Open Thread II

On December 7, 2004, the first day of this blog’s existence, I complained about the terrible, centralized nature of US public schools.

On December 7, 2005, the first anniversary of this blog’s life, I bragged about my readership. Since then, things have along gotten better. The worst month I’ve had since then is better than the best month until then.

On December 7, 2006, tdaxp‘s second anniversary, I created an open thread, to correct the centralized (that is, written by me) authorship of this blog.

The open thread was a very successful experiment. Nineteen comments were left, on the subjects of depopulation, Pinochet’s death, forums v. blogs, and some light theology.

So to keep the conversation open, this is Open Thread II. Post whatever you want, any question you have for others or any comment you want the world to hear.


37 thoughts on “Open Thread II”

  1. What's you take on the increasingly fragile situation in the middle east as sunni states react to the rise of Iranian influence? Can we look down the road and see an all out regional war between the sunni and shia? Or will this foment itself in the form of proxi battles between the Sauds and Iran?

  2. Three Possible topics:

    1) Palestinian civil War as Successful Israel 4GW Maneuver? Discuss.

    2) Favorite Christmas Song? Discuss. (mine = “Have Your Self a Merry Little Christmas”)

    3) Bizarre Personal Christmas Story Examples?

    Mine: Listening to a snippet of a checkout clerk insist to a customer that he give the state he lives in:

    “I live in Washington DC”;

    “But what state is that?”;

    “Its not in a state!”';

    “It has to be!”.

    Most fun ever in a long check out line!

  3. My take: Islam needs a war among itself to sort things out. Maybe a reformed Islam can rise from that.

    Unlike TDAXP, I do not see current Islam and sharia as a good thing.

  4. al Qaeda's attack on 9/11 was reasonable given aQ's goal of a restored, reformed Islam. The bulk of the Arab Sunni states, from which al Qaeda generated recruits, had corrupt and unpopular governments. However, most all had governments either directly or indirectly supported by the United States. The rest thrived off the enmity of the US. Getting America out of the picture was vital.

    If it would have helped create a Qaedist state in the middle east, the fall of Afghanistan would have been worth it.

    The American invasion of Iraq likewise could have led to good things. Either an anarchic Iraq or an Iraq with a corrupt government of fixers would be acceptable in the short term. Iraq had to be set up for a Qaedist Revolution once America suspended activities in the broader Middle East.

    Fortunately, the breathtaking foolishness of two men, George W. Bush and Abu Musab Zarqawi, made this impossible. George Bush's incompetent attempts to buy off a hostile and noxious Sunni Arab minority are well known, and we can thank God the final defeat of the Bush plan is approaching. For his part, Zarqawi insanely focused on creating a sectarian fight in Iraq instead of uniting Iraqi factions against the United States. If either of them had performed his role much better, a tasteless despotism could have emerged that would have discouraged American actions in the region.

    But now we have an Iraq which is every closer in Iran's orbit. Instead of a distant, and thus persuadable, American foe Qaeda now faces a very near, and thus unpersuadable, Iranian enemy. One day, America will leave Iraq because America leaves all the countries she conquers. Iran never will. Iran crouched near the Mesopotamian three thousand years ago. And she will crouch there still three thousand years from now. Worse for our enemy, Shia Arabs are active collaborators in Iraq and a fifth column in Saudi Arabia.

    The Sunni hegemony of the Arab world, which began with the fall of the Fatimids in 1117, ended with L. Paul Bremer's dismissal of the Iraqi Army in 2003. In the same way that German hegemony over eastern europe which began in 1226, with the Teutonic Knights' occupation of Culmerland, was ended in 1945 by the Red Army.

    This is a fitting revenge for 9/11/2001, as that was a fitting revenge for 6/22/1941.

    History has turned.

    Now is the time for the victory, the peace, the embracing of constructive forces (sharia, etc), and the marketization with which will eventually come globalization. The real peace.

  5. “the embracing of constructive forces (sharia, etc)”

    I can't see in anyway how Sharia, a totalitarian legal system with global aims- a destroyer of human capital and generator of misery – is in any way a constructive force.

    I do not see a path for sharia/islamofascism (soon with nukes) to morph into global democratic peace and prosperity

  6. Sharia is a constructive force because it provides a social ruleset that allows large-scale, non-destructive cooperation. Sharia also contains a market system — a derivitie of which operated in the middle east before the socialist revolutions of the mid 20th century. Further, by providing more law-and-order than western democracy, it may be preferable to much of the world than a blind imposition of a western ruleset at this time.

    By the 1940s, the Arab middle east was as prepared for modernization as east Asia was. The difference was not that Orientals are inherently smarter — the difference is that East Asia took the next logical step while the social capital built by sharia were destroyed by Arab National-Secularism.

  7. “non-destructive cooperation”

    We clearly see this issue and definition differently! 🙂

    I don't believe Sharia was the rule pre-ww2. It wasn't being practiced being in the post-ottoman lands, was it? I don't think you can attribute that time to Sharia.

  8. Purpleslog,

    Personal status laws, which derive from the Ottoman millet system, are still used in the (formerly Ottoman-British) lands of Jordan, Israel, Palestininian Authority, and Egypt as well as the (formerly Ottoman-French) Syrian Arab Republic. [1] A reversion to Sheriat would unrole the disasterous reforms of the Arab Socialists-Secularists and take away, for real, not just in a public diplomacy fake way, the attraction of Qaedism throughout the Arab world. Sharia had set up the Arab world for a Golden age under European tutelage.

    The responsible thing is move ball back to the good field positiion that the Arab world once had. Under personal status laws, they were at 2-5. Then after the disaster of secularization and socialization, 3-30. To keep the ball moving, you accept what you can. That means 4-5. That means, Sharia.


  9. Hey Dan, just came across an essay that is relevant to a post you had a few weeks ago and thought I'd pass it on. The article was an eye-opener for me since I did not realize the extent of abuse in Islamic culture. We have a tendency in the West (whether on the left or right) to reduce people's behavior to economic and political motives. But human beings are much more complex creatures and I think we will find that combatting communism in the Cold War was easy compared with what we are facing now. It seems to me that we are dealing with psychological and social pathologies combined with a congruent religious belief system that so far defies our analytic categories and thus remains “invisible” to us. And so counterinsurgency theory and even 4GW may not be relevant to the threat we face. The internal cultural examination that exploded into Western civilization during the Enlightenment and that has been going on ever since has been a kind of cultural psychoanalysis that has left no stone unturned, no cranny un-illuminated, and no aspect of our civilization immune from the “critical gaze”. This has caused a great deal of turmoil, but it is also the source of our strength and our evolution to a free and open society. We can take our beliefs and interpretations as objects of study and analysis and not lose our identity if we find them incompatible with empirical evidence. This is a revolutionary cultural and psychological development, it has not been the status quo. We are in a sense engaged in a “philosophical war”. Given the seriousness of the threat we face, a “Prime Directive”-style approach to the Muslim world and other non-Western societies is an obstacle to the defense of our own civilization. The non-Core world is not a museum preserved for our enjoyment. I've come to the opinion that we have to wage an “Enlightenment” campaign in the Gap. This will not be easy or clean. This means directly challenging pre-modern cultures and forcing them to answer to Modern critiques. Basically this is an “Enlightenment Revolution” in the Gap. The Islamic world is the primary target because it is the primary threat. This will be condemned as “cultural imperialism” and even “Jacobinism” but this is the only way for billions of people to rise out of the pre-Modern condition and enjoy the basic standard of living that we take for granted. And it is the only way to effectively combat pathological, pre-modern religious and cultural belief systems.

    Here's the link to the essay:

    The Psychoanalytic Roots of Islamic Terrorism
    Phyllis Chesler

  10. Phil,

    Thanks for the amazing contribution! I hope others read the article and comment on it.

    The word that jumped out at me was “pathological,” which implies something that is acting like a disease. I agree with that. In looking at possible guerrilla fighters, it is better to view the task as essentially medical (there are people who will hurt themselves and others unless helped) than vindictive (there are people who are naturally evil and should be killed). I studied the “wary guerrilla” [1,2] in an attempt to get at this more merciful model.

    That said, I'm skeptical on Freudianism and psychoanalysis. Further, suicide bombers tend to come from well off, well educated families [3] who presumably are less victimized by the sort of sexual abuse the article describes. (Actually, some of those acts remind me of how certain Indian reservations were described me too — desperate and poor places, but not known for their spawning of worldwide terrorism.)

    On a related note, neither the West nor the Arab world engages in a species-typical treatment of women, so I think that both cultures are aberrant in that respect.


  11. New topic for the open thread: the Left University. The other day I ran across a post on Phi Beta Cons that cited a good friend of mine regarding the status of conservatives in departments of humanities.[1] I got to thinking about the Left University [2] and why it might be that conservatives are so scarce. I think one reason is because conservatives are not as excited as the rest of the department to study queer theory, feminism, post-modernism, etc. and any attempt to differ from the Left dogma results in attacks (see the Lawrence Summers debacle or what historians say about Victor Davis Hanson). Anyways, it seems to me that university departments tend to be too aggressively partisan and hostile.

    I find all of this ultimately destructive to the academic community. If faculty all think the same way, if academic journals explore the same obscure issues [3], is it not violating some of the tenants in which universities were founded? Another question is, if conservatives shun away from academe because they find it too political, then how do we fix it? I'm not saying we need to ignore the new methodologies adopted since the 1960s. In my discipline of History, the way we write and understand the past was benefited by these new methods of evaluating the past, but it's gotten out of control. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate where we place our priorities. Winston Churchill is a far more important figure than Ward Churchill. [4]

    Any thoughts?


  12. Jason, those are some excellent links! I hope those who read this thread will check them out.

    The problem with university departments in humanities, social sciences, etc. isn't so much that they are uniformly liberal Democrat but rather than they are split between liberal Democrats and leftist Marxists. I have met professors, including Kerry-voting atheist liberal Democrats, who have complained about PC threats and how that harms research. The Universities may have been reliably liberal until the 1960s and 1970s, but since then except for a few hold-out areas (biology and economics, notably), Leftism is very strong.

    On the subject of academic journals, PLoS One [1] has announced that it will review articles on technical grounds, not on how well they fit into one paradigm or another. [2] Predictably, Scientific American is outraged. [3] Hopefully, we will see a rise in these paradigm-neutral, open-access academic resources.


  13. Phil,

    “I've come to the opinion that we have to wage an “Enlightenment” campaign in the Gap. “

    I agree with this 100%. The PNM idea of economic connectivity as the answer is incomplete.

    Ideas matter: freedom of speech, press, association, religion, right to own property, the right to a fair/equal and predictable justice system, etc.

    The question is how to go about this. Considering that the actors would be both states, individuals, kin-based networks, and purpose-driven networks – both from the core and the gap, there are lots of 4GW and 5GW possibilities.

    I don't think there is willpower/awareness in the US or the west to do this yet…so maybe the first target of a 5GW should be the populations of US/West…to give it the will/awareness to act and to support action (and to stifle the post-modernism meme).

  14. via Kent's Imperative [1], this link about the concept of 'Jinn' in Islam: [2]

    Any thoughts? I've approached it in a roundabout way without going into detail at D5GW, in comments to a post by Dan [3].




  15. Curtis,

    Outside of modern faiths (Mormonism, Raelianism, Scientology, etc), Islam may be the most sci-fi friendly religion. Not only is God the Lord of the Worlds, by creating both man and djinn he is also Lord of parallel universes. Djinn

    I once reviewed a work by Mike Heiser [1], who is a phd that has spent time on the ancient languages of the Old Testament. I once heard him give an interview, and he emphasized the similarity between modern (shadow people, aliens, etc) and ancient (shades, shining ones, etc) experiences. Likewise, the Economist's article's mention of yeti (“Supposed yeti sightings in Pakistan's Chitral are believed by locals to be of jinn”) reminds me of a friend who did research in Nepal and was informed matter-of-factly by locals that they heard these snowmen /as they were speaking/.

    These creatures either exist or the human brain is built to observe things that are not there.

    Either (a) the world is not rational or (b) we are not rational observers of the world. This is the bane of would-be tyrants, and the hope of 5GWarriors, everywhere.


    Thanks for the comments! 🙂


  16. Ugggg….I spent a large part of Christmas Evening being lectured to by Muslims on their fear of near future robots ruling the earth. So, my sample of size n=1 says, yes, islam is open to Science Fiction!

  17. My Iranian uncle (Shia Muslim) spent most of the night talking to me. He has a habit of disrupting family gatherings.

    My sister was hosting for Christmas day for the extended family.

    My duty as a good brother was to sit next to him and be the focus/target of his talking (and the occasional rants) to spare the rest of the guests and keep him from leaving early and taking his wife (my Aunt) with him.

    He talked to me (I listened only for the most part) about 5 hours: poetry, a little Iran/Persian supremacy (as the other future world super power), economics (he won't admit it, but he has a Marxist economic outlook or understanding), the Milwaukee Murder rate (“no Uncle, I don't think it is 600 per year – it is about 100 actually”) and other stuff I don't remember any alot of it.

    Sometimes I can't follow what he saying or how he jumped from topic to topic. Mostly I just listened.

    At one point, I thought I had an opportunity to talk economics and point him in a free-market/classical liberal outlook and he yelled “would you just let me say something here”…which I though was funny because I had not spoke a word in 30 minutes before that.

    He quickly started talking about how soon robots would do all the work and activity and soon rule over all of us.

    At first I thought he was joking…but he was serious. He went into a rant how we would all be slaves to the robots. I told him that being a computer guy, the robots will be cool with me…but he wasn't listening to anything I was saying. He was just talking fast – soon I could only make a few words here and there till he calmed down and moved onto another subject.

    He had several glasses of wine and I am sure that didn't help things.

    I wish I could have gotten a more coherent robot threat philosophy from him, but I couldn't.

    BTW, this is another reason I blog as PurpleSlog and not under my real name.

  18. Purpleslog,

    My thoughts are working in the same direction as yours. While I have come to realize the necessity of disseminating the rule-sets that we in the West have found, through hard-won experience, to lead to “the Exit”, I also have come to realize that we in the West have secured our own demise (not immediate, but long term) by deconstructing, dumbing down, and deligitimizing the very things that have led to our “Exit”. So I'm with you in thinking that maybe we need to be waging 4GW & 5GW domestically as an essential component of the Long War. We need to be strategizing and organizing a domestic meme campaign to promote a classical liberal vision as the basis of our free and prosperous society. How can we presume to export the rule-sets that have led to our success when half of our population wages a campaign against them? If we really want to shrink the Gap, economically, philosophically, and culturally, then we need to defeat the domestic opponents of “the Exit” in order to have the political will to shrink the Gap.

  19. “He quickly started talking about how soon robots would do all the work and activity and soon rule over all of us.”

    Is he an Asimov fan?

    In a sort of related form I'd like to pose a question.

    With all the rhetoric, worry and global attention surrounding Iran and it's apparent proliferation I've not seen many address one aspect and I'm interested in those that read and post here's take:

    How much control does Ahmadinejad (or any Iranian president) really maintain over the persian state?

  20. To the best of my knowledge, he has never read any science fiction.

    “How much control does Ahmadinejad (or any Iranian president) really maintain over the persian state?”

    I was under the impression the “President” of Iran is a press secretary or spokesman for the rulling group of Mullahs.

  21. “I was under the impression the “President” of Iran is a press secretary or spokesman for the rulling group of Mullahs.”

    Indeed, I've been led to believe that the Presidency of Iran is merely a figurehead. As you stated, a representative for the theocratic court that truly rules Iran.

    Given this aspect, why the hell does anyone place any credence or lever any political viewpoint based on Iran's elections? Case in point, the recent political “blow” to Ahmadinejad in regional elections as reported by both mainstream and more “practical” medias. Isn't it essentially meaningless?

    Is an entire informational network (not to mention government??) missing one hell of a misnomer here or am I way off base?

    “To the best of my knowledge, he has never read any science fiction.”

    lol, perhaps he could be encouraged to write it? Sounds like an interesting fellow. Too bad you couldn't pursue the discussion further.

  22. “Given this aspect, why the hell does anyone place any credence or lever any political viewpoint based on Iran's elections?”

    Honestly, I think most journalist are pretty stupid. At university, the journalism students I interacted with generally the least knowledge, most ideological, and were well below average in critical thinking skills.

    “lol, perhaps he could be encouraged to write it?”

    Oh man, I have listened to his poetry for hours – I wanted to bang my head afterwards! I like science fiction, I don't want him to ruin it for me! I can give up poetry.

  23. “Given this aspect, why the hell does anyone place any credence or lever any political viewpoint based on Iran's elections?”

    Iran's elections matter as much as Victorian Britain's elections did — they do not replace the Supreme Leader, but they strengthen or weaken factions of the Establishment. Without Disraeli et al, and the anti-slaver victories, Britain may have substantially supported the Confederacy, for example, changing history.

    From December 2006: [1]
    “That the British “democracy” a century ago is shoddy by our modern standards really isn't important. What was amazingly important is that peaceful processes were used to set government policy and they reflected the changing preferences of a dispersed, marketized power elite (which incidentally was secular, too).”

    From January 2005: [2]
    “Iran is a lot like Britain a century ago. An out of touch elite controls one body of council (The House of Lords / The Guardian Council) while everyone else wants to live their lives.”

    PS: Mountainrunner is looking at robots [3], too…




  24. Well, Dan, at your suggestion/insistence:

    Sometimes, I actually dare to fancy myself a [wannabe-/erstwhile-] writer. And I try to get good ideas for a story or 2 by throwing all manner of ideas up in the air, and seeing where and how they land on the ground. (Recall again my question about a notion of “stigmergic totalitarianism.”)

    Here's something I'd like a good “informed” opinion on (an idea that occurred to me at–of all places–at work):

    “Godparenthood as an avenue/strategy/gimmick for 5GW.”

    As a story idea, is it a good idea, bad idea, or what-not?

    Does it sound plausible? Realistic?

    Would it make sense as a strategy?

    Needless to say, if anyone were to try such a gimmick, there'd be limits on how it could be applied. For one thing, it's almost pretty much a “Christian” [if not “Catholic”] thing.

    Anyway, I'd appreciate your–and anyone else's–thoughts on this.

    In case one wonders where this idea came from:

    It goes all the way from Belmont Club's recent posts regarding the Philippines to recalled early-December '06 discussion on Lidless Eye on possible genetic legacies of the activisms of Willi Munzenberg and Antonio Gramsci (IIRC, I *think* I *might've* forwarded at least part of this to you), all the way through my reflection of the impotances of Godparents and “compadrazco” in Filipino society as well as Hispanic societies, and finally… to Joe Haldeman's short story, “To Howard Hughes: A Modest Proposal” (gotta thank Purpleslog for recommending it–interesting story, interesting premise, but I *hated* this “undercurrent” of “obnoxiousness” I found within it; there was this bad aftertaste to it….).

    Anyway, again–thoughts/opinions/comments?

    Is it possible that someone or some group may have made an organized effort at this? Say–just to be *hypothetical*–with “liberation theology” types in Latin America and elsewhere in the Third World?

    And I'm not *just* talking about the Left or Anti-American/Anti-Western movements–ISTR that Gen. MacArthur was a Godfather to the child of some important political figure in the Philippines (unable to recall the name). American covert agencies can't have been that ignorant about Filipino, Latin American, or overall “Catholic”/”Christian” cultures in Third World areas; *at least* some folks wthin these agencies will have to know *something* about how “important” Godparenthood is in these societies, and I wouldn't be surprised if I learned (perhaps from some rabid-Leftist book or website out there) that *at least* *some* sort of effort may've been tried with regard to this.

    There are 2 more things that related to this:
    1)the news, reported by folks like Philip Jenkins and others, that Christianity is growing in the Third World, and
    2) a suggestion in an essay published in a political journal that the US reformulate foreign aid programs with a view to creating “long-term relationships” with people who receive aid. (Dan, if you want, I'll send you a copy, but I warn you it's a bit of a long read.)

  25. Jayson,

    Just so I can get a handle on this interesting theory, let me throw something out there:

    In uniting the tribal factions of the Mongol steppes, Temujin made it a point to adopt members of each defeated tribe into his own family (either immediate or extended) effectively solidifying loyalties.

    Is that analogous or way off?

  26. How would it relate to 5GW? Understand, your grasp of the principles and depths of 5GW are likely way beyond mine. I understand it's basic principle (systemic manipulation as opposed to blatant aggression) but the true nuts and bolts evade me.

  27. Subadei and Jayson,

    As far as 5GW theory goes -virtually anything- can be a 5GW 'gimmick' so long as in a larger context it influences a system. That's why a 5GW campaign might look a lot like a conspiracy theory, taking several things that appear to be completely unrelated and putting them in a context to accomplish a specific result.

    I'd love to see your input on the concepts over at Dreaming 5GW!

  28. A very cool 5GW discussion! I linked to it from the “Dreaming” blog! [1]


    I've thought about “hegemonism” — this super-charged suspicion of one's own country's motives — before. It seems to have entered British intellectual life before Americans, and seems most widespread in the English speaking world. I wonder if it is a residual of Anglo-Saxon suspicious of authority? How would one test this?


  29. Very interesting, Jayson.
    I'm not sure how I take Mr. Semlers ideology. On one hand it's provided him (and his staff) with a large degree of success. It promotes self reliance in a fashion that the more stagnant classic form of corporate hierarchy cannot which certainly has the propensity to lead to higher productivity. But I can't help entertain a situation in which the inmates run the asylum. What if such a business that employs this system falls on hard times?

  30. Jayson,

    Interesting article! An exceprt:

    “For 25 years, Semler has been putting into practise what increasing numbers of modern management gurus are now preaching. He heads a democratic company, Semco, where employees set their hours, determine their salaries and choose their bosses. Managers don’t have secretaries, reserved parking spaces or even desks.

    We decided to close down our head office and start working in small units. In the 21st century, it makes no sense to get people to come to your head office from all over the country—because even if they physically all get together, they’ll still send an email to a colleague sitting two metres away.

    Let employees determine everything themselves: their salaries, their working hours, their managers. “

    I'm unclear, but it appears that the organization is run more like a self-governing cooperative with a pre-arranged constitutional structure. It looks similar to what I do with classroom democracy [1,2]

    My guess is that, depending on how majorities have to be formed to vote on things, this type of organization can be quite hard on itself. People can be pretty tough on their peers, as this sort of organization presumably reduces the “nobles oblige” of management.


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