T2B9: A Special Transmission

Voting that counts


While I am not the kind who thinks you have your facts and I have alternative facts, there’s a meta-game that liberals have played to perfection: they get to choose which facts are given prominence and which facts are swept under the carpet.

I get it; not all facts are equally important and we wouldn’t be able to get anything done if we had to take all facts seriously. Retrograde motion of the planets: earth shaking; only five planets visible to the naked eye: not so important.

But how do we decide which fact is worth highlighting? Neoliberals have optimized their system to play that meta-game and their answer is that only meritorious individuals (Harvard JDs if you’re a wannabe politician) are allowed to put facts in front of the public.

Michael Sandel (Harvard, but not JD) disagrees.

Can’t say I am a fan of the best and the brightest myself.

Special Transmission

It’s fun to watch Republicans and Democrats turn upon each other. But they are turning upon each other for different reasons. As the great man said:

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Some democrats are worried they aren’t progressive enough. Other democrats are worried they are too progressive. And as I said in update #3, when local elections get nationalized, becoming more progressive in NY can become a liability in Lancaster. Not clear if that’s an asset or a liability for an AOC. The more progressive she gets, the more moderates lose elsewhere, the more the Democratic party gets reshaped in her image, the more young people come into the party and create a permanent base for her position. It’s not clear the usual threat of withholding committee positions and other accoutrements of power work against someone who has an independent national voice on social media as well as regular media.

Independent of the merits of their respective positions, the squad can, should and has learnt from Trump, whose power is explicitly predicated on dissing the establishment. Like Zen: a special transmission outside the scriptures.

That’s the Democratic cliques in action. The Republicans are turning upon each other to please Trump (AOC, take careful notes). Lindsay Graham, who once said:

A Trump nomination “would be an utter, complete and total disaster. If you’re a xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot, you’re going to have a hard time being president of the United States, and you’re going to do irreparable damage to the party.”

is now being accused by the Georgia Secretary of State (another Republican):

Sen. Lindsey Graham implicitly proposed he toss out legally mailed ballots in the state, as Republicans seek ways to sway election results in President Donald Trump’s favor.

It’s not about the recount, which is now being done by hand and Brad Raffensperger (see: Republican Secretary of State of Georgia) has already said that the recount is not going to overturn the result (Biden won Georgia). It’s about getting the party faithful all riled up so that they will come out to vote for Perdue and Loeffler in January.

Tolstoy would have never guessed it, but keeping one’s family unhappy in its own way is good for business.

Coming up Next: The Thucydides Trap

Graham Alison (famous for this book on the Cuban Missile Crisis) has been talking about the Thucydides trap more recently:

When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling power, alarm bells should sound: danger ahead

In case it wasn’t obvious, Rising: China:: Ruling:US. Biden will have to deal with it. But the Thucydides trap (in my view) is just the international manifestation of elite behavior at multiple scales: when there are fewer slots than aspirants for power, some of the aspirants will differentiate themselves appropriately and clash with their peers in order to wrest power for themselves.

Nothing new about it. Munis Faruqui, writing about the Mughal princes:

Rather than religious conflict, one of the central engines driving Mughal state formation was the competition and occasional bursts of violence that framed political struggles occurring within the Mughal royal family itself.

Indians are taught about the assassination of fifth Sikh Guru, Arjan Dev, by the Mughal emperor Jahangir as a Sikh vs Muslim religious struggle. I’m sure religious motives were used to justify the killing, but let’s also note that Guru Arjan blessed and protected Jahangir’s son, Khusrau Mirza (Akbar’s favorite, btw) in the struggle between Jahangir and Khusrau.

Khusrau was first brought to Delhi, where a novel punishment was meted out to him. He was seated in grand style on an elephant and paraded down Chandni Chowk, while on both sides of the narrow street, the noblemen and barons who had supported him were held at knife-point on raised platforms. As the elephant approached each such platform, the luckless supporter was impaled on a stake (through his bowels), while Khusrau was compelled to watch the grisly sight and listen to the screams and pleas of those who had supported him. This was repeated numerous times through the entire length of Chandni Chowk.

Khusrau was then blinded (in 1607) and imprisoned in Agra. However, his eyesight was never completely lost. In 1616, he was handed over to Asaf Khan, the brother of his step-mother Nur Jehan. In 1620, he was handed over to his younger brother, Prince Khurram (later known as emperor Shah Jahan), who incidentally was Asaf Khan's son-in-law. In 1622, Khusrau was killed on the orders of Prince Khurram.

Guru Arjan wasn’t the only person killed by Jahangir - lot’s of (Muslim) Mughal notables were also skewered. We don’t impale our sons and brothers on sticks anymore (except in North Korea) but the principle still stands:

fraternal competition between elites is rationalized after the fact with whatever ideology the particular historical period permits.