Sunday, November 16, 2014

The U.S. election: a sea-change for the GOP? Or swan song?

A notion has spread -- foisted not just by cable news, but all media -- that the recent U.S. mid-term elections manifested some kind of tidal surge favoring Republican Party policies. Alas, the most disturbing thing about that meme is how pathetically easy it is to refute.

1) Democrats in 2014 had to defend 13 Senate seats in red or purple states. Mostly, the GOP reclaimed a number of naturally-red seats that had swung out of their grasp in a wave of revulsion toward the Bush era, amid Barack Obama’s first landslide. Here's your GOP "wave" - Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina.  (In fact, the dems held on to Virginia, boding poorly for the GOP. See below)

Nothing makes more clear the dismal state of journalism than its inability to show this on a map.

Things will be different in 2016, when Republicans will defend 24 Senate seats, of which18 are likely to be competitive based on geography and demographics. Democrats will be in peril of losing just one seat that could be competitive. And it could get worse for the GOP. There is chatter about potential Republican retirements in Arizona and Iowa. If either John McCain or Chuck Grassley decided to call it a career, each of those races would be major Democratic targets. 

Further, says Chris Ladd, one of the few openly Republican commentators to lift his head and reject the connivers who’ve hijacked his party: 

Almost half of the Republican Congressional delegation now comes from the former Confederacy.” Illustrating my point that this is no longer about “parties or “left-vs-right” anymore. It is a re-ignited phase of the American Civil War.

2) Moreover, this election was just about the worst in U.S. history, for voter involvement. In 43 states, less than half the eligible population bothered to vote, and no state broke 60 percent. A first to be proud of. 

As Chris Ladd put it: “Republicans in 2014 were the most popular girl at a party no one attended.” Why? “Vote suppression is working remarkably well, but that won’t last. Eventually, Democrats will help people get the documentation they need."

(Elsewhere I describe how failure to provide compliance assistance is the smoking gun, proving that voter ID laws had only one intent, all along.)

Indeed, some factors that depress turnout during midterms have the opposite effect in presidential years. For example, good feelings. A sense that things are improving. Take the steadily improving US economy.  U.S. consumer spending rebounded last month, but confidence among consumers is surging at a faster pace. 

Deficits are declining steeply, as always happens in Democratic administrations. Throw in lower gas prices, engendered partly by U.S. shale but equally – say experts – by the 2009 CAFÉ increases in car mileage standards that sent fuel efficiency rocketing skyward, saving consumers billions… and which the GOP has sworn to repeal.

Midterms tend to say “relax” to folks who see times improving. But presidential elections bring such voters out, in force.

(Regarding budget deficits, any US citizen who sincerely cares about fiscal responsibility would have to be crazy ever to go anywhere near the GOP, ever again. The second derivative rate of rate of change of debt is always negative under democrats and always positive under republicans. Period. Always. A grownup faces facts that veer from expectation – and adapts. See: Do Outcomes Matter More than Rhetoric?)

3) Policy-wise, voter decisions were very different than this purported “landslide” would have you believe.  For example:

- Every major Democratic ballot initiative was successful, including every minimum wage increase, even in the red states.

- Every “personhood amendment” failed.

- Libertarian minded voters are starting to take note that the archaic-insane Drug War is being deregulated away only in Blue States. Hence, the current libertarian cant (fostered at great expense by the Koch Brothers and Steve Forbes) that “Republicans are less anti-freedom than statist democrats” is starting to shred.

Further, word is getting out that only democrats deregulate onerous government over-reach. Who abolished the ICC? The CAB? Or broke up Ma Bell? Or unleashed an unregulated Internet? Democrats. The GOP – for all its ranting about bad bureaucracy – has only ever deregulated one industry… Finance/Wall Street. And we saw how that went.

- But the biggest reason to doubt that this election reflected preference for GOP policies is simple.  What policies? 

Other than the Keystone Pipeline, there are no positive things on their agenda, only negatives -- explaining why this U.S. House of Representatives has been the laziest in the history of the republic. (See below.) And sure, Fox uses negative motivation effectively.  But it has driven away people who want to move ahead. (Also below, see stats on US scientists.)

5) The hypocrisy of those who now proclaim a “mandate” from the American people, based on a margin of 3% in actual votes, in the lowest-attended national election ever… after they shrugged off two landslide elections of Barack Obama as “meaningless,” is stunning proof of selective insanity.

6) All of the voting machine manufacturers are now owned by radical republican factotums, some of them with criminal records. This does not matter much in most blue states, where laws require that the process include a paper receipt that the voter can peruse and verify herself, and that can be hand-counted in random audits of precincts.  This means any large scale reprogramming of the voting machine results will eventually send the machine makers to prison.

In red states, there are often no such laws. No one knows how to audit the machines’ output and that is just fine by the party running those states. In other words, many tens of thousands of votes may be electronically altered without repercussions. No single fact more clearly portrays the fundamental difference in basic citizenship, between the Olde Confederacy and its blue opponents, in our ongoing struggle over American destiny.

7) As for future GOP prospects?  They are very dim in any election wherein women, minorities or the young actually vote. The map of “safe” states for a democratic presidential candidate is spectacularly good.  Mr. Ladd again:

 “…at the outset of any Presidential campaign, a minimally effective Democratic candidate can expect to win 257 electoral votes without even trying. That’s 257 out of the 270 needed to win.”

If one includes Virginia… and Ladd argues one should… then the total number of “safe” democratic presidential electors is 270, all that’s needed to win.

== So what will the GOP Congress actually do? ==

Almost certainly nothing. Or nearly so. Again, to be clear, under Speaker John Boehner the United States House of Representatives became the laziest, least productive and most corrupt in the history of theRepublic, with fewer bills passed or even introduced, fewer hearings held or subpoenas issued, and fewer days in session, than any Congress since congresses began. Oh, but the most days spent away from the Hill, raising mountains of money.

Sure, the pace of legislative deliberation may pick up, now that the GOP controls the Senate. One can hope. Take this headline. Mitch McConnell's Mission: Making The Senate Work Again.” We’ve seen a week of hype that Senator McConnell sincerely wants to get down to business! Or this from The Washington Post: Republican leaders, too, are inclined to clear the legislative decks of must-pass bills so they can start fresh in January, when they will have control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years.”

Indeed we can hope! And that they negotiate with the President and their colleagues on the Hill.

But given six years of filibustering obstructionism and laziness, one can be excused some cynicism. Recall that the GOP controlled Congress for TWELVE years, from 1995 to 2007 and for the last six of those, they controlled every branch and lever of the US government, from presidency to courts to Congress and so on. 

What did they do with that perfect and complete lock on power?  Did they take control of our borders?  Solve the "entitlements crisis?" Balance budgets? Deregulate reviled agencies? Offer a plan for health care reform? Can you recall anything they actually did, during those years? Other than deregulate banks and Wall Street? 

No. If liberals are the manic side of our national bipolar disease, conservatives are the depressive side. In an era when we need agility while charging into an uncertain future, their reflex is to growl: “No! Let’s do nothing. And get off my lawn.”

== But 'NO" is a magic word ==

Take the accompanying graphic… it is obsolete. By now a vast majority of blockages – across all of US history - have targeted this administration alone, depriving the American people of a functioning government. But to the GOP's owners that is a feature! 

The deliberate destruction of politics as a pragmatic system for negotiating solutions to problems has been the great achievement of the Koch-Murdoch-Saudi axis. Earlier phases of the confederacy never accomplished such a thing. But this version has an openly stated goal that “government of the people, by the people, for the people SHALL perish from the Earth.”

Is all of this about to change? On the one hand, McConnell and his colleagues know the math for 2016. They can see they need to craft a better image or else go extinct. Perhaps there will be a few White House lunch meetings and one or two mentions of compromise.

But in fact, there truly is no chance of a détente. Across the last 60 years, democratic congresses have generally deferred to or negotiated with republican presidents, allowing them (with some big exceptions) to get their nominees passed. This has never been true in reverse. Not once, ever. Especially since the GOP openly declared its Hastert (“never negotiate”) Rule.

Indeed, few issues did more to divide the Senate over the past several years than the vetting of Mr. Obama’s judicial and executive-branch nominees.  

And now note: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Joan Bader Ginsburg is 81 years old.   You can be certain of a firestorm, when Obama appoints her replacement. (She of course should have retired a year ago.) 

No, the turtle does not change his scales.

== A Genuine paladin for reviving a sane GOP ==

I’ve mentioned before that there are glimmers, here and there, of what America must do, in order to end this deliberately re-ignited phase of our self-destructive Civil War.  

What is needed is for fifty million “ostrich republicans” – basically sane, pro-science, and pro-markets, but right now burying their heads in utter denial, staring at Sean Hannity and pleading with him to keep them hypnotized – what’s needed is for fifty million of them to finally wake up. To see and admit and get angry over the fact that their movement has been hijacked by (at best) crazies and (at-worst) outright traitors.

What will it take for ostriches to take notice and rebel, to save their movement? To return it to being about competitive enterprise, community empowerment and Adam Smith?

Signs of sharp divergence from those things have been visible for years.  For example, the American right, which used to admire knowledge and expertise, is now in full tilt war against science. (See The Republican War on Science, by Chris Mooney.) Thirty years ago, 40% of U.S. scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 5%. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

And not just science! Can you name for me one profession of high knowledge and skill that is not under attack by Fox and its cohorts?  Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. Should this brain drain matter?

Not according to Fox, which touts the notion that brains automatically correlate with stupidity and lack of wisdom. What a meme! But some of you believe it. Indeed, that noxious meme is shared in some quarters of the left.

Is anyone out there trying to ease the pain of Barry Goldwater’s ghost, or to stop the spinning in William F. Buckley’s grave? 

George Will – almost by his witty self -- could have done this thing and helped to save the country, if he weren’t a rationalizing coward. There are glimmers of an uprising over on the pages of The American Conservative… but that rebellion and re-evaluation is tepid, glacial, timid.

Still, one seeks hope.  Indeed, at last, we may have found a hero who has the intellect and courage to condemn the Koch-Murdoch-Ailes-Saudi hijacking of U.S. Conservatism.  I quoted from Mr. Chris Ladd, above. I know very little about the fellow, but his postings show that he is no shill for the statist left. His opposition to the Murdochian madness is based on a wish for the United States to have a party dedicated to enterprise and finding competitive, non-state solutions to real problems, in a flat-open-fair marketplace of products, services and ideas…

as Adam Smith prescribed -- and as every generation of Americans has had to redefine and refresh. It is not leftism that today’s oligarch-owned GOP opposes, but the very principles and practical miracles that it is supposed to defend.  Which is why conservatism today never mentions Adam Smith.

I hope Mr. Ladd gets some scrutiny and attention.  It will be interesting to see if his “GOPlifer” column maintains quality and gains traction.

== Continue to Part II


Tim H. said...

There is a possibility that the Democrats will remember who they were, re-invent progressivism and leave the GOP looking like an illicit union between the KKK and the John Birch society, on the other hand, the Carter Clinton Gore GOp lite may not wish to go gently into irrelevance. If they win, the GOP gets an extension, for as long as the Democratic party remembers 1972. But be of good cheer, embalming fluid cures a lot of stupid.

daddyoyo said...

Of course, I agree with nearly every point you made, David. My only caveat is that I think the situation is much worse. Oh, if only it were true that there were 50 million Republicans who are sane and pro-science. Taking just the subject of evolution as a stand in for science and sanity (not being clouded by short term economic interests), 48% of Republicans now insist that humans have always existed in their present form. That alone knocks the 50 million down to 25. Some of this can be accounted for by the fact that many sane former Republicans now register as Independents, though continuing to vote with their former party most of the time.

grayburst said...

Dr. Brin,

I happen to be a proscience Republican who has bothered to read the Wealth of Nations. I will agree on most of your points, but the GOP just took the midterms by better public relations strategy, much as the Democratic Party did in 2006. I honestly see very little change coming out of D.C. Both parties still have a lot to answer for in the matters of poor governance, corruption, and foolishness.

String said...

David, I must take exception to your statement about the Republican lock on power from 1995-2007: "Can you recall anything they actually did, during those years? Other than deregulate banks and Wall Street?"

IIRC, there was a pointless war (or two) in there as well...

David Brin said...

String, did you notice that the topic of that paragraph was the GOP's lock on CONGRESS? The wars were chosen by the "decider" president. A flaw in our system? Perhaps. Though good reason to keep the Bushites away from power, ever again.

David Brin said...

grayburst. there are corrupt democrats! But they are in the "normal" range. The DemoParty CONTAINS some assholes. The GOP has become ENTIRELY that kind.

That is a functional difference that makes your shrug almost tantamount to treason.

Dig it. If the dems get a chance they will reverse Citizens United and get half the money out of politics. If they REALLY had a chance, they'd eliminate most of the rest with public election funding and restore the balance rules in media, requiring broadcasters to have at least a minute of rebuttal for every hour of blatant propaganda.

Blue state citizens are eliminating both drug wars and gerrymandering, while red states deepen both insanities. You know I could go on and on.

Sorry, you do not get away with your shrug.

Laurent Weppe said...

"what’s needed is for fifty million of them to finally wake up. To see and admit and get angry over the fact that their movement has been hijacked by (at best) crazies and (at-worst) outright traitors."

What if they're not asleep, nor in denial, but doing a very conscious, cynical calculus:

"If the dynasts are banished from the halls of power, they'll use their wealth to subsidize and arm thugs who'll use their superior firepower to beat the civilian population into submission therefore we'll keep tolerating their inept rule because the devil we know -a corrupt order- is still better than the devil we don't -complete societal collapse-"

Facing such an audience, variations of "wake up sheeple" aren't likely to work: a better approach would be to convince the cynics that either:
• There's nothing to lose anyway: the paragons of dynastic wealth's influence having already brought the current system on the brink of collapse.
• There's something to win because progressives are sufficiently resourceful to be certain to unambiguously crush any armed uprising brought by their unfettered reactionary neighbors.
Otherwise, they'll most probably remain convinced that submissiveness remains the most intelligent course of action while your glorious paleognaths revolution remains a tall tale.

Mad Fabe said...

One thing we can be sure about. The Democrats will win again, when people get tired of the GOP.
And then the GOP will rebound when people get tired of the Democrats. No one party stays in power forever and anyone who is hoping for that will be disappointed. We dealing with humans after all is said and done.

Anti-Beigeist said...

Isn't the bigger issue that the United States is long overdue to have its two party monopoly/plutocracy disrupted? Isn't it embarrassing that the supposed leader of the democratic free world doesn't offer its voters more choices? Do you think democrats aren't facing their own internal contradictions, dissent and corruption?

The entire system needs to break down so something better can emerge; acting like one party is the source of all of America's problems, and if the GOP could just go back to its Eisenhower days everything would be fine sounds rather nostalgic and delusional to me. I would rather see more extreme parties on all sides emerge and challenge the Beigeist regime than see this totally dysfunctional and uninspiring system continue.

Anonymous said...

Explain the MD Governorship doc...

Tony Fisk said...

Despite the impression our beloved Pariah Minister may have given on the World stage in the last week, Australian politics is nowhere near as ossified as the US system has become.

With Victorian State elections due in a couple of weeks, an interesting dynamic has been developing between the parties.

Specifically, the (kinda Democrat) ALP has chosen to recommend preferences to right wing parties rather than the Greens. The reason stated is to maximise chances of ousting the Liberals, but
1. the Libs are likely toast anyway (won't bore you with the details here.), and
2. this follows on from last year's Federal election, where the ALP put preferences to the *Liberals* rather than the Greens in Melbourne (didn't work, btw)

This suggests, to me, that the ALP is seeing the Greens as a bigger threat than the Liberals, or that they don't want to be seen as backing socialism (I don't know if environmental activists in the US are referred to as 'watermelons': green outside, but red inside? Probably too confusing ;-)

This raises the possibility that, sometime in the medium-term future (say, 10 years?), the entrenched parties will be forming an alliance against the upstarts.

Either that, or politicians will stop heeding the mesmerising monotone marketing mantras of their spin doctors.

LarryHart said...

I'm not sure who I'm agreeing with or disagreeing with here, but Democrats have got to stop trying to peel a few Republican voters off and start trying to get their natural constituency to vote for them again.

As long as Democrats run away from anything like defending victims from bullies, accepting the Republican meme that it's the same thing as redistribution of wealth from "makers" to "takers", they are adopting a losing strategy. The don't need to get a few of the wealthy and powerful to vote for them so much as they need to remind the 99.9% to do so. Then they'll be competitive in 50 states.

locumranch said...

The US polity elected a Republican majority to Congress because they have lost faith in grand ideologies. They have lost faith in party platforms; they are 'fed up' with federalism's one-size-fits-all approach to governance; and they are tired of being told how to talk, think & act, what to drive, eat & smoke, and who to schtupp, obey or respect.

As the old saying goes, "All politics are local", and the election of a Republican preponderance is just that: A vote for 'Increased Local Control' (also known as Anti-Federalism AND balkanization) rather than a blanket endorsement of moldy-old (and largely anti-liberal) conservative values.

And, although David chooses to call this movement (this rejection of centralized 'expert' authority) 'Anti-Science', it is not a rejection of science (and/or scientific principles) per se but, instead, it is a rejection of centralized 'let's-all-march-in-lockstep' authority. It is Populism, pure & simple, the desire to live, act, believe & behave according to personal preference, local custom and regional morality.

In the social West, where we once demanded a central (ultimate; all-knowing; unerring; infallible; unquestionable; high-hatted) authority to rally around, we have out-grown this need, and we will not allow any authority to thoroughly dominate us, including Holy Science, as the time for Popes has past.

Poor Science -- No Hat for You -- On This The People have Spoken.


Paul Shen-Brown said...

Tony Fisk, nice bit of alliteration!
"Either that, or politicians will stop heeding the mesmerising monotone marketing mantras of their spin doctors."

Locum, science is not about authority, and only those who fail to understand its most fundamental nature make that mistake. It is hardly that monolithic, except in how it is portrayed by the religious right. Left to their own devices, scientists will argue among themselves until the data bring them all to the same page. I don't think that Dr. Brin is arguing that we revisit the mistakes of the French Revolution. And the People haven't spoken so much as sat out this one. Science is not governance, it is a process of discovering truth. What the government and/or citizenry choose to do with the facts discovered by scientists is another matter.

As to the burning desire of average US citizens to be free of Orwellian big government and have more local control, I only hear this from Southerners and Limbaugh dittoheads. Most people are just as unimpressed by their local politicians (who are more likely to be corrupt due to less media spotlight) as they are by national politicians. Voter turnout this election cycle clearly demonstrates that most of the citizenry only consider it worth taking the time to vote when the President is up for grabs.

Anonymous said...

I feel as tho I have wandered into a loony bin. The sum of the original post and the comments is illustrative of the dismal state that progressives have brought this once great nation to. Those who love the progressive agenda should try spending some real time living in the repression of the European progressivism you so dearly love.

Robert said...

Locu, you seem to have ignored a vital component of the above post and the source material: The Republicans were the prettiest girl of a party where no one showed up. Voter turnout was abysmally low. Most of the Republican victories were for Senate seats in Red states, some won by freshmen senators won on the wave Obama's hope campaign washed over unexpecting and cynical states. And in two years, unless Republicans can replicate that Wave with a Republican candidate that inspires not only every single one of their voters and all of their former voters to get out and vote again but to also inspire the youth and woman vote to back them, then you will see the Senate majority swing back to Democrats.

There is only one victory to take here for Republicans: they may have prevented a Democratic Senate Supermajority in 2016. But isn't that the sort of victory where you're stuck with vanilla ice cream (and dislike vanilla) but hell at least you're not eating strawberry icecream?

It has been proven that the House is only in Republican hands because of gerrymandering - how else could a majority of voters vote Democrat, and yet the majority of Representatives are Republican - and not by a tiny margin but rather a significant one. Democrats are wising up to having to work through voter ID bills (and voter suppression so could be destroyed by Obama stating "there are valid concerns about voter fraud, and thus I am using an Executive Action to bring about standardization of voter ID systems so all states will use this system but no voter will be disenfranchised...") and getting minorities registered with valid IDs in the next two years.

At this point the only way Republicans have a chance of the Presidency is if a Republican lawmaker were to take a gun and kill both Obama and Biden at the same time (and then the new Republican President declared martial law and turned the nation into a dictatorship - except I doubt the military would stand for that).

Or Republicans could have the courage to tell their voters "the party is sick and dying, and unless we enact these reforms, you will never again see a Republican President legitimately elected." I rather doubt that will happen.

Rob H.

Robert said...

@Anon: Funny. You say that but I bet you don't believe it's right for Satanists to use Freedom of Religion to put a Satanic display up on public property next to a Manger Scene. I bet you don't think illegal immigrants should be allowed any rights that our civilians have. And I bet if Republicans enacted their policies you'd find that the loss of freedom would not end with abortions being illegal even for rape and incest and voter suppression of minorities. Not to mention you speak under the guise of anonymity. You lack the courage to speak openly and for all to see. If you lack that courage, why should we find any merit in your claims?

Rob H.

Midboss said...

Repression of European Progressivism...
What repression exactly ? I live in Europe (despite the UKIP's claims) and I can't really see it.

Anonymous said...

You score a perfect 100% wrong. I'm not surprised. And for your info I answered anonymously because I don't ever plan to return to this site.

Anonymous said...

My guess is you have never felt repressed because, according to you,you don't know what it means.
Your comment fits(or misfits) right in with the rest of the comments on this site.

Robert said...

And yet you did.

So what you're saying, Anon, is that you're a troll and you're just trying to rile up people. You find a group of people who are willing to debate and discuss a topic with people on both sides of the spectrum (or do you think Tacitus, locu, or myself are liberals? Excuse me while I laugh) and rather than trust the maturity of the group and actual discussion and debate where opinions are respected so long as respect is shown in return, you hide under the mantle of anonymity and shout out short little assertions without citation or proof.

Because that is the behavior of a troll - "hit and run" behavior and "I'll not return" while remaining behind to witness the flamestorms that he crafts - rather than a mature and reasonable person willing to discuss things with people he may not agree with. (And yes, I know women can be trolls as well, but far far fewer of them tend to be.)

Shed your anonymity. Join the community. Become a part of something greater, and in doing so find you have grown as well.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Dr Brin wrote:

"Across the last 60 years, democratic congresses have generally deferred to or negotiated with republican presidents, allowing them (with some big exceptions) to get their nominees passed. This has never been true in reverse. Not once, ever. Especially since the GOP openly declared its Hastert (“never negotiate”) Rule."

And this is why the Republicans well keep on winning no matter how many Democrat Presidents get elected. If one side moves to meet the other, and the other doesn't move at all or moves further in its preferred direction, guess which side is going to win over time. What is the signature achievement of Democrat President "Hope and Change" Obama? The passage of the *Republican* health-care plan. Which is now
"Communism-Sharia-Atheism-OMG!" because the Party of No has moved the Overton Window so much further to the "right."

Our next President-Designate, Hillary Clinton (I do hate how media outlets can tell us who our nominee is going to be *years* before a single primary vote has been cast) is going to have to get on her knees, hold her hands out pleadingly, and offer to govern like Ayn Rand in order to get anything done at all, and she'll *still* be too "left wing" for them. The one after her will have to govern like Pinochet.

Either that, or people will tire of "weak" Democrats (another Republican meme that works really, really well, especially in combination with Republican gridlock) or the Democrat base will stay home in frustration, and we'll end up with another "Decider."

The only way the Grey States (because, let's face it, Red isn't their color) won't keep winning this phase of the Civil War is if the Union either gets wide, filibuster-proof majorities in both Houses of Congress plus an inspiring President and the resolve to do some outright curbstomping, or if the Union finds some way to change the rules of the game. I'm not sure what that would be, since the option for gridlock is built in to the Constitution.

Maybe something like "going full-Tenther" or even Blue secession: let the Grey States turn themselves into a cheap-labor cornpone Byzantine Empire/Republic of Gilead-with guns-and-big-pickups for awhile, and let their voters have the results of their desired policies rammed down their throats foie gras-style until they remember why we put FDR on the dime, and Teddy on Mt. Rushmore.

BTW, regarding William F. Buckley's ghost: The National Review is currently warning the coming GOP Congress in its best Admiral Ackbar voice: Governing! It's a TRAP!.


Anonymous said...

What Ladd doesn't seem to get is that the craziness of the modern Republican party is a feature not a bug. You see all these 'moderate' Republicans who are trying to bring the party back to it's core focus on conservative economic policy. The problem is that the whole point of the craziness was to distract from the overwhelmingly unpopular Republican economic policies. If you can't survive in the marketplace of ideas, throwing out a bunch of chaff to whip up the extremists in your base is a viable strategy - if not one that bodes well for long term success.

matthew said...

David, one big reason for the lower oil prices is Obama asked for OPEC to keep production quotas high to pummel the Russian economy. The Saudis and Gulf States are going along with the plan. Putin's policy speech in Sochi was in partial response to John Kerry travelling to several OPEC states negotiating for the production quotas to stay high. Low oil prices punish Russia and ISIS for their truculence. Beating up Iran and Argentina economically is just a bonus.

Hans said...

When any banker responsible for the 2008 meltdown does jail time, I'll believe that someone, someday, in some alternate universe will do time for voting machine fraud.

I don't suggest we stop trying though.

Robert said...

Like the bankers in Iceland?

Or were you unaware that the Icelandic government put out an Interpol request for the arrest of some of their bankers who'd fled the nation?

Rob H.

Hans said...

Yes, like in Iceland. Then we could have nice things.


David Burns said...

I was convinced the republicans are terrible long ago. Now convince me the democrats aren't just as bad.

David Brin said...

David Burns why should I bother? You clearly did not read the linked article. If you had, you would have seen TONS of such reasons. And, if you saw flaws, you would have pointed those out.

As it is, I am not responsible for your dogmatic laziness.

Jumper said...

I ally with scientists partially because they are some of the best deep cover warriors against ineffective elements in the bureaucracies.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

For our repeat anonymous commentator, I would like to quote a line by one of the Twentieth Century's most influential writers:

"Four legs good, two legs baaaaad!"
- George Orwell

locumranch said...

I agree wholeheartedly with Paul S_B when he says "Science is not about authority, and only those who fail to understand its most fundamental nature make that mistake", so it therefore follows that those who look to science (and/or scientists) to act as civil authorities (as does our host) are making a fundamental error. Rather than 'making up' policy, it is the scientist's job to come up with options and evidence that may or may not facilitate those civilly-constructed policies.

That said, I disagree with Robert on two counts:

Firstly, I disagree with his analogy about the Republicans being the 'prettiest girl at a party where nobody came' when the truth is that they were the 'easiest girl' at the same party, offering up the obstruction (and/or destruction) of federal government which is what a growing number of 'Randy' US citizens desire.

Secondly, I object to his characterization that I am 'not a liberal' when (truthfully) I am one of the few pure 'liberals' on this site. More accurately, I am NOT a 'liberal-progressive' because 'progressivism'(IMO) has become an increasingly dangerous form of idealism which has lost all contact with our political reality, and this truism applies equally to the revisionistic tendencies of both the progressive left and the progressive right.

If I had my druthers, I would do away with our so-called 'progressive' culture of incrementalism which (1) confuses negligible additive improvement with definitive change, (2) has proven itself incapable of leaving good enough alone, (3) spoils our cultural soup like too many self-important cooks and (4) insists on mischaracterizing their incessant meddling as 'scientific'.


Tacitus2 said...

Give people an election that they care about and they will turn up in substantial numbers. Here in Wisconsin we had the best mid term participation rate in a generation or two. Both sides cared a lot.

The laws of science are apolitical. Drop an anvil and it will hit your foot at a time readily calculatable with a few measurable variables.

The laws of man are all political. Science can be perverted to serve them. If you had the eugenics mindset of the early 20th century harnessed to the biology of the 21st I have no doubt that you could produce verifiable improvements in many parameters of human health. And the more brutally you apply the science the more dramatic the results.

And of course hubris, always hubris. There was some actual concern that the Trinity test might ignite earth's atmosphere. We did it anyway. Hey, that worked out ok, lets do nuke tests in the desert outside Vegas. March soldiers up close to study the effects on them. Announce the schedule so gamblers can step outside The Tropicana to stare into the heart of nuclear hell.


David Brin said...

" those who look to science (and/or scientists) to act as civil authorities (as does our host)..."

Ah... locum the strawmanning liar is baaaaaaack!

A.F. Rey said...

Here's one for the books: A cartoon based on an "epic screed" of a billionare worried about hyperinflation based on the prices of real estate in London, Manhattan, Aspen and East Hampton, plus the price of high-end art.

As the comments section says (better than the comic, IMHO), "[W]hen 1% of the world's population holds as much wealth as the bottom half, you're going to see some pressure on those Picasso price points. It's a clash of the titans -- titans with near-infinite resources to spend impressing each other to death!"

Sound familiar, David? ;)

A.F. Rey said...

Or consider the problem of luxury items like jets and yatchs. Only the very most expensive are selling. The merely unaffordable no longer have a market.

Sales of the largest, most expensive private jets — including private jumbo jets — are soaring, with higher prices and long waiting lists. Smaller, cheaper jets, however, are piling up on the nation’s private-jet tarmacs with big discounts and few buyers.
“The real demand is at the very top,” said Mr. Rushton, the president of Aviatrade, a private-jet brokerage and advisory company. “The big guys, the billionaires, have plenty of money, and they’re buying. But the middle and lower end has been much slower to recover from the crisis.”

Anonymous said...

Re Tacitus' "There was some actual concern that the Trinity test might ignite earth's atmosphere",

I recently watched the episodes of the new TV series "Manh(a)ttan" on Hulu. I liked it enough to read some of the ancillary background stuff on the making of the series, interviews with actors, producers, people who had lived at Los Alamos during the project, etc.

One of the latter was a woman who lived there as a teenager while her father worked as a probabilist. She said that one of his assigned tasks was to compute the probability that the atmosphere would ignite and that he came up with 1/3000.

-- ToddR

Tony Fisk said...

Tacitus2 said:
The laws of science are apolitical. Drop an anvil and it will hit your foot at a time readily calculatable with a few measurable variables.

The political bit lies in whether the foot will be there to be struck when the anvil arrives. From recent observations on issues like climate change, this doesn't seem to be quite as straightforward as one would think.

atomsmith said...

> She said that one of his assigned tasks was to compute the probability that the atmosphere would ignite and that he came up with 1/3000.

Heh. I wonder if his calculation looked anything like the Drake equation...

Alfred Differ said...

Removing scientists from the policy making side of what is done won't happen. They are just as human as the policy makers. Since we all have a chance of being policy makers, the trick is to recognize when one of us knows something (or doesn't) about the subject they wish to influence. No one should be taken as an absolute authority, but we should be paying attention to people who are likely to know something useful.

David Brin said...

The "ignite the atmosphere" seems odd to even calculate. There is no energy curve to "ignite"

Jim Satterfield said...

The scientists who have become in policy have done so only after years of having the implications of their research ignored.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. That's what gets many people involved in policy. Otherwise most of us would avoid it as getting making it reminds me too much of having one's toenails pulled out forcefully with no anesthetic.

(I'm assuming one does not have a monetary interest in skewing the rules, of course.)

TheMadLibrarian said...

As someone who is temporarily impersonating a figure of authority, policy making is much like sausage making. No one likes to consider the process, even if the results are tolerable.

~~I miss the old CAPTCHA sometimes

Tony Fisk said...

btw (and, for once, sort of on-topic) anyone who doesn't feel they've voted enough recently are welcome to participate in the Victorian* election Vote Compass.

After answering about 30 questions on local political issues, your overall rating will be displayed on a fashionable 2-D graph and compared with the major parties.

*You are asked for your locality, but Non-Victorians can still give it a whirl.

'511': the electron rest mass energy, in keV

David Brin said...

onward to part II