Saturday, July 21, 2018

Cockburn goes crazy and hears things that nobody said.

A response to 'Trump Knows That He Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit' by Patrick Cockburn
“English nationalism as expressed by Brexiteers is a strange beast. Donald Trump gives an interview in which he assumes the right to intervene in the conflict between Theresa May and Boris Johnson over Brexit.”
He assumed no such right. He merely pointed out, correctly, that May's current plan is a dog's breakfast that would make a free trade deal with America very hard. This isn't an attack on Britain's independence like Obama telling the UK that they would go to the back of the queue if Brexit happened.

He speaks with the same confident authority as he would in his own country, sorting out differences in the Republican Party over who should be the next senator for Alabama or South Carolina.”
Well firstly I don't think that he has much influence on on who gets to be Senator. Secondly he isn't selecting who is going to be in power in the UK, he's merely pointing out the mistakes that May has made and that need to be corrected, and WHY they need to be corrected. Should he have kept quiet about that? Should the British public have waited until a trade deal with the US was impossible because of the Chequers plan? Or should they have been informed of the difficulties that Trump, informed by his State Department sees?

His attempted roll-back later does not alter the tone or substance of what he said.
The aim of Trump’s intervention in the short term is, as always, to top the news agenda and to show up everybody, be they allies or enemies, as weaker and more vulnerable than himself. “

More dangerously for Britain, in the long term, his domineering words”
How is it 'domineering' to point out problems that a plan has? He commented that he could have done the deal better, but then a retarded daschund could have done a better deal. He isn't telling her what to do, he's telling her something she is doing is a bad idea and will have consequences and what those consequences are.

set down a marker for the future relationship between the UK and the US outside the EU which could be close to that between the colony or the vassal of an imperial state.”
How? He's not telling May to bow, or provide troops for his wars, or take orders from him on any matter, foreign or domestic. He's simply saying “this is a problem, here is why and how”.

The terminology is the Brexiteers’ own: Johnson claimed in his resignation letter that the Chequers version of Brexit a few days earlier was so watered down that it meant that “we are truly headed for the status of a colony”. “
And is he wrong? What is the status of a society that must ceded to those outside itself control like control the EU has without any input into how that control is exercised? If this is not a colony what is it?

He cited, as concrete evidence of this servitude, the anger he felt towards the EU for frustrating his efforts to protect cyclists from juggernauts, though media investigation revealed that it was the British government that blocked the life-saving measure.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the fundamentalist Brexit leader, reached back far into the Middle Ages for a bizarre analogy to illustrate his point that Britain would entirely fail to escape the EU yoke under the terms envisaged in the White Paper on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. He described the intention to keep Britain within the EU rule book for goods and agriculture as “the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Phillip II at Le Goulet in 1200”.
The use of such an arcane example is presumably intended to show that Rees-Mogg has deeply pondered the great triumphs and betrayals of English history. In doing so he unintentionally reveals one of his many blind spots by choosing an event long preceding the creation of a British nation state incorporating Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
What blind spot? He is stating the truth, whether that statement involves an example that pre-dates the conquest of Scotland, Wales and Ireland is irrelevant. That they became colonies doesn't mean England should. Particularly since at least the Celts could claim they fought it and didn't give their sovereignty away like lollipops at the dentist.

A problem about the whole Brexit debate, which has confused the issue since long before the referendum in 2016, is that discussion is focused on the economic connection between Britain and the EU when it should really be about the political relationship.”
Yes and the Brexiteers were quite keen to do that weren't they? It was the Remainers that didn't want to talk about it. I wonder why?

Trump says that the present Brexit plan rules out a US-UK free trade agreement, but even if it did not, there is a strong element of fantasy and wishful thinking in the Brexiteers’ vision of Britain’s economic future.”
What do you mean “even if it did not”? Are you pretending that the present Brexit plan is somehow to essential to the vision of Brexit and that abandoning it will somehow make the Brexiteers' vision less reality based?

Again it is worth looking at Johnson’s letter because it is almost touching in its naivety and wishful thinking about Britain’s future place in the world economy. We are to stifle “self-doubt”, and instead be more “nimble and dynamic and maximize the particular advantages of the UK, as an open outward looking economy”. “
What is wishful about that? What is wrong with trying to be more responsive to economic incentives provided by the rest of the world? What is naïve about thinking that is possible? Without some evidence that this is not 100% achievable calling it naïve is simply shaming tactics.
Apparently, the world is full of hermit kingdoms that have long been short of such vibrant economies and, once freed from the shackles of the EU, we will be able to meet their long unsatisfied needs.”
What are you talking about? Nobody mentioned 'hermit kingdoms' and surely in a trade deal they're not really relevant. The world is full of nations that wish to trade with the UK. I don't know why you ignore this fact.

It is easy to mock and the mockery is well-deserved,”
Then why weren't you able to point out a single thing he said that was wrong? Why did you have to strawman his position to mock him?

but it should be balanced with a much stronger part of the pro-Brexit case which is simply the pursuit of national self-determination regardless of the economic consequences.”
And how is that worse than the pursuit of European union regardless of the consequences? Yes people have other concerns than their pocketbook, how is that either naïve or bad?

This demand for independence has usually preceded the formation of nation states, once imperial possessions, the world over.

Most nationalist movements have claimed with varying degrees of truth or exaggeration that their economic, social and sectarian troubles stemmed from imperial misrule and independence would cure all.”
Who in the Brexiteer camp has claimed Brexit would cure everything?

When this fails to happen few nationalist movements have had a realistic alternative plan.”
Few? Citation needed. How few?

Brexiteers similarly buttress their perfectly legitimate demand for self-determination with dubious assumptions about the degree to which EU regulations hobble the British economy.”
Oh really? What do your numbers of how much the EU regulations hobble the economy say? Oh that's right you're a leftist, you don't do numbers.

Most Brexiteers are on the right so they are neither familiar nor comfortable with anti-imperial arguments traditionally advanced by the left.”
And yet Nigel Farage was the ONLY leader to point out the reality of the Ukraine coup.

They would not be happy to be reminded that much of what they say is the same as Sinn Fein – 'Ourselves Alone' – says today in Ireland or Indian and Kenyan nationalists said before independence.”

Wouldn't they? How do you know? Have you asked any? And what if it was the same and they weren't happy about it, wouldn't the argument still be valid?

A further cause of reticence is that focus on the economic benefits of Brexit masks the extent to which the result of the referendum – and the rise of populist nationalists in the US and much of Europe – are fuelled by opposition to immigration and racism.”
Ok then to what extent is the result of the referendum fueled by opposition to immigration and to racism? Oh of course you're not giving that number either because this is a smear not a serious argument.

But there is a price to pay for the Brexiteers’ skewed picture of Britain and its place in the world. If it leaves the EU, as seems inevitable, it will become a lesser power and no longer able to balance between America and Europe as, to a degree, it has hitherto been able to do.”
How would it become a lesser power? What would lessen it's power? How do you even know it won't become a greater power?

Dependence on the US will inevitably increase”
Why inevitably? What would Britain want, let alone need, that only America could provided? If Britain became a lesser power might it simply stop doing things great powers do and keep itself to itself?

and we have just had a rude foretaste of what this means for Britain’s future in the Trump interview in The Sun.”
So what this “dependence” means is that the US President can tell people the consequences of a proposed action on the negotiations between the UK and USA. Good.

He knows that Britain has nowhere else to go and must bend the knee,”
When did he ask them to bend the knee. He's telling them that they can't get something if they do a particular thing. He's not saying they have to not do that thing, merely that it's a bad idea with specific consequences.

something swiftly confirmed by the evasive British government response to his unprecedented intervention in the UK’s internal affairs.”
Calling it unprecedented is a lie, and even calling it an intervention in the UK's internal affairs is borderline dishonest. He gave advice on a foreign policy matter from the viewpoint of how it will affect US/UK relations. That is all.

The British government would clearly like the old post-Second World War order and Britain’s place in it to continue forever.”
What has that got do to with the Brexit negotiations even if it's true?

British politicians and civil servants are hoping that the Trump visit is a temporary bad dream but is in fact it an early sign of a post-Brexit reality in which Britain will play a lesser role in the world.”
How? Trump is not telling Britain what to do. Britain at this point is in control of it's own destiny, or at least Theresa May is in charge of it. Trump can't block the Chequers plan, all he can do is tell May how stupid it is and why. The fact that her own diplomats didn't tell her is revealing. There is no indication that Britain will play a lesser role in the world, or even not a greater one. You are just making shit up.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Everyone is smart enough to keep a secret

This is a response to a video, but I can't for the life of me remember who it was I responded to.  Their point was that conspiracies are difficult because people are dumb.

The argument that secret societies can't keep secret for a long period of time because "people are dumb" doesn't follow.  People are smart enough to build bridges, conquer empires, get elected, build huge businesses, repair cities after devastating earthquakes and many other things.  Are we supposed to believe that keeping a secret is harder than all those things?

In fact your own expample of the Ministry of Magic shows that, where it concerns their interests, people are very smart.  Consider how much work the MoM put into convincing everyone it wasn't a totally useless, largely corrupt, incompetent mess of an organization.  It worked.  They managed to do that with very few exceptions and those were mostly people who had special knowledge of MoM screwups.  This is an amazing accomplishment that is almost (?) as hard as doing their ostensible jobs.  So you have an example of a successful conspiracy.  You don't need perfect people to have a conspiracy/secret society you just need the right incentives.

If it's hard to keep secrets then why did the mafia last for centuries, and stay so secret that the government denied their existance for decades?    Other conspiracies that worked for a long time were the British governments secret attempts to get the USA into WWII, which wasn't exposed until people started writing memiors, and the Conintpro FBI programs.  Keeping secrets doesn't require a lot of intelligence it just requires that you only communicate with people who will keep the secret.  If you have a system where there are a lot of people who benefit from keeping the secret or would be harmed if they revealed it, such as an intelligence agency or corporate beuracracy, then just having them talk mostly to each other works.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Law of the Stupid Argument and the "Gotta Find the Genes"

When someone makes a particularly stupid argument it implies that they don't have a convincing case without this argument.  If the argument is stupid enough it demonstrates that according to the facts they are aware of they are wrong.  This might not mean they are actually wrong, merely that they have lost the argument due to ignorance.

Take for example the claim that USA's higher homicide rates demonstrate that loose gun control laws result in higher homicide rates.  This is a bad argument because it's a post hoc promptier hoc fallacy.  The USA might have higher homicide rates for any number of reasons, including more slavery, self-selection amoung non-slave settleres etc.  Clearly a better argument would be "Since other countries implemented tighter gun laws their homicide rates declined" because that would deal with the societal differences between the USA and other societies.  That this argument isn't made means that it can't be made, at least not by the arguer, because they don't have the evidence this is true.

Another example is the Gotta Find the Genes argument against racial differences in IQ.  You do not need to find the genes responsible for a different probability of a trait to know they exist.  That is obvious when you consider that genetic factors have qualities that non-genetic ones do not, and therefore you can test for these factors independent of testing for the actual genes.  Colour blindness follows a pattern of occurrence that is obviously genetic, and any statistical analysis of who displays it shows this.  This was suspected when it was originally found in two brothers.  Of course this was an insufficient sample, but now that we have results from millions of people and can compare the probability of someone getting it depending on various relatives having it we can conclude that it is indeed an   X-linked genetic disease.  Compare this to malaria, which affects people who are exposed to mosquitoes carrying plasmodium parasites.  It does not show the statistical patterns which a genetic disease would.  Therefore we can conclude that color blindness is genetic and malaria isn't.  Of course certain families display a lower likelihood of getting malaria in environments where it is likely and THAT has been shown to be genetic.  If someone says that you have to find the genes to show that IQ differences or anything else is genetic, then tell them they know so little science they don't know the difference between malaria and color blindness.  They know literally less than medieval doctors who although they were wrong about the cause of malaria certainly knew it was environmental not inherited.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Is objectivity a means of white male heterosexual supremacy?

"If feminism is a critique of the objective standpoint as male, then we also disavow standard scientific norms as the adequacy criteria for our theory, because the objective standpoint we criticize is the posture of science. In other words, our critique of the objective standpoint as male is a critique of science as a specifically male approach to knowledge. With it, we reject male criteria for verification."

"Questions of falsifiability look different in this context.  One consequence of women’s rejection of science in it’s positivistic form is that we reject the head-counting theory of verification.  Structural truths about the meaning of gender may or may not produce big numbers.  For example to say “not only women experience that” in reply to a statement characterizing women’s experience, is to say that to be properly sex-specific, something must be unique to one sex.  Similarly to say “not all women experience that” as if that contraindicates sex specificity (this point is to Larry Grossberg), is to suggest to be sex-specific something must be true of 100 percent of the se affected.  Both of those are implicitly biological criteria for sex: unique and exclusive."

Catherine McKinnon in “Feminism unmodified:  Discourse on Life and Law”.

TL;DR version, no it is in fact a threat to white male heterosexual supremacy.

To find out why let’s start by defining our terms.  White in this context means those that both identify as white and have enough of the genes that predominate in people who identify as white to be classed as European by genetic testing.  Male are those that identify as male and are treated as male by society in general.  Heterosexual are those with no significant attraction to the same sex and who are attracted to the opposite sex.  Supremacy is the possession of the ability to impose your preferences either individually or as a member of a group on another individual or set of individuals in contradiction to their own in a large proportion of cases.

Objective measurements by definition aren’t affected by the race, gender, sexuality or class of the observer.  A properly designed objective test does not yield different results if done by a poor black lesbian than a rich white straight man.  Nor does it yield different results if done ON a poor black lesbian rather than a rich white straight man unless those people differ in the thing tested for.  This means that having your own group in a position to conduct the tests is not helpful to maintaining that group’s power.  Since of course an incumbent powerful* group has more power to conduct tests and decide the significance of their results objective tests give them LESS power, not more than subjective tests.

An example of this is the “Shall Issue” reforms to Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) permits in parts of the United States.  Legally carrying a weapon, particularly a firearm, concealed required a permit. Only Vermont allowed concealed carry without a permit.  There were often no formal rules about who should be issued such permits and the law was therefore effectively quite subjective.  Accusations that this resulted in favoritism and racist policies were common and no doubt had validity in many cases.  In the wake of a shooting where one person claimed she could have saved lives if she had been allowed to carry concealed a reform movement sprang up.  This resulted in many jurisdictions having “shall issue” rules that forced police forces to issue the permits as long as the applicant satisfied certain criterion or state a reason that a judge could reject.   The criterion were things like no previous drug or alcohol problems, domestic violence problems or felony convictions.   Adopting these relatively objective tests deprived the (predominantly) white, male, straight police departments of much of it’s power to refuse concealed carry permits.

To be clear this did not result in a completely objective system of permits or even one that was entirely racially neutral.  If black men are arrested and charged in circumstances that white men would not have been arrested and charged they would still be deprived of CCW permits at disproportionate rates.  However the reforms did result push the balance of power towards poor black people and others, away from rich white men who are able to control the political structure and therefore the police force.

Now the objection might be raised that the power to carry a gun is not a desirable power to give anyone, but that is not relevant to the point.  For a start what power a relatively powerless group should strive for really shouldn’t be decided by a relatively powerful group.  The latter need not have the required information about what power the former needs and in any case telling someone what power they can have is disempowering in itself.  Secondly the point is to give an example of objectivity acting against white, straight male power not an example of objectivity creating a real social good (although I believe it did both in these cases).

In fact objectivity will tend to act against the dominant group because, even if they try to use an appearance of objectivity to legitimize their power, objectivity cannot be totally faked.  If, for instance, a dominant group should argue that they should be in charge of X because they objectively have more of quality Y, that quality can be tested for.  If it cannot be tested for then obviously they are not really appealing to objectivity but to an arbitrarily assigned characteristic.

If a dominant group can assert it’s authority without reference to objective standards there is no limit to their demands on the subordinated group.  A group that claims objective standards can be held to those standards, at least in theory.  Of course it may not be practical to actually hold them to these standards in some cases, but the dominant group cannot violate them blatantly without sacrificing the ideological basis for their authority.  Since all authority is based on ideological claims, not force, claiming objectivity makes all authority vulnerable.  A claim based on subjective standards however cannot be challenged in the same way, since any challenger would find it impossible to prove their case, and an unproven case will be decided in favour of the powerful, because that’s what “power” means.

For another example of objectivity undermining white, male, straight power is civil service exams, particularly multiple choice ones and particularly where the marker has no direct observation of the subject.  These were introduced to defeat favoritism in government appointments and the corruption and incompetence they bred.  While I’m not arguing that they are a perfect or even necessarily the best form of candidate selection they do allow members of non-powerful groups to get power regardless of the wishes of the powerful.  A poor, black man who scores 135 beats a rich white man who scores 133.  Now of course differences in education and other environmental factors means that this need not be a perfectly fair test in terms of ability and/or effort, but it is objective.  There is a way to determine if the black guy or the woman or the transgender person “should” have won, and if it isn’t followed the elites could be in for trouble.  Contrast this with a subjective method of selecting employees where the guy who “seems right” for the job get it.  How would you determine if the selectors were being racist or sexist, consciously or unconsciously?   Of course not, and the fact that no blacks or women get in  merely “proves” that there are no blacks or women that the high, if vague standards required.

*    Whether formally powerful or powerful through some generally accepted social compliance.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

My little Jedi, friendship is magic.

So there's a mutiny in The Last Jedi, and so there should be.  It's about time we stopped portraying Imperial officers as soulless wimps who will take anything for fear... what it's in the Rebellion Resistance?  WTF? 

Ok to understand why that is so utterly stupid imagine that you control a space military and that much of it's work is guerrilla warfare.  You deploy fighter squadrons and even individual fighters halfway across the galaxy and assume they will do their job, even though they could run at any time and there's no way to stop them.  You even send them on what most of them think is a futile attack against a battlestation with literally trillions of times their firepower.  None of them ever desert even though they believe the attack is probably futile suicide.  Only an naive farm-boy thinks he can make the shot, experienced combat pilots don't.  Sounds like a pretty loyal bunch right?  So why are they revolting and not the Imperials who god knows have just cause to throw their superiors down a reactor shaft?

Well simply because the new trilogy doesn't get the fundamental dynamic of Star Wars, which is expressed in two aphorisms.  Good people have good relationships that lead to good results.  Bad people have bad relationships that lead to bad results.

Think about how many times the main three characters in the original trilogy saved each other.  Luke and Han save Leia.  Han saves Luke and therefore allows him to destroy the Death Star, saving Leia.  Luke tries to save Han and Leia but has to be saved by Leia instead.  How this happens relates to the second aphorisms but more on that later. Luke and Leia team up to save Han.  Every single main character, and most of the minor ones on the good side, would be dead without the main three having each other's back.

So let's look at the other team, do they play well with others?  Well frankly no.  I've worked in some pretty dysfunctional organizations but I've never had the boss intervene to stop someone strangling someone in a business meeting.  Nor have I seen anyone provoke such behavior by openly mocking someone's religion.  But that's just the start of the dysfunction junction that is Imperial "leadership".  It's an open question whether Vader saying "This ones mine" gave Han the few extra seconds he needed to line up his attack run on Vader and the other two TIE fighters.  What we do know is that it could have, so Vader was endangering literally millions of lives,  trillions of credits worth of supplies and the most powerful military device in the galaxy to paint another icon on his fighter.  What a dick.  With Tarkin dead Vader seems to get off the leash, choking whoever he wants and punishing people for not knowing smuggler tactics that the Imperial academies obviously never trained anyone in.  The fact that Vader has no idea where Han and the Falcon went doesn't stop him from blaming his subordinates.  It really improved morale you can tell.

But Vader's real crowning achievement in relationship incompetence comes down to a simple sentence.  He has altered the deal you see and you should pray that he doesn't alter it any further.  Now this is a bad thing to say to anyone because it indicates that you're unilaterally abandoning your commitments, while still expecting others to honor theirs.  After all the deal is "altered" not abolished.  But who would it be really bad to say that to?  Perhaps someone who doesn't trust you or your organization to start with, only agreed to help you to protect those under him, has experience with people screwing them over and knows they always do it twice if you let them, is smart and tough.  You know like that Lando guy.  The guy who runs an illegal city and therefore obviously knows how to deal with people both in a good way and a "I've dealt with the guy who tried to back-stab us" way.

But doesn't take the award for bad interpersonal skills in the original trilogy.  The envelope please.  The winner is Emperor Palpatine for his performance as "The gloating moron" on the second Death Star.  Yes why just sit back and watch the most powerful light side force user turn when you can laugh about it and totally destroy your chance to win.  Yes behaving like a complete dick feels so good it's worth risking death and the destruction of your legacy.  Bonus points for turning your back on the guy whose impending death you just gloated about as you try to kill the son who expressed respect for him.

So why was there a constant theme of good gets relationships (mostly) right and bad gets them (constantly) wrong?  Because the good guys actually tried to build relationships.  Not always competently but they were always trying.  They did things for each other because they had a genuine wish to have a productive and happy relationship.  The bad guys didn't.  They did what they were told because the other guy had more power, for the moment.  They neither desired nor pursued an understanding with their superiors, their subordinates or their piers.  This is because they didn't want to give anyone the respect or trust necessary to do that because they were evil and only related to others via domination.  Star Wars was a story in part about these two approaches to other people and how they work out.  And I emphasize WAS.  The new trilogy is about Mary Sues and not bothering to give people a reason to like you.  Which is why I won't be watching it.  Well one of the reasons anyway.

The Jedi are childless weirdos and TLJ should have been about that.

Firstly I'd like to say there's nothing wrong with being childless or a weirdo, but there's a reason neither is the normal position.  Most people form good relationships by NOT being these.

I have been reading and listening to people talk about "The Last Jedi" the latest Star Wars flick.  In it there is a lot of talk about learning from failure, and absolutely no actual learning from failure.  For instance Yoda says that she has all the wisdom in the old books, not telling Luke that's because she has the books. Those would be the books that have the Jedi "wisdom" that is part of why they failed in the first place.  Luke is the only one who actually managed to beat the Sith, but he teaches her almost nothing because he failed and he's depressed.  So what should he have taught her?

Well he should have pointed out that the Sith were beaten by people with good relationships because they had good relationships. The Sith were bitter, angry, obsessive freaks with power, and so they stuffed up every relationship they ever had.  They were able to manipulate people but not handle a genuine relationship.  The only people worse at relationships were the Jedi, so don't listen to them about beating the Sith.  When a man talks about how he keeps getting prophetic dreams about his loved ones dying you don't tell him death is great and you should be glad when it happens.  Palapatine didn't win Anarkin's loyalty, the Jedi lost it.

A good argument could be made that Luke, not Anarkin brought balance to the force.  He went full berserker homicide mode on his dad and didn't fall to the dark side.  He brought himself back from being absolutely full of hate, something the Jedi can't really do.  Could he have done this if he had abandoned his friends who were suffering because of him?   I don't know but probably not.  Luke is about hope and loyalty, and not going to his friends would have split his soul in a critical way.  Long story short, following Yoda's advice would have got Luke and possibly even Leia turned to the dark side.  Against the dark side you really need to know who you are, "I am a Jedi like my father before me.".  Bear in mind that Luke barely came back from the dark side as it is.  Without his friends...

But Luke forgets that's how he won.  He listens to Yoda.  Why?  Yoda is the old thinking that got the Jedi defeated.  Luke is the new thinking that destroyed the Sith (or at least those Sith that were visible).TLJ should have been about the power of normal relationships that aren't based on monkish obsession.  But SJWs hate normal relationships so that was never going to happen.