Sunday, July 31, 2005


Duck of Minerva points to this discussion of Empire over at Coming Anarchy. Chirol at CA believes:

1) Empires are always founded by successful countries/cultures
2) Thus, they spread technology, development and stability (often through overwhelming force)
3) They began globalization periods and are always at the core.

I read these statements as:

1) [Militarily] Successful countries/cultures (empires) are always [militarily] successful. They are therefore assigned the normative value “good”.
2) They spread their goodness by conquest.
3) This spread of goodness leads to greater global trade.

An alternate theory:

1) Shitty states need to become belligerent in order to distract the masses from the corruption and incompetence of the elites.
2) Shit spreads through violence.
3) Eventually the inefficient system that lead the original country to vent its pressures outwards runs out of outwards. The societal turmoil covered up by conquest reemerges and destroys the society.

Exempli gratia: Russian Revolution, French Revolution (if Napoleon stayed out of Russia), Athens, Hitler, Rome (arguably), Persia, Egypt, Spain, and the Aztecs.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mercenary Revolution

Alex Tabarrok over at Marginal Revolution suggests hiring “mercenaries” to supplement the US military recruiting. I don’t know if “mercenary” is the right word since what he suggests isn’t analogous to the example of Roman Auxiliaries (unlike Halliburton and Blackwater). He is suggesting that naturalization could be linked to military service as in the French Foreign Legion. This would produce a volunteer army that would be motivated and loyal. They are trying to gain citizenship and military training is a great socialization mechanism. It would produce disciplined immigrants that all speak English well enough to take orders and work with Anglophones.

However, I would find it disturbingly anti-American to suggest that in order to gain the rights and privileges of freedom as an American citizen a person must first give up those rights and take orders from the government. It is one thing for a citizen to voluntarily give up their rights in order to help defend them, it is completely different to demand a period of indentured servitude from a person in order for them to earn their (inalienable) rights.

None the less, I’d be willing to entertain the idea of using this as a temporary and small stop-gap measure. We naturalize about half a million individuals every year. Our current recruiting shortfalls in the military are about fifty thousand per year. As long as this method of naturalization was temporary (id est sunseted) and no larger then a tenth of our naturalizations, it may not pose a danger to the Republic.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Essential Problem of Societal Organization

The production of all goods, except utility and ideas, exhibit increasing private returns to scale.

Just wanted to get that in (virtual) writing.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The London Popping

Four blasting caps go "pop" in London and it requires full live coverage. A propane tank is exploded in Baghdad and kills seventy, and it is barely mentioned. Meh. Whadya expect from a bunch of raving hairless apes.

The important thing here is that we get to talk about “National Security” again, and that means we get to talk about Iraq again, which means we get to talk about Rove again, and for the next month, until the Dread Pirate is on the hotseat. (But during that time make with the rumors. This is the perfect topic changer to halt the Republican momentum and allow us to "reframe".)

The Case of Moriarty the Holo-being

I’ve been catching up on some real world work and missed Battlepanda’s bit on Nozick’s experience machine.

For the uninitiated, an experience machine is something you can put yourself inside of and simulate any experience you want. Nozick and Julian Sanchez argue that one would not want to be placed inside an experience machine because you would lose “choice”. That is just stupid.

The real reason a person wouldn’t want to be put into an experience machine is that the machine will in all likelihood fail. Unless the machine is as reliable as G-d, it will not always produce the sensory input that is desired. Something will malfunction or someone could come along and break the machine. Outside of these possibilities, the experience machine is purely good. But in order to maximize the possibility that the experience you want is the experience you get you would need to monitor the machine and the outside world. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you completely understand the intricate workings of the machine (but that would help).

In the example of the holo-being Moriarty (which is further proof that the Federation is suppressing technology that could computerize human consciousness):

1: Moriarty still exists in his prison. A similar question would be why we shouldn’t kill a poisonous tropical plant species that is on the brink of extinction. It’s deadly, but it could hold useful secrets. Similarly, Moriarty is safely contained and would appear to be much more likely to help humanity in the future then harm it. Perhaps there is some situation where his ingenuity would become useful or some way to get him to give up his murderous drive to incorporate. Until then, he’s not going anywhere, and he uses very little space and energy.

2: Only if creating new life will help life succeed. Evaluate the utility of “sentience”, in other words, take the total utility of sentient life as a collective. If the universal utility is benefited from creating new life, then they should be created. In addition, misery should be avoided.

So, if you spend a bunch of time create a lot of wanking monkeys, and then a comet hits earth, not such a good idea. If you create a bunch of squid astronomers that like to look out for comets, that’s a good idea.

The bottom line is whether it will help sentience survive. If a bunch of distracted distractions are created, then we may miss something important. If the sentiences are useful and not too costly, then they should be created.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Dread Pirate

Angelica gets what I’m going for. Ambiguity totally works in Rove’s favor here. However, right now I’m not sure whether it would be easier to get The Dread Pirate to admit his position by starting a rumor that he is pro-choice or starting a rumor that he isn’t. Maybe a little from column A and a little from column B.

Potential “dialogue”:

Democrat A: I have personal assurances from an anonymous white house source that Roberts is pro-choice.

Democrat B: Bush has proven that he will lie to protect his corporate interests before. He’s done it in the lead up to the war, and he did it again to protect his buddy Karl Rove. How can you trust Bush when he has been so misleading in the past.

Democrat A: Yes, the Bush administration is full of soulless sleaze-bags that would sell their own mothers for a profit, but this is exactly why they would compromise to protect their corrupt cronies.

Democrat B: Well let’s just agree that Bush and the Republicans are worthless human beings whether they are lying about Robert’s pro-choice position or selling out for corporate corruption.
But does this violate message discipline? Maybe, but Rove is walking the middle road. What happens to someone walking in the middle of the road? They get hit from both sides.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Let me be the first...

To pass on the rumor I heard from a highly placed source that Roberts is a flaming "Pro-choice"-er.

Forget #2 below, Roberts is practically tailor made to avoid that. We gotta go strictly with #1 and force their hand.

BLITZER: Democrats sure must be squealin' now that the adminstration is trying to get a conservative on the court. Squeal piggy! Squeal for the cameras!

RANDOM DEMOCRAT: I have personal assurances from anonymous white house officials that Roberts is firmly pro-choice. We are glad to see that Bush is willing to compromise on the issue of abortion but are concerned that the Republicans are simply trying to push through a pro-corporate nominee.

A preemptive "I Told You So"

A preemptive "I told you so" to all the people who doubted that Bush would make a "Pro-choice" appointment.

When Bush makes his "moderate" nomination tonight there are two ways to respond:

1 We say that we are glad that Bush has decided to compromise on Abortion, but are concerned about the nominee's pro-kleptocapitalist leanings.

This paints Bush as willing to sell out the christianists in order to enrich his corporate cronies. This is where we want the debate to go eventually but maybe first we should:

2 Question the supposed "Pro-choice" credentials of the appointee until we somehow get a more explicit endorsement of sucking out embryo brains with a surgical vacuum.

This would totally kill any ember of hope in the christianists before we moved on to #1. The risk here is that Rove or his nominee would never clarify the position because the ambiguity is beneficial. However, other Republicans (like the gang of Maine, McCain and Specter) may feel forced to join our demand for clarification once it gains momentum.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Apparently we never planned to bring Democracy to Iraq, we were bringing Demockracy™, a product of the US defense industry:

In the months before the Iraqi elections in January, President Bush approved a plan to provide covert support to certain Iraqi candidates and political parties, but rescinded the proposal because of Congressional opposition, current and former government officials said Saturday.

The statement appeared to leave open the question of whether any covert help was provided to parties favored by Washington, an issue about which the White House declined to elaborate.

The article, by Seymour M. Hersh, reports that the administration proceeded with the covert plan over the Congressional objections. Several senior Bush administration officials disputed that, although they recalled renewed discussions within the administration last fall about how the United States might counter what was seen as extensive Iranian support to pro-Iranian Shiite parties.
The similarity in sound of the words would be a challenge for any transcriber. I don't blame White House administrative assistants for the confusion resulting from statements such as these:

President Bush will welcome Portuguese Prime Minister Durao Barroso to the White House on June 6, 2003 for a meeting and working luncheon. Portugal has stood from the first hour among America's closest allies in the war on terrorism and the effort to bring peace and democracy to Iraq, and was host of the March 16 "Atlantic Summit" in the Azores. Portugal is a valuable founding member of NATO with a deep-rooted commitment to transatlantic cooperation.
Which was meant to read:

President Bush will welcome Portuguese Prime Minister Durao Barroso to the White House on June 6, 2003 for a meeting and working luncheon. Portugal has stood from the first hour among America's closest allies in the war on terrorism and the effort to bring peas and Demockracy™ to Iraq, and was host of the March 16 "Atlantic Summit" in the Azores. Portugal is a valuable founding member of NATO with a deep-rooted commitment to transatlantic cooperation.
See? Peas and Demockracy™! Mission accomplished.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Where Do Suicide Bombers Come From?


But seriously, I am very much a skeptic as to Leavitt's prospects in discovering some pattern to the lives of suicide bombers. I found out where suicide bombing as a tactic originated during my absence, while researching a comment for Battlepanda's site. And it made me realize just how odd a tactic it is. There are very few cultures that could come up with the idea of throwing away your life just to spitefully take as many of the enemy with you as possible. It is as if you are dying on principle and not for any material reason. In fact, there is only one culture that I know of that is this weirdly obsessed with suicide: the Japanese.

In 1972, three Marxist Japanese nationals attacked the Lod airport in Israel as a show of Communist solidarity with the PLO. The PLO was surprised by the idea that these Japanese terrorists were willing to attack without any plan for escape. When one of the three committed suicide on the tarmac by pressing a grenade against his body, the meme of suicide warrior passed from the tribes native to the island of Nippon to the tribes of the Middle East, ironically facilitated by the anti-tribalism of their victims.

Suicide bombing is a fad. There is no deep explanation for it. There is no rhyme or reason to it. Its development as a tactic is completely serendipitous. There will be no pattern for Leavitt to uncover, besides the usual sexual frustrations that cause men to commit serial murder, or shoot up schools, or become religious extremists. School shootings is another example, but on a much smaller scale. There was a rash of shootings in school, generally not by the quarterback of the football team, during the late nineties. Just as it would be futile to attempt to discern who was a potential school shooter, it is futile to attempt to discern who is a suicide bomber.

The motivations for suicide bombing are probably very similar to the motivations of serial killers. Sexual frustration builds for years into a quasi-moralistic outrage that demands an outlet. Take this chilling quote from the blog of Shasta Groene's killer via TalkLeft:

To be more specific, I am scared, alone, and confused, and my reaction is to strike out toward the perceived source of my misery, society. My intent is to harm society as much as I can, then die.
I am certain that a suicide bomber expresses the same sentiment for pretty much the same reasons. There's no econometric formula for serial killer, school shooter, or suicide bomber, but there may be one for ostracized loser. Suicide bombing is just one of the many forms that frustration can take (that just happens to be a popular fad in some cultures currently). However, usually that frustration becomes a powerful creative force by inspiring religious devotion, focusing a person with a sense of purpose, or stimulating artistic creativity.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Boo Yeah! [High Five]

Perfect, just perfect. The Eighth Circuit just ruled that partial birth abortion ban is unconstitutional.

Friday I mentioned that Rehnquist's retirement would be the worst possible thing that could happen; well this recent ruling is possibly the best thing that could have happened. It is the perfect news item to amplify the importance of this SC battle, especially for what I predict will be the losing side: christianists. The name of the game is alienate the christianists!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Significance of "Heh"

Ezra's commentary on the dual purges at Red State and Kos brings up a topic I've been meaning to address.

The difference between the left and right blogospheres is that the left is interested in exploring new ideas and learning what the MSM isn't saying, while the right is interested in a masturbatory circle jerk. That's why Red State eliminated comments that increasied the diversity of ideas on their page. Kos on the other hand eliminated commentaries that were all basically repeating the exact same thing and reducing the diversity of commentary on his boards. The left wants truth, so they are willing to let their ideas be attacked. The right wants isolation, so they insulate themselves.

The reason Instahack links so much is that it allows him to retain his prestige and audience coalition by distancing himself and his brand from the content on his page. When the libertarian Schwarzenegger Republican disagrees with the blockquote Instahack pulled from the bible thumping Dobsonite, he can just dismiss it by thinking "Insty doesn't think that way, he's just pointing it out," That's what the "Heh," is for. He's laughing with it if you agree, at it if you disagree. In this way, he can get away with distributing blatant falsehoods without losing credibility. He's not reporting the falsehood, he's reporting the fact that others are saying the falsehood.

But because Atrios is trying to get important new sorties out rather then repeat the party line, he doesn't really care what a bunch of bloggers siting around in their pajamas think (unless they hit upon a new story). It's just a lot harder to write a post that makes someone go hmmm rather then heh, indeed.

Skippy Needs a Million Hits!

This is going to be the top post until the blogathon is over, so scroll down for new stuff. And hit Skippy!

Skippy is trying to get himself 1 million hits by July 10 in his blogathon. Skippy does blogtopia (yes, he coined that phrase!) a great service by continually, consciously, and assiduously attempting to subvert the dominant link hierarchy. So if you don’t have enough time to do that yourself, a link his way and dropping by his site once in a while is a good way to contribute.

Skippy Needs a Million Hits!


Saturday, July 09, 2005

Of Course the Economic Interests of the Majority of Americans are with the Democratic Party (Duh!)

Steve Rose wonders whether the economic interests of the American people are with the Democratic Party.

Of course the economic interests of the American people are with the Democratic Party. Duh.

Republicans seem just as unwilling to cut government spending, but they spend it on defense contracts instead of social programs. And as long as deficits make no electoral impact, there is no reason that Democrats couldn’t call for large tax cuts exclusively for the lower tax brackets. Let the Republicans make the argument for their tax cuts for the rich (instead of our tax cuts for the lower and middle classes) using obscure economic theory while we paint them as reverse robin’ hoods. Of course this depends on the Democrats making a lower-middle tax cut so outlandishly large that the Republicans can’t simply add it on top of the tax cuts for their corrupt corporate cronies. How about upping the ten percent bracket thirty thousand dollars? Or (triple) Sawicky's Simplified Family Credit?

However, the larger point I want to make is that all of this is immaterial. There is almost nothing that can happen to reverse the impression in the minds of the public that Democrats are in favor of large “feel good” government programs like education, healthcare, and retirement security. This is similar to the cognitive momentum built around the idea that Republicans are the party of christianists. What has the Republican leadership done for the pro-life lobby recently? Schiavo? That was a spectacle. No doubt we can turn up some victims of corporate greed to sympathetically parade in front of the cameras. Stem cells? Gay marriage? Sold out on both counts there by Bush. Remember the Gibson interview where Bush said he disagreed with the Republican platform on Gay Unions? And this current SC appointment is certainly not going to go to a “pro-life” Justice. So the christianists have been left with perpetual blue-balls, and yet still follow the Republicans (although I’m hoping the Dems wake up and use this current SC debate to change that). Convincing the dual income household that additional federal education and healthcare spending will help them spend more time with their family will be relatively easy since we actually intend to do that.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I’m Goin’ Lewis Black Over Here!

Rehnquist’s retirement is the worst possible thing that could have happened you moron because now the preznit can point to his hickified bible thumping appointee as a sop for the stupid christianists and still keep recreational fucking legal in the US!!! Even after the worst fucking possible thing happened, this whole Supreme Court debate is still a fucking mine field for Rove and we are just letting him waltz right through it! Wake up you FUCKING MORONS!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Girls Gone Wild as a Cultural Phenomenon

Girls Gone Wild as a cultural phenomenon signifies a resentment that has grown up around the empowerment of women due to the sexual revolution. In the name of gender egalitarianism men have (justifiably) been called upon to significantly alter their behavior, from work environment standards (i.e. “hostile work environment” sexual harassment) to affirmative action quotas, and rightfully so. However, while gender based advantage has largely been eliminated for men, there still exists a significant gender based advantage for women in that men probably have stronger libidos.

GGW videos are “of attractive, often skittish young American women simply taking off some of their clothes, on camera, often highly ambivalent about it,” according to the Washington Post. GGW creator Joe Francis says of existing pr0nography that:

"Our woman is a young woman who is very innocent and wouldn't typically pose for anything," he says. "Playboy magazine likes to say it gets the girl next door. But it gets the girl next door who went to Hollywood, slept with the guy, and went with him to the Playboy Mansion."
explicitly referencing Playboy but more generally referring to the way the sexual revolution served to empower women. The secret of Francis’s success is that he is subtly inverting this empowerment.

Normally, a woman engaged in pr0nography gains control of an otherwise out of control life through the process of pr0nography. One of the best examples of this is Jenna Jameson (CNN book review). Before GGW, pr0n was a source of empowerment. But Francis seeks out women very obviously in control of their lives, in fact explicitly seeking out college students. He then enacts a sort of morality play whereby the young privileged woman who chooses to use her sexuality to get access to alcohol and fame (in the case of GGW: Doggy Style) has that act turned against her by the exploitation of Francis, turning her attempt at using her sexuality in an empowering manner into her humiliation. All of the outrage and controversy that follows these drunken self exposures contributes to the brand image.

Hooray for Dr Dean

Dr. Dean is adopting a line very similar to the one I've been pushing for the last few months: Republicans=Corruption. It's probably a case of paralellel thought but maybe someone out there is listening???

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Learn Damn You Learn!

It's time I link this item about House Democrats not supporting Dean with regards to corruption investgations into Republican kleptocapitalists and just say that it is stupid. Just stupid. Hat tip Kos via factesque.

The (Right Wing Spin) Situation

I listened to Tucker Carlson’s new show last night. He is issuing the new right wing spin on the nomination:

GASPARINO: Let's face it. One of the problems with O'Connor was that she issued muddy decisions. The affirmative action decision, you know, was, like, you know, split 50-50 each way, this thing about religion public places, again, split 50-50 each way.

I think you want someone with a clear direction. I think that's why, in the end, he will pick someone who's basically conservative like Clarence Thomas or Scalia.

CARLSON: Yes. I hope that's true, but Bush's opponents often paint him—I believe incorrectly—as a puppet of the Christian right. Oh that he were, but he's not.
Sub-text: See, Bush is a moderate because he wants to appoint a Justice that will allow him to torture who ever he wants and help his cronies rip off the American public but will not overturn Roe! How noble of him. He really is a compassionate conservative unite-er not divider. Marvel at his bi-partisan support!

Democrats have to get out there and loudly demand Bush not appoint a “pro-life” Justice. That way when he actually doesn’t appoint a “pro-life” Justice, it will make him look spineless. In addition, we’ll accuse him of compromising in order to protect his corporate cronies, which will stick. The name of the game is alienate the christianists. Start playing!

PS: The bit of the transcript about the Texas police arresting the hero guy is pretty funny. No wonder these red-staters want smaller government with officials like these.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Putting Bush in a Compromising Position

Abortion has a lot of cognitive momentum. It’s been a topic of national conversation for twenty five years. For much of that twenty five years the christianists have been prevented from reversing the decision due to either a liberul executive or legislature, causing the christianists to get blue balls. Now a supposedly christianist president has a supposedly christianist congress with which it could push through an anti-choice candidate.

But they won’t because it would be a disastrous source of unity and energy for the Left. So our message must be that precisely: Attention christianists, your Republican girlfriends are never going to put out, so dump them. In other words our message is “Republicans could make abortion illegal, but they won’t. So why bother supporting them?” We (Dem pols as well as individual libs like you and me) achieve this by braying as loudly as possible about our fear that the Republican majority could make “Choice” illegal. Something along the lines “We’ll fight to preserve the individual rights of the American people as long as possible; but Republicans control The Whitehouse and both Houses of Congress, so if they are really determined they could wipeout choice rights. I am really worried. They are wrong on this, but there is no much we can do except stick to our guns and know the American people support us.”

And when Gonzalez is nominated the rhetoric can shift to “Well we’re glad Bush has decided to compromise with the Democrats [in a shameful and wussified manner, at least as compared to the strong erect clear Democrat position] on the issue of <BLOODY UNBAPISED FETUSES BURINING IN HELL>, but we feel that his appointment of <pro-business “moderate”> is just another attempt to put the interests of his corporate cronies ahead of the American people’s interest,” Sub-text: Bush will endure burning hemorrhoidal pain in order to line the pockets of his corporate pimps.

Monday, July 04, 2005

We are so Fucked

Brad Delong is wondering whether the US and China will go to war. Of course they will (and the Chinese may not start it due to the changes in US character initiated by Emperor Cuckoo Bananas). This is because, as I explained before, income inequality causes wars. Brad even touches on this concept while bringing up all his wars before 1850. But as I recall, the twentieth century has been known as a century of warfare. Wars are about distracting the masses while they are being robbed by the elites. As long as there is wealth inequality, there will be a need for distraction. And income inequality is accelerating in both China and the US.

In addition, we may not win. Western society has an advantage in innovative and experimental thinking, an advantage in curiosity. This may be enough to win a conflict with Seres. However, while reading Plumer the other day, a quote illustrated the inherent tactical advantage that a highly hierarchical legalistic bureaucratic society would create.

These days, Wal-Mart is concerned that suppliers are getting extremely sophisticated at faking records to show compliance, even coaching workers before inspectors show up.
Living in a country full of imperial officials with a highly centralized bureaucracy that uses long lines of communication to control a large area may tend to reward gifted forgers. A society whose arts are devoted to the realization of some sort of idealized form (e.g. tea ceremony, tai-chi, shi poetry, or calligraphy) is practically practicing the art of forging. This may be why China is the knock-off capital of the world. What useful tactical skill does this translate into? Hacking.

I have long suspected that the next major war between powers will be fought mostly with communications technology. It will be a contest to see who can get their messages to their computer controlled warriors and prevent the other side from getting its messages across to its electronically controlled forces, or in fact hacking the opponent and attacking them with their own weapons. And it seems to me that the Chinese are well equipped in this respect, and the US is especially vulnerable.

Everything Bad is Good for You


Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8

Alterman thinks Live 8 is a masturbatory exercise because they are not seeking individual donations. I disagree: arguably the more futile effort would be to attempt to organize individuals into donating enough to make a dent. It's better to pressure governments to give more foreign aid. So yeah Live 8, more foreign aid if anyone in the Bush administration really cares what I think.

Also: around 4:30 VH1 showed a ninety second clip of a band called Orchestra Baobab. I was immediately hooked and had to find out more about them. Buy the T-shirt and tell your friends!

Ok, now that you bought the T-shirt, here's the link to their concert on NPR.

Armies of Horny Angry Young People

Greg Anrig wants to know how to get young people interested in politics. I have to disagree with those who say the answer is better grass-roots organization or charismatic leadership. If the Republicans make recreational sex illegal, you will have an army of horny angry young people that will fuel a strong grass-roots organization with bodies and funds, as well as follow any leader no matter how charismatic, if they promise to relieve the lustful burning in their loins.

So what does this imply about strategy going forward? As I have said before, the blunders in the first half of this year have caused cracks to form in the Republican coalition between libertarians and christianists. This makes the issue of “choice” our friend. In an encounter with undergrads yesterday, one such undergrad did not know that O’Connor was the swing vote on issues of “choice”. Democrats should make very certain that the core of this debate is about “choice”, however I recommend broadening the code phrase to “individual rights”, which has the advantage of being very broadly applicable, hauling out “choice” when the right counters with the individual rights of the fetus ("It’s about individual rights." "What about the rights of the fetus?" "Republicans are trying to take away the woman’s right to choose, a blatant assault on the rights of individuals. Individual rights are what made this country strong!"). Make sure all young Americans know that the Republicans are holding a knife to their collective balls.

Americans like recreational sex. This is a winning topic for us (and Rove knows this). And when we win, the christianists will raise hell. Disillusioned with the squandering of their best chance to asexualize America they will become politically apathetic, retreating from this impure worldly realm of politics back to the insulating and isolating spiritual religious expressions that they came from. This should mostly be due to Democrats painting Republicans as crony capitalist thieves who are simply paying lip service to their extremist religiosity.

Or they’ll actually cut off the balls of America’s youth. Then we’ll have the horny angry armies. All it would take is just one protest to end in a nationally televised orgy, and we’ll have Democrat legislative and executive dominance until a couple of Justices buy the farm.