Friday, 17 November 2017

15,000 climate scientists can't be wrong, can they?

On November 13, a grand total of 15,000 scientists from around the world signed a “warning to humanity” letter that climate change is far worse than expected.

"Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out," the letter warns. "We must recognise, in our day-to-day lives and in our governing institutions, that Earth with all its life is our only home."

Are 15,000 scientists correct? Well, it depends on the question. A scientist can be anyone who follows a certain process to produce reliable information – the scientific method. While it’s not perfect it’s been pretty good so far at removing errors, and this seems to be a scientific conclusion.

No, not the ice!!!
But a scientist might also be someone awarded credentials by an institution, entitling him to a prestigious position. Calling that person a "scientist" is like calling him a "duke." The word "duke" was originally defined as a leader of fighting men. There are still dukes around today – and there are still warlords – but the dukes are not warlords and the warlords are not dukes.

Same goes for scientists.

The problem isn’t the people, it’s the institutions. If you compare (a) the pre-WWII Western scientific establishment with (b) the post-WWII Western scientific establishment and (c) the Soviet scientific establishment, I think it’s fairly obvious that (b) looks suspiciously more like (c) than (a).

Both are centrally planned and funded by a few agencies in an extremely small number of governments, which means it is pretty easy to create official pseudoscience. And if you're going up against the Machine, you need to be right all the time, not just most of the time.

The way I see it – give me some room here – climate change is essentially just palaeoclimatology and climate modelling. Since neither palaeoclimatology nor climate modelling have anything remotely like Popperian falsifiability, we can safely say they are "science" rather than science.

Paleoclimatology is rife with massaged and invented numbers, and even if performed honestly cannot distinguish causation from correlation. Whereas climate modelling tries to outline a chaotic system that could not be accurately modelled with ten or twenty more orders of magnitude of computer power. It also asserts that hindcasting can validate its models.

This means our political system nurtures pseudoscience and makes major financial decisions based on it. But this has been happening for a while.

The man who started ClimateAudit, Stephen McIntyre, has a background in hard-rock mineral exploration, which is one of the shadiest industries in the world. As a mining consultant, not only does he know statistics, he made his living investigating bad numbers and the fudging of data.

So one day out of pure curiosity he decided to look at the use of statistics in palaeoclimatology.
Palaeoclimatology estimates temperature trends from before scientists were running around with thermometers. It measures "temperature proxies" that naturally record temperature effects – things like tree rings, for example. As you can probably imagine, before the rise of global warming, this was a rather obscure discipline, but today you can make a lot of money in this field.

Penn State's Michael Mann takes a break from drawing hockey sticks
Mr McIntyre analysed the famous "hockey stick" curve associated with several notable paleoclimatologists, notably Michael Mann. If you have ever seen a headline saying "20XX is the warmest year in XXX years," that’s the "hockey stick." Dr Mann is a star.

But Mr McIntyre found a pattern of bad statistics that came close to simply being deceit. Dr Mann had chosen nonstandard statistical procedures which amplified a single sample, from a set of trees (bristlecone pines) well-known to respond directly to CO2 rather than temperature, into a pattern that looked like it covered the entire world. Moreover, Dr Mann's website had a directory called "CENSORED" in which the same calculation was repeated without the bristlecones, showing no hockey stick at all.

Sure, scientific misconduct happens. Just because a physicist, like Jan Hendrik Schön, pulls some stunt, doesn't mean Einstein was wrong. But Schön was rapidly drummed out of his profession. Dr Mann, however, is still employed and respected (although he’s not on the list with the 15,000 others…). And this despite two external reports, a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel, and an independent report prepared by Edward Wegman, one of the US's leading statisticians, confirming all of Mr McIntyre's results.

What was the consequence of all this in the official press? Funny you should ask.

The NAS panel, which included many of Dr Mann's colleagues, came up with a nice dodge. They admitted the results were useless but claimed that since other studies – many using the same flawed methodologies – reported the same outcome, the entire idea was vindicated. You may have heard the phrase "fake, but accurate." That’s not how science works.

Back before WWII, a pool of scientists, tiny by today's standards, would have their own little pet theory to defend and progress was made when you exploded someone else's pet theory. Today, pet theories are held not by little cliques of scientists, but by giant conglomerates of funding mafias and NGOs. The explosion of theories has become all but impossible.

Well, I guess if you start the graph from there...
There is no future in climate science for a sceptic. Those who are still around are dinosaurs, full professors and professors emeritus. Any grad student or assistant professor would have to be crazy to attack these people. They’d never get a grant again. Why on earth would anyone hitch their horse to this wagon when there are rivers of enviro-cash to be had? At least in the US, the cash is green too.

I think Mr McIntyre proves that in the Western social system, it is possible to corrupt an entire field of science, or at least an entire department (such as palaeoclimatology) can exhibit systemic bias. If you want to refute this proposition, you'd have to explain why past corruptions of science, such as Lysenkoism, the late acceptance of Alfred Wegener’s continental drift theory, "German physics" and so on, have occurred.

Perhaps everything is different now. Perhaps humans have simply become good and sweet, and it really is significant that 15,000 scientists signed a piece of paper. Personally, I don't see a lot of goodness and sweetness in science. I see a lot of politics and a lot of power structures. Science and the distribution of information – what one might call "education" – plays a role in the West comparable to the influence of the military in Wilhelmine Germany.

Suppose you were evil and you wanted to destroy the world in the subtlest possible way? Would you rather be a general, a reporter at the New York Times or a professor at Harvard? Which of these three is not like the other?

Mr McIntyre's work has shown quite conclusively that, at least in the field of palaeoclimatology, the scientific method is no longer operating, at least not in the form Darwin and Newton would recognise. But Stalin might.

If climate modellers want to change my mind, they would have to build a new climate model in a clean-room process, which (a) correctly simulates Earth's climate in the past and (b) was not made to do so after a very extensive process of tuning and the introduction of unconscious bias. To be more specific, the largest source of uncertainty in climate models is their handling of water.

So what is my prediction of the weather in 2057? I have no idea, I am not a climatologist.

But if this all proves to be a con job, it will take us a long, long time to recover from this idea of "official science." I'm not sure what that phrase means. Maybe the West is moving away from truth derived from science. Who knows?

People still assign tremendous credibility to science because they think it’s a structure of knowledge maintained by a large set of independent actors, each of whom is rewarded for truth and punished for error. But it’s pretty clear post-WWII science is something different, a true novelty in Western history. It might retain traditions from the liberal age, but it looks like they are rapidly eroding.

If the government pays your salary, you are a government official. And in a democracy, the idea that any aspect of government can be above politics is laughable. I am not sure that trying to insulate science from politics is the best way to preserve or restore the scientific tradition. It might actually have the opposite effect. But science, fortunately, is not a democracy so it will survive. The question is whether it will survive in the West.

Are 15,000 scientists correct? Who knows? We have no possible way of knowing. But everyone seems perfectly happy to create a planetary government to attack global warming. I get a bad feeling about that. Central planning killed a lot more humans in the 20th century than bad weather.

I think I’ll take my chances with the bad weather.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

The short con is part of the long con

The growing consensus on how to counter social disruption is to rely on Google and Facebook to act as political censor. Once these companies do it in the US, most of the rest of the world will start to rely on them to calm political discussion as well.

Last week, Facebook issued a plea for its users to send in nude photos of themselves so it can train its artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. The social network hopes to pre-empt the use of “revenge porn,” in which pictures sent in confidence are publicly released on the internet to embarrass. Store the photos, train the AI, stop the posting of questionable images. Simple, really.

Except it’s not. The easy analysis is the cyber-security angle. The Russia-based cyber-security company Kaspersky was recently dumped as a contractor by the US government after allegations Russian intelligence was using the software as a portal to steal sensitive information on computers running the anti-virus, including US government machines.

This proves the old maxim: intelligence doesn’t care about who you are, intelligence only cares about your access. In that sense, Facebook is setting up the largest pool of personal data ever created by human systems. And yet even non-technical people who know nothing about cyber-weapons think this isn’t a smart idea. Everything gets hacked eventually.

Pushing down the analysis levels, consider that Facebook right now has 2 billion monthly users – or 70% of the 2.8 billion internet users living outside China and Russia. At present growth rates, the social network could boast 3.5 billion monthly users by 2025, or half the global population outside China and Russia.

That’s large enough to create a real-time census to “see” nearly everyone on the planet, even if they don’t have a Facebook account. It can track all people using triangulation and smartphone GPS data. Advertisers will love it. But the real question is whether “government” is a verb or a noun. Because if it’s the former, then Facebook’s censorship just got a whole lot more interesting.

The next layer strikes at the quiet default assumptions everyone seems to be aware of, but no one wants to talk about. Sure, it’s natural to feel bad about women being exploited online, but if sexually valuable women have been harassed since the time of universal mud huts and no has done anything substantial to stop it, why is this happening now? Why is Facebook shouldering this “social responsibility” in 2017?

Facebook knows women make up the majority of its users. Women do most of the clicking and get most of the clicks, especially if they're posting nudes. To Facebook, a 20-year-old, single mother, working multiple jobs with access to at least one smartphone is the ideal consumer and consumable. It's not about stopping online misogyny, it's about consumerism. The only encouragement is to “unplug” on the weekends, which means the default is plugged. Do you see?

Social networks are trying to be our friends because their business models rely on people failing to notice the reality staring at them from that glowing rectangular lie: if the service is free, then you are the product. Each “plugged” individual adds to the big data banks with every login attempt. Clickity-clack. Swipity-swipe. Doing our job on the cotton-fields of the 21st century without complaint.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ends with self-actualisation. Poor people (poor in wealth, not in time) love their smartphones. So while they fall off the first two tiers, social networking, like an opioid, provides costless and illusory self-actualisation, along with the trappings of power, freedom and community. In the paraphrased words of Marshall McLuhan, "there is no sweeter praise than the gaze of a tyrant, especially if it's in HD."

Maslow's hierarchy of needs
The gimmick of social networks isn’t the bright display of gorgeous photos, poignant posts and viral videos. It’s the neat little white line of possibility at the bottom of the screen. The not-yet-loaded. Down there, anything is possible. Everything is real. Facebook is not selling a product but its own authority to control the feeling of lack. Hence the most important result: nothing changes.

Human failure starts with self-deception, telling yourself lies to feel better. Eventually, we don't know or care what is real or what isn't. So while Facebook pretends to defend its users, Mark Zuckerberg champions the idea of a universal basic income. Productivity isn’t down, he says, humans are being extremely productive – they’re just not being paid for generating his data.

People intuitively understand that what they do online is valuable and they know the next step is to be paid for it. Big data instead pays us in “protection” from revenge porn, fake news and hate speech, while offering us the sustenance of illusory self-actualisation. Is this enough to keep the slaves from revolting? We’ll see. Even well-educated people will swallow untruth without too many questions if it’s plausible and reinforces their beliefs.

Ultimately, Facebook is committing Boromir’s mistake: power should not be wielded, it must be destroyed. Mass censorship of social networking is a bad idea. Invariably, this power will fall into the hands of people with which the creators vehemently disagree. Mr Zuckerberg has chosen to forget that online privacy and anonymity are the most important dynamics of this new digital space. If those pillars are removed, the online becomes just like the real – with nothing new under the sun.

If revenge porn is the wholesale leaking of sexual secrets, then its effect on traditional sexuality – good and bad – may serve as an analogy worth pondering here. What happens to geopolitics when the default assumption of activity is the voluntary, unpaid delivery of personal information to corporate entities with full power over how, when and for what this data will be used?

It turns out all media is state-run media, especially when it’s not.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

On shootings and bombings in the West’s twilight

Which matters more: the series of shootings in the US or the dozen bombings in Sweden over the past 20 days?

It’s trick question because no one’s heard about Sweden’s bombs. Perpetrators haven’t been named in those attacks, so to the media, they didn’t happen. But the US shooters are getting saturated news coverage. What gives? If I said the first rule of media is when it mentions a person’s middle name then that person is guilty, would any of this be easier to understand?

The shootings and bombings are connected. If you haven't noticed, things are falling apart. More importantly, a growing number of people want them to fall apart. The desire to tear down the rotten (defined by what each person deems rotten) system is an epidemic. This is a strange transition period between too many young, aimless people and too few. All of these generations are unfamiliar with physical violence, and it shows.

After any violent act, most will say, “we don’t really know what’s going on in that person’s mind.” But this is a lie. It’s the same thing every time: “It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.” If the bombers in Sweden turn out to be Muslim, then at least they have a reason, but what excuses do American shooters use? Carl Jung said people don’t have ideas, ideas have people. That’s worth pondering for about 20 years because the shooters didn’t think about it while the Islamists are thinking about it all the time.

Humans went to war over Nazism and Communism last century, so as narcissism emerges from its pill-box to become a full-fledged ideology, whatever happens next won’t be good. Luckily, in America, there is no “next.” A country without a fictive kinship only has the self to turn to. Without an animating myth connecting people, there is no existing. Just a bland pop monoculture of permanent “now.”

And yet the bombers in Sweden, the truck driver in New York, the backpack in Parsons Green, the throat-slicer in Marseilles, the warriors in the Levant and all the future Islamic death-bringers can see “next.” An old phrase comes to mind: How do you train a longbowman? You start with his grandfather. The problem is, it doesn’t matter if the Islamists are training longbowmen. What matters is the lack of any archery ranges in the West at all.

What’s important about animating myths is not that they are myths, but that they animate. Without purpose – without responsibility – there is no meaning. Maybe creating one’s own purpose, as advertising tells us to do, can supply what people need here. But what do you know about purpose? What can any person on their own discover about responsibility? Pepsi tells us to “Live for Now,” and who among us is strong enough to contest with billions in advertising dollars?

German philosophers generally get a bad political reputation. They go down deeper, stay down longer and come up dirtier than any other tradition. And yet Friedrich Nietzsche warned about narcissism in The Gay Science in 1882 when he wrote:
“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more.' Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’”
The point is not to encourage despair. The point is to inspire a life built by making choices to benefit the person in front of you – not yourself. But it goes further than that. Every choice should also benefit your family, the other person’s family, then the town, then the nation and finally the world itself – across time. If the demon banishes you to eternal recurrence, then it must be the best life for all who exist, not just you. Nietzsche is screaming that it truly matters what you do right now.

In the story of Narcissus and Echo, people think Narcissus was so infatuated with himself that he couldn’t love anyone else. He stared into the pool and wasted away. However, that’s not what the myth says. Narcissus never loved anyone and then he fell in love with himself. Do you see? Falling in love with himself was Narcissus’ punishment.

The cure for the bombings and shootings is not gun-control or more bollards on footpaths. The cure is to realise that other people actually matter. That you are not the hero of the movie, while everyone else is just supporting cast. The cure is to understand that people exist independently of you. The time has come to stop “being everything you can be” and to be the one thing you should be. When you stare into the pool for too long, everything else around you wastes away as well.

Your only job while on this miserable planet is to train longbowmen. Twenty-five years is coming no matter what you do. You can’t stop it. The ancients knew that responsibility is proportionate to meaning, and if those shooters were ever told that by their parents – if their parents weren’t staring into the pool themselves – perhaps all those the longbowmen being trained right now by Islamists wouldn’t be so worrying.

But it is, even if the media won’t cover it.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Facebook is crushing China’s superpower dream

Chinese President Xi Jinping closed the 19th Party Congress by committing to make China a global power. Mr Xi is the strongest leader since Chairman Mao, and some call him a dictator.

Mr Xi says the world needs “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” (capitalism in a Leninist cage). China is in a “cold economic war” with the US, he says, which is now only a rival to China. Impressions matter a lot in geopolitics, and the US hasn’t maintained credibility in the last decade.

But the US is magnitudes more powerful than China, no matter how power is defined. Sure, it isn’t in a good spot to counter Mr Xi’s ambitions, such as the One Belt, One Road infrastructure project which China hopes will better connect it with trading partners by land and sea.

China wants this project because it has excess cement and steel, and its partners need those materials. However, those partners tend to complain that although they appreciate the gesture, it’s hard to sell the benefits when so few local workers are hired and China ships in thousands of welders and excavator operators.

If he’s so worried about excess steel and cement, the obvious step would be for him to tell the factories to just stop producing them. But he knows the moment he does that, millions of Chinese will lose their jobs or income. Chinese authorities already have to cope with thousands of protests each day. Mr Xi needs the project of One Belt, One Road more than he needs to sell steel.

This is because, historically, regime change in China had less to do with external than internal forces. Its geography dictates living standards will always rise disproportionately along the coast, while the inland lags behind. Even Mao used the angry peasant class in his Long March. The only question is how long Mr Xi can avoid it happening again because it certainly will.

Mr Xi is correct on one thing. It certainly appears Washington is leaking power like it leaks secrets, but this is an illusion. Government power has always resided in the collection and utilisation of information. Knowledge = power.

It matters far less where US aircraft carrier groups are positioned, or how many Hollywood movies reach number one in China. What matters is how data is generated, what entity captures it and how it is used. This is why the map below is so important.



By 2020, an estimated 30 billion objects such as ovens, toasters and cars will be generating data. And in the second quarter of 2017, Facebook had 2 billion monthly active users, more than 1.74 billion of whom use a mobile device. Facebook is a quintessentially American inventions and it is transcending borders in the way only a faceless corporation can.

China has its own social networking sites, and its largest social network, Weibo, boasts 938 million monthly active users. Beijing uses it as a large-scale census tracker to “see” every citizen. Even without an active account, the software uses a shadow account built by the interactions they have with a person who does own an account. Facebook uses shadow accounts too – except it has one for every person on the planet (outside Russian and China).

A deeper discussion about how social networks are changing the nature of human interaction is probably worth its own column. But what’s most important here is how social networks are facilitating the rise of the US artificial intelligence industry.

AI needs data, but it also needs instructions. What better way to create robust AI than to let hundreds of billions of human hours teach the machines everything they need to know? The computer chip may well have reached diminishing returns, but AI still has a long way to go. Everyone is contributing to its development, largely for free. And the civilisation that controls the development of AI will be the first to truly deserve the classification of “global.”

Mr Xi might look like he’s leading an emerging superpower – and people will still need goods to be shipped on roads and across oceans for the foreseeable future – but China has barely left the starting blocks in the race for control over the most important economic development since the discovery of the New World. AI is not just technology, it is the core mechanism of global governance.

Left and right political distinctions are fading. The spectrum is now open or closed, no barriers or lots of barriers. The key point is that this is the way businesses talk, not governments. In China’s desperation to maintain social cohesion, it failed to connect with the world at a deep level: it is now playing a minor role in setting up the default assumptions of what it means to live in the good society.

In a market state, governments do not facilitate the wealth creation of their citizens, they maximise it. Mr Xi is distracted by the illusion that in the 21st-century central governments will be moving the pieces on the chessboard. He has to believe this because that's how he draws his power. But governments just keep the lights on. New players in business – specifically, US businesses – now sit at the geopolitical game board.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Big Shut Up is coming



Superheroines are fiction for a reason


"Dude, are you doing the Weinstein thing now? That was so October 8th...?" Yes, I realise I missed the meme train, but it's better to be correct than be part of the debate, especially when there is no debate.

Go get the rum, we're going to need it.

No, all of the rum.


I

Newspapers are running wall to wall op-eds about Harvey Weinstein's grabby-hands, 90% of which are written by females. Yup, I checked. All of the articles.

One angry keyboard basher is New Zealand journalist Nadine Higgins. She's a nice person, I suppose. We both worked a trade conference once, she was the emcee and I was covering it. All I remember is her red lace dress and tight camisole. I shouldn't have to mention that, but when she wrote about the Weinstein scandal her clothing choice became very relevant:
"His sloppy drunken descriptions of what he wanted to do to me, up against the bar where we'd been drinking with our workmates, mortified me. I told him as much, and his indignant response is seared in my memory. 
"Oh, come on, you wouldn't come to work dressed like that if you didn't want it."  
Um, what? 
I offered my senior colleague a random selection of expletives in response. They sounded brave, but I felt like I'd had the wind knocked out of me. Was that how everyone saw me?"
I call bullshit, Nadine. You're lying. First, "senior colleague" is just code for "white older male." Just say what you mean. Second, every attractive girl knows how she looks to men. Do you realise how much power men need to give up in order that you can refuse to engage with a man's perception of sexual relations in a bar? That guy had a point: how can you dress like that and not expect the attention? Are you just going to play dumb? I bet you have hopes and dreams about being seen as something other than a sexual object, don't you? Aren't you suspicious that the reason no man has corrected you on this is that they want to have sex with you?

Let's start from first principles: what does she wish to be true?

You notice her outfit, I notice they cropped away her wedding ring.
That's why you're normal and I write on this stupid blog
"Hey baby, nice dress" is one thing and groping another thing entirely, but sexiness isn't a homing missile, a woman can't select the targets. I don't know what Higgins (pictured) was wearing that night at the bar, and the dress was probably worn for not-him, but she knew there was going to be collateral damage.

Higgins is just a normal hot girl. She doesn't want to be seen as a sexual object but has no clue of the irony of her thinking. She wants people to have a certain thought, yet also demands they don't have a certain thought. She's trying to control other people's minds just as much as she claims men label her. As much as she wishes she could make everyone else accept the identity she's invented for herself of being a smart, capable journalist, the ugly existential truth is everyone has their own mind and they have decided she is a sex object. They may be wrong or correct, and she can certainly try and change this perception, but she cannot tell other people not to have it.

I'll accept she won't want to hear that I sat at her table because I wanted to see the shape of her neckline. I'll even accept I may be wrong to have thought like this. But I will not accept that my experience as a human and the information she was broadcasting led me to make conclusions about her that I am not allowed to have. No one has that kind of power, not even women.

She might retort that even if her sexual messaging was misplaced, I at least shouldn't conclude anything until I knew her better. But that's my point, if she knew who she was she wouldn't be playing multiple characters: eye candy and serious journalist. It may be wrong to expect a reporter to be sexy on stage, but if you say you have to be sexy as part of the job, you can't double back and say you weren't being sexy.

Hot girls are never told they are responsible not just for the words they say, but for what other people hear  not for the sexiness broadcast, but the sexiness received. Because if I were to ask if she'd like some magic to remove her hotness right now, she'll tell me to piss off. The things she wants are mutually exclusive, they cannot coexist. This is the root of her anxiety.

II

Why should I enjoy living in a world where being a man is a horrible thing, and no matter what a woman does, it's a wonderful thing?

Something bad happened to Gweneth Paltrow years ago, sure, but her aside, the real question is not how many women have ratted on Weinstein, but how many women haven't. Obviously, if some blonde from Nebraska agrees to follow him to his hotel room to "get a videotape" and Paltrow doesn't want to do this, that blonde will get all the good acting roles. Don't get angry about that. Paltrow is conveniently forgetting the Pretend Contract she already signed: we all make-believe her looks aren't part of the reason she gets acting jobs, and she pretends no one is looking at her that way.

The key is not to break that contract. Paltrow knows deep down the movie industry made big head goofy girls the standard of pretty. If she were a fat girl, she wouldn’t exist. She forgot that when a woman is chosen for certain reasons, she is also the kind of woman who wants to be picked for those reasons. That's the contract. You can't market yourself on looks and then pretend it wasn't the looks that go you here. You might wish people saw you as more, but you can't control what they see. No, yelling won't make this any less true.

Let me offer a contrary position, unpalatable but worth considering, and entirely invisible to Paltrow and Higgins: Harvey Weinstein needed to own and operate a multi-million dollar company, work for decades at a skill, earn a fortune and outmanoeuvre every other male competitor just to have the chance to have sex with a woman like Gweneth Paltrow. Do you see? He needed to lift his stature from a default level of zero just to get to the level a woman is already at by existing. And women complain that men control the sex?

In this world, a woman's sexual value is unbelievably overpriced, but it still doesn't give them any power. Put it this way: men have no ceiling on how valuable they can become in the eyes of a woman. But a woman can never be better than her vagina. What's enraging for men like Weinstein isn't that women are sluts, but that they are not sluts  that they are able to manipulate men and get what they want, without paying for it.

Weinstein shouldn't have done what he did, but his actions were only bad if you accept that a woman's sexual value is higher than zero by default. The answer isn't "teach men not to rape." The answer is to remove value from sex. All Nadine Higgins had to do was lower her vagina's sexual value to zero and her anxiety would disappear like the Madison Avenue-fuelled illusion it really is. That would be equality.

III

Higgins pretends to want to be free of male pressure, yet the pressure to look a certain way is actually much worse from women. A "patriarchal" controlling force, unacceptable if coming directly from men, is maintained by giving the whip to other women. Imagine if a boss man who isn't Weinstein said to her: "hmm, you should put on some makeup, doll yourself up a little bit." He wouldn't survive the time it took to pivot on his brown suede Hush Puppies. And yet women say this to other women all the time. Why is that less damaging? Don't show me the final calculation. Show your work.

But even if boss men don't tell Higgins to wear makeup, she does anyway. To her job. Why does she need makeup to host a trade conference? If women aren't objects then why is she painting herself? Makeup accentuates a woman's sexual attractiveness, so the only appropriate time to wear it is to look attractive to men. I'm not saying you have to look good for men, I'm saying that if not wearing makeup for men makes you feel better about yourself, you don't have a strong self. Everyone knows you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, now you're saying the cover of the book influences how the book feels about itself?

How is a father expected to raise a daughter in this reality?
Neither Paltrow nor Higgins can ever know if they succeeded in life because of their talents or because they have a vagina. That information is literally unavailable to them. Every day Higgins has to play a game in her head that men see her as an equal and not as a potential sexual partner, living in an exhausting state of permanent disavowal. No woman can ever know if it wasn't just a decision-making man who saw it as a chance for sex.

They want to both be part of the male world but retain their feminity, to exist in a state of "almost." Their complaints aren't part of a big power struggle. It's simpler than that. Women don't really like being women. They see men as unconstrained, free individuals, and themselves as constrained baby-carriers. And if they can't be free of their biology, then men can't be free either. It's the tri-force of ignorance, arrogance and resentment.

But embracing feminine sexuality can be a powerful thing when used correctly. Higgins and Paltrow should study former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher. They could learn something important. Christopher Hitchens understood when he wrote about it back in 1997:
Yet, at the party conference and in Shadow Cabinet meetings and in Parliament, she regularly reduced these chaps to mush. It was at the annual conference that, as I stood in the body of the hall, it hit me. That feline smile, the composed but definite body-language, the voice at once stern and cajoling... to say nothing of the Valkyrie helmet of blond locks. My god! She has them in her thrall! And she knows it! The minx knows it! It was for writing this that I got into the hot water of what nobody then called political correctness.
Mark the sequel: Not long afterwards, I was at a reception in the Rosebery Room of the House of Lords. She came. (I’ll try and keep this brief.) A mutual Tory friend offered to introduce us. I agreed with some alacrity. The subject of the moment was Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. I held one view on this. She held another. The introduction was effected. Did I imagine it, or did she recognize the name of the scribe who had hymned her feminine allure? At once we were embroiled in an argument on the subject of racism and decolonization. I was (I only mention it) correct on my facts as well as my principles. She was lousy on both. But what a bonny fighter! She wouldn’t give an inch. I found myself conceding her a trivial point, and bowing as I did so. She smiled.
“Bow lower,” she said.
Suddenly robbed of volition, I complied. 
“No — much lower.” 
By now near to drowning in complicity and subjection, I obeyed. She withdrew from behind her back a rolled-up copy of the Parliamentary orders of the day, and she gave me a sound smack before I could —how does one put this? — straighten up. I regained the perpendicular in some blushful confusion and difficulty, to see her swing away and look over her shoulder, the words “naughty boy” floating over me in my near trance-like state, as the journo witnesses closed in to say, “What was that all about?” I told them they would never understand, and — what do you know — they never did.
And if you're thinking, "eww, gross. How could anyone find Thatcher sexual?" then you're missing the point. Your mistake is to assume men think the same as women. They don't. Stop lying to yourself. Which brings me to my next point.

IV

Put Nadine Higgins aside for a moment. The male commentary on sexual harassment always makes the same basic mistake that men think women are just female versions of them. They think women are attracted to good looks and repelled by chubby, overweight men with shower fetishes. Wrongolongadingdong.

If your first thought about the Weinstein scandal was, "how could that man get those women" then I know for a damn fact you are both a man and have never been powerful, and more importantly, will never be powerful. A man cannot be powerful and think women are his equal. And I'll risk the blowback by saying a man cannot be powerful and think of anyone as his equal. You have to say out loud - "I am better than them/him/her." Say it straight to their faces, but say it righteously. The magic won't work if you don't believe it. They will eat you alive if they smell even a molecule of insincerity.

People want to be told what to do so badly, they'll listen to anyone. All you have to do is believe the message you're screaming. If your superiority isn't true, then make it true. That's how magic works. And do you know what happens once you think you're better than women? They like it. They respond to it. Women want a leader, they don't want to lead. They want to be able to look at their powerful man and say "he's mine." And if you think I'm only talking about women, then you're more broken than you realise. I'm free next week at 2 pm for a follow-up therapy session.

Most men don't know that women face an incredible amount of pressure to be looked at. The smart ones, like Thatcher and Victoria's Secret models, capitalise on this by trading their sexual attractiveness for resources and power. Which means we're not looking at the Weinstein thing correctly. We have to appreciate how the women who didn't complain see things. The silent ones.

Maybe they're silent because they're scared. Or maybe it's because women are attracted to what a man is, not what he looks like. An ugly millionaire like Weinstein can still get girls because of the status and resources he has, but an ugly female millionaire better have enough rooms in her mansion for ten generations of cats. She's gonna need the wall space.

Women and men aren't the same, even though that's the progressive narrative. But if this were true, did anyone stop to ask what the default desires would be? Would it be the males' or the females'? Why? If you're scratching your head, then try asking it from the system's perspective: which default mode would sell more consumer goods?

V

That's why I wanted to write this. All this talk of sexism and the patriarchy and culture wars are just distractions. The system doesn't care if you're a girl or a boy, it only wants you to act in the required direction. You gave the system you hate a spectacular blowjob, and then try to punish it by making it want you more. From the system's perspective, not only did it still get blown, it liked it even more. Why were these women fighting? "Is it freedom of choice?" Here's a hint, that's never the answer. Who cares what they were fighting for? All anyone wins is more ways to be obedient consumers. Wrong battlefield, ladies.

Men have been leering at women like Nadine Higgins and "abusing their power" for millennia and no one has ever done a thing about it. And yet this event, this stupid story, covered the headlines like a cold wind. Why now? I can't be the only one who noticed the curtain swaying.

Over the weekend, I watched the 1981 movie Quest for Fire. It's a French-Canadian film about cavemen. Shut up, I thought it was cool. Plus it got me thinking.

What bothers me about Higgins lying about her reality is I can feel the Quest for Fire coming out in men. Women keep getting louder and more shrill with their nonsense. Everybody is fake mad with fake outrage because they have nothing else to do. "I'm outraged!" That's such a vaginal term. Men never say that. It's all a game. No one should be "outraged" if they aren't shaking pitchforks. Anything else is just frantic energy.

Did you answer my question about consumerism? In all their "outrage," did Paltrow and Higgins ever pause to ask why so many women are allowed into historically-male positions of power and status? I assume they still believe men are in control, right? So why don't they tell me about the Great War of the Sexes when the Female 3rd Mechanised Infantry Brigade rolled their tank forces over the crushed and defeated Male Army and took power? I think I missed that part in the history books. Oh, wait, that didn't happen. Women didn't take power, they were given it. And now they're yelling? What happens next, ladies?

Did you see the wind move the curtain? I did.

That bitter taste isn't misogyny, it's just consumerism. The system wants you to be a battery. That's why you feel anxious. I think it's great when an individual woman succeeds, but I am asking, how does that help women in general? Female prime ministers reach that level because the system wanted her to. Affirmative action. Feminism. Civil rights. Gender equity. These "political" movements are only allowed to exist because they don't threaten consumerism. More women, gays and minorities as batteries? Sure, bring it on. Don't worry, they won't ever own the capital, and the minimum wage can be lifted gradually so long as the price of goods rises in concert. Oh, you thought that was to help the worker? Yeah, Girl Power!


How long would Paltrow last?

VI

People don't like it when I say this, but I want you to ask how much more money men need from women until they say: "Shut Up!"

Who knows what the maximum wealth of consumption really is? It could have 40 zeroes, or maybe 100. But that's not the end of the spectrum I'm worried about. The dangerous side is the minimum. Once GDP slips and enough people (men) go unemployed, this whole "emancipation" thing goes the way of the dinosaur right quick. Same goes for minorities, by the way. Or did I miss the Great Coloured Revolutionary War as well? Damn history books, always leaving out the good stuff.

Women and minorities don't notice the curtain swaying. And it sways for thee.

The men they keep messing with won’t take the whining forever. Women can yell and scream only because of the restraint of men. And they’re not giving us any credit for abiding by our social contract to choose not to slap them upside the head. Women have to understand that for them to be in positions of authority is not a guaranteed thing. It’s not natural. A few thousand years ago it was Quest for Fire everywhere. Men today are restraining themselves because consumerism rules the world. No one owns any of this, we're all just renting.

If women continue to put us in this little pokey spot with their harpy cackles of "misogyny," "sexism" and "patriarchy," one day men are going to stand up and say, get out of my face. Shut Up.

VII

I saw two tiny, 5'3 female cops walking down a street today. Tiny, tiny lady cops. And I thought: no one should be a cop if they can’t arrest me when they aren't wearing a uniform. Even some male cops are tiny, little baby cops. These people are police because I let them be police. I think all cops should be big enough to stop the largest dude in the city if he decides to get high on meth and start a rampage.

The only reason girl-cops can arrest me is if I let them. In any world of nature, there should only be giant cops. A small blonde lady telling me what I can’t do is just ridiculous. Sweetcheeks, you have five seconds to call two bigger actual cops, or I'm going to chew you like bubblegum. “Ten-four, there’s a guy treating me like a girl!”

At least that would force her to think about WHY calling the precinct solved her problem. In a world that reflects the nature of reality, the social contract and my respect for the law are the only reasons she gets to jab me in the ribs with her stupid stick. It used to be Quest for Fire. I can’t fight a cop. This has nothing to do with hitting females. The social contract stops me from hitting anyone who wears a blue uniform. If the lady cop thinks she has power, it’s only because of the uniform.

I really want you to meditate on what happens when GDP drops for too many quarters. I want you to comprehend what happens when enough men decide the social contract no longer makes sense for men. Because when that happens, there isn't a girl cop in the world who could walk safely by herself. Her authority is based on men allowing the handcuffs to be placed on him. This stuff you call society is really thin. And people like Nadine Higgins and Gweneth Paltrow with their nonsense want to scratch away at this veneer? I hope they know how to catch small mammals for dinner.

When women get a little power, they lose their minds and forget it can all go in the other direction. They are being allowed to invade male spaces because consumerism wants them there. Minorities and women will always feel anxious about living with white men for this reason. They have been given something that can be taken away. The freedom they have is entirely conjectural. It doesn't exist. It's a made-up theory. Deep down, they know this to be true.

The Big Shut Up is coming. You can smell it.

Artificial intelligence is a short con wrapped in a 200+ year long con

I approach this from a different direction: there’s a difference between doing work and doing a job. Jobs change all the time, but productive work is something everyone can do, even if people classify productive work in different ways. Success is defined differently by everyone.

The trick about the AI debate is that it says people should work for companies. Whenever there’s a problem in the market, it’s always the lack of jobs, not lack of work. Economic success is measured by the number of jobs. This makes people think success is being employed by someone else. Company owners don’t want people to compete and beat their company. So they are nudged in the wrong direction when the narrative is that AI will take away jobs. That’s called controlling the capital.

The question you should be asking is: how can I use the AI to monopolise an industry? Forget competition. Competition is for losers. The goal is always to own every property on the game board. I appreciate that AI sounds scary, but think about the competitive advantage to a person who shed that fear early? And how useful would it be if everyone else continues to worry about AI? You're not supposed to have this thought. Can you feel us being nudged in the wrong direction? I can.

I don’t know how much I buy the quasi-religious fears either, to be honest. AI folk display many hallmarks of the superstitious. Just because a person has four degrees in rocket science doesn’t mean they’ve escaped their human nature to see false patterns in noise. Smart people can believe irrational things just as deeply as non-smart people, they just use better arguments to convince themselves.

But nonsense is nonsense, and every generation thinks theirs will be the final one. People, especially in the Christian West, tend to start with the premise that humans are special and somehow apart from the natural world. So long as humans retain centre stage in the world, even if we think we’re destroying it, we’re happy. We have to be the main character in the story of life. But this is just a superstition. For all we know, ants might be the main character.

Also, every culture has some sort of idea that life exists after we die. Why would the “secular” crew in Silicon Valley be different? The AI folk tend to see its creation as both a terrible thing to be feared, while also hoping it will allow them to “upload” their consciousnesses into that AI, and therefore live forever. How exactly is this different from the twin ideas of God and Heaven? It’s the same thing, just with new names.

I don’t believe for a second Musk is an atheist. Nor is Ray Kurzweil. They’re both just crypto-Christians pretending to have transcended the natural human tendency and need for religious and narcissistic belief. Their desire to believe humans are important of course means they think AI will overtake human intelligence and threaten the universe (the universe, for crying out loud!!). The important thing for Musk is not that AI is a threat, but that AI is a threat that humans invented.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

On manners, arrogance and the Game of Nations

George Friedman, who I really like, wrote recently about manners in the political system. It's worth the read. He’s not the first person to reprimand the nastiness, but he’s the first to make me want to write about it.

It's always interesting that Americans want to throw the tea into Boston Harbour while holding onto some of their "father" country's ideals. You've written before about how the American empire is in its adolescent stage with a long way to go, and I agree. The way Americans talk about upper-class and aristocracy is like a teenager yelling at his parents, but stopping short of leaving because they still need to play Xbox later that evening. You either have a revolution and emancipate yourself from the "oppressive" father, or you stay a dependant. You can't split the difference.

The British adopted manners and customs when they were improvements. But it also knew - not suspected, knew - its core customs were superior. It wasn't shy about this. Recall the Indian custom of suttee (sati) in which a widow is immolated to symbolically meet her husband in the afterlife. The British were outraged when they saw this and said to the men with torches it was British custom to execute a person who murders. Suttee stopped pretty quickly after that. When Americans hear this story they scoff and mention colonialism and imperialism, but they are wrong. There are actual inferior practices, manners and customs. The British were proud of their heritage and India is better because of their conviction.

Only an American could write: "...manners are the foundation of democratic life." This is the problem. Americans do not practice manners for their own sake, or because those manners are superior. Americans practice manners because it is good for a specific type of government. No wonder your manners are falling apart. If they depend on the coherence of government, and that political base ruptures, then so do the manners. That is simply not good enough. This is an adolescent structure, and it bothers me that it takes a non-American to see this. What is it about the American system that precludes it from seeing itself as it really is? Where are your mirrors?

It shouldn't matter what political constitution possesses a country. What matters is a shared understanding and acceptance that a particular set of cultural values is maintained. America is singularly bad at doing this. In fact, its elite class not only attack core American values on an hourly basis, it refuses to codify its own set of values lest it become like its "father" the British and allow an upper-class through the back door. As if that would be poison to the present toxic system!?

Instead, the American elite says things like this (Friedman in a response article to his subscribers) :
"The danger, of course, is that manners can be weaponized. They are used to marginalize and ostracize and to consolidate the power of a class. English upper-class table manners were not simply a means of binding society together; they were a method of identifying those who were not in the upper class and a way to justify their exclusion."
And I can feel the contempt for an upper-class oozing out. You don't even try to hide it. But why? What is so bad about an upper-class? Is it because not everyone could get in, by definition? Or is it because you might not get in, and if you can't, then it shouldn't exist? And yet no matter what the American elite tries, an upper-class exists in the US. Sure, it drapes itself with the semiotics of equality: philanthropy, gifts, grants, ripped jeans, baseball caps, driving its own cars, etc. But the poor know what's going on, they always do.

Americans are teenagers. They want to hang out with the underprivileged by day but return to gated communities before the street lights come on. They disparage upper-class manners in a paranoid fear of "dad" but know a lower-class can't exist without its counterpoint. Upper-class is inevitable, so it's up to the members to ensure its values are legitimate, proud and superior. Society depends on the aspirational. Consumerism depends on aspiration. Advertising is based on one thing: happiness, but it must be forever just out of reach. That's upper-class. But Americans are acting like Peter Pan without a NeverLand.

The only way manners can survive in America is if its people accept theirs are objectively better than anyone else's. It might be a matter of faith to believe this, but who cares? Everyone else makes that leap. Why does America always think it has transcended the necessary components of what makes a good society? Why does it fantasise about equality, when all the evidence says it is impossible? Millions of people risk life and limb just to get into the US. They don't do it because of Medicaid and SSI. They do it because migration is a vote with one's feet that the place you depart is inferior to the destination.

Here I have to point out that this specific American disease of cultural relativism has reached our fine shores too. A Chinese girl recently complained to me that too many Asians now live in Auckland, New Zealand. She doesn't like what this city has become and said the more Chinese living in Auckland, the more Auckland mimics China. She left China to get away from that culture. Now it follows her? She was the most defensive person of New Zealand culture I've met in a long time. She knew whatever it is that makes this country New Zealand is superior and should be maintained. I can't tell you the last time I heard that from a native New Zealander. This is a disease, and it's spreading.

That's why we need people like you, George, to confidently state that American manners and customs are better. No argument. State outright and proudly that the country you love must be maintained. Not because "democracy" is your political structure, but because American manners and culture are objectively better. And if they aren't, make them better! You already know how to do this. There's no need to adopt anyone else's.

If you can't do that, then not only will you have failed to learn the central lesson of the rise of Donald Trump, the "barbarians" circling your borders will notice and tear away at everything you love. You have to be arrogant in the Game of Nations. You have to think your culture is worth more. Otherwise, those with deeper cultural convictions and higher bravery will take it all from you.

It's time to grow up, America.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

The Puritan origins of Trump hatred

To Americans, religious conflicts happen in other countries. The Sunni fights the Shia in Iraq, which is why the country is broken. Hindus don’t like Muslims (and vice versa) in South Asia, explaining the nuclear-tipped tension. And Russian Orthodox Christians still don’t get on with Roman Catholics in Europe.

Yet modern Americans think of themselves as "freethinkers" and “progressive,” reinforcing the narrative that faith is something other people do. But how is it that the US displays all the hallmarks of a religious conflict and yet simultaneously denies it? This hatred of Donald Trump is no ordinary revulsion. It deserves a better explanation than “racism” or “nationalism.”

Judging by intellectual descent, teacher-to-student, modern American progressivism is not a secular ideology at all. It is a Christian ideology. "Progressive" originates as an adjective to Christianity. Modern American progressivism is a Puritan revival, with roots in the Social Gospel movement of the late 19th century. There is no serious historical dispute of this – it is traced superbly over 350 years in George McKenna’s The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism.

The title is slightly misleading – it might as well have been called The Puritan Origins of Everything Everyone Believes, Or At Least Is Supposed To – and it focuses a little too much on the US and not enough on English thinkers. McKenna should have at least started at the Cromwellian period. But it’s a masterly intellectual history of the modern universe and it’s published by Yale, so it must be right.

Studies like this show left-wing “atheism” is really just an extreme version of the Puritan opposition to idolatry in religion. The Puritans hated Christmas for exactly the same reasons: as an idolatrous, superstitious festival. Removing the theological component once and for all is simply the natural last step in the Puritanisation of Christianity.

The conversion of American Puritanism – whose mainstream always has been, and always will be, whatever young people are taught at Harvard – from a Christian sect into a secular/civic religion is a fascinating process. Note, for instance, the political importance of institutions such as the YMCA a hundred years ago. The YMCA was holy when Washington was unholy. Now that progressivism has captured the Beltway, what is the YMCA? A gym.

Also, note separation of church and state doesn’t apply to progressivism because it is “atheistic.” Who cares where the lines are drawn, ask who draws the lines. History shows progressivism’s historical roots are in America's most prestigious and powerful form of Christianity – Massachusetts Protestantism. Only 60 or 70 years ago, this belief system was described as not just religious but fanatically religious.

The basic problem with conservative critiques of socialism is their refusal to recognise that socialism is fundamentally Anglo-American in origin. They focus on thinkers such as Karl Marx who, while born a German Jew, did most of his work in the British Museum and, when he wasn't leeching off Friedrich Engels, made his pay-check by writing columns for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune. Distracted by Marx's enormous beard, they miss the obvious (and much more embarrassing) WASP-Puritan connection.

Marxism has little to do at all with the modern progressive movement. Until the past few decades, the socialist and radical movement in the Anglo-American world was always associated with Christianity. Before the 1950s, the US as a Christian nation was generally accepted. But when the Warren Court revised this tradition by dramatically expanding civil rights, civil liberties, judicial power and the federal power, it had the letter of the law on its side. Effectively, progressivism rose to power through Christianity and then used that power to "pull up the ladder" – a classic Machiavellian manoeuvre.

It’s all the same Christian tradition. The details change. The details will always change. In French theologian John Calvin's day, they took Corinthians seriously that men with long hair offended God. Today, burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment. Logicians can argue either point. All kinds of evidence – biblical or scientific – can be deployed. But no progressive will ever conclude burning fossil fuel is good for the environment.

Religions should not be analysed by their doctrinal elements, which are constantly shifting and often intentionally confusing. It’s much more enlightening to judge them by the organisational structures they create in the real world. Only then can one understand this strange Trump hatred, and why progressives change the subject every time someone mentions Edward Bellamy's utopian novel, Looking Backward.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

A few thoughts on MMP and a constitution

I still don’t quite understand why we’re experimenting with MMP in New Zealand. It was imposed by Harvard and the State Department as a punishment for Germany after 1945. They did so to avoid a single party gaining power in that country through legitimate democratic means.

What cracks me up is that today the CDU/CSU and the SPD (its two main options) are pretty much the same party, but they can get away with forming a “grand coalition” only because they both comport with Harvard’s ideology and State's plans. So, in reality, the German system is set up like this because Washington doesn’t want certain types of democratic ideals gaining power. It’s a specific kind of prevention. Hmm, I wonder what those certain types could be…?

Why would NZ want a Constitution? Wellington already harmonises itself with Washington on damn near everything (at least, on everything important). I’m not saying I like being an American satrapy, but the point of a Constitution is to codify a government based on one’s own ideals, not someone else’s. And since NZ’s public policy “experts” aren’t anywhere close to being on the sufficient level to even begin thinking for themselves, a Constitution would just be theatre and unnecessary friction. Why bother?

And as far as I’m concerned, the longer MMP continues to fragment political power here and maintain the public illusion that voters “turf the buggers out” every three years, the better. Why? Because the system of government exported by Harvard is socialism, and socialism at its core is the rule of experts. So, under this structure, if "public policy" experts (mandarins, professors, journalists, etc) are able to get on with running the machine, the smoother it all flows. That’s the reality. Your vote is just a way to keep you busy. People don’t like it when I say this, but it’s true nonetheless.

Experts hate democracy like the devil and want politics shelved indefinitely. But there are still too many old people alive who believe in the WWII Allied propaganda and think democracy is the best of all possible governments.

It doesn’t ultimately matter because the civil service works on the scale of a full career, not 3-year cycles. Those officials will be around for 40-50 years perhaps. They’ve got plenty of time to chip away and side-line politics. We can already see democracy being belittled in the minds of younger people. For example, who hasn’t heard: “[insert politician here] is a [policy] denier! Listen to the [ministry] and [university]! They know best!”

The propaganda is simple: voting is good because it limits your political action to a single, benign action with zero consequence.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Secession and the art of government

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has asked the regional parliament in Barcelona to suspend secession to reach a negotiated solution with Madrid. He wants to move forward cordially, using democracy and peace, saying Catalonia has been denied the right to self-determination. Madrid ruled Catalonia’s independence referendum illegal in early October.

Democracy hides a quiet paradox. It’s supposed to be about listening to the people, but when the system mixes with nation-states, everything starts to unwind. Not every nation has a state, and not every state is a nation. The Catalonians want out, and fair enough. But what comes after? Should it still be nation states, or something smaller? If the latter catches on, then maybe it’s all over for democratic regimes.

There’s only one real reason to talk about secession: the exciting chance to create a new sovereign structure beyond the nation-state. The problem is the old regime always stands in the way. When it eventually dies, what will that moment look like? Is this why we’re supposed to be watching Spain?

The nation-state is looking old. Everyone feels this. Nation states are human organisations, not mystical institutions. They won’t last forever. It’s being kept in cryogenic suspension by the 20th-century idea that governance – thought for all of human history to be an art – is really a science called “objective public policy.”

Policy scholars are carefully selected for race, gender, intelligence and political reliability. They try to use the scientific method to decide action and none ever feel responsible for the success or failure of their policies. And even though public policy and science have no more in common than lawn tennis and dry-docking, the true rulers in Spain are still the professors, journalists and the mandarins. After all, who really runs the show in Syracuse? Dionysius, or the men who write his laws and speeches?

Catalonia’s core complaint is the same across the continent: "European socialism." They know there is nothing European at all about the EU, except that its offices are in Europe and most of its employees were born there. European socialism is the export version of American progressivism, the thinking of Harvard, of John Kenneth Galbraith, George Ball and others.

American public policy is purer in Europe because all its political enemies were exterminated in 1945. The US Army did not shoot all the professors in Europe, but the prestige of conquest is such that it might as well have.

Catalonia wants to secede not because the EU is a success, but because it is a failure. Spain is an excellent place full of excellent people with many assets. Madrid is not one of them. If Spain has seen any prosperity it is not because of Brussels but despite it. Freedom, like anything else in government, is an art. Catalonians know their life is made duller, more rigid and monotonous by the nation-state. And now they want their own? That’s not “wanting out,” that’s madness.

They argue that secession is a libertarian moral necessity. Little do they know, socialists also believe socialism is a moral necessity, and there are a lot more socialists than libertarians. This kind of revolt against progressivism will never succeed because libertarianism contains at its core a shard of pure Left. The Catalonians are using the Ring against Sauron. That will never work. It needs to think differently.

Freedom is not a function of "rights" or political power. It is a function of personal independence. Similarly, privacy (which is a form of freedom) is a function of personal security. Government is a wonderful and essential service and it works best when provided by dull people with no imagination at all. Merchants, judges, policemen, and if necessary, generals. Anglo-American political thought can’t handle this wisdom, but freedom achieved through authority is well-known in the East.

The Catalonians are mistaking disorder for freedom. They believe it is possible to make government smaller by weakening and dividing sovereign authority. That’s fine in the short term, but benign anarchy never lasts. Power is easy to divide and tough to unify. The nation-state mixed with democracy always leads to division, less unity of authority, and a bigger, nastier government.

If Catalonia really wants change, it should aim for smaller, more manageable government and get as far away from “public policy” as this green earth can take them. Right now, Catalonia’s “secession” is simply the reimporting of progressive government through the back door. It’s like injecting yourself with your own sarcoma and calling it a skin transplant. It’s time to think bigger, which means smaller, and to desire more order, which means more freedom.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The West isn't collapsing, it's just getting warmed up

I've often wondered what feudalism would look like with modern technology, anti-biotics and dentistry.

So I'll paint an answer to whether the West or more specifically, the US, is nearing collapse. My interpretation will play with virology to describe why movements for change make just enough noise to become no threat. Just enough for catharsis. But never enough for proper change, because protests and conflict within the substrate always perpetuate the status quo. You have to come from truly outside the system to threaten anything and today there is no outside.

People say Western society is Judeo-Christian. That’s only half true, and not in the direction that helps any understanding. Morals are a dime a dozen because societies that embrace murder don’t tend to last long. Morals tend to align across cultures and over time as societies discover the most conducive ways of living with each other by stumbling on the natural limits of human interaction. But religion can’t flourish without a larger system to plug into. So, we have to go higher than just saying "God did it." (Besides, don't you want to know how God did it?) Instead, we have to ask about the system Christianity latched onto, or, more precisely, what system chose Christianity as a useful adaptation?

My answer is the system is Greco-Roman. Wow, big news. Stop the presses. Ok, hear me out. While I don't like starting the clock at some arbitrary moment, we have to start somewhere. So let's tentatively start with Christianity moving north out of the Levant with St Paul, who was a Roman citizen.

It then travelled through Greece, where it picked up the disciplines and ethics of rationality and logic, before landing in Rome due to the unhinged nature of a guy called Constantine. The Emperor was a superstitious dude who chose Christianity almost on a whim after seeing a giant cross one night in a dream just before a pivotal battle to decide who would rule Rome. He won the fight and codified Christianity into the Roman system from the top-down, effectively meeting a grassroots movement halfway. Christianity in Constantine’s day was an invasive political sect and it didn’t take much for Rome to realise that switching its persecution to control the tenets and overlay the belief onto the major sections of the system would be a good idea.

So, temples became churches, taxes became tithes (to an extent), priests became clergy, prayer to Mars became prayer to Jesus, emperors became popes (to an extent), etc, etc. Essentially, the Greco-Roman system played host to Christianity’s virus. And rather than killing the host, Christianity attached itself to the DNA like an endogenous retrovirus (ERV). In one description of evolution, organisms experience punctuated leaps in mutations as a result of viral exposure at the coding level. The core structure of the organism remains, but mutations introduce new features on the DNA strand and it eventually the animal undergoes speciation. Society acts this way as well.

Under my theory, the basic structure of the Greco-Roman system persists in 2017, having experienced a series of power flows between and amongst people living in that system. When one side wins, they capture the institutions of the Greco-Roman system and rename them. When names change, you can trace back to find the victor, and therefore locate the new virus as it latches onto the central strand. A few moments can be located.

For instance, the information dissemination mechanisms (let’s call them “repeaters”) of each power is useful because not only does it persist through time, it often functions as the renaming entity. The Romans located their repeaters in temples, which were eventually captured by the new power believing in Christianity who changed the repeaters to churches. Then Martin Luther came along with the Gutenberg Press and wrenched the repeaters away from the Roman Catholics towards the official press, which was an invention of the emerging “body politic” (civil service) largely owned by his Protestant Christians.

Later, the Industrial Revolution allowed the official press and civil service to fully take control of the repeaters from Protestant churches and to organise the state-nation, which became the nation-state. The culminating point of this flow was the invention of broadcast television between 1980 and 2000. Then at the turn of the millennium, the internet wrenched the repeaters from the official press and civil service and flowed them toward international business (part of the “extended civil service”). Today's new repeater controllers are carrying on a system that’s been alive for 3000 years. By the way, I missed out the part where lots of blood was spilt. History isn't pretty.

The United States is the nation-state that symbolises the new power over the Western institutions. It operates under the assumptions of the most successful strain of mainline Protestant Christianity called Unitarianism, aka Puritanism. After the ideological battle in Britain between Roundheads and Cavaliers, the Roundheads landed in the 13 colonies of the American east coast, took over Massachusetts, overwhelmed the rest of the Continental US, before eventually returning to Europe to challenge the competing Christian adversaries during WWI and WWII, before finally defeating the Russian version of Unitarianism (communism) in 1989. Today, control over the Greco-Roman system sits firmly in Washington with the entire planet operating under (or at least moving towards) the default assumptions of egalitarianism, equality, American-style democracy, fiat currency, parliamentarians, civil service bureaucracy, citizen-based revenue, etc.

The shifts in Greco-Roman power can also be registered in the constitutions of its society. The princely state evolved into the kingly state, which became the state-nation and then nation-state, before moving into the market state. The Treaty of Augsburg, the Peace of Westphalia, the Treaty of Utrecht, the Congress of Vienna, the Peace of Versailles and the Peace of Paris are other clear waypoints in these evolving constitutional orders. Ultimately, the underlying Western organism interacted with new viral exposures but stays alive, getting more complex each iteration.

The Greco-Roman system straddles the globe today. It has quite literally eaten the world. There isn’t a space in this world that isn’t a nation-state. Even the Chinese, our supposed “adversaries,” still turn up to business meetings wearing suits. Are those Sino sartorial choices? And what about international business China conducts every day? If you look closely, you'll see these are actually Western ideas, transmitted planet-wide, overwriting all competing modes of government. The West achieves this through hard power (masses of men and metal) and soft power (jeans and I Dream of Jeannie). It is so successful that angry people are always acting IN RESPONSE to Western actions. By doing so, they assume the West has agency, and they do not. This is how power works.

One day Islamists or Chinese will assume their traditional cultures (which have only been captured, not destroyed) are acting while the West is reacting. At that moment, you'll know the Greco-Roman system has collapsed. It's all about initiative. It might occur tomorrow or next year. But I wouldn’t bet on it. After all, the only thing that comes from grassroots is grass, and it doesn't really need your help. It just needs you not to have the time to consider planting something else. Power doesn't care about your motivations, so long as you act in the required direction.

The Greco-Roman system operates so that the institutions and repeaters self-organise along a synopsis, rather than rely on hierarchical instruction. For instance, when ISIS invaded Mosul in 2014, they were careful not to break the fibre-optic cables. Why do I point this out? Because the internet is the quintessential Western invention. It is flat, free, egalitarian, unstructured, business-run, open, global and written in English code. ISIS thinks it’s just a technology, which is why I knew the West already won. Using the internet forces ISIS to accept the default Western assumptions about living in a good society (flat, free, egalitarian, etc). ISIS is fighting on a battlefield chosen by the West. The group failed to see how "social media" is actually just a vivid metaphor for globalisation.

Really, there are two types of people in the US: old-style Christians and new-style Christians. The new-style are commonly called “progressives,” even by themselves. They are not only firmly in control of all the major repeaters (universities, official press, NGOs, civil service, etc) but despite what they promised, they never changed any part of the “patriarchal, oppressive” system they claimed to despise in the 1960s. Changing the system? Don't play its game. The system will spit you out as not digestible or subvert your movement from the inside.

All they wanted was power. And the used democracy to get it. Which means we have to look at democracy as a tool, not a separate form of government. Most have heard the maxim: if voting changed anything, they wouldn’t let us do it. Democracy is a method used by two or more aristocracies to gain power over the other. The victorious aristocracy then formalises into the natural mode of government: monarchy. That's just, like, what hominids do, man.

In the US, this formalisation is occurring. The new “progressive” version of Christianity has stabilised its control over the system and the new constitution of the Greco-Roman structure – the market state – is being administered by international corporates by creating a new body-politic/monarchist structure. That's why there's tension everywhere. We are living through the passing of the old constitutional order. Such shifts are categorised by epochal wars and a change in control of repeaters. I think the epochal war that boosted this present shift began with WWI, moved into WWII with the final decision being made at the close of the Cold War. They were the same conflict called the Long War. So we’ve already had the epochal war. And as I said above, the invention of the internet forced a change in control of Greco-Roman repeaters. This is the tension people worry about.

But let's look quickly at the civil service. It usually hides in plain sight, and yet a proper understanding of the system cannot be possible without appreciating the bureaucracy's power.

Since the world is basically a series of American-style governments with local characteristics, I'll use Washington as my canvas. The US has not one, but two, competing executive branches: executive A, the democratically elected "political" system symbolised by the White House, and executive B, a "nonpartisan" civil service isolated from "politics." The simplest definition of executive A is that it covers all political appointees. Executive B is everyone whose salary is paid by tax dollars and who is not in executive A. The two executives have almost no power over each other. The Hatch Act pretty much prevents civil service employees from being involved in "politics," while the Pendleton Act (ending the "spoils system" and enacting "civil service reform") prevents 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from making personnel decisions in most of the executive branch.

The White House appoints some top-level employees in executive B departments. However, these "political appointees" have neither budgetary nor personnel authority. They are not analogous in any way to a CEO of a private corporation. All they can do is slow things down. And as we've seen lately, the White House does not really have management control over them either. (It matters whether the "people" elect a Democratic or a Republican president, but since the New Deal, the Democrats have served the interests of the civil service faithfully and without cease.) The one major department over which the White House has any influence left is DoD. And it tends to, um, overcompensate a bit.

Executive B is at least two orders of magnitude larger than executive A. For the last 60 years, the power of executive A relative to executive B has been decreasing, true also for New Zealand and Australia. In any conflict between executive A and executive B, the official press almost always sides with executive B. (In fact, the difference between the US and Europe, in which the official media is often a de jure part of executive B, is insignificant. Does the BBC act under a different set of incentives than CNN? I doubt it. The civil service is "responsible," which is just a synonym for power.)

In general, the employees of executive B are smarter, more professional and more competent than the employees of executive A (cough Donald Trump cough). If you want a counterexample in which a state operates an executive B, but no executive A, look no further than the mighty People's Republic of China. Close behind it is the European Union. Those two are far more evolved towards the new reality than the laggard US (pity for them this lead won't translate to any real power).

Executive B has no connection with "democracy" at all, but selects itself, as it has for the last century. With a construction like this, why bother with executive B and its version of the Truth? Why not just ask the Pope? After all, the Catholic Church has been selecting its elders from the ranks of its own not just for the last century, but for the last 20. The transition will dispense with the charade of an executive A eventually. Anyone who wants to get rid of this bureaucratic one-party state - executive B, - should know that electing Republicans with real estate experience is not the answer.

The way I see it, the US-led Greco-Roman global empire of progressive Christianity is like a human lifetime. A person goes through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, maturity and finally hits old age. I think the US is presently in its adolescent stage of its turn to administer the Western system. Aren't adolescents characterised by the emotional outburst, irrationality, poor foresight, lack of confidence, hatred of parents, etc? This pretty much narrates Washington's actions, I think.

The system of the Greeks and Romans grows stronger every day. It likes to nudge you towards the binary extremes so it is easier to control you. It wants you to have opinions, it wants you to "pick sides", "get involved", "take a stand." Anyone who thinks the profound changes happening in the world now are going to result in greater democracy or equality is not reading The Economist as carefully as he should.