Thursday, October 10, 2013

Government Shutdown or Showdown? - Will things go as I predicted?


Hello, did I call this or what?  "Is the GOP dropping Obamacare in shutdown debate?" That's the notion Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman, and the party's vice presidential nominee last year, argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Here's How We can End the worst part of this Stalemate - the threat of a default on American debt for the first time since the Republic was founded. Ryan's suggestion: that Democrats and Republicans should pass a raising of the borrowing limit in exchange for the Democrats' agreement to immediate negotiations that focus on "modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code."  

Above all, Ryan's column never mentioned Obamacare, focusing instead on  spending cuts to domestic and military programs, as well as Medicare reforms, and implicitly accepting the deal that has been on the table for most of a year -- to include some of the "revenue-side elimination of fat-cat tax breaks that the democratic side has sought. In other words, precisely the deal I predicted almost a week ago.

Of course this elicited rage from the dogmatic wing. Amanda Carpenter, a communications adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tweeted: "There is one big word missing from this op-ed. It's start(s) with an O and ends with BAMACARE ..." Those who want to keep up the game of chicken, despite all reason or sense, will threaten any House GOP member who drifts toward Ryan's position with a challenge in his or her district's Republican primary, next spring.  This is no small cudgel, because of the radicalism engendered by gerrymandering. A national disaster that has a surprisingly simple solution that I'll post about soon.  


But first, back to the frantic search by Republican leaders for a way out. With the Ryan proposal savaged by Tea Partiers, Speaker Boehner stepped up on Thursday, reiterating Ryan's position, suddenly dropping all mention of Obamacare... while making all the requisite aggressive noises as if this retreat were instead a manly ultimatum.

SHUTDOWNAs I predicted, saner elements of the GOP are now desperately seeking a face-saving way out. Especially now that the Koch brothers and others in the Republican money establishment see a gaping gulf gulf between the neo-confederate radicalism they themselves engendered with billions in political meddling vs the looming devastation to their own self-interest that will happen if this Frankenstein mania takes our economy over a cliff.

So let me repeat my forecast, spelling it out explicitly. Under orders from above (the Kochs, Murdoch, Fox etc), just enough House GOP members will threaten to break with the House Republican Caucus, forcing the Tea Party militants to free up Boehner. He, in turn, will accept the offer the Senate has made twenty times since March, to hold the constitutionally mandated House-Senate Budget Conference Committee, where these things have been worked out for 230 years, to discuss the deal that was already mostly worked out last year. A deal for moderate efficiency reforms in entitlements plus elimination of some fat cat tax write-offs.  Boehner and his co-leaders will accept the invitation at last…

…but declare it as a great victory!  That Obama and Sen. Reid had "caved" under pressure from Speaker Boehner's tactics, playing extortion-chicken with the shut-down and default cliffs.  "This is all we wanted, all along!"

And the President will let them crow.  His only real concession, after the dust settles, will be letting them have a week of face-saving "we won!" chanting.  Then the Budget Reconciliation Conference Committee will strike a deal that the dems have offered for a year.  And Boehner will need democrats in the House, in order to pass it. At which point the real Tea Party insurrection may begin.

The problem with such a budget deal, from the GOP perspective, is that - like Obamacare - it might actually work.  With the right mix of reforms in entitlements and taxes, the budget deficit -- already vastly improving -- might swing back toward Clintonian balance. If Obamacare also works, then where will the GOP stand in the 2014 elections?

I could not care less.  As we'll see below, the asymptote for all of their orbital momenta leads to insanity.

== But the Shut-down goes on -- its real aim ==

Mind you, all of this only has to do with raising the debt borrowing limit and avoiding default. The Republicans have vowed to maintain the other half of their game-of-chicken... the Government Shut-down.

They see a winning hand, here. So far, every time an important constituency - or one that is symbolically powerful, like military death benefits - has howled loudly enough, the House has scurried to pass a special bill and demand quickie Senate action to grant continued funding to that special interest group. "Why didn't we think of this sooner!" cried one Tea Party radical, envisioning this as a way to -- without the onerous task of legislation -- simply eliminate most of the Federal Government, which today's incantations of the right depict as evil at a fundamentally inherent level, while eliminating any political blowback by funding islands of vocal constituency.

Never mind that during the Bush years, these same fellows were just fine with skyrocketing federal power, spending and calamity. Or that they thus declare that Abraham Lincoln's "Government of the people, by the people" shall perish from the Earth. Or that it's simply crazy.  Just look at some of the things they have succeeded in shuting down, and see the consistent logic, at least.

SCIENCECUTBACKSThe National Radio Astronomy Observatory has gone out of business for the duration.  Already hampered by the sequester, it is now closed by the government shut down. So have all research activities for the entire season in Antarctica.  NASA says 97% of its personnel are furloughed. Certainly my colleagues at NASA NIAC have been. Perhaps that's why no one answered George Clooney's calls in GRAVITY?

Having sabotaged atmospheric and climate science for twenty years, the GOP can now shut it all down completely, while continuing to cry: "we need more data!" before doing anything about climate change.

In fact, the shut down has also hammered most research contracted by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, The National Academy, research divisions of the Centers for Disease Control, the Energy Department, the EPA and the Weather Service. Moreover these interruptions do far more harm than at first appears, as some experiments and observations are completely ruined. Just one example: the government shutdown is likely to mean an early death for thousands of mice used in research on diseases such as diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's.

If the shut downs continue, they'll divert graduate students and research fellows who must eat to survive -- which will undercut science even more. .

Now the kicker… this is not something that the currently dominant brand of conservatism (as opposed to the older, and deeply-missed, intellectual brand of Goldwater and Buckley) deems regrettable at all.  It is not a "flaw" in the GOP tactics. To the madmen now running the asylum -- who for two decades actively have waged the War on Science --  this latest hampering is a silver lining. This is not a flaw but a Feature.

Think that's a one-off? Take this additional example from a decade ago, still doing outrageous harm:   "In 1996, Congress passed a law requiring the U.S. government to sell off our entire helium stockpile by 2015. This has forced the price of the gas way, way lower than it should be, considering how little of the stuff is actually left in the world. (Some estimate that a balloon's worth would cost $100 if the market were allowed to set the price.)"  The US currently owns 80% of the world's supply and given the ever-widening range of uses for Helium -- (ask any physicist, chemist or biologist or electronics maker) - it might offer leverage against - say - the Chinese near monopoly on rare earth minerals. At minimum, every scientist alive cringes at what the GOP has done on just this one (of countless many ) area of deliberate destruction.

Indeed, if anyone out there can think of a non-criminal reason why the GOP commanded this fire sale and non-economic selloff such a high priority strategic asset, I'd love to hear your theory.

== And finally… ==

TeaPartyLunacyThis harsh rumination by Josh Eidelson on SALON ponders why the Republican elites of Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce, who have so much to lose if a U.S. default trashes the American credit and economy, have not laid down the law upon the unruly House GOP, the way they have in every past crisis.  After all, they were the ones - not average Red Americans - who gained the benefits from every past Republican legislative and/or executive action, from the Bush tax breaks to middle east wars.  But this time, it appears that the Tea Party -- a genuine populist movement -- has metastacized completely out of control of the party's traditional masters.

This is evidenced by the behavior of the shills at Fox News, who are riding a brahma bull. They keep hinting that the Obamacare fixation may be over-wrought and may have to be set aside… (as we describe Congressman Ryan saying, above)... this is the message commanded from up-top.  But Roger Ailes and his Fox "News" team must also look to the bottom line! The average Fox viewer is by now so riled up -- ironically by Fox itself -- that any calm-down message might alienate them and hurt the advertisers who pay the network's bills.

Above all, do not let the counter-meme spread... that Obamacare was actually almost completely  cloned from the Republicans own 1994 health care plan that they put forward as an alternative to Hillary's plan. Copied almost verbatim. Republicans ignore this fact because it collapses their tirades.  (Oppose it? Fine. Say "we changed our minds?" Fine! Express volcanic fury? Hypocrisy!)

Although the deep-right coined the term "culture war" I have been the one suggesting that things have come to a dramatic pass. That we are now in Phase Three of the American Civil War.  

Now have a look at an incisive appraisal by a writer who is (admittedly) from the left-end. And you all know that I am caustic toward the fartghest-maddest-left, which, though currently far-smaller than the far-mad-right, was once -- and may someday again be -- a locus of dogmatic danger in the world.

Nevertheless, and despite that bias, an educated person knows that Marxists at least have thought a lot more about this whole "class" thing that most of us blithely ignored, during the anomalously flat era from 1945 to 2000.  So, while retaining a wary awareness that Marxists truly are crazy at another level (e.g. they believe in social teleology), I nevertheless think there is plenty here worth pondering.  Take this from Josh Eidelson's article, Tea Party's Shutdown Lunacy: Avenging the Surrender of the South:

"A couple things. I do think that we have this broad kind of rot at the top end of our society: It’s devolved from a real ruling class, with some distance from day-to-day moneymaking, into something more just like a pure plutocracy, interested in maximizing its cash in as short a time as possible, and really not capable of thinking about policy in a serious sense. The Financial Times has been writing about how groups like the Chamber of Commerce, who normally would put pressure on the difficult Republicans, don’t seem to be willing or able to do that — and one of the reasons is that they’re so enamored of the tax-cutting side of the Republican Party that they don’t really want to stop things like the government shutdown, or they don’t have the capacity to stop things. It does seem like there’s a breakdown at the elite level of society."

Josh Eidelson continues: "But also, Michael Lind had an interesting piece about how the roots of Tea Party are in a Confederate, almost kind of a neo-Confederate structure of people who want to preserve their class privileges ...and they are a very sizable portion of the Republican Party. And what they see — and this is also confirmed by the focus groups that David Greenberg et al. did — the core of this is a group of people that feel like the country is being taken away from them by a new minority-majority country. And all of their familiar touchstones are being smashed. They feel like they’re fighting a heroic kind of lost cause, and they’re willing to do a  lot of damage to try to get their way."

"To some degree the Big Business interests are paying a price for having relied on these characters in the first place. The last thing that Big Business wants to see is something that threatens the status of Treasury bonds. They don’t want to threaten the status of the dollar as reserve currency. They don’t want to rock the image of the United States as the most stable capitalist power in the world. Even though the financial crisis essentially originated here, money still flowed to the United States then because it seemed safer than everywhere else. The big boys don’t want to endanger that status."

Okay that was at least thought provoking. Still. At risk of agreeing with a quasi Marxist… I will one-up that appraisal, taking it even farther.

After the almost perfect record of calamitous rule by the Bushites -- with every large decision directly resulting in extreme harm or decline in the American Republic, its small businesses and entrepreneurial verve, its science, its economic and its Pax power -- one has to wonder about the author's core assumption, that all of the right wing's oligarchs want the United States to thrive.  

Don't forget that the Republican Party's top bankrollers now include quite a number of foreign princes, aristocrats, moguls and sovereign wealth funds, many of them rooted in cultures that express open contempt for North American civilization in principle and who have openly wished for an end to the American Pax. I include one of the top foreign co-owners of Fox News in that clade.  

As Goldfinger said: "Once, Mr. Bond, may be happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three … or many many times… that's enemy action."

59 comments:

Paul451 said...

[I was going to add this to the previous thread to "avoid being off-topic in the new thread" then remembered that it was wildly off-topic in that thread, and is actually closer to this one. So...]

From the last thread:

Sociotard,
You quote Texas figures, without acknowledging that Texas is the outermost of outliers of Red states. For example, it is one of the few Red states that generated more tax revenue than it consumes in welfare and subsidies. Ie, it is one of the few Red states that actually "pays its own way". Does that exception mean we can't generalise "Red states consume more in welfare than they pay in taxes". No. Pointing to an extreme outlier doesn't dispute the claim, it reinforces it.

So then we can look at the specific case of Texas, why does generate it more than it consumes. Is the state run well? Their game seems to be to use their size to subsidise companies moving to Texas. But that "race to the bottom" strategy is something of a pyramid scheme even if other states don't complete, it only works during the growth stage, once the music stops, someone has to pay the bill. (And if other states do compete, no state wins.)

That strategy also might explain why you see movement of very specific demographics into Texas. Are they the workers whose companies have moved to Texas, relocating there merely to keep their job? Again, it's not a sustainable strategy, nor a sign of good state management. The analogy is with a large company buying up smaller companies to gain their customers. Their market share is "growing", but it says nothing about their real growth. Are they losing customers in each transaction, but are staying ahead by buying more than they lose. I'm not sure how you would measure that for Texas with massed stats. You'd need to look at each relocation individually, how many jobs were lost vs how many were created in Texas, to see if the net number of jobs has increased (and thus Texas' politics grows US jobs) or decreased (Texas is looting jobs, destroying more than they steal.)

Alfred Differ said...

To understand the helium issue you have to dig farther into the past when it was listed as a strategic asset. The government was required to buy it and store it, but if you look at the rules they set up, the buyers could tap the US Treasury directly AND the price was set too high. They ran it far into the red back in the days when a billion dollars was a whole lot of money. The current rules are a reaction to the older rules and equally dumb in their own way, but you need the context to understand why they are what they are.

Obviously, the US needs to treat the gas as a strategic asset to some degree. However, we need to make sure the rules don't distort the commercial part of the market too much and become corporate welfare.

This 'history' is decades old so some of it is difficult to find online... or was when I learned it.

reformed tourist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
reformed tourist said...

David - nice essay as usual, but several of the links are going to your post on "Gravity"

1) has metastacized completely out of control of the party's traditional masters.

2) Now have a look at an incisive appraisal by a writer

David Brin said...


Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) acknowledged Thursday that defunding Obamacare is not going to be a part of the ongoing debate about re-opening the government and increasing the debt limit.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/house-goper-defunding-obamacare-is-off-the-table

David Brin said...

Russ Daggatt says: "David, no way there will be any kind of *grand bargain* that ends all of this. Ryan and the rest of Republican party will never agree to a cent of new tax revenue. "Closing loopholes in a revenue neutral manner" is just camoflage for rate reductions. President Obama was prepared to give Republicans everything they ever wanted (like cutting Medicare and Social Security - something even upward of 70% of teabaggers oppose) in return for token revenue increases. They repeatedly rejected it. They will default on the US debt before they agree to a deal that includes a penny of new taxes."

Okay here are details of one scenario: clearly Boehner would have to be released by his caucus and the Hastert Rule suspended. Then Boehner could pass either a debt limit raise or a clean CR with mostly democratic votes. It would take about 20 house GOP members brave enough to risk Tea Party primary insurrections. This can happen if the Kochs promise them enough raw cash. If it happens, Boehner's days as speaker are limited, so the Kochs will have to offer him a LOT of cash. So Obama needs to say "The CR and the debt limit raise are linked." Then it would play out as I described with a "grand bargain" on entitlement reform plus canceled tax breaks... which would not be revenue neutral so Norquist will rise in fury and Boehner will need ever MORE cash....

David Brin said...

t is a common fallacy is to believe that seats gained by partisan gerrymandering are safe seats. In fact, the converse is the case, as explained by Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium.
http://election.princeton.edu/2013/10/09/partisan-gerrymanderings-hidden-burden/

David Brin said...

Interesting re the three republican factions. A good article... that completely leaves out the 4th and smallest but dominant faction. The oligarchs.

http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/gop-posed-become-more-radical?page=0%2C0

Stephen Peterson said...

Just saw Gravity tonight. Amazing film. I made sure to save this review for afterwards, even though I was dying to know the good-and-bad-science bits.

Off-topic to this post, but very within the transparency wheelhouse:

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/520226/microsoft-thinks-drm-can-solve-the-privacy-problem/

"Mundie, who until late last year was in charge of Microsoft’s research wing as its chief research and strategy officer, thinks a system of DRM technology, accompanied by laws and regulations to enforce it, could provide the answer. “I think we’re going to have to have a usage-based way of controlling this now,” he said. “One way to do that is to put cryptographic wrappers around these things that control uses of this data.”

Under the model imagined by Mundie, applications and services that wanted to make use of sensitive data, such as a person’s genome sequence or current location, would have to register with authorities. A central authority would distribute encryption keys to applications, allowing them to access protected data in the ways approved by the data’s owners."

That sounds... a lot like some of the crypto-key escrow (e.g.) suggestions in "The Transparent Society"... and what a shock if DRM could be harnessed for good in the hands of the public instead of evil in the hands of media oligarchs!

gsc said...

It is very sad to me when hurting people becomes a mantra for a party.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

After the almost perfect record of calamitous rule by the Bushites -- with every large decision directly resulting in extreme harm or decline in the American Republic, its small businesses and entrepreneurial verve, its science, its economic and its Pax power -- one has to wonder about the author's core assumption, that all of the right wing's oligarchs want the United States to thrive.


One of the only things Ayn Rand nailed in "Atlas Shrugged" was a scene toward the end of the book in which Dagny recoils in absolute horror from a sudden realization that the villains of the piece aren't trying to own the industrial base in order to profit from it, but to destroy it and intentionally go back to pre-industrial civilization. Because their goal isn't a raised standard of living (even for themselves), but for naked power to rule other human beings.

The same dynamic is portrayed in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" with the bad guy purchaing Los Angeles's Red Car Line in order to shut it down.

And like any good story, this explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

Obama is much worse than Bush:

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2011/06/president-barack-obamas-complete-list.html

Anonymous said...

David,

Regarding the 3 factions and your addition of a 4th, you forgot about the neo-con foreign policy "egg-heads." I know you have mentioned them before in your critiques of the party. Or would they just be considered as the thought leaders and not constitute enough of a faction to be counted on their own?

Anonymous said...

Obamacare isn't going to work: http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/health-reform-breaks-bad_762272.html?nopager=1#

matthew said...

Nate Silver on the electoral effects of the Shutdown / Debt Limit fight. The Six Big Takeaways From the Government Shutdown. The tl:dr - Don't count on it changing much in terms of elections.

An interesting, if not-surprising quote from the end of the article. " But the degree of polarization in the Congress is higher than at any point since the Great Depression by a variety of measures, and is possibly at its highest point ever. (Most of the evidence suggests the trend is asymmetric: Republicans in Congress have become much more conservative, while Democrats have become only somewhat more liberal.)"
I would argue about the somewhat more liberal part of the quote- i think the Dems are slouching their way toward the middle, not getting more liberal as a whole. There are a few very liberal voices, but the Progressive Caucus is not a powerhouse and cannot control the overall message from the party.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Doug Henwood, the left economist quoted in David's post, also correctly predicted the housing bubble and its collapse, too. He is worth mentioning by name as the person quoted in David's post, not merely the interviewer's name.

I think lefties like Henwood need to be front and center quoted as they are not totalitarians, are not like Stalinists of old and are ultimately supporters of the republic's best intentions and structures. The rich are gonna have to learn to share more, and to the extent they don't, this economy will not recover.

locumranch said...

David says he loves advances in communications technologies, the internet, freedom of information, democracy, the rise of the amateur, the smartphone revolution and transparency, all of which promote decentralization by favouring a non-hierarchical model of information distribution, educational parity and non-traditional political structures.

But David is also the loyal product of a centralized system. He is proud of his US citizenship, social status and the position he has 'earned' in the educational hierarchy. Although 'democratic', he possesses the the easy disdain that the inside 'expert' has for the excluded amateur. Although critical of his hierarchy, he is quick to dismiss the criticisms of others as 'ungrateful', 'disloyal' or 'unpatriotic'. This is why, IMO, that David spends so much time bemoaning the consequences of his decentralization argument.

I put it to you that the prior financial collapse, the violation of federal drug statute on a state-by-state basis, the shutdown of the US government, the defunding of NASA, the collapse of our centralized university model & the pending failure of federalism are the inevitable consequence of everything that Dr. Brin claims to hold dear about the information superhighway and transparency because 'decentralization' and 'balkanization' are the SAME THING.

Like the old USSR, the current form of the US Federal government is about to go the way of the Dodo, mostly because a federal hierarchy cannot exist on a level informational playing field when, given equal information, local authorities are just as likely to display equal incompetence in the decision-making process.

Furthermore, the distress and disorientation that you are currently experiencing about the government shutdown is brought on by your inability to cope with rapid societal and technological change. So buck up. The arrival of the future is a Good Thing, plus there's nothing that you, I or the Koch brothers can do about it.


Best.

Robert said...

There is a simple solution that would fix the current system of government. Open primaries like what exists in California and Washington state. This encourages more moderate politicians as they are likely to win the most votes in the general election... and seeing that anyone can vote in the primary, more people will which thus decreases the power of groups like the Tea Party.

Seriously, Tea Party candidates win because they won a majority of the primary vote, not the majority of the Republican voters interest. Republicans then vote en-masse for these fanatics because they fear the Democrats would be worse as they'd been told all their lives.

But the last shutdown killed the Republican Party. This one is going to seriously damage it. And if we go into Default (or if Obama is forced to perform an Executive Action stating that he's arbitrarily raising the debt ceiling because of the hostage-taking behavior of a minority in the House of Representatives - and yes, it's a minority in the House even if it's a majority of Republicans!) then you will see widescale losses in 2014... both on the Federal and the State legislative levels.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Stephen P, thanks. And yes, an open system that uses a very weak DRM to track the uses of a person's personal information and ensuring micropayments for such uses… that would be great. Problem is that it is all to likely to be a vast array of rigid pay walls and paranoia, obstructing information flow and all of it easily bypassed by various secretive elites who get all the info, anyway. It has to be generally open and transparent - which ironically would let average folks detect when their info is being used by anyone.

LarryHart I never said Rand wasn't smart. Indeed, in my major article about her I make clear that her villains were Old Money oligarchs vastly more often than sappy socialists. My essay makes clear that - at a very deep level -- she was a marxist.

David Brin said...

Oh, this is for you who am the "better anonymous" (and not the other one, the idiot)…

Yes the neocons used to be a major Republican force. They were discredited by the howling insanity of rushing into TWO multi trillion$ land wars of quagmire in Asia. Wolfowitz et al and his fellow Straussians are thoroughly tossed aside and have no influence… and it happened to ferociously that it must have been ordered from the very top.

David Brin said...

Locum, as usual, is a complete (and deliberately offensive) dope … while raising interesting issues.

For example, with Pax Americana having done most of its major tasks -- isolating and curing Leninism, maintaining world peace & trade and uplifting most nations toward middle class via WalMart -- is it time for the empire to ease off and even break up, a bit? I speak to this every time I talk about WCN or Whatever Comes Next… how Americans should join the discussion of world governance instead of shunning it and letting the EU take over the world by fait accompli.

Devolution to smaller units has always had attractions to me and I portray it happening in EARTH, which predicted the Soviet breakup when no one else did. I also have Texas and California and Hawaii exercising increased sovereignty. Hawaii is independent in Heart of the Comet. Indeed, I often mention the devolution of drug laws and California's successful rejection of Gerrymandering and many other things…

…. including the notion that states should be asked to shoulder more things, so that Red America can learn some hard truths. All of which is to say Get Bent Locum. You are truly a dope.

KWillow said...

There is also the big possibility that the "elite", the wealthy businessmen such as Kochs, Murdochs, etc. etc. are STUPID. They've got power, they've got wealth, but they don't have brains.

David Brin said...

KWillow Our diamond shaped Enlightenment Society (with a dominant middle class) is almost unique in history and - following Smith's methods and those of Franklin - we did it by dividing power and constantly thwarting the oligarchic putsches and attempts to remake a classic pyramid.

These efforts arise out of human nature and it is no use hating the rich. They are human. Indeed, amazingly half of today's American billionaires, largely those who got wealthy by organizing large groups of skilled engineers to deliver innovative goods and services (e.g Bezos, Mush, Gates, the Google guys…) are all democrats! Who want to preserve the diamond society (while being rich in it.)

Steill, every generation of Americans has had to slap down an oligarchic putsch… except ours. For 70 years the society left us by FDR was so flat and increasingly inclusive that we grew up imagining that "class wars" were all in the distant past. But as wealth disparities skyrocket toward 1789 French levels, we are learning that human nature is the same and the Smithian diamond is in danger again. And that half of the oligarchy is so stupid and greedy that they are willing to push this toward true feudalism, ignoring where it might lead, if a more moderate re-adjustment doesn't happen soon.

To tumbrels.

Alfred Differ said...

I really don't see how the EU can grow to replace us even if we relax and let them try. They are on a downhill slope toward irrelevance. They are taking the path Sweden took after its power peak in the 17th century toward second tier power status. The EU doesn't function as a single entity when it comes to anything touching the sovereignty of the individual states, so it isn't a 'nation' in the geopolitical sense like the US is. At best, the EU is a power alliance between France and Germany that is increasingly fragile with the collapse of a viable threat from Russia. Germany will eventually figure out that it can and should run the show, but that won't create the unity necessary for political relevance for the whole region.

I get that the EU is economically strong, but that is mostly on the strength of Germany whose interests diverge considerably with all of the southern European states and will mildly converge with the Russians again due to energy markets.

NATO is finished all all practical purposes. Look at the recent Turkish missile purchase for yet another example.

David Brin said...

Alfred my job is to look past particular moments and see contrarian possibilities. I would bet you a beer that the Europeans wriggle their way past the current crises, find ways to limit financial messes and resume moving forward. If a day comes when Turkey joins then they will be in Asia. Do not stake your life on RUssia NOT having another swerve and joining someday, and if so they will be on the Pacific.

Then... what happens when the Bahamas apply to join? New Zealand?

No, you ignore a very real path to WCN. One I don't like very much.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

David, you and Soviet dissident and later exile Andrei Amalrik predicted the demise of the Soviets, except Andrei spoke of it in the late 1960s and wrote a book about it back then.

It was called "Will the Soviet Union Survive Until 1984?"

David Brin said...

I am looking at the Amalrik book as we speak....

David Brin said...

In Earth I portray a fig-leaf "Soviet Union" still existing, but little more than a commonwealth. Perhaps might've been better than the current Russia, since a hypocritical fealty to equality would have been better than none.

Anonymous said...

Helium crisis averted:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/09/27/good-news-congress-just-averted-a-global-helium-crisis/

Helium sales won't be shut down, and sales will be via auction rather than fixed price. [Insert 'floating' pun here.]

Anonymous said...

Obama seems willing to skate the edges of his legal Constitutional powers quite closely, especially when Congress doesn't give him what he wants.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMyDYyg0FBA

Perhaps he WILL give serious thought to the trillion dollar coin this time, rather than allow the country to go into default.

Alfred Differ said...

I'll take you up on the beer bet, but we might have to define the prediction a bit better. For example, I don't see it as culturally possible for the Russians to join the EU unless they can dominate it and that isn't going to happen. One potential outcome is a German/Russian alliance that displaces the current Franco/German arrangement, but I think the new version will wake the US again to the very real danger than Eurasia would be united under a power sufficient to challenge us. We would have to act to divide them.

Instead, I suspect the US will fight one more war against the Russians with a front line somewhere through Poland to Romania, but it is at least 15 years away. It might be a cold war, but it will be the last economic gasp of Mother Russia which will disintegrate afterward. By mid-century they will be gone leaving Germany dominant in Europe but having to negotiate for resources and access to markets.

I get your contrarian angle, but I look at this in a geopolitical sense. Russia has a long history of getting invaded as does every nation along the northern plains of Europe. The US is motivated to keep the peace, but NOT to have them unite... too much... because a real power could arise if they did. History shows it too.

Regarding the current crisis, though, I think it is important to recognize that the unemployment rate in Spain as astoundingly high. The last time they did that it lasted long enough for a civil war. Disaster! I sincerely hope the EU does what is necessary to avoid that possible future but the seeds for a repeat already exist.

Robert said...

Oh, here's a little bit of good news and a gasp of sanity from Congress! Congress is passing legislation which stops undercutting the Helium market and will put helium up for auction rather than sell it at an extra-low price. And some helium will be put aside for research purposes.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Alfred, my forecast about the European Union becoming the Earth Union has almost no bearing on whether or not Russia joins. If it does not, then Russia and CHina and the US could be the giant holdouts as the WCN EU takes shape.

I do NOT insist this will happen. But it is vastly more plausible than any other WCN because it can happen gradually, incrementally, in no way involving the UN or big nations' veto power. It can just.... happen. And nobody could stop it.

Ian said...

"Doug Henwood, the left economist quoted in David's post, also correctly predicted the housing bubble and its collapse, too. He is worth mentioning by name as the person quoted in David's post, not merely the interviewer's name."

Funny,I thoguhtr the consensus here was thought economics was a pseudoscience,which would make Henwood either an imbecile or a con artist.

Or is that only if people don't like what they're reading?

Ian said...


"So then we can look at the specific case of Texas, why does generate it more than it consumes. Is the state run well?"

I'm sure the answer has nothing to do with oil prices.

Ian said...


"For example, with Pax Americana having done most of its major tasks ... uplifting most nations toward middle class via WalMart "

This claim was false when you made it about China, doubly false when you extended it to India and borders on Birther levels of absurdity when yo uapply it to "most countries".

David Brin said...

Ian you can argue that India has not benefited as much from export driven growth, but to deny it re China is absolutely hilarious.

Moreover export driven growth has indeed propelled development in "most countries of the world. are you serious? You'd dispute that?

Count it up, let's see the numbers! You do not build up trade surpluses unless someone is running a trade deficit. The trade deficits of the US have been greater than any TEN other nations for all of our lives.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi David

As far as I can see the USA normally had a trade surplus until the late 70's

The main country with a trade deficit was the UK averaging 1.2 Billion pounds from 1955 - 2013

Since the 1980's the US has mostly had a deficit increasing up to 40 Billion dollars

The US total deficit is probably larger than the UK's - but not as large as the relative sizes of the economies

Ian said...

There is little or no correlation between trade balance and either GDP growth or absolute living standards.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_current_account_balance_as_a_percentage_of_GDP

East Timor, one of the poorest countries in the world also has one of the largest current account surpluses.

In fact, rapidly growing countries (like Australia) typically run current account deficits (largely because they're importing large amounts of capital equipment).

China is an exception to that - because its government directs its state owned businesses and local and provincial governments to make massive capital investments, which reduce final consumer demand.

Ian said...

http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/southeast-asia-pacific/australia

Australia runs a large persistent bilateral trade deficit with the US.

By his logic, that means the US is being subsidized by Australia.

See also:

Brazil
http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/brazil

Guatemala

http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/guatemala

Haiti:

http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/haiti

Argentina

http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/argentina

Ethiopia

http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/africa/east-africa/ethiopia


liberia: http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/africa/west-africa/liberia

Egypt: http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/europe-middle-east/middle-east/north-africa/egypt

Jordan: http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/europe-middle-east/middle-east/north-africa/jordan



Other than China and a couple o other examples, almost the only developing world countries that run trade surpluses with the US are commodity exporters like Mexico (oil) and South Africa (gold, diamonds).

But economics is just a pseudoscience so make up whatever makes you feel good.

Paul451 said...

David,
"If it does not, then Russia and China and the US could be the giant holdouts as the WCN EU takes shape."

Heh. Russia, China and the US as the new members of the "Non-Aligned Movement".

Paul451 said...

Ian,
"I thoguhtr the consensus here was thought economics was a pseudoscience,which would make Henwood either an imbecile or a con artist. Or is that only if people don't like what they're reading?"
"But economics is just a pseudoscience so make up whatever makes you feel good."


Jeez, have a whinge, Princess.

Ian said...

Thanks Paul but I'm not interested.

That's why I stopped commenting here - a policy i'll now resume.

Enjoy the echo chamber.

David Brin said...

Other than China and some other examples... um, like EUROPE after WWII? Like Japan? Taiwan, Singapore? Korea? Malaysia. Brazil?

Ian's cherrypicked list of losers was astonishing. Reeeeelly man? Really?

Robert said...

I think both sides need to take a chill pill. Dr. Brin, you're starting to sound churlish and childish. Ian, Sociotard, you're letting idiot comments get to you. Just ignore them.

Seriously, what is it with online communities that they start self-destructing like this after a couple of years? It was this way with PaganHome, with several webcomic forums I've been on, and now this blog. I almost wonder if I'm bad luck or the like... ^^;;

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Robert chill with the chill. We are grownups with thick skins. I LIKE Sociotard and Ian! They know it. We're just being guys.

Um... right guys?

Edit_XYZ said...

"David Brin said...
Other than China and some other examples... um, like [...] Brazil?
Ian's cherrypicked list of losers was astonishing. Reeeeelly man? Really?"

"Ian said...
See also:
Brazil
http://www.ustr.gov/countries-regions/americas/brazil"
"Duncan Cairncross said...
As far as I can see the USA normally had a trade surplus until the late 70's
The main country with a trade deficit was the UK averaging 1.2 Billion pounds from 1955 - 2013
Since the 1980's the US has mostly had a deficit increasing up to 40 Billion dollars
The US total deficit is probably larger than the UK's - but not as large as the relative sizes of the economies"

David, not even reading other posts - not even Ian's post - before letting your preconceptions cloud your judgement, I see.

It's obvious you want the credit for the positive evolution of the world during the last century to be USA's.
But, just because you want it does not make it so.

BTW, Pax americana - and Pax britannica, before that - had less to do with even keeping the peace during the last 200 years than you want to believe.
Indeed, the lack of war is more accurately attributed to a change in humanity's mentality - see S Pinker 'The better angels of our nature', for details.

David Brin said...

Ian, I tossed in Brazil having forgotten Ian's list. Mea culpa. STill, show me one other wealth transfer anywhere near that big. Show me one impetus for development that was greater.

I believe you have it backward. Yes, human attitudes toward war has evolved. One reason was the very IMAGE of the atomic bomb mushroom cloud, a work of art that transformed us. But what came first was that image... the stick... and the carrot of a world peace greater than the world has ever seen.

Robert said...

I will say that the fear of nuclear annihilation is very likely responsible for the lack of wide-scale conflicts in the last 70 years. Yes, there have been Koreas and Vietnams and even other smaller conflicts... but often these conflicts fail to boil over and involve a dozen nations like older wars often did (even back during the Crusades, for crying out loud!).

Here's an example of Nuclear Peace: India and Pakistan. Tensions continue to boil between the two. There have been numerous incidents. But a widescale conflict has been off the books because the moment that happens, both sides know nukes will be used and neither side wants to use them due to multiple factors.

I also have to wonder if the Soviet Union would have remained as it was for as long as it was if they hadn't gotten nukes. If the U.S. had been the sole owner of nuclear weapons (or even the West), can you honestly say we'd not eventually have invaded? Hell, we probably would have used nuclear weapons against the Russians as they couldn't retaliate!

And if we'd used the stick to create Pax America... I suspect we'd have fewer freedoms as Americans than we did... and the world would probably be a far more hostile place due to even greater resentment against the U.S.

Think of it as the three solutions for humanity in "Foundation and Earth" - First Foundation would form an Empire with Fire and it would fall apart afterward. Second Foundation would create a cold and sterile empire that would stagnate. The First Foundation is the world with just the U.S. with nuclear weapons. Second Foundation is the Cold War, with the U.S. having emerged victorious ultimately.

We can only hope humanity can find the path of Galaxia, in some fashion.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Sorry, doesn't wash. Yes OUr A bombs prevented the sovs from sweeping into W Europe. But Truman, Marshall, Acheson and Ike had no interest in invading anyone.

Paul451 said...

Ian,
"That's why I stopped commenting here - a policy i'll now resume. Enjoy the echo chamber."

Ian, comment, don't comment, but stop with the passive aggressive Jewish-Mother whining. "Oh, but what do I know, I'm only your mother. You clearly know better. I must be such a burden to you. No no, I'll just stay here and die..." I have no idea whether the points you raised were valid, but you killed any argument you made by ended every comment with some ridiculous passive-aggressive snipe at everyone, and it's been pretty much like that for your last couple of dozen comments.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

David,

One other thought about predictions of the demise of the Soviets: Don't Fred Pohl and CM Kornbluth get big points for predicting, in 1953, that the Soviet Union would become RussCorp in "The Space Merchants?"
They foresaw the demise of the Soviet Union and the rise of the kleptocracy!

David Brin said...

Echo Chamber? THESE guys are an... echo chamber?

Har.... Welcome back any time Ian. And I do mean that.

Tony Fisk said...

Nice for some: 35% of Russia's wealth is owned by just 110 people

The real trouble I have with 'tumbrels' is what comes after. (actually, with figures like those quoted above, could the populace afford tumbrels?)

Robert said...

Bonus points if this pill needs to be kept refrigerated until it is used. =^-^=

LarryHart said...

My last "A Tale of Two Cities" post as I finished the book. From the opening lines of the final chapter:


Along the Paris streets, the death carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day's wine to La Guillotine. Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Echo Chamber? THESE guys are an... echo chamber?


That was my reaction exactly (which I suppose ironically proves Ian's point).

David Brin said...

onward

Anonymous said...

Robert: "starting"? You're either not very observant, or your memory is being a bit selective.