RL100 - Tertiary Lobster Fork

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

The Problem: John had a mind to, referring to John noticing he had his elbow on the table at a fancy dinner, but deciding to leave it there because he had his mind to it.

The show title refers to the fact that the point of etiquette is not about the right tertiary lobster fork, but to make other people feel comfortable.

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

Language and words, trying to get your child to listen (RL100)

Merlin has a dusky voice from having a cold. He sounds like the stage manager of the Southern Theater Company. Merlin speaks in a Southern accent and remembers the ”take and” phrase, like in: ”You need to take and move them boxes!” Merlin notices a lot of similarities between the Southern accent and Irish and Scottish accents because so many Southerners are from the British isles. Both he and John would like to sit with a language person for a long time. They both love the language stuff. Merlin hopes his daughter loves words. Merlin is hyper-lingual, which means ”literally never stops talking” He doesn’t really care how she turns out, but he hopes she likes music and words.

John’s daughter is a wordy little baby. One of the things that made John who he is, is that at a pretty young age, pre-memory, he realized that overhearing adults and listening in on adult conversations was where all the real information was exchanged. As a kid nobody expects that you know what is going on and he would just quietly sit on somebody’s lap and listen to the adults talk. They will forget that you are there. It worked for him until he was 15. He knew enough to know that his contribution was not valued when they were talking about politics or economics.

John is trying to part that to his daughter because it is the core of his understanding of the world, but she thinks that the first thought that comes into her head is the most important thought that anyone has ever had. They could be standing in a house that is on fire, talking about exit routes, and she would say: ”An orange is like an apple!” and think that they all should stop what they were doing and appraise the wisdom of that idea. John is trying to explain to her through enforcement that she needs to shut up and listen because that is how you gather more intelligence.

Merlin is thinking of Daniel Plainview (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) in that movie John can’t watch because of the music (There Will Be Blood, the soundtrack is written by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood) with the little kid, and whenever Daniel speaks his son sits in silence and is clearly listening to what he is saying. That is John’s dream because all he wants to do is teach his child, but right now she is resistant to being educated by him, which is why he is going to take his show on the road and teach the town.

Reading etiquette books and reference books as a child (RL100)

Merlin doesn’t know how to get his daughter into the ”Please” and ”Thank you!” route that has served him well. At a young age he became obsessed with etiquette because he was a very lonely kid and would read any reference book that he could put his hands on. Miss Manners (Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior by Judith Martin) is a poser, her first book is 6 inches fat. For Merlin that was Amy Vanderbilt (The Amy Vanderbilt complete book of etiquette). Then there was also Emily Post (Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home).

They had a hardcover etiquette book at their house and in hindsight he wonders how that ended up there, it was at least 3.5” thick with illustrations by Andy Warhol (that was Amy Vanderbilt). Merlin read that thing cover to cover and he knew from tiny forks and how to fold your napkin. He knew how to make hospital corners on a bed when he was 9 years old. You need to know that if you are ever going to learn how to short-sheet a bed.

On the bookshelf right next to John’s desk the first 4 books are

She was a Janet come lately. Merlin enjoys her as a guest on talk shows. She is a very witty writer and she is pretty foxy and she makes the etiquette go down with a spoon full of sugar, but she can be a bitch, too! You would think that John would have sat around in High School, just learning how to roll doobies and flicking his switchblade into a log, but in fact he was reading Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior front to back. Merlin finds these book extremely calming and because of his somewhat weird and turbulent childhood he really enjoyed things like The Brady Bunch as a cultural touch stone and he enjoyed reference books, things that showed that there was a gentle order to life.

The other day John was sitting at a fancy dinner and he had his elbow on the table and he felt bad about it, but he was going to keep it there knowingly because he had a mind to and if there was any rogue at this dinner party who could have a mind to keep his elbow on the table it was going to be him. He had a constellation of thoughts rolling through his head, and he was somewhat playing the river boat captain by leaving his elbow up there. There was no-one else in the room who could even tisk-tisk at him, he was dying to be tisk-tisked by somebody so that he could twirl the end of his mustache and dip his white dinner jacket in the consommé, but no-one did because no-one knows up from down. You can’t even riff on stuff anymore!

Merlin told his daughter that she can get away with so much in life if she can genuinely say ”Please” and ”Thank you!”, it is such a simple bit of social lubricant. Asking for something as a favor makes people much likely to do it. The second bullet point is that the point of etiquette is not to be fancy or prescriptive, but it is doing everything you can to make other people feel comfortable. It is not the point to use the right tertiary lobster fork, but it is about making each other feel at ease.

Language rules, pronunciation (RL100)

The debate is happening also about the rules of language. Why doesn’t English become a free-for-all, why do we follow these archaic grammar- and spelling-rules, and of course John, like the members of the French Academy, he believes that language evolved just fine right up until the point where he decided it should stop. He loves the evolution of English, but he adheres to the core rules. It is nice to know the rules before you break them and it is nice to know the rules before you unknowingly break them. Merlin doesn’t always speak with precision, but when he does it helps him think with precision because words mean things and the subtle differences in their meaning is amplified if you use them correctly.

John pretty clearly mispronounces 2-5% of the words in English and someone asked him the other day that he always says a particular word wrong and he knows that it is wrong because other people have surely corrected him, so why does he still do it and says this and so many other words wrong, and John’s reply was that he doesn’t prefer the way everyone else pronounces it. The word she was referring to was the word comely (ˈkʌmli) which John prefers to pronounce comely. A ”kammli” young woman sounds like the victim of unexpected bukkake, while a comely young woman is the opposite of homely.

Merlin calls it grudge-pronouncing like artis-anal. It is not artisanal. All goods are artisanal, otherwise there wouldn’t be baked good. you hired an artisan? Is that what you did? They should write a book because there are so many ways they could help people. For his whole life John has said Sasquatch in regards to the Bigfoot era of the 1970s in Washington, but apparently somewhere along the line everyone else agreed that it is pronounced Saesquatch.

The middle-brow being afraid to offend the low-brow (RL100)

What about words like niggardly? So many dummies have blanched at it that the non-dummies who know what it means still feel that it is incendiary because they have made a practice of worrying about what dummies think. It is half the problem with the modern age: There are all these middle-non-dummies who are walking around on pins on needles because some dummy might misunderstand them. The taxonomy of dummies is definitely going to be an appendix in their book! Middle-dummies used to aspire to attract the appraise of non-dummies, and now middle-dummies only act in fear of the dummies.

It used to be that the middle-brow aspired to the high-brow and neither one concerned themselves at all with the low-brow, but now the low-brow dominates and the middle-brow is at pins and needles at the prospect of offending the low-brow because the high-brow is out of fashion, it has all these negative connotations of exclusivity and wealth and privilege, and according to Merlin the middle-brow also wants to appear a bit fancy, like: ”Whom shall attend the opening of the directory with Margaret and I?”. Whom Shall would be a great DJ name! John has never been worried about fancy.

It goes back to the great influx of Irish into the Appalachia. There is the Appalachian worry of being too big for your bridges, the Nashville concern that you not act above your station. The class-structure that this used to be a part of is gone now and there is just this residual grease stain in the culture that lines up with other aspects in the culture where the lower and the cruder is considered more real. The more vulgar is the realer. It has the false friend in the humility or the desire not to brag or to put on airs. The idea that vulgarity is closer to truth has produced culture-wide a sense that people should be flying in their pajamas, which is the beginning of the end.

John getting the pad-down at the TSA line (RL100)

It is like the Walgreens situation where they are training us through a gradual increase on indignity to just go into the hopper, through the branding cage, and now they are looking at X-rays of us naked and we just say: ”Oh, okay!” Indignity has become patriotic and pretty soon they will have us walking through a short darkened tunnel where you can see the end and pretty soon it is going to be a little bit longer with a turn in it so you can’t see the end, but it is okay, ”You can trust us!” At a certain point the turn is going to get closer and you have to go through an uncomfortable squeeze in the middle, and one day you are going to squeeze through that turn, around the corner, and right into the saw blades. Don’t call it an abattoir, though, that is a little too fancy. It is a freedom knife room.

John elected to have a pad-down search the other day and it was so invasive and characterized by a banality. First they try and dissuade you, tell you it is going to be a long time, but John had a three-hour layover and he had all the time in the world. They usher you through the little gate, hold you over on the side where all the other people go by and John was standing there with a superior look on his face, like: ”I got the time! Let’s go through the pad-down”

The guy was talking to somebody across the room, puts his plastic gloves on, and gave John a full-on fucking pad-down. Right away John regretted coming over because it was so much more vulgar than whatever year of his life he was going to lose by being irradiated by a teenager operating a machine made by Halliburton and sold to the government for 50 times what its list price should be.

Some dope was just pressing on John in a way that is transparently unnecessary. John understands that you have to do it because people could self-select and be covered with plastic explosives, but there is a punitive aspect to the way they do it. It is clearly punishment to dissuade you from ever doing this again. John spent the rest of the afternoon feeling (disgusted).

TSA Pre-check, security theater (RL100)

John was traveling with his family the other day and he had encouraged them all to get the pre-check card, back when he believed that there was any value to the pre-check card at all. Merlin just heard that story on another show (see TYFC). They got to the airport, printed their tickets, all 4 of them were traveling together, sitting next to each other in an aisle, and two of the people have pre-check on top of their ticket, but John and his 3-year old daughter did not have pre-check.

They got to the woman at the security desk and she pointed half of their party down the pre-check lane and half of them into the other lane. John said: ”We are all traveling together” - ”Doesn’t matter!” - ”This is a 3-year old girl. Is there a terrorist in the world who would take his 3-year old as a bomb beard?”, but their mind was already shut off. Right away you are in the hopper and if you make any fuzz about it the only option is that you don’t fly today and the police come. John was taking his belt off and his wallet out and he was feeling the perfect storm of resentment and frustration and powerlessness, but he can’t succumb to resignation, which is the flaw in him. It makes Merlin depressed how much clothing he has to take off to get on a plane and then stand there and get dressed in front of other people.

It is deeply depressing! This system is just the lowest level of the basement. You can’t complain about it because it is such a mild shock, even the fact that they are devoting this much time talking about it on the show, there will be a certain number of people who roll their eyes and say: ”Whatever! First world problems!” Culturally we have arrived at a place where there is no way that you can assure the world…, there are no bonafides, you cannot say: ”Can we just accept that I am no thread to everyone?” It is not necessary for a civilized society to assume a-priori that every person is a threat until proven otherwise. It isn’t a 1:1 correlation that either everyone is a threat or we have to target people by race. Those aren’t the only two options!

There are a lot of people of all races, colors, and creeds that are no threat. The number of people who are a threat are such a tiny, minuscule percentage of a percentage and as a people, as a civilization, the only solution is that every single person who wants to move about will be debased and treated as a criminal and each person who wants to travel for pleasure or business needs to be mugged by a cop before they can move to the next stage of what is going to be a further debasing process. Now you have been X-rayed and fingered and now you have to go sit in a broken chair in a fart tube and maybe you get half a can of club soda while the plane sits for 3 hours on the tarmac.

How the grand experiment of America is broken (RL100)

This whole process speaks to a brokenness in the grand experiment which John is a vocal proponent of. The idea that we as human beings are evolving positively and culture is evolving positively and we are building on what we have made and we are working toward a utopia and a betterment of our condition as people. John has always believed in it, but this base police-stateism is antithetical to it, it is depressing and humiliating and infuriating and John cannot resign himself to it, but he doesn’t know how to protest it, which is part of what is humiliating. He can never just walk up to that security line and just turn into a cow because he really does feel like there will come a day when they are going to start herding a certain percentage of the people over into a dark room and you never see them again.

Part of the problem is that it is a proxy war and as in all proxy wars you tend to go beyond the initial problem. It starts out with a good-enough idea to put all this stuff in place to make sure that a certain really bad thing never happens or never happens again, even though we know that it is never going to change what has already happened. How many people died having a department store bombed in the 1980s by the IRA really had that strong of an opinion one way or another about how things went with the troubles?

In this instance, the most obvious examples being the underwear bomber or the shoe bomber, our response to some bombing tactic that didn’t even work and that was really implausible to begin with is that now everybody has to take off their shoes and this entire force of people who are not even cops, they are barely security guards, they know it doesn’t work and all this stuff is theatrical, have to take it extremely seriously and they are mad at us if we don’t play along because they are just doing their job. We are trying to do our job, just being normal people, but now this proxy war is taking the basic dignity of being a normal American who can move freely and put us through this sluice of indignity to make us kowtow to the basic concept that we are being protected by doing this, while we are not protected by doing this, that is the really galling part of this.

If you honestly thought that there are 2500 people and we know that one of them has explosives in their ass, by all means maybe just cancel the flight, but you are really going to search everybody’s ass for a balloon full of explosives? You know it is all bullshit and none of that stuff is true. It is about more than just first world problems! In this country you used to be able to move freely and to do stuff, and now you show up on lists and you don’t know why and you can’t get taken off the list.

Every proxy war starts out by non-solving a problem or non-problem and on top of that you have new problems as a result of that, with the primary new problem being that John can not be alone in traveling through airports and thinking the entire time about all the different ways he could sneak a bomb through there if he really wanted to. One out of three times Merlin sees the exact same thing happening and it blows him away: You see little kids get searched for bombs and then somebody pushing a 100 gallon garbage pail on wheels is waved through because they are an employee and they have been checked and stuff. Somebody who makes $10.50 gets waved through, just read one fucking spy novel and figure out how you would do it. You would go to a disgruntled pilot and have them do it. It is not going to be the old lady with the medicine and the gallon of water who doesn’t understand the 3oz rule. Everybody is fighting the last war!

What really concerns John is that something has been lost in just the span of his adult life where the idea of living by example has almost completely gone awry in our culture and has been replaced by a cultural war that is happening in 1000 different ways. We used to think of the United States as playing the role of the aspirational nation where no matter where you lived in the world you would aspire to come to America to live free and have opportunity. All the criticisms of that, like that America’s wealth is a result of exploitation of an unexploited country that we stole from people, accepted and assumed as valid, still: The United States as a democratic experiment was for a very long time a place where human ideas taken from all around the world were put into practice.

There are innumerable ways that there were secret societies and that the whole thing was just a CIA fake radio station the entire time, but in actual fact the human experiment was and still is played out in America better than anywhere else on a greater scale and with more factors. There is no other place in the world that has as many people of different races, cultures, and creeds all trying to come to a consensus, live according to common rules, and with a system that allows these rules to evolve in real time to reflect new ideas and new cultures coming in. The rules in America are very different than what they were 20 years ago and that is for the better because of the influx of all these new ideas, and we are uniquely flexible to assimilate all these different new concepts, and a lot of that flexibility is because of our diversity.

How Washington D.C. is fortified and the police looks acts like military (RL100)

But something is lost now and we are no longer leading by example in terms of taking acceptable risks, that people are going to get hurt, it is messy, and every once in a while somebody is going to sneak through with an underwear bomb because you cannot eliminate all crazies, you cannot stop all predators, it is crazy to try, and somewhere on the scale the practice of democracy and the practice of freedom has to look like it. This is John’s beef with Washington D.C. right now: When you were a kid you would drive down Pennsylvania Avenue, stand on the sidewalk and get your picture taken in front of the White House and it was open and democratic looking: ”The president of the United States lives right there in that house!”

There was a fence because he doesn’t want people playing Frisbee on the lawn, but that fence was just a fence. There were security people, but you couldn’t see them. The Capitol where all the government is was all laid out in this beautiful city, it was not deep inside a bunker, even if there are bunkers, but the appearance of America was intentionally very appealing and very open, even as they were fighting wars in Indochina on the sly. Now you go to Washington D.C. and it looks like an armed camp everywhere you go, there are black SUVs full of black-clad machine-gun-carrying Secret Service and park police and 50 different kinds of cop. The entire area around the White House is barricaded with tank traps, Black Hawk helicopters are flying over the city at all times, and it is complete security theater, but it is 100% the wrong impulse!

This isn’t the theater we need to be playing! Our theater needs to be the theater of confidence and calm. To play this theater of a security state is deeply anti-American, profoundly anti-democratic, and fills John with rage because it is an insult that borders on treason, an insult to the idea of America and the thing John loves about America and the America he would die to defend. All of the eagle-tattoos and freedom chants are garbage jingoism if you can’t walk down the street in Washington D.C. without feeling threatened by our own police, if you can’t fly from Seattle to San Francisco without feeling that you are not just under surveillance, but you are presumed guilty.

It is antithetical to the American way that existed all the way through the Reagan- and Clinton-years. John hears the chorus of finger-waggers that want to tell him all about the secret behind the scenes governments, but John is talking about the appearance and the temperature on the street, the feeling that America had that other placed didn’t. If you got off the subway in Berlin in 1987 there were armed police standing around because the presumption was that there were a million Soviets on the other side of the fence, but in America there were no tank traps around the White House. If the tanks get that far?

The tank traps are there to keep Timothy McVeigh and his Freight-liner van (from the Oklahoma Bombing in 1995) from getting close enough to the White House to break the windows. There is a way to close Pennsylvania Avenue and decorate it with flowers and make it not appear that you are playing a video game. It is such a Dick Cheney move.

There was a scene in California a few years ago where two bank robbers had machine guns and walked down the street, supposedly with impunity, just firing their machine guns all around, and the story that the cops told was that they were totally out-gunned. 2000 cops were out-gunned by one guy with a machine gun and his friend driving a car (the North Hollywood Shootout in 1997). The response from law enforcement nationwide was that the bad guys have these really powerful guns and we need to double down and militarize. Through the history of America there have always been bad guys with guns as modern a gun as you could have.

The sniper in the clock tower in Austin back in the 1960s (University of Texas Tower Shooting in 1966) was a Marine sniper with a sniper rifle shooting at students, it was never a question of firepower. But just because this guy has an automatic or semi-automatic weapon, you felt it immediately and all of a sudden the cops were in black fatigues everywhere, driving around in SUVs with blacked-out windows. The police have always wanted that, but there were civilian checks on that kind of thing. The civilian population said in general that they didn’t want the police driving around in tanks, looking like Gestapo.

We want police walking, swinging their Billy Clubs, harassing teenagers sitting in soda fountains, we want them to look like they protect us, like members of the community, but in the last 15 years the police have through a hero-worshipping cult and the general militarizing of the United States everywhere you look they have combat boot on, their pants are bloused, they are carrying sometimes three guns, and they look like paratroopers, particularly at a big gathering. All of a sudden even the cops that are in normal uniforms run home and get their paratrooper outfits on.

What do they think their job is? If you spend 5 years of your life walking around with 3 guns and body armor all the time, you are not thinking of yourself as a community police officer, but you are thinking of yourself as Army reserve. If you are coming to a peaceful gathering in the town square and you show up and there is a line of cops dressed like Army rangers on night patrol, do you go to them for help if you lose your wallet, or do you stand at the other side of the square and eye them warily? These are not police who are projecting that they are helpful, kind, thoughtful, considerate, or even human.

Fast forward a couple of years from now where we have the technology to let 1 in 3 of those be a robot. John read on Twitter the other day a really smart comment that people are always bitching that we were promised flying cars, but if you were born any time after 1970 what you were really promised by Science Fiction was a dystopian police state and in fact the promises of Science Fiction are coming true, so quit your bitching! It was a very clever tweet that really resonated with John. If you were born in 1930, maybe you were promised flying cars and some high-tech leisure, that was all World’s Fair 1962 stuff, but by the time 1980 came around Science Fiction was all just: It is going to be a cesspool ruled from on high by robots and either you are living on Elysium or you are not.

If we want to come to a solution we have to start now by not resigning ourselves to these minor indignities on behalf of the TSA. It is possible to roll back the police state mentality, but it requires that we resume culture-wide a mentality that favors peace and tranquility and consensus over divisiveness and in a way that means that our hyper-hyper-worship of individuality needs to be somewhat tempered. The idea that every single person has a right to whatever myriad bullet points they can come up with to describe their own individual identity, that premise that each person’s individual identity is a status rather than that our status is derived through the welfare of the group, that we all lose status if any quadrant of the group is not well cared for.

Individuality taking precedence (RL100)

That is a lost art and it was never articulated before because it was presumed in a lot of ways. On all sides now every single person in America has a strange combination of Appalachian fratboy rebel status, and if everyone is a rebel there will never be any peace and we deserve to live in a police state. The one thing that unifies a newly out trans sex worker and a Alabama fratboy investment banker deaking in his church is that neither one of them is that neither one of them is going to let anybody tell them what to do and let anybody define them, and this dominates our conversation on every side of the political spectrum.

”Nobody is going to tell me who I am or what I can do, and I can be anybody I want to be and you are not the boss of me!” is the American consensus now and it is dull and it leads us down a path where we are children and the cops are doing what comes natural to them, which is: ”We need more guns! We need more authority!” That is what they will always do and what they have always done, but there is no-one to stop them now. It is not the cop’s job to say: ”We need to have a more civil society and as police we are going to accomplish that by putting our guns away”

That has to come from a new coalition of people from all walks of life who say: ”No, my individuality does not take precedence. You can tell me what to do. I do agree that although this law does not seem to apply directly to me and although I don’t have any kids and I am being taxed for the public schools, not only am I going to quit complaining about my taxes to the public schools, but I am to gratefully give my tax money to the public schools to educate my neighbor’s kids because that is how you make a better world 20 years from now!” No-one is preaching that anymore. It used to come from the churches, from your normal sense of community, it wasn’t even a thing that you could reasonably argue, it was just the John Birch Society and the wing nuts way out that would ever argue that we shouldn’t be taxed for public schools.

To Merlin there is something particularly enduring about Kafka: The part that is most disturbing in a Kafka story is that you don’t know why it is happening. What is going to lead to more credibility problems is the whole: ”This is just how it is!” That is the Dick Cheney-ness of it. Wait a minute! You can look at photos of cops from 20 years ago and from today and they are still probably really good people, but you can’t tell because they are wearing masks and riot gear. Why is that? Is that just how it is going to be now? Why has this person got picked out of the line and not that person? There is so much opacity to this all-consuming need to control all things that hurts the credibility of anybody who is trying to do something good in government.

It is the Banality of Evil thing by Hannah Arendt: It is just a bunch of people doing their fucking job and their job is to create more and more opacity about this non-solution to what is increasingly an unsolvable problem. What is the problem? Security! What does that mean? How much further will we go in the direction where things keep getting weirder and the more that we ask questions about them the more suspicious we seem. How can you be a reason member of a democratic society when you are not allowed to have basic information about why things are operating the way they do.

The Left accepting the police state just as much as the Right (RL100)

What is so dispiriting is that when Obama was running for election the first time all this stuff was happening all around us. The fact that the Department of Homeland Security is even called that, it looked like the broadest parody in the world until you realize they were serious. Homeland Security is as Nazi a thing you could say in English. It sounds like Fatherland has been crossed off. We have accepted that and don’t even say Homeland Security with a sneer anymore.

When Obama was running he was really selling it to us that it was time for a change and obviously that was his slogan, but also: It is time for the Left and the Left’s traditional relationship with the cops and the Army to step in and we need to cleanse our palate and have a nationwide juice fast and we are going to poop out some hardened fecal matter and we are going to come out the other side and demilitarize, closing Guantanamo, restoring the rule of law, but he eliminated not a single thing. In the past 6 years Obama and his administration have accepted all of the George W. Bush era militarizations as fait accompli.

You know that a Hilary Clinton administration is not going to back any of that stuff off either. She has to appear to be as hawkish as the most hawkish Democrat because traditionally that would be the number one attack you would make on a female president, saying that she is not tough enough. She is not going to roll back any of those security platforms. What you have come to is that the Democratic Party and the Left choice in America is now as invested in a police state as the Right and it isn’t working anymore, there really does need to be a new conversation where we start with the premise that we are not in constant war.

Drone- and robot warfare (RL100)

This was the problem with invading Afghanistan in the first place, before they even invaded Iraq: Rumsfeld had a hard-on for technology where he felt he wasn’t going to have to put American lives at risk, he thought that it was like the allies walking through Europe in World War II, but with Space Lasers and they were going to give us flowers and little American flags would be waved and out guys would have their bubble helmets on and would be talking to each other on heads-up displays and the Taliban would lay down their guns or their sharpened sticks, and we would be greeted in Afghanistan like liberators because everybody knows in Afghanistan and Pakistan traditionally they welcome invaders, particular robot invaders.

The military is talking about this now that 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 soldiers could be a robot in the next 20 years, it is the big position paper now. The support staff can be replaced with robots and they could reduce the number of living humans that constitute a brigade and still have a brigade strength of force. First the robot cooks, and then the robot ninjas, and in the end they could have robot farm soldiers that could pull out some of the natural resources and base metals, it is a lot like Supertrain.

It presumes that whatever foreign policy we are trying to affect is not worth an American life and if we can remove American lives from the equation we no longer have a problem at home because we will no longer have moms crying at their TVs for their 10 sons, and if we are no longer losing soldiers and robots are cheaper than soldiers, we would not ever reduce the defense budget, but we would just have more and more robot soldiers and with less and less political cost, less and less investment, and a much lower threshold of engagement.

Already we are bombing people from drones. They have a listener to the show (Matt Martin, see OVTH and RL338) who is a drone pilot and who has very strong feelings that the drone program is ethical and under tight control and that it is of service to our country and he has written a very interesting book about it that he sent John, but the ethical standard for what it takes for American technology to kill somebody has been on the vein for a long time, and carpet-bombing a city from 50.000 feet is not any more discrete than drone-attacking someone in the desert of Yemen.

We are right up against the Monroe Doctrine, we are essentially assassinating heads of state in contravention of our own law and we are trying to eliminate our investment in the sense that we take our own soldiers and our human cost away. This is true in the police too: They are not willing to put a policeman in a situation where he might get injured because it looks bad and it feels bad, so in order to keep the policemen safe they militarize them to the point that we are now facing a wall of black-faced armored cops.

John doesn’t want a policeman to get hurt either, but actually the risk of getting hurt is part of the job of being a policeman, and if you send one cop in his shirt sleeves into a group of agitators, 9 out of 10 times he is going to be able to relate to them on a human level and diffuse the situation, and if you send 25 cops dressed as robots to confront those agitators, 99% of the time it is going to turn into a fight. The risk has to be that this one cop 1 out of 10 times is going to get hurt, and if you are not willing to take that risk then you set up a situation where we are all fighting always all the time.

… and nobody is saying ”Please!” or ”Thank you!”

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