Escalating Complexity and the Collapse of Elite Authority

In yesterday’s New York Times, David Brooks wrote perceptively about the burgeoning populist revolt against the “educated classes”. Brooks was promptly slapped around by various blogosphere essayists such as Will Collier, who noted that Brooks’s column reads like a weaselly apologia for the dismal failures of the “educated classes” in the last couple of decades.

Our “educated classes” cannot bring themselves to come to grips with the fact that fundamentalist Islam has proclaimed war on us. They have run the economy onto recessionary rocks with overly-clever financial speculation and ham-handed political interventions, and run up a government deficit of a magnitude that has never historically resulted in consequences less disastrous than hyperinflation. And I’m not taking conventional political sides when I say these things; Republicans have been scarcely less guilty than Democrats.

In the first month of a new decade, unemployment among young Americans has cracked 52% and we’re being officially urged to believe that an Islamic suicide bomber trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen was an “isolated extremist”.

One shakes one’s head in disbelief. Is there anything our “educated classes” can’t fuck up, any reality they won’t deny? Will Collier fails, however to ask the next question: why did they fail?

The obvious and most tempting hypothesis for a libertarian student of history like myself is that the Gramscian damage caught up with them. And I think there’s something to that argument, especially when the President of the U.S. more beloved of those “educated classes” than any other in my lifetime routinely behaves exactly as though he’d been successfully conditioned to believe the hoariest old anti-American tropes in the Soviet propaganda arsenal. And is praised for this by his adoring fans!

I think there’s much more to it than that, though. When I look at the pattern of failures, I am reminded of something I learned from software engineering: planning fails when the complexity of the problem exceeds the capacity of the planners to reason about it. And the complexity of real-world planning problems almost never rises linearly; it tends to go up at least quadratically in the number of independent variables or problem elements.

I think the complexifying financial and political environment of the last few decades has simply outstripped the capacity of our “educated classes”, our cognitive elite, to cope with it. The “wizards” in our financial system couldn’t reason effectively about derivatives risk and oversimplified their way into meltdown; regulators failed to foresee the consequences of requiring a quota of mortgage loans to insolvent minority customers; and politico-military strategists weaned on the relative simplicity of confronting nation-state adversaries thrashed pitifully when required to game against fuzzy coalitions of state and non-state actors.

Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein argued tellingly in their 1994 book The Bell Curve that 20th-century American society had become a remarkably effective machine for spotting the cognitively gifted of all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds and tracking them into careers that would maximize their output. They pointed out, though, that the “educated class” produced by this machine was in danger of becoming self-separated from the mass of the population. I agree with both arguments, and I think David Brooks and Will Collier are pointing us at the results.

In retrospect, I think race- and class-blind meritocracy bought us about 60 years (1945-2008) of tolerably good management by Western elites. The meritocracy developed as an adaptation to the escalating complexity of 20th-century life, but there was bound to be a point at which that adaptation would run out of steam. And I think we’ve reached it. The “educated classes” are adrift, lurching from blunder to blunder in a world that has out-complexified their ability to impose a unifying narrative on it, or even a small collection of rival but commensurable narratives. They’re in the exact position of old Soviet central planners, systemically locked into grinding out products nobody wants to buy.

My readers might well ask, at this point, “Great. Does this mean we’re screwed?” If a meritocracy drawn from the brightest, best-educated people in history can’t cope with our future, what do we do next?

The answer is, I think implied by three words: Adapt, decentralize, and harden. Levels of environmental complexity that defeat planning are readily handled by complex adaptive systems. A CAS doesn’t try to plan against the future; instead, the agents in it try lots of adaptive strategies and the successful ones propagate. This is true whether the CAS we’re speaking of is a human immune system, a free market, or an ecology.

Since we can no longer count on being able to plan, we must adapt. When planning doesn’t work, centralization of authority is at best useless and usually harmful. And we must harden: that is, we need to build robustness and the capacity to self-heal and self-defend at every level of the system. I think the rising popular sense of this accounts for the prepper phenomenon. Unlike old-school survivalists, the preppers aren’t gearing up for apocalypse; they’re hedging against the sort of relatively transient failures in the power grid, food distribution, and even civil order that we can expect during the lag time between planning failures and CAS responses.

CAS hardening of the financial system is, comparatively speaking, much easier. Almost trivial, actually. About all it requires is that we re-stigmatize the carrying of debt at more than a very small proportion of assets. By anybody. With that pressure, there would tend to be enough reserve at all levels of the financial system that it would avoid cascade failures in response to unpredictable shocks.

Cycling back to terrorism, the elite planner’s response to threats like underwear bombs is to build elaborate but increasingly brittle security systems in which airline passengers are involved only as victims. The CAS response would be to arm the passengers, concentrate on fielding bomb-sniffers so cheap that hundreds of thousands of civilians can carry one, and pay bounties on dead terrorists.

Yes, this circles back to my previous post about the militia obligation. I’m now arguing for this obligation to be seen as, actually, larger than arming for defense (although that’s a core, inescapable part of it). I’m arguing that we need to rediscover CAS behavior in politics and economics — not because financiers or bureaucrats are dangerous or evil, but because even with the best will in the world they can’t cope. The time when they could out-think and out-plan the challenges of the day operating as an elite has passed.

The people who will resist the end of the engineered society, the managed economy and the paternalist state are, of course, the “educated classes” themselves. Having become accustomed to functioning as the aristocracy of our time, they will believe in anything except their own obsolescence as rulers. It remains to be seen how much longer events will permit their delusions to continue.

231 thoughts on “Escalating Complexity and the Collapse of Elite Authority

  1. ‘Meritocracy requires a boss stuffed in at the top with no damned nonsense about merit’. One of Parkinson’s Laws?

    >’why did they fail?’

    They aren’t playing dominance games based on simple patriotism: ‘I’m better than you because I look out for America’s interests better’. At that, they fail.

    Obama et al are playing a moral dominance game based on: ‘I’m morally better than you because of my voluntary poverty of mere simple-minded patriotism’. At that, they win. Obama has led the Democrats to victory.

    Today’s Republicans suck at politics. Doesn’t mean there’s no political game being played.

  2. It’s time for an epic essay on this subject, Eric. “The populist revolt” needs an operating manual for when they gain power.

  3. esr wrote: ““Great. Does this mean we’re screwed?

    Yes, it does. The answer of “Adapt, decentralize, and harden” sounds good, but I doubt can make up for the crushing and growing burden of the centralized incompetence you’ve correctly identified, and the elite have no interest in letting us do our thing.

    The idea of voting the “educated classes” out of our lives is laughable. The very people who might lead that charge are the very people who despise politics the most. Or are you gonna run for office to set things right? If not you, who?

  4. “run up a government deficit of a magnitude that has never historically resulted in consequences less disastrous than hyperinflation.”

    This isn’t precisely true. England, at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, had a debt that various sources estimate at 250% to 270% if its GDP, and they saw only moderate inflation. However, a number of factors make that situation different than today. They went on the gold standard, preventing them from printing more money. They had a rapidly increasing economy courtesy of the Industrial Revolution. Still, close to a hundred years later as of World War I they were not quite done paying off the debt.

    All of that doesn’t change your greater point though. It just gives me hope that, with the right leadership, we might not have total societal breakdown in my lifetime.

  5. I’m not convinced that the proper CSA response to terrorism would be to arm the passengers. I’d say it would be enough to stop trying to actively disarm them. But even getting that will be hard enough. The elite authorities seem to have a primal horror of ordinary persons using violence in self-defense. Thus the pre-9/11 line of “in the event of a hijacking, stay in your seats, with your hands folded in your laps, and wait for the Official Authorized Experts to deal with the situtation.” Even now I get the impression that the authorities are desperate to do anything – anything – that will let them avoid admitting that the the best response to a hijacking attempt is for ordinary people to spontaneously rise up and apply violence to the hijackers.

    Also, I’m a little suprised that you didn’t mention The Future and its Enemies, a book from 10 years ago that went into the merits of adaptability vs planning in the face of uncertanity and complexity.

  6. I believe this is all largely true, though to nitpick you can’t really say that American meritocracy was “race-blind” starting in 1945. More like 1965 or so.

    I’d highlight a few things. First, the tendency of government bureaucracies to grow, regardless of efficiency or even success, and eventually to exist to serve themselves and not their original mission. E.g.: the Department of Transportation currently has about 1700 employees who make $170,000/year or more (not including benefits). If half those people were fired tomorrow, would transportation in the U.S. be hurt in a way anyone would notice? Add in public employee unions and a proliferation of work rules for added inefficiency. (It hit the news a few ago in California that those urine-filled jars drivers sometimes toss onto freeway medians were being picked up by fully-equipped hazmat teams, at a cost of who knows how many dollars per jar.) Let all that simmer for decades, and you have fiscal crisis.

    Second, the inability of left/liberals to learn economic lessons. Naively, I thought that the fall of Communism would be a lesson everyone would learn, but alas, no. Like the parable of the man with the hammer, the left sees every economic and social problem (real or not) as calling for a socialist solution. Even when less collectivist solutions work before their eyes (e.g. school vouchers educating disadvantaged kids for less money that the public school system), they refuse to accept the evidence: hence the recent Congressional death sentence for a successful D.C. voucher system.

  7. It’s race-blind and gender-blind, but I don’t think our meritocracy is class-blind. I haven’t looked at Murray and Herrnstein’s book, but based on personal experience, I’ve seen lots of bright people from modest backgrounds who would have gotten much further than they did if they had come from a wealthier background.

    As for Obama’s claim that the latest would-be terrorist is an isolated extremist, we know why he said that. He is of the school that believes that these things happen because of the bad things we’ve done to the Muslim world. Having apologized to the Muslim world, he is then taken by surprise when terrorism still keeps happening. There’s nothing wrong with his brains here. It’s just that like so many people (both left and right) who are committed to a theory, he is loathe to give it up. I can’t tell you how many times over the last few years I’ve pointed out to leftists that the murder of Theo van Gogh (among other events) explodes their view of Islamic terrorism. This isn’t about America’s sins, I argue, but about imposing shari’a on us. And they simply respond that it’s an isolated case.

    It’s hard to know what would persuade them otherwise.

  8. Very good post, but…

    I disagree with a few things.

    I don’t think any elites at any time were capable of seeing all the ramifications of their actions. I think that was one rationale for The Founders’ limited government.

    Also, you seem to be bestowing a benevolence on these elites.

    It seems to me they aren’t neutral players; they are often quite interested in personal power or prestige won on the backs of the “serfs”.

  9. One of America’s great achievements has been to create and maintain a system where we can change our elites without having to push them out a window or chop off their heads or line them up in front of a firing squad. Usually, that is.

    We’re overdue for some turnover of this batch but they have actively gamed the system to resist their removal. Look at reapportionment of Congressional and legislative seats and the extortion of campaign contributions by power holders. Look at calls for the return of something like the Fairness Doctrine. As others have noted, they resist even mixing with the hoi polloi through their gated communities and private jets.

    I think that Americans are realizing that our elites no longer serve them through responsible leadership. Our elites strive too much for global governance and nanny state individual control – by them – and on hanging on to and expanding their power.

    Go quietly, American elites, but you will go.

  10. I’ve had a gutfull of liberal elitism. These oligarchs are, in general, Anti-American, anti-Constitutionalists and arrogant beyond comprehension. They will sell out the USA at the drop of a hat as demonstrated repeatedly for a hundred years. Alger Hiss and Henry Wallace are prototype examples of East Coast progressive, socialist/communist traitorous dogs. David Broder and David Brooks are the epitome of this type of scum today. This type of scum will ALWAYS fear, loath and denigrate Americans they call the great unwashed. Sarah Palin’s treatment by these bastards is indicative of the contempt in which they hold all “common” Americans. A pox on them. They must be defeated politically, economically, socially and morally in order for our Republic to survive. “Common Americans” are about to sweep this scum into the dustbin of history.

  11. Deep Lurker,
    Re your “Even now I get the impression that the authorities are desperate to do anything – anything – that will let them avoid admitting that the the best response to a hijacking attempt is for ordinary people to spontaneously rise up and apply violence to the hijackers”.
    Strictly speaking,if you leave your seat in the last hour of a flight to stop a terrorist trying to set off a bomb you are violating the new rules.

  12. ESR, you should be promoted as a national treasure. Really.

    I have two points. The first is that I don’t buy the inherent implication of the term “educated classes”. That is to say I completely agree that the “educated classes” think/believe they are “educated” and the intellectual superiors. I also agree that the “unwashed masses” likely think/believe that also. But in my completely biased, limited, and arrogant experience, the members of the “educated classes” I have ever met in the real and came to know through the Information Age are morons. Smart maybe, but idiots. Is there a proper word for that yet? We need one.
    Further, I believe they have committed possibly what “they”, themselves, would likely offer as the ultimate crime of their predecessor -ocracy: they have become their own “good ole boy network”. On both sides of the aisle, and in about the only reflection of bipartisanship, they work tirelessly to block the entry of America’s actual, legitimate intellects into their power structure. And this happens at all levels of governance in this country.
    It is disgustingly reminiscent of the movie “Idiocracy”.

    The last point is just a quick response to Deep Lurker. ESR’s solution of pushing down the technology price to help surveil our environment is the correct one, for one simple reason: with the danger that confronts us, the weapons and explosives in play, we ordinary people are spontaneously dead at the singularity of the attempt. We are not hunting for food here against merely dangerous prey, where we might get a second chance with some quick reaction skills…we must be vigilant for our lives against absolutely lethal predators whose failures of technique can NEVER be considered a success of the victims.

  13. “The idea of voting the “educated classes” out of our lives is laughable. The very people who might lead that charge are the very people who despise politics the most. Or are you gonna run for office to set things right? If not you, who?”

    How about Peter Schiff for starters? Here’s a guy who under normal circumstances would be the last person to run for office. And there are many more like that running in 2010.

    Eric doesn’t need to run for office. His intellectual contribution and guidance to such a movement would be invaluable. There’s an inchoate feeling out there that the old political and social paradigm is obsolete. Someone needs to create a new paradigm, to do the theory-building which will be broadly adopted by those active in politics.

  14. Someone who has gone thru a state college and come away with a degree in engineering or hard science is twentry times more educated than some clown with a french literature degree from Harvard.

  15. I don’t think meritocracy is the problem, for meritocracy implies there is a reason for someone to be in the position he is in. The problem is today we have pseudo-meritocracy, which means that many are in high positions not because they were good at something but have credentials and degrees from universities which are regarded as a substitute for being good at something. But many of these people are hyper-educated nitwits, good at reading books and parroting back what they were fed but no good at thinking. Obama is the poster boy for the problem. His only response to problems is the poop his professors told him, but when that doesn’t work he has no Plan B nor any idea of how to come up with one. You can see this attitude in so many other areas: the nitwits who packaged low-quality mortgages together and came up with a triple AAA rated bond…. How the hell does that work? It’s because they all blindly relied on a stupid statistical formula which had some invalid assumptions in it. Anyone who bothered to THINK would’ve seen it was nonsense. But fewer and fewer people these days seem to know how to do that.

  16. bruce wrote:

    > Obama et al are playing a moral dominance game based on: ‘I’m morally better than you because of my voluntary poverty of mere simple-minded patriotism’.

    I’ve been thinking along the same lines. For your reading pleasure, I give you “The Market for Sanctimony (or Why We Need Yet Another Space Alien Cult).”

    http://home.earthlink.net/~peter.a.taylor/midrash.htm

  17. While I agree with your conclusion of decentralization, I have to question your premise that central planning worked at all until now, that it was only the recent complexity that overwhelmed the “elite.” I’d posit instead that they were always failures, they were simply able to put out a narrative that they weren’t because they had captured the state and its bureaucracy and were able to put out a positive spin through their capture of public education and broadcast media. I would also argue that the education system of 20th century American society was horrible, all the great work was done from outside that system. Stigmatizing debt is a popular sentiment today but just silly, it’s like blaming the car when an alcoholic driver crashes it into a kid. The rise in household borrowing was not in itself a problem this decade, it was that people were borrowing to buy frippery like SUVs, LCD TVs, bigger houses, and granite countertops, all while bankers looked the other way while collecting giant bonuses, only to lose it all when their firms collapsed. The real solution to financial instability is full-reserve banking, ie not putting money into short-term deposits like checking or savings accounts or money market funds because they’re prone to runs during downturns. I’m not a goldbug so that’d mean commodities contracts or bond funds. As for the claptrap about everybody arming themselves, there are other private solutions that would work better and that most would prefer, private air security agencies for example. It strikes me that for all your railing against “educated classes,” the term is never quite defined explicitly. Sure, we all have a mental image of a highly educated or limousine liberal, but by not defining clearly what you’re against, you don’t quite define what you’re FOR.

    Scott, I believe the word you’re looking for is idiot savants, people who’re capable of mastering narrow technical disciplines but incapable of real reason, as Buck points out. These are the types the current education system churns out.

  18. Scott: You ask if there is a name for people who are smart, but idiots. J. R. R. Tolkien offers us one: “wise fool” (a literal translation of the Greek sophomoros from which we get “sophomore,” a student who has learned just enough to be overconfident). And he offers us a classic portrait of the type in Saruman the White, to whom Gandalf applies that epithet.

  19. One shakes one’s head in disbelief.

    No, you shake your head in disbelief. Don’t try to project your own reactions onto everyone—that’s solipsistic testimony at best, dishonest argument-making at worst.

  20. But in my completely biased, limited, and arrogant experience, the members of the “educated classes” I have ever met in the real and came to know through the Information Age are morons. Smart maybe, but idiots. Is there a proper word for that yet? We need one.

    It’s easy for smart people to behave like a morons. Smart people love ideas. It’s almost impossible for a smart person not to latch onto some attractive but bad ideas. Smart people are also good at rationalization, which is why we can so easily stay attached to our bad ideas. This is why we need more ways to build small controlled experiments containing our ideas so that they can get properly shot down when they are incorrect hypotheses, and why we need a bunch of big ‘Journal of Negative Results’ where we are lauded for publishing our flaming Sopwith Camels. Feynmanesque training wheels via Freakonomics, perhaps.

    Or maybe that’s another attractive but bad idea.

    Yours,
    Tom

  21. Hayek’s 1945 essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (http://www.econlib.org/library/Essays/hykKnw1.html) is an earlier description of the problem Eric describes again today.

    Unfortunately, Hayek’s wisdom does not smack you upside the head until you’ve read it several times over the years. Only then do you have that WOW moment.

    Anyway, long story short summary:
    too much information
    +
    too many scattered control knobs
    +
    too few centralized decision makers
    +
    too many decisions to make
    +
    time delays in receiving information
    +
    time delays in transmitting control signal
    +
    random natural events (e.g. tornado, heart attack, slip on ice, etc)
    =
    uncontrollable system

    Solution? Don’t even try to control the economy. Just let the actors figure it amongst themselves as they have for the previous 20,000 years. Brownian motion, Competition, Cooperation, Darwin Awards and occasional violence will sort it all out.

  22. >http://home.earthlink.net/~peter.a.taylor/midrash.htm

    Wow. Lots of good insight and cut-through-the-bullshit there, and I’m not saying that because you quote me a lot either. You’ve just joined the very select group of people who can clearly do the kind of reasoning I do about human behavior as well or better than I do; the only two others I can think of offhand are David Friedman and Eliezer Yudkowsky. I have only minor disagreements, mostly about the usefulness of Christianity.

    I can answer one of your questions. When you ask of a hypothetical black man “What institution could you walk into without having your color tallied up as a credit to the institution?” he could honestly answer “the open-source movement”. We truly don’t give a fuck, and I once personally cooperated with a black Linux hacker to squash somebody who wanted to import racial politics and racial sanctimony into the movement. (The somebody was and still is a friend of mine, so it was kind of uncomfortable to squash her. But the black man and I both understood it to be necessary.)

  23. This is as classically a case as you could imagine illustrating the saying: “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.”

    They wanted poor people to have all of the benefits that the good habits of the middle class make possible. They incorrectly put the cart before the horse (to use another cliché) and attributed the source of the good habits as home ownership. Home ownership is the fruit of the good habits, not its source, as has been shown by what we’ve all just lived through.

    Now with their (the law makers) good intentions firmly in place they used the full force of the federal government to make private lenders make loans to those who they would have otherwise avoided.

    Wall Street, in its finite wisdom, created what I’ve seen referred to as “pig nostrils” of loan repackaging, with nary a thought to how they would unwind these trades if needed.

    And here we all are.

    We did something similar in the 1980s with junk bonds. They made it illegal for the S&Ls to hold the junk bonds, and since S&Ls were the primary market for junk bonds, the floor fell out of the system. Followed by the S&L bailout.

    Wash, rinse repeat.

    The lawmakers keep inserting themselves into market systems with disastrous results.

    The best thing George Washington ever did for this country was GO HOME!

    If only we could get the current bunch to do the same.

  24. I’d like to make an additional comment. If ‘meritocracy’ ever existed in the Government at all, it died decades ago. Everything in the government is racial and sexual preference now, and has been at least since the early 1980s.

  25. > The real solution to financial instability is full-reserve banking, ie not putting money into short-term deposits like checking or savings accounts or money market funds because they’re prone to runs during downturns.

    The problem with the “fractional reserve banking is bad” argument is that its advocates don’t understand that fractional reserve banking is how all investment works.

    Suppose that I loan money to a company with the understanding that said company will pay me back at a later time with interest. The company then turns around and spends that money on things/people that it thinks will provide sufficient profit to pay me my capital and interest.

    The observant reader will note that said company has traded the money that I loaned for promises. Those promises are its assets, the assets that it will try to use to pay me back. However, the money is gone. There’s no guarantee that the profits will be sufficient to pay me back the day that I demand repayment.

    Note that the criticism of fractional reserve banking is that such a bank holds promises and not cash. Ring any bells?

  26. There’s another factor. Regulation is systemic risk.

    If you buy the “too big to fail” argument, the only successful response is to dismantle such things, and the US govt is at the front of that list.

  27. “let’s arm all the passengers” is *a* solution, but not the only one. If we somehow managed to get fedgov to simply *stop micromanaging*, sold off the landing slots and let the airlines do their own security or contract for it – let them *compete* on different visions of the right balace between security, safety, and convenience – we’d undoubtedly see some airlines settle on strategies that work better than what is done now. A few that seem sensible are:
    (1) arm some fraction of passengers
    (2) dispense with all security measures, let people take what they want on.
    (3) search, but do so intelligently, efficiently, and only for those people who made the market decision to pick a “wastes time and money by searching everyone” airline.
    (4) make airlines hard to hijack through technical means – stronger doors, narrowly-prescribed autopilot corridors, better locks and procedures and failsafe switches – and otherwise let passengers do whatever they want.

    Without actually allowing security competition we can’t know what advances would be found by it. Tempting though it is as rhetoric, I suspect arming all the passengers would add cost and inconvenience without adding *enough* security for the tradeoff to be worth it. I’m already uncomfortable enough with all the stuff I’ve got in my pockets and luggage while travelling and now you want me to carry a gun and ammo on top of that? Nah.

    Come to think of it, maybe the guns should be in pockets throughout the plane. “in the event of an emergency, a 22-caliber pistol can be found under your seat cushion.”

  28. Or are you gonna run for office to set things right?

    He’d probably have to move to California.

  29. “Arm the passengers” – this seems to assume that anybody not a jihadist who boards a plane is perfectly sane and in complete control of themselves at all times. I know the notion of having multiple people covertly armed is supposed to constrain anyone from drawing their weapon first but this idea also is based on a highly putative rationality. Flying, as is empirically demonstrated everyday, is a very high-stress activity and there are enough minimally self-governing persons on any large airplane to practically guarantee a shootout. Gunfight at the OK Corral at 35,000 feet, anyone? I think I’ll confine my own Wyatt Earp complex to the firing range.

  30. Andy, let me respectfully suggest that it is you who doesn’t understand how fractional-reserve banking works. When you loan money to a company through a bond, there is a time limit on when you get the money back. Therefore, a bunch of bond-holders cannot arbitrarily decide to simply demand their money back at any time, that’s a big part of where the instability comes in, before we even get into the money creation effects (which you can read up on elsewhere). Money market funds are unique in that they nominally hold short term bonds, but they allow their depositors to withdraw at any time. Such extremely short-term deposits are the key source of instability, because they can be withdrawn at any time (in fact the investment banks were recently sunk by just such a mechanism in the repo market), and fractional-reserve banking has long been the greatest example of this major flaw, though not the only one as I point out. Yes, it’s true that bonds can default also- there’s no certainty in life- but you’ve avoided one of the main causes of instability by instituting a longer time limit for deposits/loans. btw, Epstein’s econtalk podcasts are a good listen too.

  31. “I believe this is all largely true, though to nitpick you can’t really say that American meritocracy was “race-blind” starting in 1945. More like 1965 or so.”

    And, not coincidentally, 1965 is the year when the Johnson administration began requiring hiring practices that included quotas and racial preferences (better known as “affirmative action”). So, in fact, the American meritocracy has NEVER been “race-blind”. It certainly isn’t today; our current president would not have stood a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected if he had been white.

  32. “Flying, as is empirically demonstrated everyday, is a very high-stress activity and there are enough minimally self-governing persons on any large airplane to practically guarantee a shootout.”

    Oh, bullshit. Nobody is proposing that a gun be issued to every person who boards a plane, including the children and convicted felons. That’s a straw man. The idea is to allow the same people who are already legally permitted to carry conceal weapons everywhere else to do the same thing on airplanes. These people endure plenty of other equally stressful situations in other settings (high-pressure jobs, traffic jams, overcrowded waiting rooms) without erupting into shootouts, so why do you claim that they would do so on airplanes?

  33. > I think there’s much more to it than that, though. When I look at the pattern of failures, I am reminded of something I learned from software engineering: planning fails when the complexity of the problem exceeds the capacity of the planners to reason about it.

    Let’s suppose that national elites won’t find a solution for their countries in 20 years.

    > The answer is, I think implied by three words: Adapt, decentralize, and harden. Levels of environmental complexity that defeat planning are readily handled by complex adaptive systems. A CAS doesn’t try to plan against the future; instead, the agents in it try lots of adaptive strategies and the successful ones propagate.

    Then the solution I see for smart individuals is to try and choose the best environment, the best country for them. Note that this is the strategy of choice of the third world inhabitants.

    It may mean that some american people choose to go in some other (less fucked up by deficit, for example) country. It may also mean that the success of USA, based on attracting all the best talents in the world, is over.

  34. I was thinking of Hayek also on why the scientific method does not work when trying to socialize something. Tradition born of years of trial and error, and the extended order (individuals making choices) seems to be best. And although he was an atheist, he stated in “The Fatal Deceit”, that he had respect for people of faith in that their traditions where important even for those without faith.

    I also like his section on adding anti to popular words, etc., such as social worker is more accurately described as anti-social worker, etc. (After some thought about that, I have come to the conclusion also that when social services enters someone’s home, their home is never the same, and most of the time not in a good way. It used to be called being a busy body. And with the enormous amount spent on social services, we still have horrible child abuse cases, old people freezing in their homes, etc. But in the public mind, because so many of the social workers are well meaning, the system survives.)

    Could we say that in the mess the intellectuals have made, we could more accurately describe them as anti-intellectuals?

    Michael Chricton’s video ( found at his website) on complexity theory is terrific to watch. It is really sad he is gone now.

  35. The people that Brooks imagines to be the “educated classes” are nothing of the kind. They’re the leftwing pseudo-intellectuals whose contributions to the productivity of our economy are considerably less than nil. The *actual* educated class are the engineers, the tradesmen, the entrepreneurs, and rest of us who get looted by those fucking kleptocrats.

    I am goddamned sick of people like Brooks or Krugman sneering at their intellectual superiors. Every single adherent of the Austrian school of economics was able to see that Krugman was full of shit back when he was calling for a real estate bubble as a remedy for the dot com bubble.

  36. Glen: make airlines hard to hijack through technical means – stronger doors, narrowly-prescribed autopilot corridors, better locks and procedures and failsafe switches – and otherwise let passengers do whatever they want.

    I’ve got no problem with three of your four technical means, but if by “autopilot corridors” you mean designating certain narrow flight paths which airliners must follow on pain of being shot down, this is not going to happen, and it’s not desirable for many reasons, both efficiency and safety. The FAA is moving in the exact opposite direction to allow more efficient, less fuel-wasteful flights and higher capacities.

  37. its advocates don’t understand that fractional reserve banking is how all investment works.

    It’s how it works today, but it’s not how it worked back when we first invented the idea of the joint-stock corporation. Back then, investors handed over coin to build a ship, and they gained the benefit of pooling their money to buy the capital (like a ship, or a mill, or a foundry) that their venture required to start their business.

    The insidious effect of central banking, inflation, and counterfeiting is that it made businesses give up on saving their own surpluses to finance capital investments. That was something that J. P. Morgan wanted to stamp out, and when Wilson signed the bill to create the Federal Reserve, Morgan succeeded.

    What really boggles my mind is how ostensible liberals can possibly defend the Federal reserve. It is the principle means by which we are all robbed for the benefit of the richest people in this country.

  38. I was thinking of Hayek also on why the scientific method does not work when trying to socialize something

    Hayek’s point was that those who claimed that central planning was “scientific” were deluding themselves. There’s no way for any central planner to possibly have enough information to be able to make better decisions about resource allocation, than all of the individual actors in the market pursuing their own goals.

  39. ESR,

    1. I think the problems you mention could be tracked back to a “I have a problem. That makes me unhappy. I want it solved. Therefore: please someone do something about it!” mentality.

    2. Which is actually a moral-cultural-psychological problem, not a problem of social organization and you cannot even begin to solve the problem of CAS social organization before you solve this problem because people will simply not be interested in participating. You need self-starter, active, vigorous, self-responsible agents for a CAS, not complainers.

    3. This moral-cultural-problem, like all problems of human software, can be tracked back to the problem of the too big egos. In this case this is largely the following eg-game: “My existence in itself is so precious, that the world must surely owe me something!”.

    4. Traditionally Western societies had a thousand and one methods to try to keep the egos small. 100-200 years ago, a “duty first, fun later” attitude was attached to work, marriage, family life, community life, etc. It was generally understood that life is at least as much about giving, serving and sacrificing than about getting and enjoying. Most of the cultural “progress” of the last 100-200 years undermined that ethos and created a “me-first” one, i.e. a culture of big egos. Thus, any solution should begin with introducing new or reinvented social customs that have an ego-supressing effect.

    5. However this is harder than it sounds, because AFAIK it requires the invention of a myth and myths are hard to sell these days.

  40. Becky Says:
    And with the enormous amount spent on social services, we still have horrible child abuse cases, old people freezing in their homes, etc.

    To be fair, it’s always going to be difficult to work out exactly how much bang you’re getting from your social services buck. Particularly when your principle source of information is the news.

    For starters, there’s only so much news time available so only the most extreme examples are going to be reported. At the same time, an active social services department will bring to light more examples so the chances of the news getting a juicy story probably increases.

    Secondly, when everything is going well and a routine (but not particularly extreme) case is pursued to a positive conclusion, the chances of it getting reported approach zero. Of the things that social services have to deal with, the two most likely things to get reported are “social worker screws up” or the aforementioned extreme examples.

  41. It certainly isn’t today; our current president would not have stood a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected if he had been white.

    Against Sludge Vohaul and Youbetcha Palin? Are you kidding me? The Democrats could have floated the Pets.com sockpuppet as a candidate, with the Geico Gecko as a running mate, and still won in a landslide.

  42. The Democrats could have floated the Pets.com sockpuppet as a candidate,

    That’s about what they did…

  43. As someone said upthread, some of this complexity doesn’t just happen. See Scott Adams’ confusocracy– the people who make you an offer (or a demand) that you can’t understand. It’s there in consumer goods (cell phone plans, airplane tickets), in investments (a piece of the financial crisis were excessively complex investments), and, of course, in government.

    I remember a reporter saying one of the signs Enron was trouble was that they claimed their system was too complicated to explain.

    One of the things that terrified me about the financial crisis wasn’t that a lot of people with very expensive educations had made mistakes, it was that it seemed as though they couldn’t tell whether they understood something or not.

    I believe that we’re seeing a multi-generational disaster partly caused by conventional schooling. For crucial developmental years, young people are kept in an environment where information is substantially divorced from any decision they might make, and from any consequences of those decisions. The more someone buys into “credentials are the only thing that’s important” and gets on to a very time-consuming high-status track, the more likely they are to be controlled by incentives rather than looking at a larger context.

    I see some hope in home schooling. The quality ranges from way below to way above conventional schools, but at least there are more well-educated people who don’t have absolute trust in institutions than there were a few decades ago.

    I’m told that at Harvard Business School, running a company that actually produced something was lower status than being in finance.

    Anyone want to take a crack at why suicide bombers are disproportionately likely to be engineers? From what I’ve read, they aren’t recruited for their technical skills (those would be more valuable in bomb-making), it’s the personality.

    What went wrong in the housing market starts with the mortgage deduction. It produced a highly vulnerable investment monoculture.

    I don’t think requirements to lend to minority or poor buyers are a major factor. A piece of what was going on was people buying multiple houses to flip them, and another piece was banks rushing to their own destruction to make as many bad loans as possible because they could be resold easily. If it had just been a bad regulation grudgingly complied with, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

    After 9-11, the FBI was taken off white collar crime and put on anti-terrorism.

    Interesting angle from Nassim Teleb (author of The Black Swan): There were banks that didn’t get in over their heads, but the bailouts mean that the good banks can’t buy the bad banks at low prices which would be the normal reward for having good sense.

    It’s possible that better work rules would have helped the financial industry– people worked very long hours, and I believe the ability to ask “Does doing this make sense?” is apt to be weaker when you’re low on sleep.

    Mobbing or shooting a hijacker are all very well, but it doesn’t help if a working bomb is smuggled onto a plane. And I’m just hoping that it doesn’t occur to anyone to use Palestinian-style random attacks on civilians, which also aren’t especially much slowed down by an armed populace.

    Eric, do you see a path from where we are to the devolution you want?

  44. >Anyone want to take a crack at why suicide bombers are disproportionately likely to be engineers?

    I’ve got a buddy who’s ex-Special Forces with counterterrorism training. He says, acerbically: “In the Middle East, an engineering degree just means you can count.” There isn’t anything like a world-class university, or even the equivalent of a respectable second-string college in the U.S. or Great Britain, anywhere in the Islamic world. Evaluate with this in mind.

    >Eric, do you see a path from where we are to the devolution you want?

    Yes, but it passes through the collapse of the present system. It’s not going to be pleasant. At all.

  45. esr: >Anyone want to take a crack at why suicide bombers are disproportionately likely to be engineers?

    I’ve got a buddy who’s ex-Special Forces with counterterrorism training. He says, acerbically: “In the Middle East, an engineering degree just means you can count.”

    That’s all well and good, but a quick survey of the nineteen hijackers from 9/11 (I may be off by one or two here; like I said, this is based on a quick look) shows that eight didn’t attend higher education, seven did in the Middle East, and four did in the West. It appears that a Western university experience is not particularly different from a non-Western university experience in the relevant ways. (Notably, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed got one of those state-university engineering degrees that agesilaus thinks so highly of.)

  46. Heralding widespread disillusionment with the nattering nabobs of pointy-headed Ivy Leagueism doesn’t smack of anything particularly new. Anti-intellectualism is a great American tradition, frequently (as some commenters above have illustrated) tied in with anti-Communism. (And, apparently, with the engineer’s distaste for the humanities I remember so well from my school years.)

    The “wizards” in our financial system couldn’t reason effectively about derivatives risk and oversimplified their way into meltdown;

    Nonsense; the assurance of a bailout is enough to guarantee that people will gamble irresponsibly (if you kept your winnings and didn’t pay your losses, wouldn’t you do the same?); the use of grotesquely faulty methods of guaranteeing risk is a consequence, not a cause.

    regulators failed to foresee the consequences of requiring a quota of mortgage loans to insolvent minority customers;

    Can I ask how you got the idea that the CRA required that? The language in the 1977 bill required that the relevant regulatory agencies “assess the institution’s record of meeting the credit needs of its entire community, including low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, consistent with the safe and sound operation of such institution”; though it’s certainly vague, there’s nothing about quotas there, and requiring loans to insolvent customers seems to blatantly contradict what the law says. The institutions which were disproportionately responsible for making the bad loans were not subject to CRA review, and when CRA-covered institutions made subprime loans, they resold them (into those complex financial instruments) less often.

    That said, what’s your opinion on the rating agencies (e.g., Moody’s) rating the packaged financial products as AAA, which led to them being purchased by all sorts of risk-averse investors, who subsequently got very, very burned? Isn’t this one of those instances where you’d claim that the magic of the market would prevent such a catastrophe from occurring, since multiple competing independent businesses were producing ratings?

    CAS hardening of the financial system is, comparatively speaking, much easier. Almost trivial, actually. About all it requires is that we re-stigmatize the carrying of debt at more than a very small proportion of assets. By anybody. With that pressure, there would tend to be enough reserve at all levels of the financial system that it would avoid cascade failures in response to unpredictable shocks.

    Wouldn’t this prevent people from taking out student loans or (non-wacky) mortgages, even though these tend to have very high repayment rates and clear benefits (an educated workforce and middle-class home-ownership)? Is there something more nuanced that you meant to say here?

    esr: When you ask of a hypothetical black man “What institution could you walk into without having your color tallied up as a credit to the institution?” he could honestly answer “the open-source movement”.

    Out of curiosity, would you say that the same holds true for women?

    JB: “The populist revolt” needs an operating manual for when they gain power.

    Truly spoken like someone who’s never been in the middle of a revolution. A revolution isn’t a stately transfer wherein your ideas are implemented and winged ponies fly down from heaven to make sure the populist rebellion is on your side. A revolution is as likely to look like Nehemiah Scudder as anything else. These things are always a crapshoot, frequently urged on by those so mired in their own rhetoric of how horrible things are that they’re incapable of imagining how much worse they could get. The beautiful blank slate is a pernicious myth.

  47. Glen/Sundog,

    I am ALWAYS in possession of a weapon when on an airplane: my mind. Even though I can’t carry and I now have to have my knife in my checked luggage, there are always weapons available in my immediate reach in my carry on luggage.

    Put a padlock on your backpack. Most of the time they’ll let it through. Not a weapon. Put a spare leather belt in said backpack. Voila! Instant weighted sap that can be assembled in a moment. Hook the lock to the end of your belt and THROW it through the terrorist’s face. He’ll be staggered. Then beat him into submission with it. It’s amazing what a small chunk of steel on the end of a long line will do to the human body.

    Want something more innocuous? I travel with a netbook. In my case are CD/DVD sleeves. One of those sleeves has a blank disc in it. Perfectly innocent. Need a knife? Break it in half and you have two sharp blades. Next time Al Qaeda decides to set off his underoos in stages, run that puppy across his throat. Don’t have one? Any pen or pencil makes a wonderful stabbing weapon.

    Just two examples. But your most important survival and combat weapon is your mind. Improvised weapons are everywhere. Just look around. Flight 93 used a drink cart as a battering ram. No wonder those terrorists augured that plane in. Had those passengers gotten their hands on them they would have gotten a good demonstration of field expedient weaponry.

    All it takes is the will to resist. Forget guns or proper weapons on planes for passengers. Won’t happen. But get people thinking and able to recognize when some jihadi is about to accelerate your trip to Paradise, they’ll be able to ensure that his is the only trip taken that day with nothing but what is at hand. All they need is the knowledge that when all else fails, even a sheepdog still has claws and teeth.

  48. Sundog: And, not coincidentally, 1965 is the year when the Johnson administration began requiring hiring practices that included quotas and racial preferences (better known as “affirmative action”). So, in fact, the American meritocracy has NEVER been “race-blind”. It certainly isn’t today; our current president would not have stood a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected if he had been white.

    If things were as you describe them, shouldn’t the Chicago resume study have turned up the opposite conclusion? How do you explain the discrepancy?

  49. >Can I ask how you got the idea that the CRA required that?

    Um, observation of the actual consequences? It’s true that the CRA didn’t technically require quotas, but it created a political end legal environment in which pressure groups like ACORN could effectively capture the regulatory apparatus – often with help from allied legislators. Here’s how the shakedown worked: if you didn’t pay off ACORN, and meet your quota, they’d accuse you of redlining. Demonstrations, hostile press, court pressure, visits from bank regulators, and jawboning by allied legislators would follow. Many banks decided to pay the Danegeld rather than fight it – nobody wanted to hear “raaaacists!” screamed in their front lobbies.

    >That said, what’s your opinion on the rating agencies (e.g., Moody’s) rating the packaged financial products as AAA, which led to them being purchased by all sorts of risk-averse investors, who subsequently got very, very burned? Isn’t this one of those instances where you’d claim that the magic of the market would prevent such a catastrophe from occurring, since multiple competing independent businesses were producing ratings?

    It didn’t, because, as it turned out, they were all using the same risk-weighting algorithms, and those were broken. There is no form of magic, market or otherwise, that can completely prevent that kind of herd stupidity. They probably thought they had to be using the same “best practices” as everyone else in order to compete.

    >Wouldn’t this prevent people from taking out student loans or (non-wacky) mortgages, even though these tend to have very high repayment rates and clear benefits (an educated workforce and middle-class home-ownership)?

    Maybe, but it’s no longer clear either of these outcomes would be bad. I used to be as big a fan of home ownership as everybody else until I read about a maverick economist (can’t remember who) who pointed out that high rates of home ownership do a couple of bad things. One: throttle off labor mobilty. Two: they eat up a lot of capital formation that might be better invested elsewhere. As for student loans, I think what they’ve mostly been doing is inflating a higher-education bubble by making purchasers less cost-sensitive than they should be.

    >Out of curiosity, would you say that the same holds true for women?

    Well, the woman in the discussion clearly thought that was a solved problem or she probably wouldn’t have been hatching plans about fixing racial issues through the movement. I know other women who don’t agree with her. Personally, I think we have reached a point where all such issues should be brutally and callously ignored until the sanctimony-seekers get over themselves (see Peter Taylor’s midrash if the last seems unclear).

  50. Heh.

    I think Brooks pulled a good one here. His column would have been completely unexceptional had he used the term “liberal elites” instead of “educated classes”. The latter formulation was bound to generate a firestorm of commentary, slyly capturing as it does the myopic narcissism of the liberal elites and their belief that their values are the ones to which “education” would naturally lead. I hazard a guess that most “educated” people in this country do not share the world view of the New York Times editorial staff and probably resent being lumped in with the Marxists running the administration.

    As for myself, I guess I am plain uneducable, having earned three degrees from an Ivy Group institution and yet still having a world view that seems to be quite anathematic to the New York Times.

    BBB

  51. >All it takes is the will to resist.

    Matt, I agree with you in theory. The reason I’m in favor of arming the passengers is only half because firearms are instrumentally a useful response in themselves. The other half is that people have to start thinking of themselves as warriors, as defenders, as the kind who can and will use improvised weapons. That won’t happen as long as we disarm them, because the effect of disarmament is not just to take away the gun but to deny people agency. Doing so removes not only the instrument of resistance but the psychological possibility as well.

  52. Matt: Improvised weapons are everywhere. Just look around.

    Putting aside vintage-9/12 revenge fantasies, the converse of the points you make is that this boxcutter slices both ways. Once you understand that CDs, aluminum cans, shoelaces or whatever else can be an improvised weapon, it makes it all the more obvious that the pat-downs, tiny bags, and bans on arbitrary personal-care devices are simply security theater.

    esr: people have to start thinking of themselves as warriors [...] That won’t happen as long as we disarm them

    Are you sure about that? It seems profoundly doubtful that anyone’s going to ever successfully pull off the same stunt, at least in this country, given that once the hijackers’ intent was clear, the passengers on the one flight where that was known fought back, despite lacking firearms.

  53. >Are you sure about that?

    Yes, I’m sure about that. The thinner the defense in depth is, the luckier you have to be to avert catastrophe. And we haven’t done so. Think back to 9/11, and the difference it might have made — against boxcutters — if even one person had been armed. Or, perhaps more to the point, thought like an armed person.

  54. >Andy Freeman Says:
    >January 6th, 2010 at 1:11 am

    >There’s another factor. Regulation is systemic risk.

    Indeed, I have made the argument on a Less Wrong thread about existential risk that the best available mitigation is libertarianism. Not just political, but social libertarianism, by which I meant a wide divergence of lifestyles; the social equivalent of genetic, behavioral dispersion.

    The LW community, like most technocratic groups (eg, socialists), seems to have this belief that there is some perfect cure for any problem. But there isn’t always, in fact for most complex and social problems there isn’t. Besides the Hayek mentioned earlier, see Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions”, its sequel “Vision of the Anointed”, and his expansion on Hayek’s essay “Knowledge and Decisions”.

    There is no way to ensure humanity’s survival, but the centralizing tendency seems a good way to prevent its survival should the SHTF.

  55. esr: Think back to 9/11, and the difference it might have made — against boxcutters — if even one person had been armed. Or, perhaps more to the point, thought like an armed person.

    If the passengers could be carrying firearms, it seems rather straightforward to conclude that the hijackers would also have been packing, thus the firearms-versus-boxcutters setup is implausible, but that’s beside the point.

    Hijackings, in the past, have had the goal of taking the passengers hostage, not of crashing the plane. Given this, starting a shootout on the plane generally tends toward a much worse outcome, and response doctrine has generally been to not start shit with the hijackers. The change between the flights that didn’t resist (the first three) and the one that did (United Airlines Flight 93) was that the passengers on the latter flight became aware that the hijacking was a suicide mission. It had nothing to do with whether the passengers were armed or not or their opinions on firearms.

    Knowing that, it seems obvious that any attempt at hijacking a plane within the United States will be met with the same understanding and the same resistance. What do firearms have to do with it?

  56. I generally agree with your prescription (CAS). I wonder how we can get there without destroying much of our political infrastructure in the process.

    The Educated Elites are primarily competent at perpetuating their class privileges. In the past, they have survived on the surplus of our productive society (yes, they *are* our Nomenclatura), but at the price of bridging more and more of that surplus to ground. (Not, mostly, to *them* – but to turn society in on itself to neutralize threats to their power. They’re collectively buying us off with our own production.)

    The information explosion (Internet et al) has destabilized this from two sides – made it possible to organize a more complex society, and made it harder to hide the dice. So now our Educated Elites are exposed as incompetent, their narrative blown, and they panic. Now what?

    To sustain a narrative of elites, the rest-of-us must be deemed (borderline) incompetent. (A competent citizenry needs public servants, not elites.) This is the thrust of the law at present. ISTM that to enable pervasive CAS, this must be overturned, and replaced with a presumption of individual competence and responsibility. Don’t expect the elites to cooperate.

    CAS optimize response to their environment. The (practical) legal framework is part of that environment, and at present a CAS is likely to optimize by leaching government subsidy networks rather than by productive endeavor, because that’s the way the taxes currently work. In order for a CAS to (help) break the elite stranglehold, it would need an alternative to explore. In the past, that was states (federalism), but the current elites are using federal power, which allows for no alternatives. Unless you’re looking for foreign competition?

    So how do you mean to apply CAS to this problem? What point am I missing here?

    Cheers
    — perry

  57. >What do firearms have to do with it?

    Two things, one psychological and one physical. One is that armed passengers are, implicitly, prepared passengers. The other is that firearms make it possible to take down a jihadi terminally and quickly. They therefore make it more likely that someone will get inside the jihadi’s action/reaction loop. Supposing the jihadi is also armed, he’s outnumbered.

  58. @grendelkhan

    Firstly, yes, if the hijackers were lawfully able to carry a firearm, then the “boxcutter vs gun” scenario is probably defunct.

    What I find most disturbing about attitudes like yours, is that you treat the discussion of innocent human lives like beans being counted in a soulless game of statistics. My life is not the domain of another to manipulate, shuffling me around until their assessment of ‘probability’ and ‘costs’ is satisfied. I demand that my right to bear arms is respected, and if not, I refuse to do business. I stopped flying in 2002, when it became clear we had morons calling the shots – no pun intended.

  59. >you treat the discussion of innocent human lives like beans being counted in a soulless game of statistics

    In other words, your insistence on bearing arms has nothing to do with pragmatism, and everything to do with useless moralising. Good luck being taken seriously.

    ESR says: the only way you can dismiss that as ‘empty moralizing’ is to have lost all concept of human dignity, of individuals as ends in themselves. That’s your problem, not Dan’s.

  60. >So how do you mean to apply CAS to this problem? What point am I missing here?

    A very simple one. The ability of CAS agents to optimize by political rent-seeking from the Feds has to go away – which it will when the U.S. Federal government collapses through insolvency. That’s not a fate that is very far off, now. Or, supposing we somehow muster the political will to pull back from that brink, it can only be done by turning off the subsidy taps. Either way, political rent-seeking stops being a viable strategy.

  61. Anyone want to discuss generally increasing individual capacity? It was possible to take down flight 93 without guns, but cell phones were crucial.

    Any plausible future tech or current skills and tech (other than physical self-defense, which has already been discussed quite a bit here) that will help more?

  62. All praise St. Neil The Stephenson! (I’m somewhat kidding there.)

    The Diamond Age (when coupled with Snow Crash) makes mention of many of the principles being discussed here, including the collapse of the US through insolvency, the re-organization of society into (largely) voluntary groups with different customs, norms, forms of governance, etc. and defense in depth being one of the principles of defending both the community and the home.

  63. >What I find most disturbing about attitudes like yours, is that you treat the discussion of innocent human lives like beans being counted in a soulless game of statistics. My life is not the domain of another to manipulate, shuffling me around until their assessment of ‘probability’ and ‘costs’ is satisfied.

    Dan, thank you for this reminder. I’m a pragmatist by nature; I’ve trained myself to argue in terms of utility minimaxing and the dispassionate voice of reason on these issues so carefully that I, too, sometimes forget that there is another story that needs to be told, too, another kind of argument. Your language is sometimes intemperate, but your insistance that human beings are ends in themselves, not to be subsumed in anyone’s utility calculations — even mine! — is important.

  64. >>That said, what’s your opinion on the rating agencies (e.g., Moody’s) rating the packaged financial products as AAA, which led to them being purchased by all sorts of risk-averse investors, who subsequently got very, very burned? Isn’t this one of those instances where you’d claim that the magic of the market would prevent such a catastrophe from occurring, since multiple competing independent businesses were producing ratings?

    >It didn’t, because, as it turned out, they were all using the same risk-weighting algorithms, and those were broken. There is no form of magic, market or otherwise, that can completely prevent that kind of herd stupidity. They probably thought they had to be using the same “best practices” as everyone else in order to compete.

    It is also important to remember that there is a “Demand” side to ratings. While we would like to believe that those consuming the ratings want the most accurate information possible. I have been increasingly convinced that this isn’t entirely the case. Because of regulations that are tied to ratings, there is a demand for ratings to be inflated, allowing people to take risks that the regulations wouldn’t otherwise allow.

  65. >The Diamond Age (when coupled with Snow Crash) makes mention of many of the principles being discussed here,

    Unsurprisingly. Neal and I draw from many of the same sources.

    He once asked me for advice about guns. :-)

  66. “Your language is sometimes intemperate…”

    Ha! :) Bellicose at times too! Scots-Irish blood….drinkin’ and fightin’ is what we do ;)

    I”m a victim, I tell you, a victim of genetics. Where’s my pity-party?

    Seriously, I too have a ‘clinical’ mind, but I have a strong grasp of my moral code, which tempers my reasoning when appropriate.

  67. As for student loans, I think what they’ve mostly been doing is inflating a higher-education bubble by making purchasers less cost-sensitive than they should be.

    Peter Schiff has a very insightful commentary on this, including a discussion of the historical rates of tuition at Yale university.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIcfMMVcYZg&feature=player_embedded

    Student loan guarantees make it possible for many more people to go hopelessly into debt.

  68. ESR: have you seen this post by Charles Murray? Short version: as tracked in General Social Survey data over the last 35+ years, the political identifications of all segments of the white American population have moved from center to slightly right of center, except “Intellectual Upper”, which has moved from center to well left of center.

    “danger of becoming self-separated from the mass of the population.”

    Indeed. One traditional concern has been what happens when the military becomes ‘self-separated’. The military have reasons to feel superior to the rest: their discipline, courage, and self-sacrifice. The danger is when they decide that entitles them to rule. That usually happened when the military did not identify with the existing ruling structure. There was also a counter-effect: when the class including the political elite came to regard the soldiers as mere thugs. One reason Britain had “purchase of commission” in its army was to insure that scions of the propertied classes would be in command, and avoid such mutual contempt. (The common soldier was still looked down on, but not the army as an institution.)

    Today it is the meritocratic “cognitive elite” that is separating from the rest.

    And yes, Murray and Herrnstein were right. It should be noted that while Sonia Sotomayor was touted as bringing “diversity” to the Supreme Court, she is one of eight Ivy League law graduates on the Court. (The other Ivy Leaguers include the two Italian-Americans, the two Jews, all six Catholics, and the black. See how it works?) And no, that isn’t traditional: only 29 of 112 Justices have been Ivy League. 24 of those came since 1923 (the last 41 Justices), including the last 8.

    While I agree that the beliefs of this group are becoming more and more destructive, I don’t dismiss these people as stupid, or fools, or phonies. They really are smart, and they are an important functional group (or group of groups) in a society. That this group has been captured by a particular political tendency is very bad. It kills debate within the cognitive elite, and becomes a self-reinforcing pattern. It distorts society’s collective perceptions – because this group is to a degree society’s organ of perception.

    It also creates a distrust in other segments. Much of the harm done by the recent “Global Warming” revelations is the damage to the credibility of science. Yahoos preaching nonsense (creationism, homeopathy, or worse) will cite this.

    No “debt at more than a very small proportion of assets”…

    That’s a Procrustean bed. The problem was excessive reliance on “leverage”: a high ratio of debt to equity. A homebuyer almost certainly has to borrow more than “a very small proportion” of the value of the house; probably most of it. Buyers who put down 20% cash have not been the problem; it’s those who borrowed 99% (or over 100%) who are in crisis.

    At the corporate level, the problem has been clever-dick managers who pushed leverage to extreme levels, thereby maximizing returns on equity when successful. Utilities traditionally get a quarter to a third of their capital as long-term debt; this has not been a problem.

    It occurs to me that much of our recent problems have come from a lack of slack. (Paging J. R. “Bob” Dobbs!) Improvements in design and control methods have allowed us to achieve the same results with less resources by eliminating the slack. We haven’t needed to build oil refineries for decades, because automated controls embodying the skills of crack operators improved efficiency so much. But that benefit ran out a few years ago…

    Just-in-time manufacturing is a similar process.

    With regard to Gramscian damage as the cause: the trouble started earlier. Corbusier’s doctrines propagated through the cognitive elite, causing immense damage to urban areas.But Vers Une Architecture was published in the early 1920s. The so-called “International Style” of architecture was imported to the U.S. by Nazi sympathizer Philip Johnson at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932, under the patronage of the Rockefellers, Goodyears, and other millionaires. Dadaism and Cubism in art, serialism in music… Munzenberg et al may have been tasked to promote ugly art and architecture, but there was already a huge vogue for it.

  69. Eric mentions a stigma associated with debt in reference to hardening. Taking a more comprehensive tack, but along the same vein, a greater appreciation for other traditional social morals could be a hardening, of sorts, against all kinds of social ills and even economic problems. There was a time when implying that someone was lying could get you into a duel. In such situations, the person often WAS lying, and was defending his public honor more than he was defending his moral reputation. However, for a lot people living in America before 1900, absolute honesty and self reliance were considered social virtues by both the poor and the rich. Nowadays, absolute honesty is perceived as the trait of someone who is a little bit naïve. Now, you work the system, and as long as poor people and children aren’t being directly hurt, it is okay for a lot of folks. For example, billing slightly more hours then you actually worked wasn’t just practiced by a few at my Dad’s law firm, it was an accepted practice that was considered a good way to get ahead and you were considered a little strange if you didn’t do it. We assume that in the past, things were exactly the same, but people were simply less open about it. However, after reading accounts of a whole lot people who lived during the early and mid 19th century, I’m realizing that people actually were more honest back then, ON AVERAGE, at least in the US. The country was still full of scoundrels. However, real full on honesty was not viewed as the province of a few benevolent weirdoes like Kenneth Parcell on 30 Rock. It was something you could brag about.

  70. if by “autopilot corridors” you mean designating certain narrow flight paths which airliners must follow on pain of being shot down, this is not going to happen, and it’s not desirable for many reasons, both efficiency and safety.

    That wasn’t quite what I was thinking of, so let me elaborate. Our chief modern concern about hijackers is that they might fly the planes into buildings or populated areas, thereby inflicting a damage multiplier far beyond any damage they could do to the passengers or the plane alone. We already have excellent autopilot systems which can pilot a plane and can land it safely; pilots aren’t strictly necessary other than to deal with emergency situations, liability concerns, and general unexpected changes. (Some cargo and military planes already use autopilots to land in fog so thick that humans couldn’t do it safely.) Thus, I’m thinking that a safety-conscious tech-friendly airline might be inclined to give their HAL a little more responsibility than it already has.

    Two options come to mind:

    (1) The BIG RED BUTTON option. There’s a button in the cockpit. If the pilot or copilot gets *worried* that he might for any reason lose control of the plane, he is required to press the BIG RED BUTTON. Heck, you could add a few satellite BIG RED BUTTONS in the back for the flight attendants, or even a cord the passengers in exit rows could yank, as in the old days when trains had an “emergency stop” cord. If any BIG RED BUTTON is pushed, the plane automatically sends out a distress signal (to warn others in the local airspace and at the airport to make way) and then…the plane automatically lands itself. Either at the nearest available airport or at the airport at which it was expecting to land. Ignoring most cockpit commands from then onward other than those having to do with communication. (you’d need to have some sort of procedure for recovering from an accidental press; this would probably involve an escalation process whereby you call somebody on the ground, give them access to live video of the flight, explain what happened, they call in a small team of experts and only by unanimous agreement among the team are you sent a secret code – specific to that flight at that time – to cancel BIG RED BUTTON mode. You’d also want the individual control towers to be able to send a “don’t land here, try someplace else” signal if they can’t clear a runway in time. Or to designate exactly which airport HAL should land at if his default choice isn’t acceptable.)

    (2) The CORRIDOR option: The airline designates in their GPS map an extremely wide margin-of-error band around the expected flight path and also a set of absolute avoid-this-area restrictions. Pilots are expected to remain roughly in their designated corridor, to not deviate too far from it, and most especially to not dive below a certain altitude mid-flight in a wide array of designated areas. Wandering a bit out of the expected area prompts a warning. If you ignore the warnings for too long or violate one of the absolute don’t-go-there restrictions…same result as hitting the BIG RED BUTTON. The plane takes over and lands on your behalf. Once again, we’d need an override mode for extreme weather events or we’d want to be *so* generous that the band is never a restriction in normal operation.

  71. Rich, I don’t care for such hand-wringing about the credibility of science. There have been plenty of charlatans in science, no field is immune. If creationists or homeopaths want to point to some isolated scientific failure as evidence that they might be right, let them do so. If that’s the only shoddy argument they can make, it speaks for itself. You may counter that there are plenty of stupid people who will then believe that but I don’t see much benefit in those stupid people blindly following “science” instead. What matters is that people pay a price for their stupidity and the market enforces that better than any other system. When people are anti-market and pro-govt, they’re essentially anti-reason and the market incentives that instill that reason, though they inevitably couch it in terms of “saving” some group, whether unwed mothers or the working class who get sick, despite those proposals always making most people worse off.

  72. Glen, #1 seems like a great idea, except that I’m pretty sure that the sophistication level of the autopilot that you describe only exists in a minority of today’s fleet of planes. It would be easy for terrorists just to target the planes that lack this feature.

  73. Eric, I’m a little surprised by what you’re saying (concerning the CRA regs.) Do you realize what little influence the CRA had for the hundreds of mortgage lenders that fueled the bonanza of MBS from 2003-2007 ? The influence was ZERO… do you want me to repeat that? ZERO.

    We originated those loans and sold them off to the fat cats on wall street… and I can tell you with 100% certainty that they didn’t give a flying fuck about CRA. Drop by ml-implode.com someday and witness the carnage…. what they don’t tell you about that victim list is that none of them fell under the purview of the CRA regulations.

    No where in the chain, from origination to securitization to holding the bag did CRA have anything to do with the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of phony mortgages. We made those loans to anybody and everybody whether they were working at walmart or goldman sachs, it just didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered were the fees earned.

    I’m really sorry to say this Eric but you really need to wake up to what happened during that time and CRA had nothing to do with it.

  74. While I agree with your Kalman-like solution, I disagree that these times are particularly complex, or that people can’t deal with how things are because things are too complex. I’m virtually certain the failure of the “cognitive elite” happened because they’re actually quite stupid. Modern Universities are an abject failure; since more than 1/2 of the population goes to college, by definition, they do not even cater to people who are above average. Sure only 1/3 get bachelors degrees, but that is about the proportion of people who used to get high school diplomas: and at the end of a modern bachelors degree, people provably know less than they used to at the end of a college diploma.
    If you compare the cognitive elite now to what we had 50 years ago, the contrast is striking. Back then we had *very* smart people. Our very smart people now are a joke in comparison.

    The most productive members of modern society are computer nerds. Many of the most successful entrepreneurs are not college graduates. This was not true 50 or even 100 years ago, and this fact should be telling us something.

  75. > That said, what’s your opinion on the rating agencies (e.g., Moody’s) rating the packaged financial products as AAA, which led to them being purchased by all sorts of risk-averse investors, who subsequently got very, very burned?

    There’s the small detail that Fannie and Freddie lied about the loans in the packages that they were selling.

    Not only were those packages riskier than their buyers were led to believe but there were enough of them that the entire market was riskier than anyone knew. (A market with 10% subprimes is different than a market with 30% subprimes.)

    Note that regulation “encouraged” banks to own fannie and freddie stock. As a result, when those two went south, the entire banking sector had capitalization problems.

    Regulation also gave us the “insurance” that allowed regulated institutions to hold these packages as secure instruments.

  76. Jennifer Jambo:

    It wasn’t CRA. It was

    CRA +
    loosening Freddie and Fannie rules +
    mortgage securitization +
    regulatory jawboning (bankers are sheep) +
    loosening Freddie and Fannie rules some more +
    increased lawsuit based extortion +
    the entity that wanted an inflated security rating paid for it +
    loan originators being willing to write unviable loans for the sake of the fees, knowing they could get rid of them +
    everyone wanting to get in on the action +

    It wasn’t any one thing. It was to sum of all sorts of things. The second-to-last would not have been possible if the others, particularly mortgage securitization and ratings inflation, had not also existed.

  77. esr: Two things, one psychological and one physical. One is that armed passengers are, implicitly, prepared passengers.

    Yes, yes, you’ve described your theorizing quite well. But given that, as I keep pointing out, unarmed passengers were quite capable of resisting the hijackers when they knew what was going on, your bringing firearms into the discussion seems superfluous. What’s the point? What would they have added?

    Dan: What I find most disturbing about attitudes like yours, is that you treat the discussion of innocent human lives like beans being counted in a soulless game of statistics.

    I pointed out that response doctrine to airplane hijackings was based on the best way to not get people killed, rather than the most macho fantasies about shootouts at thirty thousand feet… and this, to you, seems soulless? That’s a bit weird, don’t you think? Does this have something to do with you and Eric insisting that guns are somehow relevant to the responses of passengers on hijacked planes, despite the clear evidence that the choice to resist or not is influenced by other factors?

    Steve: While we would like to believe that those consuming the ratings want the most accurate information possible. I have been increasingly convinced that this isn’t entirely the case. Because of regulations that are tied to ratings, there is a demand for ratings to be inflated, allowing people to take risks that the regulations wouldn’t otherwise allow.

    That sounds more than a little bit implausible; it seems doubtful that the security-rating debacle (which, let’s remember, was involved in assigning insanely optimistic ratings to a specific set of wobbly securities) is entirely due to regulations requiring the use of non-junk bonds in certain circumstances. While it’s clear that these were frequently sold to municipalities and pension plans looking for secure, long-term investments, it’s far less clear that the cause-and-effect relationship you propose was to blame. Essentially, you’re saying that the exchange in which buyers said “we need safe investments”, the ratings houses said “oh, then these are super-duper secure” and the buyers bought them, are the buyers’ fault. What good are the rating agencies, then? And if they were so corrupt, why did they specifically overinflate the value of the CDOs rather than any old junk bonds?

    Rich Rostrom: ESR: have you seen this post by Charles Murray? Short version: as tracked in General Social Survey data over the last 35+ years, the political identifications of all segments of the white American population have moved from center to slightly right of center, except “Intellectual Upper”, which has moved from center to well left of center.

    Leaving aside Murray’s mouth-breathing torture cheerleading (very libertarian of him), it’s a well-acknowledged truth in political science that voter-identification labels are largely meaningless, and they’re doubly so when spread across the period of time when “liberal” became a dirty word. The GSS over the same time period will tell you that, for instance, belief that the government should work to “reduce income differences” has consistently exceeded belief that it should not. The only interesting result from the data in that article is that wealthy people who culturally identified with academia and the creative arts didn’t shy away from the “liberal” label like everyone else did.

    Murray is simply demonstrating that if he tortures the data, it’ll tell him what he wants to hear.

  78. The current global financial crisis is a result of a combination of bad regulations, an economy based too heavily on credit (“overleveraging” by both consumers and banks), predatory lending practices, moronic economic forecasting models (probably made at CRU :)) , and most importantly, is largely a function of our broken, unconstitutional fractional-reserve banking system. Given that information about how stupid our fractional-reserve banking system really is is so widespread, it’s a wonder anyone keeps their money in a bank at all.

  79. >But given that, as I keep pointing out, unarmed passengers were quite capable of resisting the hijackers when they knew what was going on, your bringing firearms into the discussion seems superfluous. What’s the point? What would they have added?

    There are two answers, one narrow and one broad.

    The narrow answer is: a much better chance of getting inside the hijacker’s or bomber’s OODA loop, because a firearm can present a credible lethal threat and then execute it much more quickly than an assailant can bare-handed or with improvised weapons. Furthermore, increasing the number of armed people around the ‘splodeydope increases the chances that one of them will react correctly and effectively in a way that multiple qualified empty-hand assailants does not, especially in a cluttered environment like an airplane. Unarmed responders will interfere with each other going in; bullets won’t.

    Now, you may object that firearms are also more likely to produce lethal collateral damage, and you’d be correct. But everyone in this scenario has to assume they’re dead anyway. Any life saved is a net plus even if stray bullets kill innocent bystanders.

    I’m not theorizing from an armchair here; I have extensive training in both hand-to-hand and firearms. (That is, much more than the typical cop and above the average level for military and for field FBI agents, though certainly not more than their elite.) One of my principal instructors has been a former Special Forces officer who intentionally teaches his students how to be competent first responders in crime and terror situations. If you tried to tell him that trained civilian shooters aren’t a net win in these he’d laugh at you even more mockingly than I do.

    The broad answer is that I want the next underwear bomber to be shot down in the street outside the airport, not on an airplane. That’s why the CAS response I described included bomb sniffers cheap enough for a hundred thousand civilians to carry. When I talk about defense in depth and a nation in arms, I’m speaking literally, not metaphorically. Our civilization belongs to and supports all of us; the duty to defend it lies on all of us, too.

  80. > The broad answer is that I want the next underwear bomber to be shot down in the street outside the airport, not on an airplane.

    This reminded me of a question that’s been in my mind since at least 9/11. Why are terrorists so obsessed with airplanes? There are far better and easier targets on the ground. Oops, maybe I shouldn’t be giving people ideas, but I’m guessing the real dangerous idiots don’t dive deep into the comments on ESR’s blog.

  81. esr: The narrow answer is: a much better chance of getting inside the hijacker’s or bomber’s OODA loop, because a firearm can present a credible lethal threat and then execute it much more quickly than an assailant can bare-handed or with improvised weapons. Furthermore, increasing the number of armed people around the ’splodeydope increases the chances that one of them will react correctly and effectively in a way that multiple qualified empty-hand assailants does not, especially in a cluttered environment like an airplane. Unarmed responders will interfere with each other going in; bullets won’t.

    There weren’t “splodeydopes” on United 93; there were hijackers. The passengers resisted, and the plane crashed. Can you credibly say there would have been a better outcome if hijackers and passengers had been armed? The underwear bomber was foiled (largely because he was amazingly incompetent) and nobody was hurt or killed. What exactly is the better outcome you’re proposing that would have happened if he and a number of passengers had been armed?

    Your hypotheticals are purely notional, and have no credible relation to the actual threat being discussed.

    The broad answer is that I want the next underwear bomber to be shot down in the street outside the airport, not on an airplane. That’s why the CAS response I described included bomb sniffers cheap enough for a hundred thousand civilians to carry.

    Bomb sniffers, like any such device, have a false positive rate. You’re supposedly a fan of Yudkowsky; aren’t you familiar with what Bayes’ Theorem says about situations with an extraordinarily low probability (one in ten million passenger-emplanements, according to Nate Silver)–that even if the detector has a very low false positive rate, that most detections will indeed be false positives?

    What exactly are you expecting? People to walk up to each other, wave their sniffer wands around, and if they go “beep”, mob the poor schmuck? How is it not thunderingly obvious that any such solution is orders of magnitude worse than the original problem? Are you going to draw your weapon on someone who sets off your detector and demand to see their underwear? What will your response be when someone draws on you and demands to see your underwear?

    And why, given that the two idiots who’ve managed to carry explosives onto planes (Reid and this guy) since 9/11 have failed to injure, much less kill, anyone, is this even considered a problem worth throwing resources at?

  82. techtech: Why are terrorists so obsessed with airplanes? There are far better and easier targets on the ground.

    Only if you think that the goal of terrorism is to kill people. It’s not. It’s not even to inflict economic harm (there are some pretty stunningly easy ways to do that; consider the Glico-Morinaga case–infrastructure essentially requires that people, in general, are not bent on destruction, as an industrial society is pretty fragile when you think about it), but rather to inspire terror.

    And, frankly, nothing inspires terror quite like people carrying bombs, even ridiculously poorly-made ones, aboard airplanes. The harm done to the nation’s psyche is nigh-incalculable. Try to light your shoes on fire, and a whole nation will take their shoes off at the airport for years to come. Try to light your underwear on fire, and people like Eric, despite his protestations of independence and fearlessness, will propose staggeringly expensive, disproportionate responses which will inconvenience and harm far more people than you could ever hope to reach.

    The best response to terrorism is, as always, to refuse to be terrorized. It is also, apparently, the most difficult for a society to manage.

  83. >Can you credibly say there would have been a better outcome if hijackers and passengers had been armed?

    Yes, I can. Or, at least, that armed passengers would have dramatically improved the odds of a better outcome. And that is not a point you are even competent to argue until you have first-responder training to somewhere near the level that my friend teaches, and know what it implies.

    >What exactly are you expecting? People to walk up to each other, wave their sniffer wands around, and if they go “beep”, mob the poor schmuck?

    Basically, yes. Except I doubt wand-waving would actually be required, and I think the mob would quickly learn to grade its vigilance according to factors like how much damage could be done if a bomb went off right there, and on various other situational cues up to and including how a stressed-out jihadi looks and smells.

    >How is it not thunderingly obvious that any such solution is orders of magnitude worse than the original problem?

    It’s only worse if you think ordinary citizens are, or should be, stupid sheep. Which of course you do.

    >And why, given that the two idiots who’ve managed to carry explosives onto planes (Reid and this guy) since 9/11 have failed to injure, much less kill, anyone, is this even considered a problem worth throwing resources at?

    Nice argument. I take it, then, you’re in favor of disbanding TSA immediately. After all, we got lucky twice, so obviously we’ll be lucky forever and all those scanners and screeners are unnecessary.

  84. esr: Yes, I can [credibly say there would have been a better outcome if hijackers and passengers had been armed]. Or, at least, that armed passengers would have dramatically improved the odds of a better outcome. And that is not a point you are even competent to argue until you have first-responder training to somewhere near the level that my friend teaches, and know what it implies.

    I’m referring to actual data points, real events that happened on airplanes over the last ten years. You’re attempting to pull rank on me and claim that you have special insight into a hypothetical, when the reality is that (a) neither of us can do better than make more or less educated guesses, and (b) unarmed passengers were perfectly capable of subduing the last guy. You talk better outcomes, but you’ve pointedly ignored my question of just what exactly you were hoping would happen, what this better outcome is.

    I doubt wand-waving would actually be required, and I think the mob would quickly learn to grade its vigilance according to factors like how much damage could be done if a bomb went off right there, and on various other situational cues up to and including how a stressed-out jihadi looks and smells.

    Again, you’re ignoring the most pertinent factors–the vast majority of detectees are going to be false positives, and gearing up angry mobs when they will almost never be needed is a bad idea; at best, it’s pretty useless, and opens up some obvious new areas of attack. “Accidentally” bump into a cranky-looking person on their way to the airport to dust them with trace amounts of volatiles, in the hopes that they’ll start a scene and some overzealous self-styled vigilante will be convinced that their agitation is due to their posing a violent threat. Use hard-to-detect explosives like PETN (you are aware that sniffers didn’t and wouldn’t catch the underwear guy, right?) and giggle at all the wasted money and resources.

    You’re disregarding the reality of the situation in favor of spinning comforting tales about tackling obvious “jihadis”, who will conveniently use tactics detectable to you. Defending against a particular movie-plot threat is a terrible idea. It doesn’t work.

    It’s only worse if you think ordinary citizens are, or should be, stupid sheep. Which of course you do.

    I think that your idea is a ridiculous misallocation of resources. I think it’s useless and misses the point entirely. It’s trivial for an attacker to make small changes in targets or tactics. Planning a defense against one imaginary attack vector is foolishly wasteful. As I keep trying to point out, what clearly makes the difference is that passengers will immediately jump anyone who sets themselves on fire, much less starts hollering about a hijacking.

    Things worked as they should. Because of the sniffing devices at the airport, the guy was forced to use an ineffective explosive and a tricky detonator, which didn’t even work. Because of the meme that resistance is required in these situations, the guy was immediately subdued when he tried to use it. I frankly don’t see the problem here. Airline travel is made safe against terrorism to a ridiculous degree; on the literally one-in-ten-million chance you’re on a plane with someone who’s going to attempt something, (a) he’ll be reduced to the use of an ineffective device by all the screening, and (b) you won’t get to jump him once his device fizzles, because every other passenger on the plane will be attempting to put him in a full nelson at the same time.

    I’m not sure where you get the “stupid sheep” angle from; I think the passengers (specifically, one Jasper Schuringa) performed admirably, and I’d expect the same from any group of passengers on any given plane. I think that crowds are excellent for some tasks; witch hunts are not among these. Again, I’d like you to describe your probable reaction upon being accosted by a fellow traveler demanding that you display your undergarments because his sniffer went off near you.

    It is pretty much a solved problem. The only efficacy that this guy has is in making people who think that perfect security is attainable or desirable terrified enough to waste time, energy and resources.. It is, so far as I can tell, working well on you.

    Nice argument. I take it, then, you’re in favor of disbanding TSA immediately. After all, we got lucky twice, so obviously we’ll be lucky forever and all those scanners and screeners are unnecessary.

    How you get from “the system as it stands appears to work acceptably” to “the system as it stands must be dismantled” is beyond me. Your skills in straw-fu far exceed my understanding.

  85. you are aware that sniffers didn’t and wouldn’t catch the underwear guy, right?

    Correct. Sniffers used at airports would not be able to detect PETN. In fact, from what I understand, sniffers used at airports wouldn’t be able to detect Semtex, either, which is a plasticized mixture of RDX and PETN. Semtex is quite a bit easier to detonate than PETN alone and was successfully used in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Noteably, though manufactured Semtex has a “tagging signature” per recent international agreements (due to the difficulty in its detection), the explosive can be made by anyone in their garage who has access to sufficient quantities of the nitric and sulfuric acids necessary to produce the RDX and a sufficient (high school-level) knowledge of the chemistry involved. Note that information to make such explosives is readily available in any public library.

    So, in other words, your statement that “[t]hings worked as they should; [b]ecause of the sniffing devices at the airport, the guy was forced to use an ineffective explosive and a tricky detonator, which didn’t even work” assumes things that are not true.

  86. Oh, BTW– with adequate amounts of nitric acid and pentaerythritol, the underwear bomber could have easily detonated the PETN, which is used in detcord.

  87. “Truly spoken like someone who’s never been in the middle of a revolution. A revolution isn’t a stately transfer wherein your ideas are implemented and winged ponies fly down from heaven to make sure the populist rebellion is on your side. A revolution is as likely to look like Nehemiah Scudder as anything else. These things are always a crapshoot, frequently urged on by those so mired in their own rhetoric of how horrible things are that they’re incapable of imagining how much worse they could get. The beautiful blank slate is a pernicious myth.”

    I think you are taking “revolt” too literally. If I understood correctly, Eric was referring to a peaceful political revolt (akin to 1828.) Would that be an inessential difference?

    Regardless, I stand by my intuition that vague grassroots discontent with growing statism is rapidly becoming insufficient at this time, and someone with adequate intellectual heft needs to fill in the blanks on where to go from here.

  88. ESR repeatedly returns to the Great Apostasy (what he calls “Gramscian Damage”). What evidence is there that the Soviets actually adopted Gramsci’s ideology, given that Lenin and Gramsci were ideological competitors? To demonstrate their incompatibility, here’s a quote from Wikipedia’s entry of Gramsci:

    The principle of the causal “primacy” of the forces of production, he held, was a misconception of Marxism. Both economic changes and cultural changes are expressions of a “basic historical process”, and it is difficult to say which sphere has primacy over the other.

    The fact that Gramsci held culture to be as important as politics is in opposition to Leninism, which contends that politics far outweighs culture. According to Lenin, culture is irrelevant, since culture flows from the political-economic system. How is it possible that the USSR, which followed Lenin’s terrible ideas to the letter, adopted the ideology of someone who contradicted the basic tenants of their Holy Founder?

  89. >If I understood correctly, Eric was referring to a peaceful political revolt (akin to 1828.)

    I wasn’t referring to a revolution at all. It was others who suggested my writings might be a guide for a revolutionary movement.

  90. >How is it possible that the USSR, which followed Lenin’s terrible ideas to the letter, adopted the ideology of someone who contradicted the basic tenants of their Holy Founder?

    Are you really that naive? Even Lenin didn’t follow his own theories consistently. Google “New Economic Policy” and learn.

    As for how the Soviets adopted the Gramscian strategy, go study up on Willi Munzenberg. Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals

  91. While the NEP contradicts Bolshevik propaganda (“We’re here to implement socialism”), it does not contradict the foundational tenant of Leninism (“The Party must ultimately control the political and economic system”).

  92. “I wasn’t referring to a revolution at all. It was others who suggested my writings might be a guide for a revolutionary movement.”

    That was me…well sorta — I was merely referring to the meaning of “populist revolt” in your lead sentence.

    Anyhoo, isn’t this revolt we are seeing unfold an example of a CAS in action? There certainly isn’t any elite authority directing it (disingenuous cries of “astroturf” notwithstanding.) Ideas are posted to blogs and the best ones spread to the streets with lightning speed (and vice versa.) Elite authority pundits keep knocking the movement as lacking leaders, yet that seems to be a feature not a bug?

    It appears as if Eric’s prescription is already inherent in this “movement.” Someone only needs to make explicit the connection between the process as we’re seeing it unfold and its potential to define a new paradigm of structuring society.

  93. I think grendelkhan is winning the argument with you Eric because you are getting caught in corner cases. We do want multiple layered defense in depth. Let’s go back to the problem of who can carry a gun on airplane. Let’s say people could take a course costing, say, $2000, and then if they pass a test (which is designed to pass most of the people who take the course) and pay a small processing fee, say $250, they get a special concealed carry airplane license. If you do that you get free air marshals, and you train a non-zero number of people to do a better job a securing an airplane than untrained people. But you also effectively increase the number of qualified first responders everywhere else. This is generally true. Any system that incentivises ordinary citizens to become better at defending our country, perhaps by giving them special priviledges, and which enables them to do so is an all around win.

    Myself, I favor state militias, like the New York State Guard, for the same purpose. Only twenty states have them. I want Kansas to have one. My idea would broaden the Kansas State/Johnson County/Olathe/Prairie View Elementary School Volunteers to be like service in Starship Troopers. Let everyone join and find something they can do. A properly armed and trained arthritic grandmother is a benefit to society, even if all she protects is her own home and neighborhood. And I’m perfectly happy to train pacifists as corpsmen in Kansas State Volunteers. Any pacifist who stops me from bleeding to death on the sidewalk is a hero in my book.

    Multiple layer, decentralized, defense in depth.

    Yours,
    Tom DeGisi

  94. And there is always the example of the Swiss who are almost all armed and the Isrealis who are also (for socialists) remarkably happy to have their citizens carry guns almost everywhere.

  95. Eric, I do believe that we should abolish the TSA, and replace it with something that’s more than just theatre. As you say, we’ve been lucky …. the TSA has been lucky … http://russnelson.com/temp/tsa-bozo.png

    And anyway … I believe in “Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick”. We need to start walking more softly, and do less force projection around the world. Why does anybody resort to terrorism? Because they’re feeling oppressed. Let’s stop supporting these penny-ante dictators around the world, and reduce the occasion for terrorism, or war.

  96. Eric, being disarmed doesn’t turn me into a sheep. It turns me into a pissed-off sheepdog. That said, I agree with you about multiple responders getting in each other’s way. More energy would be put into getting past each other than in ripping the terrorist limb from limb. The thing that I don’t understand is: why did the Underwear Bomber live through the experience? Probably because the first person to get to him was an untrained (emergent) sheepdog, leaving no room for a trained sheepdog to do his stuff. Or her stuff.

  97. esr,

    I posted what I think could happen in “public” education. It basically boils down to: 1) put the best middle/high school (even college) lectures on YouTube, 2) supplement that with a website (readings, testing, homework, etc.), and 3) fire all the rent-seekers in the education industrial complex. This feels like the kind of CAS your talking about, but pick up a few stones and throw them if you think it’s necessary ;-)

    ESR says: No stones required. You’ve got the idea.

  98. Eric, I do believe that we should abolish the TSA, and replace it with something that’s more than just theatre.

    I recommend replacing it with the Mafia. Anyone found with explosives in their underwear is going to have to take a walk with Vinny and Tony.

  99. Morgan,

    Someone else been drawing from the same sources as Neal Stephenson? :)

  100. >You’re attempting to pull rank on me and claim that you have special insight into a hypothetical,

    Yes. Yes I am, and I’ll keep doing it every time you open your ignorant trap about this subject. Because I have paid the freight to actually learn something about what first response to a terror situation requires, and trained to meet it. You have not. All your theorizing, fancy dancing, and preposterous claims that “Things worked as they should” cannot hide this.

  101. dsm, one more layer for education– I expect study groups and forums and tutoring (both paid and volunteer) in addition to online lectures and curricula.

    esr, a smell test for the CRA theory: If a government produces a huge disaster, is it more likely to be the result of doing too many favors for low status people or too many favors for high status people?

    While we’re praising courage, I’m nominating Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, the father of the Christmas bomber. Some very scary people might be after him at this point.

  102. dsm Says:
    1) put the best middle/high school (even college) lectures on YouTube,
    2) supplement that with a website (readings, testing, homework, etc.), and
    3) fire all the rent-seekers in the education industrial complex.

    Just to play devils advocate a little,

    1) how would you define and judge the “best lectures”?

    2) are you suggesting each school have a website with their readings/homework or that you’d have a “standardised” site? (e.g. http://www.us-edumacation.com or even http://www.kansas-edumacation.com). The first would require a fair bit of rampup tech (i’ve seen a couple of currently existing distance education/web education software suites and they all pretty much blow). The second sounds pretty centralised. Is there a third option that i’m not seeing?

  103. >esr, a smell test for the CRA theory: If a government produces a huge disaster, is it more likely to be the result of doing too many favors for low status people or too many favors for high status people?

    I’m reluctant to accept the premise, because I don’t think governments ever do favors for low-status people. They may take actions that have the effect of benefitting low-status people, but I am unable to think of any case in which the actual causation wasn’t in-group maneuvering among high-status political actors, some of whom happen to position themselves as tribunes of the people. (I’m not even claiming this positioning is necessarily insincere, just that low-status people almost by definition never get a seat at the table.)

    But supposing I did accept the premise…huh? It doesn’t seem to me like who the favors are done for has much coupling to how likely they are to produce a disaster. Deadweight losses are deadweight losses wherever the money is aimed. Do you have a specific case or set of cases in mind?

  104. >While the NEP contradicts Bolshevik propaganda (”We’re here to implement socialism”), it does not contradict the foundational tenant of Leninism (”The Party must ultimately control the political and economic system”).

    Fine. If that’s what’s foundational about Leninism, then there was never anything contradictory about adopting a Gramscian strategy against the Party’s enemies. It was just another tool for eventual Party domination.

  105. The first would require a fair bit of rampup tech (i’ve seen a couple of currently existing distance education/web education software suites and they all pretty much blow). The second sounds pretty centralised. Is there a third option that i’m not seeing?

    I’ve seen plenty of those as well, and I think the best I’ve seen (for a small hybrid distance learning/on-campus university) is more like an online forum with some chat and video capability. The best kinds of learning don’t happen purely from lectures, but happen when the students are engaged in deep group discussions where the teacher/prof is more like of moderator or discussion facilitator. You do the required reading, do your writing, and then discuss all of it online. Decentralized.

    BTW–I’ve personally learned more from interacting with people online then I ever learned in college. :)

  106. >Eric, being disarmed doesn’t turn me into a sheep. It turns me into a pissed-off sheepdog.

    It pisses me off too, but I’d be lying if I claimed that it didn’t make me less able mentally as well as physically. The message that goes along with the TSA’s search-and-disarm policy is “You needn’t, can’t, and shouldn’t use violence in self-defense.” And while I can reject that message, I can’t just ignore it. In the event of an actual terrorist attack, it will make my response slower and less certain.

    What’s worse is that I believe the “self defense is wrong!” message to be intentional on the part of the TSA and the “educated elites” in general. As I posted before, the elite authorities seem to have a primal horror of ordinary persons using violence in self-defense. As near as I can figure it, they consider a plane blowing up to be mere mass homicide and property damage, but if ordinary people use violence to prevent this – that’s Treason Against Civilization Itself.

  107. Of course the intent of terrorism is to kill people, that’s how you spread terror. Terrorists wouldn’t be very effective if they didn’t kill people, would they? The intent of the eunuchbomber was to kill everyone on that plane, thereby terrorizing millions of other people with the fear that they might be next to die. Terrorism is the weaponization of fear, delivered through the media of death.

    You don’t spread terror with bad haircuts, or by eating somebody else’s lunch, or by fancy footwork (although Riverdance came close)…..you do it by killing (and threatening) people, and promising the remainder that they’re next – unless they do X. Most people have a fear of death, especially when it might be gruesome, and by manipulating this mortal fear of others into a motive force for your benefit, you commit terrorism.

  108. As near as I can figure it, they consider a plane blowing up to be mere mass homicide and property damage, but if ordinary people use violence to prevent this – that’s Treason Against Civilization Itself.

    That’s pretty much how I see them too. As I touched upon earlier, grendelkhan and his/her ilk attempt to cloak themselves with the appearance of compassionate sincerity (regarding the saving of lives), but everything they actually propose is soulless in its total divorce from humanity. Their debate is positioned from on-high, looking down upon the human race to figure out where to best position the fences to corral the herd so that costs are reduced to an acceptable level. They don’t care that an individual with a gun might be able to save lives that are otherwise at the mercy of a person that by definition holds their lives in contempt….they care about the dominance over mankind that an armed, confident, independent and free populace would deny them.

    This is why I consider them to be vulgar sociopaths.

  109. Russell: We need to start walking more softly, and do less force projection around the world. Why does anybody resort to terrorism? Because they’re feeling oppressed. Let’s stop supporting these penny-ante dictators around the world, and reduce the occasion for terrorism, or war.

    Why do the same people who who condemn the idea of blaming the vicim in other matters consider it acceptable to blame the victim of terrorism?

    What we do does not justify terrorism directed against the American people. I don’t give a fuzzy rat’s ass what a jihadi thinks of me, or my country. I am proud that he would consider me a godless infidel. If he tries to act on that belief, though, I will show him no mercy in removing him from the population. We as a country should not, either. If it takes creating vast wastelands of radioactive glass to end the jihadist threat, we should not shrink from the task.

  110. >We as a country should not, either. If it takes creating vast
    wastelands of radioactive glass to end the jihadist threat, we should
    not shrink from the task.

    Come now, that’s excessive. It would damage portions of the biosphere we’ll need to use later.

    On a less snarky note: I don’t know where I’d aim the nuke. I think rather more precisely targeted ultraviolence is required here.

    However, your initial point is valid. Pinning the cause of terrorism on U.S. policy is absurd, a form of idiocy that can only be sustained by ignoring what the terrorists themselves say about their motives.

  111. Like Mr. Raymond I’ve done a bit of training over the years in the distribution of violence. I’m not going to claim that I’m better than he is at anything, and his statement about being trained above the average level for cops, military and FBI agents needs to be understood in context. Cops and FBI agents are NOT primarily interested in, trained as, or tasked with combat. Even large parts of the modern military are not, and by about a 15 or 20 to one ratio. Meaning there are about 15 or 20 support personal for every door kicker, machine gunner or bomb dropper. So the level of training that Mr. Raymond claims to exceed is a *very* low hurdle. I’ve trained and fired pistols by the bucket, quite a few rifles (including 3 variants of the M16), the M-60 (I date myself), an AT-4 simulator, and used a radio to call fire in a training scenario. I’ve also studied (badly) three martial arts, and been through Marine Corps Boot Camp. Oh, and I’ve been in a combat zone (not as a shooter) and had gun fights and rockets land within 1/2 mile of where I worked/slept. It didn’t bother me.

    The classes I’ve taken range from “this is the business end of the gun, you point it that way” to active-shooter classes.

    This is to say that I have a basic understanding of violence and systems for delivering violence that range from fists to bombs.

    So let’s dispose of a few notions right off.

    First we will deal with the notion of improvised weapons in the context of a vehicle (plane, bus, train) hijacking. Then we will discuss why this is irrelevant to the recent instances of SJS (Sudden Jihadi Syndrome, as opposed to PJS, Professional Jihadi Syndrome).

    There are a LOT of very useful improvised weapons, and many that are useful in a hijacking situation. However you need to understand that a hijacking is NOT a street fight and you are NOT facing a single opponent.

    If you wish to take a plane back from hijackers you need sudden, brutal and overwhelming violence. A combination lock on the end of a belt is about the worst thing you could try to use in this situation. Something like the “Unbreakable Umbrella” (google), while a good idea generally, is also a bad idea.

    Time is short, and space is cramped. You don’t have the room to swing something like that, nor luxury of being able to beat a terrorist down by repeatedly striking him until you see grey leaking out his fractured skull.

    You need to IMMEDIATELY destroy their ability to do ANYTHING. They (this would be unusual, but it could happen) could have the primary goal of driving the airplane into something spectacular, but have the capacity to detonate something that will merely bring the plane down. Which means when your attention leaves them for the next opponent they need be unable to rouse themselves to the point where they can push a button.

    Seriously. Choke them to death, bash their brains out. Break their legs and stomp the crap out of their hands. This is not MMA, this is not boxing. Your opponent needs to NOT be able to fight another day. At best he needs to be able to answer whatever questions the FBI wants to ask him before he dies. If you are really good you can choose to disable this person so the other passengers can strip him buck ass naked and strap him to a seat for the remainder of the flight. I’m not that good. I’m going to choke the fucker all the way down if I can. (BTW, large zipties are light, take up very little room, and are EXCELLENT restraints.)

    I have a lot of respect for MMA level fighters. IMO people like that are why the started selling the AK in 12-gauge. Because sometimes you NEED 10 rounds of 00-buckshot and then a reload. But those guys still primarily train to leave their opponent *relatively* uninjured. Which is a much more easily disgarded notion than “I must not fight at all”.

    The second notion we must dispose of that any of this matters one bit any more.

    In the most recent event none of this mattered. In the Reid incident none of this would have mattered. If Reid and this recent guy had been even reasonably competent to carry out their tasks THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO TIME FOR A FIGHT.

    Shooting a guy in the face (about the quickest way to stop a fight I know of) is rather pointless once the fuse has been lit. Stabbing someone in the throat AFTER they have started the chemical reaction that will cause an explosion is rather fucking pointless, now isn’t it? It may make you feel better, but you’re not going to enjoy that feeling for very long.

    If the terrorist is *eager* to die in his attempt the best you can hope for is incompetence and capture later. This later capture isn’t going to require much in the way of deadly force, and there are usually enough men aboard an airplane, and enough aggressive women, that once the bomb fizzles they can get the problem tied up for authorities. In these cases you DO want to keep the guy alive if possible. It’s highly unlikely that you’d wind up with more than one suicide bomber per plane–Suicide bombers are very expensive (they are hard to recruit, hard to train, and routinely change their mind as the time approaches) so if you were to prepare two or more at once you’d slip them on two separate airplanes–just to double your coveage.

    The likelihood of two independent suicide bombers being on the same plane is not null, but I think the plane failing because of maintenance issues is more likely.

  112. This is why I consider them to be vulgar sociopaths.

    Could this blog sink any lower? I mean, it’s been a joke for years, but the nutters that populate it now don’t even bother to veil their ad hominems anymore, Raymond included.

    ESR: Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the was out.

  113. I’m not quite sure what your conclusion is, Billy. In the event that another passenger notices the guy prepping his explosive device, do you object to that passenger having the option to put some lead in his skull?

  114. >So the level of training that Mr. Raymond claims to exceed is a *very* low hurdle.

    All depends on your terms of reference. I intended to compare my level of training to actual combat military, not desk jockeys, because I know from MMA class that I play on roughly equal terms with a guy who is rated expert at Army combatives. That’s way, way more training than even the most elite uniformed police get, but near nothing compared to somebody like my friend the ex-Special Forces guy. My guess, based on your self-description, is that your firearms skills exceed mine but I’m probably somewhat more capable than you empty-hand or with a blade. Larger toolkit…

    >You need to IMMEDIATELY destroy their ability to do ANYTHING.

    I agree with this and most of the rest of what you say. It reinforces my earlier point that firearms are a huge win over empty-hand or improvised weapons because they improve your outside chance of getting inside the bad guy’s OODA loop.

  115. If he tries to act on that belief, though, I will show him no mercy in removing him from the population.

    Look out, Tron Guy’s on the attack! I would seriously like to see some videos of you shooting guns or trying to do martial arts or whatever. That would be fucking hilarious.

    ESR says: I know Jay, and I wouldn’t suggest underestimating him.

  116. > Could this blog sink any lower? I mean, it’s been a joke for years, but the nutters that populate it now don’t even bother to veil their ad hominems anymore, Raymond included.

    > Look out, Tron Guy’s on the attack! I would seriously like to see some videos of you shooting guns or trying to do martial arts or whatever. That would be fucking hilarious.

    Having these posts within 4 minutes of each other is perhaps one of the greatest examples of doublethink I’ve seen.

  117. Mr. Raymond says:
    Come now, that’s excessive. It would damage portions of the biosphere we’ll need to use later.

    It may be excessive, but we have very little use for the geography. The Geology, maybe. But I’m sure that we could learn how to do most of the drilling and oil field maintenance with robots.

    Most of the people in that part of the world would be better off if they were resettled someplace with a milder climate, like central Canada. Heck, a lot of them would appreciate the easier access to nitrogen fertilizer.

    However the reason we should not nuke them, or (as the Philosopher Frank J. suggested “Carpet Bombing”) has less to do with the resultant radioactivity than it does with principles.

    We no longer *need* to kill people in industrial quantities. We know how, once we slip the leashes on our Warriors, how to stack bodies like f’ing cord wood. Read “Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10″ and think about how many people Seal Team 10 killed despite being out manned, out gunned, out of touch and on the enemy’s home (literally) field.

    Picture these guys with backed with the national will smoke fucking terrorists in their beds, an intelligence community allowed to call a terrorist a terrorist, and a communications network that provided them timely and clear information about what was happening.

    Modern combat training and equipment is SO FAR from what we had in Vietnam and WWII, we just can’t use it well because 1/2 the officers are afraid of winding up on CNN, in front of Congress or in front of a Courts Marshal for doing their job.

    The last time we had problems with African Pirates we burned a few villages to the ground. I wouldn’t suggest taking out a whole village because of one problem, but maybe we shake the family tree and clean up what’s loose.

  118. “””
    All depends on your terms of reference. I intended to compare my level of training to actual combat military, not desk jockeys, because I know from MMA class that I play on roughly equal terms with a guy who is rated expert at Army combatives. That’s way, way more training than even the most elite uniformed police get, but near nothing compared to somebody like my friend the ex-Special Forces guy. My guess, based on your self-description, is that your firearms skills exceed mine.
    “””

    I misunderstood. You were “merely” discussing combatives–I thought you were talking about individual proficiency in arms as a whole.

    That doesn’t change anything though. Most combat arms soldiers (historically, this has changed in the last decade with MMAP and the Army’s Combatives) got VERY little training in hand to hand. And even today the idea behind it is–at least to the claims of one instructor I talked to–for the first soldier to nail down the problem long enough for one of his teammates to solve the problem. This is not to say all are like this, and quite frankly even without the combatives specific training you do not want to get into a fight with a “bloodied” infantry soldier.

    The guy you were playing with was, after all, rated “expert”. And understand, I’m not criticizing your level of achievement here, only saying that to get better than most military and police is a low bar. We (as a society) don’t expect that much out of them.

    My biggest problem in the martial arts world is the complete inability to connect the name with the movement (I’m no good at Japanese) and a congenital clumsiness. Historically I’ve been afraid to train too hard in that area because broke fingers and arms make tough typing.

  119. Dan:

    No objections at all. I actually LIKE the idea of the .22 under the seat cushion. It puts it in a place that one can get to slowly and quietly if you need to, or quickly but obviously if needed. I would add a feature that if it’s accessed the flight crew is made aware of which seat(s) are getting them, and I would go with .22 magnum revolvers instead of .22lr, but that’s just nitpicking.

    The point I was trying to make was the getting inside the OODA Loop of a competent suicide bomber is going to be difficult to the point of impossible so no matter what you do it’s probably not going to work.

    If you’re reading…er if you can understand this blog you’re probably at least 1 std. deviation to the right of the bell curve. You’re smart enough to think it through. How do you stop someone who is competent and willing to die?

    Note that first you have to *notice them*.

    You can’t keep the explosives out of the plane because you can’t do a thorough background check or a daily search of EVERYONE that goes in and out of the secure areas in a civilian airport. Mechanics, Fed Ex/Airmail deliveries, baggage handlers etc. all flow in and out of those places on a regular basis. Too permeable.

    The only reason this hasn’t been done is because “they” haven’t felt like it yet.

  120. >I misunderstood. You were “merely” discussing combatives–I thought you were talking about individual proficiency in arms as a whole.

    That’s because I’m less able to comparatively evaluate my weapons skills. On the one hand, very few military types ever become as capable with edged weapons as I am; on the other hand, I’m only barely competent with a rifle. Almost all my firearms training is with pistols, and while I’m generally among the better shooters in the civilian groups I hang with I really don’t know much about how that compares to military skill levels.

    >This is not to say all are like this, and quite frankly even without the combatives specific training you do not want to get into a fight with a “bloodied” infantry soldier.

    Agreed. Those guys have the huge advantage that they’ve coped under live-fire conditions and real combat. I can’t match that degree of mental preparedness because I just haven’t had to do that yet. It’s even possible I’d freeze or crack up under that kind of pressure. Mind you, the only instructor I’ve had who’s actually been a military trainer says he likes my odds, but we’re both realists and aware of the possibility.

    It’s also relevant that an infantry soldier in training is likely to be 25 to 30 years younger than me and rather more fit. My training partner who’s the combatives expert fits that description, and it seems to roughly cancel my age bonus for treachery and cunning. :-) It’s a good thing I’m exceptionally strong for my age and size, otherwise grappling with him would seriously suck. As it is we both rather enjoy it.

  121. How do you stop someone who is competent and willing to die?

    I don’t wish to stop them dying, in fact, I encourage them to do so…by my hand if necessary. It’s all the unpleasant stuff they can accomplish between now and then that I’m not so keen on ;)

    Note that first you have to *notice them*

    Of course. I’m not trying to suggest that it’s easy. My angle here is that we should damn the sociopaths that would rather I have no other options available. No matter how hard it is, no matter the probability of success, I demand that I exercise my right to be armed – and have the best goddamned chance of survival I can give myself – and I deny any and all claims of others to any right to prevent me.

  122. >My angle here is that we should damn the sociopaths that would rather I have no other options available

    Unfair, Dan. Most of them aren’t sociopaths, merely weaklings and moral cowards who habitually project their own failings and their own lack of self-discipline on others. A true sociopath is a considerably more dangerous beast.

  123. On a less snarky note: I don’t know where I’d aim the nuke. I think rather more precisely targeted ultraviolence is required here.

    I know exactly where I’d aim it. I’d aim at right at the geographic area that everyone in the Middle East is fighting about. The problem with that is, most people would think I’m a cold bastard for even suggesting it; on the contrary, it’s the most logical solution to the problem.

  124. Tony: Look out, Tron Guy’s on the attack! I would seriously like to see some videos of you shooting guns or trying to do martial arts or whatever. That would be fucking hilarious.

    Tony, I’m not a martial artist, as anyone who watched my attempts at breaking a board after last year’s Penguicon will readily attest. OTOH, I do like to think I’m reasonably competent with a pistol, and Eric’s seen me shoot.

    ESR says: I know Jay, and I wouldn’t suggest underestimating him.

    That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me in quite a while, coming from you.

    On a less snarky note: I don’t know where I’d aim the nuke. I think rather more precisely targeted ultraviolence is required here.

    I would, like Dean Wormser, grab the bull by the balls and drop one right on the Qaaba Stone. If Islam wants to declare war on the rest of the world, we should give them their war, and show them exactly why it was a bad idea. The second nuke should be dropped on Qom, which would have the extra benefit of ridding the world of the ayatollahs.

    However, I do not believe that anything short of the full power and fury of which the US military is capable if unleashed will truly end the jihadist threat. The kind of half-measures that politicians these days tend to adopt instead of letting the military do its job to the utmost of its abilities only make problems worse, not solve them.

  125. A true sociopath is a considerably more dangerous beast.

    …and you’ll find plenty of them in DC (and state analogs), along with their civilian enablers/lobbyists, pushing for ever more draconian ‘gun control’ legislation.

    I accept that there are plenty of ‘nodding dogs’ among the rank-and-file – innocent in a “forgive them for they know not what they do” sense – but outside this group, there are degrees of sociopathy one can witness, and I suspect you are being too charitable to these people. That may be a dangerous mistake.

  126. After watching that video, I am convinced that Jay is, in fact, the man.

    As Hopkins says in the movie “The Edge” – “never feel sorry for a man that owns a plane”

  127. Something like the “Unbreakable Umbrella” (google), while a good idea generally, is also a bad idea.

    Time is short, and space is cramped. You don’t have the room to swing something like that, nor luxury of being able to beat a terrorist down by repeatedly striking him until you see grey leaking out his fractured skull.

    If you’re swinging the umbrella, you’re doing it wrong. Poke someone in the face, throat, ribs, groin or kidneys with an umbrella, and it doesn’t even need to be sharp to cause a great deal of pain. Probably enough to make them drop whatever weapon they’re carrying.

  128. >That’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me in quite a while, coming from you.

    Well, you are competent with a pistol, after all. I’m pretty sure that’s more than can be said for the troll who just insulted you.

  129. “If you’re swinging the umbrella, you’re doing it wrong. Poke someone in the face, throat, ribs, groin or kidneys with an umbrella, and it doesn’t even need to be sharp to cause a great deal of pain. Probably enough to make them drop whatever weapon they’re carrying.”

    Either you’re completely failing to grasp the central problem here, or you’re making an orthogonal point.

    If you’re poking them with anything other that a katana (or culturally appropriate analog, which they do not allow on airplanes) you’re not doing a fucking thing other than wasting time.

    This is NOT the gentlemanly art of fistcuffs. The Marquess of Queensberry Rules don’t cover this.

    Speed, surprise, ruthlessness and overwhelming ultra-violence are what you need here.

    Look, shit like Krav Maga, MMA, the Bujinkan (where I study), and almost all the other stuff taught in dojos/schools/studios around the world right now (with the possible exception of some of the phillipino arts, and only if you’re getting the “real” stuff) is either self defense, feel good bullshit, or fighting for sport. We train to respond to attacks (mostly) we rarely train to launch them. We train to leave are training partners conscious, if a little bruised at the end of the session, and we try not to hurt them too bad so we can use them again next week. It’s good stuff. It helps, it conditions you to get up there and grab someone, it gets you in the fight. And if you’re fighting with some drunk college kid, or a guy trying to steal your wallet for crack money it’s going to work.

    This ain’t like that. “First you scream and then you leap.” This isn’t about crack money. This isn’t about too much beer. This is about a clash of world views, one world view that wants to get home to a beer and a blowjob, and the other that wants to achieve martyrdom and 72 virgins.

    You’re ENTIRELY underestimating the amount of pain a human can function through. Go read about some of the medal of honor recipients from WWII. In one of those stories there’s a (IIRC) navigator or radio operator who picked up a BURNING phosphorus signal flare, carried it across a cockpit and shoved it out a window.

    Here it is: http://www.homeofheroes.com/wings/erwin.html

    They had to rebuild most of his face. Over several years. The hands were an almost total loss.

    There’s another one about this officer during the push up off the beach during D-Day. Apparently the tanks and some tracked vehicles got confused and weren’t moving the right way or something. So he jumps up, standing on the beach and starts using hand and arm signals to direct them.

    Which of course draws enemy fire like a fooken magnet. From memory he got shot in the hand, and took one through the cheek and kept on going.

    Go look at the report of the FBI Felony stop in Dade County Florida in (IIRC) 1984. Two bank robbers in a car. The FBI initiates a felony stop, and one of the bank robbers starts fighting back (the other is driving). Carnage ensues.

    And you think that poking at someone in the crotch is going to make them drop whatever they’re holding?

    You willing to bet your life on it?

    I’m not.

    Yes, all things considered in that environment I’d much rather have a CZ-75 or a Sig 226. Glock next, and after that anything from .380 to 10mm. Because headshots really DO make people want to not fight any more.

  130. The belligerence being spewed here misses the point entirely. Let me demonstrate by shifting the subject to the Oklahoma City bombing, which takes away the muslim radical part of the equation. While some of us may even agree with parts of McVeigh’s purported anti-statist goals, I think most would agree that bombing a federal building was not the way to go about it. The question is how do we stop such terrorists, whether foreign or home-grown, now that it is easier for them to do more damage? Most recognize that arming everyone is not the solution, as that raises whole new dangers. Private security agencies would allow for competition and choice while keeping arms with highly trained professionals. Most people realize that arming the populace is just going to allow a bunch of wackos to get guns too, so arming everybody is a complete non-starter for most. Arguing against the extreme of arms bans with the opposite extreme of arming most or everyone is silly.

    A note about the ratings agencies, they basically had govt-granted monopoly status and so were not subject to market pressures. They were widely considered a joke by most investors long before their recent failure. Always funny how the left creates such “capitalist” sock puppets and then blames their failure on the market, when it’s inevitably the govt-created or regulated agencies like Fannie and Freddie that fail first and hardest. :)

  131. Ajay Says:
    Here’s a link explaining the regulatory situation with the big 3 ratings agencies and how fucked up it is.

    Having said that, that report is over 2 years old and at least some of its criticisms don’t apply anymore (e.g. Egan Jones has NRSRO status since Dec 2007 according to wikipedia)

  132. Ajay, putting aside your repeated use of the shabby “most people” rhetorical device (a la “consenus” and “settled science” of AGW), you present us with another example of the straw man fallacy.

    Your straw man comes in th form of “arming everybody”. People on ‘my side’ have indeed advocated that people should be armed, but the use of the word “armed” is an adjective, not a verb. Your straw man deceptively warps this into a verb, implying that we’re advocating passing out boxes full of Glocks to all and sundry. Dishonest.

    I advoate that all free, lawful individuals should be at liberty to decide for themselves whether to privately purchase (and carry) arms technology – typically combat/PD handguns for concealed carry are advocated, but a more militarily complete range of arms would be desireable for militia duty.

    To complement this, I also advocate the utter illegitimacy of all “gun control” in a free society, along with the sociopathic mentality that desires to impose it from on high over mankind.

  133. I think most would agree that bombing a federal building was not the way to go about it. The question is how do we stop such terrorists, whether foreign or home-grown, now that it is easier for them to do more damage? Most recognize that arming everyone is not the solution,

    Ummm…[weasel words] and [citation needed]. Who are these ‘most’? Did you poll them? I could just easily say that most would agree that an armed populace is the only way to go. You seem to forget that “most” people in this country don’t live in the big cities, they live in the small towns, the backwoods and the bayous across countryside. What do you think the average redneck from Iowa, Montana, Wyoming or even the swamps of central Florida would say? Note that some of my relatives (including some that live right down the street from me) are such people and they are armed with, at the very least, a variety of rifles, pistols and shotguns. Step on their land, and you’re likely to be greeted by one of them carrying a shotgun.

    I agree with Dan here:

    I advoate that all free, lawful individuals should be at liberty to decide for themselves whether to privately purchase (and carry) arms technology – typically combat/PD handguns for concealed carry are advocated, but a more militarily complete range of arms would be desireable for militia duty.

    To complement this, I also advocate the utter illegitimacy of all “gun control” in a free society.

    No one is advocating to simply start handing out guns mandatorily to the entire populace. But those that are properly prepared should purchase them and be trained to shoot.

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  135. Back in the 60’s when I was a hippie radical (relax, I’m not a troll) I watched as the tumult moved in from the fringe and then protest and dissent took center stage. I see that same process happening now, except the tumult is coming from all the fringes, not just the left. And the elites are dimly if at all aware of what’s coming.

    Interestingly, the hard left, the Marxist left is almost completely asleep. Rather than organize on the current crisis they’ve waited decades for, they instead are off on bizarre tangents, arguing about whether Iran is a ‘mature democracy’ and should the protesters be supported. They appear determined to remain completely irrelevant.

    Yes, a populist storm is coming. It’s needed. The real problem, I think, is an entrenched elite who cares not a whit for the rest of us. You can only plunder for so long until unrest starts.

    Wall Street Financier, Morris Cohon, to his son, now-actor Peter Coyote, in 1969

    “Capitalism is dying, boy. It’s dying of its own internal contradictions.[He was, after all, a Wall Street financier, so I listened carefully.] You think the revolution’s gonna take five years. It’s gonna take fifty! So keep your head down and hang in for the long haul, because I’ll tell you something. The sons of bitches running things don’t give a shit about their children or their grandchildren, and they certainly don’t give a shit about you! They’ve paid their dues, and they want to get out with theirs! They’re gonna sell off everything that’s not nailed down to the highest bidder. Don’t get crushed when it topples down. Take care of yourself and your family. If you can make a difference, do it, but there are huge forces at work here, and they have to play themselves out according to their own design, not yours. Watch yourself.”

    Of course, what we have now isn’t really capitalism at all, at least not as originally envisioned.

    As for the collapse of elite authority, Alan Watts once said, “authority will be respected when authority is respectable.”

  136. JonB, The crisis was in full swing by the time Egan Jones got their rating, as house prices had starting going down and the first funds started going bust. I don’t know what you hope to say by pointing out that the monopoly was expanded a little in the middle of the crisis. Since that article was published, only 3 ratings agencies were given NRSRO status, with Egan Jones the only US one.

    Dan and morgan, glad to see the two of you retreat to a more reasonable position since you clearly know the numbers are against you, as slightly less than 1 in 3 Americans even own a gun and I bet most of those gunowners wouldn’t be advocating passengers carrying guns on planes, as some have advocated in this thread.

    Don, Since you don’t expand on your hypothetical example, I’m not sure exactly what point you’re trying to make, but that hypothetical does illustrate how the background checks of private security agencies, incentivized by the market, will secure airplanes much better than the security theater that federal bureaucracies waste our time and money with today.

  137. You’re really not grasping it yet, Ajay….”numbers are against me”? Whatever crevice you choose to extract stats from is of no relevence to me. I’m not offering this up for debate, I don’t grant anyone any authority to ‘democratically’ determine my rights – only I get any say in this. To the extent that your mob manages to wrangle the force of government against me, I proportionately deem you enemies of freedom.

    Whereas you may look upon the multitude of “no guns” laws with pride, I view them with disgust…much as a black person would rightfully view a “no niggers” sign.

    I doubt we’ll see lawful concealed carry on planes in my lifetime, but there are many other anti-gun laws to beat down, and we are enjoying quite a victorious tide doing so. With every law that falls, your ilk will howl, yet as always your demented shoot-em-up fantasies will fail to materialize. Always. It’s all in your confused little minds.

  138. How is it possible that the USSR, which followed Lenin’s terrible ideas to the letter, adopted the ideology of someone who contradicted the basic tenants of their Holy Founder?

    Plato, the USSR didn’t unerringly follow the basic tenets of Marx, or Lenin, or anybody. There were many compromises, interpretations, and things they ignored when convenient. They even had an entire “constitution” which had almost no relation to the reality of their law and government. I’m no expert, but subverting capitalist countries with agents such as Willi Münzenberg doesn’t seem to me to contradict Lenin in any way, Gramsci notwithstanding. Plus, most of that was done under Stalin, who few would claim was following Lenin’s ideas “to the letter.” The book Double Lives esr mentioned is a fascinating account of the partially-successful attempts of the USSR to subvert the West and the USA via cultural influences, and I highly recommend it.

  139. Bob Morris,

    Of course, what we have now isn’t really capitalism at all, at least not as originally envisioned.

    It’s capitalism all right. The grand game of “fuck your buddy”[0] you see happening all around you is precisely what capitalism is all about. Make money any way you can, who cares if you help others or produce something of value.

    What capitalism isn’t is what Adam Smith envisioned. The thing that drove Chomsky toward progressivism was Adam Smith. He found that if you actually read Smith, instead of just accepting the textbook narrative of Smith spoonfed to us in high-school or freshman econ, what you find is that Smith detested division of labor as a horrific and dehumanizing practice.

    Yup. Pretty much exactly like Marx did.

    [0]John Nash devised a game by that name in which people make deals that they can later renege on in order to win. It was marketed later under the nicer name “So Long, Sucker!”

  140. It’s capitalism all right. The grand game of “fuck your buddy”[0] you see happening all around you is precisely what capitalism is all about. Make money any way you can, who cares if you help others or produce something of value.

    What we have now is most decidedly not capitalism. It’s a mixed economy: “a degree of private economic freedom (including privately owned industry) intermingled with centralized economic planning and government regulation (which may include regulation of the market for environmental concerns, social welfare or efficiency, or state ownership and management of some of the means of production for national or social objectives).”

    Anarcho-capitalists hold that centralized economic planning, government regulation, and state ownership and/or management of some of the means of production are exactly what is wrong with our economic system.

    In true free market capitalism, you don’t have to worry about helping others or producing something of value. If you fail to produce something of value, you soon won’t be making money. Helping others comes as a natural consequence of the unabated free market: this effect is called the “invisible hand” of capitalism.

  141. Adam Smith set economics way back with his numbo jumbo labor theory of value because he’s a Calvinist.

    The Scholastic tradition has already advanced a sophisticated notion called the subjective theory of values. Apparently that was lost admst the Protestant Reformation. It took the Austrian school of Economics and the Marginal revolution to rehabilitate the subjective theory of value.

    So before you use Adam Smith willy nilly in your argument, maybe you shoulder consider his theoretic fault?

    The Father of Capitalism is not immune to mistakes in thinking.

  142. Ajay Says:
    JonB, The crisis was in full swing by the time Egan Jones got their rating, as house prices had starting going down and the first funds started going bust. I don’t know what you hope to say by pointing out that the monopoly was expanded a little in the middle of the crisis. Since that article was published, only 3 ratings agencies were given NRSRO status, with Egan Jones the only US one.

    My point is that you’re arguing the systems is (present tense) fucked up by using evidence that at best says the system was (past tense) fucked up. Also as at the 25/9/2008 there are 7 more ratings agencies (10 listed minus the original 3) and a cursory search shows at least 2 of them (Egan-Jones and AM Best) are headquartered in the US.

    Your conclusion may be correct but your argument is poorly supported and factually incorrect.

  143. >[Adam] Smith detested division of labor as a horrific and dehumanizing practice.

    That’s a gross exaggeration of Smith’s critique of specialization in Volume V of The Wealth Of Nations. If you had ever actually read that book, rather than uncritically accepting distortions of it by evil clowns like Chomsky, you would know that Smith celebrated specialization as one of the central factors in the creation of wealth and favored it despite his objections.

  144. Hey. Certified oppressor of the proletariat, and money grubbing capitalist swine here.

    It’s capitalism all right. The grand game of “fuck your buddy”[0] you see happening all around you is precisely what capitalism is all about. Make money any way you can, who cares if you help others or produce something of value.

    I care that my products help others. It’s a humbling experience to have a college freshman and his dad show up at a convention and thank you for giving the kid the nerve to take AP Physics and AP Calculus, and get a scholarship to USC. Happened to me at GenCon.

    I can say that I produce something of value. Orders come in, people buy my products, they ask me to make more of them.

    Can you say that you’ve produced something of value?

    Or is owning a business as icky and awful as owning a firearm?

  145. Jay and Eric, I’m not blaming the victim. I’m saying that “us over there” is wrong in the first place. We shouldn’t have done it, and we should stop doing it. Force projection against people who have not threatened us is wrong, period, no ifs ands or buts.

    I’m not convinced by anything they say (and I’m surprised that you would be). Yes, there are loony-bins over there who claim all sorts of imperial goals; restoring the caliphate and beginning a new Muslim golden age. The ordinary folks who support them are the ones who are offended by “us over there”, and they never make it to Al-Jaherrah.

    And yes, I’m in favor of nuking Mecca if that’s what it takes to get the ordinary Muslim’s attention. But first I think we should leave them to stew in their own juices.

  146. Dan, first you say “most people” is a rhetorical device, then you say stats that show that are irrelevant: I guess the entire concept is merely a rhetorical device to be wished away for you. Equating gun control laws with segregation is ridiculous. One is a tool, the other are humans. As my link notes, American attitudes towards gun control have actually soured, something you should be happy about. However, asserting that you have some god-given right to your gun is as loony to me as leftists who assert such a right to health care. Whether it’s govt or private security agencies, the people around you decide what’s safe and most will not tolerate arms outside your private property. They’ve already seen plenty of gun massacres, including kids slaughtering their classmates, they don’t need further evidence. I suggest you actually think about what best keeps people safe rather than casting gun rights as some religious crusade.

    Jeff, “fuck everyone else” is part of the human condition, whether under capitalism or socialism, we’ve just found it’s much worse under the latter. As esr points out, Adam Smith knew specialization had a few drawbacks along with its many pluses, but I don’t think you want to be plucking chickens anyway ;) so the point’s moot.

    JonB, I’m saying the system has been fucked up by regulation for decades and that the recent changes didn’t help. You need to learn to either read or count: the original linked article said there were seven NRSROs at the time and only three more have been added since, like I said. Always hilarious that those claiming poor argumentation or factual inaccuracy are inevitably the ones committing those errors. :D

  147. Force projection against people who have not threatened us is wrong, period, no ifs ands or buts.
    Do you not believe jihadi terrorism is a threat?

    Yes, there are loony-bins over there who claim all sorts of imperial goals; restoring the caliphate and beginning a new Muslim golden age.
    The loonies are precisely the ones who are threats.

    The ordinary folks who support them are the ones who are offended by “us over there”, and they never make it to Al-Jaherrah.
    If they’re that offended, they can clean up their own house and make it unnecessary for us to be there. Until then, they can damned well stay offended. For us to be there is simple national self-defense until that time.

  148. > The “educated classes” are adrift, lurching from blunder to blunder…

    It sounds like you’ve been visiting Laputa recently.

  149. Jay: Of course jihadi terrorism is a threat. But normal people support them because the normal people have normal concerns, like not having the US run their country … or support the people who do. Loonies need worker bees to support them. Kick out the props, and they’re just ordinary loonies (which we will always have to defend against).

    You’re confusing action and reaction. We went into their house to protect their dictators against freedom-loving people. Now you’re saying that they should kick us out? Well, that’s what they’re trying to do.

  150. Jeff Read: indeed, Marx got his loony-bins Labor Theory of Value straight out of Adam Smith. The problem with Adam Smith is that he wrote prior to the marginal revolution. Consequently, he got stuff wrong (otherwise the marginal revolution wouldn’t have been necessary).

  151. We went into their house to protect their dictators against freedom-loving people. Now you’re saying that they should kick us out? Well, that’s what they’re trying to do.

    Let’s see. Major wars in the Middle East not involving Israel.

    1) Iran-Iraq War. We more or less stayed out of it. The dictators used human waves of freedom loving people to fight to a stalemate with 1970s era tanks and 1920s era chemical weapons.

    2) Gulf War I: We went into their house after Kuwait was invaded.

    3) Afghanistan: We went in after they harbored Al Quaida and Al Quaida attacked us. Until then, we decided we had no dog in that fight.

    4) Gulf War II: We took down the leader of a country who lacked the sense – after seeing how his army performed – to just take his 70 billion and retire to Switzerland or Argentina. In doing so, we managed to hand the country over to the people he’d been oppressing for 40-odd years. We also caused Al Quaida to attack us there, rather than here by doing this.

    Let’s broaden the scope to the war on Islam as a whole.

    We provide material support for the Israelis. The plight of the Palestinians is largely the result of every other country in the area (Egypt, Lebanon, Syria) not wanting them as anything other than a prop to badger the Israelis with.

    We went into the Balkans largely to prevent a genocide of Muslims.

    Do I think that nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan is particularly wise? No. Do I think our foreign policy actually motivates the Jihadis? No. It’s our culture that motivates them, because they can see the writing on the wall – they’ve got about one and a half generations left where going to the madrassa might still win out over having an iPod with Internet access.

  152. “The CAS response would be to arm the passengers….., and pay bounties on dead terrorists.”

    For this to work, we would need a bounty on criminals also. I personally like the idea of bounty on terrorists and criminals, but I am not niave enough to think if everyone is armed, things would be great. There are more dangerous Americans walking around than terrorists. I am a veteran and when we send new soldiers to war, as many of them seem to shoot themselves and fellow troops (accidentally most often) as the bad guys shoot. And these are soldiers that have gone through basic training and are not criminals trying to hurt themselves or others. And every time I walk through the mall or an arena with my family, I am astounded on how many dirtbags our country is breeding. I know I sound elitist or as if I support gun control, but I don’t. We need very serious criminal element control in general.

    Great quote – As for the collapse of elite authority, Alan Watts once said, “authority will be respected when authority is respectable.” It is anything but repectable and hasn’t been in years. I personally an praying that our new generation of veterans can give us some good leaders and bring honor and duty back into politics.

  153. Let’s see. Major wars in the Middle East not involving Israel.

    All wars in the Middle East involve Israel, if only indirectly.

    Examples:

    1) Iran-Iraq War.

    “The Road to Jerusalem Goes through Karbala” was on of the slogans Iran used to launch its assault on Iraq during the summer of 1982.

    2) Gulf War I

    Saddam Hussein ordered the firing of 8 SCUD missiles into Israel the next day after Operation Desert Storm broke out. Throughout the attacks, Iraq continued missile attacks on Israel.

    3) Afghanistan

    The present conflict in Afghanistan largely consists of the tying up of loose ends leftover from the Cold War, the history of which goes all the way back to World War II. Part of this conflict does, in fact, originate from the establishment of the Israeli state by the U.S. and its allies.

    Furthermore, part of Al Qaeda’s beef with the U.S. is the establishment of the Israeli state. The constant reference to the ‘zionism’ of the U.S. and the West in general refers directly to this.

    4) Gulf War II

    See Gulf War I and Afghanistan. It’s obvious that Israel is an ongoing part of the all of these conflicts.

  154. The majority of people cannot drive an automobile with basic competency, let alone carry a firearm safely.

    ESR says: Right. When I spoke of “weaklings and moral cowards who habitually project their own failings and their own lack of self-discipline on others” I was thinking of *you*.

  155. >> Jeff Read: indeed, Marx got his loony-bins Labor Theory of Value straight out of Adam Smith. The problem with Adam Smith is that he wrote prior to the marginal revolution. Consequently, he got stuff wrong (otherwise the marginal revolution wouldn’t have been necessary).

    Perhaps you’re confusing my comment with Jeff Read.

    The big problem with Adam Smith is that he doesn’t know about the scholastic tradition and thus, the subjective theory of value, not so much that the marginal revolution have not taken place. His Calvinist attitude basically put a lot of value on labor for labor’s sake.

    As a matter of fact, the Austrian school and the Marginal Revolution arise in a country that is deeply Catholic.

    As we can see, the religious environment and their resultant cultural attitude influences the evolution of economic thought.

  156. Jeff Read wrote:
    >you find is that Smith detested division of labor as a horrific and dehumanizing practice.

    Oh… you are against the division of labor, eh?

    Tell you what – you ever need surgery, you come to me. Of course, I have never specialized in surgery, but I’m a bright guy (Ph.D. in physics), conscientious, and, like you, I despise this “division of labor” nonsense.

    I have even heard about the idea of sterilizing the kitchen knives before I slice into you. Rubbing alcohol is enough, right?

    Whaddaya say, Jeff?

    You can save bucks bigtime with me! I won’t charge nearly as much as those silly division-of-labor surgeons.

    Willing to give it a shot?

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  157. Tom deGisi wrote:
    >It’s easy for smart people to behave like a morons. Smart people love ideas. It’s almost impossible for a smart person not to latch onto some attractive but bad ideas. Smart people are also good at rationalization, which is why we can so easily stay attached to our bad ideas. This is why we need more ways to build small controlled experiments containing our ideas so that they can get properly shot down when they are incorrect hypotheses, and why we need a bunch of big ‘Journal of Negative Results’ where we are lauded for publishing our flaming Sopwith Camels. Feynmanesque training wheels via Freakonomics, perhaps.

    Tom, I have a couple of in-laws who make a living off of global-warming nonsense (I think the phrase is “saving by design”).

    One of my in-laws is helping to implement “green” construction rules; the other actually helps to legally formulate those rules. (Neither is simply helping private businesses voluntarily save money – this is all government-mandated stuff.)

    They are both bright enough to understand why catastrophic global-warming is a fraud.

    But, in fact, neither of them does know that catastrophic-global-warming is a fraud.

    Do they have any incentive to learn the truth?

    The elite is wrecking the country not just because they are “attached to bad ideas” but rather because those “bad” ideas are actually good ideas in terms of serving their own personal self-interest.

    My two relatives are rather small potatoes in the greater scheme of things: I suppose they each earn about $100K a year at the old con game.

    But, there are millions of folks like this around the country – people whose income, profession, and career rest on stealing from their fellow citizens.

    It beats working for a living!

    I f you have an IQ significantly above 100, you are likely either to go into a technical field where you do what you are told and have no real impact on large-scale decisions or to end up in a job such as my in-laws where you are minor cogs in the ruling elite, and therefore help support that elite.

    A system like this can last for a very long time – look at any of the successful empires in days of old. And, thanks to modern technology, we have more “surplus” to support the parasites.

    You said:
    >. This is why we need more ways to build small controlled experiments containing our ideas so that they can get properly shot down when they are incorrect hypotheses…

    They’ve already been shot down. Doesn’t matter. They are not really concerned about saving the environment, helping the poor, etc.

    They just want to get paid without having to work.

    And, the system works very, very well indeed to serve that goal.

    Dave Miller in Sacramento

  158. Eric: Brilliant. I wish I had written this essay. You are spot on.

  159. Ken wrote:
    > Do I think our foreign policy actually motivates the Jihadis? No. It’s our culture that motivates them…

    Ken, I grew up in a country where no one was afaid of “Islamic terrorism.” But the country I grew up in was also even-handed in the Mideast – Ike, for example, forced Israel to give up its gains in the ’56 war.

    Islamic terrorism against the US started at almost exactly the same time that the US government became a firm supporter of Israel.

    Now, I suppose that conceivably this could just be some weird coincidence.

    But, when you add in the fact that, for decades, the terrorists themselves have been telling us that this is their reason for attacking the US, is it credible to deny the obvious causation here?

    Well, it surely is passing strange that they started “hating our culture” at just the time that the US government started backing Israel to the hilt, now isn’t it?

    The attempt to deny that Israel is the root of the problem and to claim that the terrorists simply “hate/fear our culture” is laughable to those of us who lived through the history.

    Dave

    P.S. Personally, I hate our culture more than most Muslims I have known do – our culture is really the dregs. But I do not blow up buildings or airplanes. People do not blow up things because they despise Oprah or have contempt for Michael Jackson, as well-justified as such contempt surely is.

  160. >The attempt to deny that Israel is the root of the problem and to claim that the terrorists simply “hate/fear our culture” is laughable to those of us who lived through the history.

    I lived through the history, too. And I don’t believe U.S. support for Israel is the root problem.

    The reason I don’t believe it is twofold: (1) I’ve been studying the history of Islam since 1974, and (2) I’ve paid careful attention to what the modern Salafist/Wahhabist/Deobandi terrorists themselves have actually said about their motivations. That is, as opposed to the agendas that Westerners project on them.

    The actual doctrines and aims of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various terrorist offshoots fit a historical pattern of Islamic jahadism and violent nostalgia for the salad days of the Umaiyyad Caliphate that reduces their 60-year spat with the Israelis to a mere blip on the screen. These guys are still pissed about the Reconquista, fer cripsake, and that was six hundred years ago.

    No, the neocons are right on this one. The jihadis really do “hate us for our freedom”. Anyone who doubts this needs to read Sayyid Qutb’s In the Shade of the Quran and understand the world-view implied by the term “Dar al-Harb”. What they have done to us is nothing compared to what they want to do and (correctly) believe the Quran requires them to do, and Israel is no more than tangentially involved.

  161. esr wrote:
    >I lived through the history, too. And I don’t believe U.S. support for Israel is the root problem.
    > The reason I don’t believe it is twofold: (1) I’ve been studying the history of Islam since 1974, and (2) I’ve paid careful attention to what the modern Salafist/Wahhabist/Deobandi terrorists themselves have actually said about their motivations. That is, as opposed to the agendas that Westerners project on them.

    Well, if you are really as old as me (! – I didn’t think you were), you do know that the Arabs did not hate us and did not attack us until we started backing Israel to the hilt.

    The Muslim fundies have always hated our culture (hey! – I have always hated our culture!), but they did not attack us until after the Israel connection. Cause precedes effect.

    And, their actions make sense: as the saying goes, “Terrorism is the weapon of the weak.”

    Terrorists cannot possibly conquer the USA, and it is hard to see how they can destroy the aspects of our culture they really hate (skimpy clothes, Madonna’s music, iPods, etc.). I suppose it is conceivable that the terrorists could produce a Religious Right reaction that would change our culture, but it is a pretty big stretch to think that the Islamic terrorists’ real goal is to elect Pat Robertson as President!

    On the other hand, reducing or ending US support for Israel as a goal really does make sense: most Americans have no real ties to Israel. It is plausible that relatively minor damage to the USA, of the sort terrorists can bring about, might indeed weaken US support for Israel.

    Human beings choose means that seem likely to attain their ends. Terrorism will not conquer the United States nor will it end the noxious popular culture of the West. But it not only can but actually has dramatically changed US policy towards the Mideast: the US has, as a result of 9/11, grabbed hold of the tar babies of Iraq and Afghanistan, and this may produce a popular reaction that will erode Americans’ support for the Israeli state.

    esr also wrote:
    >The actual doctrines and aims of the Muslim Brotherhood and its various terrorist offshoots fit a historical pattern of Islamic jahadism and violent nostalgia for the salad days of the Umaiyyad Caliphate that reduces their 60-year spat with the Israelis to a mere blip on the screen. These guys are still pissed about the Reconquista, fer cripsake, and that was six hundred years ago.

    Yeah, and just between you and me, I have always kinda hoped that Greece would eventually take back Constantinople. I mean, the Hagia Sophia as a mosque – gimme a break! (I have no religious interest, just historical nostalgia.)

    But, again, terrorism has no chance of launching a conquest of America or Spain or whatever would satisfy the loonies’ need for glory. But it really can cause the USA to rethink its foreign policy.

    It is not wise to assume one’s opponents are stupid. Assume that they choose their means to match their ends, and their actions are more likely to make sense.

    Dave

  162. Yeah, and just between you and me, I have always kinda hoped that Greece would eventually take back Constantinople.

    Hey, that’s nobody’s business but the Turks’!

  163. > you think that poking at someone in the crotch is going to make them drop whatever they’re holding?

    With the weight of my 230 pounds behind it? Damn right I do. I’m no slouch at yari-waza

  164. > I don’t believe U.S. support for Israel is the root problem.

    I concur.

    If the Jews ever just said “fuck it, we’re moving to Brazil”, and left the middle east, the various muslim factions would get down to the business of who got to tell whom exactly how to be a muslim, and the body county would easily top 50% of their population. The Arabs better hope that Israel stays right where it is for a long, long time.

  165. >Well, if you are really as old as me (! – I didn’t think you were), you do know that the Arabs did not hate us and did not attack us until we started backing Israel to the hilt.

    Nope. See the USMC hymn. Why do you think the Marines were fighting on the Shores of Tripoi?

    The US Navy really begins in earnest with the war against the slavers of the Barbary coast.

  166. Some Guy wrote to me:
    >Nope. See the USMC hymn. Why do you think the Marines were fighting on the Shores of Tripoi?

    Okay, you are joking right?

    The Barbary pirates were in it for the money: they’d attack anyone they thought they could make a buck off of.

    You don’t really think they were doing it because they “hated our culture,” do you?

    Let me hazard a guess: you are a product of American “public” schools?

  167. >The Muslim fundies have always hated our culture (hey! – I have always hated our culture!), but they did not attack us until after the Israel connection. Cause precedes effect.

    I think you’re mistaking time correlation for causation here. The actual cause is much, much older than Israel. One of the most interesting things about al-Qaeda’s propaganda is how far down its priority list killing all the Jews is. Not that they don’t want to do it, mind you, it’s just that restoring the Caliphate is more important to them.

  168. >The Barbary pirates were in it for the money: they’d attack anyone they thought they could make a buck off of.

    Sorry, this is incorrect. They didn’t raid and enslave other Muslims, and their behavior was religiously justified both to themselves and to other Muslims by the doctrine of perpetual jihad and the dar al-Harb.

    You’re correct that they didn’t hate our culture in quite the way modern Salafists do, but that’s only because until nearly the end of their active period Islamic culture could still regard itself as dominant in terms of population, wealth per capita, and global influence. Modern Salafism mixes religious hatred with a corrosive resentment of Islamic decline.

  169. Equating gun control laws with segregation is ridiculous. One is a tool, the other are humans

    “You can’t come in here because you’re black”
    “You can’t come in here because you’re armed”

    Am I not human? Please pick another arbitrary discriminator to dictate the lives of humans. Whether it’s the color of my skin, or the contents of my pocket, you ally yourself with some very ugly people.

    asserting that you have some god-given right to your gun is as loony to me…
    Astonishing. You still aren’t getting it….and you’re still erecting idiotic strawmen.

    I have never claimed a “right to a gun”, in fact I explicitly rejected that notion. What I assert is my right to liberty – the freedom to choose which forms of technology I enrich my life with :

    “I advocate that all free, lawful individuals should be at liberty to decide for themselves whether to privately purchase (and carry) arms technology…”

    …the people around you decide what’s safe and most will not tolerate arms outside your private property

    At no point did I grant anyone any authority to make such a decision for me. Thankfully, the Founders felt the same way.

    They’ve already seen plenty of gun massacres, including kids slaughtering their classmates, they don’t need further evidence

    We have also witnessed all the non-events, daily, that millions of armed Americans are part of. Part of the reason gun control is in public disfavor is because people are getting a sense of mature perspective about the fact that armed Americans are not dangerous, that they do benefit society, and that pointing to aberrant individuals and their cultures does not justify dictating the freedoms of decent people.

    I suggest you actually think about what best keeps people safe rather than casting gun rights as some religious crusade.

    If you can read this thread, and others on this topic, and come away with this impression….you’re either not trying, or you’re willfully obtuse, or you simply don’t have the intellectual toolkit for the job. Either way, you’re not my concern.

  170. I think you’re mistaking time correlation for causation here. The actual cause is much, much older than Israel. One of the most interesting things about al-Qaeda’s propaganda is how far down its priority list killing all the Jews is. Not that they don’t want to do it, mind you, it’s just that restoring the Caliphate is more important to them.

    I agree with what you’re stating here: that Sunni vs. Shia conflict (effectively, a fight over the definition of what is the Caliphate) and the reestablishment of the Caliphate as the ultimate ruler of the Muslim world is definitely at the root of much of the violence in the Middle East.

    However, you can’t deny that European society got itself in the middle of that conflict during the Crusades and that that is at least part of the reason for fundamentalist Islam’s hatred of the West.

  171. >However, you can’t deny that European society got itself in the middle of that conflict during the Crusades and that that is at least part of the reason for fundamentalist Islam’s hatred of the West.

    I have no interest in attempting to deny that. The canard I’m refuting is that Israel, and Western or U.S. support of Israel, is at the core of the problem. That is a deeply ignorant and ahistorical position.

  172. > I agree with what you’re stating here: that Sunni vs. Shia conflict (effectively, a fight over the definition of what is the Caliphate) and the reestablishment of the Caliphate as the ultimate ruler of the Muslim world is definitely at the root of much of the violence in the Middle East.

    I agree with esr that Israel and its relation to the West are not the root problem.

    It is interesting to note that the Sunni and Shia are cooperating with each other, to a limited extent between duels, in their hatred of Israel: they share arms, funds and some policy.

    They are not cooperating with each other with regards to Europe and the US, which indicates to me that they clearly distinguish between the US, Europe and Israel. Coupling the US to Israel, for example, is more propaganda (targeted at liberal Europe, probably) and political strategizing than directly reflective of a real worldview.

  173. PhysicistDave wrote:
    > Well, if you are really as old as me (! – I didn’t think you were), you do know that the Arabs did not hate us and did not attack us until we started backing Israel to the hil

    I reread this a couple of time before I realized what troubled me. Let me ask a few “dumb” questions:

    Is “us” the United States or the West?
    Does “Arabs” include the Iranian Persians, the American Arabs and the German Arabs, or is it just the violent Middle Eastern Muslim Arabs?
    When exactly did the Arabs start hating whoever “us” is? Was it around the time Arafat’s uncle ate dinner with Hitler, around the establishment of the Israeli state, 1967?
    When exactly did the US start backing Israel to the hilt? Around the establishment of the Zionist Congress, when the US voted for Israel’s establishment in 1947, when the US saved countless millions of Jews in 1945, or when the US sold F15 to Israel so it could fight the Egyptian and Syrian Soviet Migs?

  174. I have no interest in attempting to deny that. The canard I’m refuting is that Israel, and Western or U.S. support of Israel, is at the core of the problem. That is a deeply ignorant and ahistorical position.

    Oh, in that case I most wholeheartedly agree with you. As a student of history, I’ve done a lot of reading about the Muslim conflicts. A lot of people don’t realize that a lot of the events of the Middle Ages, from the Muslim point of view, are simply a chapter in the story of the Islamic Conquests, what they call the “Fatah” (literally: “the opening”) that began from the death of the prophet Muhammed around 630 CE or so.

  175. Russ: Now you’re saying that they should kick us out? Well, that’s what they’re trying to do.

    No, I’m saying they should clean up their own house, so we won’t need to be there to protect ourselves. That’s not kicking us out, that’s making it possible for us to leave them alone.

    Dave: The attempt to deny that Israel is the root of the problem and to claim that the terrorists simply “hate/fear our culture” is laughable to those of us who lived through the history.

    Israel is the excuse the Arabs use to apply pressure on the West to help one faction or another of their own. Don’t believe for a moment that the Arabs are trying to protect their Palestinian brothers. In the Arab world, Palestinians enjoy the same regard and esteem as a dead otter.

    Eric: The jihadis really do “hate us for our freedom”.
    Indeed. To a devout Muslim, democracy is fundamentally wrong, because there is exactly one vote that counts: Allah’s. The jihadis will tell you as much.

    Dave: It is plausible that relatively minor damage to the USA, of the sort terrorists can bring about, might indeed weaken US support for Israel.

    Horse exhaust. This is exactly Osama bin Laden’s strategy. He did not learn the lesson of 9/11, and apparently you did not either: It is possible to awaken this country and get it moving in one direction with a common purpose and an unstoppable will. Terrorist attacks of the scale of 9/11 are a surefire way to do so.

    J. Lapin: Jay Maynard and Eric Raymond: separated at birth?

    Why, thank you.

  176. J. Lapin: Jay Maynard and Eric Raymond: separated at birth?

    Why, thank you.

    Yeah, but the placenta got all the looks.

    **dons kevlar underpants and starts running for the hills**

    ;)

  177. Apropo…as a means of defining ‘capitalism’ vis a vis a ‘free market':

    “All managed markets—whether managed by
    government allocation as under Communism or by
    government sponsored central bank credit as in
    Capitalism—are doomed to failure.” –Darryl Schoon

  178. Dan, I have no problem with restaurants or other private establishments keeping people out because they’re armed or because they’re black or white or didn’t brush their teeth, as I actually favor liberty. You may be human but your gun isn’t, hence it’s a silly comparison. I have allied myself with no one: it’s your rhetorical strategy to cast all dissent as coming from some leftist fringe and that therefore I must be one of THEM, despite all evidence to the contrary. Let me quote you to yourself: “I have never claimed a ‘right to a gun’,” “I demand that my right to bear arms is respected, and if not, I refuse to do business,” which is it? My point is that whatever “right” you may claim, whether to arms or technology or housing, your neighbors are the ones that decide what you get to do when it affects them. Even if we lived in an anarchist society, private security agencies would likely roll you if you ever tried to acquire a nuke or anthrax. You may not grant them the authority, it wouldn’t matter. I personally don’t care for guns but given a choice between their danger and govt involvement, the choice is clear: I choose guns. However, I’m just pointing out that guns are likely to be fairly uncommon in a world without govt also, in fact more uncommon because private cops will keep you safer. I suggest you cast aside your rebellious pose and actually think about what leads to safety.

    Jay, the lesson of 9/11 was that the US can move with a common purpose into useless and idiotic wars? The lesson of history is that empires fall because they get bogged down in worthless wars that they get obsessed with “winning” for no purpose. I think we should stay in Iraq until it’s stable and I supported going in, but I think the invasion was undoubtedly a mistake. Perhaps it was inevitable for Muslim fundamentalists to eventually rage against the lone hyperpower because it wasn’t based on radical Islam- just as Dan rails against anyone who would dare to deny him his guns- but that’s no cause to greatly amplify it with our actions.

    As for Israel, there’s no doubt that the Middle east has long had problems but I think Dave and Scheuer’s basic points stand: that our interference in Israel and Iran, among others, kicked over that hornet’s nest so that their rage then became focused at us.

  179. However, I’m just pointing out that guns are likely to be fairly uncommon in a world without govt also, in fact more uncommon because private cops will keep you safer.

    In an alternate reality where humanity abandons its quest for technology and resorts to believing in magical pixies to provide everything they need, sure.

    Otherwise, I think your vision is delusional…beyond rational comprehension. The kind of arbitrary nonsensical babble only higher education can pretend is worthy of serious debate.

    Again, just in case you still don’t realize, you are not my concern. I am sharing my opinion not to debate you (I have no desire to waste energy convincing you) but to fully inform you of how I will be attempting to shape the world around you…whether you like it or not, you will be dragged kicking and screaming into a more civilized world. You may even grow up and thank us one day.

    I suggest you cast aside your rebellious pose and actually think about what leads to safety.

    I’m sure it makes it easier for you – to avoid actually fully comprehending my position (if you are able), instead adopting a mocking pose and discounting me as merely being “rebellious” like some adolescent. Sneer away. I take this extremely seriously…and I am acutely aware of what “leads to safety” – I walk that particular talk along with millions of others.

  180. Ajay: Jay, the lesson of 9/11 was that the US can move with a common purpose into useless and idiotic wars?

    No, that’s not the lesson. We could have done whatever we wanted to as a country after 9/11. We did go into Afghanistan, and that invasion had broad support across the entire spectrum.

    As for “amplifying it with our actions”, that’s excuse is exactly like a five-year-old saying “he made me hit him!” We don’t accept it from the five-year-old; why should we accept it from terrorists?

  181. It is interesting to note that the Sunni and Shia are cooperating with each other, to a limited extent between duels, in their hatred of Israel: they share arms, funds and some policy.

    Or not. It seems that some Sunni Arab countries clandestinely cooperated with the Israelis during the 2006 Lebanon war, as it was in their common interest to reduce the fighting power of the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, which is Shiite.

  182. Jay, a five-year old is not justified in hitting back because he was provoked but it does explain why he hit back, same with the terrorists. I could equally well throw your argument back at you, “he made me hit him” would apply to the US govt hitting them back after the attacks also. Were isolated terrorist attacks a reason to get stuck in foreign wars, particularly with an Iraqi govt that had nothing to do with them? I think the answer is obviously no, but the belligerents in favor of bombing the mideast in this thread seem ignorant of that. It’s as though they believe that the best way to evade or respond to the OKC bombing would have been to bomb Kansas! Terrorism can destroy more with our increasingly powerful technology these days, better to think about its causes and how best to avoid it, rather than blindly turning over power to the govt to make the problem worse.

  183. Ajay:
    the belligerents in favor of bombing the mideast in this thread seem ignorant of that.

    The irony here is that you’re calling others ignorant based on a strawman position. (And even that strawman demonstrate massive indifferent ignorance as to the situation.)

    Terrorism can destroy more with our increasingly powerful technology these days, better to think about its causes and how best to avoid it

    So far, the old ways have proven pretty reliable there, but all the newthink has failed utterly. You’re apparently in favor of continuing with a very failed paradigm, and hoping it might work sometime in the future.

  184. Ajay: I could equally well throw your argument back at you, “he made me hit him” would apply to the US govt hitting them back after the attacks also.

    The difference is that the five-year-old’s excuse, and the terrorists’ actions, are not in self-defense, while our response to terrorism – which should be swift, overwhelming, and utterly merciless – is. Self-defense is always justifiable. The terrorists’ actions are not self-defense. All they have to do to get us to go away is stop. Nothing we do short of total capitulation to Islamofascism and the adoption of Sharia law in the US would get them to stop attacking us.

  185. Unix-Jedi, how is it a strawman if others have explicitly advocated such bombing in this thread? Even if some don’t go to that extreme and advocate simply invading those countries, I’ve pointed out that was a mistake also and nobody has countered that. Funny how you claim ignorance and yet apparently are so ignorant yourself that you cannot make a single concrete claim. :D What “old ways,” newthink, or “failed paradigm” are you referring to? If you prefer invading those countries, you are the one advocating old ways that have always failed.

  186. Jay, I would not label as self-defense anything other than instantaneous actions during the moment of attack, such as those carried out by the passengers on United 93. By your logic, the terrorists could equally claim self-defense after decades of US meddling in their affairs. Their goal in attacking was to get us to stop. The extremists would no doubt have resented US hegemony regardless of whether it was imposed in their neck of the woods, but they would not have had as strong a desire, nor popular support, without our precipitating actions.

  187. Perhaps the “educated classes” knew/foresaw alright – they simply didn’t,
    and don’t, give a toss, as elites are wont to do. After all, their actions
    may have consequences, but not for *them*.

  188. Ajay:

    “if others have explicitly advocated such bombing in this thread?”

    I couldn’t find that, so you’ll have to give me a permalink before I can address it.

    That being said, even if someone did discuss “bombing”, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a strawman out of it.
    Ajay: I think you should be able to spank your child.
    Me: Ajay wants to be able to beat his child to death.

    That’s still a strawman, even if you (ostensibly) made that advocacy.

    I’ve pointed out that was a mistake also and nobody has countered that.

    It wasn’t. But it’s rather obvious that you hold this as a deeply impassioned religious view, and I learned long ago, don’t argue religion with the deeply impassioned (on any “side”).

    If you prefer invading those countries, you are the one advocating old ways that have always failed.

    Always? Seems to me that military invasion has a track record of success far more than negotiation or appeasement, much less attempts to find “common ground” with those ideologically driven to eradicate you.

    You might want to find what’s left of the Nazi’s, and discuss how the invasion was a failure. Or the remnants of the Japanese cabinet that led them to war. Or tell Quadaffi that he didn’t need to worry about attack, and he shouldn’t have handed over all those scientists and equipment. Or US slave owners and tell them it’s OK to enslave people because the invasion “always fails”, or….
    That’s such a fatuously ignorant comment that it reinforces that you’re a religious zealot.

    Always failed? It’s possible that military intervention can fail, and it has, but it’s got a provable track record of successes. Your preferred method? And it’s successes?

    “Their goal in attacking was to get us to stop. “

    This is totally incorrect. Haven’t read what they’ve published, have you?
    They want you dead, Ajay. Dead. That’s how they’re going to get you to “stop meddling”. They want Andalusia back. For starters. And all the lands ever conquered by Islam – cause that’s what the Koran says.

    The extremists would no doubt have resented US hegemony regardless of whether it was imposed in their neck of the woods, but they would not have had as strong a desire, nor popular support, without our precipitating actions.

    Extremists. I suppose that’s one way to describe them. “Hegemony”. No, that’s not really true. “Precipitating actions”?

    I assume you mean building jet airliners, refining petroelum into fuel, and flying them around the world, as well as subsidizing their education, paying them on welfare/the dole (most of the hijackers had spent time on a “Western” welfare/dole list)…?

  189. Dan: “You can’t come in here because you’re black” “You can’t come in here because you’re armed”

    Am I not human? Please pick another arbitrary discriminator to dictate the lives of humans. Whether it’s the color of my skin, or the contents of my pocket, you ally yourself with some very ugly people.

    I think that the difference is that, unless you’re a fascinating experiment in cybernetics, you can leave your gun at the door, or at home, or whatever. Trying to draw an exact moral equivalence between “we don’t serve your kind in here” and “you’ll have to check that at the door” would be grotesque if it wasn’t so funny.

    (I am, of course, making no statement on whether requiring customers to be unarmed is a good or a moral idea. I’m just saying that it’s not the same as racism. One would think that would be obvious, but, well, the commenters here seldom cease to surprise me.)

    Dan: As I touched upon earlier, grendelkhan and his/her ilk attempt to cloak themselves with the appearance of compassionate sincerity (regarding the saving of lives), but everything they actually propose is soulless in its total divorce from humanity. Their debate is positioned from on-high, looking down upon the human race to figure out where to best position the fences to corral the herd so that costs are reduced to an acceptable level.

    I wasn’t making a statement on the rights of humans to have guns in general, and I’ll thank you to stop implying that I was. If you’d like to respond to me, please do so, but tone down your imagination; it’s blocking your view of me.

    As I’ve been pointing out in the clearest terms that I can come up with, all this sanctimonious talk about the right to keep and bear arms is all well and good, but it’s completely irrelevant to the actual situations which are under discussion. Eric claims that guns foster a warrior mentality which make people less likely to cooperate with terrorists; I pointed out that after the 9/11 attacks, on the same day even, the mentality of the passengers shifted from keep-your-head-down cooperation to an attempt to immediately rush anyone who sets fire to their pants or starts talking about hijacking the plane. This somehow managed to happen without the passengers carrying firearms aboard the plane.

    This is why I consider them to be vulgar sociopaths.

    To each his own. I think proposing the murder of thousands if not millions of human beings to sate one’s vicarious bloodlust makes one more of a vulgar sociopath, but to each his own. Speaking of vicarious bloodlust, I’d respond to Jay Maynard in this comment, but I think the blog software didn’t like the length of this comment. Let’s see if it like it better in smaller pieces.

  190. Jay Maynard: The terrorists’ actions are not self-defense. All they have to do to get us to go away is stop.

    I’m sure they’d say the same about Americans–just stop invading our countries and killing us. In fact, it’s apparently the common thread running through suicide terrorism (see Pape, “Dying to Win”)–it’s carried out against a democratic state which is (or is perceived as) occupying a homeland.

    Nothing we do short of total capitulation to Islamofascism and the adoption of Sharia law in the US would get them to stop attacking us.

    That’s quite an assertion. It’s also factually false. These aren’t the first terrorists in the world; consider monograph MG741-1 from those noted hippie socialists at the RAND Corporation. (I’d include links, but they tend to disappear my comments.) It’s Jones and Libicki, “How Terrorist Groups End”. The upshot is that military force very seldom works; in the majority of cases, terrorist groups either end by becoming part of the political process and trying to achieve their goals nonviolently, or they’re destroyed by the arrest or assassination of key members. In any case, terrorist groups very, very rarely achieve victory.

    Please try to think about it for a moment. If they don’t stop attacking us… well, so what? The worst that these people are able to fling at us is a guy who manages to burn off his own genitals before a fellow passenger clobbers him. That’s as close as they’re apparently capable of getting to an attack on this country at this point. Your reaction seems to be that this will somehow cause the United States, which outstrips the loosely-knit group of terrorists in military might, economic power, sheer size, and any other measure of effectiveness, to somehow surrender. How, precisely, would this surrender even occur?

    Your proposal of the indiscriminate murder of countless civilians is not only morally odious beyond comprehension, it’s pointless. It’s an attempt to achieve a childish notion of perfect safety at unbelievable cost… when you’re twenty more times likely to be struck by lightning in a given year than you are to board a flight which is the subject of an attack. You’re orders of magnitude more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident than a terrorist attack, but somehow I doubt that you’re proposing ridiculous schemes to achieve perfect safety in that realm.

    The relative risk of death by terrorist is impossibly tiny if you’re a civilian living in the States. It is, by any rational consideration, not worth caring about, but then, the willingness of self-identified warriors to be terrorized, and their refusal to just sack up and accept that the world is not and cannot be perfectly safe, never ceases to astonish me.

  191. Trying to draw an exact moral equivalence between “we don’t serve your kind in here” and “you’ll have to check that at the door” would be grotesque if it wasn’t so funny.

    It is shameful that you attempt to dismiss such things in such an intellectually lazy manner.

    The kinds of prohibitions I alluded to are not of a “check it at the door” type…..they are very much a “we don’t want your kind” type of exclusion – the “kind” in question being “armed”. If they actually offered a ‘gun check’ I might be more understanding.

    These people are ignorant of, or simply don’t care, that there is a world outside their doors, within which I travel – armed. I simply don’t have the option of “leaving it at home” etc, for to do so would essentially amount to my surrendering of personal responsibility.

    The irony here is that I defend the right of private entities to post such signs…..it doesn’t make them any less revolting, but they are at liberty to be so.

  192. Unix-Jedi: Always failed? It’s possible that military intervention can fail, and it has, but it’s got a provable track record of successes.

    It has an excellent record when nations fight other nations. As I’ve pointed out above, military action does have a “track record”, as you put it, against terrorists. It’s bloody, expensive, and it doesn’t even work well. Your false dichotomy–bomb them or surrender!–isn’t helping either.

    Dan:The kinds of prohibitions I alluded to are not of a “check it at the door” type…..they are very much a “we don’t want your kind” type of exclusion – the “kind” in question being “armed”.

    “Armed” is not a “kind” in the same sense that “black” is. One is armed by choice; one is not black by choice. You may not want to leave your gun at home, but that’s not relevant to the distinction.

  193. grendelkhan:

    Your false dichotomy–bomb them or surrender!–isn’t helping either.

    That’s your dichotomy, not mine.

    It has an excellent record when nations fight other nations.

    What I always find interesting in these discussions is how myopic people can be, who should be able to see the logistics and systems involved, and pretend those don’t exist.

    It’s bloody, expensive, and it doesn’t even work well.

    It can, and has, worked very well. There have been some spectacular failures, to be sure. But that’s usually a failure of tactics, not strategy. There have been some spectacular successes.
    But categorizing all military involvement as a failure is completely farcical.
    Furthermore, every real success against terror has had an element of military force. The success rate against terrorism *without* military force as an option is abysmal. (Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single success.)

  194. grendelkhan:

    The worst that these people are able to fling at us is a guy who manages to burn off his own genitals before a fellow passenger clobbers him.

    As the IRA said after blowing off the side of the hotel where Thatcher was (explosion went out, instead of in):
    “We’ve only got to be lucky once. You’ve got to be lucky every time.”

    So I assume that someone who *almost* hits you with a car doesn’t threaten you, someone who shoots a gun at you and misses isn’t a threat, and someone who puts poison in your food, but fails to kill you isn’t dangerous?

    That’s so ludicrously stupid as to defy description.

    That’s as close as they’re apparently capable of getting to an attack on this country at this point.

    3 to 5 minutes. That’s it. That was the difference between the bomber being burned, and the airliner being blown out of the sky.
    And you don’t think it’s a big deal. Pish. Why, he didn’t even mix the explosives he successfully smuggled onto the plane. Morons, the lot of them!
    You need to stop projecting “childish notions” onto other people.

  195. “Armed” is not a “kind” in the same sense that “black” is. One is armed by choice; one is not black by choice.

    The concept of “kinds” of people is an abstraction. It is your imposition of the criteria of “choice” that is not relevant here.

  196. Jay Maynard: The terrorists’ actions are not self-defense. All they have to do to get us to go away is stop.

    So … the presence of oil in SW Asia and our presence in SW Asia are simply coincidence? I suppose that the CIA didn’t support a coup by the Shah of Iran? I suppose the British didn’t turn Palestine over to the Zionists? Sorry, but you seem excessively naive here, Jay.

    Yes, some of the terrorists are loony-bins who want to restore the caliphate. Most of their supporters simply want us to LEAVE THEM ALONE. Why is it that some libertarians here cannot understand why it’s so important to LEAVE OTHER PEOPLE ALONE?

  197. Russell Nelson,

    Hmmm. Oil and the vestiges of colonialism causes terrorism. Sorry, that’s old Soviet hogwash. Think of all the places in the world with and the vestiges of colonialism…. None of which are breeding terrorism.

    Yours,
    Tom DeGisi

  198. Okay, you are joking right?

    I was refuting the claim that Muslims didn’t attack us before we started backing Israel.

  199. Let me hazard a guess: you are a product of American “public” schools?

    Guess again. I grew up mostly in southeast Asia, and I’ll match my knowledge of history with yours any day of the week.

  200. Unix-Jedi: [Bomb or surrender is] your dichotomy, not mine.

    You contrasted “military invasion” with “negotiation or appeasement”. If you were implying the existence of a third option, you were doing so very quietly. Furthermore, you seem to be ignoring the RAND study I pointed to. It’s easy enough for you to mumble something about “logistics and systems”, but you’re not getting the point: fighting against terrorists as though they’re a military enemy is, simply put, doing it wrong unless you’re facing something like Rwanda’s RUF, which fields an army and holds territory.

    Furthermore, every real success against terror has had an element of military force. The success rate against terrorism *without* military force as an option is abysmal. (Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a single success.)

    Aum Shinrikyo. Front de Libération du Québec. Black Liberation Army. United Freedom Front. In these cases, the governments weren’t about to start invading themselves; there are plenty more where military violence wasn’t used, but “as an option” is enough of a weasel phrase that I’ll leave it at that.

    As the IRA said after blowing off the side of the hotel where Thatcher was (explosion went out, instead of in): “We’ve only got to be lucky once. You’ve got to be lucky every time.” So I assume that someone who *almost* hits you with a car doesn’t threaten you, someone who shoots a gun at you and misses isn’t a threat, and someone who puts poison in your food, but fails to kill you isn’t dangerous?

    The IRA case doesn’t match up. Had the IRA succeeded, they would have assassinated the head of government. Had Abdulmutallab succeeded, he would have killed 289 random people. While tragic, it wouldn’t have brought his masters an inch closer to accomplishing their goals, no more than 289 people dying because the airplane’s equipment failed would have.

    There are acceptable risks. Even if every plane-bombing attempt since 9/11 had been successful, you’d have a higher chance of accidentally killed by a firearm, being electrocuted, dying from a hernia, or any number of other weird ways to go. Yes, it would be tragic, but you’re losing all sense of proportion; you’re whipping yourself up into a terrified frenzy over something that almost happened.

    The point of terrorism isn’t to kill people. The point is to instill terror and set off our “something must be done!” meme. As Schneier put it, “Abdulmutallab succeeded in causing terror even though his attack failed.” It clearly worked on you.

    Perfect safety is an impossibility. Grow the hell up.

    Dan: The concept of “kinds” of people is an abstraction. It is your imposition of the criteria of “choice” that is not relevant here.

    Hey, you’re the one who compared excluding people based on what they’re carrying to excluding them based on their race, implying that the categories described therein are morally equivalent.

  201. Tom DeGisi: Hmmm. Oil and the vestiges of colonialism causes terrorism. Sorry, that’s old Soviet hogwash. Think of all the places in the world with and the vestiges of colonialism…. None of which are breeding terrorism.

    You’re ignoring what Russell Nelson said in the first place. Those other places aren’t invaded and occupied. Perhaps the invasion and occupation (which seems to correlate well with the presence of oil) might be relevant to the presence of terrorism, especially suicide terrorism.

  202. Perhaps the invasion and occupation (which seems to correlate well with the presence of oil) might be relevant to the presence of terrorism, especially suicide terrorism.

    There have been two groups which practice most suicide terrorism. The Tamil Tigers (who historically seem to be more the colonizers, invaders and occupiers – at least via immigration) preceded the various Muslim groups in embracing suicide bombing.

    Russell is claiming people want to be left alone, and yet the people he is defending have an animating political and religious philosophy which rather expressly does not leave people alone.

    Ours is a commercial empire. Those do much, much more “leaving people alone” than religious empires, like the Caliphate. In fact, on the scale of big rich countries, the U.S. comes out pretty high on the leave people alone end of things.

    Perhaps Russell should go preach to Muslims instead.

    Yours,
    Tom

  203. I know the thread’s moved on, but your CAS remarks are an excellent example of how the stigmergic principles you developed in “Cathedral” can be more broadly applied. You’re probably familiar with John Robb’s attempt to apply the same principles to 4th generation warfare. The basic idea was stated by Cory Doctorow: the music industry thought its DRM just had to be good enough to thwart the average grandma, because the geeks capable of cracking it were so numerically insignificant as to have only a minimal economic impact. The neglected the central principle of stigmergic organization: whatever new technique the geeks develop this week will be digested into easy-to-follow instructions and circulated far and wide to the grandmas by next week.

    It’s mainly for this reason that I don’t even see capturing control over the centralized corporate-state system and persuading the managerial elites as being an issue. The best way to carry out a phase transition to Robb’s “resilient communities” or Vail’s “diagonal economy” is stigmergically. The beauty of network culture and the stigmergic organization it enables is that people can do what they’re best at without having to get everybody on the same page or get permission, and it immediately creates a demonstration effect and becomes part of the pool of readily available off-the-shelf techniques (see also Cory Doctorow on plausible premises and technological mashups).

  204. BTW, Eric, you might be interested in this piece I wrote on the underwear bomber:
    http://c4ss.org/content/1655

    Money quote:

    As Yglesias has argued elsewhere, “the key point about identifying al-Qaeda operatives is that there are extremely few al-Qaeda operatives so (by Bayes’ theorem) any method you employ of identifying al-Qaeda operatives is going to mostly reveal false positives.” So (this is me talking) when your system for anticipating attacks upstream is virtually worthless, the “last mile” becomes monumentally important: having people downstream capable of recognizing and thwarting the attempt, and with the freedom to use their own discretion in stopping it, when it is actually made.

    So what has the TSA done? It has further limited the autonomy and discretion of the passengers, and made it even less likely that they’ll be able to stop a future attempt at onboard terrorism.

  205. In answer to those who run the “terrorists hate us because of Israel/Oil etc” line, here is an interview with someone who has written a book of the subject of Middle East politics and the role of terrorist groups. It makes for a very interesting read – and the book looks like one well worth checking out.

    http://www.michaeltotten.com/2010/01/why-they-hate-us-middle-eastern-politics-and-the-principle-of-the-strong-horse.php

    He also points out how misguided the present administration’s policies towards the middle east are…and why they won’t work. Good stuff.

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  207. My paper is past due: I was skulking through the net in search of new ideas for my paper.

    A Misanthropes Utopia:
    Fascists Elements in Western Progressive Democracies Have Created a Climate of Moral Hazard;
    The Cadre of Elite Now Maintain a Hegemonic Sway and Have Scapegoated Half the Population in Pursuit of Their
    Utopia

    Yea, I know, I like long titles. I am a partially disabled 44 year old carpenter who went back to school last year because his body does not allow him to work in his field 10 hours a day due to many injuries. I am a pariah at my local college where I am shocked and vocalize this, at the ironic displays of discrimination from those who tout empathy for all: except men, the heterosexual ones anyway.
    I served in the US Navy on the USS Albert David FF1050. We had many sailors from many races and most were poor, but there was a mix of social economic classes. Gay sailors were easy to spot and although I did not live their experience, it seemed like we all got along. So, even those war mongers in the military i some ways seemed more tolerant than the enlightened today.
    I will try and incorporate some of your paper into mine, as it travels along a similar line of reasoning I have become unpopular for with my teacher girlfriend and most of the student body. I am the only male in my education 101 course and one of only 2 in sociology. I am hoping to become qualified to teach carpentry at the college trade school as I have my carpentry certifications and 20 years experience. The entrenched dogma is startling to me: I went to prison in 2002 because I caused the death of another person in a drunk driving accident. The experience changed me. I am not religious;prison was a hard and scary place; in many ways I identified much more with the guards, as they were mostly ex military. However, although I feel as many as 10% of the prisoners should just be taken out and shot, to save taxes and lives if these were ever to get released, I was surprised at how many men were there for things that as a citizen from a better environment or political climate, would never even have been charged in the first place. If libertarian opportunities rather than investing in the police state were the path states and nations chose for prolonged prosperity, much of the current financial mire would not have accumulated. I quit all alcohol after the accident; my ex wife has cordoned off my two daughters from my life since I cannot afford to pay the child support her lawyer says I am capable of. Although I mentioned I am not religious, and I used to be a little confrontational with religion( I felt my fathers religion as hypocritical) When I was released from High Desert State Prison and all I had was a tee shirt and a pair of jeans, I was able to secure work first from a charismatic former convict: but when his drug induced psychotic rants forced me to quit, it was a network of religious businessmen that kept me working on and off till I could return home to Canada inAug of 2008. I am a defender of many now that I previously thought unworthy.
    Well I have gone on and pined about nothing, but I identify with most of what you have proclaimed. A statistic I recently saw purported that out of 800 of our nations top scientists, only 3 identified themselves as conservative. the article spoke of course about ow this narrow band of one sided thinking can hamper innovation. Another article spoke of how our ancestors may have benefited from humans who could be identified to be within groups associated with mental disfunction’s: the unique ways an autistic percieve and expresses stimuli may have been the basis for giant leaps in the human experience; there were other examples , though I do not recall them. I guess I agree that a society where we teach special coping skills to those who might not cope with traditional educations due to mental illness or malfunction can be better accomplished in situation of on the job training and other projects which will allow these people to contribute, thus respect themselves. The constant crops of people who have degrees in subjects that produce no tangible things is what is killing the economy. the Arab spring started due to a bureaucratic woman demanding another bribe from an out of work IT worker who was then forced to sell fruit from a cart to support 10 members of his family. When he lit himself alight in frustration, and thus ignited the revolutions of the middle east, it was not due to a banker, but a woman bureaucrat. something that has vexed me many times in my life, whether man or female. My boss in Sacramento got screwed over y a vice president of a bank: shit rolls down hill and it took along time for me to get paid. I did. I respect my former boss, Steve Blomgrim, a builder from Loomis, Ca.

    I had better try and finish my paper and study for my final. I long to just quit, so I can mill my logs into timbers and side my Dr. Seuss style man cabin. I have built it just out of stubbornness and used flotsam others were throwing away or saw that I would appreciate and use. one of those rich white guys who were a little to religious for my taste, loaned me 5500 so I could purchase my logs, thanks Don Starr; a stucco contractor who I worked for when we were not to mad at one another, due to our competitive natures. I hope to keep using my portable band mill to build a small business: maybe micro cabins. I have tried to create a movement here called The Young Turks of Cape Mudge, but it’s really only me. People wonder how I have built my tower with no money and while going through 8 operations for my shattered right side. It’s because I had too if I wanted another chance at life. My ex live in the first house we built. Also, because if you wrestled or played rugby and served in the Navy, you are just better than the common slob. I speaking to the Marines and MR. Seagraves; there is no more powerful force on earth.

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  209. esr wrote:
    Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein argued tellingly in their 1994 book The Bell Curve that 20th-century American society had become a remarkably effective machine for spotting the cognitively gifted of all socioeconomic and racial backgrounds and tracking them into careers that would maximize their output. They pointed out, though, that the “educated class” produced by this machine was in danger of becoming self-separated from the mass of the population. I agree with both arguments, and I think David Brooks and Will Collier are pointing us at the results

    Charles Murray was drinking the koolaid. Selection for cognitive ability was maximal around 1890 to 1910, and has been going downhill ever since.

    The SAT did not become the ticket for entry into the middle class in 1950, but in 1900, when it was the college entry examination.

    Almost immediately, they started to worry that most of the high scorers tended to be affluent, white and male, and starting in 1905 proceeded to apply increasingly drastic measures to remedy that problem.

    By 1910 some of the measures applied to remedy this problem looked suspiciously as if they were making the test less IQ loaded by making it more female friendly. Affirmative action set in while Jim Crow was still in effect, academia being far to the left of the rest of society.

    If one suspects that breeding counts, one would conclude that selection for high IQ was optimal around 1870 or so and has been getting worse ever since. If one doubts that breeding counts, and has faith in a single mandarinate style test to select the smart people (which did not work well for Mandarin China) selection for high IQ was optimal from 1905 to 1910, and has been diminishing ever since due various efforts to rig the test to produce less discriminatory results, and various forms of affirmative action.

    In 1910 they started worrying that high scorers on the SAT tended to be white, affluent, and male, and started tinkering with one thing and another thing to fix the “problem”

  210. Things I would like to see happen, that fall along the lines of this topic.

    1. Corporations cannot sell their loans, period. That is, if they make a bad loan, they have to hold onto it and eat it. No getting rid of it, as is the common practice of today.

    2. If you get elected to the congress, senate, or the presidency, your children or grandchildren are automatically drafted into the military, into combat orientated roles. No exceptions, not school, not job, not medical, not hardship, only age restrictions.

    Both points are really ways of putting skin into the game.

  211. PapayaSF: “I believe this is all largely true, though to nitpick you can’t really say that American meritocracy was “race-blind” starting in 1945. More like 1965 or so.”

    Everyone believes that their generation invented affirmative action, just as everyone believes that their generation invented sex. Thus the date when blacks first received the wondrous benefits of equality gets later and later.

    What happens is that every year since around 1900 it academia notices that blacks and women are not in fact equal, which obviously must be because of past discrimination, so then the good and the great conclude that last year there was active discrimination against blacks and women, but this year they are fixing that horrid problem, and now blacks and women shall assume their rightful place.

    Yet strangely, they don’t. So next year, sterner measures will be applied, and the year after that.

    To be strictly correct, this has been happening with women since around 1850, 1870, blacks in the British empire since around 1890, blacks in the US since around 1910.

    It first became hazardous to suggest that blacks were genetically inferior in mean and distribution in France shortly before the French Revolution, though it remained reasonably safe to suggest that blacks were genetically inferior in mean and distribution in the US up to around 1950 or so.

    Meanwhile in France, although it had been hazardous to doubt the ability of blacks during the period of King Louis the fourteenth to the Thermidorean reaction, it once again became safe to doubt the ability of blacks from the Thermidorean reaction to the rise of the fifth Republic, after which it once again became unsafe.

    It first became hazardous to suggest the women are mentally inferior in ability and character in the US in around 1870 or so. Observe Menken’s “in defense of women” where the normally brave Menken piously alleges that women are smarter and more virtuous than men, using arguments that some might suspect actually imply that women are less smart and less honorable than men.

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  213. “I think race- and class-blind meritocracy bought us about 60 years (1945-2008) of tolerably good management by Western elites.”

    Dude, are you on acid? The ’65 immigration reform act and much of the so-called civil rights legislation of that era were disasters for Western civilization, the Democrats nominated George McGovern in 1972, for God’s sake. The rot goes a long way back, back in fact to the first appearance of the New Class produced by mass college education. They got above their raising and lost the rudder that should’ve kept them straight. And if you think that this so-called meritocracy is class and race blind you are delusional.

  214. Someone who has gone thru a state college and come away with a degree in engineering or hard science is twentry times more educated than some clown with a french literature degree from Harvard

    Indeed. But the engineers and chemists and physicists aren’t the ones f***ing up the country at the highest levels of power. It’s not the truly, usefully educated who are wrecking things, it’s those with fluff degrees.

    I once dated a “political science” major who had never heard of original intent, the Commerce Clause, or the 10th amendment. What on earth were they teaching her? Marx’s boneheadedly incorrect theory of value? She seemed offended, BTW, that a technical nerd like me, had a better grasp of politics than she did….

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