Monday, 21 May 2018

Equality is a punk test

The problem is not that people are talking about equality. The problem is they are talking about equality in the media.

Notice how the debate about female workplace equality is framed: Women should strive for boardroom positions, as CEOs or anywhere in the C-suite; women should be paid equally for equivalent work; they should be able to wear anything they want without fear of harassment. It’s all the same thing: the gifting of symbols for the maintenance of identity so that nothing changes.

Let’s assume the feminist angle that men created and control society. Men hold all the keys. Let’s also assume that women want to change this system. Okay. Then why aren’t women suspicious when men open the metaphorical door for them? Why do women accept entry as a victory? Women don’t seem to understand that the only way you can have power is if you take it. Power cannot be given, because then it can be taken away. 200 years ago Catherine took power away from her husband and became something great, today’s women admire Hillary Clinton as a female role model, not because she became Secretary of State, but because she stayed with her husband so that she could become Secretary of State. The equality movement boils down to this: “I know, I know, women don’t have any real power, but maybe someday a man will give me some.”

I’ll give you an analogy. I saw two female cops questioning three homeless dudes. Tiny little lady cops. I bet if you asked those two women why three rough guys were sitting docilely in compliance, they’d say it’s because females are just as strong and tough as men and can perform police work with the same authority. Neither would see that the only reason they weren’t getting beaten up, or at minimum being outrun in a chase, was because the three men respect the concept of the law. Those guys are allowing the two women to be cops. Those two females have authority because of the uniform represents the threat of the entire weight of the male-dominated system coming crashing on their heads if they didn’t comply. If those three men had decided to chew those two girl cops like bubblegum, the females couldn’t do anything until they called bigger men to help with the scuffle. Since this is true, therefore the female cops can do their job.

The fact that all cops aren’t giant bear-men who can arrest me even when they aren’t in uniform, proves just how safe and orderly this society is. It’s not just a girl thing. I’ve seen tiny male cops and thought if a huge dude on meth went rampaging down High Street, there’d be nothing the little cop could do unless he had a gun or a walkie-talkie to get a couple of giant bear cops to help. But what made me stop to think was the confidence and brazenness of those two lady cops in how they spoke to the three guys. But if they were on the same street without a blue body-vest they wouldn’t go near those homeless dudes because then they’d just be two girls. And yet, I’ve seen plenty of male cops in a t-shirt and the only thing I’d ever say to them is “yes sir.” The power of a big male cop is natural. The power the two female cops is artificial.

So, analogy aside, the thing that gets me about the equality movement is that everyone in it thinks it’s a victory just to be playing the game. The door gets opened by someone, they’re given a title and a uniform and a big chunk of money, and off they skip, happy as can be. At no point do they stop to think “hey, why did they let so many of us in?...”

If they did, they would immediately notice that not only do they not have the keys, they didn’t even know to fight for ownership of the door. In their “victory,” the status quo is conserved and nothing changes. Or, if I can be permitted a judicious use of psychoanalytic jargon: it's the rationalisation that allows a chick to blow a guy she can't stand, "I hate him but I'm going to make him cum so hard he'll just want more of me, which will be his punishment." Let that sink in for a moment. From his perspective, not only did he still get blown, he liked it even more. NB: in this analogy, the guy is the consumerist system and you're not.

A CEO is still an employee. A higher salary is not capital. A title is something someone else gives you. A board member is a contractor. I know people want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone, but the equality movement takes this to a whole new level. Women want first prize. But there is no first prize. Real closers don't want the prize, they want to be the best, that's why they will practice practice practice, refuse to play the lottery and don’t give a flying fiddlestick what the rules are. The CEO position is a temptation only for people who do not know their own value – the value of their own work – who won't lift a finger to advance themselves, who are motivated only by threats or by rewards, who would rather have the appearance of success than actual success.

It’s not just women. So many people out there want to be valued for who they are, not what they do. They want the system to give them things that the system tells them to want in the first place, and they wonder why they’re never happy. All the things they want are mutually exclusive – a career, a family, good health, great credit, work/life balance, etc, etc. They spend their lives chasing the goose, frantically expending energy always in the required direction. Never once questioning why a massive crowd pack tight around them rushing in the same way. “Would you jump off a bridge if your friends were doing it?” No one listens to their mother.

You see, monopoly is for winners and competition is for losers. No, I’m not saying women are losers, but a disturbing number of the fairer sex spends an awful lot of time playing the game rather than flipping over the chessboard – or at the very least taking their ball and going to another court. All the corporations/institutions women are trying to enter today were created by men for men hundreds of years ago. Of course the game is rigged! The way to win is to invent games, not to participate in someone else’s.

That’s why I mentioned the media earlier. Everything you see in the media is sanctioned propaganda meant to compel and nudge you, the reader, in the required direction. The media is always and forever in service of the status quo, regardless of what the “status quo” is. The media’s job is to capture your psychology. Equality is not “getting traction” in newspapers, its existence in the media means the movement itself no longer exists as a force for change. Its job is to convince all of us that a blowjob is the worst thing that could happen to the system.

The consumer economy demands equality because it means more human-batteries and more spent salaries for the benefit of those who actually hold the capital/power. None of this will happen if 50% of the population decides not to play the game or choose to monopolise the things they’re good at and ignore the things they can’t monopolise. Asking the system to change its own rules is 100% the play of a rube. You cannot affect change with someone else’s dollar.

Harvey Weinstein was a powerful guy. No one came close to him in Hollywood. Do you think someone like that could be taken down by a bunch of angry women? Of course not. I’m going to be honest with you here: no one listens to women. Why? Because there’s no consequence to ignoring a girl. What can she do? All she’s got is yelling and outrage. For her to get rid of one man requires other men to act. Mr Weinstein as taken down because of the law, not because women were angry or abused. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is terrible. #MeToo. But the world doesn’t care about abuse, it only cares that you act in the required direction. Mr Weinstein is gone, but did anyone really think a woman would replace him as the most powerful person in Hollywood? It might have felt good and righteous to destroy him, but what was Step 2? What change actually took place? You see, it’s possible to bash, beat and torture a group of people to compel them to change their ways, but unless that group has a personal change of heart, there’s always a suspicion they will revert back someday.

I'll give you another analogy. The decency that nature has given the Jews is to have a villain. Moses had the Pharaoh who looked like Yul Brenner and was the evil force holding the Jews down. God freed them by destroying the Egyptians. Then Hitler came along and even though the war has been over for 70 years, you still can't have the moustache. That moustache represents the devil for the Jews. To this day, if they find out you're a Nazi, you can't even apologise. If you're 100 years old you’ll still be thrown in jail. But having the moustache means Jews don't have to hate every German person and gives the Jews a chapter in a book they can close.

But for black people in the US, "white" is the only thing they got from their slavery days. They have a finish date, but a questionable start date They have a questionable amount of people who died and it had a questionable effect on their minds. And when they eventually were freed, the white farmers pretty much just said "bye, nice talking to you. Now we expect you to live wonderfully. By the way, what we did to you is not criminal." So, every white person is Hitler's moustache, from black people's perspective. Black people are constantly suspicious of their “freedom” because white people never really had a change of heart. They just lost a war and a few laws were enacted. But if the economy collapsed again, what would really stop white people from making black people their slaves once more? If the only thing separating you from subjugation is a piece of paper, not a change of heart, how safe would you feel?

Same goes for the female equality movement. Of what use is legislation, quotas and rules without a change of heart? The result is only anger, resentment and a bunch of men perpetually only one HR complaint away from taking all the power back.

All women are good for – from the perspective of consumerism – is as more batteries for the machine. That’s why the machine is feeding you the equality movement. It threatens nothing. Try broadcasting messages of female supremacy, or female exile, or female ignoring-the-system-and-building-their-own-system, and see how far you get. Try setting up a movement to bring back a monarchy. Or a movement to reintroduce colonialism. It’s not a coincidence that everything we think is good and proper is also precisely what the consumer system wants. The point is not to free people, the point is to tell them what to do, but make it feel like all their choices are organic to them.

I do not want to minimise the individual accomplishment of a woman getting to the top of the pile. I am simply asking: what is the significance for everyone else? What does it change? The problem isn’t with women getting into CEO positions, but rather its celebration. This is all part of the way power has shifted not from Group A to Group B, but from ground-up to top-down, and top-down works in a very specific way: it concedes the trappings of power while it retains the actual power. It will give women the title of power (CEO, board member, PM) while those with actual power continue to own all the property and capital. The system is like a car’s crumple zone – built to protect the people inside by failing at pre-ordained points.

From where I’m sitting, women will never be as powerful as men because men can always use their violent strength to get what they want. A female CEO might be better than me at being a CEO, but she will never be better than the best male CEO. Ultimately, she is still a girl competing against men inside a system built by men for the benefit of men. She is not a girl monopolising a system built by women for the benefit of women. But then, if she was, we wouldn’t hear about it because that would be a true threat to the system. The equality movement is a story of women demanding places and preferential treatment in the organisational and institutional structures that men create, rather than women creating organisations and institutions themselves.

It is a system-wide punk test.

What's a punk test? Back where I grew up, I used to play street basketball with other kids. There was always one or two who would turn up and start sneakily stepping on toes first, then bumping into shoulders, and eventually tripping us up. He'd always mumble "whoops" or something snidely apologetic, but would always escalate the next needling. We just thought he was playing hard, or perhaps was just clumsy so we wouldn't say anything and just kept playing.

But I remember after the second or third game in one area, a friend of mine was walking down the street a block or so from the courts and the kid mugged him for his iPod. The kid knew he could get my friend to cough up because he hadn’t pushed back during the basketball game. Instead of saying "Hey, watch who you're pushing," my mate chose during that game to think the best of the kid and adjusted his own playing style to avoid another knock. That's how the kid knew my friend was a punk.

People want to know that the very best are at the top. On your way up the greasy pole, you'll see many punk tests. If you fail enough of those tests, then you're not worthy of being on the pole. Down you go. That's best for society as a whole. If you complain about the existence of punk tests, you're already a loser.

According to the Institute of Directors, women make up 29% of directorships and many of this 29% have a lower appetite for joining a board than their male colleagues. And according to a Chapman Tripp report last month on the 75 largest private firms in New Zealand, it found 23% of directors were female. That means a full 3/4 of directorships a filled by men. Women aren't the beneficiaries of diversity in workplaces. All this talk of removing the Pale Stale Males is just a useful tool employed by smart men to weed out the weak men who will fall for the trick.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who fail punk tests and those who don’t. The only question is, which are you?

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Why progressive foreign policy never works

If you listened to just the progressives discuss foreign policy, they’re the sane ones and everyone on the left and right are crazies. They are the ones discussing acceptable actions, everyone else is capricious, mendacious and hateful.

Power always expresses itself as the voice of reason. It always speaks for the "reality-based community" which is only concerned about whatever threatens its control over the levers of power. Progressives’ party line is that progressivism doesn't exist. Progressivism doesn't exist because its beliefs are derived from reason, and reason is universal. See how perfect this loop is?

But it does exist. I’ve been watching it my entire life. The problem is their foreign policy assumes it's possible to do something about the world's problems without, actually, well, doing anything. They tend to confuse freedom and power. Voting is not freedom, it is power. Removing the power to vote does not make anyone less free. Controlling their actions or their minds makes them less free, and if they don't have political power, whether individually or collectively, the state has no rational motivation to infringe their freedoms.
Edward Luttwak

Edward Luttwak says for foreign policy to work you either do something, or you do nothing. He doesn't have much time for the State Department’s progressive missionaries or the transnational institutions they love. They create employment for civil servants but so little governance over the regions for which they are responsible.

Progressives tend to favour counterinsurgency, Luttwak says it’s a bad idea. This is a pretty big difference. Progressives favour ruling the world through "soft power," Luttwak favours abandoning it. The problem with foreign policy today is the “smart” ones think it's a good idea combine Luttwakian "hard power" in small doses, with progressive paternalistic, pseudo-democratic postcolonialism.

But when they try this concoction in places like Iraq, what they get is real democracy, which is no kitty-cat, and various militant groups that see right through the false toughness of the US military and immediately began working to seize power – in ways that can only be countered by real "hard power."

I get it. Sticks and carrots are both tools. Think of them like tension and compression in a bridge design. Some bridges rely more on tension and some more on compression. But I would look rather sceptically on any engineer who told me that tension is good and compression is bad, or vice versa.

My view is that when people today think about social structures, they underestimate the value of sticks (negative reinforcement). This bias is essentially Christian in origin and I can’t help but see foreign policy today as theocratic, in a much more dangerous way than anything Trump could get up to.

Because of its Christian origin, progressive foreign policy always supports the underdog. It's clear that early US communist/progressive support for Soviet communism was based on it being the underdog in Europe. It quickly became obvious to some (such as Orwell) that communism was not going to be liberating, but this insight took decades to percolate into the general progressive mind.

You’d think Nationalist movements are explicitly anti-progressive. But progressives support them when they are "national liberation movements" (ie, Palestinians) and oppose them when they are overdogs ("murderous gangs of fascist thugs"). This explains why they’re so fond of Nicolás Maduro: while he's clearly an oppressive overdog to the Venezuelan people, he's an underdog relative to the US.

This foreign policy fits a pattern:

  1. Intellectuals promote a worldview – global progressivism – which encourages nation-building abroad, on the reasoning that since everyone deep down wants democracy, equality and peace, all you have to do is build a sound state and you will achieve all these things.
  2. Conservative kids go to progressive-led colleges and develop a taste for nation-building. When a country kicks up a stink, those kids reply by bombing them back to the Stone Age.
  3. Since the central assertion of progressivism is wrong, progress is not achieved, and war continues.
  4. Progressive intellectuals see this as an argument for giving more power to government and certain NGOs, but only the ones that are progressive-led. Others, after all, have been discredited. And the cycle continues

Don’t get me wrong, progressives aren’t motivated by pure cynicism and hate. Quite the contrary – I think their positions come from sincere moral and even spiritual thinking. It's just that the structure of this thinking has evolved so that there is an instant friendship response to any movement opposing not the “bad guy” in some foreign country, but whichever foreign faction is allied with the progressive’s true enemy – their domestic US competitors.

Lord Cromer
If the US somehow manages to remain neutral in certain conflicts, that’s a signal not that the US has finally matured into a competent nation-state, but only that progressives can't use the conflict as a proxy civil war for control of Washington. So, at most, you get a sort of loose, dispassionate outrage about the far-away conflict because there is no one useful to hate. Marching for Syria makes progressives feel warm and fuzzy, but it doesn't evoke combat emotions the way marching against Trump does. These marches are more for the Syrians than against the Syrian government.

To see how strange this foreign policy structure is, imagine a debate between, say, Hillary Clinton and Lord Cromer. They would disagree on many subjects. But wouldn't it be helpful to have labels for both these people? It would be suspicious to regard Clinton as a reasonable, modern woman and Cromer as a medieval fanatic, and yet that’s what our foreign policy elites would have us think today.

Cromer would immediately recognise Clinton as a descendant of the Exeter Hall movement that laid him low – a movement whose Evangelical Christian roots were known by everyone at the time. He would also be very surprised that she Exeter Hall’s foreign policy perspective "secular." And he would dispute the claim that genocide is a "problem from hell," as fellow State Department alumni Samantha Power called it. There was no genocide in Egypt when Cromer ruled it, although there was plenty afterwards.

Cromer would say the reason genocide happens is that law and order breaks down, and the way to prevent genocide is to impose law and order. I'm really not sure what Clinton would say to this, because her progressive crew just finished spending the last century purging anyone who even came close to agreeing with Lord Cromer out from any position of responsibility or influence. That's certainly one way to win a debate...

If there is one phrase Clinton would identify with, I think it's the classic State Department "soft power." The problem is that soft power doesn't prevent genocide. In fact, it doesn't seem to do much of anything at all, except help the Clintons of this world look statesmanlike.

In other words, precisely what the Cromers of the world warned us would happen has, in fact, happened. The problem, he would say, is in the belief that vices can be suppressed by a cultural operating system of "turn the other cheek" and a focus on rewarding virtues. This belief is remarkably widespread in any place that listens to Harvard’s ideas and is entirely unjustified.

He would point out that virtues tend to emerge when you suppress the vices, and this can only be done by a culture that provides disincentives for the latter. The sine qua non of civilization, in other words, is punishment. Past societies that have been aggressive in punishing vice seem to also be remarkably virtuous as well – I am thinking of the Victorian culture, for example, which was unusual both for its hard-line attitude toward sin and high levels of altruism.

In fact, Lord Cromer and Ian Smith and others like them are not around today for a very specific reason. They were defeated, not militarily, but politically. Which is still defeated enough, of course – in fact, it's more pleasant for everyone. But a defeat is a defeat. They were defeated by the forces of the progressive left who Lord Cromer would have described as "missionaries" and "evangelicals." These defeats were not administered by "the peasants," "the workers," "the natives," or any other victim class. They were administered on behalf of these victim classes.

That’s the key to understanding progressive foreign policy: it is entirely a top-down concept disguised as bottom-up. Democracy was not a movement of peasants and artisans. It was a movement on behalf of peasant and artisans. Communism was not a movement of workers. It was a movement on behalf of workers. Civil rights was not a movement of African-Americans. It was a movement on behalf of African-Americans. If the only people who had supported these movements were the designated sufferers themselves, no one would ever have heard of them.

(Note also that the power of these movements come not from its leaders but from the people who report on them. The actual power, in other words, belongs to the press, which speaks with one voice on all subjects.)

Progressive foreign policy does not work because it does not prioritise political stability and order. Why do I prefer political stability? Because I've read history and notice how political instability (to be specific: nationalist-socialist mob violence) killed a couple hundred million people last century. Perhaps the revolutionary tradition has done some good as well. But, I mean, really – let's look at the big picture here.

The thing about law and order is it helps "keep the peasantry on the farm," so to speak. The point of good governance is not, of course, whether the peasantry will stay on the farm, or whether they will move to the city and take jobs as paralegals. The question is whether they will take their scythes and pruning-hooks and storm the Royal Palace. In other words, governance starts with a few well-trained guys with a couple of crew-served weapons in front of the Palace. You don’t want a system that encourages anyone to just stroll right in. Including a mob of peasants with scythes.

Progressives will say their policies are correct because mob violence is inevitable and irresistible. Then again, a mob by definition is organised around an idea, and ideas come from intellectuals, and intellectuals are all progressives. So, you’ll forgive me if I raise an eyebrow or three. And I always get the sense they are tempted to add: "it is foolish, pointless and unproductive to resist us" to the end of every sentence. At least that would be honest. This is the message of every conquering power.

A mob is made up of individuals. If the individual members of the mob have more incentive not to riot (or "demonstrate," "picket," etc) than to do so, they won't. If someone sees a chance of success in agitating, it is very easy to convince them that they are "not getting a fair shake." Who in the world has ever thought he or she was getting his or her due? Justice or injustice has nothing at all to do with it. The problem is simply power.

The response is generally that democracy is a safety valve. But if it is, it doesn't seem to work very well. The actual period of full-out democracy in the US was between 1828 to 1932. A disastrous and violent period, with four major wars, one being a civil war that clearly grew out of a democratic conflict.

To his credit, FDR ended democracy, but he built in its place a political machine of irresistible power – kind of like curing a headache with a .45 Colt. Since 1932, democracy has had little or no effect on the actual structure of Washington, except to help it expand. The EU takes this even farther – they run a perfectly normal modern state with essentially no democracy at all. It is pretty much the same for Japan.

Is this formula stable? In the age of controlled broadcast communications, maybe. In the age of the Internet, I don't think so.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Evolution as fact and political weapon

I still get weird looks when I say American progressivism (aka liberalism, aka communism, aka Unitarianism) is the most successful sect of Mainline Protestantism. Something clicks in people's heads, but their anti-anti-socialism antibodies jump to defend their received ideas. School/media has worked its magic well.

So I'm going to use the theory of evolution to show what I mean. Bet you weren't expecting that.

Here's my core point: as taught in "public" (government) schools, evolution serves as a non-theistic creation myth to compete with theistic creation myths, specifically that which is believed by the progressives’ domestic enemies – the Trinitarians or Revelationists.

Scientific theories must be testable by experiments or a systematic course of real-time observation designed to falsify them. Can anyone design an experiment that would falsify evolution, in, say, the way that Lavoisier's gravimetric experiment on the combustion of mercury falsified Becher's phlogiston theory? Evolution fits the facts better than other creation myths, but we still only have an n/N-size of 1.

It's funny how people seldom feel the need to actually read Darwin, assuming his formula for natural selection (which can be stated in a sentence) is all there is to him. But he wrote shelves and shelves, and he recognised no line between science and society – worth remembering.

Evolution, for the first several decades after Darwin, served a different purpose – explaining and justifying the inequalities of different races and nationalities, and within national populations. Darwin's cousin Sir Francis Galton used it to construct the idea of eugenics, which let people think superior qualities had somehow arisen amongst the British upper and middle classes by natural selection and which could be controlled by artificial selection – people could be bred like hogs or cattle.

Jack Lindsay wrote about how the origins of Darwinism could be found in the sociological and economic thought of Darwin's time:
"...Darwin was stimulated into constructing his evolutionary theory by the work of Malthus on the pressure of population, which had behind it the advent of the industrial proletariat and the question of its wages. Marx commented at the time: 'It is remarkable how Darwin recognises among beasts and plants his English society with its division of labour, competition, opening up of new markets, inventions, and the Malthusian struggle for existence.'" (Blast Power and Ballistics: Concepts of Force and Energy in the Ancient World, p. 123.)
Darwin's ideas of natural selection and survival of the fittest make an obvious reference to Adam Smith's "invisible hand" which achieves a similar function as a description of open markets, rewarding those participants who innovate, adapt and persevere, while eliminating those who are obsolescent, ill-adapted or lacking in strength.

Sir Francis Galton
This idea of eugenics is now politically incorrect (never mind whether it is true or false) and the theory of evolution has been heavily re-worked by quasi-Marxists like Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins, so that its function is now directed purely towards the "scientific" debunking of popular religious belief. In other words, it is a political weapon wielded by whichever Protestant sect controls the source of power in the modern world – science. I did love Stephen Jay Gould when I was 20, but there is definitely a creation-myth aspect in his writings. And it is simply shocking that any person claims to know anything about the origin of life. Talk about hubris…

I think evolution is a plausible hypothesis to explain the change in allelic frequencies leading to the development of different species (Darwin's original goal), but much of what is associated with this in evolution as it is commonly taught – particularly the claim that life's origin was purely a random event, undirected by any prime mover – is not science, but philosophy. It is a sort of Epicureanism for popular consumption, just as "intelligent design" is Platonism for popular consumption.

While "intelligent design" is in practice a Christian project, it really antedates Christianity. Its paternity is the Platonic architect-god of the Republic and the Timæus. But the most concise statement of "intelligent design" is, in my opinion, found in the late Platonism of the Corpus Hermeticum, libellus v.

After rhapsodic descriptions of the heavenly bodies, the earth, man, and nature, the argument concludes with this speech:
"See how many skills have been applied to the same, single material, how many labors within the compass of single work, all of them exquisite things, all finely measured, yet all different. Who made them all? What sort of mother or what sort of father if not the invisible god, who crafted them all by his own will? No one claims that a statue or a picture has been produced unless there is a sculptor or painter. Has this craftwork been produced without a craftsman, then? Oh, how full of blindness, how full of irreverence, how full of ignorance? Tat, my child, never deprive the craftworks of their craftsman..." (Copenhaver's translation).
The designer of "intelligent design" proves ultimately not to be the God of Genesis, but the Freemasons' Great Architect of the Universe.

I think of evolution as a deductive conclusion, not an inductive one. It is not a theory or a fact, but a theorem. Heritable variation in a competitive environment will produce descent with modification, regardless of any evidence to the contrary. I don’t see why the theory is interesting though. It’s silly, light on numbers, and doesn’t really say anything. To say that species evolve over time to adapt to their environment is like saying the ground is wet because it rained. Duh. Colour me unimpressed.

Bear in mind that the importance assigned to evolution in government schools refers not only to the curriculum given to the inmates but to the fame of the topic in the public debate over school curricula (which is more of a problem in America and Turkey than in New Zealand). The government's involvement with education makes everything – from curriculum to discipline to sports – the subject of political debate, and not infrequently of legal dispute.

Another way you can tell evolution is a component of religious power warfare is that the teaching of what is called science in government schools is considerably obstructed by the failure to provide adequate instruction in mathematics.

It is just about impossible to make much headway in basic mechanical physics without knowing at least how to do differential and integral calculus in one variable. Yet these subjects are typically not part of public secondary education – the student will encounter them first in the first year of university, if then. Chemistry can be learnt without higher mathematics, but you'll need excellent memorisation skills which are usually beyond the average high school student. Kids also need laboratory work, but for liability reasons, this is often scrubbed from curricula as well.

School boards don't like it when a kid drops a thermometer on the lab floor and the whole school has to be evacuated until a haz-mat removal contractor can clean up, at horrendous cost, a few cc's of spilt mercury. But to really understand biology requires knowledge of chemistry, for example, the metabolic cycles of plants and animals, much less the complexities of DNA.

Teaching "science" in government schools is about indoctrinating the kiddies in a sort of lowest-common-denominator environmentalism so that they go home to hector their parents about recycling or global warming with a dumbed-down Epicureanism disguised as evolution. The only purpose is to contradict whatever religious instruction they may have received at home and capture them as energetic troops for the real political war.

(The proposition that (for example) environmentalism is in the same category as intelligent design is not one that liberals have an automatic answer for. Sure, I could tell them to go and read Clyde Wilson or Kuehnelt-Leddihn. But, trust me, they have very strong anti-Trinitarian antibodies.)

Frankly, given their level of mathematics instruction and fear of lab work, the best that secondary schools could do would be to teach old-fashioned taxonomic botany and zoology, so that students might at least be able to identify common garden plants, wildflowers or birds.

Given my interaction with peers and younger people today, it’s a safe bet even this sort of simple, interesting and potentially useful knowledge isn’t being taught. And it won’t while evolution serves as a central tenet in the progressive creed.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Gina Haspel and the curious case of US torture and secret prisons


I

This is Gina Haspel.

She's not everyone's image of a CIA officer.

Ms Haspel is under consideration by the US Congress to become the new CIA director as a replacement for Mike Pompeo who now leads the US State Department. Nearly everyone who has worked with Ms Haspel says she's a great candidate, perhaps not the best of all possible candidates, but certainly is someone who will lead the CIA competently. The problem is, she's tied to the what some people call torture of enemy combatants and terrorists.

Don't confuse the egregiousness of her actions with obvious crimes. Crimes must be stated explicitly in the statutes. Unless you're prepared to bring a criminal conspiracy charge against her, and you can identify and get the testimony of everyone in the chain of command all the way down to the guy who poured the water, you are never going to prove your case. Simply concluding that bad stuff happened on her watch isn't enough. Bad stuff still happens under every president.

II

Only in Yankee America could Ms Haspel's legal job under the explicit direction and oversight of a Justice Department of a previous administration be considered a black mark on someone's career two administrations in the future. Clearly, there is confusion on the issue of what "torture" is or there wouldn't be so much debate about it.

The torture debate is part of a wider American understanding that it can only win wars that no one will ever fight, such as armoured warfare on the North European Plain. There are ways to win the Islamist war, but America isn't willing to perform those actions. It may be moral or less immoral for the US not to resort to the necessary tactics to win - but in the eyes of the enemy it is weakness.

Americans have tortured the enemy in every war they've fought. Americans have illegally tested chemical and biological weapons on their own soldiers and citizens. Is it really moral to spare your enemies the same fate? Or is it immoral to treat your people worse than you treat the enemy?

Is it really moral to use satellite-guided weaponry to bomb a restaurant where the leader of al-Qaeda is suspected of eating, knowing the strike will kill civilians as well? Was it moral to carpet bomb Germany to end the WWII? Or to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki to force them into unconditional surrender, when doing less may have led to a cease-fire? Was it moral not to nuke Moscow and instead leave the Russian people, and Eastern Europe, under a totalitarian oppression for a few more decades?

How do these acts compare to beating the shit out of some guy in a CIA black site who has a 1% chance of being the guy who knows who might kill your fellow soldiers two weeks from today, so you can find out the name of his boss? Or is it only immoral when the beating becomes public? Maybe the Romans had it right when they said: "Inter arma enim silent lēgēs."

III

Let's put morals aside. What does "possession" mean? Is your car in your possession? How about your TV? If the cops find drugs at your house but you aren't there, can they charge you for possession?

Possession is defined explicitly in the law. Torture is not. Is water-boarding torture? Not everyone agrees, and that matters because there is no statute that states "water-boarding is torture." Some people say torture is wrong, and I would respond with: says who?

Guess what? Killing is wrong too. But I can think of six instances where it's lawful:

1. Self-defence
2. Defence of another
3. Home invasion
4. As a criminal penalty for capital crimes
5. Abortion
6. As an agent of the military in war or in the execution of a mission

It seems illogical that killing can be acceptable but something less severe than killing can never acceptable. You want moral clarity? Sorry, there isn't any. A suicide bomber believes his actions are moral. You don't. That's moral ambiguity, and this is always the environment at the boundary between two cultures. That's why laws take the moral ambiguity out of the equation.

Why is there a distinction made about POWs and torture? Why do international conventions on war require warring parties to wear identifiable uniforms and not intermingle with civilians or disguise themselves as medical or religious personnel?

They made these distinctions because you only get treatment as a prisoner of war if you are behaving like a soldier of an enemy government. You don't punish the soldier for the war he was ordered to fight - it is not really his choice to fight at that place and time. If you do not obey the rules of war and choose to be some religious psychopath running around killing people, then you're not accorded the respectful treatment of a soldier. Simple as that.

I agree that what the US did was torture as that term is generally understood. Where I disagree is that I don't think it meets the legal definition of "torture," nor do the surrounding facts support a criminal charge against the people who oversaw the programme, such as Ms Haspel. And people should be careful what they wish for. If they launch a prosecution and it fails, they will essentially have endorsed water-boarding as a legal interrogation technique.

Torture is more analogous to killing than rape, for instance, in that is is an extreme dimension of the state's acknowledged authority to use physical force to enforce the law (clubs, tasers, dogs, etc). How much worse than a taser is water-boarding? You might argue this means tasers should be illegal and maybe they should, but the law does not now consider tasers to be torture. Frankly, the best argument that water-boarding is torture under the law presented thus far is past US prosecution for water-boarding by Japanese soldiers. And that one is still problematic.

IV

The state and its citizens justify plenty of killing, and some of the state and some of its citizens seek to justify torture in the service of the same state interests that justify a lot of the killing.

Historically, states and armies did use rape as a tactic to get the conquered to submit, hence the phrase "rape and pillage." But we progressed and evolved and now see the error and brutality of this. In the same way, we have to move beyond the brutality of torture which may once have had a place in European or American culture in the past, but no longer does. So let's abandon it and its excuses, along with eliminating the proclivity and necessity for violence in the state's administration of law and justice.

People are confusing two different things. On one hand, we have the statement "torture is never excusable" and as a completely separate question, we have the legal issue of whether waterboarding was a crime at the time it was performed.

To the first question: torture is morally wrong and I will draw an analogy to killing which is also always wrong. But in this world, there are instances where killing is justified (a better word is "excused"). It is a very strong statement to say that torture, like killing, is always wrong, but unlike killing, it is never excusable. You can't make this absolute statement unless you have contemplated every single conceivable scenario. Wrong, but excusable - you have to hold both concepts in your head at once.

I can easily construct a scenario in which every single person would water-board a perfect stranger and for that action to be excusable. All you would argue with is the realism or outlandishness of my scenario as a way of avoiding the question. But that doesn't change the fact that, given the scenario, everyone would engage in behaviour they think is wrong, thereby disproving the statement that it is never excusable.

These scenarios aren't outlandish. They have played out over the course of history. The world does not exist as you wish it to, or even as you perceive it to be. It exists independent of you, and your perception of it contemplates only parts and aspects of it skewed by your biases both cultural and personal. So it is for all of us. That you don't want to engage with the complexity doesn't mean it doesn't exist, it means you don't want to see the world for what it is: a jungle populated by 7 billion upright apes.

V

The second point is not relevant to the first because the question of the morality of torture or its excusability is completely irrelevant to the specific facts.

Those scenarios are not the situation with Ms Haspel's water-boarding during the Bush administration. Water-boarding is an interrogation technique for alleged enemy combatants who did not adhere to the rules of war requiring them to wear a uniform and not hide among civilians or target them in attacks. That's the situation.

Saying something is morally wrong and wanting to prosecute on that basis is a cop-out. It is easy, sloppy thinking. Abortion is morally wrong too. Even pro-choice advocates acknowledge that. Abortion is legal for reasons completely divorced from questions of morality. Walking past the homeless guy in the street is morally wrong. Everyone does that, even though it is extremely easy to do the morally right thing. We're wasting breath saying torture is morally wrong. We know it's wrong. But no one has done anything to stop its use worldwide.

What annoys me is that whenever anyone suggests something outside the standard echo chamber arguments, they're called crazy or stupid. Those are the only alternatives. No one can be coming at this issue from a different angle or with a different perspective. No one is allowed to articulate that subtle problems can fail an argument just as thoroughly as obvious ones. Why is that? Why is it so important not to hear what you don't want to hear? Why is it threatening?

You have your model of the world and I have mine. People with a different model to mine are shocked and amazed at the stuff that happens and they often resort to a child's view - Ms Haspel is evil. There is no good and evil. The villain is the hero of his own story. There is morally right and morally wrong, but there is nothing in the universe enforcing aside from each individual for themselves. The law slightly overlaps with morality with an enforcement mechanism that is imperfect, unfair and often corrupt. If the villains are running rampant, it isn't because of moral confusion, it's because of legal ambiguity.

You might say, "I hate inflicting pain, so I would never conduct torture."

Oh yes, you do, my fellow homo sapien. You just haven't come across the right target yet. You may one day find yourself out of time, out of words and out of options facing a horrible and imminent reality. At that point and to your amazement this entire other dormant thing in your brain will come to life. An impossibly huge and unstoppable monster will emerge from behind the delicate lattice of your mind, and it will seize control of your eyes, adrenaline, muscle and bone. And you will let it because at that moment you will realize that these parts of you actually belong to this monster, and it knows how to use them better than you do. As the monster takes over, you will withdraw to the background, a spectator to your own brutality.

VI

And don't even get me started on the "but it doesn't give you any information, torture doesn't work" nonsense. It absolutely reveals information, it's just that the accuracy is unknown. The information could be:

1. accurate as the prisoner has related it
2. wrong in fact, accurate representation of belief
3. wrong, but the prisoner knows the truth
4. prisoner doesn't know the truth but relates false information anyway
5. prisoner reveals all but knows nothing

From the interrogators' point of view, he only receives information or receives nothing. He can't assume the information he receives is false, nor can he assume it is true. But whatever he gets is a lead, dead end or otherwise. This doesn't justify torture as moral, but neither is cutting journalist's heads off or setting bombs on a public street. War is not about being moral. It's about winning.

Say you round up 100 people to torture about whether they take drugs. Assume all prisoners admit to taking drugs under torture. Then you can ask them who sold the drugs and can go arrest those new people.

If any single one of those named people are caught selling or have drugs on them, then torture worked, even if the first 100 people lied about ever taking drugs and just named the first random person they could think of. If none of the named people has anything to do with drugs, just torture them for a new set of suspects and repeat. Eventually, you will catch a drug dealer.

The reason this works is that there are a lot of people buying and selling drugs. In Iraq, there are people making bombs and I assume the CIA doesn't think everyone they catch is a terrorist mastermind. Afer a few iterations, you will catch terrorists. I'm not saying this is a good idea or that the CIA operated like this, only that you can't say torture doesn't work.

Ask yourself this. Having no knowledge of the actual activities of the people within a radius of 200m from where you sit now, how many would I need to interrogate before I found a major drug trafficker? Note, I don't need to find a person who is a drug dealer, I just need to find either a person who is a drug dealer or a person through whom some x>=1 degrees of separation is a major drug trafficker.

So how many would I need to sweep up? 100? 10? 1? How many interrogations would I have to perform to get to the drug trafficker? 6? 20? 200?

Replace that with Iraqi males under 30 and "drug dealer" with "bomb maker" or "insurgent" and you get the picture. Again, I am not endorsing torture, I'm simply explaining that it may result in useful information eventually and that, given the circumstances, it may be the fastest route to that information. Keep in mind, the cops can get results in this fashion without the torture and by cutting plea bargains.

You get the picture.

VII

Another thing Ms Haspel is being questioned over is her involvement with secret prisons, which is another important point. But I actually think this part of her job is more interesting than discussing the utility or morals of torture.

Something I never quite understood was if the rounded up jihadists have no information and are of no strategic or military value, why hold them for so long?

It would be logical to conclude the CIA at least believes these people do have some strategic value (even if it's wrong about that). But if they have value and the prisons are, by the CIA's own admission, extra-legal then why release them ever? Why can't the spooks just get the information and then kill them? After a while, whatever information you think a person has goes stale. If you hold a jihadist for a year, whatever he knows, even if he tells you, is probably useless. It just doesn't add up. If the CIA thinks these guys are bad, they would disappear and we would never hear about them.

I wonder if the CIA is doing someone else's dirty work with these prisons, the way we imagine Pakistani or Egyptian prisons do Washington's dirty work. For example, I wonder if part of the programme was a worldwide sweep of people hostile to the Saudi or Israeli governments? Osama bin Laden was an anti-Saudi agitator, after all. And the al Qaeda leader said outright that the ultimate objective was not to bring down the US or Israel but to bring down Saudi Arabia.

The CIA was sloppy here. If someone ever tells you about a "black" operation, it's not black. We aren't supposed to know where those jihadists were being taken, and a group like Human Rights Watch shouldn't have lists of people who are missing. No one was supposed to know any of this and yet there are websites that track the flights of the "torture taxis."

Do we know the names of Soviet spies the CIA killed or interrogated during the 80's? Nope. So why do we know this? I can't help but think we know their names because Washington has to communicate to people outside its official or secret channels who need to know.

The projection of emotional pain makes some amount of sense, but the scale of the secret prison programme is way too small for the population it is intended to terrorise. And it presumes a media penetration in Iraq and the Middle East that I think is ambitious, to say the least.

If was just a propaganda tool, why bother with real people at all? Grab a few jihadists here and there, so their families can star on Al Jazeera to project the requisite anguish, but for every real jihadist why not invent another dozen fictitious captives? Surely lying to the enemy is more ethical than torturing or holding them?

This is the CIA we are talking about here - playing fast and loose with the enemy's impression of the truth is their job. The agency is supposed to be secretive and invisible. The mess Ms Haspel is now being grilled for has been all over the news for a decade. Maybe it's time to suspect this story is being blown so totally wide open because it serves some notice function to interests that want very specific people dealt with.

VIII

Both the torture and secret prison decisions are tough to judge in hindsight. In 2018, it's hard for me to remember what 9/11 felt like. I can't imagine what fog-of-war fear American intelligence went through to even consider doing what it did. Gina Haspel was part of those decisions, and I think she deserves everyone's applause, not scorn.

Ask yourself: "what would I do if I genuinely believed these were evil men and only I stood between them and the lives of thousands of innocents?" And then imagine yourself surrounded by like-minded people with little outside input or questioning. Go down that path. Be honest with yourself. Become immersed in it. I bet many you'll be surprised what you can do and how well you rationalise it. Even the Nazi's needed a "good reason" beyond mere fear and hatred to send people to death camps.

To some extent, evil is an emergent property of behaviours that in the micro seem reasonable. The individuals who are part of these immoral bureaucracies are not evil. They may commit evil collectively, and even on occasion individually - but they still need to view themselves as decent people. Hence, the overall behaviour of the system is, in a sense, inconsistent: Kindnesses do occur. A notion of fairness and justice is never totally eradicated. You can hear that in Ms Haspel's words.

This is especially true for Americans because its civic ethos profoundly resonates with a deep respect for individual rights, justice and fairness. Those who admonish the US about its need to "have the stomach to do what needs to be done" are really trying to get them to leave their consciences behind as they walk onto the killing floor.

But that's tough to do for any culture which hasn't already descended into total savagery. And regardless of how it looks, even Yankee America isn't there yet. Narcissism isn't one of the circles of Hell, but it is the stones paving the way to the underworld.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

There's a war on out there...

A guy ran over a bunch of people in Canada the other day, and the last thing he allegedly wrote on his Facebook page was to blame the violence on women refusing to have sex with him.

Everyone's jumped on this story for whatever special interest or politics they're pushing. Men are pathetic; men are oppressed; women are pathetic; women are oppressed. Pick your colour. Doesn't it feel good to be right?

Then Robin Hanson wrote a blog post pointing out that if people are concerned about income inequality, then they should be concerned about sex inequality as well and hypothesised some "redistribution" of vaginas (and the women around them, I assume). Predictably, observers went nuts as they predictably misheard "sexism" because they predictably didn't read his words.

I don't care if Hanson was trolling or sincere. His biggest mistake was failing to notice why he saw an inconsistency with inequality. He doesn't seem to understand why he wrote the words he did, what forces were acting on him, and what these forces wanted from him that elevated his post to viral status. So let me give it a go.

There are so many aspects of human inequality that it always pays to be suspicious about which ones we're encouraged to discuss. Some people are short, some tall; some are fat, some are skinny; some get sex, others don't, etc, etc. I'm an imaginative guy and I can think of ways to equalise these things without angle grinders. But no one is talking about those inequalities, and it's from squeamishness because of all the blood.

The only versions of equality we're openly allowed to discuss always have to do with increasing consumption. It goes like this: Too few people are getting enough money to buy disposable goods, so the system has to find ways give those people a higher income. One way the system does this is to magically make whatever "inequality" a person possesses into a medical/psychological disorder so the government can pay them cash directly but in a deniable way. Another way is to be annoyed that too many women and/or minorities are out of work because that means they aren't earning money, which means they aren't increasing their consumption. So guess who gets a government-sanctioned campaign to get higher-paying jobs for the "oppressed" people? It ain't white men They're so deeply plugged into the system, they jokingly get called "the system" and everyone laughs.

In a consumer society, there is no such thing as oppression. The only question that matters is how much your battery is generating for the system. Consumption doesn't care about your motivations for any social campaign, it only cares that you act in the required direction. This balloon only goes one way, baby, and that's up, up, up, forever.

"Equality" is the easiest con. Everyone likes to be thought of as special and everyone feels unspecial some of the time. Even the "INCEL" men ( which stands for "involuntary celibate" and allegedly was the online group to which the driver was associated) are trapped by this long-con. These men (generally, but many women are INCELs too, although maybe not part of a group) feel unequal because they aren't having sex with women (or men) of a certain value.

People want to be told what to do so badly, we'll listen to anyone. We see an ad for a new Mercedes with a beautiful blonde draped over the hood and don't realise the real message is "this is what a beautiful woman looks like." We think we're seeing a car, but our subconscious knows the ad has nothing to do with the car - THE PRODUCT IS IRRELEVANT. The purpose of ads is to feed your aspirations and build your expectations SO THAT you will spend your money to achieve them. All ads are aspirational, not representational, and for sure not inspirational. That there is not enough money in the world to reach any of the delivered expectations is the trick. But at these rates, you can't say we're not committed to the attempt. If the ad works you will consequently want the product no matter what it is. Get angry all you want, but this carnival keeps going night and day.

In a consumer society, everything is a commodity. Everything has value and everything can be sold. There are higher-value things and lesser-value things. There is no such thing and a thing-in-itself. Everything can be sold. And the supply is always carefully controlled by advertising and marketing creating false prices and artificial scarcity. No one is permitted to make the distinction between a value and the picture of a value, they are made equivalent. Consumerism turns everyone into a battery. INCELS are not disgruntled parts of the system struggling to break loose, they are the inevitable consequence of a 70-year-long message that "everything is possible, everything is available."

But if everything is possible, why aren't INCELS enjoying everything? Their conclusion, certified by the system, is that must be THEY'S fault. Just like everyone else, it's never that our expectations are at fault. "But he was calling women objects!" Listen Ginsburg, everyone is an object to everyone else. Just because a man is saying nasty things about women doesn't make this issue is about men. There's a war on out there, and you're losing. We let the billboards teach us how to want, how to think. We don't care these things are all mutually exclusive and our fed desires cannot exist in the same space. But don't let me stop you from buying a $10.99 pink pussy hat. Yay freedom!

Notice how this conveniently hides consumer culture and simultaneously creates opportunities to exploit feelings of "oppression." But that's the trick. There is no oppression, there are only misaligned expectations. This war isn't on men or women, it is on individual freedom. It is regression to the mean by suppressing the mean, where mean is defined by its deviation from consumption, according to not you.

But don't worry, if these expectations aren't your thing, there's plenty more where they came from. Let me go check in the back...