Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Scott Aaronson vs Donald Trump

While Terry Tao's would-be rigorous rant against Donald Trump has demonstrated that Tao has no clue about the basic political issues, Scott Aaronson's text
Daddy, why didn’t you blog about Trump?
proves that Aaronson knows about all the basic forces that direct these political discussions. At the same moment, Aaronson shows his loyalty to the "progressive cause" that seems to be wildly illogical in the light of so many things that Aaronson seems to realize.

Aaronson starts by saying that friends ask him why he hasn't written a rant against Trump yet. Maybe even his daughter Lily will ask the same question in 2024 when Lily and Scott are the last two people alive after Trump's nuclear Armageddon (I've compactified and improved this story a little bit).

So he decides to write a text against Trump, after all.

In his text, Aaronson shows an unusual degree of understanding of a basic force that turns many people to Trump fans: Trump has become the symbol of resistance against the politically correct bullies who have worked hard to poison the lives of hundreds of millions of people in recent decades. While the victims of this terror are just fine people, the bullies would dehumanize everyone who deviates at least one Planck length from the holy "progressive" rules of environmentalism, global warming hysteria, multiculturalism, terror apologism, homosexualism, feminism, transvestitism, fashion codes for T-shirts, and hundreds of other things.

Aaronson actually realizes that at a "personal level", he runs a 100 times greater risk that should make him fear Amanda Marcotte (I suppose it's some aggressive feminist whore but I won't investigate) than to fear Donald Trump (feminist whores are a much greater threat than Donald Trump basically for everyone, be sure about it). But that doesn't change the fact that at the end, he vows to "work with Amanda Marcotte" or anything if it seems useful to defeat Trump. In fact, he would support Hillary even if she "planned to eliminate all quantum computing research" except for some bizarre overspecialized project he is probably trying to work on (but nothing useful will come out of it, I am ready to bet).

Wow, this is quite some fanaticism. I would surely not support any presidential candidate who would vow to kill most of string theory or theoretical physics research. You may view Aaronson's proclamation as a proof that these would-be academics are actually primarily left-wing fanatics while their fields are secondary.

Aaronson jokes that Tao and Hawking have already attacked Trump – so the last genius who should do so is Edward Witten. Aaronson tries to threaten Witten in the case that Witten wears his "great America" red hat somewhere in Princeton, something that Aaronson doesn't "expect". I would love to hope that Witten won't be afraid to wear this pro-Trump hat but I know that the pressure in Princeton is way too strong. ;-)

It's funny that Aaronson also mentions the hypothetical links of Trump to anti-Semitism – at the same moment when he praises Hawking for having a weak brain that can't even understand why Trump is so popular. Stephen Hawking has supported some BDS campaign (not to be confused with BDSM) by the Palestinian terrorists – he won't meet the Israeli physicists because they're Jews. (I guess that Hawking will also fight against those who say "Hawking-Bekenstein" because they make Hawking sit uncomfortably close to an orthodox Jew.) And Trump is supposed to be an anti-Semite here? Give me a break.

Unlike Tao, Aaronson gives us top 10 reasons why Trump is "unqualified". Trump is qualified – he is eligible because of his age, nationality etc. and he will also be made "really" qualified as the GOP nominee – but we know what Aaronson meant. He meant top 10 reasons why disciplined loyal brain-dead left-wingers are obliged to dislike Trump and say ludicrously exaggerated hostile things about Trump.

Let me discuss these points one by one:
1. He’s shown contempt for the First Amendment, by saying “libel laws should be opened up” to let him sue journalists who criticize him.
Trump's idea that libel laws are a good idea could be voiced because of the First Amendment itself. Libel laws don't really violate the freedom of speech. There are lots of countries which have similarly clear statements about the freedom of speech in the constitution but they have much stronger anti-libel laws than the U.S. at the same moment.

Whether the Americans actually want the libel laws was always decided and will be decided by their elected representatives. I personally do think that the "mainstream" media have grown into a totalitarian power of a sort that may almost destroy almost everyone (and indeed, the very goal of many hostile media campaigns has been to silence certain people – i.e. a violation of the First Amendment in practice) and no checks and balances exist. I do think that there must be checks and balances that guarantee some "remaining freedoms and dignity" even to victims of possible media campaigns.

Aaronson or Gene may disagree but they're not the only Americans. I find it rather likely that most Americans do agree with me that it's wrong if the "class of journalists" is turning into an unlimited power or if they become able to force individual citizens to apologize or self-destruct even if these people have done nothing wrong at all.
2. He’s shown contempt for an independent judiciary, and even lack of comprehension of the judiciary’s role in the US legal system.
Again, Trump and every other American has the right to voice his or her opinion that a judge is biased. The act of voicing opinion is protected by the First Amendment and doesn't automatically kill the rule of law. If elected the president, Trump may do more than voicing an opinion but he will do things that a president is allowed to do, changes that a president is allowed to make. In particular, serious changes to the law must be approved by the U.S. Congress, and so on. To question that a judge is impartial shouldn't become a mundane everyday sport but it can't be prohibited, either, and in some cases, there are good reasons to believe that the accusation is substantiated.

So it's just silly to claim that by being critical towards a judge, Trump violates some fundamental principles of the U.S. By the way, Aaronson links to a NYT op-ed that attributes the criticism to "scholars". This is just a method to intimidate the readers. There may be scholars or legal experts who say such things about Trump but they're still people with political opinions and they were selected by the NYT journalists, anyway. So the more honest title should have been "We, agenda-driven journalists, were able to find some people with degrees and make them say the anti-Trump propositions we wanted." I don't expect the folks in NYT to choose titles that are this honest but it's OK because I – and millions of other readers – realize very well that this is what they meant.

There are always different people standing against each other and they interpret the laws in usually different ways. The contempt for the rule of law is unavoidably subjective, dependent on your "horse". Liberal Harvard's law professor Mark Tushnet puts it more dramatically by saying that the "First Amendment" and and the "rule of law" are vacuous terms.
3. He’s proposed a “temporary ban” on Muslims entering the US. Even setting aside the moral and utilitarian costs, such a plan couldn’t possibly be implemented without giving religion an explicit role in the US legal system that the Constitution was largely written to prevent it from having.
The U.S. constitution obviously doesn't ban immigration rules based on ethnicity or religion. After all, the whole point of visas etc. is that some nations are allowed to enter for certain purposes while others are not. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the equal treatment of all citizens+residents in many situations, regardless of their "group membership", but it doesn't and can't impose a similar equality on foreigners. It may be a great idea to impose similar restrictions. Aaronson may disagree but again, tens or hundreds of millions of voters agree with Trump that similar possibilities should be at least considered. In many cases, certain problems may be rather easily attributed to a group and it makes sense to treat groups differently. Also, the groups (of foreign nations) placed in a disadvantage may be compensated in a different way if there's some will for that.
4. He’s advocated ordering the military to murder the families of terrorists—the sort of thing that could precipitate a coup d’état if the military followed its own rules and refused.
A strange "if", especially because the two "analogous scenarios" have virtually nothing to do with one another.

The terrorists don't care about their own lives and this Trump's comment is a creative idea to make the deterrence more effective. Communists did use children and their right to enter schools as a powerful weapon to make the parents more obedient (if you won't do this or that, your daughter won't get to this school or another etc.). It just works. We didn't like it during communism because the victims were mostly the good guys and the communists were the bad guys. But here, the terrorists are clearly the bad guys and if there's a way to make the deterrence more effective (or to make any punishment – a terrorist who kills himself can't be punished anymore), it could be a good idea to try. It sounds cruel because the families may be innocent. At the same moment, they are often not.

Left-wingers such as Aaronson may have voluntarily prevented themselves from using their own brain and thinking about similar proposed policies. But tens of millions of other Americans haven't turned themselves into zombies yet. Get used to the fact, comrade Aaronson. If there's a problem, people are free to think about possible solutions.
5. He’s refused to rule out the tactical first use of nuclear weapons against ISIS.
This could actually be a good application of these otherwise unused weapons.
6. He’s proposed walking away from the US’s defense alliances, which would probably force Japan, South Korea, and other countries to develop their own nuclear arsenals and set off a new round of nuclear proliferation.
The American taxpayers have the right to refuse payments to the allies who should mostly defend themselves – a matter of common sense. Much of the civilized world has gotten used to the idea that the U.S. taxpayer is the ultimate sponsor of all the security etc. but it doesn't have to be like that. NATO may be obsolete. The common enemy isn't really clear and the protection of Europe etc. by the U.S. also comes in a "package" whose significant part is found counterproductive to many or most Europeans.

Also, Japan and South Korea should be able to defend themselves. There are arguments on both sides concerning the question whether Japan or South Korea should have nukes. North Korea has them. Japan's or South Korea's nukes would increase the number of countries that have them – which could make the world less safe. But it would also increase the average rationality of the holders of nukes in the world – which could improve the safety or security (I can't quickly figure out which word is right) of the world.
7. He says that the national debt could be “paid back at a discount”—implicitly treating the US government like a failed casino project, and reneging on Alexander Hamilton’s principle (which has stood since the Revolutionary War, and helps maintain the world’s economic stability) that US credit is ironclad.
I obviously agree that this is not how a serious country should behave. On the other hand, if the risk of similar partial defaults grew, the markets would incorporate the risk in the prices. The U.S. treasuries would have to pay higher interest rates. Maybe with similar threats, the U.S. dollar would dramatically weaken, too. It could cease to be the main reserve currency and before this transformation would be completed, Trump and others could notice that it wasn't such a good idea.

However, this experiment could turn the U.S. into another country in the financial world and the U.S. dollar into another currency – which could ultimately be a good outcome, too, because the special, highly asymmetric role of the U.S. dollars and treasuries may be supporting lots of unhealthy tensions or imbalances.

Because there's a nonzero probability of a Trump presidency, people should already diversify away from the U.S. treasuries and the U.S. dollar. If Trump were more ambitious and decided not to pay the debt to the rest of the world, I think that America would face a war against the rest of the world that it wouldn't win (and most Americans would quickly realize that they don't want to fight in such a war).
8. He’s repeatedly expressed admiration for autocrats, including Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un, as well as for the Chinese government’s decision to suppress the Tiananmen Square protests by arresting and killing thousands of people.
I don't know what Trump exactly said about the Asian leaders and I guess that I would consider Aaronson's summary distorted. But I sort of know what Trump said about Putin and it seems utterly reasonable to me. As a citizen of a third country, I surely want the U.S.-Russian relationships to improve again. (Incidentally, I think that e.g. Škoda's dropping sales in Russia may be partly blamed on the U.S. That's a reason why an [over]compensation from the U.S. market would also be "just".) And even if the Trump presidency were somewhat similar to Putin's, I wouldn't think it's a tragedy. Putin has done very good things for Russia according to most of the Russian citizens. I don't expect the U.S. system to be really similar to the Russian system because the nations and their traditions are different. But if the U.S. will move a "little bit towards" the Russian model, it will be an improvement for America.
9. He’s expressed the desire to see people who protest his rallies “roughed up.”
The people who try to disrupt the Trump rallies are really attacking the basic political rights of a large portion of the U.S. citizens, the Trump supporters, such as their freedom of association which is a rather good reason for them to get a proper thrashing.
10. He said that, not only would he walk away from the Paris accords, but the entire concept of global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese.
Even though I have given about 20 lectures in my life about these matters, I don't know who should be primarily blamed for the global warming hoax (there have been lots of culprits at different moments, sometimes completely intentional culprits, sometimes a bit unwilling ones) but it's obvious that a sensible leader of every decisive country will do a lot for the complete liquidation of this harmful and illogical treaty and, more generally, of the hoax that has already cost trillions of dollars and ruined the integrity of the institutionalized science in several disciplines, among other things. Many people connected with this giant scam need to be roughed up, too. Aaronson doesn't like the concept because he and especially some friends of his are personally responsible for lots of wrongdoing in the context of the global warming hysteria but the U.S. voters don't necessarily share these biases a immoral motives of the clique of Aaronson's friends.

That was Aaronson's top ten.

Let me add some more remarks. Some Aaronson's readers have offered utterly sensible responses. An Italian reader says that he's been through Berlusconi's reign and it wasn't anything "radical". More generally, it's not reasonable to expect anything radical from a man who owns towers all over the country.

A fish has learned to use a jellyfish as a navigable submarine.

By the way, I may tell you the same testimony about [the much more left-wing] Babiš. He's a dollar billionaire and a former communist secret agent but no revolution is taking place because of him. His strength in politics is a product of something else (perhaps the real revolution away from the free democracy as we knew it 2 decades ago), he isn't the creator of big changes. He does numerous things with the budget just fine and his annoying pet policies such as the new paperwork designed to harass and dehumanize the small entrepreneurs aren't revolutionary – they're something basically supported by other big, left-wing political parties (and even the president), too. Also, the decisions are made by someone else at the end, anyway.

Jacques Distler deviated from other leftists dramatically by realizing and admitting that people actually support Trump not because of some cosmic conspiracy that has prevented them from hearing the Trump critics – but because they genuinely don't care about this criticism as their key values and characteristics are different. If you want to know what the supporters are actually motivated by, there's a better way than cosmic conspiracies: Just ask them. Leftists, especially those similar to Tao, live in a complete denial of reality. They clearly want to convince themselves to believe that informed people can't be pro-Trump because it violates some laws of physics (or laws of the U.S.). Except that no such laws exist and the belief in these laws is just a sign of many left-wingers' mass stupidity.

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