Friday, September 02, 2011

Wonders and Disturbances Part 1: The Political Kind

We’ll have two cleanup postings. The first conveying a raft of political and social news, gleanings and/or outrages... followed by a potpourri of scientific and other wonders that remind us -- civilization is about a lot more than anger!

But first the big news. Exactly as I predicted, a federal court has stepped in with the most important decision and precedent of our times, one that will make a more crucial difference to our role as citizens than anything since the Civil Rights Act: Citizens may now record their encounters with police.

This is so important that I will quote directly the first two paragraphs of the ruling just laid down by Torruella, Lipez, and Howard, Circuit Judges in the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals:

“Simon Glik was arrested for using his cell phone's digital video camera to film several police officers arresting a young man on the Boston Common. The charges against Glik, which included violation of Massachusetts's wiretap statute and two other state-law offenses, were subsequently judged baseless and were dismissed. Glik then brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that his arrest for filming the officers constituted a violation of his rights under the First and Fourth Amendments.

“In this interlocutory appeal, the defendant police officers challenge an order of the district court denying them qualified immunity on Glik's constitutional claims. We conclude, based on the facts alleged, that Glik was exercising clearly established First Amendment rights in filming the officers in a public space, and that his clearly-established Fourth Amendment rights were violated by his arrest without probable cause. We therefore affirm.”

I’ve said it before, I am no cop-hater. I admire our skilled professional protectors and I’ve helped them in many ways, over the years, from consulting with many agencies all the way down to relieving Sheriff deputies from routine traffic duties during San Diego’s 2007 wild fires (as a CERT-trained volunteer). I consider the current “war against professionalism” - including hatred of science and our civil servants - to be a travesty and I note the historic rise in professional standards among those doing a very taxing and challenging job on our city streets, dealing with provocations that any other generation of cops - reacting according to hormonal human nature would have handled with a billy club upside the head!

Nevertheless, this is not a fight that our hardworking public protectors can be allowed to win, at any level, in any way, shape or form. The only recourse of a citizen, when pressed or shackled or condemned by authority , is the truth. We must have access to it, especially when it concerns our potential for exoneration. Purely, universally and always. It is human nature that they’ll want to evade the accountability of our cameras.

They must be taught - simply and firmly - to get used to it.

Remember this news. It was important.

== Politically Fascinating Miscellany ==

-- Science is really starting to zero in on a list of verified personality differences between liberals, conservatives and leftists that manifest in measurable ways in the brain. A fascinating article... and perhaps one more reason why dogmatists have been pushing the “war on science.”

-- Look at these ten charts showing America's historically super-low tax levels. Then ask "who is behind making low taxes for the rich the top issue? The only thing that matters?" Who is financing that message? Oh, right. Got it. (Make your friends see these charts.)

-- Did I sound optimistic earlier, about the appeals court’s ruling about citizen cameras? Well, maybe I spoke too soon. Remember, the Supremes can over-rule!

The Supreme Court majority that gave us George Bush Junior for 8 years (after which, not one Republican I know can name an unambiguous statistical metric of national health that improved, with most of them plummeting as a result of brainless misrule) - also gave us the Citizens United decision, allowing corporations to spend whatever they like to influence elections, swamping contributions from mere citizens made of flesh and blood. Now see how blatant it has become.

“Cameron Casey wanted to invest a million dollars in the Romney campaign and why not? He and Mitt were both scions of Bain Capital, which specializes in enriching its members by selling off America. Having a President overseeing the process could net a solid return!But those pesky campaign finance laws limited Mr. Casey to a few thousand dollars. No problem! He incorporated "W. Spann LLC", gave it a million bucks; W. Spann LLC gave that million to "Restore Our Future"; and, no longer needed, W. Spann LLC dissolved.”

You do realize that there is nothing to prevent a foreign petro-lord from doing the same thing? And... this is... okay?

-- And no, I do not believe the only political crazies are on the right. Anyone who has read Earth or The Transparent Society knows that I see dangers to freedom and enlightenment coming from all quarters, instead of the ridiculous mono-directional paranoia that is the lazy habit in most modern folks. (Suspicion of authority should aim in all directions!) Lest we forget the evils of Leninism. Even today, when one end of the political spectrum seems to have gone stark jibbering insane, I keep reminding folks that we should keep an eye on the other extreme.

See it in action here. Oh, yes, there are leftie jerks. Only bear in mind (1) that the loony left does not control liberals - whom they despise as moderate compromisers. And (2) if the Earth really is imperiled by a movement that won’t listen when science warns of a clear danger, then we can hardly be surprised when some folks get dramatic and think - well - exaggerated thoughts.

-- Sorry, but this is a matter that really chafes my hide. “Michele Bachmann thinks the world is ending and the pope is the antichrist. Her friends want to bring about the end times in Israel and her church has an issue with the papacy.” Look, I consider this separate from every other aspect of the divide across an idiotic, artificial “left right axis.” I don’t care what mythologies or beliefs people claim, so long as they remain detached from the candidate’s likely actions in office. But it really is another matter when a person asking for my vote also believes most of her fellow citizens are already damned souls. When she openly desires to see “fire rain from the sky”... while asking for the keys to our nuclear arsenal. When she openly wishes for an end to democracy and the United States of America. I call that relevant.

-- "How my G.O.P. destroyed the U.S. economy." Yes, that is exactly what David Stockman, President Ronald Reagan's director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed piece, "Four Deformations of the Apocalypse." This summary continues: “Yes, Stockman is equally damning of the Democrats' Keynesian policies. But what this indictment by a party insider -- someone so close to the development of the Reaganomics ideology -- says about America, helps all of us better understand how America's toxic partisan-politics "holy war" is destroying not just the economy and capitalism, but the America dream. And unless this war stops soon, both parties will succeed in their collective death wish.”

-- And then there’s this about Michele Bachmann. Eek.

-- Holding predictors accountable? Those who remember EARTH and The Transparent Society know that I have long promoted the idea of better holding accountable those who make predictions about the future. Indeed, our brains are equipped with organs - the prefrontal lobes - that seem to be obsessed with attempting to appraise future possibilities and events. We just don’t do it as well as our prophets claim they do! See my articles on Predictions Registries: and

“Now A Hamilton College class and their public policy professor analyzed the predictions of 26 pundits ...and used a scale of 1 to 5 to rate their accuracy... The top prognosticators – led by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman – scored above five points and were labeled “Good,” while those scoring between zero and five were “Bad.” Anyone scoring less than zero (which was possible because prognosticators lost points for inaccurate predictions) were put into “The Ugly” category... Even when the students eliminated political predictions and looked only at predictions for the economy and social issues, they found that liberals still do better than conservatives at prediction. After Krugman, the most accurate pundits were Maureen Dowd of The New York Times, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ...The group also found a link between conditional predictions and accuracy, that is, a prediction that was conditional (“If A, then B”) was less likely to be accurate. Finally, those prognosticators with a law degree were more likely to be wrong.”

It’s a step... though I remain a bit skeptical. As my articles describe, a truly respectably predictions accountability system will have a number of traits that seem to be missing in the Hamilton College study. For example, a specificity index is just as important as one for predicting successfully. Still, a worthwhile effort.

-- Finally: See an interesting riff on Ayn Rand’s Hollywood days, writing treatments for a film glorifying the atom bomb. Elsewhere I call her a jibbering loony. An apologist and rationalizer for the very same oligarchic tendencies that Adam Smith denounced. (Choose: you can have Smith or Rand, not both.)

But in this case (for none of the reasons she gave) Rand was right about the bomb. It has proved (so far) to be a force for good. It limited the size of my generation's wars to Vietnam level or below, saving probably a billion or more lives from the conventional WWIII that seemed inevitable in the normal pattern of human affairs. If this were 1947 and you listened to Oppenheimer and Teller, you would call Teller crazy and Oppenheimer wise. Indeed, at the time, we had no reason at all to believe Teller’s forecast that nuclear weapons would chasten humanity, wake us up and teach us new ways! Oppenheimer had history on his side and a desperate wish to step back from the precipice. But it turned out Teller was right (so far).

And the fact that we CAN be chastened into changing our ways may help explain why we’re among the first to reach for the stars. A topic I expand upon, in my new novel.

Continue to Part 2


gwern said...

Did you mean to omit all the hyperlinks?

David Brin said...


Tacitus2 said...

Ah, back to politics.

I am at present a-wander in the labyrinth of work and sleep, but delta wave snooze and a return to sentinence beckons anon...

I don't suppose you would actually be interested in setting some parameters for your "metrics of GOP badness" challenge?

Having taken a couple of what I thought were game swipes at it in the past I have become discouraged...I know it is your blog David, but you seem to set rules for these things that make you judge, jury, executioner and gravedigger!

It might be fun....


David Brin said...

Tacitus, I recall being extremely unimpressed with the way your example satisfied the "unambiguous" part that I keep saying.

But I am willing to have another look at them.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...


Do we really believe the US and Russia would have had a World War II type of war against each other if there was no nuclear weaponry? I used to assume that, but the years go on and I don't buy it. Same with US, China and Russia against each other, or Russia and China against each other. I just don't see the massive land war after WWII.

In other words, I'm not sure I'd declare Teller even a temporary winner....Oppie, Oppie, he's our man! :-)

Also, your link for the study of liberals, conservatives and lefties is the same link of the momentous federal Court of Appeal decision. I do that myself more than I want...

Tacitus2 said...

There are several issues to be clarified.

1. which parameters are actually even influenced by Presidential actions? what extent is it fair to blame your predecessor for things that go badly?

3. On a related note, what is the lag time from good/bad presidential action and bad/good outcome?

4.How do we accomodate the relative paucity of datapoints for D presidents. Can we include the first 3 years of Obama?

5. Do we allow the excuse of "it would have been worse except for..."?

6. but most importantly, who decides the unambiguous nature of parameters. I, and some posters of note, thought some of my stuff on life expectancy, volume of pollutants, etc was fair game.(although the time lag factor nags) If D. Brin is the sole judge of all the above then I think my time would be better spent as comic relief and gadfly. A role that I think I do rather well....


Anonymous said...

Why cite transparency in a purported non-partisan article and then use a progressive, leftist think-tank heavily criticized for not being transparent as a source to talk about tax equity? You can't claim to be non-partisan and only source articles from partisan sources as your support.

As a scientist you know better than to think a tax code as convoluted as ours (the problem in my view) can be broken down into 10 simple charts without explanation on each one. And the hyperbole is quite think to boot - "tax rates have plunged" says one caption and then I realized it "plunged" 4% on a chart with a range around 11% in order to make it look dramatic...

The Center for American Progress is as reliable as the Heritage Foundation. In fact, it was formed specifically as an alternative to the Heritage Foundation.

I like the transparency stuff. The tax stuff I can do without.


Jacob said...

Weighting in on evaluating metrics of success...

We're talking about complex systems without valid control groups. So you can't have proof. What you can get is evidence in support of an idea.

#1 It is fair to go beyond President only Domain. Republicans had actual control of all 3 branches of government for 6 years. Therefore, I wouldn't limit it by this.

#2 The blame game is a mistake. Rather focus on the efficacy of Policy. What was initiated? What was improved? It is a failure of leadership if damaging programs are not stopped or ineffective programs are not improved.

#3 (Lagtime) I studied Economic and Government data from the CBO a few years back. I noticed a trend that in policy shifts one year after a new President got in Office. Logically this makes sense as it takes time to get settled and get new policies in action.

#4 It is unfortunate that we haven't had an empowered Democratic Congress to compare to. The political potency of the slim majority is nothing compared to the early 2000s. But it should be noted that this is an indication of a Failure of Leadership on their part.

#5 Sure, but we're dealing with complex systems. > This policy helped reduce the impact of this negative effect.< works a lot better than >The bad would have won if the Other Guys had power.<

#6 General Science improvement is expected. What government policy >initiated by Republicans< between (2000-2006) boosted improvements in Life expectancy or the reduction of pollutants? Alternately, which government programs did they streamline to work more successfully?

Every reader of this blog is your audience. Just because you can't convince a specific individual doesn't mean you can't affect other's opinions.


I challenge you to present one 'small c' conservative agenda that improved. Modern Republicans Policy Makers are terrible. They aren't doing the job Republican voters want them to do.

Robert said...

Military spending. Conservatives are huge on talking about the need for increased military spending. And? They did it! Yay!

Rob H.

Jacob said...

No good. The reason conservatives are in support of a strong defense is safety. Our military adventurism has increased hostility towards the United States. Our military is less ready to defend us against foreign threats now than in 2000. To be fair, it does have a great deal more experience with partisan suppression. So we will be more safer from American grown resurrections.

Ron Paul is the only candidate that seems to have a clue on this point. His mistake though is assuming we shouldn't be trying different things. I rather liked the idea presented to hire everyone in Afghanistan. What was the cost of that again? A recent report said we are wasting between 30-60 Billion a year in corruption over there.

ZarPaulus said...

@Mitchell J. Freedman:
I see the Cold war as am extended WWIII fought using proxy nations. The Soviets backed communist revolutions in North Korea and Vietnam, while the US supported the rebellion in Afghanistan. The sole reason they didn't go to war themselves was the threat of nuclear annihilation (also why we didn't dare to use even tactical nukes in 'Nam).

lightning said...

Jacob -- No, Robert had it right. The point of "defense" spending is ... the spending. "Safety" is a rallying cry for the pesants. It's Welfare for White People.

It's also a great Keynesian economic stimulus, but conservatives don't believe in Keynesian economics.

Paul said...

David, re: Michelle Bachmann, it seems fair to point out that the article you linked never actually provides evidence that Bachmann herself believes any of that stuff. It relies entirely on claims about Bachmann's friends.

I'm as happy to see Bachmann lampooned as the next moderate libertarian, but simple fairness seems to militate against a hatchet-job that relies entirely on implication and innuendo.

Jacob said...

Hi lightning,

You are talking about a dysfunction. I realize that Rob H. was likely tongue in cheek, but I couldn't allow what seemed like a counter to pass. Sometimes people remember just that an objection was raised and not that it was valid. Please note that I said >>>> 'small c' conservative <<<< rather than Conservative which to me represents the reality of the modern Republican policy makers.

David Brin said...

I agree that a general comparison of outcomes from governance would be very complicated.

Even the 100% perfect failure of voodoo supply side economics to ever, ever see its predictions come true comes accompanied by relentless, remotely plausible whines about how this and that other factor prevented the forecast boom of economic growth, revenues and black ink. That is, each individual whine sounds barely plausible, till you add up the perfection of failed outcomes for 30 years.

Hence, my challenge is deliberately simple. The gop ran Congress and set tax, banking and spending priorities from 1995 till 2007. Twelve years.

Clinton ran a tight ship in the Executive branch, even winning a JD Powers award for trimming the number of federal rules and employees. Also winning his war with stunning speed and efficiency, with zero loss of US lives or taxpayer money.

He was followed by profligacy and dishonesty so staggering that Bushite behaviors themselve should have cause every sane person in America to sear of the GOP forever.

But loyalty is a core conservative mania, so in addition to indicting that wretched list of horrid behaviors, I also CONDEMN THE PERFECT EFFECT of that misrule.... the perfect lack of any systematic, large-scale, unambiguous improvements in national heath, after all that posturing...

...during an era when the GOP controlled all three branches of government top to bottom. Incidentally, featuring the laziest Congress on record, who did NOTHING about abortion, church&state, relaxing gun control (though they did fire half of our border patrol agents), or any other social issue.*

Just the fact that Tacitus must quibble and dicker over ground rules is enough to make things clear. OMG... improvements in clean air or pollutants? You'd try to credit THAT to the republicans as evidence that "something did get better" under their rule? Seriously?

I really am interested. But dig this. The fact that you have to dig so hard... doesn't it kind of prove my point? That these bozos have been utterly ruinous to our national health?The Tea Party is symptomatic of addictive denial. I'd love to see studies comparing their brain scans to that of a heroin addict in his steepening death spiral.


*The exception, Welfare Reform (1996) was Newt's Big Mistake. He actually believed he was supposed to help govern. He was never forgiven for negotiating this important step with Clinton.

David Brin said...

Anonymous: clearly you can "do without" the tax charts. What they reveal is inconvenient and recent science shows that fresh facts we find inconvenient do not light up the centers of reason in the brain... they light up the emotion sectors.

Notice what you did: you ranted against the plausibility of the source. You did not even allow your gaze to fall upon the thing in question..."Does the Heritage Foundation or the CAP actually deny that the top 400 families now own as much as the bottom 50% of Americans."

Well, does it? No, they DISTRACT from that fact. But they never deny it. So the question is: where do you set the level of restored feudal oligarchy that YOU would finally find worrisome?

It's a fair question, anonymous. Adam Smith, the founder of modern capitalism, called oligarchy THE great enemy of freedom and markets. So is there SOME level of disparity you'd finally find worrisome? When the top 200 families own as much as 75% of Americans?

When the top 100 families own as much as 90% of Americans? I am asking you flat-out. When do you choose to start to get worried?

Oh, add in this. Who pays the bills for Heritage and CAP? Funny thing!

David Brin said...

Jacob has it right. The things that should be making Tacitus and Anonymous most angry have not been the betrayals of America BY conservatism.

It should be the betrayal OF conservatism by the loonies and oligarchs who have hijacked the movement of Goldwater and Buckley.

Indeed, despite the slander howls you find on other sites, claiming "Brin is a left-winger"... nearly all of my indictments of these monsters have been FROM THE CONSERVATIVE OR LIBERTARIAN PERSPECTIVE. Their betrayals of every Goldwater ethic or principle. Their utter betrayal of Adam Smith.

Find me the leftie position I have taken in any of this! True, I do raise an occasional LIBERAL position (a very different thing.) But for every one of those, I usually raise far more Smithian ones.

Paul, you are right to be prim in appraising Bachmann... up to a point. Then guilt by association starts to become valid. For example, while Sarah Palin has never said (to my knowledge) that she prays daily for our world to end in fire from the sky, her pastor has openly avowed to doing so, and often in church in front of her. Are we then forbidden to draw conclusions?

Robert said...

Remember the big outcry against Barack Obama because of some rather unpleasant things his pastor said? Remember the outcry of "how could he not have known?" and "by staying in that church he was condoning it"? I suppose that only holds true for black men running for President (or perhaps just for Democrats), not for Republicans of any stripe.

Rob H., who dislikes hypocrisy of any stripe

David Brin said...

Rev Wright did not say "Damn America!" in every single sermon. Or every other sermon. Or even once a year. It was a one time thing they found while trawling around.

Palin's Church avows a wish for the BoR apocalypse routinely and regularly.

David Brin said...

Have you been reading Perry's positions?

An amazing, scary and entertainingly different guy.

(Wants us to go back to electing US senators from each state by appointment by the state legislature. Also avows - with me! - that the Civil War started in 1851 with southern bullying of the North; I can't follow his logic after that, though.)

Now see this: Perry steadily opposes a border fence vs Mexico.

Am I the only one who sees that as CONSISTENT with GOP policy and not inconsistent at all?

Rob said...

Yikes. People who want to go back to State-appointed Senators do so without a sense of history: It was popular to move to popular election because of the way the political-appointment machines had become corrupted.

Even with popular election of Senators we retain in the Senate the relative maturity and tentativeness the Federalists wanted out of that half of the Congress. It's one of the only elected offices I'd *not* want term-limited. The Senate ought to be a place out of which no politician wants to move.

But the main reason Perry gives me the heebies is not rational at all: He sounds far too much like G.W. Bush. Speech, mannerisms, and so forth. The fact that he's a frightening secessionist is almost secondary to that.

As for Reverend Wright, except for his rhetorical choices, if you listen to or read that sermon in full, it doesn't actually contain anything an Evangelical Conservative would disagree with! Laura Ingraham used different words on a book jacket I saw just today, but the ideas were not different.

Tony Fisk said...

Back from the UK after a long flight (survived riots). Caught up with 'Source Code' somewhere over Indonesia. A good yarn about alternate realities that just misses cult status by *not* ending with a single poignant and uplifting image (and laying itself open to the niggling question: what happened to the 'original' Sean Fentress) Still, that's Hollywood: stuffing the imagination rather than exercising it.

Bachman is a nightmare from which you should find yourself waking sometime in the next 12 months.

But 'waking up' is a process you'll have to go through.

Other nightmares waking... CIA was renditioning Libya ??!!

hylacrun: a form of waking hallucination mentioned in the BoR apocrypha.

Jacob said...

I assert that people in government tend to be more informed about government than those outside of it. Yes, there are always exceptions to a generalization. The very idea of a Republic is to have a representative who makes decisions for the rest. In theory, these representatives are paid to know the details of what they are trying to accomplish (voting, executing, or judging). I also assert that informed Voters make better decisions than uninformed Voters. Therefore in theory, we should get better results by having State government elect National government. Likewise, we'd get better results from having Local government elect State government.

But history shows this didn't work out. Well there goes my argument at least until we look a bit deeper. One of the main driving factors for the 17th Amendment (the one that shifted it to the current system) was corruption. Backroom deals and Industry capture put some real lemons in office. Corruption was a lot harder if you have to bribe the whole population. (Oh they definitely tired in small ways. Liqueur was used to secure votes.) The price we paid lower corruption was a less informed electorate. Thankfully, voters aren't all that far behind politicians. On balance, most people were happy with the trade-off.

I'm all for the idea of a more informed electorate in hopes of a more agile government. I like the idea of being able to make a significant difference in a election. That vast majority of Americans wouldn't be able to impact the national elections if they choose to. But we'll have to replace the popular vote with more Transparency against corruption too. We would need quick and cheap ways to recall Local officials if they picked the city dog. Or maybe we need some other idea you can think of instead of these. I would like to see States or regions make attempts at alternatives. A cooperative competition for better outcomes.

Robert said...

Personally, I think half of the problem with American Politics these days is the high turnover rate. People need to try and get reelected almost as soon as they get into office, so they never dare do anything except what their core constituents want. Core, not majority, mind you. If a Democrat doesn't do what his majority base desires, she's out. If a Republican doesn't do what his majority base wants, he's out.

Thus I think we should do a Constitutional Amendment: members of the House of Representatives are now elected on four-year cycles. They have a term limit of three terms in office (12 years). Further, the electorate has the ability to recall their elected official if 2/3rds of the voter base demands it (though how that would be proven I'm not sure - especially as signatures are too easily forged, and thumb prints too messy). Presidents now are elected on a six-year cycle and are limited to two terms (12 years). Senators are now elected to eight years in office; I had been thinking of a three term limit (24 years) but what Dr. Brin says does have some merit... perhaps four terms as 32 years is quite sufficient to be in office I'd say.

Thoughts? Opinions?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Jacob said: "In theory, these representatives are paid to know the details of what they are trying to accomplish (voting, executing, or judging)."

What? Respecting expertise? That damns you to Tea Party hell, Jacob. The number one agenda of the Murdochians is to undermine all the "boffin" castes of people who know stuff, leaving them incapable of challenging the oligarchy.

Rob I do not mind the Reps being in re-election mode. What I mind is their constantly being in FUND RAISING mode. Larry Lessig is pushing a law that any rep can raise and spend no more than his rivals raise and spend against him.Simple.

gwern said...

Speaking of prediction registeries, have you been following the recent IARPA project competition? Hanson's group ( is still recruiting, although the Tetlock group ( ; the one I'm in) seems to have closed to new participants.

Jacob said...

There may be some truth to the War on Expertise. I don't buy into it fully; preferring think better of my fellow man. Unfortunately, my own beliefs on this subject don't mesh all that well with realty. Consider Thomas Sowell, a Hoover institute senior fellow, who I was predisposed to like. His 2010 book Intellectuals and Society was absolutely terrible. He took little bits of truth (Hubris is a danger. Group think can lead to bad ends.) and twisted them into something that I can't help but believe is a strong candidate for support of David Brin's hypothesis.

No matter what mix of driving forces leads to Anti-Expertise, it must be opposed.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, I don't like Reps being constantly in election mode. We've seen that nothing gets done if a politician is forced constantly to pander to his base. We've also seen that in the first two years of office, the President often gets more done than in the latter two years. We can do only two things about this.

First, we either extend the period of time they are elected into office so they can get stuff done.

Second, we can eliminate the power of the partisan base by having Open Primaries where the top two candidates in terms of popular vote move on to the General Election.

We would be far more likely to get #1 passed as a Constitutional Amendment than #2. And it would allow politicians focus on their jobs rather than their elections.

Rob H.

sixtysomething said...

Apparently it might be that elected officials know less about the Constitution than the average citizen..

Now given that the basic foundation of the US government is the Constitution, it's hard not to speculate that those who know less about the Constitution may know less about how government works.

Something about forests, trees and vision perhaps?

Both the Democrats and the Republicans have two different "bases", there's one "base" that contributes money in large chunks to the politicians and parties and another "base" that does most of the voting. To a big extent both parties have the same financial "base" that makes large contributions and whose concerns are listened to and acted upon. The voting "bases" are pandered to in rhetoric (more on the Republican than the Democratic side) but essentially ignored when it comes to creating policy.

David Brin said...

Jacob, the good news is that the War on Experts can be made into a fantastic retaliation talking point... if the dems ever gain more than three neurons to rub together at a time. (Ironic, eh?)

Another irony? I am the champion of citizen empowerment and the Age of Amateurs!!! I push many "question the experts" memes and am militant about amateur (citizen) supervision of the expert castes!

But I am also sane. The experts in any given field must be given primacy of place. They can be heckled, but with QUESTIONS! And a burden of proof falls on those who proclaim that the people who know the most about a subject must be wrong.

Rob, I am glad it's just 2 years so we can trounce Boehner's imbeciles.

Still you have a point. California not only ended gerrymandering, it introduced nonpartisan top-two primaries. My state was right and I was wrong about waiting to strike a deal with Texas. The deal ain't happening during civil war part III.

Blue America is gonna have to reform on its own.

Jacob said...

Hi sixtysomething,

We haven't interacted before, so let me apologize that I'm starting by countering your point. Sorry!

The idea that you presented reminds me a lot of those against Experts and Intellectuals. ~"We have found limited data which points to us knowing more than those who spend their life (or a significant portion there of) doing something."~

You can't seriously be saying that the average person knows more about the function of government than those involved in that function. Individuals may have some excellent ideas on how things should work, but that is a different matter. Those ideas could only be improved by gaining more experience in government matters by taking part. It doesn't dumb them down. However, it is fair to say they may fall into the Group Think Trap.

Everyone has a natural tendency want to think well of themselves. ~I know better than them.~ ~Oh I could do a better job than those people, it isn't rocket science.~ In my extreme youth, I use to indulge this this type of behavior all the time. I was a pain in the butt to those responsible for getting things done on the organization level. It wasn't until I was the 'man in charge' of a few score people that I gained perspective.

I have several Magic Bullets that solve major social issues in the United States. But my experience/perspective teaches me that most likely I do not fully understand the complexity of the problem my 'Magic Bullets' should solve. I am also likely unaware of elements of my ideas having already been tried unsuccessfully in the past.

Robert said...

There is one last alternative, Dr. Brin, to my two options. And that is the most difficult one: waiting.

The longer we wait, the smaller the Republican base will become. The core Republican voting base, the core that votes in primaries and is responsible for the nutters in office now, are anti-immigrant and anti-women's rights (because let's face it, being anti-contraception and anti-abortion is ultimately anti-women's rights). Republicans are right to fear immigrants as they are becoming the majority - in a decade, Caucasians will become one of a number of minorities in America. They will still outnumber Latinos and Asians and the like... but they won't constitute 50% of the population.

Further, the primary place Latinos are appearing is in California, Texas, and Florida. California is already lightly liberal and is growing moreso as time passes. (There are some truly conservative parts of California. But on the whole, it's more liberal than conservative.) Florida is at the tipping point and will very likely in the near future become another increasingly liberal state. Texas is the biggie. Texan Republicans see the writing on the wall. They are trying everything to try and convince Latinos they are on their side... while letting whites know they are anti-immigrant. They can't keep this up, and Latinos know already not to trust Republicans. In ten years, Texas will flip and become the third moderate state of the South.

Without Florida and Texas, Republicans must rely on a cult of personality to win. They need at this point another Reagan. And they don't have one. What's more, even if they did, the core base of Republicans would vote against the next Reagan as too liberal.

The problem with Democrats is that there are no real leaders among them. They're cats and they refuse to be herded. It's their strength and their weakness. Because if they united behind a new Kennedy (or if Obama had actually been what he'd claimed to be rather than a conservative conman who bluffed his way into the White House) then Republicans wouldn't have stood a chance after Bush.

In all likelihood, we'll see Republicans become the minority party... and Democrats splitting. At this point we may see the formation of a third party, and depending on how Democrats split, we'll either see Republicans swarm to the new party (if the Conservative Democrats become a new party) or a party system similar to Canada's.

Rob H.

David Smelser said...

I wouldn't mind if elected officials pandered to the people in their district. The problem is that they are pandering to those who contributed to their campaigns (who often live outside the district).

David Brin said...

I agree that the dems symbol should be a pussycat. Slow to rile and impossible to herd. In fact, their disorganization and total lack of discipline should be a selling point! Can anyone believe they'd ever be a threat to freedom?

But no, we cannot just wait them out. The first civil war showed how strong the loyalty-madness can endure in the face of craziness-evidence. Sometimes you just have to wake up and win.

I have a second reason. I do not want conservatism and libertarianism permanently crippled. That might happen if this fever doesn't break soon. If the idiotically short-sighted and historically myopic plutocrats cannot see where their campaign against the Enlightenment inevitably ends up... with Paris in 1789... then they have already proved their deluded natures and lack of qualifications to lead.

(As if the 12 year reign of ruin and misrule weren't enough?)


rewinn said...

Rather than change the number of years that Representatives serve, why not attack the problem directly: elections.

Let's replace elections with the granting of proxies, which are revocable at any time (perhaps via secure website.) The 435 citizens with the most proxies go to the House, where their votes are weighted by the number of proxies they hold at the instant of any particular vote in the House.
No need for elections - If Representative Smith does something his constituents don't like, some will reassign their proxies to Representative Jones, who thereafter has a bigger club in Congress or to Mr. Brown, who hopes to break into the top 435. If enough switch proxies, Smith drops off the list letting in Representative Brown from the standby list.

The problem with regularly-scheduled elections is that Representatives have to please their voters one day out of the two-year cycle, and have to please donors every day. Proxies change that, so that the voters must be pleased everyday.
(P.S. note that this schedule is completely independent of geography and gerrymandering)

Tony Fisk said...

My suggestion from a while back: staggered elections. That way, the majority of reps are in governing mode at any given time.

Tacitus2 said...

"I don't suppose you would actually be interested in setting some parameters for your "metrics of GOP badness" challenge?"

Ah, well then. Asked and answered.


Jacob said...

"Ah, well then. Asked and answered."

David Brin failed to respond to specific parameters on a Complex system. That is worthy of some criticism, but not a failure to engage. You should do better. Make a case for Republican Policy Success rather than one that David Brin is unfair.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, please. It is plainly clear that if one were to dig hard and ponder hard and tweak hard, one might find some major, unambiguous statistical metric of U.S. national health that actually improved significantly after having been directly affected by neocon rule. I'll avow that it's possible... though I know of none.

In fact, nearly all such metrics plummeted, in a direct cause-and-effect result of their titanically incompetent (or else supremely competently deliberate) misrule. That fact is so overwhelmingly blatant and obvious that quibblers avoid even looking at it. A stunning demonstration of the power of human denial.

Instead, we see fellows like you - clinging for some excuse to suggest that , while the Bushites were (you admit) awful, the lesson is sufficiently vague to allow a hope. A hope that some OTHER Republican might seem plausibly better.

Combine that with some incantations about democrats and liberals and Obama being awful too... and we see the triumph of reflex loyalty. A reflex that becomes impossible for a smart and decent fellow like you to maintain, if my challenge stands!

(Of course, that is why I issued it!)

Dig it, my good friend. In the 31 years since 1968, the GOP has held the White House TWICE as many years as the democrats. If things are worse now, who's to blame? (It happens that I don't think all things are worse than 1968. But then, I am not in the Party of Grouches.)

During that time, there were many Democratic Congresses, who always negotiated with the GOP president, giving him lots of what he wanted. In contrast, by my count, Republican Congresses have negotiated fairly and openly with Democratic Presidents perhaps a total of ONE MONTH, spending the rest of the time obstructing everything and leaving Carter, Clinton and Obama restricted to purely managerial tasks... which JD Powers says Clinton did better than any president in history.

For six years the GOP held every lever of power in America. It is during such times that a party can remake everything, as the dems did with civil rights laws in 1965. Whatever we are today has its roots, above all, in the governance the one-party rule imposed on us from 2001 to 2007. Everything else was partisan bickering.

Put aside that that era was fantastically LAZY... The GOP Congress screeched about abortion and tort reform and bureaucracy... but DID only a few things, all of them having to do with helping the top 1% of Americans to raid the rest of us... leading to the Second Depression.

In terms of their own oft-touted standards -- the social conservatism that raises the roofs at Tea Party gatherings -- they were utter failures. But they succeeded utterly in the Koch-Murdoch-Waleed agenda and in imposing Supply Side experiments upon America.

But put that aside. What it all comes down to is simple. These are people... an entire movement... who either don't know what the hell they are doing or - much worse - are doing it all deliberately. The worst metric of declining national health is the plummet in our discourse into civil war.

I am happy to appraise your suggested exceptions to my assertion of universal calamitous misrule. But even if you succeed at finding several unambiguous exceptions, you know they will be minor.

We've been harmed, wounded, gutted, betrayed.

sixtysomething said...

Jacob.. No problem.

I'll just point out that I posted something that at least could be mistaken for data, you posted nothing but opinion.

Did you even bother to go to the link I provided and read the article?

Data in the social sciences is notoriously hard to collect and even more difficult to interpret but at least someone went to the trouble of trying in this case.

Robert said...

On an amusing front, I was skimming through these posts and initially misread "metrics of GOP badness" as "metrics of GOP baldness" =^-^=

Rob H.

P.S. - Dr. Brin, I must admit I'd be curious to see you dissect the games Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 in terms of Hollywood storytelling. There are some elements withing the ME games that are decidedly anti-technology, ranging from the rebellion of the Geth (synthetic AIs), the multiple instances of corporate and military black ops malfeasance, and so on. (I don't count the Reapers as being technological in nature - I view them as being homages to H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, with entities vast and in some ways beyond our comprehension... with the logical conclusion that entities such as Cthulhu might be unstoppable with early 21st century technology... but a fleet of warships can (with significant casualties) stop one.)

There's even political aspects to the game, including the Terra Firma party which embraces an isolationist viewpoint... which is ultimately folly seeing that the Reapers are too much for any one species alone to deal with.

(Though personally I suspect that someone high up enough on the military or government power structure might realize that there might be something to this "Reaper nonsense" and build an ark to flee into deep space with a self-sufficient crew of humanity, enough genetic stock in cold storage to prevent inbreeding, and a complete elimination of records so that the vessel can escape into the void without anyone knowing its existence... or trajectory. After all, if humanity should fall, due to the Reapers or some other alien menace, then at least a core fragment will survive with the knowledge of what happened and how to avoid it.)

Rob H.

Citizen James said...

Something that will hopefully make you smile - one of the less mentioned GOP candidates (Jon Huntsman) link is standing in favor of science and against the anti-science insanity currently in favor within the party.

Speculation was several years ago that Obama made him ambasador to China in part because he was one of the stronger potential political challengers for 2012. And if there were a sane silent majority in the GOP, he would probably be a frontrunner.

Jacob said...

Hi sixtysomething,

I did go to the link. I only went through it once. I noticed the %s. I then did some very brief research on the source by going to their website and two wikis about them. (Spent about 10 minutes on it.) That isn't much. I didn't think it helped my position to attack the piece based on user self identification or slander it for being posted on a site called (Hot Air).

I did only present opinion. It is a common sense style of fallacy to argue on what is simply known to an individual. You have me there. At the moment, I can't think of a simple non-time consuming way to show that experience increases one level of knowledge. So, again I'll simply appeal to common sense and accept criticism for it.

Rob said...

Rob H. -- The appalling story element in Mass Effects 1 and 2 is the thing that makes it fun: Only Shepard Can Save the Day. Everyone except the fearless squad leader's direct followers are deluded, unimportant, or otherwise helpless.

This is a perfect setup for player narcissism: in order to play the hero, you have to have a game geared to let you do just that. With two competent assistant mayhem-makers.

Fun game, though. I've been polishing off my super-paragon Shepard so that it's ready for ME3.

David Brin said...

Read this. Our civil war is no longer left-vs-right. It is about bewildered American pragmatists and a "side" that's gone mad. "Mike Lofgren recently retired from a lengthy career as an esteemed Capitol Hill republican staffer a respected, knowledgeable figure. Read Lofgren wrote for Truth Out, published yesterday with this headline: “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult.” How I miss Goldwater & Buckley! animal/2011_09/mike_lofgren_leaves_the_cult031989.php

Here's the source.

Rob, the anti-tech attitudes of the left have been targeted by me in the past. They are nowhere near as harmful as the GOP war on science but still horrific! But I attribute it to lazy storytelling, not a fundamental hatred of tech. Assuming the worst simply lets you tell a high adventure tale without having to think.

James, Huntsman is positioning himself well. I just plugged him on the radio. One can hope.

Corey said...

@Dr Brin+Tacitus

It seems that your discussion on metrics of the state of the nation improving or getting worse precedes the comments for this particular article, but if Tacitus really did suggest air quality as one of the things that got better, then I'm obliged to point out that the air quality rules that cleaned out our air were already on the books BEFORE the GOP had unilateral say in government (they are directly responsible for none of it), and they directly weakened those rules, such that the air is dirtier than it would be, had the GOP never passed any law on the subject, and merely left what was already in place intact.

So whether or not is passes Brin's "unambiguous statistic" qualification is a moot point, because the controls that determine the quality of our air are something that got worse in the Bush years, not better.

If the best Tacitus can do is bring up the results of the "Clear Skies Act", which massively gutted the existing Clean Air Act, then clearly nothing did improve under the GOP's stint of unilateral rule, such that apparently the only thing to point to in their defense are the things that got worse the least.

If that doesn't make Brin's point, I don't know what does.

Brendan said...

John Timmer over at Ars Technica mentioned Huntsman in his Op-Ed: Political science: why rejecting expertise has become a campaign strategy (and why it scares me)

Robert said...

Looking at what Mike Lofgren has been saying about Democrats and the Republican party, I think that our next Democratic leader needs to be... not a lawyer or a historian... but an English Major. Someone with a firm understanding of words and on methods of manipulating those words for greatest effect. If the Democrats can get one word smith in place who knows to say "Jobs Bill" instead of "Stimulus Package," or "Medical Cost Reduction" instead of "Patient Care" or "Benefits Fund" instead of "Entitlements" then they would start winning the war of words against Republicans.

"We can't tax the job creators, you say? Apple has $76 billion in cash it is sitting on. If it spent half of that putting people to work, then our unemployment rate would be under five percent, and those employees could buy iPhones and the like with their wages and give Apple even more profit. But they haven't. So how are they job creators?"

And yet Democrats don't think to say things like this. Why?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Corey, in fairness to Tacitus, he did raise the "to whom do we attribute it" problem. I don't deny it is a problem.

In the case of cleaner air though, I do feel a steep burden of proof falls on those who would credit (slight) GOP weakening of clean air laws for the statistically significant improvements in the air. Versus momentum from earlier-passed laws.

Tacitus2 said...

Corey, and I think Jacob.

There are numerous things in our world that are getting better or worse without direct linkage to the party affiliation of the President. Air quality, fuel economy of vehicles, life expectancy, access to information etc. I could highlight a few that improved under Republicans that might seem counter intuitive. Infant mortality for instance, surely a "canary in the coalmine" regards the societal safety net. I also could toss out some debt figures from the current admin as harbingers of some frightening trends.

But really, what's the point? Dr. Brin concedes that such data likely exists.

No, I just get a little tired of polemics like the Bad Republican Metrics shibboleth. Its sloppy, repetitive and unlikely to change any opinions.

I could go on at length about the coarsening/cheapening of political discourse, but my time is better spent elsewhere. I see little evidence that any are listening here.

Man, we are not even within a year of the Presidental election. Imagine how rank it is going to get by then.


Brendan said...


Sorry to be trite, but do you think "We killed less babies than the previous administration" is really something you can consider a Republican selling point?

And child mortality is a subset of the overall health rating of the nation. Overall did US citizens become healthier as a result of Republican initiatives during the Bush years?

Robert said...

Don't worry, old friend. I have the Hammer of Friendship on hand, and I will whap people upside the head with it to remind them to remain cordial in their political conversations.

I just wish I knew a way to fix the Republican party. It's looking quite grim.

Rob H.

Jacob said...

Hi Tactics,

I can certainly understand your motivations. I regret the loss of a chance to learn of a something Republican Policy Makers did right.

The only thing I object to is your allusion to deficit problems. The current trend continued from the 2001 Tax cuts is bad. The current administrations failure to cut programs that don't support many jobs and raise taxes is very unfortunate. It is a failure of leadership. It is nowhere near as bad as turning a surplus into a deficit without good cause. The economic stimulus he passed was not a very good piece of legislation. It was nowhere near as bad as the TARP before it.

Any voter who cares first about Fiscally Responsibility should not vote Republican.

Robert said...

Actually, I think that Bush's stimulus package was in many ways more personal and effective than Obama's. If instead of tax cuts, Obama had put that money into a tax rebate to everyone... say $1,000 to each taxpayer, then we would have seen three things happen. First, people would have used it to pay off credit cards, which would have helped alleviate some debt issues and would have benefited banks. Second, others would have put it in savings, which would have benefited banks further. And last, other people would have spent it on various products which would have boosted the economy, increased Demand, and encouraged increased hiring.

Or as I put it numerous times: Percolate Up Economics. Money given to the bottom 90% of Americans stimulates the economy by encouraging spending which improves demand and increases hiring.

Best of all, Republicans would have looked bad voting against it as Bush had done the same thing and they were all for it. And they'd be voting directly against a benefit that went straight to the People, including those who elected them.

But I suppose it was tainted by the fact Bush did it first....

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, I understood your every word and I disagree. My "shiboleth" is not anything of the sort. It is a devastatingly simple denunciation and nobody can shrug it off.

Let me paraphrase.

The GOP that ran the country well under Ike... that had meaningful accomplishments while doing some bad things under Reagan, has bought into a series of patterns that (I contend) made for ruinous governance. To the effect that:



Your responses have been eloquent... and evaded these core point, in that they devastatingly repudiate any conceivable argument that the NEXT batch of people from such a clade should be trusted with the tiller of our state.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, the problem is you're demanding a repudiation of the Republican Party by Tacticus. You want him to admit he is wrong. And you don't offer a viable alternative.

Rather than trying to rub his nose in the failings of the Republican Party, why not turn your intellect into considering what people like Tacticus can do to repair the damage to the Republican party and help restore sanity to it. Because there is one key aspect Republican voters have: loyalty. This one strength is something we need to build upon... by giving these Republicans something to focus on so they can heal the cancers in the party they refuse to abandon.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob you are entirely right and I repeatedly tell folks please don't dump your frustrations on the sanest republican we know! If I was doing that, I apologize to Tacitus, who has saved more lives than I ever will!

In fact, though, I have no prescription. I don't know what to do. During the McCarthy era insanities, there were still guys like Eisenhower and Rockefeller and Goldwater (though pre-1964 Goldwater himself was kinda a nut case, at times...

Where can a sane republican turn now? Huntsman? Sure. I wish him luck. But in what world will that happen? Heck, Ron Paul is crazier than a screech owl and he's the best other choice.

If this had happened to the dems, a new party would already have formed, years ago. Heck that is exactly what DID happen! See this again:

But dems are undisciplined alley cats. I despair over something similar ever happening on the right. It is about personality.

LarryHart said...


I just wish I knew a way to fix the Republican party. It's looking quite grim.

I wonder how much of this is explained by this line from Dr Brin's novel "Earth", which I posted toward the end of the previous thread.

"Who are they," Manella demanded. "Who the hell are you talking about, woman!"

Another shrug. "Do names matter? Picture all the powerful cabals of egotists cluttering the world at the turn of the century. Call them old or new money ... or red cadres ... or dukes and lordships. Historians know they all spent more time conniving with each other than waging their supposedly high-minded ideological struggles.

"The smart ones saw Brazzaville coming and prepared. They saw to it that all the reasonable Helvetian and Cayman ministers were assassinated or drugged and that every attempt at compromise, even surrender, was rejected."

Paul451 said...

Re: Proxy votes instead of elections.

Doesn't that mean everyone is in campaign mode all the time?

"staggered elections. That way, the majority of reps are in governing mode at any given time."

Likewise, this means that at least one part of government is always in campaign mode. The two year election cycle in the US pretty much already works this way.

I prefer the idea of staggered terms. You can only run for one term at a time. You can run as often as you want, but not for consecutive terms. That means everyone in government has nothing else to do but govern, and anyone campaigning and fund-raising is not in government yet.

Also, I love the idea of joint all-party primaries. Top two candidates run. This would almost guarantee a better quality election campaign, and a better outcome, every time.

Also... noticed another person posting as Paul, so I figured it was time to get a Blogger account. <Sigh> Blessed is the Account whose Google is the Lord.

(rednescr: You might enjoy NASCAR if.)

Paul451 said...

I think what we're all saying is...

Tim H. said...

Still like the idea of making at cost access for political advertising a condition for TV and radio broadcast licenses, then politicians could spend more time doing their job, perhaps even worry about voters that couldn't afford large donations.

Tony Fisk said...

I figure that everyone would get over continuous campaign mode pretty quickly.

wases: small ferret, often found in company of meanses.

Tacitus2 said...

If you will permit a metaphor..

What I have been encountering here of late is not the reasoned discourse of sober citizens meeting in the public square to discuss ideas. I am, for instance, interested in the notion the Krugman puts forth...just Biggerize the Stimulus. I may not agree, but it is a reasonable topic to chat about.

No, instead we have the equivalent of a loud drunk* shouting at people that their wives are ugly, and probably tramps as well.

Most will shrug it off and keep walking. And when someone starts flexing their rhetorical muscles with a notion to do something about it the Shouter, reeking of indignation, smiles and say.."Whoa, buddy, in your case you just need new glasses!"

Loyalty does not preclude knowlege of imperfectons.

If I seem to be approaching a state of Moderate Dudgeon recall that in WI we have had no break from politics since the 2010 election, and that the upcoming Dem. campaigns can scarcely be founding on anything other than negative ads.

If I am going to continue as Resident gadfly and Philosopher-Serf a recognition that the world might occasionally be other than you see it is necessary.


*oddly, I get along quite well with drunks in a professional capacity. Their world view is incoherent but fascinating.

Tim H. said...

A couple of Labor Day links: F.D.R.'s second bill of rights

And some observations at Gin and Tacos

And a thought, it wouldn't take all that many people at the upper end of the economic scale to reduce the need for government, i.e.: jobs are usually preferable to welfare. It won't be cheap, but they can reduce the domestic role of government that they so despise.

LarryHart said...


If I am going to continue as Resident gadfly and Philosopher-Serf a recognition that the world might occasionally be other than you see it is necessary.

Tac, if anything, I have that understanding to a fault. It's a liberal strength that is also paradoxically a liberal weakness--the tendency to preface every assetion with "If I'm right about this..." or "I may be wrong, but...".

And on other fora, conservatives have (sometimes rightly) blasted me and my liberal ilk for "fence-sitting". When I argued for a careful cost/benefit analysis before going to war in Iraq, I was accused of siding with Saddam Hussein.

Point being, you need not be too concerned with self-righteous certitude from my side of the aisle. Oh, I'll push like mad when the facts seem to all line up on one side, such as Paul Krugman's 200% prediction accuracy record, but in most cases, I'm the one in the back of the room timidly going "Uh, guys...maybe THIS thing is a problem?"

And if I may be just this confrontational about it...conservatives typically have no patience for anything BUT self-righteous certitude. Your side considers its lack to be a character flaw.

If I seem to be approaching a state of Moderate Dudgeon recall that in WI we have had no break from politics since the 2010 election, and that the upcoming Dem. campaigns can scarcely be founding on anything other than negative ads.

Move south. Illinois would be glad to have you!

(And can Cook County politics be any worse than Waukeshau County?)

But seriously...on this, I do feel your pain. The last three presidential elections, Illinois has been considered such a solid blue state that we've been mostly passed over by the blitz of campaign ads that, for example, my brother in Pennsylvania has been subjected to.

And if "solid blue state" seems anathema to you, remember that most of that comes from the Chicago area. Many counties in downstate Illinois are solid conservative bastions, although by political necessity they can't be the in-your-face arrogant Scott Walker types of conservatives. So really, you could find a home here. Come south, young man. Plenty of Gubru-fish to swat!

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

And a thought, it wouldn't take all that many people at the upper end of the economic scale to reduce the need for government, i.e.: jobs are usually preferable to welfare. It won't be cheap, but they can reduce the domestic role of government that they so despise.

Instead, I saw an article this morning about the disturbing trend for want ads to essentially say "Unemployed need not apply".

In other words, the private sector is specifically opting OUT of alleviating unemployment. If they have their way, every person who loses a job has dropped out of the job market permanently.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, I suspect we're seeing compartmentalization with the oligarchy, The bit optimizing profits isn't talking much to the bits lamenting the decline of society. Republicans aren't really blind to this, but the ones with political careers can't admit it.

David Brin said...

Ah well. I'll back off then. Tacitus's friendship is more important to me than ranting a polemical point about statistical metrics of national health, fer pete's sake.

Tacitus2 said...

And thanks, David, for not taking offense at my metaphor. I suspect that you would in fact be quite charming after a few glasses of Bordeau....even with chasers of Ol' IndigNation...


David Brin said...

Anyone know how to contact the folks at Mad Magazine and let them know I'll be in town? I'd like to drop by their offices.

rewinn said...

"....Re: Proxy votes instead of elections.
Doesn't that mean everyone is in campaign mode all the time?..."

Well, yes, and what's wrong with that?

Currently, elected officials are in "collect money mode" all the time. If "campaign mode" means "make the voters happy", that's got to be an improvement. If by "campaign mode" we mean "stupid or hateful commercials", well, we're getting those year-round now anyway.

"The last three presidential elections, Illinois has been considered such a solid blue state that we've been mostly passed over..."

This is the basic problem with our Electoral College: it effectively disenfranchises most voters. A republican in California or Hawai'i, a democrat in Texas or Alaska, might as well stay home on election day. Or ... to be serious ... would be more useful to their political party phonebanking into the battleground states than actually showing up at the polls.
And political pros know this. They aren't stupid. They don't listen to Spokane Republicans except to the extent that they need to get money and phonebankers out of them (...and post-Citizens United that's a pretty small need...) and this *might* explain some of the slide of the GOP toward the Aristocracy of Wealth.
Of course, reforming national elections is a very long-term project. Surviving the next few years with a functioning democracy will need to work around the kinks of that 18th-century institution. It would certainly help to figure out how to activate the fraction of Republicans who would be horrified by the ascendency of Niamiah Scudder.

"...Loyalty does not preclude knowlege of imperfectons.
There's some quote about criticism as an antidote to error floating around somewhere ...

... which reminds me in a roundabout way of an Italian Alphine village studied by my 1st father-in-law. Due to its mixed German/Italian heritage, toward the close of WW2 partisans on each side were called out one night to attack or defend a key point. Decades later, they still never discuss who shot at whom, because fundamentally they're friends.

Tacitus2 said...

Because it is easy to criticize and harder to offer something constructive:

The Duty of the 35%.

Gallup tracks political self identifications of Americans on a regular basis. The most recent numbers I have found are June 2010 in which 21% say they are liberal, 42% conservative and 35% moderate. Of course self description is an imperfect tool, but as a measure of the bedrock of US politics it is what we have.

In effect, the 35% will decide things.

So as you “Mods” are slowly starting to notice the 2012 Presidential race I would offer a couple of cautions.

1.The current Republican field is not a strong one. This is not surprising. After your party holds the WH for two contentious terms, your party has “burned” a lot of mid level talent. Call it the Colin Powell syndrome, appealing potential candidates with executive experience are thrown into the fray as Cabinet members and Congressional leaders. Their reputations get chewed up fast, especially as they are often called upon to “take one for the team”. The 2016 crop will be better.

2.As we teeter on the brink of a second “failed” presidency you have an obligation to consider putting your country above party loyalty.

3.The Legacy Media is certainly playing unfair with the Republican aspirants. And this is a problem in two ways. It may knock viable candidates out of the race. Indeed, that is the point of the media-White House effort. But, in an understandable reluctance to believe what is in fact mostly nonsense, there is the risk of a genuinely sub par candidate getting the nod. Sarah Palin may not have deserved the media scalding she received, but Christine O’Donnell sure did.

As a fellow member of the 35% I am keeping my mind open. The presumptive Democratic candidate for 2012 has shortcomings that are legion. It may well be that he will be dealing with a solid Republican congress.

Having had a recent reminder of the mischief of one party rule there may be some scenarios where a second Obama administration would be for the best.

Take your responsibility seriously. Your country deserves the two best candidates as standard bearers, and an objective appraisal of each before a final decision is made.


Robert said...

I'm not sure I want a solidly Republican congress, Tacitus. The Leader of the House stated on day one that his primary objective was NOT to help the American People, NOT to improve the economy or the power of the United States, and NOT to repair the damage that had been wrought to the Republican Party under the Bush Administration. No. His PRIMARY goal was to ensure that Barack Obama was a one-term President.

In short, he is willing (and has been shown to be willing) to burn the country around him solely to get "that one" out of office. And I still am completely baffled that someone hasn't gone for the easy route of just killing Obama. When you consider how much he's been demonized, it would seem the "simplest" solution. (And I expect someone will try during the 2012 Presidential campaign trail; do you honestly think Republicans would turn around and put the Presidential elections on hold for Democrats to hold a primary should Obama be incapacitated or killed during the general election? No. They won't. And they'll paint Biden as a bumbler who can't govern so to capitalize on their gain.)

If Republicans gain the House and Senate in 2012 but Obama by some miracle manages to get reelected (and avoid the slings and bullets of radicalized Americans) then we'll likely see Obama impeached immediately, probably for the Libyan conflict, and every effort to toss him out of office. They'll also push lots of bills that will ultimately be poisonous and claim Obama is obstructing their efforts to fix things if he vetoes them... or claim Obama didn't let them pass what THEY ultimately wanted to pass if it passes and fails to work.

It'll be interesting to see how the history books paint Obama. Of course, this also depends on the ultimate fate of the Republican party. Should it continue to descend into madness but remain in power... then they'll paint Obama to be worse than Carter. Should sanity return? The history books will probably criticize his lack of forceful leadership and suggest his attempts to negotiate were flawed.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

The above was my just effort to write a line of conversation that might actually convince a few moderates. There are other viewpoints out there, sure. Lots of 'em. But I think the folks in the middle, the people who over the years have voted both ways (plus an Indie once in my case) are a little less conspiratorial.

Who knows what the upcoming Congress will look like. The current congress approval rate is the lowest ever registered, 12.3% on the RCP average. There really should be a lot of new faces.

It just looks to me, from where I sit, that the election is not trending D at the moment. Of course much could change.


Robert said...

And this is truly sad. Because it is giving the Republican party (I almost called them the Republican army... scary that) proof positive that they don't need to work with the other side to succeed. All they need to do is sabotage the nation and if Democrats are in power (ie, the Presidency) then they can destroy the Democratic base and regain power.

The problem is, when you do a scorched earth strategy you end up having nothing for yourself once you do regain power. This suggests that Republican politicians are not looking at the long term. Then again, this does hold true to current economic thoughts as well, with an insistence toward immediate profits instead of long-term growth.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Well, Robert, I hope not. But I concur there is risk of the R party sweeping the board and still finding that they can't fix things.

When researching something for my own blog I found some interesting stuff on rankings of presidents throughout history. A bit partisan in places but not as much as you would expect.

If you define a failed presidency as one that in historical hindsight ranks in the bottom quartile, there has only been one time in history that we have had three fails in a row. It was the lead up to the Civil War (the first one as DB would say).

Of course, then we got Lincoln.


sociotard said...

Lincoln just a case of "the right leader at the right time". I'm glad we had a president with the will to reunite the country. That said, if we had a president today who was that willing to arrogate more power to himself, who was that willing to run roughshod over individual rights . . . I don't think it would be a good thing.

I'm glad he held office when he did. I also think the bullet in his brain might have been divine providence.

David Brin said...

Tacitus I appreciate your desire to look at this as some kind of normal political season, to be watched with scorecards and weighing and comparing.

Please understand that very few of your pals here are leftists. I have long ago offended most of those! Or else some of the guys have either accepted my "1947" distinction between liberals and lefties... or else they have learned to stay mum about their lefty sympathies!

So... you have a passel of the brightest, most pragmatic-minded, individualist-but-civilization-loving guys on the web.

And the crux is that most of us here think that American politics is dead. Or undead. A shambling creature devoid of brain or life.

I contend there is only one "issue" -- whether the matter before us is all "crazy years" (as Heinlein predicted.) Propelled by some kind of national psychotic break, perhaps driven by some visceral revulsion toward a looming singularity... or else...

...or else it is craziness driven by a behind-the-scenes Old Enemy that is far more feral, capable, meddlesome and actively self-interested... and longterm stupid... than anybody outside of this list currently imagines.

Pure crazy? Or Crazy ignited and fueled and subsidized by oligarchy.

Sorry, my friend. But that is how most of us see what is happening. And if that is how we see it, can you understand why a note of emotion enters our postings. We're afraid.

Robert said...

Actually, you may have something there, Dr. Brin. What if the insanity of the Right is not a case of an oligarchy conspiracy... but is instead the result of conservatives being hit by SO much change that they are shutting down and refusing to change and trying their best to drag the rest of the country into stopping as well?

This is a defensive reaction to the upcoming Singularity. Which, mind you, the Religious Right desire more than everything... it's just they want a Religious Singularity and see the upcoming Technological Singularity to be mankind overreaching himself and trying to become God.

In short, we're seeing a rise of insane conservatism because of a fear of change.

Rob H.

Jacob said...

I think it is messaging and not fear of change which motivates Republican Voters. Manipulation of the human psyche has been improving. We've seen the efforts of cunning people to apply these techniques to their own advantage. David Brin identifies a subset of these people as the Oligarchy and attributes nefarious motivations to them. It may be true in the case of some foreign powers. However, I prefer to believe that local Oligarchy are just buying into the theory that helping themselves is the best way to help society. At least some of them have to like America.

Brendan said...

A couple of links one political one not.

From Rolling Stone In a campaign supported by the Koch brothers, Republicans are working to prevent millions of Democrats from voting next year The GOP War on Voting.

The second is a review of a book printed in 2006: Off the Books: The Underground Economy of the Urban Poor.

The Fifth Stage of Grief for the Middle Class Way of Life

On reading the second link it makes the politics look even smaller and dirtier than it already is.

Robert said...

Here's something science related, and absolutely cool. And definitely worth a break from politics.

It's high resolution photos of the Apollo 17 landing site, which includes the visible line of footprints from the astronauts and twin tracks from the rover.

Of course, the Lunar Denial Conspiracy groups would claim the photos were doctored but... who cares about a bunch of quacks? :)

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

War on Democracy?

Hmm. There's something to be said for a system where voting is compulsory.

Jamais Cascio has been pondering a few indications on this vein as well (See Teratocracy Rises)

Doug Casey's unflattering definition of democracy led me to quip that democracy vs teratocracy is a bit like [flash] mobster vs monster.


This somewhat alarming trend needs a bit of light relief in the form of an analogy:

The game 'Plants vs Zombies' features a horde of undead selfservative neo-people (and dolphins) shambling across your lawn to assail a phalanx of immobilised democrat vegetables. You are assisted from the sidelines by a character called 'Crazy Dave', who comes complete with (CERT issue) tin pot hat.

cartwi - the aliens behind all this.

David Brin said...

Jamais's article is brilliant.

The problem with all these guys and their rants against democracy is that they never compare it to the 99% of the rest of human history, when their favored system ruled... and was far, far worse at statecraft, good management or empowering individual freedom.

This dismissing of the modern democracies, without ever comparing them to the outrageous failures that came before, is exactly what George Lucas did, in his infamous New York Times interview, when he said the "best form of government is a benign despot." How's that for gratitude to the system that gave him everything?

Ingrates, of course, are the lowest form of human life. But their logic doesn't even work within the context THEY set up! Look back across the last 20 years. The middle class has always been willing to forego benefits and "largesse" in order to pay off the National Debt. It was another caste entirely that demanded tax gifts in good times and in bad, during peace and during war.

The entire flood of red ink we've recently seen was engendered by two actions that the US middle class - and the poor - had no role in desiring or pushing for... massive tax cuts for passive unearned income that Adam Smith contemptuously called "rents" - dividends and capital gains, now taxed at a lower rate than middle class wages...

...and two multi trillion dollar wars that we were plunged into on the back of outright lies. Those two things are the cripplers. US federal spending is the same as it was when Clinton was paying down the debt.

The rationalizations for selfishness aren't coming from the people, the poor or middle class... well, in America they ain't. I admit - having lived there - that Europeans are crazy selfish with endless vacations and retirement at 50. But that's them, not us.

Paul451 said...

"The above was my just effort to write a line of conversation that might actually convince a few moderates."

Convince them to do what?

"The current congress approval rate is the lowest [...] There really should be a lot of new faces."

In polls I've seen, approval rating of "Congress" is low, but the approval rating of their own congressman is re-electably high. Which is why churn tends to be low. So it's worth ignoring such "approval" polls unless they are specifically asking about the voter's own incumbent Congressmen.

Similarly, Obama polls worse than a generic "Republican Presidential Candidate", but better than any specific Republican Presidential candidate, Palin, Perry, Romney, etc.

(genshill: the paid advocate generation.)

Tony Fisk said...

Actually, I'd say Lucas has a small point about benign despots.

However, the thing to recall about Arthurian legends is... they didn't last that long! For every Alfred, there was a legion of Aethelreds (which is interesting, when you come to compare the relative abundance of Jedi vs Sith).

Nope, give me a vote any day, whether I want one or not.

Paul451 said...

Hmmm, if there's a move towards voter fraud fear campaigns by Republican states, perhaps you could suggest an inverse poll-tax. Ie, a small fee for anyone who is registered but doesn't vote.

Only about half of eligible voters turn out in the typical US Presidential election, less for midterms. Clearly that leaves the other half open to widespread voter fraud (if one accepts the claims of widespread voter fraud.)

Whereas if nearly everyone gets their names ticked off at a polling place, then if anyone either double-votes or fraudulently votes under another name, you'd have a clear indication of the extent of that fraud.

How hard is it in most states to get ballot proposals up for 2012?

Jacob said...

Another data point for David Brin concerning guns.

In this case, there was a potential savior on the scene with a gun. However, he did not attempt to face the guy with a AK47. The attacker ended up shooting himself in the head.

I think it has to do with surprise vs planed fighting. Speaking broadly, how many people can go from casual to armed response in a minute? How many of that subset can be expected to act wisely with the use of deadly force in that time period? I think you'll find that most of people capable of both are already associated with the safety of society... police, military, cert, etc.

Jacob said...

Hi Paul451,

I think we'd need to institute delegate voting if we had requirements. Individuals should be able to choose how they spend their time. Investing the time to learn which candidate you vote for as well as the process itself can be time consuming. It would be better to just have a national effort at encouraging people to do through the use of actors, sports players, and local organizations.

If we were concerned about fraud, we need to move to Transparent Voting. I have worked elections. I know a few ways to commit voter fraud without getting caught. The current system isn't safe enough for paranoids.

Paul451 said...

I was being facetious. Tony made a comment "give me a vote any day, whether I want one or not.", which I took to be a reference to Australia's compulsory voting.

In reality, it isn't compulsory. There's a $50 fine if you don't get your name signed off. And that's enough to get turn-out up above 95%.

What did you mean by "delegate voting"? Rewinn's call for Proxy voting?

(mandict: A verdict for men.)

Jacob said...

Hi Paul451,

Sorry I missed it.

That is one example. In theory, such a concept would save people time who didn't want to invest personal effort into the process. In practice, it would likely be terrible without a lot of safeguards.

It is another one of those things that I'd love a few states to try out to see if its viable.

Tony Fisk said...

Actually, you can just turn up and put an empty ballot paper in.

I'd prefer an online system that allows you to vote as often as you like (ie edit and review), from wherever you are (queues are so twencen..) In fact, I think such a system will be inevitable if we want a greater say in what goes on.

reagge: remixed reggae

Paul451 said...

What other forms of "Delegate voting" did you mean?

I suppose Representative Democracy is inherently delegate voting, but I assume you have something else in mind?

We've had the vote-online arguments before. All forms of electronic voting make my bowels shudder. Too easy to lose auditability, secrecy, inability to sell votes. The US already plays fast and loose with the first.

I just wish we could preference vote above-the-line on the Senate ballot.

(truthuth: Most truthy.)

Corey said...

As a small aside on Star Wars that Ilithi and I were discussing earlier, the Jedi are a very interesting aristocratic oppressor.

They're actually so obsessed with the hoarding of their power, which is genetic, and would quickly spread to the entire galaxy, were it not for their strong-arm intervention, that they're actually driving themselves extinct.

Whenever an affinity for the force is discovered, the Jedi mobilize to take take these people from their homes, and do two things:

First, indoctrinate them, so that they might not use their powers to challenge the aristocracy

Secondly, and more importantly, remove them from the gene pool.

Any person who's discovered to have force powers, and is young enough to be indoctrinated by their BS without seeing clearly through it (and calling them on it), is promptly removed from greater society and forced into celibate life of serving the order.

In short, the Jedi maintain their position of power by selecting against the very gene that creates them (they can't even interbreed with each other, let alone greater society!).

Put another way, the Jedi are creating a classic Darwinian selective pressure, to evolve the galaxy away from the ability to use force powers, thereby taking their extremist philosophy to the extent of guaranteeing their own extinction.

Eventually, the allele for force power use will disappear altogether (and in the meantime, will atrophy to make each generation less and less adept, even among the Jedi).

If that isn't religious fanaticism, then I don't know what is.

Jacob said...

Hi Paul451,

rewinn described a system by which voter to delegate connections equaled 1. Each voter picks 1 delegate, those individuals with the most support were the decision makers.

IMO, a better system would involve recursion. Say a group of friends invests one of their number with the responsible and power to speak politically for all of them. 10 votes delegated to 1 person. This person then looks for the best candidates and transfers all 10 support to a higher level. There could be many levels of delegation between a voter and the final national figures. I don't have a fully working model of such a system as I think there are lower hanging fruit for improvement. I'm also not sure it would work at all, but that doesn't mean we should experiment.

re: internet voting

There is no real way to audit/verify our current system. To some, accuracy is more important than secrecy. The ability to sell votes is a solid counter point. However, we could do many things to make it not worth doing on the large scale.

Voters should get to choose which they prefer.

sociotard said...

But Jedi could and did leave the order at any time. Dooku used to be a Jedi, before he left the order. Anakin could have left to be with his wife and make babies, but he wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Please understand that very few of your pals here are leftists. I have long ago offended most of those! Or else some of the guys have either accepted my "1947" distinction between liberals and lefties... or else they have learned to stay mum about their lefty sympathies!

I'm a pretty outspoken progressive round these parts, one who is not ashamed of the term "liberal". And I would never describe myself (or even think of myself) as a leftist.

LarryHart said...


I prefer to believe that local Oligarchy are just buying into the theory that helping themselves is the best way to help society.

Some probably do. "What's good for General Motors is good for the USA, and what's good for the USA is good for General Motors" used to have a lot of truth to it.

"What's good for Haliburton...", not so much.

Maybe I'm just romanticizing, but the JP Morgan-era wealthy and powerful really did seem to think they deserved privildge because they really were the ones who knew best how to run things for everyone.

The current crop seems to think that they deserve to further enrich themselves to the detriment of everyone else.

It's the difference between "A rising tide lifts all boats" and "I own the water--how dare you float YOUR boat on it?"

At least some of them have to like America.

Unfortunately, too many seem to "like America" in the same sense that you might like a steak dinner.

David Brin said...

The bystander at the iHop shooting claims that he "almost" took on the mad shooter. Fine, I will take him at his word. And someday I suppose a mad mass shooter will be brought down by an armed... rather than the usual unarmed... bystander. It'll happen.

I just don't see it being a factor so far, in blatant diametric opposition to rt wing rhetoric.

Corey is right about the Jedi... but I am sure that excuses are made in some of the novelizations. The novelizers have tried for decades to rationalize or explain or excuse the insipid drivel that George Lucas tossed off as a "Grand Epic Legend" and a peerless example of world-building.

Note that Jedi aren't forbidden to have sex... only to marry or love or feel the slightest commitment or attachment. What an excuse for randy, irresponsible males! "I'd love to hang around, but my religion and duty to the galaxy require me to bed you and then leave you at once. Sorry."

Re voting... I am wondering what has happened to any awareness of the greatest threat to democracy. Diebold.

Jacob said...

Diebold is not Transparent Voting. Internet voting needs to be Transparent to be used at all. It isn't overly difficult to keep it private and transparent.

Tacitus2 said...

I see no negative connotations to the word Liberal. It is a synonym for generous. And indeed, when times are prosperous liberality is only fair. It gets a little more difficult in times of austerity, when favoring one group means taking from another.

A big difference of opinion, and one not easily resolved, is whether these are in fact such austere times.

Few conservatives really dislike generosity and progress, or by extention, Liberals and Progressives. There is a sense that they are misguided, perhaps hypocritical, sometimes smug. (not you LarryH!). But still fellow citizens with an important perspective.

And David, regards the darker political and I equally hope you are wrong.


David Brin said...

Actually, the older meaning of liberal... which I hereby revive... includes a love of market competition as the First Liberal Adam Smith pushed. Helping people SO THAT their children can compete.

As evidence by the fact that the economy and small businesses do better under dems.

but enough. Carl just linked me to this:

I'll copy you all my response.

rewinn said...

@Doctors Tacitus and Brin:

Is it fair to say that none of the participants in tonight's GOP debate are "conservative" in the sense that Tacitus describes?


Historical note: Richard Nixon imposed wage-and-price controls in August 1971. His heirs talk openly of dismantling the minimum wage. Who's conservative?

David Brin said...

 I am always interested in carefully reading the varied arguments. Though I saw little original here.

Look this ain't science, which means that "sides" very quickly settle into rationalized incantations that they consider more than sufficient to think themselves smart and their opponents imbeciles.  The left does it too.

What interests me more is credibility.  Supply siders have had their demanded experiments, over and over and over again, without a single confident prediction ever ever coming true.  While the Keynsians have their problems, their record is vastly better. 

Point two.  We were paying down debt under Clinton.  The middle class - in polls - rejected taking the surplus back in tax cuts.  They wanted debt paydown forever and devastatingly disproving the "vote themselves largesse" cynical slander we've heard all our lives.  An utter libel and lie.  

The ones demanding "our money back" were the dividend and capital gains caste that Adam Smith personally despised.  Follow the money behind most of these flat-tax and other "institutes" and it all comes down to billionaire ingrates hiring people to concoct more incantations for how a hardworking secretary should pay higher tax rates than he does.

Point three... The difference between 1996 and today is not government spending.  (non-war). Which has been flat.  It has been two multi-trillion dollar wars that featured at least half a trillion dollars of graft to Bush family friends... plus the post 1996 tax cuts for the wealthy.  That is flat-out cause and effect and incantations won't change it.

Hence the need for all-out war against all the knowledge castes who care about cause and effect.

No more time.  Anyone who studies history and does not recognize this kind of event from a thousand past cases hasn't been paying attention.

In 1789, Louis XVI called the Estates General ... the nobles, clergy and middle class (the peasants weren't invited) to get the state out of a major financial bind.  The middle class, though angry, was willing to help.  The rich and the radical religious crowd shouted "no way you are ever gonna tax us!"

If our plutocrats were smart people and well-read, they would know what happened a year later.  They would think about pushing us to the brink.  They would listen to the smartest member of their caste: Warren Buffett.

Robert said...

On a tangential note: I've got the URL to an interesting (if long) video by a law professor and a police officer on why you should never talk to police. Always take your Fifth Amendment Right. Always. Especially if you're innocent. Because anything you say can and will be used against you... and police are not allowed to speak FOR you (as it's hearsay).

It's a fascinating and somewhat disturbing video (disturbing in terms of what it says about law enforcement and this nation of ours, which was founded on the theory of liberty and freedom).

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

Re: Recursive proxies.

Neat idea. The abuse potential(*) is high. But the novelty appeals to me.

(*In Russia, employers apparently demand employees apply for postal ballots and fill them out in front of the boss. Some... traditional... family patriarchs are reported to do the same thing here in Oz. One could imagine strong arm tactics used during the peak of the union era if proxy voting existed.)

Hmmm, what if the recipient of the proxy can't find out how many extra votes, if any, they hold?

"There is no real way to audit/verify our current system."

By auditing, I mean of the count. With electronic voting you get a number, and you just have to trust it. With paper, observers can go through it as many times as you want, challenge it in any appropriate court, etc.

"I am wondering what has happened to any awareness of [...] Diebold."

They changed their name to Premier Election Systems. And the media... Squirrel!

Re: Bystander armed response
Whether or not there has been one or two such successful armed bystander responses, don't concealed carry permit holders at a minimum need to save more people than they kill? (Which over four years is 19 mass shootings, 27 murder-suicides, and 11 cop killings.)

Paul451 said...

Corey & co,
Re: Jedi breeding themselves out.

Would have made a more interesting back story for the prequels. Someone discovers a Force-using animal on some planet, engineers a cross-species Force-gene retrovirus, causing some percentage of children to develop magic power. Cue chaos.

The Jedi, an existing order of fighting-monks, are able to turn their previously non-magical disciplines into a training method for the magical children, setting them to protect the galaxy from "wild" magic. However, they quickly realise that the temptation to take control from Muggles is too great, so they decide to breed themselves out of existence. This decision splits the order, the Sith being the breakaway group.

And so the battle between Light and Dark isn't just good vs evil; the anti-Jedi are fighting for the very survival of their kind, while the Jedi are committing murder-suicide to prevent both chaos and enslavement.

(lorpic: Backstory biopic.)

Tim H. said...

Off-topic, but interesting research on Porpoise speech:
The mechanics of sound production is analogous to ours, which says nothing about content (Not as we have much to be proud of in our speech, with an election year looming ;>).

Jacob said...

Hi Paul451,

It does have high abuse potential. Although I have a basic question, >if someone is incentivized to vote a certain way, is that an abuse?< Paying for a vote certainly seems wrong. But its just more obvious that poor people voting for Democrats and wealthy people voting for Republicans. Assumed benefits vs direct benefits.

I'm not comfortable with my own question. I'm certainly not making a judgement.


The count assumes that corruption hasn't changed the inputs. It is a reasonable assumption, but not a certain one. I have worked elections. I know several areas where fraud can happen within our current system.

Internet voting on the other hand, as a subset of Transparent voting is Verifiable. My (mostly) anonymous voting number is registered as voting for X, Y, Z. At any point, I can go back to see that it wasn't manipulated. In extreme cases, investigators could track votes back to the voter to confirm it. Privacy can be maintained.


Above you considered abuse by force or coercion by other means. That can currently be done by Absentee voting. My specific plan for internet voting as ways for a victim to escape that coercion without appearing to do so to the oppressor. To be fair, that solution is also viable in the current system as well.

Jacob said...

Hi Rob H.,

I found that video disgusting. It isn't valid either. We have options.

He asserts... Talk leads to possible harm; therefore, do not Talk.

How about an alternative....
Talk leads to possible harm; therefore, consider carefully what you say.

His counter example was also extremely poor. Firstly he was arguing that Innocent people should plead the 5th. Where as the former policeman was arguing Guilty people should plead the 5th. Obviously not the same. Also, I'd like to note that the policeman was a student in the teachers class. He was motivated to support the teacher and cannot be considered an unbiased counter.

You came to the wrong conclusion if you believe that people should plead the 5th. Note that when the teacher brought up the slide with the Supreme Court's ruling it specifically said >in ambiguous circumstances.< If the teachers advice was... "If uncertain of the correct response, plead the 5th." then I could accept it.

The guy is sleaze.

Robert said...

The Fifth Amendment is meant to protect all citizens. Both innocent and guilty. Thus pleading the Fifth is not wrong.

Think of one of the things the cop said: you have two strikes against you when you go to court. First, you are sitting next to an attorney, which means your peers already associate you with a criminal, even if you're not. (And going without a lawyer is completely foolhardy.) Second, you have cops, who are professional witnesses, going against you. All you need is one little mistake and you're damned.

There are a number of innocent people in jail. Who knows how many of them would be in jail if they didn't let the police pressure them into admitting they are guilty. And don't forget: the cops WANT to find someone guilty. It doesn't matter if you're not guilty. If they suspect you're the guilty party they will push and push and push until you fit into that round hole, despite your square corners.

It's human nature. People don't like to admit they're wrong. Police are no different in this regard, and have been known to ignore evidence proving someone innocent because their gut feeling is that this person is guilty. If that person they think is guilty is you? Then if you give them any leeway, you go to jail despite your innocence.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

My take for online voting is here

Votes are stored with a key, a value, and a validity flag (ie last vote in)
Voter can check their voting log (and perhaps 'correct' their entry should that patriarch misinterpret their intentions)

The vote is signed by voter and electoral authority when it is entered.

The vote is linked to the voter by an encrypted form of the voter's id (encrypted by the voter)

Anyone can read and add the votes, and validate them (using the electoral authority's public key)

Only the voter can review their own vote(s).

Conceptually, it works for me. I could be missing something.

Jacob said...

Hi Tony,

~ is signed by the voter and electoral authority when it is entered.~ Does actually mean the user submitted encryption key? Or, is this more a verifiable voting system where you have to vote in person? (In other words, no remoting.)

As a case to consider. Suppose I lose or have my encryption key stolen. If another finds it, how would I get the electoral authority to invalidate the old and replace it with a new one. (Most of the answers for this seem to undermine the reason for voter submitted encryption keys.

Verifiable Voting is an admirable goal. In order to accomplish it, I think we'll need some value added to the existing system to attract support.

Paul451 said...

"I'm not comfortable with my own question."

Those are the best topics.

Re: Incentive to vote vs. selling votes.

With the secret ballot, there's no way to tell which voters sold their votes honestly. You have to buy them all, and they can take your money and still vote for the other guy. (The tragedy of the commons, used against corruption.)

Re: Fraud on paper vs. fraud online.

It's hard to defraud a paper election by more than a couple of percent without obvious signs. OTOH, defrauding an electronic ballot is just software.

In your hypothetical e-system, there's no way to confirm any connection between what comes up when you put in your VoterID, and what registers on the final count.

And when looking at actually e-voting systems, they've never worked like their original proponents claimed.

Re: Delegate/proxy voting.

I assume you've heard of the idea of demarchy? Random government. Choosing legislators like you choose jurors. (Used by Venice at the peak of its stability and power. Chosen to reduce the risk of one powerful family seizing control, but it also eliminated factionalism, allowing Venice to prosper for a millennium.)

Next post...

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Jacob said...

Hi Rob H.,

The Fifth Amendment is meant to protect citizens from coercion or their own mistakes.

It is entirely appropriate to ask for a Lawyer to assist you in phrasing a response to law enforcement. They are specialized labor knowledgeable of and skilled at avoiding unintended consequences (like a confession).

The 'all you need is one little mistake' is balderdash. The number of innocent people in jail are largely due to bias, corruption, or foolish behavior on the part of the falsely incarcerated.

Assuming innocence, the smart move is to ask for a Lawyer and then work with them to assist law enforcement without unintended consequences. Assuming guilt, the smart move is to be uncooperative and hope law enforcement fails at their responsibilities.

The 'It doesn't matter if you're not guilty' is offensive. Do you really think that the cops are out to get anyone they can pin it on so they look good? If they genuinely suspect you, then it is imperative that you assist them in finding the actual guilty party. Circumstance likely made you a suspect. The shared circumstance with the actual law breaker makes you an excellent candidate to have useful information.

Law enforcement don't get gut feelings about you if you are polite and helpful. Look, I'm a clean cut white male so my outlook is likely to be shaped differently than those subjected to stereotypes. However, I'm certain my techniques are going to help an innocence more than acting as they advised.

Jacob said...

"In your hypothetical e-system, there's no way to..."

I haven't presented an actual hypothetical system yet. I've spoken about aspects of Internet Voting done right using Verifiable Voting. The quote ended in a system that wasn't verifiable. It is obviously not a system I'd support.

I'll do up a google doc with an actual proposal.

Tony Fisk said...

Someone losing their key (ie password) or having it stolen is akin to someone at a polling station falsely claiming to live at your address (or forgetting it).

Verification, when necessary, involves using other information.

ACT uses eVacs system.

This uses dedicated PCs rather than the public internet, something I would like to see. Ah, well.

David Brin said...

Paul's Jedi Sith sceneario is way cool...


gmknobl said...

If anyone dismisses Keynesian economics, then they dismiss that which has verifiably worked in the past and specifically that which worked during our most similar economic times historically, the Great Depression.

To do so is foolishness in the extreme.

gmknobl said...


You are right about paper vs. electronic voting. It's simply too easy and always possible to massively subvert any computer related voting system.

By trade, I am a computer System Administrator.