look any better to me than current government solutions, really any different than tribal leadership. So government exists and will continue to exist, and force will occasionally have to be applied to individuals who simply want to not have to pay for services that they will eventually use.
Studies have been conducted that show that people do not contribute to charity at a level that would make services available that are needed, necessary and require funding; that in fact the wealthy on average contribute a far smaller percentage of their wealth than the poor and middle class. That the wealthy feel they are entitled to the privileges of wealth, even if they are granted unfair advantage at the outset of a game designed to test just this attribute of being well off.
Every time I write on a subject that expounds on scientific findings that I’ve read, I am challenged personally by people who disagree with the findings; as if the workings of science answer to what I or they might think or believe; as if the actual path of past evolution could be altered just because we want it to be different. It remains a fact that people (in general) will avoid doing work that they think others will do given time, or if not doing it doesn’t impact them immediately. Consequently young people don’t buy health or life insurance, and bridle at being told they must invest in their future. The average person dies without ever expressing their wishes in a will, because making those plans is an admission that they will actually die someday.
So maybe that is the point of this post. What I want has nothing to do with what is, what exists and its nature. That the most I can hope for is to be able to carve out a little space for myself, preferably one not backing onto a high traffic area of the house, where I can be pestered every 5 minutes like I’m the house information system (where are my keys? Where is my phone? Is there milk in the fridge?) a place where I can find the peace to write.
I used my post on Why I am a Libertarian as an example of how I would describe myself for many years. A decade and more of time has passed, and when I look back on this with an eye for continuity and history, I find my previous blind reliance on libertarian principles to be quite humorous.
I have never been an anarchist; in fact, anarchists are some of the people I disagree with the most. If I could point to a single reason why I almost never identify as libertarian any longer, it’s because libertarianism (especially on the web) is default anarchism. You have to struggle to get the average libertarian to admit that structure is required in society. That you need organization to build roads, do science, construct complex machinery. In fact, there is so much knowledge involved in a single field of expertise these days that it’s almost hard to find generalists with enough depth of knowledge to bridge the gap between specialists.
So this idea of the rugged individualist doing all for himself, with no one to thank for what he has other than himself is complete self-delusional bullshit.
From the hospital where most of us are born to the school paid for with tax dollars, from the roads we travel on during our working years to the social security system most of us will rely on in old age, almost nothing we experience occurs because we were the sole architect of its existence. Much less would we want to own any of the convoluted bullshit we have to deal with systems invented by madmen and executed by sadists? Better to be leaves floating on an irresistible wind than acknowledge that any of this is what we would have wanted, planned for, inflicted on others.
I played a mental game with myself for quite a long time. I still find it amusing on occasion, especially when opponents in argument will trot out the ad hominem, try to affix labels to me and my arguments in order to dismiss them. Flip the script is how you might describe it these days. How would you define yourself in as few words as possible, using only labels that others might use to discard you and your arguments. Epithets or titles applied to you by others to summarize and pigeonhole you or your views.
I could to get it down to three; Objectivist, Architect, Father (no longer licensed, so can’t call myself architect anymore. Libertarian was in second place at one point) These days the three would be more like Father, Skeptic, Objectivist; and Objectivist is left on the end simply because I still believe we can obtain glimpses of objectivity, not because I buy in to the whacky psychological ideals of Ayn Rand. That we have to be able to discern objective reality in some limited fashion unless everything we sense is complete illusion, which demonstrably is not the case. Most Objectivists these days make me cringe when they speak.
I daresay today’s Objectivists would make Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum cringe as well; but then I’m not her, was never a member of her cult of personality, don’t believe in revealed knowledge in even the vaguest sense. What I do know is that the system she describes as ideal doesn’t even resemble the current political, ideological or economic system; and the economic and political actors of today are more akin to the looters of her novels than her contemporaries in 1950 America could have been. That current self-identified objectivists laud the behavior and thinking of these people simply puts the lie to their claim of objectivity.
Consequently, when self-styled Objectivists start mouthing anarchist phrases while representing the Republican party, I almost disown the objectivist label, too. Who knows, maybe that one goes next. Would Ayn Rand have modified her ideals given the advances in knowledge about the workings of the mind and the social patterns of the human animal? I’d like to think she would have admitted fault at some point, but then that wouldn’t have been very Ayn Rand of her.
This introspection was brought on by a challenge from a fellow member of the now-defunct Dan Carlin BBS forums. Gone are all the threads and thoughts recorded on those boards, unless they are preserved somewhere on Dan’s private servers or happened to be picked up by the Wayback Machine, if even the Wayback Machine itself continues to function.
I get no satisfaction from the knowledge that I predicted the demise of the boards years before they were taken offline by Dan Carlin, but I knew that his hands-off approach to freedom of speech, his belief in the innate goodness of people, was a recipe for disaster. That the disaster did occur was in spite of my best efforts, for years, before finally giving up. Trolls will continue to troll until barred from trolling, and it takes a judicious use of the ban-hammer to make people respect you enough to be forthright in their posting habits. If you are anonymous and without rules, driving people away with harassment is simpler than trying to reason with them. The time spent is the only cost of such behavior, and that is essentially free if you have free time to spend. Some of us have far too much time.
But the challenge had been to be as self-reflective as you could and be open about things you might have learned since joining the forums. I believe it was cast against the more recent findings that people did not change with argument (more recent than the establishment of the forum) and the member who issued that challenge was de officiis I think. They were just another stranger on the internet, but someone who had reliably challenged me with heartfelt interrogation, always offering comments that I felt were honest. So I accepted the challenge in the fashion offered. These were my most honest thoughts of the time. They still hold some power over me.
Since writing the above, I tried out the word ‘Skeptic’ as defining me, and I find it too skeptical. The daughter thinks Freethinker is too pretentious, but then I think pretentious defines my assessment of the importance of my thinking quite well. So I’m going with the pretentious sounding ‘freethinker’ rather than the piss on your parade personal interpretation I get from the word skeptic (Yes, skeptics, I know that isn’t how you see the word) I would say that I approach all subjects with a healthy dose of skepticism, but I don’t enjoy the process very much. I do love finding truths, but telling others what the truth actually *is* is a very tricky process. A process I find I don’t do very well.
Consequently, I also feel the need to temper Objectivism with Humanism. Objectivists will say this means I’m not really an objectivist; something else I find funny since most of them don’t see the problem with being religious and claiming Objectivism as a philosophy. Human is the lens that modifies the world we see, and Humanism is the attempt to make our systems more humane. I’ll take that.
What makes a freethinker is not his beliefs but the way in which he holds them. If he holds them because his elders told him they were true when he was young, or if he holds them because if he did not he would be unhappy, his thought is not free; but if he holds them because, after careful thought he finds a balance of evidence in their favor, then his thought is free, however odd his conclusions may seem.
The Atlas Society sent me a link to this video a few days ago. I get these periodically, and have never been impressed with them. This video continued the trend.
The title alone set me off How Obamacare Betrays Young Adults. Really? We’re going to take that angle? First off, health insurance has never been ‘insurance’, and healthcare ‘insurance’ policies have always capitalized on sharing the costs amongst the payers in any group. The ACA simply sets the default group size as “the entirety of the US”.
There is no reason to speak of Obamacare as anything ground breaking or particularly threatening. It might or might not work as intended, but with the insurance companies forced to accept everyone and not allowed to take a greater than 15% profit from premiums, my objections to the system are effectively eliminated.
Yes, young people will pay more for insurance than they might pay out of pocket for their well-care visits (most of which will be skipped by them for reasons of economy if they are anything like I was back then) if they live long enough to reach middle age they’ll be thankful that they paid into the healthcare infrastructure all those years.After watching the video I was depressed to realize that the arguments I would craft if making the case against Obamacare were better than the ones presented. Combine that with the crappy cinematography, poor sound quality and bad acting and you have something that’s only watchable by people who already agree with you.
If you buy insurance of any kind, you are by definition subsidizing the behaviors of others who buy the same policy. The only way to avoid this is to not buy insurance. The lie that is presented here is that Obamacare is different in effect; when the only difference is that Americans are all compelled to buy it. It is effectively a tax, one that I (and most intelligent people) can craft arguments for and against almost at will.I wouldn’t be opposed to means testing the system so that those more able to pay are not unequally profited from the availability of healthcare (as was mentioned in one of the other comments) I would be opposed to telling contributing members of society that they must simply die because they cannot afford to pay, which is what anyone who says “I don’t want to contribute to that” means, whether they understand that is the ultimate result of their actions or not.
It’s also worth noting that we already subsidize the healthcare of the poor. This is done through the mechanism of providing charitable relief at emergency rooms, where the ability to pay is not used (for humane reasons) to screen the sick from access to doctors. This is also the most expensive way to provide healthcare, not only because emergency rooms are expensive to run and maintain, but because waiting until illness is severe is the least effective and most expensive way to treat illness.
While I’m not fond of Obamacare, I’m also not fond of the idea of leaving the poor and sick to their own devices; and I’m quite fond of the idea of having emergence services available when I need them. Consequently some form of tax is necessary to pay for these services. How about we have that honest discussion instead?