Nothing A Beer Can’t Fix

First, the plug:

It’s the first Minnesota Democrats Exposed/MNPublius Happy Hour, at Billy’s on Grand. Hope to see you there.

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Of course, it’s not all beer and pretzels.

A very smart man – a teacher of mine who’d served in Vietnam – explained the “why” of basic training.  “The goal” he said “is to teach you to dehumanize your enemy”; to see the enemy not as a human being, but as a “Jap” or a “Kraut” or a “Gook” or whomever the enemy of the day is, a not-quite-human thing who doesn’t rate the consideration a human does.  Someone you can kill not only with impunity, but with your country’s approval.

In Citizen Soldiers, Steven Ambrose described the moments when GIs in World War II started seeing the enemy as human – as people who really weren’t all that different from them (notwithstanding the whole “supported a regime that started a war that brought them to Europe” bit).

It was a huge moment for everyone involved.

———-

Years and years ago – when I first got a computer, actually, back before “the web” was the common synonym for the Internet – I got involved in an “E-Democracy” email discussion group on Minnesota Politics.

Traditionally, online discussion groups tend to fall into one of two categories, each with its own set of pathologies:

  1. Unmoderated Free For Alls: These tended to start with a bang, and rapidly descend into anarchy. “Inhibition” is one of the first casualties of online communication, and for some people that reads “license to act like you’d never act in person”. These people are drawn to unmoderated free for alls as a place to vent…whatever – anger, ire or immature, juvenile urge to call people names. The signal to noise ratio on these sorts of forums usually drops to 0 quickly, as the people who were interested in the actual subject at hand wandered away to more interesting pastures.
  2. Overmoderated Gulags: These forums kill the discussion to protect it; moderators enforce rules at some level or another. These rules can be elaborate and legalistic (some forums have posted rules, human moderators and formal, pseudolegal appeals processes) or arbitrary and capricious (the forum’s “owner” bans anyone who displeases him/her).

In the early days, the E-Democracy forums trended toward “1”, above. And it was fairly predictable stuff. They were (then as today) dominated by DFLers and Greens. I was, in fact, invited to join the forum by the chairman of the state Libertarian party (to which I then belonged) to help even things up a little bit; at the time, there were maybe two Republicans, two Libertarians, and dozens and dozens of DFL/Green/”Reform”-future IndyVentura party members (and a couple of typically-irritating Young Socialists).

And it was wild and wooly. Both sides All three or four or five sides tore into each other like hungry sharks.  I ripped into “liberals” with gleeful abandon, and they ripped back.  Because there’s nothing in Minnesota Politics that we detested more than each other.

And then the forum’s management threw a party.

We met at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis.  We brought brats and beer (and tofu, natch) and chips, and sat down at picnic tables…

…and talked baseball and street cleaning and movies and just a tiny little dab of politics.

I wrote in my wrapup on the forum the next day that it was just a tiny bit harder to flame on people that I’d met in person.  That I’d actually met as humans, rather than as mere brain-damaged big-government-coddling tax-and-spend liberal drones.  And a few of them wrote as well, saying they could maybe be a little more tolerant of uncaring, selfish conservatives now that they’d actually met some of us – something they didn’t do much of in real life.

It made an impression.

Oh, it only lasted so long, of course.  Soon a few of us (myself, you’ll be shocked to know, included) indulged in a few petty flames for old time’s sake.   Other just never “got” the whole “the other guy is human too” bit.  But things got, and stayed, just a tad more civil, because people got to see each other as just a tad less a collection of labels and more as people who believed what they did for their own reasons, but didn’t exist in vacuums.

Today, the email discussion group is pretty much an anachronism (and “E-Democracy” has decayed into a sad joke); blogs pretty much gutted their reason for existence.  Everyone can write anything they want; blogs that are nothing but mindless flames tend to get ignored over time (or turn into Democratic Underground).

But the same pattern holds just as true; people see those across the aisles as labels to attack, pathologies to identify, threats to be counterattacked.

And just like E-Democracy 13 years ago, some of us thought – “Maybe the answer is a party”.

More tomorrow.

28 thoughts on “Nothing A Beer Can’t Fix

  1. I love to hear your perspective and to have a truly open discussion on why building 7 fell on September 11 when no plane hit it and it was not badly damaged. Since the rules of no other blog or E-democracy discussion would please you, then have that discussion here. BBC just did a news story labeled “9/11 third tower mystery ‘solved'” at

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7485331.stm

    The BBC story admits that “Other skyscrapers haven’t fully collapsed before because of fire. But NIST argues that what happened on 9/11 was unique.”

    The conclusion of the article is that “Until now most of the photographs have been of the three sides of the building that did not show much obvious physical damage. Now new photos of the south side of the building, which crucially faced the North Tower, show that whole side damaged and engulfed in smoke.”

    OK, so why if ONE side was badly damaged and the THREE sides were not damaged then why did the building fall STRAIGHT down?

    It seems to me that guns, etc has been the special interest of this blog historically. Whether or not, demolition was used on a building would seem to be a special interest of this blog. So what do you think?

  2. so, meeting in person makes it a ‘little harder’ to flame on someone? good to know. maybe I should try meeting you and tom swift some time.

  3. The Sockpuppet Queen has a point.

    If for no other reason than people that drag their infants out to bars really annoy me, I’ll be getting together to socialize with the likes of her and her ilk just as soon as I get this red-hot poker parked in my temporal lobe.

  4. Let’s not be disingenuous, Rew. You and I have met many times – and believe it or not, it’s brought about a bit of restraint on my part.

  5. It would be interesting to see if Robin is as funny in person as she thinks she is. But not interesting enough to risk rubbing elbows with that Grace thing that posted first.

  6. Ew, your blog attracted Grace Kelly. . .

    Here’s hoping her unique brand of insanity can be communicated via 1s and 0s.

  7. Big ups to Grace Kelly for giving us the benefit of being able to experience the sort of screaming, brain pounding hangover even a teetotaler will experience the morning after meeting her and her pals, without having to actually go through the real deal.

    MON, you have no idea how entertaining Robin Marty can be after she quaffs a few of her favorite cocktails

    Good times, man…good times.

  8. Grace,

    I love to hear your perspective and to have a truly open discussion on why building 7 fell on September 11 when no plane hit it and it was not badly damaged.

    OK, I’m game – but a “discussion” cuts both ways. And I have responded to you (in private email) on this exact issue twice in the past.

    Since the rules of no other blog or E-democracy discussion would please you, then have that discussion here.

    Fair enough – although to be accurate, the “rules” at E-“democracy” were jiggered to favor DFLers; to say you, as an E-“Democracy” board member who actively agitated for my removal on utterly self-serving and specious ground, didn’t know exactly that is deeply dishonest (and I have the emails to prove it).

    But since E-“Democracy” is a pathetic shell, I’ll waste no further bandwidth on it. Onward to your question. Again.

    BBC just did a news story labeled “9/11 third tower mystery ’solved’” at

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7485331.stm

    The BBC story admits that “Other skyscrapers haven’t fully collapsed before because of fire. But NIST argues that what happened on 9/11 was unique.”

    Why the “But”, Grace? If there’s been no other such incident, then it is unique. There is no argument. They agree. And I put it to you in almost exactly those terms via email some time ago.

    The conclusion of the article is that “Until now most of the photographs have been of the three sides of the building that did not show much obvious physical damage. Now new photos of the south side of the building, which crucially faced the North Tower, show that whole side damaged and engulfed in smoke.”

    Right. This was exactly what I pointed out to you in this thread, ten months ago.

    OK, so why if ONE side was badly damaged and the THREE sides were not damaged then why did the building fall STRAIGHT down?

    As I pointed out last September, citing Popular Mechanics’ study of the issue: because the Seven building was weakened by falling debris (as, indeed, several other buildings in the area were), and then by a fire fed by diesel oil from a pressurized tank in the basement which fatally weakened the structure.

    It collapsed straight down because (any engineers or architects wanna get on the line here?) that particular design of skyscraper transferred its weight to a central structural core. It’s not built like a table, which transfers its weight to the floor via four legs, and if you break two of them on one side it leans over; the weight transfers via a web of girders to the central core; if the core gives way, the building falls the way the weight is built to be transferred; down through the core, to the foundation.

    As noted before (via Popular Mechanics) and as I’ve explained to you twice in the past: beyond that general design principle, the Seven building had an unorthodox design (it had to be designed around a ConEd substation below it), which transferred the loads through a rather complex structural design which was fatally weakened by the debris fall (a quarter of the building’s face was gouged out by falling debris during the collapse of the 1 and 2 buildings). That is why, in the moments before the final fatal collapse, a “kink” was seen in the roofline of the Seven Building, right over the part of the structure to which the loads were transferred; because the damage caused by the debris fall and the fire were causing the central core to give way; as it started to collapse, the “kink” in the roof was the first sign that it was going to go.

    It seems to me that guns, etc has been the special interest of this blog historically. Whether or not, demolition was used on a building would seem to be a special interest of this blog.

    That’s a bit of a non-sequitur. Shooting is a craft; demolition is an engineering discipline.

    So what do you think?

    I think that you will cling to your belief that Bush demolished the towers no matter what evidence is presented to you. I think you will hang onto this abhorrent, noxious, hideous slander because as long as you (plural) can persuade yourselves to believe the government carried out such an unspeakably evil act, it justifies all manner of rotten behavior, sloppy reasoning, and evil in return.

    But I’m all up for a discussion, Grace. Feel free to fire away.

  9. I’m not an engineer, but I would imagine the intense vibrations from the collapsing 1 and 2 towers contributed to a significant weakening of the central core.

  10. If Rew resembles Eva Young in any way I would need a designated driver before I even considered attending.

  11. Let’s lay off Rew. She’s a perfectly fine person. Wrong about politics, of course, but whatever – so was I when I was 21.

    Let’s keep this civil.

  12. Mitch, Kermit’s being disingenious too…that comment betrays he’s obviously seen rew.

  13. So what about the Flash Guy is we can’t pick on Rew? I hear he has weird taste in dogs and a garage fetish?

    I would love to attend as people love to shred me even after they have met me, but I have class. (I mean a class to attend at the U of MN).

  14. Thanks for the answer, I am surprised that you accept the central pillar idea. As for theories as to who is behind it, I do not know who is behind it, we are still having the discussion of what happened. I have a problem with what the video shows and the explanation. The explanation does not fit the video. A train going through the center would argue for a more de -centralized structure not centralized structure. The fact that the structure has survived constant vibration of trains for years argues that the shakeup from buildings falling hours earlier should not have caused structural problems.

    Hmmm if these structural problem claims are true, why hasn’t there been a huge push to fix all the building codes for these obvious flaws in designs?

  15. I have a problem with what the video shows and the explanation.

    You being a video expert, and an architect, and an engineer, and an expert on controlled demolitions, as well as being extremely well-versed in stress tolerances, building materials, and kind of on and on and on like that, right?

    You know, rather than a conspiracy crank with Internet access and a detached sense of reality.

    You nutjobs could be confronted with reams and reams and reels and reels of accepted and thoroughly vetted expert-approved explanations (oh, wait, you ALREADY HAVE), and you’d STILL come away with your unique brand of fresh-from-the-butt nonsense. But, carry on, Grace, it’s not like you’ll ever, ever, EVER be swayed.

  16. *sigh* Another case of Bush Derangement Syndrome.
    If what the truffers believe is, in fact, true, we are talking about the worst crime and the most involved conspiracy of all time. Nothing in human history could compare to the evil treachery of 9/11, and anyone involved in the conspiracy would receive the death sentence if they were caught — if anyone involved in the conspiracy talked.
    By comparison the Reichstag fire didn’t kill anyone and the fire was put out in about 90 minutes.
    And what was the goal of this conspiracy? For Bush and his cabal to seize power? Bush’s party had majorities in the house and senate in 2001. He lost these, arguably as a result of the Iraq War he supposedly needed 9/11 to initiate. By 9/11 Bush had already passed his signature tax cuts. There are no concentration camps, Bush’s political enemies remain free and are unafraid to criticize his administration using the wildest terms. It hardly seems that the creation of the TSA is worth the charge of treason. Is there anyone so ignorant as to believe that if Bush wanted to enrich Halliburton he had to start a war to do so? Or that if he could arrange 9/11, “finding’ WMD’s all over Iraq would be a piece of cake?
    Stupid, ignorant lefties.

  17. Thanks for the answer, I am surprised that you accept the central pillar idea.

    What’s to “accept?” It’s an objective fact – core construction transfers weight down the middle of the building. Break the structural girder that transfers the weight to the foundation, all other things being equal, and that’ll be your direction of collapse.

    We’ll come back to that.
    As for theories as to who is behind it, I do not know who is behind it, we are still having the discussion of what happened.

    “We”? Which “We” is this, Grace? Structural engineers? People who take an empirical approach to things? Or a bunch of kibitzers driven by Bush Derangement?

    I have a problem with what the video shows and the explanation. The explanation does not fit the video.

    OK, I’ll bite. How?

    Because it certainly seems to to me.

    A train going through the center would argue for a more de -centralized structure not centralized structure.

    a) There was no “Train”. There was a ConEd power substation.

    b) Please articulate the “argument” for a “decentralized” structure, in engineering and architectural terms.

    The fact that the structure has survived constant vibration of trains for years argues that the shakeup from buildings falling hours earlier should not have caused structural problems.

    I’m not sure where you get that, Grace. It makes absolutely no sense.

    For starters, trains were not a factor; the subway line didn’t run under Seven.

    Even if they did, trains are a controlled, measured, anticipatable force; pretty much every significant building in Manhattan is designed around the thrum of urban life.

    As opposed to the collapse of hundreds of thousands of tons of steel and concrete falling a quarter of a mile, which registered on seismographs all over the eastern seaboard. The collapse caused structural damage from debris and vibrations all over downtown Manhattan. When I was there in 2003, some of the buildings in the area were still damaged and empty; I’m not sure if any were when I was there in April (I was too busy keeping track of my son). There is no comparing vibrations from trains and those from the collapse (and that doesn’t even account for, y’know, hundreds of thousands of tons of falling debris, as noted in the BBC report).

    Hmmm if these structural problem claims are true, why hasn’t there been a huge push to fix all the building codes for these obvious flaws in designs?

    Because core design isn’t a “flaw”, in and of itself. It’s the product of a push to build as roomy a structure as possible; older skyscrapers, like the Empire State Building, transferred some of the weight through the walls of the structure, which occupied lots of rentable space and made the buildings a lot heavier than core-construction buildings (which causes engineering problems in its own right). In some ways, core construction is more resilient; for example, it transfers stress more efficiently through the structure, arguably (other things being equal) making them stronger than more traditional structures in some circumstances.

    Of course, details – like the melting-point of steel and the fireproofing around it, as well as the concentration of water, elevators and stairs in the core, which were largely cut on 9/11 by the airplane impacts – were fatal flaws on 9/11. Largely, as it happens, because Al Quaeda knew they were vulnerabilities of the design, and picked a method of attack (big planes full of hot-burning jet fuel) specifically to exploit those characteristics.

    While it would be useful to make skyscrapers into harder targets, it’s even more useful to find the terrorists and blow their brains out so they can’t crash any more planes into any more buildings. Or worse.

  18. The timeline alone tends to confirm the orthodox 9/11 story. The terrorists wanted to maximize casualties but they also needed to make sure the planes they hijacked would still have large fuel loads when they hit their targets. They also needed the planes to be carrying as few passengers as possible, so the passengers could be controlled easier. The planes all left the east coast early in the morning. All had the West Coast as their destination. All were “smaller” planes, 757’s and 767’s. If the hijackers had been willing to risk controlling a plane with more passengers, they would have struck their targets in mid afternoon and killed thousands more people. Fully loaded planes would have held 200-250 passengers, by picking early morning flights the number was reduced to between 50 and and 100.
    Technical considerations aside, the truffer fraud is most damaging because it implies that a democracy is no proof against the sort of bizarre conspiracies they imagine drive the politics of the US. Bush was elected twice. If a man could accomplish this while plotting to destroy the constitution of the United States, what good is democracy, after all? If truly evil people can be elected, why not opt instead for good people (meaning people who share my political ideology) who take power by whatever means neccessary?
    Lefties are frustrated by democracy. In 2000 and 2004 they believe that the wrong manwas elected, yet there is no legal recourse. They cannot seem to accept that democracy means that legitimate rule is a matter of getting the most votes, not a matter of how “progressive” a candidate’s vision for society is.

  19. All excellent points, Terry. I alluded to the “lightly-loaded planes with heavy fuel loads”, but my comment was getting pretty long already.

    So Grace; since you want a discussion, go to it. You’ve had a number of questions presented to you.

    I’ll look forward to your answers.

  20. Ahhh. A reasoned, civil discussion about the “truth of 9/11” with Grace Kelly.

    God love you, Mitch.

  21. Grace,

    Still no response?

    Y’see, when you talk about “discussion”, it kinda has to cut both ways. All you seemed to do was go “I can’t believe you…[fill in some factoid I believe]” and flit away – which isn’t really “discussion”.

    Hope you can respond; there are a few questions for you on the table.

  22. Anything on the way, Grace?

    {crickets}

    I didn’t think you would.

    As a general rule, I’d debate a Klansman as soon as I would a Truther. They are on precisely the same moral plane.

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