Last Sunday Of The Decade Ethics Alarms, 12/29/2019: Herman Kahn Rolling Over In His Grave Edition

Good morning!

In my one, fortuitous one-on-one conversation with futurist Herman Kahn, then regarded as the most brilliant man in America, he observed that society periodically for forgets everything it has learned over the years, and then chaos reigns temporarily until bad ideas and horrific mistakes re-teach the lessons that once were accepted as obvious. He was talking about the Sixties, but it is clear that this is another one of those periods. Kahn also noted that some of the forgotten lessons are re-learned too late to save society from permanent harm. The Sixties gave us socially acceptable promiscuous sex and the resulting normalization of children born out of wedlock, the re-assignment of of abortion as ethical (somehow) rather than criminal, and societal sanctions of recreational drug use.

Nice work, Boomers…

1. Speaking of abortion...can there be a more empty, fatuous justification of it than what Senator Cory Booker tried last week? ”Abortion rights shouldn’t matter to men because women are our mothers, sisters, daughters, friends,” Booker tweeted. “They should matter to men — to everyone — because women are people.”

How profound. Nobody has ever disputed that women are people, and Booker’s non-logic—the statement compels the response, “And SO…????”—is an appeal to emotion without substance. It also makes its own rebuttal screamingly obvious to anyone but a pro-abortion zealot: “Abortion should be repugnant to men and women…and Presidential candidates…because unborn babies are living human beings.”

2. Among the bad ideas circulating now...Bernie Sanders’ (and AOC’s) demand that every citizen has a right to a home. Here’s an article that argues persuasively that homelessness in overwhelmingly the result of drug addiction (Did I remember to thank the Boomers?) and untreated mental illness. Then it has this:

Liberal idealism also wasted much of the $1.2 billion that L.A. voters raised in 2016 when they voted to tax themselves to build housing for the homeless. “It was supposed to build 10,000 units but in truth will create half that because each one costs $527,000 to $700,000,” said Bales. “They will take ten years to build, at which point 44,000 lives will have been destroyed by living on the street.”

Why did progressive housing activists in L.A. insist on building such expensive apartments for so few people, so slowly, rather than quickly building cheaper units faster for 44,000 people?

“[Housing First] is a dogmatic philosophy,” said Bales. “I’ve lost friends. One of my closest friends is attacking me for pushing for housing that costs $11,000 instead of $527,000 per person. He can’t get that we can’t provide a $527,000 to $700,000 apartment for each person on the street. I’ve been in planning meetings where people said, ‘Everybody deserves a granite countertop,’ but that isn’t going to work for 44,000 people.”

What do you bet that you could get most of the Democratic candidates to raise their hands at a debate if they were asked, “Who supports the right of every American to a granite countertop?”

3. To look on the bright side, at least public schools are being increasingly open about the fact that education isn’t their top priority any more…The Fairfax County public schools in Virginia will allow students to skip school in order to allow them to participate in political protests.  This is so idiotic and badly reasoned that it indicts the system’s competence to teach anything to anyone. Will the schools dismiss a student who wants to join a protest against Confederate statue toppling, currently a fad in the Old Dominion? How big does a protest have to be to qualify? How about a protest against the incompetence of Fairfax County school administrators?

Fairfax School Board member Ryan McElveen, who introduced the policy, said it responds to a growing demand for protesting among younger Americans.

“I think we’re setting the stage for the rest of the nation with this,” McElveen told the Washington Post. “It’s a dawning of a new day in student activism, and school systems everywhere are going to have to be responsive to it.”

No, they don’t, and you’re an idiot. There’s a growing demand among students for drugs and sex too; do school systems everywhere have to be responsive to THAT?

Parents can stop this cretinism in its tracks, because parental consent is required before a student who can’t name the three branches of government will be allowed to spend the day chanting “No justice, no peace!” Thanks to their own incompetent education, however, a lot of the the parents will not see anything wrong with trading school for a fun day pretending to be civically engaged.

4. And then there are the colleges...Kian Goh, an assistant professor of urban planning at UCLA, writes, presumably with a straight face, about what he considers promising remedies for climate change:

[I]ndividual homeownership should be seriously questioned…There has been resurgent interest in government-planned and -built public housing, including recent legislation proposed by Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie Sanders that would shore up and invigorate the federal system. The Green New Deal invokes prior eras of government intervention, lending itself to revitalized thinking about the social value of public goods. If we can reframe debates about the future of cities beyond rote acceptance of property ownership, it will free up space for us to think about new, more just, and climate-attuned modes of urban living. Responding to climate change in just ways entails radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting against or adapting to climate change impacts, and doing all of it without further marginalizing oppressed groups of people.

Got it. Totalitarianism and Communism is the way to go. Imagine what lessons this guy had to forget (or willfully ignore) to write this garbage.

And he’s teaching students.

28 thoughts on “Last Sunday Of The Decade Ethics Alarms, 12/29/2019: Herman Kahn Rolling Over In His Grave Edition

  1. Has Kian Goh ever turned on a Sci-Fi flick in which the hoi polio are relegated to the bowels of the earth while the masters live opulently in the city above. When the rabble get restless the master merely turn off the ventilation fans.

    Just because I’m paranoid does not mean they are not out to get us.

  2. “I think we’re setting the stage for the rest of the nation with this,” McElveen told the Washington Post. “It’s a dawning of a new day in student activism, and school systems everywhere are going to have to be responsive to it.”

    Yeah… reminds me of the good old days of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Little kids doing great things and not even knowing why or what it means.

  3. Let the homeless have granite counters! But everyone else has to live in crappy government public housing.

    And some people wonder why some of us question progressivism.

  4. There’s a growing demand among students for drugs and sex too; do school systems everywhere have to be responsive to THAT?

    Sadly, plenty of teachers provide students’ demands for sex, even if the students are underage.

    • Of the many demands our teachers made during the last teachers’ strike were legalized roulette, legalized craps, and legalized marijuana. A few local teachers told me that they were hoping to get marijuana licenses so they could sell to their students. Gee…I wonder why my child is in private school now and why many of his classmates are the children of public school teachers?

  5. 1. A lot of pro-abortion folks dress it up in high-sounding rhetoric, but it all boils down to the same rhetoric this woman is spouting:

    https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=crazy+pro-abortion+woman&&view=detail&mid=3014EB122D3487C95EF03014EB122D3487C95EF0&&FORM=VRDGAR&ru=%2Fvideos%2Fsearch%3Fq%3Dcrazy%2520pro-abortion%2520woman%26qs%3Dn%26form%3DQBVR%26sp%3D-1%26pq%3Dcrazy%2520pro-abortion%2520woman%26sc%3D0-24%26sk%3D%26cvid%3DAB3B5E70A9AB4E05B0B3A71B3E4D13AA

    2. The left will just point to the Reagan era’s closing of a lot of mental institutions as the root cause of homelessness. It was the government’s job, you see, to clean up the mess created by rampant drug abuse (because the pressures of society just got to people, ya know) and untreated mental illness (families gotta have somewhere to park undesirable members while they get on with their lives).

    3. Education went out the window long ago in favor of indoctrination. Some schools used to have a community service requirement for graduation (which I don’t agree with, since community service is usually used as a punishment). It wouldn’t surprise me if some start introducing a “civil engagement” requirement. Instead of cleaning up litter in parks and shoveling snow for elderly residents, the students would receive credit for going to protests and rabble rousing with public meetings.

    4. Environmentalism is a green tree with red roots. Who are we kidding?

  6. Communal apartment buildings with low-flow toilets, no air conditioning, but featuring granite countertops!

    I don’t think they understand that socialism isn’t that everyone has nice things, but that only the top Socialists have nice things and everyone else lives at the bottom.

  7. They should add a snitch line where the kiddies can report their non-conforming parents. Where have I heard that before?

    These Lefties just have no knowledge of history anymore.

    When my kids were in junior school years ago, it became apparent that teachers were eager to coopt their students to do their bidding and support their causes. Nothing has changed here.

  8. Jack wrote:

    In my one, fortuitous one-on-one conversation with futurist Herman Kahn, then regarded as the most brilliant man in America, he observed that society periodically for forgets everything it has learned over the years, and then chaos reigns temporarily until bad ideas and horrific mistakes re-teach the lessons that once were accepted as obvious. He was talking about the Sixties, but it is clear that this is another one of those periods. Kahn also noted that some of the forgotten lessons are re-learned too late to save society from permanent harm. The Sixties gave us socially acceptable promiscuous sex and the resulting normalization of children born out of wedlock, the re-assignment of of abortion as ethical (somehow) rather than criminal, and societal sanctions of recreational drug use.

    What I find interesting is that you do not regard this man as a *diabolical thinker*:

    “The unacceptability of the Doomsday Machine raises awkward, unpleasant, and complicated questions that must be considered by both policy maker and technician. If it is not acceptable to risk the lives of the three billion inhabitants of the earth in order to protect ourselves from surprise attack, then how many people would we be willing to risk? I believe that both the United States and NATO would reluctantly be willing to envisage the possibility of one or two hundred million people (i.e., about five times more than World War II deaths) dying from the immediate effects, even if one does not include deferred long-term effects due to radiation, if an all-out thermonuclear war results from a failure of Type I Deterrence. With somewhat more controversy, similar numbers would apply to Type II Deterrence. (For example, some experts would concede the statement for an all-out Soviet nuclear attack on Europe, but not if the Soviets restricted themselves to the use of conventional weapons.) We are willing to live with the possibility partly because we think of it as a remote possibility. We do not expect either kind of deterrence to fail, and we do not expect the results to be that cataclysmic if deterrence does fail.”

    • Mutual assured destruction worked, just as Herman said it would. How many world wars with convetional weapons would have happened otherwise? Kahn was the master of “thinking the thinkable.”

      NOTHING should be unthinkable.

        • It wasn’t just moral luck, but obviously luck played a part. The Cuban Missile Crisis could have turned into WW III easily, but it didn’t However, Khrushchev’s decision to pull back was based on the fear of MAD.

          • Khrushchev’s decision to pull back was based on the fear of MAD.

            Oddly enough, this is the same aspect of human nature that makes the death penalty work: someone might kill you back.

      • Mutual assured destruction worked, just as Herman said it would. How many world wars with conventional weapons would have happened otherwise? Kahn was the master of “thinking the thinkable.”

        There are all manner of different counter-arguments — a Google search brings them up immediately — and all of the counter-arguments involve *imposing* on reality a different group of possibilities that determine how life is lived. If ‘thinking the unthinkable’ is necessary, and if unthinkable thoughts can be considered to have any value at all, the truly unthinkable could have taken shape through opposition to the entire project of escalation. It stands within the realm of the reasonable that such opposition could have been encouraged. But to do that would involve turning against the direction of the present, and that direction is determined — chosen, insisted upon — by powerful players that have an interest in the structure of things. (Here

        But here the ‘unthinkable thought’ is that thinking such unthinkable things is folly and stupidity. To think outside of established parameters is a form of idiocy therefore. If this is so then we are really better off thinking in the most cruel and cynical terms. That it is *worth it* somehow if at some point nuclear war takes place and millions die and we have to live with the consequences of embryonic deformation of our children and all else that would stem from nuclear war then one has to ask what foundation of values is being defended.

        What is also implied here is that it is power — centers of power, centers of administrative power, and also the power of the entities that dedicate themselves to building such weapons — who ultimately have power over all others. If that reality is accepted, it means that we accept that tyrannical powers control us and determine us (as I say, putting special emphasis on *determine*). And since this does seem to be the case, it means that the ‘determining backdrop’ to life is in the hands of madmen.

        If this is so — and it seems to be so — every technological evolution that has arisen from war machinery has to be accepted as inevitable. Military authority and assertiveness will eventually be able to control thought or perhaps to sense wrongthink and to send antibodies to enclose and isolate — and to neutralize and destroy — those who oppose the powers that insist that *life must be like this* and cannot be something else.

        Please don’t think that I am so naive that I cannot understand *the way the world is*. But you must see that if I am to think in terms of liberty, freedom, justice, and proper organization of society, I have to confront (and we have to confront) what stands in opposition to that.

        If it is best that an immensely powerful group or state or entity should be given total control over human affairs, then it is a question of deciding which group or entity that will be, and helping them to gain that level of power and control.

        Come, AntiChrist, come! We’ll set a place for you at our familiar table, like Elijah of old! 🙂

        • Yeah, there are denials of all sorts of undeniable things on Google. Kahn was proven right; if the disarmament lobby and the pacifists had gotten their way, the odds are we’d all be dead, or speaking Russian.

          • You make this too easy!

            Yeah, there are denials of all sorts of undeniable things on Google.

            That is a non sequitur and a red-herring. There are coherent arguments that anyone can access through Googling the various articles that challenge and contradict the structure of the deterrence argument.

            But yes, like so many things, and in so many different areas, there are radically opposed views.

            Kahn was proven right; if the disarmament lobby and the pacifists had gotten their way, the odds are we’d all be dead…

            You admitted to the ‘moral luck’ aspect. If luck had not been operative, we might live in a very different world than the one we live in now.

            The argument in favor of limiting the possibility of nuclear armageddon is not a ‘pacifist’ argument! It is the argument for a sane person. To *believe in* any other argument is to believe in something that is by definition insane.

            The most absolute and dedicated war-monger should see the logic of avoiding detonation of these bombs and should act in the direction of making that unlikely.

            …or speaking Russian.

            Now that is a pure fallacy. All of Russia at that time had an economy the size of Italy. There is no way that Russia could ever have conquered territory and held it, nor did anyone ever think this was really possible.

            The other aspect of this is that by allowing proliferation there are real and present dangers about the possible use of these weapons, with their monumental consequences. The threat is still present.

            Said President Trump:

            “We recognize that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unrivaled power is the most certain means of defense”

            There is a certain logic here, naturally. My point is and has been not so much to criticize or to oppose — I leave that to the working activists — but rather to see clearly how power functions.

            And I am interested in noticing and talking about how power establishes the central ideological view and then the individual, when the individual has other (better) choices, aligns himself with the narrative chosen and determined by power. That is of course how *indoctrination* functions. Not in the US of course — there is no such thing as indoctrination as everyone knows — but in other places in the world that are benighted.

            🙂

            • Nah.

              There are coherent arguments that anyone can access through Googling the various articles that challenge and contradict the structure of the deterrence argument.

              They may be coherent, but they don’t meet their burden of proof, which is daunting. First, despite the kinds of tensions that in past ears would have led to war, a nuclear exchange did not occur, and the most obvious difference was nuclear arsenals. second, the papers and documents behind the Cuban Missile Crisis explicitly cite Russia’s fear of mutual destruction as the reason Khrushchev backed down even knowing that it would be his own political ruin. So those arguments are simply denial, much like those that refuse to credit Reagan for the collapse of the Soviet Union.

              You admitted to the ‘moral luck’ aspect. If luck had not been operative, we might live in a very different world than the one we live in now.

              The moral luck was that a freak episode didn’t start a nuclear war anyway, as in “Dr. Strangelove.” The right decision doesn’t guarantee a good result, but the wrong one, not building a nuclear arsenal, was guaranteed disaster, based on any serious analysis. People c an always concoct reasons why what happened was no inevitable, but that’s a game and a rationalization.

              The argument in favor of limiting the possibility of nuclear armageddon is not a ‘pacifist’ argument! It is the argument for a sane person. To *believe in* any other argument is to believe in something that is by definition insane. The most absolute and dedicated war-monger should see the logic of avoiding detonation of these bombs and should act in the direction of making that unlikely.

              No, it’s an unethical argument based on denying unpleasant reality. The same bad logic is why we don’t make use of nuclear power, even though it would substantially address the climate change concerns. You must be able to wage war to prevent war, and the more undesirable war is, the less likely anyone is going to risk starting one. The problem arises in non-rational actors. But the there is no rational remedy to non-rational actors, other than to eliminate them.

              Now that is a pure fallacy. All of Russia at that time had an economy the size of Italy. There is no way that Russia could ever have conquered territory and held it, nor did anyone ever think this was really possible.

              How could anyone NOT think it was possible? Russia kept the entire Iron Curtain intact with that Italy-sized economy. It was willing to let its public starve while it achieved its military and political goals.

  9. There is a worthwhile opinion article by Michiko Kakutani in today’s Times: How social media, the Great Recession and Donald Trump combined to bring out the ‘indigenous American berserk.’ It is interesting because it is interpretive. Highly so. To interpret is to claim power. O through interpetation one gains power. I think the Times has been involved in a very aggressive interpretive project. My theory is that we are all struggling — mightily and fervently — to interpret the world surrounding us; confining us and also determining us. But there are too many *interpretation-models* floating around and some of them contrast, absurdly, with each other. So we live within absurd times. But this is not a funny or a fun state of affairs. It brings people close to madness.

    The 2010s Were the End of Normal

    TWO OF THE MOST WIDELY QUOTED and shared poems in the closing years of this decade were William Butler Yeats’s “The Second Coming” (“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”), and W.H. Auden’s “September 1, 1939” (“Waves of anger and fear / Circulate over the bright / And darkened lands of the earth”). Yeats’s poem, written just after World War I, spoke of a time when “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.” Auden’s poem, written in the wake of Germany’s invasion of Poland, described a world lying “in stupor,” as democracy was threatened and “the enlightenment driven away.”

    It would be worthwhile to go through the whole article, bit by bit, and *interpret* it. Or counter-interpret it as the case may be! The NYTs fails to recognize that it is, in its way, the centre that cannot hold.

    The opinion-article is written by Michiko Kakutani who wrote a book called “The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump.” I will have to read it because interpretation is power and I intend to become All-Powerful. Maybe I will get my own StarTrek episode?

    Here are some quotes from commenters on the Amazon page for her book:

    Michiko Kakutani, in her book, The Death of Truth, present a realistic view of today’s society and its dubious relationship to “true-truth.” She shows how we are living in a postmodern era in which there is no such thing as public-objective truth—it is all relative—alternative facts. More specifically, Kakutani shows how relative truth has permeated the culture of our politics as embodied in our 45th President, Donald J. Trump. Why he, and many others, do not anchor reality in the objective truth is clearly brought out in her book. She describes that with alternative facts comes alternative realities. With this, Kakutani give the reader a clear explanation as to why, in particular, Trump and those close to him speak and behave the way they do. Since relative truth is so pervasive, she leave the reader with little hope for a quick change in the public’s view of truth.

    Sometimes, I have to admit, this is all very very tiresome. As in ‘spiritually exhausting’.

    I can’t go on / I’ll go on

  10. I predict that this elimination of home ownership will first be tried out in California. Won’t it be wonderful to have a homeless drug addict next door to you in your government owned co-op. I suggest a pilot project where all state and national legislators are required be part of this plan.

    • Add the Hollywood liberals who have so much money that they espouse things they think will never touch them. Do they assume they will automatically be included in the Soviet-style elite, with their dachas and privileges? They might want to thing that one through…

  11. #2: This is an example of one of the signature attributes of progressive (“né “liberal”) boondoggles. Good intentions are all that really matter, and anyone who questions the physical or financial feasibility of a program, or suggests caution or the possibility of consequences not considered is “mean”, “greedy”, and “wants people to suffer”.

    So we get things like this complete absurdity of a program that spends, on the promise of a chunk of public housing in some undetermined future year, funds that would get a McMansion, built in a few months, for retail buyers in most parts of the country.

    What, take surplus shipping containers and churn out thousands a month fitted with standardized pre-fab systems, at $10-12K each? The hell with that; that’s not a proper setting for the granite countertops and hand-scrapped hardwoods druggies and schizos need.

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