Wednesday, October 05, 2005

American Democracy ... more fragile than we think

A ten-parter by David Brin

                   (or return to Part 1 on Gerrymandering)

V … Five more ways that gerrymandering feeds a vicious cycle of radicalization.

Last time we covered five ways that this dismal, cynical and calculated betrayal of franchise has undermined the American peoples’ ability to exercise their right, power and duty to vote meaningfully for representatives to their state and national legislatures.

Here are five more!

==Sixth. As part of a trend going back decades, millions of Americans have taken to registering "independent." This has a flavor of declaring neutral openmindedness, but on a practical level, millions of voters have simply opted-out of voting in primaries. Hence, even if a district was gerrymandered to include a clear majority who will lean conservative-GOP in the general election, it is a much smaller group that will vote in the election that really matters -- the primary -- to choose the dominant party’s candidate.

Yes, many of those "independents" are conservative is a very general sense. Still their opinions would serve democracy well in a gerrymandered Republican district and they might help to choose a very different style of conservative to represent them. Likewise in a district that has been rigged to have a single party OF that district, that happens to be the Democrats.

==Seventh. Americans are proud of the ways in which their approach differs from the "parliamentary system" that prevails in most other democratic countries, around the world. Parliaments emphasize a jockeying for power among doctrinally-determined parties, which expect strict discipline among their delegates or deputies, in hewing to the party agenda. For much of our history, in contrast, Americans have felt that truly representative democracy should put higher priority on the individual talents and personalities – and even eccentricities – of individual delegates who are accountable first and foremost to their constituents and only secondarily to party affiliation.

This tradition still seems to hold true in the US Senate. Even in the supposedly solid-Republican south, there are many Remocratic senators, because many extraordinary individual candidates have stepped forward and persuaded millions of Republican voters to cross over, making an exception to party loyalty.

Ironically, this is no longer true in the House of Repressentatives, which demographically should bring delegates much closer to the people. True, the worst aspect of representative (vs. Parliamentary) democracy is still with us. Pork barrel graft has - if anything - grown far worse. But that is an exception. In all other ways, gerrymandering has made our Congress far more European in style and structure. It essentially ensures that the party, not the voter, chooses each district’s representative.

==Eighth. Gerrymandering also (naturally) eliminates any chance for the mounting of effective campaigns by any third party candidate, since those candidates will have to attract a lot more votes to defeat the incumbent than in a truly competitive district. This may seem a minor point, since third parties are already perceived at hopeless to most Americans. But isn’t this a self-fulfilling situation and yet another reason for the big parties to gerrymander?

Think. If a third party were ever to begin its rise to challenge the Big Two, would it not be in the very offices that have been gerrymandered away? State Assembly or US Congress seats? Shall we call it a good thing that this can NEVER happen? I am not one to call the Democrats and Republicans "Tweedledee and Tweedledum". They are very different. But would not even more difference be refreshing, sometimes?

==Ninth. It might be argued that gerrymandering reduces the reaction of our system to mercurial public mood swings. Some would even call this a good thing. And it’s true, the Founders worried about mob-like surges of passion – one reason for the life tenure of judges and the long terms of senators, so they might calmly ride out flashes of passion and respond to the peoples’ more considered will.

On the other hand, the House of Representatives was designed to be mercurial and responsive! Hence to short re-election cycle of just two years. Shouldn’t at least one of the houses of Congress reflect the public’s sovereign right to rapidly change their mind? With the Senate and Court there to damp out bad passion, does this mean we have NO rapid recourse, if the public suddenly wakes up to a pack of scoundrels in charge?

As things stand, the House has become the very opposite of its purpose... a stodgy bastion of party conformity, unresponsive to changes in public will. This is not what the founders intended. It is not what the people want.

==Tenth. Finally, the attraction of almost perfect job security has lured a new kind of candidate into politics, during recent years. Look around at the US Congressional Representatives in districts near you. Some are surely skilled politicians of the old school. Whatever their party, they can be relied on to press the flesh, answer mail, address local concerns and be there when major events occur. They may even rise above partisanship, if shown a blatant need and national will. Because it’s their job. Some even do it well, with professional skill and pride.

But I’ll wager you also know one who is -- well -- how else to describe it? A rich punk who literally bought the position, either for diversion or as a launching pad for a try at higher office. Yes, this has always happened. Only now, it’s easier and more convenient than ever! You have only to sweep into the primary of a safe district -- one with a retiring, or suddenly vulnerable, incumbent -- bearing heaps of cash and a pile of radical promises for local activists. Then it’s done.

The general election? A shoe-in? Re-election? No sweat. Opportunities for endless continuing graft? Well, we needn’t go there right now. But worries about the Constitutionally-mandated rhythm of bi-annual accountability? Ha.

Suffice it to say that I hope you don’t have a nearby example of one of these guys, "representing" your district or one next door. But alas, I fear many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.

What does it add up to?

All ten of these trends feed into the radicalization effect that Robert Hormats referred to. And not just in Republican districts. I perceive less radicalization among Democrats, true. But it’s a very real phenomenon on that side, as well. Certainly all of the unreasonable shots taken in our "culture war" have not been fired by just one side. (See: http://www.davidbrin.com/realculturewar1.html)

The upshot? Richard Nixon once said "to win the party's nomination, you have to run to the right (left if you're a Democrat), but to win the presidency, you have to run (or govern) toward the middle." Only now this political truth no longer applies for legislators (who provide most of the feed stock of candidates who run, later, for higher office.) The "run-radical/govern-centrist" contradiction has finally been settled…

…in favor of permanent, year-round radicalism. And it is the majority of Americans who must watch in helpless dismay as indignant zealots uncompromisingly pose and rant – self-righteous "representatives" who seem congenitally unable to apply the basic American genius at pragmatic compromise, in order to solve the nation’s myriad problems.

We have come by a long path in order to see that gerrymandering is far more than just a simple game of tit-for-tat, in which a little cheating by Texas Republicans cancels out a similar gambit by California Democrats. We are assured that the overall effects roughly balance. But that is a flat-out lie. The effects most certainly do not cancel out.

They add together. They build, leverage and multiply against each other. Taken together, they show a dismal picture of one major section of our democracy -- the election of representatives to Congress and other legislatures -- portion that has become warped beyond recognition, justice, or usefulness.

As citizens, we simply have to do something about it.

==Continue to Part 6

or return to the beginning of the series

48 comments:

Nate said...

Seventh point: "..., there are many Remocratic senators..."

It's 1am, so I don't have any other commentary right now besides a general "looks good."

In my local House race, the Democrats didn't even bother to put up a candidate. (Which certainly doesn't help matters, but I can understand why they wouldn't want to run somebody who's sure to lose and waste the money.) So we had the Republican candidate, and an Independent candidate who was even further right, into completely nutso land. And still managed to get 20% of the vote. (Some of which I know for a fact came from people who didn't know who he was, but figured they'd vote for somebody besides the known bad Republican. Because I did. Because I didn't bother to research the House race, because it didn't matter.)

Rob Perkins said...

A rich punk who literally bought the position, either for diversion or as a launching pad for a try at higher office?

Ted. Kennedy.
Al. Gore.

Just a little CITOKATE, lest we sink into Republican-bashing too far...

Tony Fisk said...

on a practical level, millions of voters have simply opted-out of voting in primaries.

Thereby allowing certain special interest groups to place their own candidates ('branch stacking').

I hadn't realised that the US tradition was for more local representation. When did it cease to be the rule?

Parliaments emphasize a jockeying for power among doctrinally-determined parties, which expect strict discipline among their delegates or deputies, in hewing to the party agenda.

Enter one Petro Georgiou (Liberal member for Kooyong), who threatened to submit a private member's bill to water down the mandatory detention policy (think Guantanamo Bay for anyone without a valid visa). He forced Howard to do a bit of back pedalling!

Yes, a backbench rebellion is a rare thing, but it does happen. As does payback: it remains to be seen whether Petro is forced out at the next preselection for his seat (which is as blue ribbon Liberal as they come)

Gerrymandering also (naturally) eliminates any chance for the mounting of effective campaigns by any third party candidate

Ironically, having an effective third party makes Gerrymandering more difficult: more factors to juggle.

In Australia, third parties find it easier to get a toehold in the senate. In the lower house, they usually end up applying pressure to the big two by bargaining with their preference vote (ie each party can recommend to their supporters in what order to vote)

@Rob: uh, did DB mention a particular party wrt the rich punks?

Ben Tilly said...

Last paragraph of the seventh point, "Repressentatives,"? Also the entire paragraph seems awkward, and perhaps should be rewritten.

DemetriosX said...

I was going to mention the "Repressentatives" myself, though it also makes a bit of a pun.

More importantly, I was paraphrasing Nixon, not quoting him, and the comments in parentheses were my own. I haven't been able to find the exact quote (though I also haven't had the time to look very hard).

DemetriosX said...

Oh, and happy birthday.

Palliard said...

I don't think it's terribly relevant to your point, but as a matter of historical accuracy, until 1913 people didn't vote for senators. Senators were appointed by the state legislatures (Article 1, Section 3, Clause 1). The 17th amendment, as nearly as I can figure, was about cutting the state politics out of senatorial appointments.

Rob Perkins said...

"did DB mention a particular party wrt the rich punks?"

He did not, but for some reason those two names popped right into my head upon that comment.

This is not to say that a rich punk couldn't do tremendous *good* in his position in the Congress, and it is not to say that there aren't arms-length lists of people from either major party with either patronage or personal wealth behind their ascendency. It means only that I thought of those two.

Rob said...

Happy birthday, Dr. Brin!

The general election? A shoe-in? Re-election? No sweat.

I think you intended a period after shoe-in rather than a question mark.

Anonymous said...

And I think "shoe-in" should be "shoo-in" in any case.

David Brin said...

Yes, Ted Kennedy and Al Gore got a leg up due to family connections. On the other hand, they have since then generated reputations (for all their faults) as very very hard workers.

Al Gore was the first VP in American history to get no teasing as a useless "Third Wheel" because he was blatantly busy doing things like cutting secrecy by a third and cutting the non-defense federal work force for the first time in a hundred years.

(Any conservative credit for this? Or the (long vanished and lamented) surplus? Or for doubling the Border Patrol (which W cut to the bone)?

Never.

(In fairness, Dick Cheney is the 2nd VP to be considered a genuine force in DC. The reasons are different.)

Yes, one can explain Ted Kennedy's access to high office as 80% family connections. As opposed to our present President's... um... is there a percenage higher than 100? I mean... Really....

Al Gore, OTOH, held dying soldiers in his arms and felt the whiz of bullets whipping past his head. He never claimed to be a hero (Kerry saw more combat, by far, but should have downplayed it). Still Gore saw more in person about war than W and Cheney and Rummy put together. So can we count that in saying he was less than 100% a daddy's boy?

(Dig it. Not one of the top TEN people sending our troops to war ever saw combat. Don't let's get started on vacation time... or time between press conferences...)

The utter hypocrisy of the personal attacks on guys like Gore... hell, even Clinton, whose pecadillos are antlike in comparison to today, whose wars were professionally run with an eye to rapid achievement of clearcut goals... I mean, ALL the right ever got him for was a level of personal immorality that Morals Preacher William Bennet shows on a regular basis.

Then there is the objective balance scale of indictments. guh. Is it ever possible for objective reality to sink in?

WE WERE PROMISED INDICTMENTS! These guys desperately used all the powers of the Executive AND Judicial branch to sift file cabinets for FIVE YEARS promising a national spectacle of entertaining Clinton era indictments. With a result of ZERO!

Already, two guys, the New York State Atty Gen. and the district atty of the city of Austin, have nailed dozens... What's the ration of dozens (with more coming) to ZERO.....?

Call it a Bad Singularity.

oh why bother.

My chief worry is that when we get a government back (even under a GOP President McCain) the indictments will flow so heavy that the Red States will see it as persecution, not justice. But W should save us from that, with a tsunami of peremptory pardons.

(Shall we start an office pool on the number? NOW is the time for some Dem to dare W to declare in advance that he'll pardon no more than thre previous THREE presidents combined.)

Anonymous said...

Just don't try to pin anything on George W. Bush.

He's got GOD on his side!

God talks to him on a first name basis!

Really, it's true:

BBC Article

Excerpt:

President George W. Bush told Palestinian ministers that God had told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq - and create a Palestinian State, a new BBC series reveals.

...

[Palestinian Foreign Minister] Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"


Um, OK, to be fair there's a chance that these guys are lying. But if they're right, we are left with several interesting possibilities:

* God is actually talking to the President, and giving him policy advice.

* Bush just thinks God is actually talking to him. In other words, he's delusional.

* He's lying. About talking to God. To impress foreign potentates about his sincerity and good intentions.

Stefan

Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rob Perkins said...

Erm...

Honestly, those were just the first two names to come to mind I thought this crowd wouldn't think of, in terms of the gerrymandering conversation.

Tony Fisk said...

@Stefan:
You neglect the possibility that 'God' is the name of ole Wobbly's cat, rather like the Man in The Shack in 'Hitchhiker', who is ruler of the universe ('The Lord knows I am a good man...').

...Except, he didn't believe in absolutes!

@Rob: Yes, it's easy to knock those in power. Especially at the moment, when it's very hard *not* to think of hayseeds as straw men!

PS: To quote HAL in 2001:
'Happy birthday, Dave!'

Rob Perkins said...

@Tony,

G.W. Bush and the Republicans are Not My Friends. Having said that, there has never been a time when I didn't consider Bush very, very intelligent.

He's *smart*. Not wonky, or very articulate, but nonetheless posessing of an intelligence which he uses to great effect. Instead, he's more like Napoleon (I suppose), as a person who engenders fanatical loyalty.

Even Clinton lapsed into his Southern patois when it served him. Anyway, his enemies underestimate him, as well as his team.

Re no indictments from Clinton-era. I name Sandy Berger, who is on probation for stuffing his pants full of classified documents. Whether or not there are others is unknown to me; I'm not really watching *them*, they're now out of power anyway. And that DA in Austin is turning out to be more like Michael Newdow or Gavin Newsom, than a help to ending certain types of graft.

There is some evidence that it is Nabil Shaath who is doing the lying, in that documentary. Grapevine stuff, for now, but even so.

I think we can explain Ted Kennedy's ascendency on the same factors as Al Gore's and Dubya's. 100%. It got them the funding they needed to enter politics.

(Ted Kennedy has maintained his seat using less than saluatory methods. Nothing properly illegal, perhaps, but the demagoguery swirling around the time Mitt Romney challenged him is... interesting.)

And it's not necessarily *bad* to have rich guys in those positions of power. A person with a secure amount of personal wealth cannot be influenced by the risk of indigence, the way a state rep might be, should he lose his seat. Kennedy has done plentygood, I suppose, in his time in the Senate. He's jumped the shark, but the actual political work is a net positive, near as I can tell.

Re the surplus, I ask, "What surplus"? Check the raw data on the national debt over the years. Although it can be argued that the value of the debt went down (due to inflation against the debt instruments) during the last two years of Clinton, at NO TIME was there actually no borrowing on the part of the government; that raw number did not fail to keep going up.

Whatever they were calling a "surplus", it doesn't at all resemble what *I* call a "surplus".

Citing competing war records is a non sequitur, David.

Pardons work both ways. I predict no outrage on the part of the Dems, when the pardoning begins.

Anonymous said...

Misc Stuff added here

Hi. Brin here, logging in as anonymous. (You'll see why.) Don't let anybody but me do this! ;-)

I am in the desert doing a History Channel show (watch for FUTURE TECH and then tell the HC how you loved it! In some months.)

Good ethernet but a #@$#% Vaio so my postings may be creaky. Tonight's will be snippets.

First Rob, you are one of those conservatives I both love and want to scream at. You are the real thing. Modernist. Believer in progress - tho emphasizing right-handed solutions usually based on market forces. Fine.

But how you twist! You squirm to find a definition of "surplus" that will allow credit to be taken from BC. Fine. I don't need him to get credit. What I NEED is for my children not to be financially ruined by frat boys on a drunken spending spree, made far worse by the gift of a trillion $ of our taxes to people who broke their "supply side" promise to spend it all on research and factories.

And yes, by that very practical measure, Clinton was a sober administrator who delivered an EFFECTIVE surplus (lessening burdens on our kids) while these drunkards...

ooooog.

Let me paste in a few items here and go to bed. We start taking apart Humvees in the morning!


About offering me feedback on grammar/spelling en-blog... please restrict that to the FORMAL chapters and essays I present. The stuff I dash off (e.g. in misc items postings like this one) are likely to be sloppy as any posting, so go ahead and citokate content. But grammar, ferget it! ;-)


Still recovering from the “brazillian” joke and wondering why I never heard it before. Meanwhile, here’s another: “Asked about Roe vs. Wade, Bush said, "I don't care how those folks get out of New Orleans."


And this item (much less funny): For those interested in further understanding our masters -- SAUDI ARABIA EXPOSED: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis, by John R. Bradley. Anybody care to read and review it for the group? I doubt he goes as far as I would. (Hint: get a copy of Mike McQuay’s JITTERBUG, if you can find one anywhere.)


The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has found that households with annual incomes of more than $1 million -- the richest 0.2 percent of the population -- are already receiving tax cuts averaging $103,000. Fifty-four percent of the 2001 tax cuts, which will not go into effect until January 1, 2006, will also go to this top 0.2 percent, and 97 percent of the cuts will go to the 3.7 percent of households that have incomes of over $200,000 a year. The rest of the population -- 96 percent of households with incomes below $200,000 -- will receive only 3 percent of the tax cuts.

More evidence that we all suffer when super-empowered amateurs oppress professionals, who then take it out on disempowered amateurs (citizens). It appears we have another Mike Brown-type overseeing the effort to prepare the nation vs a possibly horrendous Avian Flu epidemic. The guy in charge of public health emergency preparedness is a lawyer and Republican fundraising crony who has essentially no experience in ... public health or emergency preparedness http://www.transparentgrid.com/wordpress/index.php/archives/2005/10/05/1174/

(*Mike Brown's main experience as head of the International Arabian Horse Association… does anyone else on this PLANET notice the one word that creepily fits Brin’s paranoid scenario?)

From the “Can This Possibly Be True?” Department: drop by http://www.bopnews.com/archives/005090.html#5090 and somebody please reassure us all that this is an urban legend? This sort of thing would not happen in the 21st century, if not for the radicalization that arises from gerrymandering.

Rob Perkins said...

I... don't consider myself much of a conservative. I've met *real* conservatives; the isolationist/closet racist bunch who want to see the border sealed and the missle subs with targeting solutions on Tehran.

In comparison I get screamed at for being too "libral", by those people.

Re denying Clinton credit for the surplus, that's far more because it's a massively complex thing how we got that surplus, and Clinton wasn't aiming for it at all. Bush's rhetoric today about the deficit sounds almost exactly like Clinton's, back in 1997.

In any case, we got closer to that with an obstructionist Republican Congress, out for Nixon revenge, than anything overt on the part of *any* President since perhaps before Carter. And even with *that* the effect of governmental policy was utterly *dwarfed* by the amount of speculation driving up the value of everything from penny stocks (I turned 300 shares of something really obscure into a new car for the family during this time) to nationwide real estate.

And... I did no squirming, thank you very much. I inferred from raw data, all on my own. http://www.publicdebt.treas.gov/opd/opdpdodt.htm.

(Note there, that the increase isn't nearly as much in debt instruments as it is a raid on trust funds, even under Bush. And the issuance of public debt really *did* go down during Clinton II, but the raid of the public Trust Funds increased to more than make up for it. I'm going to graph those numbers and work some stats...)

If *I'm* running a "deficit" (as I've had to do this year, to meet $4000 worth of health care deductibles) then my overall debt goes up. If I'm running a "surplus", then that debt goes down.

In comparison, the byzantine workings of the Federal budgetary process allows our leaders to announce a "surplus" while the national debt continues to climb?

Just who is doing the "twist" here? *I* remember, at least, that the largest consensus of those years was for people not to get a tax cut, but to have the "surplus" pay down that debt... and I note that they haven't done that, *noone* has done that except in labryinthine inflationary terms.

I also can't remember when I emphasized "market forces" as a driver. My conservatism is largely a resistance to rapid destructive social change, such as the introduction of gay marriage through judicial fiat. (I'm far more sanguine about legislative fiat in those cases.)

I'm happy to pay taxes, but I'd like to note that in your stats you don't seem to acknowledge that the income tax is *just plain gone* for a homeowner with a family and a mid to mid-high five-figure income. I haven't actually *paid* the income tax for two years running now. And I probably won't end up paying a dime for this year, either.

It begs the question, really. Where are additional tax cuts going to go to, if not those in the higher brackets?

Not that that means I believe in tax cuts as steep as they've come. By the same token that we can afford federal taxes, we also didn't really need the $300 check that one time. The $1600 check that second time was tremendous, though, if a bit perplexing.

(And it messes up the withholding calculations, dangit!)

I could go on. I probably should blog all this in my own space.

Patriot-X said...

Been too busy to follow every jot and tittle of the gerrymandering work.

So is gerrymandering to blame for two consecutive presidential elections in a row being so "close?" Is the country "solidly behind" the Left, or the Right, but thanks to gerrymandering it looks more like Civil War II?

Unless gerrymandering is having this much of an effect, real or cosmetic, the last two elections have demonstrated that half of the voters in this country are sick to puking of the Republican fertilizer, and the other half is sick to puking of the Democratic fertilizer.

That's very close to 100% sick to puking. Neither side has a "mandate." BOTH sides are out of touch with roughly half of the voting population. The nation is (ahem) bi-polar.

Whining is about as scientific and modernist as astrology. Why don't "brainy" people put on their Big Girl Panties and stop filtering their rational insights through the emotional rhetoric and high school debate mentality of Us versus Them?

For every Lefty accusation there is an equal and opposite Righty counter-accusation. Putting on the Red Suit provokes the donning of the Blue, and let the pie-flinging begin.

Put the partisan biases down and step away from the word processor. There are more than plenty partisan rant pages around. How about a twist? Why not try something new? Something ... modern!

Hey! How about a website where legitimately intelligent and informed people of good will use their powers to postulate "fixes" rather than micro-spotlighting problems?

If I wanted to wade through Rush Limbaugh in a grudge match with Molly Ivins I'd get the Pa-Per-View event on my cable, thanks. I started reading here looking for something "modern," but it appears to me that this is devolving into talk radio with some poly-syllabic words thrown in to impress the mono-syllabic.

Am I wrong? Or is there at least a chance that rational, enlightened persons of science can rise above the proto-human slug fest? Anyone see "Things To Come" with Raymond Massey?

That's what I came here to find. Was I wrong? Are science and reason still subject to the whims of partisan passions?

Any illiterate TV-addict can find fault. Who will find ANSWERS, delivered in cool, healing tones of maturity?

Anyone? Anyone?

Rob said...

Rob Perkins:
I'm happy to pay taxes, but I'd like to note that in your stats you don't seem to acknowledge that the income tax is *just plain gone* for a homeowner with a family and a mid to mid-high five-figure income. I haven't actually *paid* the income tax for two years running now. And I probably won't end up paying a dime for this year, either.

Wow, you really didn't pay taxes? You got your entire withholding back? What's your secret?

Or do you not consider your withholding "paying" income tax? By that measure, I haven't "paid" income tax either; but my withholding has been around 10k every year, and that's salary I didn't get to spend.

The only way I know of not to pay income tax is to be a big corporation and claim a big loss.

Rob said...

Patriot-X:
Was I wrong? Are science and reason still subject to the whims of partisan passions?

Er, yes. How else to account for Grover Norquist and James Dobson, for whom science and reason are just tools for their agenda or enemies to be vanquished?

I know what you meant. But the fact is that we live in the real world, not cloudcuckooland, and it just may be that what you see as partisan rancor is instead a serious proposition backed by science and reason. And the proposition here is that gerrymandering has damaged or destroyed the concept of representative democracy and created a kind of new feudalism, with "elected" representatives functioning as Lords. Don't focus on the King (i.e. President). While the last two Presidential elections have indeed been close, it's hard to find more than a handful of state legislature and Congressional elections that will conceivably be that close in the future. They are the ones that make the laws, not the President (at least not yet...).

Nate said...

@Rob and Rob Perkins:

Actually, what I'd be more curious about is general state taxes. I know a number of states have had to raise taxes (especially property taxes) because the federal tax cuts took money they had been getting. And because the economy's not as happy-happy-fun as it was several years ago. Some of which has to do with states that over-spent during the boom years, either in new projects or in tax cuts (or both). And some of it's not.

And as for the Marriage thing Dr. Brin posted, I've seen that on several of the blogs I read, but I haven't gone and checked the sourcing. So it's possible it's exaggerated or a fake. But it's also plausible it's real. Which highlights the importance of state governments, not just the federal level.

Rob Perkins said...

"made far worse by the gift of a trillion $ of our taxes to people who broke their "supply side" promise to spend it all on research and factories."

Oh... A further comment.

Y'all are aware, right, that the opposites on either side of the tax cut debate are well and truly talking past one another?

Those who preach "supply side" do so as the excuse, thinking up a benefit for lowering taxes. The truth is, those people don't believe the government has a *right* to the money.

The people who support "tax cuts for the rich" are propertarian that is, they believe that if you own something, it is entirely and exclusively yours, completely under your purview.

The people who oppose it are, in this narrow sense at least, socialist, that is, they claim that the money wouldn't be in the hands of the wealthy unless the sociopolitical system favored it. Therefore, the common good has the right to some or all of that money.

It's a difference in premise, I think.

Rob Perkins said...

@Rob (the other one, not me...)

Last year, I got my income tax withholding back, plus a few hundred more dollars over and above that. I still pay a percentage share of gross income as Social Security and Medicare taxes. But I don't think it's much of a secret.

The tax code is structured these days so that sole wage earning homeowners in a two-parent family situation pay less taxes. Those with an average of four children pay even less than that. In my case, the absurdity of the "child tax credit" wiped out what little I was already paying, and even transferred extra treasury funds to us, over and above withholdings.

We used the government's largesse to fund an extra-large humanitarian relief donation after the tsunami. I haven't crossed into the 28% bracket. Ever. No largish family with a mid-high five figure income ever will.

(And let's not go knocking my wife (a graphic artist with a degree in Animal Science) about for "not working". That particular cultural tendency is part of a Big Lie, IMO.)

Steve said...

Answer for the "Can This Possibly Be True? Department"...

It seems to be true. Consider this on www.in.gov website:

http://www.in.gov/
legislative/interim/committee/
prelim/HFCO04.pdf


It is a preliminary draft of proposed changes in Indiana law. And it looks really really bad for someone who wants to make a baby using assisted reproduction. Single people (and gays) and non-religious need not apply. I literally do not believe that someone is considering this. Read it yourself and let me know what you think.

From my reading of it, you must be married and go through some serious hoops including convincing someone that you and your spouse have the same beliefs, and that you must provide proof that you will go to church.

"10) A description of the family lifestyle of the intended parents,
26 include a description of individual participation in faith-based or
27 church activities, hobbies, and other interests."

It will be illegal as follows:

"1 Sec. 20. (a) An intended parent who knowingly or intentionally participates
2 in an artificial reproduction procedure without establishing parentage under section
3 15 of this chapter commits unauthorized artificial reproduction, a Class B
4 misdemeanor.
5 (b) A physician who knowingly or intentionally fails to obtain the consent
6 required under section 13 of this chapter commits unauthorized practice of artificial
7 reproduction, a Class B misdemeanor."

Anonymous said...

The Indiana bill has been withdrawn by its sponsor, who cited unforseen complexities. Perhaps among them, the possibility of being the subject of ridicule on "The Daily Show."

I think we'll be seeing more bills like that, and last year's "Human Chimera Prevention Act," as technology marches forward. But what Marshal McLuhan said about media:

". . . all the conservatism in the world afford even a token resistance to the ecological sweep of the new electronic media."

. . . could apply to most science and technology.

The American Taliban who cook up bills like the above are going to be in for a discouraging century.

Stefan

Rob Perkins said...

The Indiana law isn't terribly surprising, since it's true that factions which want that kind of law exist. It's also not terribly surprising that it was withdrawn before the courts could laugh it down.

But they aren't shooting people in the head in soccer fields. "American Taliban" is wolf-crying demagoguery, and plays into their hands.

Anonymous said...

Fah.

Some of the tepidly mainstream organizations that I belong to are regularly referred to as "anti-american" and "radical fringe eco-kooks" by the right wing media and punditocracy.

If they can get away with that, I will feel no compunction razzing the prudes, snoops, busybodies, and sanctimonious creeps who want to turn the nation into a sectarian police state.

Stefan

Palliard said...

Lots of wacky laws are drafted before they're ever submitted or hit a committee, and this Indiana law falls into that category.

Reading the text of the law, you could practically interpret it one of two ways:

(1) Why should we expend resources helping people, who have demonstrated they aren't very good at living clean lives and would likely make bad parents, to reproduce?

(2) How is it conscienable to create a eugenics program that inhibits mostly the poorer, browner people of the state from reproducing?

This latter enterpretation entirely zooms past the important question: why are the poor brown people also the majority of single mommies and present- or ex-felons? I don't think that took place in a vacuum.

I'm going to be interested now in seeing who accuses me of blaming the victim, and why they think that.

Steve said...

@Palliard

Actually, as a parent, there are a number of criteria in there that I would like to see applied to ALL potential parents. As the saying goes, I need a license for a car, but any idiot with no training can become a parent of the next generation.

I object to two things about it: its moralistic tone that attempts to dictate that someone who is unmarried, or gay, or non-religious, or has different political views than their spouse, etc. is ipso facto unfit to be a parent.

The other is picking on people who want a baby bad enough to go through the trying fertility processes. I think it would be a great idea to require parenting and economics and a few other life-classes before anyone is allowed to procreate, but imposing this and other more strict requirements on a particular class of potential parent (the fecundly-challenged) without requiring it of everyone offends me.

Anonymous said...

Steve's thinking parallels mine.

Denying parenthood to an educated, middle class lesbian couple who want to be parents while letting meth addicts raise a crop of traumatized tots . . . argh.

It is a dead issue now. A little sunshine and ridicule have done their work.

Stefan

Anonymous said...

(pause) more Misc items.

Brin here again, posting as anonymous from FtIrwin, the NatTrainingCenter... no, not gnats but big humvees which I rode today in prep for advising about replacement concepts. I deeply believe in the military and we'll all be better off when more dems and libs do.

Rob gets post of the day for his insight into the underlying propertarianist motive behind the relentless tax cutting for the rich in both bad times and good and even during war. THAT is why we recruited you, Rob. Deeply insightful and yes, calling taxation proposals as "socialistic" is not entirely unfair.

Nu? Which approach built a spectacular diamond-shaped civilization? A willingness to tax in order to foster great endeavors... while never killing the Golden Goose markets that must prosper in order to pay for it all!

DUh? That's called pragmatism.

more stuff while I am too road weary for gerrymandering...

Have you always harbored a secret (or not so secret) yearning to write fiction? My own “advice article” at http://www.davidbrin.com/ is valued. Now go see http://www.writesf.com/ “This course is designed to help you learn many of the skills you need to write successful science fiction and fantasy stories. You can use the skills you'll learn here in other kinds of storytelling, as well.”


Here’s a lead in paragraph from a recent article that says it all, without ever (intentionally) focusing on the most chilling part...

”Bush called the news conference, his first since May, as he struggles to regain political strength sapped by a confluence of events — high gas prices, a rising death toll in Iraq and a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina. His job approval rating, near the lowest point of his presidency, faces another test with the nomination of Miers.”

Um... his first press conference... since MAY???? During a time of war and national disaster? When he stayed on the longest presidential vacation ever, during a major crisis? After having more vacation time already than any other three presidents and less access to scrutiny than any other?

Please, political issues will not penetrate your conservative freinds, who are circling the wagons and covering their ears, humming loudly in order to overcome the whir of Barry Goldwater, spinning in his grave. The only thing that will penetrate are objective facts that are entirely non-political. Make them accept that this vacations-to-news-conferences ratio means something.

By itself this ratio would not automatically mean a bad president. But isn’t that the most BASIC possible explanation? Isn’t a heavy burden of proof on the shoulders of any supporter, to back up an alternative explanation?

In contrast, do tout the Norman Rockwell painting “The Right to Know” that Rockwell created in response to an earlier era of government secrecy. (Another Stefan-ref) How can your conservative firends not be haunted by Norman Rockwell?
http://www.artnet.com/Galleries/Artwork_Detail.asp?G=&gid=153&which=&ViewArtistBy=&aid=553159&wid=424032354


... and these excerpts from a major article (I don’t agree with all of this guy’s piece, but it is worth reading in detail at http://www.markdanner.com/nyt/091105_taking.htm):

“Today marks four years of war. How well have we done on goals? Four years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. troops ruled unchallenged in Japan and Germany. During those 48 months, Americans created an unmatched machine of war and decisively defeated two great enemies...”

(DB: Of course, that was the era of George Marshall and Modernism triumphant, when skill trumped cronyism and when the rich were willing to help pay for a war. Anyway, the next paragraph shows this guy understands the deep truth about 9/11 -- that Osama’s purpose was never “terrorism” per se, or just to topple a couple of buildings. It was to draw us into a Vietnam... a trap which we avoided! At first, that is...)

”For the jihadists, luring the Americans into Afghanistan would accomplish at least two things: by drawing the United States into a protracted guerrilla war in which the superpower would occupy a Muslim country and kill Muslim civilians — with the world media, including independent Arab networks like Al Jazeera, broadcasting the carnage — it would leave increasingly isolated those autocratic Muslim regimes that depended for their survival on American support. And by forcing the United States to prosecute a long, costly and inconclusive guerrilla war, it would severely test, and ultimately break, American will, leading to a collapse of American prestige and an eventual withdrawal — first, physically, from Afghanistan and then, politically, from the ‘‘apostate regimes’’ in Riyadh, Cairo and elsewhere in the Islamic world. ... In Afghanistan, bin Laden would be disappointed. The U.S. military initially sent in no heavy armor but instead restricted the American effort to aerial bombardment in support of several hundred Special Operations soldiers on the ground who helped lead the Northern Alliance forces in a rapid advance. Kabul and other cities quickly fell. America was caught in no Afghan quagmire, or at least not in the sort of protracted, highly televisual bloody mess bin Laden had envisioned.”

DB: Ah, but then we deliberately started exactly such a quagmire war, in Iraq! How can anyone believe this to be a coincidence? Our enemies looked across the last century to find the one event that weakened America socially, economically, militarilly, and undermined our influence and alliances. Osama tried and failed to get us into another Vietnam in Afghanistan, because our professional officers and diplomats were competent beyond his ability to reckon...

So we go into Iraq in a manner that reverses every military and diplomatic doctrine that worked in the Balkans Afghanistan! A point-by-point and relentlessly detailed reversal that beggars all notions that it was not deliberate. This reversal was ordered, orchestrated, demanded and ruthlessly enforced by Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld - three amateurs who always styled themselves as military geniuses - in a campaign of “political meddling” that makes LBJ’s micro-management in Nam look like hands-off deferral.

Nor was this ever about national security, “WMD” or even freeing Iraq. All suggestions alternative ways to get rid of Saddam, cleverly, instead of by understaffed and underplanned brute force, were not only rejected, but spurned from even the slightest discussion. Even loyal soldier Colin Powell is now verifying all of this.

Who would DO such a thing? Why on Earth would they? (Hint, these are the same guys who deliberately left Saddam in power, in 91, when he was in the palm of their hands.) But, back to the article.

...”The sun is setting on American dreams in Iraq; what remains now to be worked out are the modalities of withdrawal, which depend on the powers of forbearance in the American body politic. But the dynamic has already been set in place. The United States is running out of troops. By the spring of 2006, nearly every active-duty combat unit is likely to have been deployed twice. The National Guard and Reserves, meanwhile, make up an unprecedented 40 percent of the force, and the Guard is in the ‘‘stage of meltdown,’’ as Gen. Barry McCaffrey, retired, recently told Congress. Within 24 months, ‘‘the wheels are coming off.’’ For all the apocalyptic importance President Bush and his administration ascribed to the Iraq war, they made virtually no move to expand the military, no decision to restore the draft. In the end, the president judged his tax cuts more important than his vision of a ‘‘democratic Middle East.’’

(What do you expect from guys who entered office sneering at the “discredited notion of so-called ‘nation-building’ and the misguided utopian fantasy of spreading liberty by imposing it on others.” Which is the more plausible explanation of a war deliberately planned to maximize expense and minimize results? (1) Light at the end of the tunnel, (2) utter incompetence, (3) gravy days for Halliburton... or (4) a divisive and ruinous Vietnam style quagmire was the goal, all along? The simplest explanation is #2. The mature side of me follows the money and leans toward #3. But the paranoid completist, who wants ALL the pieces to fit, can only see one hypothesis that does all that. And it ain’t 1,2, or 3. Alas, #4 takes us further down the road of asking “Who would have enough money, influence and hatred of cour civilization to DO such a thing?)

Back to the article.

“We cannot know what future Osama bin Laden imagined when he sent off his 19 suicide terrorists on their mission four years ago. He got much wrong; the U.S. military, light years ahead of the Red Army, would send no tank divisions to Afghanistan, and there has been no uprising in the Islamic world. One suspects, though, that if bin Laden had been told on that day that in a mere 48 months he would behold a world in which the United States, ‘‘the idol of the age,’’ was bogged down in an endless guerrilla war fighting in a major Muslim country; a world in which its all-powerful army, with few allies and little sympathy, found itself overstretched and exhausted; in which its dispirited people were starting to demand from their increasingly unpopular leader a withdrawal without victory — one suspects that such a prophecy would have pleased him. He had struck at the American will, and his strategy, which relied in effect on the persistent reluctance of American leaders to speak frankly to their people about the costs and burdens of war and to expend the political capital that such frank talk would require, had proved largely correct. ...”


Yipes.

Ben Tilly said...

Ah yes, the infamous Clinton surplus.

He ran one, and he didn't.

Right now people contribute more into Social Security than they get out. The surplus is used to purchase treasury bonds. Theoretically at some point in the future Social Security will start being a deficit, and the government will pay those bonds back.

Under Clinton, if you count Social Security as part of government, we ran a surplus. If you consider it separate, we ran a deficit. If you look at just our official debt, you're seeing Social Security excluded, so you see the deficit.

Was it a surplus or not? The answer is that it wasn't, but that fact won't be visible as a direct hit to our pocketbooks until after Social Security starts running a deficit.

Of course if George has his way, we'll "solve" Social Security by saying that all bonds issued to Social Security aren't real after all, and then he'll do some sleight of hand that will make up for it by reducing people's benefits while not making it look like he's doing that. The specific sleight of hand that he's floated is investing your contributions in the stock market. Which, if implemented well, could work out reasonably well. However it won't be implemented well.

Which change would retroactively make Clinton's surplus actually be somewhat real.

Rob Perkins said...

@DB

The reason I called is socialist is that technically, it is. It's neither fair nor unfair. And really, what are public common schools, if not nascent socialism?

@Ben

I agree with you, and I don't. I don't think the injection of trillions into the stock market is particularly smart; for one thing, done wrong, it stands to make the government owners in publicly traded companies, which I think would be destructive to the companies.

For another, the addition of trillions of dollars to the stock market is bound to have an inflationary shock when those dollars are put into that market, and a deflationary shock when they're returned to the owners.

In my opinion the Social Security trust is best administered by a people which acknowledges that it has a responsibility to the infirm, the handicapped, and the elderly. The current IRA/401(k) system, combined with pay-as-you-go Social Security, pleases me. Even if that means some higher taxes and smaller benefits down the road.

It's not like I think it's even going to be there by the time *I* retire, after all. :-)

Oh. And... adjusting retroactively for inflation, the surplus was real for two years. But only retroactively.

Steve said...

More on Bush cronyism, or as dubbed in the article, his hackocracy.

The article is from the New Republic and investigates the credientials of Bush appointees. The article is written in an amusing way, but the conclusions are frightening. You may need to register (for free) to see the article. I have been impressed with the New Republic for its ability to slam all sides of the political debate.

Action Report said...

What does David Brin and his supporters think New Yorkers voluntarily wearing Transparent Backpacks, and bags to assist police in expediting bag searches during moments of chrisis? I am doing research.

Rob Perkins said...

Depends on whether or not it's required...

Anonymous said...

Bleakly humorous (?) aside:

Unicef bombs the Smurfs in fund-raising campaign for ex-child soldiers

'The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes.

The short but chilling film is the work of Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, and is to be broadcast on national television next week as a campaign advertisement.'

Stefan

Anonymous said...

Brin- anonymous again. If any of you ever suspect that it's NOT me doing this, by all means say so. And one or more of you check to see if I haven't been taken off and pod-peopled by Helvetians! ;-)

Still designing the next Humvee here with a team of History Channel imagineers. It's a pilot, so when "Future Tech" appears be sure and tell the HC how great it was! ;-)

Oh, Rob, the modernist consensus is worth referring-to. A mixed economy that includes compulsory participation in joint projects funded by taxes.. while avoiding the market-stifling effects of excess taxation, IS the modern consensus. Therefore, though it might not be UNFAIR to call this inherently "socialistic" this is a polemically fraught word to apply to a pragmatic formula that works and is widely accepted.

(Agument over details is of course legit.)

In contrast, purist propertarianism is by its very nature romantic and dogmatic. And has no justification anywhere in the Constitution.

still exhausted & remote from gerrymandering, so here are a few more misc items.


Here is one that sent me shuddering: A quote from journalist David Frum: "In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met. " http://frum.nationalreview.com/archives/09292005.asp#077899

….Gurgggle… Let’s see if we can trace an unconventional pattern. Bush Sr. appoints Thomas in order (essentially) to give Scalia two votes. Now is the pattern continuing? A loyal nonentity appointed in order to give Roberts two votes? Heck I like Roberts already for removing those ridiculous gold stripes from the Chief Justice’s gown. I pray he will be one of those pleasant surpeises. Alas though…


Now let’s get apolitical...

This from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4276180.stm "...."In a world of Fab Labs, you can think about the other five and a half billion brains on the planet not just as potential consumers, but
as creators, as inventors. "Creation itself can become much more distributed, and you can bring not information technology, but IT development to the masses. You can close what you might think of as a fabrication divide." Gershenfeld helped set up a Fab Lab in Karlsen's barn a couple of years ago. But so many people came to use it, Karlsen decided he needed to expand. With help from the Norwegian government, the Norwegian sheepherder built a Viking-style Great Hall to house a Fab Lab which opened last month. Inside, next to the sheepskins, banks of PCs with high-speed internet connections hum away. The Fab Lab machines include a sign cutter and a laser cutter. There is a 3-D computer milling machine with enough precision to make circuits. The software that tells the machines what to do is open source, and has been created by so-called "Fab Labbers" from across the globe....."


-
Finally... My cousin Adam Frankel announces: “My girlfriend Laura is starring in a new hour-long TV show called Related. It's by the "creative forces" behind Friends and Sex and the City. The show is about four sisters in New York (Laura plays the youngest sister, named Rose). And the show starts this Wednesday at 9PM on the WB (in NYC, that's channel 11 -- anywhere else, just check your local listings). This will be the first time in my life that I've planned to watch a show on the WB (the network's target demographic is usually teenage girls) -- and the same is probably true for you, as well. But it's a good show and if you have time, I hope you can watch it and give the show your support.”

I mean... dang Adam!

Rob Perkins said...

Yes, "socialist" is fraught with polemical problems. That doesn't change it's technical appropriateness when applied to the polar opposite of propertarianism.

The whole point of using the term was to invoke the early bits of that movement, the stuff Sinclair depicted toward the end of The Jungle, or the rosy ideals in Herland.

Nothing more. Or less!

In any case, it's hardly polite to call a rich person "propertarian" in our culture, don't you think? So, at least the polemic undertones go both ways...

On another topic, why not simply log in to Contrary Brin from the machine you're using, and then log back out again when you're finished?

Wayne said...

Thanks for posting the link to the Mark Danner article. Although I don't entirely agree with it, he does a pretty good job of summing up where we are today.

Here's an interesting point "We have entered the era of the amateurs. Those who attacked the London Underground — whether or not they had any contact with Al Qaeda — manufactured their crude bombs from common chemicals..." Elsewhere I've seen you look forward to an upcoming "age of amateurs" where ordinary citizens are empowered. But what if these citizens choose to act in ways that are contrary to our society? Aren't the self organizing networks of terrorists that have replaced Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network just that: amateurs?

C.L said...

Rejoyce Dr. David Brin one from your Guild, has become a leader of major western democracy namely Angela Merkel doctor in physic.

C. L.
An infrequent at lurker your blog, and have read most of your books, who is from small a small Nordic country with consensus Parlememtarisme and where the word socialism is not a dirty word.

Steve said...

I think Wayne has an important point. (Ever seen a "professional" suicide bomber?)

This is why I think that such a movement is essentially unstoppable. Let's predicate that we kill off all the leaders (the professionals of that perverse activity). As long as there is something (whatever that is) driving people to blow themselves and others up to make a point, no professional class can stop them. The numbers are just not on their side. Professional protectors (police, CIA, FBI, etc.) will be so outnumbered by citizens that unless we become a police state I don't see how they could cordon off the entire US or any other country. I mean, not only do you have to be 100% effective in preventing acts, you need to have nearly a 0% false positive to have an acceptable level of justice. (That is where I believe it behooves us to handle suspected terrorists in the existing justice system, and not in double-secret military tribunals. Controlling the false positive rate via transparancy.)

In fact, I am kind of shocked that more terrorist attempts haven't been made in the US, since I can think of many ways even without Al-Qaeda money or organization to commit terrorist acts.

Perhaps it will take other amateurs, the other 98% of our society, to police the US for such threats. If only we can avoid McCarthyism along the way...

I also think that we need to identify the root causes that lead people to want to commit terrorist acts. It seems to me that killing one suspected terrorist, or indefinitely imprisoning one, increases the probability that one or more of their friends and family members would support or participate in terrorism, and you run into the many-headed hydra scenario. It seems to me that there needs to be pressure on the other side as well, something that seems lacking in our "hunt 'em down" response so far. Perhaps this is where a professional's time would be best spent.

Jon said...

Dr. Brin, I hae to throw cold water on your TV appearance, but should we really be jazzed up and celebrating newer and better ways to blow each other up?

Joshua said...

I hate to defend the gerrymander, but I think it's important to think of what, exactly, we can do OTHER than gerrymander. The Supreme Court requries that districts be roughly equal in population, contiguous and of a geometrically sound shape but this doesn't always ensure "competitive districts" and sometimes can lead to poorly shaped ones. For instance, might it not be considered good to create districts likely to serve a vast majority of their constituents? Gerrymandering for race is illegal, but it seems like a good idea anwyay, to boost minority representation. I don't think there is necessarily a problem is districts being uncompetetive (other than the state legislature's ability to control those districts, which is unfortunate) as long as those districts are constructed in such a way as to create rather homogenous groupings. In fact, competetive districts are, in many ways, less democratic because 49% of voters end up utterly unrepresented by the winning candidate.

A long time ago, I proposed an alternative, but unwieldy, method of electing Representatives in which voters could cast votes nationwide, and any candidate to received a certain percentage of the votes would be entitled to join the House with either a full or a partial vote (or possibly multiple votes up to a cut-off.) This would be the most democratic system, but it's probably unworkable, and would cut congressmen off from a visible, geographic community that they serve. So, we're left with the concept of gerrymandering to produce roughly the same objective, the vast majority of voters being represented in congress by someone they voted for. That's democratic, no?

Palliard said...

@Rob

"what are public common schools, if not nascent socialism?"

Uhm... really, public schools are a tool of fascism as opposed to socialism. Most contemporary public schools are built on the "Prussian model", which came out of the German Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s. These public schools were created for the purpose of making useful plant laborers, and so they mainly stress two things: a basic skillset, and unquestioning obedience to authority.

Historically, socialist revolutions come from privately-educated leadership and entirely uneducated laborers. Fascist revolutions, insofar as there have been any, tend to come from military veterans leading the public-school-educated.

Steve said...

@palliard and Rob

"what are public common schools, if not nascent socialism?" -Rob

..."public schools are a tool of fascism as opposed to socialism." -palliard

Sheesh - some sweeping generalizations there.

A product of public school myself in Louisiana and Colorado, I can say that while there is an element of truth in what you both say, neither is a complete description of what I experienced.

Granted, schools I attended taught obedience to authority, but they also rewarded creativity and individualism. Not in every class, but in many, and especially in after-school activities (debate, photography, and clay-mation for me). I was even taught a fair amount of Suspicion of Authority in my multiple history classes.

To the socialist side, in a way public education could be seen as socialistic, I suppose, but it could also be seen as a capitalistic investment in the society of the future, with a big Return on Investment. I was not taught socialist theory in school (well outside my Revolutions and Ideaologies class anyway). I was taught that we should work together towards common goals, but surely that is not contraindicated.

I guess if you look hard enough at something, you will find enough validation to justify whatever label or action you are seeking to justify (witness the Bible). As there is truth in what you both say, I also perceive that there is an oversimplification to a level that doesn't convey anything but emotional content.

With anything as massive as public education, there is high variability, both in talent and in outlook. Saying that it is one thing or another misses the large proportion in public education that would violently disagree with the point.

I do think that we can and should improve public education, and I am doing my small part locally as part of a School Improvement Team, bringing my business experience in strategic planning and data analysis into elementary education. There are teaching frameworks out there that foster all the qualities we hold dear here. The one we are using is the International Baccalaureate Organization Primary Year Programme. I'm sure there are others (though this one is pretty cool). To achieve the things we talk about in here, we have to educate our kids to think critically.

Rob Perkins said...

@Palliard

Public common schools in the United States predate the German industrial model. And today, they don't even resemble that model, as near as I can tell.

Further, I said "nascent" socialism. My use of the term is technical and narrow, and intended only to highlight a place where two sides of American debate are talking well and truly past one another, because of a difference in premise.

Don't read too much into this!