Monday, February 24, 2014

Politics, Ideology and Moving Forward

NEUTRALIZE-GERRYMANDERINGIt's time.  The primaries are approaching. You and all your friends have a chance to vote in the 2014 elections that matter… the ones in the spring, not the fall!  Tell everyone you know to use this one little trick and we all, as individuals, can help defeat gerrymandering and de-radicalize American politics.
YOU can help do it.  By getting all your friends to re-register using this one little trick… though it may require that you hold your nose…A Modest Proposal to Neutralize Gerrymandering.
== Good news… live with it! ==
President Obama has ordered another cranking up of mileage standards for medium and heavy trucks.  The last one, in 2011, brought mileage improvements from 8% to 28% and won over all industry stake-holders.  So much so that there is almost no resistance, this time around. Manufacturers and trucking companies and associations are all tentatively accepting of the next stage, which bodes to recoup the costs for truckers within 18 months of purchase.
Add this to the spectacular success of the CAFE standards, which are now saving American drivers billions at the pump without costing a single job (delayed for 25 years by the GOP, thanks guys.) Some things can happen without involving the worst and laziest Congress in U.S. history.
bailoutsWill even a single Fox News prediction ever come true? Recall how rescuing GM & Chrysler would fail, after costing the taxpayers hundreds of billions? Both companies are now thriving and nearly all the money was repaid. Car mileage standards would kill Detroit!  No, they didn't; we're now getting far more efficiency, saving countless billions and getting better cars… and US automakers are doing fine.  And now…?  Remember Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?
These mortgage companies were so horribly mismanaged under the Bush Administration that they became a huge calamity, threatening the entire economy. When they were bailed out under Obama, the stockholders who had negligently ignored the mess deservedly took a big loss… but the taxpayer didn't.  This week it was announced that Fannie and Freddie had repaid every single cent to the US government.  From now on, the proceeds will pour in as… profit.
The same thing happened with AIG. But NOT to the bailouts done under Bush. Have a look at the graphic here. You wanted government run in a businesslike way? Never vote republican.
That is… not till the Goldwater-Buckley types get up off their behinds and get mad over what Rupert Murdoch has done to the party of Lincoln.
== What we could've been doing… instead of culture war ==
How tragic. We in the 21st Century finally have data that could let us figure out, with sophistication, which tasks government is good-at and which it should be used-for as a last resort.
GOVERNMENT-PROBLEM-SOLVERExample: Government is often great at addressing acute crises.  Feed THESE children right now!  Kill Hitler!
Chronic problems are different. Dilemmas that go on and on… like how to reduce unemployment or regulate product quality in business… these are areas where government should always face at least a basic burden of proof. "Are you sure there's not some other way to get this fixed, than reaching for the coercive power of the state?"
The traditional right (not its current loony version) made this distinction, demanding evidence that socialist methods would not be captured or create permanent constituencies. That demand was a fair one, often made by Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley… though  such evidence often can be provided. Indeed, government also does some chronic things well.  Like federally funded research that looks beyond the corporate five year ROI (return of investment) horizon.  Or building and maintaining (when funded) vital infrastructure. Or justice and defense.
Actually eliminating poverty? There's real cause for argument there! And the old Goldwater conservatism had a point when claiming that dependence on welfare is dangerous ground.  (Some of the worst moral hazard was reduced by the Clinton-Gingrich Welfare Reform Bill of 1995, the last time the GOP cooperated with a Democratic president in any way, even over adjourning for lunch.) But a basic social safety net is something most Americans agree with.  And few of our elderly live in grinding poverty now, as used to be the case for many millions.
Education? Government should absolutely provide the baseline, default system, at as high a set of standards as can be achieved. Adam Smith wanted this, and criticism of our current schools should be tempered with appreciation for the changes public education wrought, from was came before. And yet, I am libertarian enough to also want experiments. I don't like how charter school options are currently set up, many of them serving as vehicles for people with radical axes to grind at taxpayer expense.  But the idea of unleashing some market forces to supplement… yes… I become decidedly un-leftist over that.
==Leftists vs Liberals==
left-liberal-3dOne major distinction, that I will describe however many times as required, is the divide between "leftists" and "liberals".  Nothing makes more clear the insipidness of modern American political discourse than the failure to make this clear. And of course, anyone who watches Sean Hannity knows what spectacular propaganda-lie efforts are made to conflate these two, and to tar the hundred million or so American blue-liberals with being the same as their side's… ahem… crazy fringe.
Leftists tend to prefer state/socialist/paternalist approaches to everything. They also tend (with much variation) to want to "equalize outcomes."  Hence they are direct enemies of Adam Smith, who taught that competition is the root property that enables human beings to create wealth and solutions to problems. He also taught that competition without careful tuning and regulation is doomed to be suborned by cheaters….
Liberals tend to accept Adam Smith ("the first liberal") in his essence, though millions have been talked into thinking he preached cut-throat, social-darwinism (an outright lie). Liberals know that market capitalism created the cornucopia of overall wealth that made all our subsequent do-gooder efforts possible (e.g. taking on racism and sexism and poverty and environmental neglect). They do not want to kill the golden-egg-laying goose, however many times Hannity repeats that slander.
But that mini-rant wanders afield from the core topic, which is -- can we get the conversation away from insipidly simple-minded doctrines -- that all of our problems stem from too much or too little government? Or the reciprocal… that the behavior of oligarchs and monopolies and market cornering cabals reflects poorly on "capitalism," when flat-fair-open, smithies capitalism is one of the main victims of oligarchy?
Might we start a scientific appraisal of when the tool actually works? When we should somewhat prefer private solutions?  And when we should exercise our mastery as citizens, point our fingers and declare "Wither!" at some agencies and powers that -- by all reason and decency -- no state should ever have?
== Give yourself an ideological checkup =
QuestionnaireNFor years I've circulated a "Questionnaire on Ideology" that  aims to nudge folks into re-evaluating some underlying assumptions. (I collect the responses, but haven't had time or energy to collate or turn them into a publishable study.)
One of the most important questions: "To what do you attribute your own set of beliefs?  And then: how do you think your ENEMIES came to their beliefs?
Among the choices are "logical appraisal of the evidence," or "traits of character and mental ability," or "propaganda and cultural influences."
These can have interesting implications. Indeed, we often tend to say "My beliefs came about from logical appraisal of the evidence," while our opponents are either motivated by greed or propaganda or flaws in their character.
(I've noticed lately that some folks seem to suspect the "gotcha" trap this question offers.  They check "character" as their reason, implying that they have their opinions because they have higher character than those who have differing opinions... though, when pressed, they admit that they do feel they are the logical ones; their foes' opinions came from propaganda, but their own came from logic!)
DisputationArenasArrowCoverOf course all of this boils down my famous "Disputation Arenas" article, where I make the point that the Internet is far - very far - from becoming the "fifth arena" of our Enlightenment…..(see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University) Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition.")
Until internet debates include systems for adjudication and "ritual combat," I see little hope they can become transcendent problem solvers!
== End Pax Americana? ==
A completely different matter is whether the whole world might be better off led by a slightly-farther-ahead America that keeps innovating and stimulating planetary civilization with its ideas, inventions, products, universities and brash culture -- along with the unprecedented general peace that has come from the continuation of a loose and (generally) benign Pax Americana. Or if, perhaps, it is time to move on and accept that an era is over. It's time for Whatever Comes Next (WCN).
If you disdain the first sentence (above), please show me any other era in the history of our species that did even 1% as well for people overall.  And of course, we'd all love to see your plan for WCN.
Post-AmericanIf you would not mind Pax Americana's continuation, and believe it can be mostly benign while (mildly) leading the world toward an elevated plane that becomes more rich, equal and consensual,  then it truly matters whether America is declining -- in real, and not relative terms.
Was that provocative enough for you all?  Then see more about the debates raging over "declinism"… whether the United States is in irreparable tumble, whether it can make a soft landing, whether the appearance of "decline" is only because of the "Rise of the Rest" … or whether America can shake off its early 21st century funk and Civil War, give itself a stiff slap across the kisser, stop wallowing in dystopias and get moving again… amazing the world. (See Fareed Zakaria's The Post-American World.. And the Rise of the Rest.)
That_Used_to_Be_Us_(Cover)That last is the position offered by Thomas L. Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum in That Used to Be Us: How America Fell Behind in the World That It Invented and How We Can Come Back

The book was reviewed in an article, Declinism's Fifth Wave, by Josef Joffe, author of The Myth of America's Decline: Politics, Economics and a Half-century of False Promises. 
Joffe offers his own list of reasons to doubt the "declinists," citing the continuing dominance of U.S. universities in the planet's intellectual life, for example. And the willingness of Canada and the US to continue accepting the bulk of the world's migrants. As for economics: "All the Asian dragons and tigers started out at double-digit speed, then came down like Japan to nothing, or South Korea to 4%" growth, Joffe notes. "The [export-driven] model runs out of steam" because it's based on investment at the cost of consumption, and features too much state interference leading to over-investment in certain sectors, leading to declining marginal returns, he explains.
My own quirky take on it all? When I see science fiction burgeoning in other cultures, I will be willing to talk about their role in WCN.  Till then… no one else is qualified… yet.
Some arguments are iffy. I'd be interested in the way others respond to this book.

37 comments:

Robert said...

And your thoughts on this, Dr. Brin?

http://billmoyers.com/2014/02/21/anatomy-of-the-deep-state/

I'm reminded of a certain President who warned about the Military-Industrial Complex. Well, I think it's been replaced by the Intelligence-Industrial Complex. :/

(Nor do I think Transparency or being able to "spy back" would work - this Deep State won't let that state of affairs happen. But I will say, thank goodness for the Tea Party for inadvertently gumming up the works and disrupting the Powers That Be. I might really dislike the Tea Party for most things... but if they accidentally managed some good with this, then it is worthwhile.)

Rob H.

Andre Gensburger said...

Would it not make more sense to register as independent? You avoid the limitations imposed upon voters designated as Republican our Democrat, and, in essence, will force the candidates to earn your vote. Knowing ahead of time where your party affiliation lies opens you up to limitations on voting and you become a statistic in the rhetoric of that candidate. Thoughts?

James Turner said...

Great news about the bailouts. Agree that oligarchy and elitism is the enemy of real capitalism. Flat-fair-open, as you put it, or 'inclusive' as Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson label it in Why Nations Fail, works miracles in terms of raising the standard of living and harnessing (unleashing?) human potential. You seem to advocate many of the same eminently sensible positions that they do. It's a very good, thought provoking book. If you haven't read it, you'd probably like it.

thelousysloth said...

I'm with Andre, it's about time the right and the left pandered to us independents

: D

Anonymous said...

Re: Fannie and Freddie bailouts.

There is an article in Forbes from last August questioning whether the profits are legitimate. It states that the money came from the quantitative easing program, since the Federal Reserve bought $40 billion a month in packaged mortgages from Fannie and Freddie. You can read the article at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/investor/2013/08/12/fannie-mae-and-freddie-mac-profits-a-creative-accounting-technique/

It's not really much of a trick to show a profit if the government prints the money for the profit.

Andy said...

Hi Dr Brin,

I am curious as to your thoughts regarding the events in Ukraine. What do you see as the best way options for Ukrainians moving forward?

I sometimes peruse a site called the Foreign Policy Journal. Most articles are crazy conspiracy-theory pieces, but occasionally there are very educational and insightful pieces.

I'm trying determine the ratio of insightful to crazy for these articles by Paul Roberts on the situation in Ukraine. Any thoughts?

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/14/russia-under-attack/

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/18/us-and-eu-are-paying-ukrainian-rioters-and-protesters/

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2014/02/25/democracy-murdered-by-protest-ukraine-falls-to-intrigue-and-violence/

Jonathan S. said...

My contact in Kiev (yes, I have a contact in Kiev - the Internet is a wondrous place) says that it's not uncommon for both sides in this current mess to hire protesters. (His mother, a pensioner, was wooed by both, but decided to stay indoors where it was safe instead.)

He also says that most of the people on the street, at least the younger ones, see the Russian Federation as the neighborhood bully, and would prefer to align with the EU as a more forward-looking organization.

David Brin said...

My thoughts on Ukraine are complex. Russia will draw a harsh line vs what they see as annexation of the country by the West. OTOH some push by the West for it to be a healthy and westernizing buffer state, rather than a potemkin controlled satrapy of Moscow, might be called for.

Frankly, this'd be a good strategic use for fracking. Get Ukraine its own gas supply... preferably near Chernobyl where it can't hurt.

SteveO said...

Being involved in higher education (Tier I research university, engineering and applied science) a lot of people are missing the decline going on here. As a nation we have maintained our superior higher education system in spite of ourselves and it is in serious doubt we can continue to do so. Folks I deal with all over my university have a real sense of mission and try to do the best they can, but there are limits to what can be done.

However, a new report shows that given current trends, most states declining funding means the end of publicly funded higher ed within 20 years. In some places, including mine in Colorado, the state will be contributing $0 to higher ed within 5-10 years. As it is, at the University of Colorado, about 4% of our budget now comes from the state. In Colorado it would take a billion state dollars to bring us back to where funding was in 2009 - that is how fast and how deep it has dropped. Undergrad tuition continues to rise, but they only pay a fraction of what it takes to educate them (where I am engineering students only pay about 25% of the cost of their own education, the rest is made up by research money.)

The crisis has gotten little traction in the press, but everyone in publicly funded higher ed knows that the meteor is going to strike, just a question of when.

I am part of a new effort at my university to do what we can to make things more robust (and we have had some early successes and high visibility), but in Colorado the community colleges will be gone in 5 years without intervention, and the nominal state colleges will be de facto private institutions, with tuitions to match.

No one seems to care, since all they hear about on the news is how tuition goes up, and not the other side of the equation about how state funding is all but gone since no one votes for educational investment (a.k.a. taxes) anymore.

Colorado (highest PhD per capita US state) is the worst, but far from the only state in a similar situation.

I don't subscribe to declinalism on the whole, but the social contract seems to have shifted waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay away from "a rising tide lifts all boats" education is a societal investment, and more to a "if you have money it is moral that you keep it, and if you don't, you must be living immorally" screw 'em that can't afford it world view.

Just a view from within one of the remaining shining bastions, looking out over the edge.

Tony Fisk said...

Andre, I think you're missing the point. Registering as a member of your region's main party allows you to have a direct say in who gets to stand. You won't get to do that as an independent.

In a nutshell, vote early and vote often...

LarryHart said...

Anonymous:

It's not really much of a trick to show a profit if the government prints the money for the profit.


This is a tangential point, but I think it's a good idea for the government to print money in a recession. And it's not going to be infaltionary if the supply of dollars in circulation is low because the oligarchs are sitting on dragons-hoards of it. The extra trillions the treasury prints are just making up for the dollars that are being kept out of circulation in the first place.

Randal A. Burd, Jr. said...

I made a new poetry video and would appreciate your feedback. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1UFZsefwSI This is “Journey’s End,” a poem describing the “out of body” experience my late maternal grandfather recounted after having open-heart surgery in the 1990s. He described it as very real — more vivid than a dream — and I wrote this poem to record his experience.

David Brin said...

The Fed's QE program is a disaster, but not because it is increasing the money supply. That has to happen. But because the WAY it is increasing the supply -- by buying bonds in a way that inflates banks and equities, creating a new bubble and most of the new wealth is low-velocity, not actually spent or contributing to economic activity.

The Fed has a legal right to do another thing. Print a whole lot of cash. Run the presses round the clock and hand the president 100 $billion that was never taxed or appropriated and say: "spend this out side the budget, on repairing bridge and such. " Of course Congress truly should be involved there. But such spending would be high velocity and get people to work with jobs ans spending.

Tim H. said...

Something positive here:
http://www.viralnova.com/westboro-church-pickets-girls-funeral/
Thousands of people participated in a candlelight march for a young murder victim, drowning out the westboro scum who came to picket the funeral, and this happened in Springfield, Missouri, the "Reddest" part of the state. I find this hopeful.

Andy said...

Tim, sorry, but that report isn't exactly accurate:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/02/25/fred-no-show-phelps-skips-a-dead-girls-vigil-viralnova-falsely-claims-westboro-baptist-church-was-there-anyway/

Anonymous said...

Thanks for an interesting read. I've commented before on another good read. Came here because of your piece on neo-reactionaries. A welcome counter to those ideas. I enjoy mulling those things that people believe in. Politics, religion, etc... came across this well thought out analysis of fox/hedgehog thinking at
http://www.ribbonfarm.com/2014/02/20/the-cactus-and-the-weasel/#more-4581
Thought you would be interested, if I'm not being presumptuous. Mark

Tim H. said...

Andy, that's a shame, "Let's forget them, better still" would be my preferred solution to that bunch.

locumranch said...

It becomes increasingly clear by that David is an 'Organization Man' of the type first described by W. H. Whyte in 1956 as evidenced by his belief in *the group as the source of creativity, **'belongingness' as the ultimate need of the individual and ***the application of science to achieve this 'belongingness'.

Note (1) how he defends the application of automotive 'CAFE Standards' as a 'spectacular success' (and/or triumph of efficiency) without ever questioning the causative assumptions of our (irrational) automobile culture, (2) how he supports government adventurism & intrusion while claiming to support free-market capitalism & libertarianism, (3) how he redefines the runaway monetary inflation due to the policy of 'quantitative easing' as pure "profit" or found cash and (4) how he insists that the current stagnated state of 'Pax Americana' is neither unnatural nor anti-competitive. The mind boggles.

I, for one, am ready for Whatever Comes Next (WCN), including the destruction of the organizational motif. I welcome the anti-hegemonic revolution brewing in Venezuela, Ukraine, Europe & the Arab Spring; I repudiate the mass conformity of the 'Golden Mean'; I reject the oppressive technological luxuries of the modern age; and I would rather suffer freely as human adult than live forever as a fetus imprisoned in golden womb.

Being 'Utopian' in nature, the 'Looking Back View' and the 'Moving Forward' view are both nonsense because that's what 'utopian' means. "Utopia" is "not a place". It cannot be said to either 'exist' or be 'achievable'... which means that all utopian fantasies are false. Literally speaking, of course.

Best

Tacitus2 said...

Ah, the perils of just running the printing presses overtime...

http://www.strangehistory.net/2012/06/12/worthless-currencies/

Above is from the writings of an erudite pal of mine. He lives in Italy where they know a few things about misguided fiscal policy.

(and I modestly admit to having suggested the topic to him).

Tacitus

who rest assured is charging the political batteries for the year ahead. Oh, my yes.

Antares Cryptos said...

By sheer coincidence, someone mentioned your book on transparency on a recent post of mine.
I strongly believe that the only way to create a just and fair global society, is to use technology to do so.
Such a system would only work if based on honesty and transparency.

If I read correctly your main focus appears to be economic, we've been running in circles chasing power and profit. None of us are prescient, but where transparency should start is to protect vices of the worst that humanity has to offer.

Antares Cryptos said...

Victims not "vices".
My editor is on sabbatical.

LarryHart said...

I'm not allowed to post from work, and am not sure I'll make it "here" tomorrow, so I'll say my piece a day early.

Typing from the middle of the decades-early "blizzard of '32" (from Howard Chaykin's "American Flagg!" comic book), the end of the winter months here in the midwest can't come soon enough, but the weather doesn't look as if it's going to notice the calendar.

This is usually one of my favorite times of the year, not because the weather (in Chicago) is ever great just yet, but because it has stopped getting worse, and is beginning an inexorable upswing that is always filled with promise and potential. More years ago than I care to count (and definitely on a school-based schedule), I recognized a dichotomy between the six consecutive months with seven-or-more letters in the name, which we are about to leave, vs the six consecutive months with fewer-than-seven letters in the name, which are about to begin. The shorter names just have a better "feel" about them to me when I see them on the calendar.

That and the longer days are all we've got going so far, but I take my victories as they come.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Ah, the perils of just running the printing presses overtime...


Jeez, dude, even a liberal like me knows you can't just print money forever and expect it to retain value. You might want to read some Krugman to get the difference between normal times and the "liquidity trap" (his term) we're stuck in which makes it not only possible but desirable to print money without it being infaltionary. Neither Krugman nor myself believe that you can always print extra money without bad consequence, but that the economic circumstances we find ourselves in now make doing so a much better plan than austerity.

The best counterargument against the Weimar/Zimbabwe thing is that it isn't happening. Interest rates remain low as does inflation.

My own personal theory (not Krugman's) is that printing money isn't inflationary when it's offset by the hoarding of cash on the part of the gazillionaires and corporations. Inflation comes when too much money is available in circulation--when the money supply outweighs demand; or restated, demand to spend money outweighs supply of goods and services. This is not the case when so much of our currency is essentially buried in metaphorical caves.

In any case, despite political disagreements, I hope you in Wisconsin and I in Illinois can agree that the polar vortex really sucks!

David Brin said...

Antares Crypto thanks for coming by. My emphasis -- ion The Transparent Society and EARTHY etc -- is not economic. It is about freedom and the power of transparency to make markets, democracy, science and justice work… and all four fail when the participants cannot see.

Here is a link: http://www.scoop.it/t/the-transparent-society

David Brin said...

locum oughta work on a farm cause he does love strawmen! I scratch my head over his imputing that I believe in: "*the group as the source of creativity, **'belongingness' as the ultimate need of the individual and ***the application of science to achieve this 'belongingness'."

Um… what a maroon! Go enjoy yelling at that "David Brin" you erected over there, twit.

His view of Venezuela and the Arab Spring and Ukraine as examples of enlightened risings… well… what a sad-hilarious chuckle I got. Man you shoulda lived in the 1930s and sent us reports from Spain. Orwell describes guys like you.

David Brin said...

We just had only our second rain of the entire season. Help us dance and pray for more, guys!

LarryHart you's smart. Tacitus, you have good instincts but seriously, how many truisms have to get proved wrong by events before you accept that they were wrong?

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

planning a trip to Alaska in the summer...looked up the weather in Valdez AK and on 27 Feb it is 40 frickin' degrees warmer than my town in Wisconsin!!!

David, glad you got some. Rain that is.

The bit about fiat currency was just for fun. The changes in our economy and what we can/should be doing about them are an entirely serious subject. I agree we are not in "normal times" but think we have switched to a "new normal". Old solutions may not serve.

And I freely admit that I am have sometimes been wrong, sometimes right, sometimes waiting to see..

I just don't find myself in debate mode all the time. Or even all that often.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

One graphic shows clearly how profoundly gullible are all the watchers of Fox News. It starts with the Clinton era surpluses then shows the spectacular rise in spending, under republican rule, then even steeper, after they torched the economy. It shows federal spending almost perfectly FLAT under Obama, proving the one truth that should make any fiscals conservative vote democrat. That the 2nd derivative of deficit is ALWAYS negative under democrats and almost always positive under goppers.

Show this. Remind your crazy uncle that we narrowly avoided a second great depression.

This is not about classic left-right issues. It is about insanity.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/28/business/economy/federal-deficit-falls-to-smallest-level-since-2008.html?hp&_r=0

Robert said...

Looking at Obama's foreign policy and how he's been trodding on American civil rights, I'm strongly thinking that I made a big mistake in 2008 by voting for Obama. If only McCain had stuck to his guns and nominated Lieberman as his VP instead of that idiot Palin... we had "vote for Hope despite the fact it's a lie" vs. "vote for the truth with a 90% chance of an idiot gaining the Presidency if McCain dies."

Rob H.

Antares Cryptos said...

Thank you for you reply and the link. We are on the same page. Parallel thinking, I suppose. It is fascinating how similar our thoughts are on this subject. Using implants to record live feeds (although I did not call it such), to record crimes in progress was in one of my short Sci Fi stories. Never published. Thought it was silly. I stand corrected. Here is my link:

http://www.antarescryptos.blogspot.com/2014/02/the-end-of-privacy-beginning-of.html?m=1

Nice to meet you.

Tony Fisk said...

"locum oughta work on a farm cause he does love strawmen!
... Go enjoy yelling at that "David Brin" you erected over there, twit."


Being in a mildly silly mood, I suggest yelling at this one. (From a brief viewing, the episode does contain uplifted turnips and a postman)

Tony Fisk said...

Robert, you really believe McCain would have trampled any lighter?

Looking with the current crop of Australian conservatives in government, the only good thing I have to say about them is that at least they're so incompetent they can't stand up long enough to actually pass any of their (awful) legislation. This could change in July when the senate shifts to a more favourable stance, but it will be full of mavericks and be a regular exercise in cat herding. Just to add to the fun, the WA senate election was declared void after 1300 (critical) votes were lost. New elections in April.

Robert said...

Actually? Yes. I believe that McCain would have immediately stomped out any trace of torture or any work-arounds. He probably would have said "wait a minute" concerning violations of the rights of American citizens. And he'd have been more aggressive when it comes to foreign policy, meaning we'd not have half-fast foreign policies that do nothing and end up making the U.S. look toothless and powerless.

He probably would have ramped up military spending... but that would have helped reduce the economic slump. And Democrats would have worked with him so we'd have hopefully seen less gridlock. Indeed, I'd be willing to bet we'd not see the Tea Party currently causing so many problems... which is a mixed blessing seeing that the Tea Party is also busy causing trouble for the Deep Government and Government Intelligence Industry.

If Republicans had seized the House in 2010 and even the Senate, then we'd also have seen the Republican Party proceed to vote in largesses for themselves and their rich cohorts. Our economy would not be nearly as good as it is now, and it would be blamed fully on the Republicans. No doubt the Republican Party would proceed to self-destruct a decade earlier rather than probably in 2022 (two years after the next Census).

Though personally I know how to kill current gerrymandering - increase the number of Representatives by 100, and have them be "remote access Representatives" who use computers to attend sessions and committees. The resulting influx of new Representatives would distort current lines to the point that we'd have fewer safe districts and a greater likelihood of actual competition for districts.

But mostly we'd not have Obama, who I have at this point realized is becoming a worse president than George W. Bush. I did not vote for that man in 2008 only to see him prove so many people so very wrong. And if anything is responsible for the ongoing strength (however faint) of the Republican Party right now, it's Obama chasing away young voters who are saying "why bother? They're all corrupt, my vote was wasted" and energizing Republican voters who say "my side may stink so horribly that a skunk smells like roses by comparison, but they are still far better than Obama."

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Actually? Yes. I believe that McCain would have immediately stomped out any trace of torture or any work-arounds. He probably would have said "wait a minute" concerning violations of the rights of American citizens. And he'd have been more aggressive when it comes to foreign policy, meaning we'd not have half-fast foreign policies that do nothing and end up making the U.S. look toothless and powerless.

He might have tried harder to treat prisoners properly, though that seems like something Obama has tried to do and just kind of failed at. McCain is more seasoned, and might have had more success.

And yes, the man who sang "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" would have had a more aggressive foreign policy. That was the whole reason I voted for Obama. I'm never going to get to vote for a man of peace, not in this country, but I can vote for the lesser warmonger.

locumranch said...

As David attests, I do live on an actual farm which is why I have such an easy time identifying this product as intellectual fertilizer. That said, I must apologise for being obtuse -- for using verbal shorthand -- instead of being plain & direct, a situation I will try to correct.

To wit, I accuse David of credulity, firstly, for buying into the Smithian myth of a non-empiric 'invisible hand' in the marketplace, secondly, for his thoughtless acceptance of the hegemonic principles of 'Scientific Management', thirdly, for equivocating the democratic for the hegemonic and, fourthly, for confusing libertarianism with elitism and/or expertism (which, by no coincidence, is also the defining characteristic of scientific management).

Now, I would be glad to justify the above assertion in some detail and show, by the process of historical progression, that the reality of our current social, political and economic predicament is quite different, much less complex and much easier to rectify than David suggests.

Best

David Brin said...

locum, living on a farm does not make you expert on other peoples' manure. It inures you and deadens you to the smell of your own!

Glorioski, instead of defending the four previous utterly countrrfactual and hilarious attempts to cram things I never believed into a strawman with "david brin" on its placard...

... he comes up with four NEW utterly countrrfactual and hilarious attempts to cram things I never believed!

"buying into the Smithian myth of a non-empiric 'invisible hand' in the marketplace, secondly, for his thoughtless acceptance of the hegemonic principles of 'Scientific Management', thirdly, for equivocating the democratic for the hegemonic and, fourthly, for confusing libertarianism with elitism and/or expertism (which, by no coincidence, is also the defining characteristic of scientific management)."

woooooooooooooo!

David Brin said...

onward