Virtual Reality and Conspiracy Theory Open Thread.

mmghosh's picture

Was Facebook was created by the CIA?  If so, why did they buy Oculus?  More than 60,000 Oculus Developer kits have been sold.  


Sony is readying its version.  No doubt factories in China are retooling to make 6 billion headsets.


Developers could be looking at putting the user inside Old Trafford.


And why stop at games?  Users could be conductors of orchestras, members of a rock band in a concert, or take the viewpoint of the pilot hitting a high value target.  Or other things.


Boggles the imagination.

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You should come, you'll like it. It's fun.


We were at a movie theater together with our families a year or two ago in San Francisco, coming down from a movie, and we saw there was a little booth set up with Big Lebowski posters on it and a young woman sitting on the other side of this table, maybe 17 or 18 years old, and Ethan stopped and said, "What is this?" And she said [without knowing who they were], "Well, we show The Big Lebowski every night and people come dressed up in costumes. You should come, you'll like it. It's fun."

Takedown of talking points memo by crookedtimber


TPM is publishing sponsored content by PhRMA "arguably the sleaziest ... lobbying group on Capitol Hill"



2016 is a perfect time for Democrats to go left


Concerned that the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal has damaged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s political standing and alarmed by the steady rise of Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), prominent donors, conservative leaders and longtime operatives say they consider [Jeb] Bush the GOP’s brightest hope to win back the White House.


Jeb Bush in 2016? What a terrible time to play it safe with a centrist candidate like Hillary.

Hillary is the obvious candidate.


Grab the center - you will own everything to the "left" of where-ever you plant your flag. 


That's on paper of course. To me she looks fragile. Worn out. I'm not sure she has it in her really. She might win the race handily enough but I don't think she'll be able to do the job well.


It's a pity really that the Republican party couldn't run her. They'd get a sane candidate with a chance of winning and the Dems could run someone with a less paleolithic outlook on the world.

Usually the center is No-Man's-Land in US politics.


The left will shoot you to pieces as readily as the right if you're too much of a centrist. 


Hillary isn't as fragile as all that, though she would be old.  Born on 26 Oct 1947, on Inauguration Day, 20 Jan 2017, Hillary Clinton will be 69 years, 2 months and 26 days old.  Ronald Reagan was 69 years, 11 months and 15 days old on 20 Jan 1981, his inauguration date. 


AFAIK, Hillary doesn't have any major health problems.  Reagan's first term showed him holding up reasonably well, though he was not a healthy man.  Reagan had smoked heavily for years, had prostate stones, practically deaf in one ear, he suffered from both skin and colon cancer and had surgeries for both.  Putting aside getting shot, a narrower scrape than most people realise, Reagan was in far worse shape than Hillary and made it through two terms, even suffering from incipient Alzheimer's Disease.  Reagan was a wreck. 


Are Hillary's policies paleolithic?  I question that assertion.  One thing about both Clintons: they learn from defeat.  They're the best politicians in America, not because they're great geniuses but because they adapt where others won't.  Hillary Clinton as senator went to the GOP leadership and learned how to represent upstate New York, a very different thing than New York City.  She earned their respect. 

Elizabeth Warren is interesting. I question a Go Left


strategy for any Democrat come 2016.  The Dems will be better served to get a wide receiver as far downfield as fast as possible.  The GOP is vulnerable at the center.  Going Left will only play to the GOP's strong suit. 


Look, the big issue is Obamacare.  That's where every Democrat is vulnerable.  But Obamacare, like any other program of this sort, is off to a rocky start.  Medicare was years in the ramp up.  The Democrats can say "Sure, Obamacare has troubles.  But the GOP wants to treat dandruff with decapitation."  Then I'd turn on the GOP and give them a kick in the slats:  "My opponent is perfectly happy with things as they are, families all over this nation going bankrupt over medical bills.  It's the leading cause of bankruptcy.  The GOP is cynically manipulating your fear of government.  They don't care about you going bankrupt.   You're correct to fear big government.  The GOP has used the power of government to f*ck the American people long enough." 


I'd find a bunch of people who'd gone bankrupt over medical bills (my brother happens to be one, premature child)  and just pound on these people.  Not from the Left, where we might make some moral argument, they'll just sneer at that.  They 're vulnerable because the GOP has become a parliament of whores, entirely in the service of the rich and powerful.  And that's an argument we've heard before.   From the Tea Parties

The hope's not lookin too bright to me


The Poll Buried The Lead. . .

M Scott Eiland's picture

. . .in that Jeb Bush might want to cool his jets on any thoughts of running in 2016, and that Ted Cruz does not seem to be catching fire. Scott Walker is still less known than the others on the list, so his low "definitely would not" numbers don't really mean much here.

The real downer from your POV should be that they couldn't (or decided not to bother to try to) come up with a plausible alternate Democrat to throw into that mix for comparison (maybe they considered ol' Joe and got the giggles before deciding not to).

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

I'd be interested to see the numbers on


Biden, Warren, Schweitzer, and Sanders.


Sanders and Schweitzer probably have worse name recognition than Walker, but the #s might still give a sense of whether Hillary is just trouncing the rest of the pack or whether Democrats b/c of their party affiliation poll better than Rs.

Everyone's negatives are high.


The GOP will predictably run Paul Ryan.  I give Ryan 3:2 odds of getting the nomination.  You're right, Scott Walker's numbers reveal him to be less-known at a national level but he's a Christie in the making.  I watched Blagojevich go down in Illinois.  Now, Blago was a Democrat but the John Doe investigation here in WI is picking off Walker's people in the same way.  But 2016, I think Walker will be indicted.  Maybe he'll be in prison.  Maybe I'm wrong, Walker did survive his recall but things are substantially worse for him legally and sure to get worse.


The Democrats' big problem will be responding to Obamacare.  No other issue matters as much to both sides.  All the Democrats on the radar at present time are for it, in some form.  But the GOP has no replacement for it, so it's a wash, rhetorically.

Ryan at 3:2 odds, eh?


Remember when you used to be able to compare these kinds of predictions to InTrade's, before it mysteriously shut down amid speculation that its political markets were being manipulated?

The GOP usually runs a veep or a veep candidate.


That's why it's at least even odds.  I give Ryan 3:2 because he's the least-worst candidate the GOP has in the stable.  Young, reasonably photogenic, sure to appeal to the populists and crypto-libertarians.  The elites will love this big-eared lunkhead:  he can be manipulated without a manual.  Ryan's budget proposal was a big nothing but it looked like a meaningful pushback - and that's why the GOP power brokers are gonna love him.  All ideas, no plans. 

He's young tho and might not want to run?


The GOP is still out in the wilderness after GWB and Hillary is a very strong candidate.


If you're Ryan and in your mid 40s, you might wanna wait for more favorable conditions.

Paul Ryan is ambitious enough to run.


No doubt about that.   Furthermore, with Christie the Pufferfish stumbling, the field has opened up for Paul Ryan and Rand Paul.  Rand Paul is an interesting guy, a far better candidate than his father ever was.  The GOP will try to appeal to what little Youth Vote they can get, sucking in a few libertarians if they can.  Rand Paul is probably too bold a choice but Paul Ryan isn't.  And he's been vetted. 


Hillary's negatives are high.  Polarising candidate.She's sure to draw out a lot of the oldsters who hated her back in the day.  They'll roll their creaking wheelchairs down to the polling station to vote for anyone but Hillary.   But she's got the better political machine and seems to be the only Dem who can outpoll an unnamed Republican.

America's 10 largest cities contain 1/3rd of all Americans


1 of 7 Americans live in either NYC, LA, or Chicago.

Hobby Lobby double-standards


Double-standard #1:

If Hobby Lobby prevails, secular businesses could try to avoid paying for medical treatments like vaccinations and blood transfusions, and seek exemptions from important legal protections given to employees for family leave and against discrimination.  ...  Conservative Justices, who had so worried about government mandates to eat broccoli and other far-fetched hypotheticals in the first challenge to the Affordable Care Act, seemed uninterested in [limiting principles on secular businesses's religious expression].

Double-standard #2:

The case in Smith was brought by two men who lost their jobs for using peyote, which they said was part of a Native American ritual ... [and they] were subsequently denied unemployment benefits by Oregon.


Scalia wrote in the 6-3 opinion [that to]


"rule in respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind ... ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races."

Oops, guess that was the wrong religion. Hobby Lobby is about privileging a specific set of Christian beliefs over neutral federal employee protections.

There is a slippery slope argument

Bird Dog's picture

However, per Employment Division v. Smith, using peyote was illegal at the time, and the ruling was that the State of Oregon is not compelled to pay out benefits to those who were fired for committing illegal acts.

Since that time, Congress unanimously passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Bill Clinton, in order to clarify the issues raised by that case.

As Althouse notes:

How can you write about the Hobby Lobby case without mentioning the Religious Freedom Restoration Act? It's blatantly, atrociously deceptive. Toobin proclaims that "The issue in the case is straightforward." Yeah, I guess it is when you don't bother to mention the statute the claim is based on. Toobin mentions the other statute, the Affordable Care Act itself, and he asserts that it "requires employers who provide health insurance to their employees to include coverage for contraception." Well, actually, no, it doesn't! Congress did not take the political heat of dealing with contraception (which includes some methods some people think are abortifacients). Congress avoided that static as it pushed through a law by the narrowest possible margin. It left it to HHS to make the regulations that are under consideration.

If you really want to be straightforward and you actually care about what the legislature has done, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act towers over the HHS regs. Congress took the political credit for RFRA. Our elected representatives preened over their enthusiasm for religious exemptions back then. Congress avoided political responsibility — as it barely passed the ACA — for the birth control provisions and Congress avoiding for cutting the ACA free from the RFRA regime of judicially recognized exemptions.

The amended RFRA has held up to USSC scrutiny, and I'm guessing that Kennedy will put some limits around it.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

In other words, RFRA legalized anarchy


At least according to Scalia, who wrote in Smith that if religious entities are permitted to claim exemptions from generally applicable laws, then: "[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy"


So RFRA licensed anarchy, and that's why he and the other conservatives on the bench aren't mentioning slippery slope worries. They already agree that cases at the bottom of the slope are legal.


Goodbye, America's system of laws ... unless of course SCOTUS's conservatives are just looking to grant a special privilege to a small subset of Christian beliefs.

It allowed American Indians to smoke peyote....

Bird Dog's picture

....without repercussion, and a few other things. The justices, I'm guessing, are going to draw some lines.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

My guess is that if SCOTUS draws lines (vs. strikes down)


their lines will favor a small subset of conservative Christian beliefs over other religious beliefs.


Christian scientists won't get to refuse to cover vaccinations etc.


... just FYI, peyote isn't smoked.

My mistake

Bird Dog's picture

I acknowledge that I know next to nothing about peyote.

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency."

--Barack Obama, January 2009

Why so repressive?


If BD wants to smoke the peyote and that's part of his religion, the RFRA says he can.   And maybe he meant smoked like barbecue,  e.g. some kind of peyote chipotle.


This case is actually fairly minor,  and it probably won't turn on constitutional issues,  since IIRC the SC has already ruled against an open ended 1st Am. right to exemptions from generally applicable laws.  That's the whole reason Congress passed the RFRA,  to create a statuatory right.


If Hobby Lobby wins at all it will most likely be on RFRA grounds.  Democratic rule of law is not defeated,  if Congress doesn't like it they can easily repeal RFRA or simply amend either the RFRA or the ACA to make it clear there's no exemption to the contraceptive mandate.  Both laws were poorly thought out, and it's Congress' habit of passing grand sounding all-encompassing legislation without thinking about the details that got us into this.


Prediction:  The SC will rule that the RFRA covers entities that can be said to have a sincerely held religious belief.  This would cover individuals,  businesses that are sole proprietorships,  and possibly privately-held corporations wholly owned by a person, family*, or a single religious group.  The case will be returned to the lower courts to determine which category Hobby Lobby falls into.  They will also rule that the contraceptive mandate is not "compelling" because Congress has granted exemptions to many other categories of businesses,  and the administration has granted delays.





Marcus Aurelius was right.

mmghosh's picture

Why is Facebook buying a drone company?

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Let's See--What Is The Proper Response To This?

M Scott Eiland's picture

Oh, right.

"I humbly accept the verdict of the electorate."

*mumbles* "You rotten so and sos."

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Here's my proposed response


A bunch of Tea Party ninnies screaming NOOOOO!

Closed already?

Jay C's picture

I thought I had until midnight to try to shirk my elected duty: or hope for a stuffed ballot box miracle...


* Oh Well.... *


Consider this my acceptance speech.

What is this?


A full ten minutes into their term,  and still no action on the Ukraine,  continental drift,  or the dead links in the blogroll.   I declare the new administration a failure.

My fellow Formoanians,


as you know during my campaign I stood for anything, implied everything and promised nothing. I intend to live up fully to those promises, and together with your help we can make this place much like it has been, and is, and will continue to be, world without end, good night and God bless Ourmerica.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

There is no fate


that cannot be surmounted by scorn.

It han't started yet....


Need to change the rights, send an email to the new overlords, all the rest of it. Will get to it tonight or tomorrow.


Current mods are still in office till further notice.


This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

This is the time to give pardons to cronies, right?



More like motions for summary judgement


and hanging a few kulaks, bloodsuckers and suchlike.

The New York Daily News, Nov. 4, 1949


As seen on

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

It's Not Mark Twain

M Scott Eiland's picture

But it is a reminder that very little has changed in the basic Democratic business model in sixty odd years.

. . .and Don Mattingly must be fired (bye Ned--don't let the door hit you in the @$$ on the way out!).

Get blamed for being soft on commies and blamed for

brutusettu's picture

"Losing China"?  Blamed for not wanting to cut defense spending as much as Republicans of the era wanted?  Blamed for not thinking the nuke was the only thing the Department of War needed?  Blamed for not promising a jobs bonanza if only regulation didn't strangle job creating robber barons?




Like if you still put Formosa First in 2014

Truman did more to cut waste and fraud out of procurement


during WW2 than his enemies would ever admit.  Curiously, the Truman Commission had many Republican allies.


Clarence Brown of Ohio is an unsung (and unlikely!) hero of the Civil Rights movement.  For many years, he'd opposed integration.  For some reason, God alone knows why, in the last year of his life, he changed.  He helped get the Voting Rights Act through the Rules Committee in the House and died shortly after.  Literally dragged himself out of the hospital to manage the trick. 

Of Course


I cannot say that Facebook was created by the CIA, but it was certainly created for it, or the NSA, or whatever. Besides the funding trail to In-Q-Tel, Greylock Partners and so on, there are the systematic actions of the company both in the features it chooses, like face tagging and recognition, and it's intent to get Facebook on everybody's mobile device in the Third World, despite the poor profit prospects that would have. The way Facebook overpaid for WhatsApp is a case in point. They wanted the users no matter what, especially on the other side of the Chinese firewall.


There are a number of things I'm less sure about. I am not sure if the primary objective with Facebook is push or pull. Though Facebook is beautiful surveillance tool, there is much in it that can be had anyway if you are the NSA. I say it's beautiful because frankly one has to admire a tool where the users themselves are the primary reporting mechanism. Well, maybe not beautiful. But elegant certainly, in a Machiavellian way.


Possibly the key pull advantage is the social graph, but you can get that from email metadata as well, and we know the NSA can and does do that routinely.


With push though, Facebook and other social sites are more distinct from traditional Internet technologies. The color revolutions, Arab spring, etc. have a sameness to them, and have widely been reported as using social media, that this seems to be the most important feature. A meme injector directed particularly to young people. A way of spreading information and ideas which is neither transparent nor ultimately traceable, but, unlike blogs, is easy to control centrally. And that's elegant too.


If you believe this interpretation, then Oculus would be meant for the push portfolio. Facebook would have the ability, through games and VR generally, to immerse millions of people in whatever reality they want them to be in. What could possibly be a better meme injector than a fully immersive system?

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

Oculus is a sign that Zuckerberg is anticipating a future


in which Facebook isn't very important, according to Rueter's Felix Salmon:


Zuckerberg knows how short-lived products can be, on the internet ... The trick is to use Facebook’s current awesome profitability and size to acquire a portfolio of companies; as one becomes passé, the next will take over. Probably none of them will ever be as big and dominant as Facebook is today, but that’s OK: together, they can be huge.


And all those new ads? That's Zuckerberg cashing in while he still can:


Zuckerberg is also striking while the iron is hot. Have you noticed how your Facebook news feed is filling up with a lot of ads these days? Zuckerberg is, finally, monetizing, and he’s doing it at scale: Facebook’s net income grew from $64 million in the fourth quarter of 2012 to $523 million in the fourth quarter of 2013


Salmon is predicting facebook's demise, and doesn't even mention how the youth don't like the site and it's no longer cool.


... obviously this is some wishful thinking from me.


but all of you know that at least a part of every decent person wants facebook to die.

All this money sloshing around in the few success stories


tends to create overpressure in the system.  Zuck has hugely overpaid for Oculus Rift.  It's the new Second Life, remember that fad?  Or before that, Virtuality?  Or VRML ? 

I want a New Toy (oh ay oh), to keep my head expanding (ta).
I want a New Toy (oh ay oh), nothing too demanding (ta).
Then when everything is in roses everything is static (ta)
Yeh my New Toy (oh ay oh), you'll find us in the attic.

Zuck does not have a patent on VR goggles or anything standing in the way of others doing VR this way.  Siemens has that patent.  And the Oculus Rift crowd won't stand for virtual billboards in their shiny new virtual worlds.  There's no particularly good reason for Facebook to head down this alley except to dump the current ad revenue and cash stash into something hot 'n new, which will end up in the attic, shortly, as others hereabouts have observed about the Kidz v Parental Units loop.


The current Oculus tech, while molto coolo, is clunky.  It will require some serious computing power to run the baseline VR worlds and even more serious bandwidth to make this an MMORG of any substance.  

I think he's right


There will always be something like Facebook, but this cycle is inevitable:


  1. Kids find some fancy new social platform.
  2. Parents want to keep tabs with their kids, and join the platform.
  3. Kids are horrified to see their parents on their preferred social platform
  4. Go back to 1 and repeat


"I don't want us to descend into a nation of bloggers." - Steve Jobs

Amazing exploded GIF of the evoloving USA


I thought I had a fair grasp on the topic.  I learned a lot from this.



Canada stole part of our land.  It's irrelevant whether some traitorous US administration back in the 1840's let them have it.   There are American-speaking people in those territories who need to be reunited.   I say the next time there's a coup in Ottawa we take advantage of the situation to grab British Columbia.


Also,  Cleveland belongs to Connecticut.   If Connecticut had been in charge they sure as hell wouldn't have let people keep kidnapped teenage girls in their basement. 




Fascinating. Here's an animation of Australia

mmghosh's picture


showing rainfall and drought patterns.


It seems Australia will turn into an asteroid-like state in 50-odd years, inhabited only by mining companies.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

It's simple

HankP's picture

VR, games, social media and a few millivolts into the pleasure center of the brain and who cares about anything else. In the immortal words of  Paddy Chayefsky


And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that... perfect world... in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.

I blame it all on the Internet

1984 - the novel - was far too squalid.


It was based on WWII-era deprivations in Europe and the Soviet model still driven by wartime economics. If Orwell had lived a few decades longer, he would have realized that squalor and misery would become old-fashioned as tools of hegemony, and that it turns out to be far easier to keep the laboring classes docile and ignorant as cattle if you keep them distracted with junk food, moronic entertainments and consumer electronics that simulate more fulfilling lives than their own. Oh, and disguise propaganda and disinformation as hyped up populism.  


Of course, squalor and immiseration have to be exported to the periphery, or manufacturing costs blow the whole system...

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

What I do not understand

mmghosh's picture

is that people now know - there is the Internet, media etc, more knowledge and information than ever before.  More education is more or less freely available to those who want it.


How does propaganda work today?  There is more to this business of selling pleasure jolts.  If what you say is the full story then propaganda should not work.  The Iraq war was an object lesson on how a bogus story can be sold, true, but that was then and this is now.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

"This is now"


But Iraq was partly a problem of a short memory. Americans forgot the governments lies of Vietnam. 


The internet doesn't help with making the past relevant. The best one can hope for is that better access to info will cancel out the shorter attention span.


In which case, America won't be attacking another country on the scale of an Iraq for another decade or two.

Most Americans remembered

HankP's picture

the protests to avoid the Iraq war were the biggest since Vietnam. Just like then, there was a corps of liars in government and NGOs and their enablers in the press. Oh, and in the on-line world. That was different. I believe we still have a few here that never admitted that the case for war was built on lies, and that they helped propagate them. Not to mention excusing torture.


I blame it all on the Internet

Most Americans remembered??

Jay C's picture

You (and me, and a few others here, maybe) might, but by and large, "America" seems to have filed the memory of the Iraq War right away: and any remembrance of the anti-War protests with them. Not a surprise, really: most of the American media either glossed over the domestic protests, or used them as an excuse for sneery hippie-punching. They also mainly ignored the massive foreign protests, or dismissed them as "reflexive anti-Americanism". IOW, protests against he War in Iraq had about the same effect as those against American involvement in Vietnam. Unfortunately.

No, I think most remembered

HankP's picture

and just like after Vietnam, you see popular support move strongly towards the "let's not bomb and shoot up a place that is no threat to us" attitude.



I blame it all on the Internet

I think the widespread pushback


when Kerry started talking about bombing Syria was a good sign that people haven't forgotten Iraq yet.



I was floored by the evident lack of grounding in political reality that Kerry displayed. Kerry, of all people, who should have known better, not to mention his boss. For what was Obama if not an empty vessel who's one claim to legitimacy as a candidate is having been against the Iraq war at a time when most democrats were cowering or triangulating.

This was clear enough to Larkin, whose patriotism rested on the notion that England was the worst place on earth with the possible exception of everywhere else.

America does remember Iraq.


The by and large part has come home to the USA. About 2.5 million were deployed, many more than once.  About 400,000 did more than three tours.  37,000 did more than five tours. 


American mass media isn't a particularly good judge of the Zeitgeist any more.  With a few exceptions, media is narrowcasting to specific audience segments.  As for how the USA processed the war, emotionally and politically, the rise and fall of Donald Rumsfeld is as good a curve as any other goodness-of-fit characteristic for the nation as a whole.  After Bush43 sent Rumsfeld packing, nobody believed in that war.  Granted, Bush43 did give him a nice parade and a going-away ceremony, but it was the sack nonetheless.  Rummy had not given Bush43 victory. 


Nixon - and to a lesser extent Ford - got out of Vietnam the wrong way.  The protesters' message was not lost on anyone, not after Rummy was given the heave-ho. 

Then again there are a lot that aren't here anymore.


I wonder if they're posting somewhere else, or just being quiet for a decade or so.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I wonder about that too

HankP's picture

I can see how people get burned out. Or maybe they just found more enjoyable things to do.


I blame it all on the Internet

Egging on a shooting war and then walking away from the

mmghosh's picture

consequences, seems poor form at the very least.


Enjoyable as in selling other stuff, sure.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

but, papier mache puppets...

(#315652) the millions who marched didnt really count.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

or they didn't take showers nt

HankP's picture


I blame it all on the Internet

In the words of Thomas Friedman "suck on this"

brutusettu's picture

"But Iraq was partly a problem of a short memory. Americans forgot the governments lies of Vietnam."



Even if people didn't "forget" wouldn't scapegoating have been a powerful drive to show one's love of Oceania?


So if everyone knew they were very likely being fed lies, not enough people wouldn't have carried water for Bush/Cheney by goal shifting to "Saddam bad, fire good.  Guaranteed civil war now, peace forever later.  Random A-rab must pay, good stuff happen later"


Don't forget Thomas Friedman's classic wartime musings



(Looking forward, random  A-rabs must pay, random A-rabs must be hit with big stick,  random A-rabs must) suck on this (Charlie Rose)"


some people like Friedman were in wuv with Oceania at the time, were their numbers really small enough?




Propaganda seldom varies from age to age.


People don't actually think about the issues. They feel.  We'd all like to think we're informed people, operating on the basis of the facts.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The Internet is thin gruel for those gone in search of fact, though some are available.   But once we've gotten a few salient facts in hand, we then render a verdict.  That's what I call it in expert system development, a Verdict.  Armed with that Verdict, we stop reasoning and start feeling, no differently than the uninformed.  If other people disagree with us, being civilised people, we point to what facts we have on hand.  If we're humble and honest (and I can assure you, I am aware I am neither, try as I may) we might change our minds if others present their facts - but that's irrelevant to the process of propaganda. 


Propaganda informs us of a few facts, well-larded with lies often enough, but a well-constructed lie contains a core of undeniable truth.  Rhetorically, my enemies' pitiful handful of carefully crafted facts are propaganda.  My own little handful of facts, are, well, facts.  And how dare you dispute them?  Scholarship, the good stuff anyway, doesn't take sides.  Facts don't take sides.  People take sides.  And it doesn't matter how much education someone has, often the best-educated are the most easily deluded. 

There's a world of difference between knowing


a few statistics or reading a few headlines and knowing what it's like to be desperate, hungry, immiserated, your kids hopelessly ill with no money for a doctor, abused by both government and private employers, and with no way out. 


The link of sympathy is too tenuous.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

David Graeber has a different explanation.

mmghosh's picture


"What I can't understand is, why aren't people rioting in the streets?" I hear this, now and then, from people of wealthy and powerful backgrounds. There is a kind of incredulity. "After all," the subtext seems to read, "we scream bloody murder when anyone so much as threatens our tax shelters; if someone were to go after my access to food or shelter, I'd sure as hell be burning banks and storming parliament. What's wrong with these people?"

It's a good question. One would think a government that has inflicted such suffering on those with the least resources to resist, without even turning the economy around, would have been at risk of political suicide. Instead, the basic logic of austerity has been accepted by almost everyone. Why? Why do politicians promising continued suffering win any working-class acquiescence, let alone support, at all?


There was a time when caring for one's community could mean fighting for the working class itself. Back in those days we used to talk about "social progress". Today we are seeing the effects of a relentless war against the very idea of working-class politics or working-class community. That has left most working people with little way to express that care except to direct it towards some manufactured abstraction: "our grandchildren"; "the nation"; whether through jingoist patriotism or appeals to collective sacrifice.

As a result everything is thrown into reverse. Generations of political manipulation have finally turned that sense of solidarity into a scourge. Our caring has been weaponised against us. And so it is likely to remain until the left, which claims to speak for labourers, begins to think seriously and strategically about what most labour actually consists of, and what those who engage in it actually think is virtuous about it.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Graeber needs to read the American Declaration of Independence


Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

And yet, something happened after 1900 that changed that.


People were not ready to suffer what was suffereable. This was not a fight for existence like with the enclosures in the UK. People could have continued without the labour movement but they chose to fight and organise.

A lot of the European working class did emigrate to the USA

mmghosh's picture

around the 1900s, so there was that "safety valve" which we don't have today - unoccupied land, I mean.  That is to say, apart from native peoples.  Maybe if such a safety valve had not existed, societies would have to learn to value their own working classes.


OT, but vaguely related - over here, we have a specific problem in that the existence of a caste system means the classes are completely separated from each other with no clue about how the other exists.  And almost all the immigrants from here to the USA belong to the upper classes - already well off and with the right connections.  It amuses me to see the smugness in our emigre community in the USA - "the community with the highest average earnings etc".  Well, yes, if Bill Gates, Larry Ellison et al emigrated here they could say the same.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

The Frontier Thesis


Largely discarded now in favor of more nuanced (and less ethnocentric) historiography, Turner's insight nonetheless still has a lot of explanatory power.  

All peoples show development; the germ theory of politics has been sufficiently emphasized. In the case of most nations, however, the development has occurred in a limited area; and if the nation has expanded, it has met other growing peoples whom it has conquered. But in the case of the United States we have a different phenomenon. Limiting our attention to the Atlantic coast, we have the familiar phenomenon of the evolution of institutions in a limited area, such as the rise of representative government; into complex organs; the progress from primitive industrial society, without division of labor, up to manufacturing civilization. But we have in addition to this a recurrence of the process of evolution in each western area reached in the process of expansion. Thus American development has exhibited not merely advance along a single line, but a return to primitive conditions on a continually advancing frontier line, and a new development for that area. American social development has been continually beginning over again on the frontier. This perennial rebirth, this fluidity of American life, this expansion westward with its new opportunities, its continuous touch with the simplicity of primitive society, furnish the forces dominating American character. The true point of view in the history of this nation is not the Atlantic coast, it is the Great West. Even the slavery struggle, which is made so exclusive an object of attention by writers like Professor von Holst, occupies its important place in American history because of its relation to westward expansion.

In this advance, the frontier is the outer edge of the wave-- the meeting point between savagery and civilization. Much has been written about the frontier from the point of view of border warfare and the chase, but as a field for the serious study of the economist and the historian it has been neglected. 

I would say this doesn't go far enough. I would say that the "frontier effect," created by the ability to emigrate and settle not merely in a different country with its particular laws and classes and centers of power, but in a place where society itself is being continually rebuilt (generally from the ashes of an indigenous culture that has been cheated, defeated and/or deleted) had a profound impact on nearly all countries in the world. It provided a few centuries' worth of get out of jail free cards for broken societies and institutions that could simply export malcontents to a place where their restless inability to either thrive within the dominant paradigm or resign themselves to it could do little harm. So if Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, the islands, the US, etc. were all largely formed by circumstances where hegemonic class divisions were strictly optional and society itself could be cast off at will like a blanket when it gets too hot, then too the rest of the world for several centuries was also able to buy a reprieve from the need to face and address its own intolerable social contradictions. 


But the most important thing historically speaking is: that's all over now. Unless & until we begin mass emigration into space or to other worlds, every country in the world is now going to have to turn inward once again and find ways to solve, rather than merely postpone, the hard problems of every society: property, inheritance and distribution of limited space & resources. This is one of my obsessions. I'm convinced the US is fairly rapidly transforming into an openly aristocratic society, and that the massive Gini coefficient that rivals most sultanates and dictatorships around the world is accelerating the process. 


All bets are off of course if a) peak oil sets off a global energy crisis; b) one or more nations decide that a global war of conquest is worth a little nuclear risk; or both a) and b) sequentially. But so long as countries try to settle their differences without recourse to massive wars of conquest, it's my fear that a steady march towards class or caste-based solutions to those "hard problems" is the path of least resistance. 

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I'm betting mass space emigration won't happen until

mmghosh's picture

we're well above 10 billion people on the planet, of whom a billion at least will end up aspiring to the high consumption lifestyle.


And IMO we will, at that point, become closed societies, rigidly caste-based, otherwise this huge population increase will be unmanageable.  Look at what happened here and in China, where for at least 4 millennia the dominant process was mass immigration into two at least geographically semi-protected islands of relative prosperity compared to their neighbours.


We follow all this happening here from about 1500 years ago - the hardening of caste-based divisions by limiting inter-caste movements, demonisation of working classes, celebration of the limiting of choice and diversity by a self-consciously superior elite (our upper castes have now penetrated the USA in their millions).


Of course, being America, we want to see the process play out - but telescoped into a few decades, rather than millennia :)

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

America has been the landing zone for everyone's elites.


Not just India's, though I'm certainly pleased to see them put down roots here in the USA.  Sure wish more of 'em would move to Eau Claire, I still have to go up to Minneapolis to get a decent bag of basmati.  Once you start eating the good stuff, you never go back. And toor dhal, which is not the American split pea.  At least I can get coconut milk in cans from the Hmong and make my own wretched approximations of garam masala from the Mexican store. 


Why didn't India make any more headway against the caste system than it did?  It's made some progress, lots more to be made, it's been a long struggle and we should congratulate and encourage the people who are out there making a difference.   But here in the States, now that we've largely abolished enforced segregation, I've watched as the various ethnic contingents self-segregate with a will.  I'm not sure if it's an entirely bad thing, either.  It's just the way people sort themselves out. 

It will only take one deadly variant of an influenza virus


to reset world societies as completely as the epidemic at the end of WW1 reset the world.  While WW1 ground a generation of Europe's young men into hamburger, the influenza pandemic of 1918 actually killed more people.


I've said it before a million times:  give capitalism a good long run and it always produces an aristocracy.  Evils are only sufferable if the illusion of social mobility is maintained effectively.  If the poor would only vote for their own best interests, we'd have a far more equitable world.  But they don't, so we won't.  It's hard to convince a poor man he's poor for the poor are proud.  It's an easy illusion to maintain, mostly it's self-delusion.   The working classes who tend the machines count themselves better-off than those who follow the water buffalo through the rice paddy and they count themselves better-off than their forebears, who pulled the plough themselves and didn't have a television, though there are more homes with televisions than toilets in the world.


The microbes will settle the matter.  We're becoming a plague upon the earth in our great numbers.

Interesting that India has been exporting its upper castes.


That isn't the usual pattern. Of course you say millions, and I have to imagine that hardly makes a dent in the population even of the brahmin elite.  


My guess is that space colonies will become viable as soon as the economic advantages of resource gathering and manufacturing outside a gravity well become obvious. It's a lot cheaper to drop things back to earth than it is to launch them up in the first place. Space could become the new "offshoring". I think it will happen rapidly once we turn a few corners: population pressure on earth won't be much of a factor.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I'm confused by his argument. Is he saying solidarity has been


demonized to the point that workers themselves are running away from it? 


I was talking about "offshore" manufacturing in SE Asia, etc. and how there has never been any solidarity between average Euro-Americans and the average people who today sew their shoes together or assemble their iPhones.  


As for why the labor movement has collapsed, I'm willing to lay money on the table that it is equal parts a) offshoring manufacturing shrinking both the demographic base and the leverage of organized labor and b) racism/xenophobia. Every time I go to Italy, the newspapers & TV are full of stories about crimes and atrocities perpetrated by Albanians, Moroccans, Romanians, Roma people, etc. The resentment that these same groups are benefiting from Italian social services is also palpable. These feelings are being deliberately stoked and inculcated by the Italian media. Guess who owns the lion's share of that media.

"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

Seems like he's saying the working class / poor


are more likely to empathise with their fellow sufferers than the wealthy, whose chief virtue is thrift. 


I've watched as some people have emerged from a hardscrabble existence into the demesnes of the moderately wealthy.  Everyone comes to them with a hard-luck story, wanting help.  See, that sort of story works when one poor man approaches another as a peer.  But something happens once people get some money, especially when it's earned the hard way.  They don't know who to trust any more.  They have a few close friends, people they knew from the bad old days.  But they wall themselves off:  the rich are never quite sure if someone's an actual friend or just a hanger-on, attempting to grift them.  It's not that wealth has made them miserly or hard-hearted but the reality of these grifters and their constant importuning makes for bad relationships. 


Graeber substantially overstates his case. The poor and working class are interdependent of necessity.  Ad-hoc daycare, someone's elderly mother will help with the cooking, the poor aren't lazy.  They work long hours, often multiple jobs, to survive in that world, you will give your co-worker a ride when his hoopty breaks down.  The price of entry into the world of the working class is interdependence.  It's not a virtue when you have to help or you won't be helped when you need it - and the poor need help more frequently than the rich.  The rich lack the resources of the community: if they want day care, they pay full price.  The rich do not help each other.  The rich will impassively watch each other fail.

Well the poor help each other locally, not globally.


Globally, or even internationally, many poor & working class as a whole tend to view one another as threats rather than as compatriots... the good samaritan impulse only travels so far, thus my comment about the "link of sympathy." This is why Marx was so interested in studying the development of social classes. His mistake lay in thinking that the 'class' aspect was determinant, as though everyone who works for a wage is fundamentally the same, and that proximity was irrelevant. He was grievously wrong on that score. 


"Hell is truth seen too late." --Thomas Hobbes

I think the interdependency of the poor


is a key point. I think that's what drove the labour movement for the 1st half of the 20th century. People used to working together to get by applied that knowledge and spirit to bettering their lot.


Perhaps it all fell to pieces once the bulk of the working class got rich enough to no longer depend on one another but not rich enough to defend themseleves from the rich.


On the rich, your point is probalby true (though I've not seen it with the ultra rich I've known - they've all had their little cliques, mutual support groups and backj scratching societies to work out mutually beneficial arrangements), but I don't think it's the point. Something else is at work:


Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner ran several studies looking at whether social class (as measured by wealth, occupational prestige, and education) influences how much we care about the feelings of others. In one study, Piff and his colleagues discreetly observed the behavior of drivers at a busy four-way intersection. They found that luxury car drivers were more likely to cut off other motorists instead of waiting for their turn at the intersection. This was true for both men and women upper-class drivers, regardless of the time of day or the amount of traffic at the intersection. In a different study they found that luxury car drivers were also more likely to speed past a pedestrian trying to use a crosswalk, even after making eye contact with the pedestrian.

The labour movement, my theory anyway -


says the Age of Machines were a new thing for everyone: suppliers, owners, workers and customers alike.  Nobody knew quite how to handle the situation.  At first, factory work was a vast improvement over life on the farms, the endless drudgery of the hand loom, the scythe and the plow.   Children had always worked on farms, they'd been apprenticed out from the early Middle Ages.  If the machines in the mill were dangerous, the farm had been a dangerous and dirty place, too. 


The steam engine had changed everything.  The fireboxes of the steam engines burned up all the ready wood to hand.  Coal was needed.  Nobody much burned coal:  it had been used, where it appeared in outcrops, with a few interesting mines going back into the Middle Ages.  But it was a filthy business, the Romans had used it to heat their baths and coal had been used in some smelting but nobody liked using it.  Peat had been cut and dried, used where wood was already gone.  Neolithic man had done quite a job on the ancient forests and shipbuilding had taken down most of the best trees, so coal it was that fired the industrial revolution.  The coal mines sucked in ready labour like nothing else in the economic landscape of the late 1800s. 


The rise of the labour movements in both Germany and Great Britain were a direct result of the rise of the coal industry.  The old mines were simply unable to keep up with demand.  Put every man in the same Welsh or German village to essentially the same job down the mine, have a few of them die down that mine and you'll soon see solidarity.  Can't be helped.  It's rather like esprit de corps in the military.   Why Germany and Great Britain?  That's where the coal was.  Those with coal could fire up their machines and railways and ships and everything else that ran on coal-fired steam engines.

There was/is international working class solidaity

mmghosh's picture

and yes, I think his argument is that workers are running away from it.  The hours of work, paid holidays, anti-exploitation legislation (child work etc) that we have here are largely the result of European-American class movements of the 19th/20th century.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

Super El Nino on the way.

mmghosh's picture

Maybe, maybe not, but stronger than 1998 is not good news.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency

On a similar note, Singapore is converting golf courses

mmghosh's picture

to - housing and airport enlargements.  Fortunately for Singapore, citizens don't get a chance to have a voice in the matter, or it might have been even more.  


Some might have argued that Singapore should have simply reforested the golf courses, but that would go against the grain of capitalism.

freedom is a fundamental value that does not need to be justified in terms of some other value like efficiency