Monday, November 03, 2014

A World of Ruperts - back to the future

Just in time for the year that Robert Zemeckis - in Back To The Future - said we would have hoverboards… suddenly, it looks like a crude version of Marty MacFly’s little floating plank may be on the way!
Indeed, I was interviewed about hoverboards just a month ago, on Dweebcast.
== The World of Ruperts ==
Rupert Sheldrake is back, this time roiling waters on a TedX talk that TED then (controversially) banned. You can see the smooth-talking savanarola here: The Science Delusion - Banned TED Talk.
Now please understand I am not bemoaning RS standing on a stage proclaiming "there's tentative evidence that there may be more to our universe than meets the eye." In fact, I have been known to use similar concepts in my novels! Some of my characters in the Uplift Books have basic psi powers, for example, enhanced by future tech.
On the other hand, I have to be deeply loyal to the date who brought me to this party -- a party that gave me - and most of you - the first freedom from fear, want, oppression and grinding ignorance in the history of this (and possibly any) species. I deeply resent bombasts who milk and stir NOT skeptical inquiry but reflexive suspicion and hostility toward a "scientific establishment"... which, to the small extent that any such "establishment" even exists, is past-all-doubt and by orders of magnitude the wisest collection of genuine sages our world has ever seen.
The ultimate irony? Were we forced to choose topmost elites to rule us, the 1930s technocrats were right and scientists would be by far best. (See the 1930s film Things To Come.) But scientists would refuse! They are the ones who understand the need for reciprocal accountability and the dangers of hypnotic delusion that corrupt the minds of anyone who is not subjected to relentless scrutiny and lateral criticism... the sort of lateral accountability that oligarchs suppressed in 99% of past cultures and that would-be lords like the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch and his Saudi partners seek to impose, today.
Is Sheldrake applying lateral criticism? Or just more hypnotic delusions? Any scientifically trained person who watches him or reads his screeds can tell.
If he were to say, "here are TEN EXPERIMENTS that I now challenge the world to perform. I do not proclaim any conspiracies to evade them. Moreover, I will modify them if scientific critics suggest ways for them to be better targeted and less vague or tendentious, and above-all well-falsifiable. Moreover, if these experiments are null-result, then verified, I will back off in that category and admit that science is not blind to alternative possibilities."
He won't do that. He is part of the pan spectrum attempt to undermine science. And that I won't abide.   See my essay about psi that ran in SKEPTIC: Parapsychology and the Need to Believe.
== The Weather – or more from Ruperts (this one a Murdoch) ==
Here's another major IQ test for cable news watchers to utterly fail. Can warming of the Arctic cause major cold waves to devastate Eurasia (and sometimes North America)? The answer is way-yes. 

Warming has caused the sea ice pack in the Arctic to decline so steeply that the Russians are opening twelve new ports -- and military bases -- which the US and Canadian navies take very seriously. (There are no denialist-cultists in the senior officer corps.) But what about those frigid winters?
It's called... science.   See this article: "When they ran the computer models under low sea ice scenarios and compared them to simulations using high sea ice cover, they found that low sea ice, which closely matches recent conditions, made the occurrence of an unusually cold winter over Eurasia twice as likely to occur." Because the weakened jet stream is more liable to twist and dip the Arctic's winter-chilled air further south.
But the Koch machine will talk millions into muttering "if winter is cold, there can't be this global warming scam!"
== Speaking of Ruperts ==
An  important article about one of the great cop-outs of all time. "When politicians say - “I’m not a scientist,” it is an exasperating evasion. It’s a cowardly way to avoid answering basic and important policy questions. This response raises lots of other important questions about their decision-making processes. Do they have opinions on how to best maintain our nation’s highways, bridges, and tunnels—or do they not because they’re not civil engineers? Do they refuse to talk about agriculture policy on the grounds that they’re not farmers? How do they think we should be addressing the threat of ISIS? They wouldn’t know, of course; they’re not military generals," writes David Shiffman on Slate.
To be clear, no one is asking them to stop taking advice from generals regarding war or engineers regarding infrastructure. (In fact, both are dissed and ignored almost as much as scientists are.) Rather, it is the mockery and abuse of science, followed by this cop-out whenever the dolts on the US House Science, Technology and Space Committee are cornered with specific questions.
These are cowardly loonies, who continue in office only because of cable news moguls. Thanks Rupert. But this will not wind up going well for you.

== What Hath Rupert Wrought? ==

You have seen me inveigh about gerrymandering, a blatant cheat that some blue state citizenries have toppled... but that is an art form never challenged in red states.  How any honest decent person can look at this practice, knowing "this is how my side stays in power" and not feel shame... is proof that honesty and decency are on the wane, in many places.

I've offered some unique suggestions for how you can fight back against this crime!  Every democrat in a gerried Republican district (and vice versa!) should re-register in the party OF that district!  At minimum it will screw their calculations and models.  It will also give you a vote in the primary, the only election that matters anymore.  See it laid down here. And this time use the method, before 2016!  Get others to hold their noses and use it, too.

(Did you hear me, Austin Texas?  I'm talking to you.)

But a friend -- "Talin" -- wrote in with an even better suggestion.  'Pass a bill that all legislators get 1000 sq. ft. of office space... that must be shaped like their district." Indeed, I would apply that to living quarters, as well.

And yes, while gerrymandering was invented long ago... it was perfected by  the cabal that is controlled by Rupert. And by his partners and co-Fox-owners in Riyadh.

And now... back to ... the future!
== At the edge of Human ==
51WPpcrB96L Posthuman Life: Philosophy at the Edge of the Human by David Roden argues that the debate over human enhancement “projects a human face onto an empty screen.” This includes both optimists and pessimists like Francis Fukayama (author of “Our Posthuman Future.”) Says Roden — we actually do not know what will happen and, not being posthuman, cannot anticipate how posthumans will assess the world.
As reviewed by Kurzweil News, Roden's book posits “speculative posthumanism” as distinguished from both "Critical Posthumanism” – a philosophical look at humanity in relation to  epistemology, ethics and politics; and  "Transhumanism" – which looks to enhancing the technical advancement of humans and their capacities. Roden's book discusses how post humanism can fully integrate with the future transformations of technology.
== Re-evaluating our origins ==
kon-tikiThis is amazing! Recent genetic appraisal of native inhabitants of Easter Island - or Rapa Nui -suggests that their Polynesian ancestors interbred with South American tribes between 1300 and 1500 CE, just before the Spanish conquest. If verified, it would resurrect the theories of Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian explorer and author of Kon-Tiki, a book that enthralled my generation, back in the 1960s, proposing that Easter Island had been settled by raft-voyagers setting out from the region of Peru.
Heyerdahl "proved" his case by constructing a raft in the fashion of pre-Incan Peruvians and arriving successfully at Rapa Nui. Only subsequent scholars determined for a fact that Rapa Nuians were descended (mostly) from Polynesians and had thoroughly Polynesian culture. Whereupon Heyerdahl -- whose feat set off the "recreation of ancient arts" trend that is so cool in our culture -- fell into obscurity. Now though? How cool to explore, recreate… and eventually be proven (partly) right.
Of course there was some implicit racism in Heyerdahl's thesis… and it seems more likely that the far-voyaging Polynesians were the ones doing the traveling. Still... This article continues on to reveal some even bigger mysteries!
== Science Snippets ==
Scientists experiment with robotic bacteria. 
Earth's magnetic field could flip within a human lifetime!
3D gun makes - and shoots(!) paper planes. Okay, now I am just proud to be human.
Fascinating look at medicine: The NNT index measures how many people need to take a drug for one person to benefit.  This one could be important to you!
And finally... Australian researchers are attempting to use the highly sensitive antennae sensors of the common fruit fly (drosophila melanogasterto detect illegal drugs and explosives.If this works, you’ll have a chemical sniffer on your phone, in some years.
== Today's stealth message ==

Don't just stand there. Vote. Get others out too.

 For the Enlightenment Experiment.

A future is at stake.  Let's get back to it.


Duncan Cairncross said...

I would question the
Lapse back into obscurity of Heyerdahl,
He did several more similar expeditions with reed boats and worked on a number of important excavations
His example has been followed by dozens of archeological engineers who try and make things using ancient descriptions in order to physically test them
One of the ones I liked the most was the "Brendan Boat" - replication the voyage of St Brendan using a leather boat

Overall Thor Heyerdahl had a major effect on archeology

Changing the subject I really liked
"IMHO it was the lack of the concept of “Loyal Opposition” that knackered the Soviet System."

Alex Tolley said...

@Duncan - I agree about Heyerdahl. He did the Ra expedition as well that wasn't exactly obscure. BTW - recommend the docudrama "Kontiki".

What I think was most important about Heyerdahl was that he was doing experimental science, in what was a humanities subject. Archaeology has come a long way forward in experimental work since then.

Alex Tolley said...

Sheldrake - his original idea that was expounded in "Supernature" did have experiments. Ultimately they were found wanting and science moved on.

It seems that he has joined those like Veliskovsky, von Daniken and the religious evangelists in preferring to espouse popular nonsense rather than doing real science.

That he did a TED talk is not a problem. TED doesn't proclaim that the presented ideas are correct. What was once a fairly serious endeavor has just become entertainment, with a relatively low signal to noise ratio.

I think that there is still a market gap for serious science/ideas presented in an entertaining way via video that falls between documentaries and phluff.

David Brin said...

I so dig the world Heyerdahl sparked, of TV-enabled recreation-experimental archaeology. To visit a museum and see a working antekithera device or Baghdad battery or Babbage engine is joy.

Alex: " think that there is still a market gap for serious science/ideas presented in an entertaining way via video that falls between documentaries and phluff."

Um... some of us are trying.

Alfred Differ said...

My experience with serious science ideas presented in an entertaining way is that the public isn't science literate enough to go past the whiz-bang approach. One exception seems to be space-related projects that produce something of artistic value.

I remember years ago learning what a Taylor series expansion was and thinking it was just a cold, mathematical tool. Later on I got to learn about how we approximate small vibrations or variations from equilibrium and the math came back to me with a very different lesson. When you can't know everything about a system, you approximate things of interest. This concept is at the root of any demonstration that all our knowledge is experimental and approximate. The realization hit me as profound, but I've never seen a narrative that can explain to the public what I felt that day. I suspect many scientists miss the profoundness too, so it might be more than a market gap.

Larry C. Lyons said...

The thing about Heyerdahl's work is that while he showed it was possible, he did NOT show that it happened, with the St. Brendan, Kontiki or with the Ra expeditions.

Alex Tolley said...

@larry - I think the point is that Heyerdahl was able to show that the trips were possible, and therefore could not be ruled out a priori. I recall something similar about hot air balloons for directing the construction of the various Naczca line/figures.

These are not perfect experiments - as the Kontiki expedition had help plus maps and compasses to aid navigation. Nevertheless it showed that the trip could have been made. Similarly, the Ra expedition showed that a reed ship could cross the Atlantic which would have been dismissed until shown possible. That doesn't mean that the trips were made in antiquity, only that if evidence came to light to support the journeys, that are argument that it was impossible because ships were unable to make those voyages, could no longer be used.

David Brin said...

Ironically, the reverse trip seems more likely. The Polynesians were the great travelers. But it would happen before the Rapa Nuians chopped every tree.

Alex Tolley said...

Ironically, the reverse trip seems more likely.

From Rapa Nui to S. America? Don't the ocean winds and currents make that very difficult? Kontiki made much use of known winds and currents, determining when the voyage could be made and requiring following the main currents as closely as possible.

Matt G said...

W.R.T the chemical sniffer using tricks gleaned from antennae,

I have to think that we are getting closer every day to having a working Star Trek tricorder in our phones, given the existing accelerometers, cameras, radio, GPS, audio, and bio sensors (such as thumbprint detection and fit bit)

David Brin said...

see the tricorder x prize! I know those guys.

Michael G. said...

One of the interesting questions for me is how a civilization based on the expectation of constant disruptive change will respond to a slowdown in innovation across the spectrum. If we model progress as S-curves, maybe we’ve already passed through the steepest, exponential phase of our growth in many important areas, and are now entering a phase of rapidly diminishing returns? For example, in energy use, spaceflight, transportation, rate of invention, scientific discovery, etc., isn’t there a pretty good case for this? Where does fundamental physics go after the LHC? After decades of research and billions of dollars, is nuclear fusion significantly closer? When will humans travel beyond low earth orbit again? Information technology is still in an exponential phase, but for how much longer? And in terms of societal and cultural innovation, we seem to be almost at a standstill already.

Isn’t the return of feudalism, religious conservatism and other forms of traditionalism a likely response to this slowing down of progress? If our civilization shows little sign of being able to colonize space, or harness unlimited cheap energy, or “cure death”, or control the climate, or many of the other science fictional visions, what is going to keep the “Star Trek” story going? When I look around, I don’t see much reason to hope for such a future any longer (tricorders and communicators aren’t the keys to a Star Trek world!), and I wonder what new myths will replace it. Any thoughts?

locumranch said...

There is a reason why our scientists make lousy leaders and our leaders make lousy scientists:

Leaders govern by moral authority and tend to see the world in the preconceived terms of 'should' and 'ought to be', whereas Scientists observe, reject our moral preconceptions and try to describe the world as it actually is, meaning that science involves the rejection of preconceived (moral) notions while governance requires the systematic (moral) rejection of reality.

The world becomes a funny funny place when you keep this truism in mind as all the great social controversies of our time (violence, sexuality, abortion, political correctness & climate change, to name a few) transform themselves into hilarious slapstick-style comedy routines.

Loved Thor Heyerdahl, btw, especially his adventures on the Kon-tiki, Ra & Ra II which demonstrate that even little scientific experiments can silence even the most vocal moral-historical authorities & their well-established preconceptions.


Alex Tolley said...

@Michael - There is an issue with your approach to technology S-curves, and that is you are looking backwards. IOW you see the "big" technologies that have made a difference, but inevitably they have now run their courses. In contrast, new technologies that are at the start of their growth period are relatively invisible.

It is generally believed that a turn to religious certainties is due to rapid technologically induced social change, not the other way around. (c.f. Toffler's "Future Shock").

Anonymous said...

Off topic, there's a 1915 post-apocalyptic short story by Jack London called "The Scarlet Plague" that I just read. It can be found on Project Gutenberg:

Outside the interesting fact that Jack London wrote science fiction(!) and that it's a pretty good read, the story immediately struck me as the anti-Postman.

Similar character and setting: former academic roaming depopulated, primitive California. And the theme is about the robustness (or lack) of civilization. There are a lot of other interesting parallels.

Unlike The Postman, though, the main character refuses to act at several points and has simply fallen into becoming a passive observer of the collapse. The one affirmative action he had taken (stockpiling scientific texts), he muses will make no difference in the end.

I was curious, David, if you were aware of Jack London's short story and if The Postman was intended to be a rebuttal to that pessimistic tale?

Alex Tolley said...

Rule by scientists - technocracy is not necessarily a good approach to run an economy. It can lead to bad decisions, e.g. "picking technology winners" (like Japan's MITI) that may fail abysmally. Better to have scientists provide input to rulers and ensure tat rulers cannot ignore that input for capricious reasons (e.g. drugs policy).

David Brin said...

Locum clearly knows zero scientists.

Anon. it has been many years. I must revisit the London story.

Alfred Differ said...

Modelling a particular technology or process with an S-curve makes some sense. Modelling those of us who use these things that way is the kind of error one makes when they mistake a tree for the forest. A tree might prosper or die independent of the health of the forest.

We are probably following a series of S-curves where we leap from one to the next when the conditions are ripe. Innovation results in new tech, thus new S-curves. Since innovation is predictable only in the sense that black swans are predictable, some have difficulty having any confidence in them. The more billions of us get involved in the markets, though, the more confident I am that statistics will win the day.

Re: Rule by Scientists: I've never been a fan of this. I know far too many of us who feel we know better than the average schmuck, so they should do as we tell them. That's a terribly bad idea because what we do know well doesn't have the depth necessary to enable better choices for Mr and Mrs Average. People must be left to make their own decisions using their own knowledge most of the time or the markets fail. What we CAN do is help improve that knowledge.

The one saving grace of rule by scientists is that many of us would abdicate leaving people to fend for themselves. If we all did it, we'd have people acting on their own knowledge, but nature abhors a vacuum. 8)

matthew said...

Right now we have rule by lawyers. How well is that working out?

Or rule by MBA? Do you know *anyone* with an MBA that you would trust to make a life and death decision? I don't. Not one.

How about rule by Doctors? John Kitzhaber seems to do well, but Rand and Ron Paul, as well as Monica Webhy argue against it.

Let's see? Rule by carpenters? That got tried 2000 years ago. Balls up big mess.

Rule by teachers? I've lived through that in the redneck hinterland. No thanks.

Rule by English majors? I've had enough post-modernism for five lifetimes.

How about plumbers? At least the shit will get cleaned up, but we'd have to pay them on Fridays.

Lars said...

Getting back to Heyerdahl - I don't know where my copy of Aku-Aku got to, but as I recall, as part of the archeological expedition described in that book, they visited the Galapagos, as well as Easter Island. On the Galapagos they found fragmentary pottery typical of the Inca and contemporary coastal indigenous South American cultures, which suggests very strongly that South Americans could and did sail significant distances across the Pacific. And it would have had to have been on their balsa rafts - there are no records that the Inca had other types of ocean-going vessels.
So Heyerdahl not only promoted a theory (that pre-Columbian South American cultures had the technology for blue-water voyages on the Pacific), he tested it by the Kon-Tiki voyage, and again by finding hard evidence of a pre-Columbian South American presence on Pacific Islands that are a significant distance from the mainland.

Alfred Differ said...


You are describing a well known stereotype for scientists. Life isn't that simple. We are just as human as everyone else.

Science at the very root of it is a set of human customs for how we approach thorny philosophical issues. How do we decide that some subjective data is good enough to treat as if it was objective? What do we treat as permissible evidence and what can't be permitted? It's all about our customs, thus it is an entirely human enterprise. Set aside stereotypes that say otherwise.

Alfred Differ said...

Rule by any particular elite is a concept I toss out no matter who the elite is. Rule in general is a bad idea, but it is made much worse when the elite has a narrow base of experience. Education is not experience let alone on-site knowledge, so it isn't enough. I'll accept that it is better than ignorance, though, and far better than lack-of-curiosity. 8)

LarryHart said...


I'd vote for rule by writers and artists.

Of course, that would lead to a long argument about what an "artist" is.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Rule in general is a bad idea, but it is made much worse when the elite has a narrow base of experience.

Which is why I cringe when a candidate says he'll run government "like a business". The presumption is that "like a business" is the best way to do anything.

That's why I suggested writers and artists. They (we?) tend to at least consider points of view other than their own.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Rule by any particular elite is a concept I toss out no matter who the elite is.

I'll say this though, and with a large dose of trepidation about today's elections in the US:

Rule by Republicans sucks pond water.

Alfred Differ said...

heh. Rule by SOME Republicans sucks pond water. I know a few I'd tolerate here in California.

When it comes to 'Rule like a ...' analogies, I'll tolerate running government like a business before I'll tolerate running it like an extended family. Family management works well for extended families and small tribes, but sucks for communities and nations. Unless we can agree on the basics associated with the resource management problem (budgeting, scarce resource assignment, etc), we have to set up markets and use competition or people starve who didn't have to starve. If running it as a business means running it like a large family, then it gets a thumbs down from me. I've worked for businesses that were competitive internally (meritocracies), though, and I'd tolerate that.

David Brin said...

If you ever had to do the paperwork to TRAVEL under a government contract, the incredible prissy attention of every detail and double check would fill you with hostility...

..till you stopped and realized, it is all to make sure there's no corruption and waste of taxpayer dollars. There is absolutely no such attention to nitpicking care in business or private life. No one points out this is exactly as things should be, and is a kind of intense transparency where it is needed most... at the one power center that has a right to use force.

Ideally, computer AI will make the surfacial agony of this nit-picking accountability less onerous. One can hope.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

heh. Rule by SOME Republicans sucks pond water. I know a few I'd tolerate here in California.

Fair enough. I was thinking more along the lines of "Rule by the Republican party

When it comes to 'Rule like a ...' analogies, I'll tolerate running government like a business before I'll tolerate running it like an extended family

The reason I come down badly on "run government like a business" is because people who say that seem to think government can be run under rules designed to maximize profit and dump responsibilities for externalities. Neither of those is what governing is for. You might as well try to referee a football game by msximizing points.

Hillary Clinton just got into trouble for saying corporations don't create jobs or something of that sort. But she's not entierly wrong--to the extent that corporations do create jobs, that's certainly not their purpose, as any follower of Ayn Rand will gleefully point out themselves. Wages are a cost, which is something the corporation works to minimize. Jobs are a by-product of the corporation, not its purpose, and too often treated as a kind of toxic by-product at that.

Government treating its services as a cost to be minimized is not a good thing.

Robert said...

Seeing we're nominally still talking science here, Dr. Brin, early human trials are going on for anti-aging formulas that aim to improve the quality of life of older people through enzymes that keep up skeletal muscle mass and the like.

Now here's an interesting question. If this proves to be a viable method of improving the quality of life for older people and reversing some aspects of aging (in essence making people into Númenóreans from LotR - they lived a youthful life for most of their lives and then in the last few years would age rapidly and then die)... and if this actually works so that muscle mass and quality doesn't decline even at the point of death... then might we actually see an extension of life past 100 just because people are healthier?

Just something to think about.

Rob H.

raito said...


Yes, I know an MBA I trust to make life and death decisions. In fact, I have legal papers saying that this MBA gets to make them for me.

It's my wife. Then again, she's also a scientist (chemist) and engineer (chemical).

I try to not tar everyone with the same brush.

But I'm curious. How many MBA's do you know?

David Brin said...

The fact that American scientists feel perfectly free to get an MBA or law degrees as a supplement is one sign the American education system has huge advantages.

Delayed senescence for all sounds great, tho it would get self-righteous boomers around as an irritation.

What scares me is head transplants. Old rich guys may buy whole bodies.

Tony Fisk said...

Well, I have half an MBA, and half a PhD (M.Sc.) so maybe I'm only half untrustworthy?
Maybe it helps, the order of qualification?

Duncan Cairncross said...

I also have half an MBA (a DMS)
(Diploma in Management Studies)

IMHO there is nothing wrong with a professional engineer or scientist getting an MBA as an additional qualification
BUT an MBA as a stand alone qualification is just silly

Incidentally its just the anglophone countries that seem to suffer under the delusion that there is such a thing as a "manager"
In other countries management is a skill that is used by professionals - people who are engineers or accountants who then use managerial skills in their jobs

LarryHart said...

@Duncan Cairncross:

In other countries management is a skill that is used by professionals - people who are engineers or accountants who then use managerial skills in their jobs

It used to be like that here too. Guys like Henry Ford could ptobably have done any task being performed in his factory.

Paul451 said...

Re: Rule by Scientists.

But which scientists and how to choose them? It first requires capital-S "Scientists", and that alone seems like a bad path. Wouldn't "the spirit of sovereignty render them equally bad scientists"? (To paraphrase Smith.)

"the interesting fact that Jack London wrote science fiction(!)"

London also wrote a future-history, "The Iron Heel", about the rise of an oligarchic society in the US (and from there around the world.)

Tacitus2 said...

The electoral outcome that I had been sort of alluding to has come to pass...and then some.

I allow the campaign workers a night of tension release. Otherwise, not a time for celebration, better a time for sober reflection.

1. The electorate craves competence like a thirsty man in the desert. Better deliver some or your mirage of a mandate vanishes.

2. As has been true for generations, self identified conservatives outnumber their liberal counterparts about 1.5 to 1.

3. Better candidates. Were it not against my usual posting discipline that one should be all caps. Consider the first openly gay R congressman ( San Diego, so perhaps now DBs guy in congress?). A grandmother/National Guard commander/farm girl trounces a Trial Lawyer who expressed contempt for farmers. In Iowa. A female, black, Mormon R congresswoman from Utah. A black R Senator from the bizzaro state of South Carolina, where a female Indian American also is governor.

I expect, and hope for the D party to revisit not their basic principles. I applaud those after all. But their way of doing business these past years.....the voters did not approve.


Robert said...

I've four things I'll forecast as a result of this.

#1. Later today, Dr. Brin will post a new article on Contrary Brin concerning the Republican trouncing of Democrats in the House and Senate. He will talk about gerrymandering, voter suppression, the need for Democrats in Red States to register as Republicans, and how the Republicans are bad for the nation and won't do anything for the next two years.

#2. Republicans will state this is because of Obamacare and will as their first action in the next congressional session vote to repeal Obamacare. They will not provide an alternative. They will likely eliminate the filibuster, having warned Democrats that their tinkering with the filibuster was a bad thing. Even if Democrats are unable to stop the repeal vote in the Senate, Obama will veto this, and outside of multiple repeals sent through the House and Senate and facing presidential veto, nothing will be done concerning Obamacare.

#3. There will be a cry to impeach Obama. There will be a lot of noise among some Republicans, but ultimately it will not come about because Republicans know they would need to assassinate 11 Democratic Senators in order to bring this about. (Mind you, if they could through ethics committees force the retirement of those 11 Senators, they could try for that. I doubt they will. This will be much ado about nothing.)

#4. Nothing will happen in Congress for the next two years. Outside of budgets defunding the EPA, IRS, and Obamacare that Obama will veto, and the attempts to negate Obamacare, we will not see any immigration reform. We will not see tax reform. We will not see abortion legislation. We won't see any legislation. The Republicans in Congress won't try to pass anything significant because if Obama signs it into law, it is tainted and gives Obama something to his name.


Dr. Brin, there is one other thing I'd like to toss out there. Could you put your mind to how the President could, through Executive Action, enact a National Voter ID system that would utilize databases in Social Security and the IRS, be run by the FBI (to prevent voter fraud), and be funded by the States? Basically, I think Obama should say "there are some significant concerns about voter fraud, and rather than allow a piecemeal system enacted by the States, the Federal Government should run this. It will be computerized so that if someone votes more than once, we can detect it and investigate it promptly." And Republicans would end up gnashing their teeth but be unable to stop this because they are the ones pushing voter ID... so if Obama steals their storm and enacts it in a standardized system that is fair and doesn't hurt low-income voters... then attempts to suppress the vote through voter ID systems will fail. And any state that tries to do so anyway can be sued by the Federal Government because this system already exists on a Federal level.

Rob H.

matthew said...

I *do* know quite a few MBAs. Dozens, if not a hundred. In my experience, the professionals that feel a need to add an MBA their advanced degrees simply want to be the people in charge. Personal professional advancement. They have been uniformly the worst of the engineers and scientists I've worked with. If you cannot do the work, become the manager.

On the other hand, those that have MBAs without other advanced degrees are the lowest of the low. I've worked for three manufacturing firms run by this type of amoral wretch.

The simple fact is the MBA is the easiest advanced degree to earn, with the highest payback. It attracts the flimflam artist, the backslapper, and the crony.

A pox on Business Administration.

Side Note: I do understand that I am painting with a broad brush here. Just because I have never met a decent one in my 100+ interactions with MBAs doesn't mean that they do not exist. I've never seen a unicorn either.

David Brin said...

Simple. Angry white males whose fathers adored FDR and supported unions are now outraged that the country is no longer what they recognize. They voted (and cheated) and others did not.

There were no ideas or issues, since actually looking at factual outcomes would not let anyone touch the GOP with a burnt match. Just fear and anger.

Note also that almost all of the Senate seats up for election were in Red States. What did you expect?

Ah, but now... Mitch McConnell Promises Cooperation and Compromise... Oh yes? Prove it. Finally hold hearings on the President's appointments and judges. Pass through all but the worst -- which all Senates have done for 200 years. Do it in the next month, while the dems still have options. Democrats, in turn, should make it clear: either this happens by December 15, or Harry Reid and the dems will hold one all-nighter and ratify every single Obama nominee.

No promises from the party whose Hastert Rule declared war on normal politics. No blithe/smarmy assurances that NOW there will be collegiality and negotiation. Today's GOP has blocked more presidential appointments than the entire rest of the history of the United States of America. .. combined. If they do not move all current appointments through the process by December 1st, Reid and the dems must assume that McConnell is just playing out the clock. Assume that our situation is still what Republicans have always called it. War.

PS... If Ruth Bader Ginsburg does not resign, right now, every liberal in America should write her a polite letter, then get ready to actively picket her.

Meanwhile, Oregon legalized pot and California de-felonized drug possession, proving that any libertarian who votes Republican is a flaming hypocrite, especially since dems also are the ones who deregulate excess government. (Yes, you heard that right.)

In fact, by outcomes, there is no question: Califonia keeps doing better and better and better under the governor we just re-elected by staggering majority. And I don't care that he's in his seventies.

Jerry Brown in 2016!

Anonymous said...

@David Brin
Talk about being pathetically bitter.

One thing:
"In fact, by outcomes, there is no question: Califonia keeps doing better and better and better under the governor we just re-elected by staggering majority. And I don't care that he's in his seventies."

better and better and better? Not even close:
BTW, Texas thanks you for your voting choices.

Robert said...

You have to wonder just how loudly both sides would screech if a political candidate had the courage to actually say this. That said... there are ways in which this nation still is the greatest. Because I'm not sure if any of those nations that are doing better than us for education, health care, happiness, life expectancy, or the like has quite the number of opportunities or for companies to flourish and innovate like in the United States.

Then again, I may very well be blind because I live here. And companies may come here merely because of the potential for profit due to a combination of a large population that still has buying power and the like and the liberties that exist here, varying from state to state.

Rob H.

A.F. Rey said...

Here's a good one. The National Review gives the incoming Republican senate some advice: don't govern well, only enough to win the next election.

Robert said...

Here's another interesting article: The winner of the 2014 elections? Hillary Clinton. Because Republicans did not do significantly better with White Voters than they did in 2012. And the Hispanic Vote fluctuates between presidential and mid-term elections... so unless Republicans are able to massively suppress the minority vote, Republicans will lose the Presidency in 2016.

Further, it points out that of the 23 Republican Senators up for reelection in 2016, a number are in Blue or Purple states that voted Obama. Their only hope is to have good-quality candidates like the chap who won Colorado - candidates who can reskin themselves to appear like the type of candidates Independents and moderate/conservative Democrats would vote for.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Sheldrake lays a nice foundation with his questions, then proceeds to build castles of spun sugar on it. I don't know his definition of "consciousness" but I have a funny feeling we'd disagree.

LarryHart said...


The electorate craves competence like a thirsty man in the desert. Better deliver some or your mirage of a mandate vanishes.

100% agreement here. That is exactly why Democrats swept congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008. It wasn't because voters turned socialist. It was because the Bush Administration's incompetence became too obvious to ignore.

And I reiterate what I said a few posts back--candidate Obama had such a brilliant political strategy in 2008 that it's hard to believe the political incompetence his administration has displayed ever since. I voted for Obama in the 2008 primaries because I thought Hillary was too polarizing and that Obama was inspirational and transformative, but I'm beginning to wish Ms. Rodham-Clinton had pulled it off.

I expect, and hope for the D party to revisit not their basic principles. I applaud those after all. But their way of doing business these past years.....the voters did not approve.

Agreed again, although maybe not the way you meant it. Much disappointment with Democrats, including the president, is not that they're too liberal, but that they're not liberal enough. In order to win elections, Democrats have to stand up for the 99% and hope that the electorate understands the battle lines. They cannot win by accepting right-wing framing of issues and then insisting that they (Dems) can also uphold right-wing values but somehow be more humane about it than Republicans. That's not a reason anyone is going to vote for them.

Democrats could sweep 50 states if they got their consituents out to vote instead of turning them off of voting altogether while they (Dems) try to peel off Republican voters by saying "We share all your values too!"

LarryHart said...

Also, how ironic is it that Mitch McConnel is now the avatar of "Hope and Change"?

Jumper said...

Let us pray.
Dear Heavenly Pooch,
Please stop the plague infecting people's minds such that they think and write and opinionate in memes which seem wholly drawn from tawdry breathless headline writers who staff the tabloids and TV.
And though we forgive them for their trespasses, let us not adopt their evil.
Help us to stop saying things such as "attack," "cry out," "kills," "targeted," when we mean criticize, complain, ignores, and scrutinized.
Help us not fall into the pit of idiot vipers where people say things like "China thinks" thus and so, and "Russia wishes," and "IBM feels that...."

LarryHart said...


Help us not fall into the pit of idiot vipers where people say things like "China thinks" thus and so, and "Russia wishes," and "IBM feels that...."

I've gotten used to the collective nouns enough so that "Washington says..." doesn't bother me as much as it does you.

However, I second what you say when it comes to the emotionally-charged verbs and implied mind-reading in what is supposed to be factual reporting. In other words, a news item shouldn't pretend to tell me that "Congressman Smith believes..." or "Senator Jones vows to..." when the only fact is that each "says" something.

David Brin said...

Question for the group mind. Anyone know how to find out the TOTAL number of votes cast for a democratic representative vs republican one, nationwide? I know that in 2010 and 2012 it was democratic, though gerrymandering gave the GOP the wins. I doubt that's true this time, given how few young people turned out.

Tony Fisk said...

@Matthew. The memorial service for recently deceased PM Edward Gough Whitlam included a eulogy by Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson. It's caused quite a stir (comparisons with MLK may be a little premature, but they were made. I would recommend listening to the delivery as well as reading the transcript).

Wrt your opinions of MBAs, Pearson's summary of Whitlam's revolutionary period in office sticks in my mind:

"The Whitlam government is the textbook case of reform trumping management."

Mark Boslough said...

Here's my own modest proposal to neutralize unlimited campaign contributions. I hope you like it!

Mark Boslough said...

Here it is with a proper hyperlink (I hope):
Crowdsource Your Remote and Save Democracyl

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

I know that in 2010 and 2012 it was democratic, though gerrymandering gave the GOP the wins

Are you sure about 2010? That was such a Republican wave year, with not only congressional seats, but governmorships going Republican, that I have a hard time believing any Democrats voted at all.

My recollection is that much Republican gerrymandering was done by those Republican state governments after the 2010 debacle.

Tim H. said... has early vote totals, I'm guessing they'll have finals up in the near future, so it should be possible to assemble the number you want.

A.F. Rey said...

Here's a fun political essay, where a conservative Republican compares her party to Gollum.

It also (inadvertantly) points out a real problem with the PACs and SuperPACs:

That’s interesting, because late last night on FOX News election coverage, Karl Rove boasted that his Super PAC told the Colorado GOP that no Super PAC money would go to support Ken Buck for U.S. Senate. I’m speculating here, but I suspect that Rove et al told Gardner they would support him as long as he retreated from the Personhood Amendment.

As I recall, it is illegal to tie a political contribution to asking a politician to take certain actions.

But what would be illegal in telling a politician that you will not spend your own money to campaign for him unless he takes a specific political stand? It's your money. You can spend it however you want. What could be illegal about that? ;)

Another thing to worry about.

Tacitus2 said...

Animated largely by the gubernatorial race Wisconsin had the biggest turnout for a mid term since 1948. Final tally pending but around 56% of registered voters. Walker won by 5% or so.

As to vote totals by party, in the Gov race Walker 1,259,031 Burke 1,121,490

This parallels the totals for congressional races fairly well. Collectively the R candidates came in with 1,174,039 the D folk at 1,061,129.

The total vote difference in the Governors race was 137k In the collective congressional races, 112K.
We did not have a Senate seat up.

Of course some congressional races were non competitive, in both directions. Probably some people did not bother to vote in places where it would not matter in these races but still had a strong opinion (this is an understatement!) on Scott Walker.

Is a 25K difference between these races an indication of foul gerrymandering or of normal concentration of D voters in Milwaukee and Madison?

I don't know.

as you recall, no fan of the GerryMander. A party with cohones says "we are strong enough to win with a fair map!"

Tacitus2 said...

Oh, I left out minor party candidates. If we can agree that a Libertarian vote is at best ambiguous perhaps it is better to do so.

If they were included the total votes in Gov and Congressional races are changed slightly. There were about 28K Libertarian, etc cast in the Gov race and about 10k in the Congressional ones.

Not sure how many write ins, serious or otherwise there were.


matthew said...

@ Tony - the Whitlam eulogy is wonderful. Thank you.

David Brin said...


Susan Watson said...

Dang! I missed the 'nuff sed' cutoff again!

I was going to question whether confirmation of genetic analysis would "..resurrect the theories of Thor Heyerdahl"; No, I don't think it would. Part of the evidence is summarized in this wiki: Genetic analysis of ancient chicken bones, coconuts and potatos all support the Polynesian navigation theory and refute Heyerdahl.