Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sea Change or Swan Song: Part II: Deeper fundamentals of U.S. politics

Last time we explored the many reasons why the advance of the Republican Party, in the U.S. mid-term elections, may be a lot of sound and fury, signifying very little. For example, nearly all of the Senate contests this year inherently disadvantaged Democrats… but a large majority of those in 2016 imperil defending Republicans.

This time, I’d like to dive into some other factors that veer away from those wrangled-over by the media.

== Differences in personality ==

Lest anyone conclude “Brin is just a reflex liberal”… in fact, I have given keynotes at libertarian conventions (albeit as a representative of Adam Smith and not Ayn Rand!). I believe my party registration (it doesn’t really matter in California’s non-partisan elections) is still republican. 

In fact, I do weigh in fairly often against what I deem to be mad obsessions of a fringe on the left! Just because today’s entire-US-right has gone loco, that doesn’t mean we should trust the far-left, which sometimes reveals a level of nostalgic anti-science fanaticism that too-closely resembles their supposed enemies. 

(Oh, you new-age 'vaxxers,' go ahead and write in with your outrage! All you accomplish is to reassure me that my political spine can still turn and notice craziness in all directions.)

But yes, my main focus is on the GOPper right and its masters, right now, because their deliberate re-ignition of Civil War and their scheme to demolish American pragmatic negotiation constitutes bona fide treason against a civilization that has been very good to us. It is the clear and present danger. 

Mark my words, though. Someday, when we solve this crisis, we will need to turn our jaundiced gaze leftward again. 

And if your political spine is fused, making you only able to perceive threats to freedom and civilization in one direction, then you are part of the problem!  See a memic chiropractor.

== Suppose the feudalists get their wish ==

Indeed, all the more so, should the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi oligarchic putsch succeed!

In that case, lefty radicalisms like Marxism are guaranteed to revive. Along with talk of tumbrels. The surest sign that the Koch boys are nowhere near as smart as their sycophants say they are? Ignoring this blatant inevitability – that restored oligarchic feudalism will lead to worldwide radicalization of a kind that will not benefit them one bit.

See this turnabout illustrated in a book set in 2045, called Existence.

There is one cohort of American political life that remains sane and … well… American, in its attitude of pragmatic willingness to try an eclectic mix of solutions, to negotiate with their neighbors, to use politics, as a supplement to private endeavor. And for now, at least, that element – moderate liberals – still dominates the Democratic Party… no matter how many lies you are told by Sean Hannity.  As illustrated by this clear study and graphic, charting responses to the question: "Would you rather have a member of Congress who compromises to get things done, or sticks to their principles no matter what?":

== Compromise or not? ==

A recent Pew poll found sizable majorities of Americans think Republicans should try to work with President Obama and that Obama should work with them. But here again, there’s a stark partisan difference. 52 percent of Democrats and Dem-leaning independents think Obama should find common ground with Republicans, even if it disappoints them. But only 32 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaners say the same on their side, while 66 percent of Republicans say their leaders should stand up to Obama even if less gets done.”

This effect is illustrated by another chart from Pew, showing where folks like to get their news.  Missing from the survey is Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Sure, it is kind of sad that millions of kids get their news that way… but well… I have pointed out elsewhere that Stewart is actually fairly balanced, often skewering the left and having more top conservatives on his show than all of Fox has top liberals, in any given year.

The dismal, near bankruptcy figures for MSNBC say it all. No matter how hard MSNBC tries to copy Fox’s lucrative formula, liberals get bored at Nuremberg Rallies of a single point of view, and wander away!  No-so, apparently, Fox viewers.

== The crux ==

Okay, so from last time, let’s zero in upon the question of 2016!

Only once, since the Roosevelt era, has a two term president been succeeded by a newly elected administration from his own party… when Ronald Reagan was succeeded by George H. W. Bush.  Does this pattern bode poorly for the next democratic nominee? Presumptively now Hillary Clinton?

It’s a puzzler. Certainly, the American voting public tends to get nervous with one-party strings.  Hence, if the GOP chooses a non-ideologue candidate in 2016, there might be some swing momentum.  (Especially if the GOP can make people ignore the crowd of Bushite officials who will surround their nominee, as they did the "mavericks" McCain and Romney.)

On the other hand, there are other explanations. For example, George H.W. Bush was the only Republican vice president in 50 years who was even remotely qualified for the executive office. All the other GOP VPs were simply awful. (I personally despise GHWB, but for other reasons, having to do with the worst stain on American honor in 70 years. But on paper, yes, he was qualified.)  

Democrats, in contrast, always pick responsible fellows as VPs, who are calm and qualified… but also boring and hence terrible candidates for the top job: e.g. Humphrey, Mondale, Gore, Biden. 

These two trends have tended to curse a majority of successor nominees, who were, in most cases, sitting vice presidents.

== Dynasty Fatigue ==

Another factor will be possible dynasty fatigue.  If the dems nominate Hillary and Republicans choose Jeb Bush, the whole world will mock us. Even if it is just Hillary… who by now is vastly better qualified than she was in 2008, and is a solid person in most respects… the dynasty effect will still be deemed somewhat of an embarrassment.  Here I offer a simple piece of guerrilla webtheater that might deal with this, well in advance. Or else inoculate her from the issue. 

Of course, the dynasty thing gets even more disturbing when you realize that the Bush family consider themselves to be a branch office of a certain middle eastern royal house, that co-owns Fox. Do not believe that influence has faded, even an iota. As I said, for all of their “maverick” pretensions, both McCain and Romney surrounded themselves with Bush administration figures and family retainers, top-to-bottom. Until the GOP has a true, inner upheaval, the “brain trust” that gave us Iraq quagmires, economic calamity and near-total destruction of the US Army and reserves -- and zero positive outcomes in any metric of US national health - is what you’ll get with any GOP presidency.

One more element that might affect 2016 would be if the tech billionaires -- like Gates and Buffett -- decide that too much is at stake, and get involved to a degree that counter-balances the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi-Adelson oligarchy that has been busy buying American politics. The miracle is that a large percentage of our current wave of billionaires are actually loyal to the American enlightenment experiment that has been so good to them! Perhaps more will step into help save us… till we finally fix the debacle and work with Larry Lessig to get the money out of politics.

Of course, many other factors will come into play by 2016. We'll be distracted, by then, by the War Against the Newts. The return of Jesus and his new show on Comedy Central. The Purple Plague will be a factor. The sale of the first million Robot-Buddies. That really effective IQ-boost pill (oh, pretty please?) may truly alter that pesky War on Science...

...and don't forget the vast revival of both reason and hope that will overwhelm all cynicism on Earth, with the release of StartideRising: the Motion Picture. Ahem. If Mssrs Spielberg or Nolan will only get on the phone, chop-chop.

Ah… the possibilities. It’s why I spend most of my life living in the future.


Anonymous said...

Actually this survey indicates that anti-vaccine sentiment does not generally follow ideological lines and in fact slightly more Republicans are anti-vaccine.

So it appears you'll need a new example

David Brin said...

Anonymous, it is a fine example of my point. That the left CONTAINS some anti-science, romantic crazies. And that we should always keep an eyelid cracked skeptically toward that region of the horizon, wary of an ancient threat....

...even though today's American right CONSISTS of anti-science, romantic crazies.

David Brin said...

Brown-Warren in 2016! Hey, Jerry is the man. He’s a great forward thinker but also such a judo master that no one can corner him as a typical... anything! He gets every single thing done, both progressively improving education/science and getting drought-fighting public works, WHILE balancing the budget and persuading the democratic assembly to lockbox half the surplus into a Rainy Day Fund… while leading the nation in sustainable tech and greenhouse emissions control. Jerry is the anti-Bush… because everything is better after he touches it.

And here’s a “flaw” that’s actually a feature! Jerry is probably too old for a second term! A feature? Sure! So here's the plan: It starts with BROWN-WARREN in 2016!

Look, I know you liberals adore Elizabeth Warren. Why not? She’s the only one other than Bernie Sanders with the guts to say that banks who are “too big to fail” should be divided into healthy competitors that CAN be allowed to fail! She’s the only one who remembers we have anti-trust laws.

Only dig it you romantics. She's way too liberal and inexperienced to get elected into the top slot and the GOP must be kept out till its fever breaks and the Bush-Saudi cabal loses its grip on the American right. When our civil war ebbs and the GOP goes back to Goldwater types who stand for enterprise, but also negotiate, maybe. But meanwhile we need someone reassuring AND future-hungry and friendly to science… who can for sure win.

Here’s the plan, then… elect Brown-Warren! Jerry does his amazing thing, and then - if Warren has proved herself - he RESIGNS 3 1/2 years into his term. And now EW is president, a proved and well-known figure who as VP spearheaded putting crooks in prison, and now she is running for re-election and Jerry can retire to California with our love. We’ll all have had a chance to get her measure. And if it’s all good, then you get your hero.

Okay, it’s sci fi. But well…. Jerry is a sci fi kinda guy! Make 2016 our Brown year!

Jared Frick said...

Still prefer Schweitzer to run in 2016, but, sure, Jerry Brown is pretty good too.
Reading Mark Twain - A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and a lot of what Twain has to say has really resonated with me and the sense I get of the direction of things - the trends. I just hit chapter 13, Freemen, and am floored by what I read there - including Twain's character's take on the French Revolution. Tumbrels indeed.

sociotard said...

It's too bad Kevin Costner never made friends with you, Dr. Brin. If you had his number, you could nudge him to give a speech supporting this protest:

Rosebud Sioux Tribe: House Vote On Keystone XL Pipeline An ‘Act Of War'

I know, somewhat racist and it's not like they need a whitey there to fight their battles for them, but it'd still be awesome to get a few of the Dances With Wolves cast there to dish out a little shame.

sociotard said...

And yeah, Warren would have been happy to cut up some of the big banks, except for the government-sponsored biggies that ol' FDR built. Which required a bailout too.

CITOKATE and all that.

Alfred Differ said...

People expanded the scope of those 'government sponsored' ones too far and left people with the impression that the government would step in to support them. Limit their scope again and they aren't as dangerous. Trying to limit the other issue isn't likely to meet with much success until we let one of them sink or put people in jail.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin, in the section titled "Differences in Personality" you didn't actually say anything about differences in personality between your left- and right-wingers. In the next section where you discuss Pew polls and the differences between Democrats & Republicans in terms of willingness to compromise and the ratings of Fox vs. MSNBC you hint at something, but don't really come out and say anything.

Do you know of any recent work that correlates personality features with party affiliation? I'm sure it would be rather dangerous, politically incorrect, research to do, but it might reveal some things. In my own experience, staunch, uncompromising conservatives tend to be high-t males (& some females, though there may be a prolactin connection there). People who have high t-levels tend to be bullies, and they tend to perceive everything as unfair. Of course, I have also known some high-t liberals, but many fewer. This might reflect the fact that I grew up in a very red state, but I have lived in California for 14 years and have seen very few of its reputed 'flaming liberals.'

That said, I know that anecdotal evidence is no evidence at all. It is only good for generating hypotheses, not for testing them. Studies along these lines were done in the 60's, when Freudian perspectives were still taken seriously. Do you know of any more recent work?

I found this recent article on ScienceDaily that scratches the surface.

One of the things they note is that more conservative-leaning states tend to be more violent places, which would support the t-level contention. But it comes out a mixed bag, and does little to hint at causation. Individual psychology itself is highly influenced by cultural factors (culture influences personality as much as personality influences culture - a recursive relationship). It's important to consider that the levels of hormones (as well as neurotransmitters) fluctuate depending on circumstance, though people can be born with some pretty stark differences in the base levels from which they begin.

Happy cogitation!

locumranch said...

For a moment there, after reading David's prayer for some Good Billionaires to step up and save the good old 'US' from certain political dissolution, I thought I logged onto Orson Scott Card's blog by mistake.

Then, of course, I realized that this appeal must be a joke because David, as an advocate of science, would never rely on such a tired plot device as a 'deus ex machina' happy-ending, even if the only other option (under the current rules of political engagement) is a return to feudalism.

After doing the math, he would soon realize that the game is rigged and, according to the current rules, politically unwinnable, and he would be the first to either over-turn the chess board or at least request a change of venue.


Howard Brazee said...

It's funny how a party can run on an issue whether or not that party really believes it.

Both the right and the left like to tell people and organizations how to spend the money given them. Both parties are pro-war.

Howard Brazee said...

What is real sad is that it is easy to campaign against someone for changing his mind.

Some things make some kind of sense at first. Maybe we are on the side of he Laffer Curve that Trickle Down works - maybe austerity will balance the budget. But after trying something and observing other countries trying it - politicians should be willing to let reality change their minds.

locumranch said...

Welcome to the New Justice League where billionaires, by dint of their superhuman financial abilities, do battle to make the world a better place:

First, comes the Wonder Twins, Jeff Bezos & Richard Branson, who use their magical abili-monies to expand into space; second, comes George Soros, who has toppled no less than 5 governments with his financial acumen; third, comes Bill Gates, who has dedicated his vast resources to eliminating the twin scourge of Malaria & EU Anti-Trust legislation; fourth, comes Donald Trump, whose finances have conferred supernatural vitality to his hair; and, fifth, comes the Koch brothers, who have virtually eliminated the existential threat caused by US labour unions & climate change.

And, what secret knowledge do these financial demigods share with the likes of the US Republican Party, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi, M. L. King & Captain J. T. Kirk?

Change those rules which stand in your way; victory goes to either the rule-maker or the rule-breaker; and rule obedience is for chumps.


Tony Fisk said...

Oho! Murdoch appears to be falling from grace

David Brin said...

Bah, I am glad locum has no power, because I'd be shot almost weekly for stuff I never ever said. Apparently by hoping that the non-ingrate billionaires might step up and counter balance the money of the ingrates, I am praying to demigods.

In fact, having a billion dollars does notovernighjt make you a hater of the middle class that supplied you with the engineers whose skill made you rich.

Some of these guys remember the diamond social order provided everything they ever loved.

Alfred Differ said...

Locumranch is trying to extend what you say through analogy and then show the absurdity. It is a reasonable approach, but I don't think he is succeeding. Instead, he shows his extensions are absurd. Arguing you are praying to demi-gods without realizing it is the absurdity since he'd also have to demonstrate a serious lack of intelligence on your part. I doubt he is trying for that, so the extension fails.

David Brin said...

DAVID BROOKS column today and bloggers at reddit GOOGLE THIS!~

-There are 12 original astronauts representing apostles. One of them
(representing Judas) who betrays Cooper forcing him to die in a black
hole and get reborn so he can save humanity. Cooper also spends
decades wandering desolate environments. "Lazarus".

Antisemitic NYT ? #Interstellar as JEWdas #clifi story? WTF?

Yipe! Both absurd and irrelevant... and even if there's a sly New Testament reference, it sure doesn't seem antisemitic. Did Jesus have a daughter?

combinatorialimplosion said...

I am assuming that the stain on American honor you speak of is encouraging the people of Iraq to rise against Saddam after the Gulf war. And then, when they did rise as he had urged them, standing by, not lifting a finger, while Saddam massacred them (an act of deepest perfidy I still find both inexcusable and inexplicable to this very day).

Tacitus2 said...

As it is a political posting let me offer a few thoughts. A couple of weeks back I whipped up my personal system for evaluating the experience level of contenders for Pres/VP. You can create your own if you wish. Looking at two names put forward by OGH, and adding some others that have been buzzing of late..

Jerry Brown. Technically 4 points for being a governor multiple times. But since California is a huge state and the terms were separated by so much time I am giving a bonus point -Five Points

Eliz Warren. One time election as US Senator. Sorry, only 2 points.

John Kasich. An interesting swing state Republican. 6 points, multi term governor and Congressman.

James Webb, swing state Democrat - 5 points. One term US Senator. Navy Secretary. Marine Officer (my original scheme gave points for higher rank than First Lt. but hey, Navy Cross for bravery in combat). And in honor of the Barkeep here at The Postman Tavern, I gave him a point for being an author.


locumranch said...

Worshipper is the wrong word.

David, who forgets that money and power are non-equivalents, appeals to the non-ingrate rich in the hopes that they might step up and counter balance the money of the ingrate oligarchy, not realizing that it is this very act of supplication that confers power on the rich rather than their monies.

By definition, supplication is an an appeal to a higher power which (in turn) represents an admission of inferiority and a declaration of weakness, helplessness and powerlessness.

The supplicant begs, pleads, prays and entreats for advantage rather than either negotiating for it as an equal or demanding it as a right.

There is neither benefit nor profit in it which explains (at least in part) why our enfeebled, impotent, gutless & inadequate civilisation is doomed to fall.

Likewise, most Democratic presidential contenders are apologists all who self-identify as political inferiors.


mymatedave said...

The difference between MSNBC and Fox is that Fox truly believes in what they're selling. Nobody in their right mind could call 3 hours of Joe Scarborough every morning being liberal.

That also doesn't mention the fact that MSNBC is deeply vulnerable to the "both sides" meme that pervades television news, where no matter what disaster or destruction the Republicans affect the country with, many will go out of the way to mention "washington gridlock" or "extremists on the left and the right."

NYT's David Brooks is the high priest of this technique, every column of his includes the idea.

David Brin said...

combinatorialimplosion your summary is spot-on. Gen Schwarzkopf begged for 48 hours to secure Basra and the major Shiite zones and then to give them a no-fly zone, as we were already doing for the Kurds. The result would have been genuine "kisses and flowers" and an arab wing of shiism that was pro-western and grateful...

...and not pro-iranian and biliously hateful toward us, as they are now, after we betrayed them and allowed Saddam to murder hundreds of thousands
leaving the survivors to 12 years of brutality under that monster.

It takes some real doing for me to hate a man more than I despise W. But his dad managed the trick.

David Brin said...

locum is utterly wedged. When I ask a fellow citizen to step up and use what he has, in defense of a civilization that has been very good to him, that is not crawling "supplication." It is asking that excess wealth be recycled to productive ends.

Gates and Buffett have declared "raise our taxes!" They have committed to give half their wealth to philanthropic causes. There are few better ways for a rich dude to prove they are still on our side.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, I wish Webb were more charismatic. He kinda gives an off-putting vibe to some folks. But yes, without a scintilla of doubt, he belongs way up there!

matthew said...

I think you have the top of the Dem ticket wrong, David. Warren's advancement into the ranks of the Democratic leadership last week (special ambassador to liberals or some such) was a way to buy her off of a run at president in 2016. No, Warren will break your string of "qualified" Democrat VP candidates.

She will be Hillary's VP candidate, in a nod to excite the liberal base. Excitement will be needed because Bernie Sanders will be the "run to left" opponent to Hillary in the primaries. Bernie forces Hillary to the left in the primaries. Elizabeth gets the left base back into the campaign after Hillary trounces Bernie.

Two women at the top of the Dem's ticket in 2016. Take that, Republicans.

Paul451 said...

How do the suggested Republican nominees compare on your scale?

David brings up charisma as an issue in Presidential electability. Obama clearly had it in spades during the two campaigns, as did Bush II (making himself the "American Everyman" in spite of his origins.)

Warren has huge charismatic appeal to the left. Much as blunt-as-a-hammer Christie has on the right. But how well can they cross lines?

None of the Congressional leadership of either party seems particularly charismatic, IMO. I don't know enough about Governors and lesser Congress-critters, though. Any Americans want to rank likability/electability of possible contenders without regard to their actual suitability as President?

It would be nice to see the Republicans pull out something beyond the same-same names (Jeb Bush, Christie, Rubio, Cruz, and the three Pauls (plus, god forbid, Romney/Huckabee/Santorum/Perry again)).

How about a Portman/Carson ticket?

Re: Clinton/Warren 2016.

Although your reasoning is sound, I don't think Hilary's team would select a second woman as VP. Like Obama chose an older white establishment male to balance the young, black man rather than offer the role to Hilary.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

It is with some sadness that I have to agree with you on the Clinton/Warren ticket. When I was in junior high, many eons ago, there was a history teacher who swore that by the year 2000 the U.S. would have a female president, and that she would be African-American. Those Polyanna glasses came off a long time ago.

matthew said...

Clinton's choice in VP will come down to "what excites the base," not "what will bring in older, white males." Lessons learned from this past midterm.

Now, I DON'T want Hillary to be the nominee. She was inept at her SecState position, plus she brings Bill as baggage, plus she is way, way too close to Wall Street. But everyone thinks it is her turn (how is that for a reversal of the parties? The Dems taking turns, and the Repubs doing the whole "fall in love" routine?) I think the Dems are going to go very populist in 2016, though. And Warren is the face of liberal populism. Hillary won't like being upstaged by her VP nom, but she'll hold her nose to get the base fired up.

What is deeply needed for her ticket is a populist liberal firebrand, preferably from some minority. Too bad the bench is so empty.

Webb will never get a chance, btw. He is far too identified with the Blue Dogs, and that little exercise in centrist wish-fulfillment has run its' course. David may like the Blue Dogs, but pretty much no one else in America did.

Paul451 said...

3D-Printed globe:

1:100,000 scale. So about 126m/420ft high. Made up of 10.5 million pieces.

The interesting thing isn't that they are building a giant painted sphere. It's that the surface features will be printed to scale. Mt Everest will stick out 40mm (1.6inches) further than "sea level". The Grand Canyon will be up to an inch deep in places, and up to a foot wide.

[Of course, being textured plastic, it'll look like crap within a month or two, and be impossible to clean. But props for effort.]

Paul451 said...

I didn't mean that Hillary would pick an older white male. I mean her campaign will counter-program, they won't pick another older white woman. So as much as you might like Warren, she'd have to win the Presidential nomination in her own right.

In the 2008 election she might have picked an older white male, as Obama did, to balance the "risk" voting for the first female President and her perceived lack of experience. Today, she's the older, white, establishment candidate, so she'd pick someone younger, "safe" minority (say Hispanic), probably male, and from a swing state. I have no idea how close she can get to that with the current Dem make-up.

Tacitus2 said...

Paul 451

To be clear, my ranking system only addresses the narrow question of who appears to have experience that would reasonably be expected to lead to competent leadership. Exceptions abound including The Great Exception, Abe Lincoln (a paltry 1 point as a one time congressman!).

And electability is another matter entirely. Charisma, world events, competence of advisers, you know.

OK a few potential Republican P/VP folks by my rating system.

I am going to skip Jeb Bush, I think that name is a non starter. Paul...seems a little out of the normal political world, perhaps another time.

Christie: 4 points as a two time Governor. I am tempted to give a bonus point as an "opposite color" governor, Red in a Blue state, but will decline.

Rubio: 2 points as a one time Senator

Cruz: gets 2 points as a one time Senator. I am feeling magnanimous tonight and will give him 1 more for being a law professor for five years. Hey, Obama had that gig for four years.

Jindahl: huh. 7 points. Multi term congressman and two time governor of LA. I had not recalled that he was also a Rhodes scholar and had been accepted to both Harvard Med and Yale Law schools. Looks dopey. Isn't.

Walker: Hometown favorite. 4 points as two time governor.

Here is the Tacitan Experience Scale if you want to play at home:

Elected to Congress 1 point. Elected multiple times total of 3 points
Senate once 2 points. Multiple times 4 points
Governor 3 points. Multiple times total of 4 points. (In Congress you are usually a back bencher for a while, Governor it is your baby from day one).
High military rank 1 point
Running a major government agency 1 point
Significant business accomplishment 1 point (job that daddy got you, nada)


Duncan Cairncross said...

Here is the Duncan Experience Scale if you want to play at home:

Elected to Congress 1 point. Elected multiple times total of 2 points
Senate once 1 points. Multiple times 2 points
Governor 3 points. Multiple times total of 4 points. (In Congress you are usually a back bencher for a while, Governor it is your baby from day one).
High military rank 5 point
Running a major government agency 2 point
Running a section of a major government agency (so you actually run it) 10 points
Significant business accomplishment 5 point (job that daddy got you, nada)
Working as an engineer and actually fixing things 15 points
Working as a technician/skilled operator 10 points
Working as a Doctor in general practice 15 points
Working as a Specialist Doctor 5 points

Tony Fisk said...

Tony Abbott is a Rhodes Scholar. After 4 years leadership of the LNP, and his facepalm handling of the G20 Summit, I'm beginning to suspect Drakh (m'Dokh?) Keepers. Still, draw your own conclusions.

TheMadLibrarian said...

In the interests of transparency, this could get interesting:
The Gates Foundation is ruling that research done on their dime must be open access by 2017. This could be very good for scientists of many stripes.


David Brin said...

Matthew I like Blue Dogs as the stakes to drive into he heart of the undead were-elephant. And nothing about that has changed.

Paul & Paul, to envision a black woman president before 2000 was seriously weird. But whoever fantacized that is welcome to sit next to me and share the optimistic love. WE live in the world where such things got pretty nicely accelerated.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin,
Optimism is very, very healthy. It releases neurotransmitters that counter the effects of stress hormones, keeping you young and healthy. Optimistic people live longer than pessimists, as a general rule, though the difference in lifespan is not enough to take them out of the gene pool, nor stop them from creating circumstances that suck the optimism out of others. Dems are often accused of being out-of-touch Polyannas, but if they are happier people for it, more power to them!

I remember Mr. West, my 8th grade history teacher, fondly, and would gladly would gladly share that table, park bench or patch of grass.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

and would gladly would gladly (?)

obviously it is too early in the morning...

Falconer said...

Here is the Falconer Experience Scale if you want to play at home:

Ability to raise $500 million: 30 points
Ability to raise $1 billion: 50 points

We have the best government money can buy...

LarryHart said...


No, what we have is the best lack of government that money can buy.

Tim H. said...

Maybe one day there'll be a conversation: "Dad, do you ever find the regulatory relief you've bought a little embarrassing? You're as smart as Great Grandpa..."

Jumper said...

I have to say Tacitus' system is more sober than Duncan's overestimation of engineers and doctors, although I am frustrated by politicos' lacks in these matters of science and industry.

I sat this because of a doctor sibling, and from working in engineering and technology.

Kerry has points but the charisma thing is not working. The swiftboating warns that bonus points for bravery are elusive.

locumranch said...

After inhaling all of this second-hand optimism, I also feel younger and healthier, possibly due to the associated pupillary dilation, short term memory loss, a distorted sense of time and the unqualified munchies for all things granola, which makes me realise that we can overcome all this red state & blue state nonsense if we pass the dutchie on the left-hand side, turn on, tune in, and LOVE each other as the cosmic conscious intended, since it worked out so well for John Lennon & his 'Imagine'.


Note to Jumper: Vote 'William H. Frist MD' for president in 2016.

David Brin said...


LarryHart said...


Change those rules which stand in your way; victory goes to either the rule-maker or the rule-breaker; and rule obedience is for chumps.

Actually, isn't it more of a prisoners' dilemma kind of thing? More people overall benefits when the rules are fairly derived and largely followed. But if society doesn't organize itself in such a way as to actively discourage rule-breaking, then yes, the rule breakers can "win" at everyone else's expense.

As demonstrated in my favorite bit from Kurt Vonnegut's 1964 (50 years ago) book "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater":

When the United States of America, which was meant to be a Utopia for all, was less than a century old, Noah Rosewater and a few men like him demonstrated the folly of the Founding Fathers in one respect: those sadly recent ancestors had not made it the law of the Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited. This oversight was engendered by a weak-kneed sympathy for those who loved expensive things, and by the feeling that the continent was so vast and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no thief, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly inconvenience anyone.

Noah, and a few like him perceived that the continent was in fact finite, and that venal office-holders, legislators in particular, could be persuaded to toss great hunks of it up for grabs, and to toss them in such a way as to have them land where Noah and his kind were standing.

Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus, the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.

E. pluribis unum was surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, privileges, and pleasures that have been deined the many. An even more instructive motto, in the light of history made by the Noah Rosewaters might be: Grab much too much, or you'll get nothing at all.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Paul Shen-Brown - start here: Its a listing of one of the most active labs looking at the neuropsych correlates of ideology. While not exactly the personality aspects of it this particular article does offer a good summary of the relationship between social cognitive aspects of the person and ideology.

Finally one common finding is that liberals tend to score higher than conservatives on measures of openness to new experience, for instance

As a more general layman's approach Chris Mooney's book The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality is pretty good. Don't let the title fool you, he dings Democrats as much as Republicans. You can get it at Amazon at