a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

I'm Loyal to Nothing Except the Dream


So if you have to choose between a tyrant who will destroy the country through bullheadedness or a career politician who will make the friends of Bill rich while making the middle class poorer, thus still destroying the country, just more slowly. If you think the Clintons are just harmless politicians you’ve been only reading/listening to one side.

Really, I think party politics, and representation in general, are just waaaay to clumsy. Why should we have to choose between two options that will eventually destroy us (as their opponents do everything to make us believe - and why do we have totally different fantasies about who’s right)? Why do we only get one mega decision every 4 years? Why can’t we all decide each issue on its own merit, one issue at a time, instead of being stuck in a situation where each side feels they have to put the party before anything else on each decision? The system has devolved into a strange version of political chicken.


Jeff, can I just say, in terms of programming, you’ve been with me since day one, 4 years ago, when I first googled “How to make a website.” Your blog has been absolutely invaluable to me, and Stack Overflow and now Stack Exchange as well. And now here I am on Discourse. I guess I’m trying to say that you’re pretty much my coding god. Without the tools you’ve built, without the information you’ve published… I’m not even kidding, it just about brings a tear to my eye. So thank you, of all the people in the software world, I look up to you the most.

Regarding my interest in this debate, I’ve never written anything on the internet before. But we live in interesting times, to put it mildly. You made an exception, so I thought what the hell, so will I.

It’s true, I’m a New Zealand citizen, and it’s my home. (Interestingly, it’s just emerged that Peter Thiel is also now a citizen, after some donations and high-level approvals, although he doesn’t seem to intend to live here. He has properties in Auckland and Queenstown.) But as Jerry Maguire said, America still sets the tone for the world. All our music, movies, TV shows, and culture in general are either imported from or heavily influenced by America. To a large extent, America’s problems are the world’s problems. In economics they say that when America sneezes, the world catches a cold. The debates you have are being debated here and in the rest of the Western and English-speaking nations. With Twitter and the internet and news apps and the instant exchange of information, values and ideas are converging more than ever before. It’s fascinating stuff.

Yes, we do have a natural wall. We don’t have to turn back the boats like Australia. Regarding diseases, if only that were true. The Maori (and what was left of the Moriori on the Chatham Islands) were utterly ravaged by European disease like all the other Pacific Island peoples. Unfortunately, the only ones who survived were the ones who now share European ancestry and hence resistance. There are no “full-blooded” Maori left. A tragic loss of life. The British Empire policy at that time of “don’t rape and eradicate the natives” was an enlightened one, but there were (inevitable?) conflicts between the European settlers and the Maori, who after 800 years of intertribal warfare had developed a fierce warrior culture and were smart and organised enough to eventually figure out that they were being taken advantage of (selling an island for a horse probably isn’t a good deal). Lands were bought for a pittance or seized. There were wars (the Maori invented trench warfare at this time.) But despite all that, it’s widely recognised that the Maori today are the most successful, politically organised, and overall least abused native people in the world. But it could have gone better. Alot better.

Thanks for the link. It’s always good to have more facts. It’s not about a wall per se and keeping people out. It’s about protecting and looking after the best interests of the citizens in your country. That is the purpose of government, in addition to preventing the strong citizens from crushing and exploiting the weak, in my opinion. By getting your own house in order, you provide inspiration and an example for other countries to follow. The world looks up to America. There is something special about America. It’s the greatest power in the history of the world. People disagree about the best way to run it, but that’s democracy. Clearly we disagree, and it seems that despite my best efforts at presenting facts and logical argument, I haven’t changed your mind. But that’s OK. Our opinions change over time as we go through life and learn and experience new things. Mine certainly have. If you’re ever in Auckland I’d be honoured to buy you a drink.


Looks like disease deaths were roughly the same. I was hoping the Maori did better on disease due to the massive distances involved and boat travel, which is quite slow. Both citations are from Wikipedia:

Many Native American tribes experienced great depopulation, averaging 25–50 percent of the tribes members lost to disease.


At the same time, the Māori suffered high mortality rates for new Eurasian infectious diseases, such as influenza, smallpox and measles, which killed an unknown number of Māori: estimates vary between 10-50 percent.


I’ve heard it said that the one thing we export from the US more than anything is our culture, for the good or the bad of it. And New Zealand is still on my list of places to visit, I’ve made it to Australia, and Fiji, but never quite down to New Zealand. I do work with a few Kiwis, and they are great people to have a pint with so if the rest of NZ is the same it should be a fun visit one day.

I also don’t often post online, it’s one of those things that you hate to do because people tend on a broader sense do nothing but throw insults at each other, escalate from there into nothing but a shouting match and nothing really gets discussed. This has been very refreshing, to have people with different views, able to express, defend, tear into, etc. and not letting it get personal.

Maybe the geeks/nerds need to run the world (and I mean geeks/nerds as an affectionate term, which is what my wife has called me now for many years due to my ability to sit in front of a computer for days on end programming and never look up except for coffee, beer, and a few snack). At least we seem in general to be able to focus on an issue, tear it apart collectively, disagree on many points, look for solutions, and even if we don’t come to anything definitive, we can walk away all feeling better for the experience. Cheers to everyone on this discussion for keeping it so interesting :slight_smile:


There’s no reason a ‘socialist’ employee-owned supermarket chain can’t compete on price with a capitalist privately-owned one.

Though apparently you can identify them remotely, by drone…

Not literally at war, unilaterally at ‘war’, with groups who’s identities are fuzzy at best, by criteria which are not always clear. But as I snarked above, apparently despite this, they can be identified precisely by drone (and even if not, it doesn’t matter because war), but people travelling from the ‘failed states’ where these people-with-whom-we-are-at-war reside cannot be identified as good’uns or bad’uns, even when they’re right in front of you?

Your question wasn’t addressed to me, but as it’s on the same subject, yes, totally. I think the war on terror is bunkum, and has lead to even-more-failed-states in Libya, Irak etc., and also set the precedent for Putin to do what he did in Syria (not that he needed one).

For the record, I also think that the hand-wringing about “this will radicalise them even more” is shutting the door after the horse has bolted. Guatanamo, extraordinary rendering, CIA torture and black sites are stinking sores on the face of the US, of democracy, of the West and of Christianity (from the point of view of the Middle East). And don’t say “Ah but that was Bush/Obama/not-my-president”, or I’ll scream!

It doesn’t make a jot of difference to the rest of the world. The US talking the moral high ground while deliberately incarcerating people in Cuba (of all places!) to avoid the Geneva Conventions is the height of hypocrisy from a country which ‘preaches’ a lot about human rights, democracy etc. It makes my blood boil and I don’t have any link at all with any of the people or countries concerned.

(Deep breath)

Hahaha, their positions on which date, in which place, when talking to who ? :slight_smile: (cf. “Those are my principles. If you don’t like them I have others.”)

Because it would be a full-time job, if you wanted to do it ‘properly’. In Switzerland there are regularly referendums on specific subjects, some of them pretty complex. It’s just the tip of the iceberg compared to everything that needs deciding, but even then it’s a lot to process. I actually think that the Swiss system is the best compromise between everyone-decides-everything and the ‘vote once every four years’ you mention.

But as everyone should remember:

democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.


About Poland, our “opposition” is that bad as current government, they only make politician wars not country need things.


I remember watching as 9/11 was happening, and thinking at the time how long a shadow it would cast on history. 50 years at least.


Yeah, I’m with you on that. Not to mention the “American exceptionalism” that is immunity to prosecution for war crimes. WTF is that?? How can anyone say they are for freedom and spreading ideals, but, oh, if we commit any war crimes, you can’t do anything about it?

I truly believe in American ideals. And that America does a sh*t job of representing them.


Maybe in theory what people say are American ideals I may agree with, but how these “ideals” play out in the real world, I’m not such a big fan of. In fact most of these ideals are no longer a reality under the current economy, and the current government.

If this is what American ideals are, they have clearly gone by the wayside:

The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.


From Berkeley last night:


Interesting. I assume you put socialist in quotes for a reason, as the employee-owned supermarket chain is in no way socialist or socialism. There appears to be no government involvement, so no use of coercion, so no socialism.

If fact, it is no different from the one you call “capitalist privately-owned”, which is actually a publicly held company with many shareholders. The only difference is that in one the shareholders are employees, the other they are (probably) not .

Regardless, a company owned by its employees is no different than a sole proprietorship or a partnership from an economic perspective. The company operates to make profits for its owners. In fact the very company you site, John Lewis, call its employees “partners” and has as part of its vision statement:

“Partners share in the benefits and profits of a business that puts them first.”

That’s hardly the mantra of socialism.


You missed the entire point. My opinion, expressed as “we in the military” is that of everyone I ever spoke with in my years of service, hence the term “we”. I did not, nor do I claim to speak for all, such a thing would be arrogant beyond description. Had I intended such, I would have phrased my statements as “all of us in the military”. I have NO chip on my shoulder for having served, had I had one, I would not have served. My “chip” as you say comes from the notion of seeing good men and women now being told that all they worked for, shed blood for, sacrificed lives, families, etc. for should now just give away those things they fought to preserve to anyone that shows up and who have contributed nothing to the preservation of this country.To have no say whatsoever in what becomes of those precious freedoms so dearly bought. To have no say in how their hard earned tax dollars are spent. Are they spent on things like roads, water systems, electrical grids, etc.? No, they are to be given away to people that demand that they be taken care of by a country that is not their own that they haven’t even bothered to ask permission to be in, let alone contribute something meaningful to.
And before you bring up the “farm workers” and their ilk, I have a radical solution for you to ponder. There are quite a few able bodied individuals on welfare in this country, folks that have no jobs. Want to solve two problems at once? Export all the people that are here illegally and give the now vacant jobs to those that whine and complain that they can’t find work and thus demand welfare. Problem solved - the cost of welfare goes down and the presence of illegals is solved. Before you speak up, I will grant that not everyone had a good chance to get somewhere, but as a general rule, I deplore giving handouts, but I will absolutely support to the fullest extent possible anything that is a “hand up”. Give it away, no. Find a way for you to earn it and contribute to this nation while doing so, absolutely! e.g. Give away college educations? Not a chance. Fund scholarships for those individuals that can actually make use of the knowledge presented in college (not based on some silly notion of race, creed, gender, etc. but actual ability) for those that might not have the means, absolutely! Give away money, no. Find a way for someone that didn’t get a good education the first time around to work some and study some to improve their lot in life, absolutely! I had to, why can’t they? My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college and the VEAP program as offered by the government for military members at the time was a joke. I wasn’t handed my education on a platter, I had to earn mine while on active duty and pay for it myself whilst keeping this country safe. Why should anyone else be different? And why should those opportunities be granted to non-citizens before citizens? We should take care of our own first, then worry about the rest of the world.
You seem to have missed that whole section on the basic rule of law that is supposed to apply to everyone. And speaking of that post, where is it? It seems to be missing now. I wonder why. So much for freedom of expression, another one of those constitutionally guaranteed rights that is ignored by individuals at a whim but we certainly hold governments accountable for.


You’re proposing a very neat and tidy solution for something that is really a LOT more complicated than that. I don’t even know where to start, but let’s start with: you can’t force people to work (that would be slavery), so how are you going to get people on welfare to move to somewhere else to pick up seasonal jobs that are extremely tough labor, and so low-paying that they won’t cover the welfare they would otherwise have? If the answer is: stop paying them welfare, then who are you going to pick to lose their benefits, and what if there aren’t enough farm jobs to cover it? I’m only scratching the surface here, but just realize that people aren’t numbers you can swap around on a spreadsheet.


Sorry, didn’t mean to offend, but when I hear “we” it’s typically in the form of the “all of the people in the group” as in “we went to the bar last night”, means everyone involved at the time. So for me to see “we” about the military seemed to indicate you were speaking for everyone, which puzzled me a bit considering as I’d stated, it’s an extremely diverse group.

Let’s get specific here, when did you serve? You say “in all my years of service”, how many was that? I’m also curious as to which branch you served in? Not trying to dig you here, just curious. I know based on your mention of VEAP you probably joined somewhere between 1977 and 1985, so it’s possible we were even in at the same time.

To be fair, I served in the Air Force, enlisted in 1982 to left in 1993. I flew a desk :smile:, first as a computer operator for 4 years, then writing software for a Joint Chiefs command and control system for the next 7. So as things go I had it pretty easy, which to me was a smart thing to do. I grew up in a Army family and had spent my life on a military post all over the world, so this was really my second enlistment. I was trained in computer programming in 11 weeks by the Air Force, and then went to earn my degree in Computer Science while serving, going to school at night for almost 8 years. So probably a similar story to your, which is why I’m curious as to why we can be so different in our views of the issues of today. I enjoyed my time in to get out and see the world, I used to catch military flights all over to visit places and experience new cultures. The benefit of having a friend who programmed on the manifesting system for military airlift command and could get me a seat almost anywhere any time I wanted :slight_smile:.

Who is demanding to be taken care of? If it’s refugees, they typically just want a place without bombs falling, oppressive regimes, or religious persecution. I don’t see many showing up and deciding that their new host country isn’t good enough for them. We also have to remember that due to our rather Imperial moves that we pull off in many parts of the world, protecting our “interests” such as in the middle east, many of the refugees are often at least partly due to our own actions. It seems only the right thing to do to help fix the messes we make when we roll in and start blowing things up. Personally I’d prefer we stop blowing shit up, unless it’s really a mission to save lives, but as long as we see “national interest” which is typically oil or something of that type, we don’t really care much.

If it’s illegal immigrants, most of those are here for jobs, and that’s about it. And the jobs they end up with are not typically the most glamorous, and I’d say are usually downright poor. And I really don’t blame them, they heard there were people here who would hire them and let them earn. I’m surprised that as patriotic as you sound that you are totally incensed by the unpatriotic business that provide these jobs. Those are the real leaches on our country IMHO, they are the ones who perpetuate a “slave” class in practice, offering jobs to people who legally can’t complain, and then typically working them in conditions that are in many cases not even legal to OSHA or other labor standards. So for me I don’t get upset at the people trying to make a living for their families, I get upset with the employers who profit from this and then scapegoat the problem to the workers in order to hide their own crimes. Want to deport someone, start with the owners of the businesses doing the hiring.

I always find this argument a little specious. It would be impossible to get each taxpayer to agree on exactly where their tax dollars go. This is why we don’t try, we let our elected officials decide where it needs to go. So you do have a way, vote. Personally I think we drop more into the military than we should, and that might sound strange from an 11 year veteran, but it’s because I’m a veteran that I say that. We waste money in the military every day, or at least did when I was in, and while it could have changed, I really doubt it. Does an Army post really need to continue to have a stables to support their mascot mules? I’m not sure we really need mules any more in the military, do we? And when you look at the contractors lining up for their pork barrel projects, this is why I got out. I kept seeing projects being given to contract companies for many times the cost we could do ourselves, but some Senator had a favor he owed to a donor, and it meant making sure a particular company got a fat contract. Watched it happen over and over, and again, it could have changed, but I really doubt it as it had been happening since the military was formed. Any time you get a budget that big it’s too easy for everyone to carve a little pork off of it. And we spend when it’s downright stupid, there are so many things maintained by the military that are based on “tradition” that are completely ineffective today. Example, the Air Force still requires drone pilots to be real pilots… Say that again, you have to train a person to be a real pilot so they can fly a drone? They seem to finally have hit the end of the line here and will finally have an enlisted force of drone operators in 2020. But it took them that long to realize that you don’t have to be a trained pilot, to the tune of huge money, to fly a drone. Tradition, and a waste of money and talent for years. So yes, I’d like to see less of my tax money go to the military.

But the rub is it’s not up to me. If I wanted to have that decision making power I’d need to run for office and get on a budget committee. The reason, I might not really be able to make that type of decision based on my limited personal experience and what I can learn on the Internet in 10 minutes. My point is, you will never get to say exactly where your tax dollars go, so don’t waste time dreaming about it.

Again, not sure who isn’t contributing, but it still sounds like to you if someone didn’t serve in the military they don’t get a full say in our country and where it goes. Reality is we have a paid, volunteer military. In my view it serves two purposes, one is to defend the country, the other is it’s our largest jobs program by far. It provides jobs to many who either can’t seem to find anything else, or who are out of other options. It’s funny to me that once people are out they all wax patriotic about their service, but when you go to basic training, very few are there for patriotism, most are there for a job and paycheck. Maybe the patriotism grows, and the military definitely grows a comradery second to none among it’s members. This is why I’m even willing to continue a conversation with you. Anyone else I would have probably “thrown the bozo bit” on a long time ago and left it at that :slight_smile:.


I put it in quotes because I could see that it didn’t correspond to your definition of socialism, which is what I’m calling into question.

If you check back on the Wikipedia definition I think you will see that your definition is inaccurately narrow. What you describe sounds more like a state-enforced planned economy.

Anyway, this is a diversion on a diversion from the main subject: I think we can all agree that the current Venezuelan economic plan is not working out great for most Venezuelans :frowning:


My post reads a bit stroppy now, but it gives voice to some of my frustrations :slight_smile:

When I was at school, I observed that people would react differently to jokes depending on who told them. The cool guy tells a joke? Everybody laugh! The dweeb tells a joke? Meh, he’s just a dweeb.

That’s school. But here we are all growed up, and people will react to ‘facts’ differently depending on who they’re coming from. I guess we’re all guilty of this to some extent. But seeing people prepared to defend the indefensible because it’s ‘their’ team, then pulling a 180 when it’s the other team drives me nuts.

Don’t check your privilege, check your bias!

Another thing which riles me is the virtual signalling (not a typo). “People are being hacked to death on the other side of the world, but it’s ok because I tweeted the news and signed an on-line petition”. Again, mea culpa, I’m here on-line typing words into a little box on a screen. Part of this is because we are completely powerless to do anything about 99.9% of what we see in the media (though we are encouraged to feel guilty about most of it).

I’m not saying that we should just shut down all on-line life; there is definitely value here, in discussing important issues together and broadening (I hope) all our horizons. I’m just concerned that we increasingly think that being seen to say the “right things” on the internet is equivalent to actually doing something. And so I salute Jeff’s call to arms here. Get off your virtual butt and go and phone your local politician to tell him what’s important to you. Stop worrying about people who are wrong on the internet, and go and find out what your neighbour’s name is, and how they’re doing. Stop retweeting ‘journalists’ because they confirm your own preconceptions: go check out the sources, and question them. Stop imputing the worst of motives to ‘them’ while being naive about ‘us’.

Now it’s me doing the preaching :slight_smile:


Yes, exactly, we have grown complacent because “government mostly worked.” That is no longer the case; I would argue quite strenuously and at length that a Trump presidency is historically unprecedented on multiple levels.

Anyway, democracy should mean exercising those citizen muscles lest they atrophy, which is unhealthy for everyone. Now is the best time to be an activist in America since the civil rights movement.


I have tremendously enjoyed this discussion so far. There’s nothing like free-thinking, robust debate so people can test the validity and logic of their arguments and ideas and learn from one another. This is what the 1st amendment and Discourse were made for.

It seems that you believe the best way to organise the world is to remove the borders from all existing nation states and see how it plays out. In your worldview, a sovereign state has just as much obligation to help non-citizens who enter within its borders as citizens (and perhaps non-citizens not even within those borders, i.e. in other parts of the world). You believe this system will work out to be something better than the current system of nation states. Is that right?

Now, I believe the natural human tendency is to be tribal, as Jon Stewart said at the end of the video in your original blog post. He said that, and I’m quoting, that America (read multiculturalism) isn’t natural, and that we’re fighting against thousands of years of human behaviour and history to create something that no one has ever… that’s what’s exceptional about America, it’s not easy, it’s an incredible thing. Now, I believe “multiculturalism” can work, with caveats. If cultures are relatively similar, when put together there will be stability because they have relatively more similarities than differences. They may even merge into one culture. If cultures wildly diverge, they will have little in common and putting them together will be harder. They will not merge and may even fight. If there is one dominant culture within a country, with many satellite cultures, that’s a recipe for a stable country. I don’t know if many cultures of equal size and similarity will work. Perhaps the cultures will all meld into a common identity and become one. Perhaps they will shatter the nation into many fragments. Now, what about two cultures of equal size within a country? If they are similar, they will live side by side peacefully and may even merge into one. But if they’re different or become too different over time… well, a possible civil war. And then a civilization gone with the wind.

Anyway, if this reasoning is correct, then it follows that not managing the cultural mix of your nation (say, through allowing open borders) could eventually result in a two or more cultures within your country that really just don’t get along and fight each other, with tremendous damage and loss of life. What do you think?

There is also the melting pot effect. Two cultures, even two cultures at war, may borrow little bits and pieces from each other. In the age of the internet, I would have expected this effect to be stronger. Perhaps it’s the language barrier, but I would say that, oh, I don’t know, let’s say, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh, three countries in the top ten most populous but admittedly not very connected, should have influenced our cultures more, even if we went to those countries and brought their ideas, foods, art and so on back with us. For a melting pot effect to happen, it seems cultures have to be in direct contact. But often they autosegregate. Like in London.

The idea of doing away with borders and nation states and having a single world government is an old one. H.G. Wells was a big advocate and it’s a staple of 20th science fiction. It sounds wonderful, like Communism, but for the reasons I just outlined I don’t think it’s possible, again because of tribal human nature. In other words, it’s idealism, not realism. I think attempting that experiment in a hands-off way will simply result, if it’s forced into existence, alot of human suffering and an eventual reversion into the current system of nation states we have today, perhaps with a different number of sovereign states. This human tendency is so strong that this experiment is not even being allowed to get off the ground, as Europe and I guess America are now proving.

So I believe the current system of nation states we have today, where nations have a core, common culture, and look after the best interests of their citizens, to whom the nation belongs, is better. I wonder, if we could go back in time and show the communists the results of their experiments, would they still go through with them? Assuming they cared about the human cost, of course. What are your thoughts on this?


No, that is not what I believe.


Hey no fair! Too much suspense :slight_smile:

Lay out your wares, I want to know if I’m voting for you in four years time*!

(*Very hypothetically)