Saturday, January 02, 2016

Nostalgic for Reagan Republicans? And do facts matter?

First an announcement that is that's pertinent to today's topic. A bold new site "" makes economics much livelier. Among other intriguing and enlightening pieces, they recently featured my 'classic' about the root method of our Enlightenment renaissance -- flat-open-fair competition. While citing Adam Smith, F. Hayek, Ben Franklin and Pericles, I show how far today's libertarians and conservatives have drifted away from their own core underpinnings. How they have been suckered into betraying the very thing they claim to support. 

Drop by Evonomics to try out this and other challenging articles, daring us to think -- and rethink -- as if we were proper heirs to those revolutionaries... as well as avid 21st Century minds.

== My, my how you have changed ==

Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush actively promoted measures to combat climate change, with Reagan in 1987 overruling objections within his own Cabinet to a major proposed treaty to protect the ozone layer, according to recently declassified records. Both presidents’ secretaries of state, George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, played key roles in blocking efforts by other Cabinet secretaries to frustrate implementation of more environmentally friendly policies. 

For example, memos for senior State Department officials noted that “Global climate change is the most far reaching environmental issue of our time” and that notwithstanding the need for continued research, “We simply cannot wait – the costs of inaction will be too high.”

These discussions led to success in the 1989 Montreal Protocol, which phased out production of industrial chemicals linked to the destruction of the Earth’s ozone layer. An example of where we saw a problem, acted (like adults) and (largely) solved it.

Back when it was not a core GOP principle to hate science.

== Then boomers took over ==

Who would have expected the U.S. “boomer" generation to be so sanctimoniously stupid? Politically, I mean? Take this recent example.

The new transportation infrastructure bill “is a landmark moment for a Congress that is reviled by many Americans as a do-nothing body, most notable for the bitter fighting between its most extreme elements.” For the first time in 10 years it does more than a continuing resolution but actually addresses national needs.  It also quietly reauthorizes the U.S. Export-Import Bank. (So much for that “enemy number one” on the conservative action list.)

Why the decade of obstruction? Because republicans know that spending on infrastructure is the very best form of economic stimulation, directly helping the country while most of the cash immediately becomes high-velocity dollars - spent and re-spent with the biggest economic “multiplier” possible.  More than enough reason to block it, so the resulting economic improvements would not happen on a democrat’s watch.

Too late. All economic indicators are up, and now GOP leaders fear bridges are about to start collapsing, and they’ll be blamed.  Still, they managed to avoid any sort of funding that might be reliable or long term, paying for this increase by a one-time raid on the Federal Reserve. The very opposite of fiscal conservatism.

== Facts matter ==

The Republican debates are great theater.  But all the fact-checking services are in despair because it is like trying to drink from a firehose. At any given moment, the odds of a candidate’s utterances being even half true are around 50%.

Are facts even slightly pertinent, anymore?  When every attempt at creating a fact-checker service is immediately rendered impotent, because scores always look bad for the GOP?  Take, for example, the stark difference in actual, measurable outcomes across the spans of Republican administrations versus democratic ones. By any actual metric – by dozens – the outcomes are diametrically opposite.  Should that change a person’s mind? If true, would it change yours? 

In wake of the recent Paris Climate Summit, the biggest were-elephant in the room is climate change. The inconvenient fact? That 2015 will have been the hottest on record and 2016 could be even hotter. 

This will make it hard for Ted Cruz, Sean Hannity and other outright-deliberate liars to use their favorite gambit of pegging their “before” comparisons always on the specific year 1998. In other words, in 2013 they said "there hasn't been any warming in the last 16 years!"  In 2014 they said "there hasn't been any warming in the last 17 years!"  In 2015 they said "there hasn't been any warming in the last 18 years!"

Why so specific? Why did they always peg 1998 as the ‘before” year?  Because that was the previous record holder for hottest year in all of recorded human history…. Allowing them to then proclaim that the years since then show “no warming.” Like a woman choosing as her “before” peg the last year she was pregnant, then declaring “I haven’t gained a pound since 2005!

If you ditto-nodded to that nonsense-lie by Cruz and Hannity etc., or repeated it, then welcome to a foretaste of your ultimate destination.

Oh, but there is a long series of actual truths that are so inconvenient to the fox-narrative of gloom. Take the favorite rant-topic of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – that the US is being swamped by waves of illegal immigration.  Except that… we’re not. 

In fact, the flow has gone from an inward flood, under George W. Bush, to negative under Obama.

"There are many reasons for the historic reversal of migration between the U.S. and Mexico, according the Pew Research Center, which announced Thursday that more than 1 million Mexicans headed south to re-establish their lives in the last five years, while only 870,000 migrated north to the U.S."

But it gets richer when one contemplates that confederates, like angels, have no memory.  Remember the screeches and flapping chicken-little panic when a few thousand unaccompanied minors from south of the border appeared, briefly surprising our government agencies, who had not encountered the phenomenon before?  Oh the sky was falling!  Except that…

…except that crisis ended within weeks, as measures taken by the administration worked.  Simply and quietly worked. But sensationalist media ignored that fact. And the United States of America – once again -- did not come to an end.

Does that disappoint candidates who actively pray for the United States to come to a rapid and violent end?  Let’s be clear; that does describe the average Republican candidate today. Many openly avow to praying for exactly that.

No wonder Mexicans are leaving.  So much for the core Trump talking-point. (See here for more on why almost everything you believe to be true about immigration is diametrically opposite-to-true.) 

== More inconvenient facts? ==

Crime rates have been at historic lows during the Obama administration, and police deaths have also dropped to their lowest level in a lifetime.  So how does NJ governor Chris Christie get away with saying the exact opposite, in railing against Obama during a recent debate? Simple. Any attempt to set up or refer to a Fact Check site soon devolves, because no matter how sincerely non-partisan the group's original intentions, they will soon be dismissed as "partisan," for one simple reason. Because there is no longer even a figleaf correlation between dogma and actual fact on the American right. It is the basic reason for the War on Science

…and against every other American clade of skill and knowledge, from medical doctors to teachers, civil servants, law professionals, economists, journalists. (Name an exception.) 

Getting back to the GOP debates… we will talk more about front-runners Donald Trump, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.  But lest we forget that “establishment” republicans are no more honest or competent. Take Jeb Bush’s howler that his brother “kept us safe from terrorism.”

This admittedly biased article on Salon puts the lie to such nonsense.  “The more we learn about the last Republican administration, the more obvious the truth becomes. We now have enough evidence to say not only did George W. Bush fail to keep us safe; he was criminally negligent in his refusal to heed the warnings his administration was given in the months before 9/11.” Indeed, the author asserts that “more Americans were killed (by enemy action) on U.S. soil during George W. Bush’s administration than under any other.”  

The latter part I’d like to see documented.  But certainly there were more successful terror attacks under G. W. Bush – and more victims – than across the Clinton and Obama administrations combined.  Facts that confederate voters blithely ignore because to of the narrative-fable that Republicans are stronger on defense. 

Indeed, one measure of the delusion dominating America's gone-around-the-bend right wing is the matter of military readiness. At the end of the Clinton Administration, 100% of major U.S. military units were rated fully combat ready. By the time G.W. Bush left office, not a single major army or marine unit was so rated. Most have now regained that status. So much for muslim-traitor Obama.

I have left out so many other inconvenient facts.  Like the blatant way that almost every conceivable metric of U.S.economic health has done better (by far) across the span of the Clinton and Obama administrations than across those of either Bush.  Indeed, most plummeted across spans of republican rule and most went up across democratic administrations. And this includes the trend lines of budget deficits!  When outcome variance is that huge, only a fool would let dogma trump our own self-interest.  See the comparison made extremely clear, including the staggering fact that any prudent fiscal conservative must choose to be a democrat. The facts regarding deficit spending are overwhelming.  


dominictemple said...

The sad fact is that having the facts on your side doesn't matter if you're not allowed to speak them. The oligarchs of the right have bought up more and more newspapers, radio stations and news networks that it doesn't matter what the facts are, the general public won't hear them, even MSNBC is losing what few liberal voices they had and are being replaced by the enablers who allow the republican party to get away with their crimes.

The David Brooks of the world, the bothsiderists, the equivocators who can always find an invisible hippy to punch and say both are corrupt, both sides are always equally to blame and lets look to someone in the "centre" like Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan for "Reasonable Republican Party." That little idea was by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson speaking on PBS. These people are the problem because whenever you scratch down past the current rightwing talking point they will always resort to bothsidesbothsidesbothsides.

Tacitus2 said...

Ugh. This stuff again.

Well, if I might trouble you for a reference on this part:

"Does that disappoint candidates who actively pray for the United States to come to a rapid and violent end? Let’s be clear; that does describe the average Republican candidate today. Most openly avow to praying for exactly that."

My new policy on political commentary is that I will try to accompany my posts with a quote from the original Tacitus...

“If you would know who controls you see who you may not criticize.”


David Brin said...

Tacitus2 that's malarkey. Look up Dispensationalism. It has become the de facto central doctrine of American fundamentalist Christianity, to whom all the GOP to pols (who want to survive politically) openly ascribe.

Tacitus2 said...

Now David...I simply asked politely for a documented source for a rather alarming claim that you made. And the heading of this post is "do facts matter?" Am I in some fashion out of line here?

I am looking for that YouTube video of Republican candidates (implied being Presidential not dogcatcher of Dothan Alabama) "openly" praying for the United States to come to a rapid and violent end.

It seems unlikely that you can deliver this but hey, I have an open mind. I am also forgiving of hyperbole and recall that on other occasions you have "walked back" a bit of your more pungent rhetoric. Its OK to on occasion admit to being a bit over enthusiastic in ones passions. 'Tis human.


David Brin said...

YEs, I admit to exaggerated oversimplification, this time. Something that is implicit is not always explicit.

But I ask you this. If at a major event or a debate, major GOP candidates were asked -- "Do you pray for Jesus to return soon in the fashion described in the Book of Revelation?" what do you think most would say in response?

I did see Sarah Palin make it very explicit. And Mike Huckabee. But not one of them would dare to demur or say no. Moreover, you know this.

Jumper said...

Damn, Tacitus has super powers!

Tacitus2 said...

An honest admission, sir. You rise in my esteem.

Sorry to raise the challenge but when you title the post "do facts matter" you rather ask for it!

Your sure conviction to the contrary notwithstanding, I don't know how that question would be answered by what I consider to be serious candidates.



David Brin said...

Tacitus. Then you ignore the claim by every candidate who visits a bible-thumper event that he is "one of you." But I am happily willing to separate - on demand - claims that are supportable facts versus assertions that should be bloody well obvious to anyone.

Chris Heinz said...

One very alarming fact we should not forget: 80% of our volunteer armed forces come from red states. For most of these economically depressed and undereducated states, this is the only way to try to get out. Plus, you love guns!

Paul SB said...

"My new policy on political commentary is that I will try to accompany my posts with a quote from the original Tacitus..."

Please do! I really miss the days when I devoured my ancient history, religions and archaeology classes. By all means, feel free to quote him, or Livy, Pliny, Thukidides or any other cool ancient writer that comes to mind.

I have to agree, though, with Dr. Brin on this one. The level of Bronze Age rhetoric coming from the Republican Party is frightening, and has been for more than a couple decades. Maybe you don't hear it so much in the cold, hard land of fromage, but I have known more than a handful of self-styled conservatives who openly long for the days when they could have their wives publicly stoned and replaced with much younger models. It is a little like denying that vast numbers of conservatives are racists. You may not be one yourself, and I am quite content to take your word for it, and it does you no discredit because lesser beasts want to wave the same banner.

locumranch said...

Hold on, Tacitus.

David has made a rather Astute Observation about the relationship between US Military Involvement & US political party affiliation. History shows us that US Democratic Presidents are much more likely to engage in Military Action, especially when it means sacrificing scads & scads of human lives to foreign entanglements:

World War 1, declared & presided over by DEMOCRATIC President Woodrow Wilson, US military deaths >320,000, total body count 18 million; World War 2, declared & presided over by DEMOCRATIC President Franklin D. Roosevelt. US military deaths > 1 million, total body count 55 million; Korean War, declared & presided over by DEMOCRATIC President Harry S. Truman, US military deaths >50 ,000, total body count 1.6 million; and the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis & Vietnam Conflict, declared & presided by DEMOCRATIC President John F. Kennedy, +1500 associated US deaths at BofP, potential Cuban Missile Crisis deaths > 3 Billion from nuclear brinkmanship & US military deaths > 75,000 with a total body count 3.9 million in Vietnam.

Republican US Presidents are pacifist pikers in comparison, so much so that REPUBLICAN presidents like Richard Nixon & Ronald Reagan tend to retreat from Military Conflict (most notably Vietnam & the US/Soviet Cold War), or engage in limited multinational Police Actions, racking up pitifully low US military body counts during their presidential terms that often remain in the low hundreds. Even Republican President George W (for 'War-Hawk') Bush's body count in Iraq & Afghanistan was tripled by DEMOCRATIC President Barak Obama who presided over 3 out of 4 US military deaths in this theatre.

Of course, this new information about DEMOCRATIC President War-Mongering begs three very important questions:

(1) How can anyone but a blood-thirsty savage vote for a DEMOCRATIC President in good conscience??
(2) Can the USA (and the World-in-General) SURVIVE yet another DEMOCRATIC US Presidency ?? and
(3) Will a DEMOCRATIC President like Hillary Clinton 'kill us all' ??


Jumper said...

Quit using "begs the question" wrong.
Thank you in advance.
Also Hitler declared war on the USA first.

Treebeard said...

Good point locum. The liberal imperialist impulse has been behind almost every American war for at least a century; modern America is a liberal EMPIRE. Even George W. Bush had neocon ex-leftists behind him, pushing for the re-making of the Muslim world along liberal American lines. And Ivy League “liberals” like Hillary Clinton, who support every war and are in the pocket of the military-industrial complex, while trying to convince others via their media organs that American war-mongering is all the work of retrograde “right wing Christians”, are surely some of the most deceptive, dishonorable and hypocritical people you'd ever want leading a nation.

I guess liberal imperialism goes back to America's Judeo-Protestant-Freemasonic foundation, of a shining city on a hill with a special mission to bring light unto the world – a mission which people like Dr. Brin have reformulated as an “Enlightenment” crusade (God may have been killed by science, but a dead universe made of atoms and the void has somehow compelled them to bring light unto the world – a crusade which science itself suggests is doomed. But I digress). This crusader impulse to save the world from darkness, which came out of the desert several thousand years ago and has morphed many times, is so virulently war-like that it's now largely reduced to fighting itself, in forms like Islamism, Progressivism, Communism and Christian fundamentalism. Meanwhile, the sanely pagan among us hope that all these desert religious fanatics would go bring their Enlightenment and Salvation to the Martians or something, and leave the rest of us in peace.

David Brin said...

Ch... 80% exaggerates greatly. Bit I am always keenly aware that the one virtue displayed by the otherwise horrifically evil Confederate States of America was martial spirit, ingenuity and courage. Likewise, even today for Red America.

Our dopes ignore:

1- that the parties have largely flipped!Today's GOP maps geographically almost identical to ye olde confedaracy plus the plains states. Dang that's inconvenient to the narrative!

2- Notice they say nothing about the Post-vietnam era. Why? Because demo presidents since Vietnam have hated major commitments of ground troops and reserves and tend to emphasize special forces and air, handling them - by the way - very very well in every engagement except the stupidly parsimonious sally into Somalia. It was Reagan and both Bushes who called up and virtually destroyed the Army and Marine reserves -- NOT for wars of urgency (the purpose of reserves) but wars of (insanely stupid) policy.

By the end of GWB's presidency not a single large Army of Marine unit was "fully combat ready". It had been 100% under Clinton and guess what? It is 100% again under Obama. Obama the Muslim traitor.

To reiterate the difference between how post vietnam Goppers and Demmies wage war... see the details here:

And the difference is staggering. And anyone who would trust a republican with our armed forces -- or economy or science or anything else but a burnt match -- has to be insa....

oops. I forgot who I was responding to, Carry on.

Tony Fisk said...

The unlamented Tony Abbott once proclaimed that "all politicians lie."
He was making excuses for himself, but it is a striking example of how embedded 'projection' has become as a RW rhetorical bludgeon. How does this compare with the American experience? Are all conservatives sociopaths, now? (One hopes not.)

The problem with setting up a 'fact checker' is that it will *always* be portrayed as biased by those it inconveniences. Maybe the best approach is accept that from the start, and have one site team concentrate on one side, while another picks over the opposition's utterances.

Tony Fisk said...

The tone of this conversation, plus the Tim McVeighs holding a survivalist convention in Oregon, sounds like it's the season to be bellicose. Who's been spiking the national eggnog supply?

Laurent Weppe said...

"Maybe you don't hear it so much in the cold, hard land of fromage, but I have known more than a handful of self-styled conservatives who openly long for the days when they could have their wives publicly stoned and replaced with much younger models"

Land of Fromage: you mean France?
In that case, you're right: our local far-rightists don't want to go back to the bronze age: they just want to go back to the "Good Old Days" of the late XIXth century, when wealthy members of the white herrenvolk could molest their arabic/black/asian housemaids with impunity.

Jumper said...

I suppose I'll hold my nose and vote for the sanest Republican left standing, whom I expect will be Hillary Clinton.

Tacitus2 said...


In this context the Land of Fromage is Wisconsin. To explain the centrality of Cheese to my adopted state would be difficult.


Regards the tone of conversation I strive ever to be courteous. I have in fact been chided for this once or twice. But of course the "original" Tacitus had a thought on the matter too...

“To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.”
― Tacitus

I find myself in a chatty mood today. More later.


greg byshenk said...

David, I noticed this piece by Steven Pinker at Edge and it made me think of some of your comments.

bigsteve said...

Not all boomers are political stupid. Over the last forty years of my life my political views have changed. Experience if you are able and willing to learn does that to you. My views are close to yours Mr. Brin. I have moved from my youth of very conservative to left of center. But I still read opposite view points to make sure I did overlook something. I am still registered Republican because my state is a close primary state and I am in a gerrymandered district. Many elections are decided in the Republican primary. This is changing as courts force the legislators GOP dominated to honour a citizen initiated state constitutional amendment to stop gerrymandering passed by voters. But I vote independent in the general election, lately much more Democratic. There is a move to use citizen initiated state constitutional amendments to open primaries to all voters. If that happens watch Florida swing to much more purple. People are at work to change the political landscape to something that works more in the interest of the majority of the citizens.

Paul SB said...

Laurent, France is famous for its cheeses, and rightly so, but I think there are many places that can lay claim to being a Land of Fromage. Virtually every nation of Europe has its cheese culture, though the homeland of cheese (its point of origin) seems to have been the Middle East.I count among my favorites Port Salut & Saint Nectaire (French), Leiden (Dutch), Wensleydale (British - made internationally famous by Wallace & Grommet), Armenian String Cheese (the authentic, braided kind rather than the cheap, salty mozzarella sticks that pass for string cheese here - another reason to be grateful for ethnic diversity), Parmesan (Italian) and even Queso Quesadilla (a Mexican cheese which is great when cooked but not one you would eat by itself). But I used the French word for a reason. Be proud, but allow others their pride, too. :]

Paul SB said...

If we want to contrast America's two major parties, it seems to me that a major contrast is one of talk verses action. Republicans are quite famous for their saber rattling. I'm sure most of us have heard about the jihadi recruitment video that features clips of Donald Trump? Another thing the Republicans are quite famous for complaining about is welfare. However, they never actually do anything about it. Clinton took millions of people off the welfare roles, enrolling them into job training programs and forcing them to look for work. of course, that is something a nation can do when the economy is working well. It would have been disastrously foolish to try during an economic downturn.

Rhetoric - like when certain people claim to support science but then turn around and argue with every scientific conclusion that doesn't fit their sociopolitical/religious preconceptions.

Tacitus2 said...

I was in a puckish mood earlier, and spent a little time going over David's post and applying the criteria used by Politifact to evaluate public utterances. They actually have a parallel site called Punditfact that uses the same standards for political commentators. True ratings there are pretty damned uncommon. I was going to avoid any copyright issues by doing it up in a format I would call Polemi-Fact.

Ah, but that's just bein' silly. To actually add something to a serious public discourse one should suppress even light hearted teasing.

So, lets have substance.

Regards the old Military Preparedness chestnut. It is a hard thing to quantify. Recent articles on the matter all feature Army Chief of Staff Odierno who in spring of 15 was quoted (very quietly) as saying only 33% of Army brigades were in a state of readiness. Caveat: the brass always says this sort of thing when budget cuts are in the air, and he mentions sequestration as a big factor. Most here would hold the GOP more to blame for this than the administration. Here is a libertarian take on the issue, I thought it was well reasoned:

And so long as we are rehashing old points, the "metrics" issue. "Polemi-Fact" would have rated your assertion as Half True at best due to built in ambiguities. You for instance have generally held out yourself as the final arbiter of "unambiguous". But I credit you for now saying "almost every..". If I may make so bold, here are a few metrics that I find concerning under the current administration. They might make for interesting discussion either now or at some point in the future.

Lets start with Student Loan Debt. Now, I favor education but that is not the issue here. We are looking at economic markers for national well being. Early and substantial debt delays other activities...home purchases, child bearing, entrepreneurship. And I think it is fair to ask if we are as a society getting our money's worth for our investment. A political question for sure given recent public statements on the matter. If resources are finite - and not all pols admit this - is this where they should be deployed? At at the expense of what else?

The quick version: From 2008 to 2012 overall debt went from 587 billion up to 1 trill. And since then it has gone up another 20%.

Some people are in school (and others in other places, retirement, disability etc) due to changes in the job market. You can argue whether it is good or bad, but I think labor force participation rate is important.

It has dropped every year since 2008. There are interesting longer term trends too of course. It rose when women entered the labor force and is influenced by the demographic "baby boom".

I also worry about how much in the way of unfunded liabilities we have, mostly at the state level. But that is a more complicated matter and to see the true extent may be difficult.

Well, just a few things for our Sunday morning Stammtisch.


LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

The unlamented Tony Abbott once proclaimed that "all politicians lie."

But was he lying when he said that?


LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Wensleydale (British - made internationally famous by Wallace & Grommet)

Made famous by Monty Python before that.

The funny thing is, a year or two back, I was on an airplane reading one of those in-flight magazines, and I saw an article about a real cheese shop in Britain that had to be the model for that "cheese shop" Monty Python sketch. And the article even gave a shout out to Monty Python, so it wasn't just me.

LarryHart said...


Well, just a few things for our Sunday morning Stammtisch.

Tac, it seems to me you're missing the forest for the trees. Myself, I have reached the point where issues like student load debt and even military readiness are trivialities when distinguishing between the parties.

To the extent of their ability, the Republican Party will continue to transfer wealth and political power to the already-wealthy and powerful. To that end, they will also continue to erode the ability of non-wealthy, non-powerful citizens to exercise the vote. And they'll continue to cement such moves by appointing activist Supreme Court justices to enact that agenda.

All else pales in comparison.

Tacitus2 said...


I was just putting up a few thoughts for consideration. Nobody is under any obligation to play along. It is of course sometimes helpful to look at a tree so you don't run into it.
But I concur that we each perceive our own patterns, or forests if you prefer.
It is a lack of understanding of how others see things that impoverishes our political discourse.
I was tiptoeing up to a few wider themes...Guns vs Butter and Retirees vs the Young. But a few issues tossed out randomly like this are not even a grove, much less a forest.


Jumper said...

Pinker wrote "A common belief among activists is that any optimistic datum must be suppressed lest it lull people into complacency."
Now, this "feels true." Can it be verified?

sociotard said...

Looks like a few Holnists are making a move in Oregon

Laurent Weppe said...

"though the homeland of cheese (its point of origin) seems to have been the Middle East."

Sure, but the homeland of lactose tolerance is Hungary (although the mutation that produced this very useful trait happened in a population of middle-eastern immigrants). And given the recent archeological discoveries, I'm afraid that all of us ice cream enthusiasts are descended from the murderers who completed the first successful genocide: turns out the big bad syrian migration already happened ninety centuries ago

Marino said...

Our Ent is using technically Fascist rethoric:
America's Judeo-Protestant-Freemasonic foundation comes straight from there, the extreme reactionary Catholic flavor of it, (Franco/Salazar) to be nitpicking.

btw, as seen from the other side of the pond: if Trump supporters are cut from this cloth (the one used for black shirts), go figure how low would the US soft power and leadership plummet under such a government.

and blaming on Democrats the victims of a war where the US were attacked, like WW2 (Pearl and day of infamy, anyone?), as locum does, is egregious. I understand he probably likes some uchronia like Roth's Plot against America or Harris' Fatherland as real current timeline, where the US doesn't get involved and Hitler wins....

btw, blaming also the Korean war on the me, I'm a very far leftist and I wouldn't buy it. Dunno if it was the PRC that acted like the tail that wag the Soviet dog or the other way down, but it wasn't US fault, like Vietnam.

Paul SB said...

Laurent, one of the homes of lactose tolerance is Hungary, but there is another mutation in the Sudan that ends up having the same result, and may have been earlier than the mutation in Hungary by a few thousand years. I saw that on a video by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. They give their DVDs out for free, though it can take time for them to come. I'm not sure if they ship to Europe, though.But you can watch this on line.

Duncan Cairncross said...

From Vikinghou on the GOPLifer forum

I was thinking about this today and imagining a scenario where Hillary is President and nominates Barack Obama as the next Supreme Court justice. It wouldn’t be the first time a former president sat on the SCOTUS bench. But I’m afraid too many heads would explode!


David Brin said...

Duncan… Obama may be too old to be a Supremes nominee. Nowadays, utter youth is a core, partisan requirement, alas. Still, an interesting thought.

bigsteve… cool. Good luck! Shifting Florida toward sanity would be huge. Huge.

PaulSB to be fair, the 1990s Welfare Reform Act was bipartisan, resulting from the miracle year when Newt Gingrich paused the insanity to actually negotiate with Bill Clinton, that and the Budget Act and several other useful bills that helped the nation. For which Newt was roundly punished by Tom DeLay and Dennis-the-pervert-and-utter-traitor Hastert and Boehner and Ryan.

Tacitus… citing student loan debt is solid and well-targeted. It is a metric of national health… though “major” is arguable. I can respond that it was a republican congress that inserted the obscene rule that former students may not refinance their loans later at lower rates, as you and I can for mortgages. And Hillary has declared that rule the very first thing she’ll fight to change…

…but if I do that, then I change the rules of my game, which are to compare changes in health metrics entirely to presidential terms of office. Is that rule fair or reasonable? Of course not! It implies that only presidents matter! Still, in one of the biggest metrics, the correlation works surprisingly well.

The GOP owned Congress for 6 years before 2001 and for six years after. The first 6 years we had plummeting deficits and even black ink. The second “lean” six years were skyrockets of debt. What flipped? NOT Congress, but the presidency.

My aim in showing the staggering difference in outcomes is to actually get folks TALKING about outcomes. Outcomes should be the fundamental first and foremost criterion in political trust, far exceeding superficial, oughta-be-true dogmas.

Moreover, when you can only respond to my challenge of comparing outcomes with… QUIBBLES? Seriously? Quibbles? When the core truth remains so utterly blatant? That America grows healthier under democrats and sicker under GOP rule?

David Brin said...

Pinker wrote "A common belief among activists is that any optimistic datum must be suppressed lest it lull people into complacency." Indeed. And that conclusion demonstrates that the left is also insane! For good news does not lead to complacency but confidence and redoubled effort.

The difference between lefty insanity and righty insanity is foremost one of numbers. The crazy, PC-gestapo far left does not own a political party, nor control anything but Berkeley, San Francisco, Chicago and 200 university soft studies departments, where they repel more students than they convert.

The mad Entire Right is a full fledged confederacy that regularly seizes power and proceeds to damage the republic in every conceivable way, in every category that they can possibly touch. That’s a difference noted by the remaining (and the only sane) group — pragmatic liberals. Who are disgusted by PC gestapo but who know harmless, when they see it. And who are awake to what Blue America must now do.

Paul SB said...


Made famous by Monty Python before that. - Must have been one I missed!

Dr. Brin, you're right about the role both parties in Congress played in Clinton's successes. Hyperbolic partisanship wasn't quite as bad in those days as they have been since the neocons. One point about the tiny minority of far-left loonies is that the right wing, for the most part, straw man's everyone left of themselves as lefty extremists. They seem to have gone way overboard on the hyperbolic partisanship bandwagon (and I'm not just talking about our two high-fiving croakers in this forum - I have to wonder how the one received the news that the other labels them as 'pagans'). It's a different story today, at least on the national scene.

Tacitus, the student loan issue brings up a lot of other issues about our future, and how our culture has led to some of our troubles. I've mentioned educational inflation here before - basic supply-and-demand applied to degrees. The more people get them, the less they are valued. I wish I had a more complete understanding of economics so I could make some intelligent prognostications here. What happens when more than 50% of the adult population has at least a Bachelor's Degree? What happens when it goes to 75%? I don't want to give in to gloom & doom thinking, but it looks like a bubble on its way to bursting.

Would we be better off if our education system was more like Europe's, with university reserved for a small minority of eggheads while most go into trade schools focused on career education? I don't like the idea, because I like the ideal of a broad, mind-opening education. But then, the European system might be a little more economically stable. Most people on this side of the Pond, though, think unnecessarily highly of themselves and would consider any restriction on their educational opportunities to be tyrannical - and I would be inclined to agree in some respects. Another possibility might be free, socialized higher ed, but this would only compound the problem of educational inflation. Argh! If I had hair I would be pulling on it! I guess I will have to stress-eat some good cheese instead...

David Brin said...

Paul SB see Vonnegut's PLAYER PIANO for a near future when automation has taken away most jobs... and when a doctor's degree is what a bachelors was, in 1960 and they have a new "magister" degree above that.

To say about the 1990s that "Hyperbolic partisanship wasn't quite as bad in those days" is truly amazing. Who'd have thunk it could get worse? Indeed, the way Newt was punished for spending just one year putting the nation first shows that the screeching dogmatists financed by Murdoch and the Saudis were making their move.

I favor higher education for all who will work hard in school. The answer to automation is to extend college prodigiously! By 2100 I hope our lifespans top 100 and we spend 50 of those years sampling ideas and taking classes on gorgeous, paradise-campuses, arguing vehemently and staying young while our robots eagerly take care of the details.

Except the grade AAA alpha androids. Who will be sitting under trees with guitars, belting out protest songs, sneering sophomoric sarcasm at professors and (alas) getting all the chicks.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, you funny! But I hope you're right. If we get to the point where replicators can provide all of our basic physical needs, and no political, economic or religious organization limits universal access, then we will be in a unique position. In a Star trek-ish future, there will be those who will do very little to earn their keep, but society will be able to afford a few leeches while the rest are allowed to reach potentials hardly dreamed of (or dismissed as dangerous dreams) through most of history.

As to who could have thunk that it could have gotten worse than it was in the 90s, a whole lot of archaeologists, as well as some schools of thought cultural anthropology, would have predicted exactly that (in fact, I can remember at least three professors making just those predictions, though in private conversations, not in class). For those who come from an old-school structural paradigm, not say nothing of infrastructuralists, the idea that human civilization is an unstable adaptation is pretty much par for the course. But I'm not willing to throw my lot in with either school of thought entirely. Still, it's pretty typical for factions to intensify their competition during times of transition, when new modes of behavior, new economic patterns, etc. are replacing the old ways. The throwbacks could flatline the whole system, as has happened often enough before, or the bold progressives could push the balance over into a better future.

I managed to read about 12 pages out of a fiction book this vacation, so I think Vonnegut goes onto my "one day to read, perchance to dream..." list.

Robert said...

Here's the odd dichotomy of the Republican Party.

The Federal Republican Party is a diseased horrific organism that seems likely to collapse under its own weight and requires gerrymandering in order to maintain itself - in essence it's a cancer that is trying to devour this nation.

Yet in State elections, in an increasing number of states... Republicans are taking control.

This suggests then that the Republican Party is not in fact in its death throws. My own predictions of the imminent demise of the Republican Party fails to account for its growth on the Local and State levels. And so long as Democrats are unable to compete at these lower levels, Republicans will continue to have a firm grasp on the country... and may very well continue to find ways to disenfranchise Democratic voters to ensure they remain in control at every point except the Presidency... and they likely need but one chance to seize that one and could then truly screw over genuine democracy in this country.

Of course, one big factor is the Big Lie that Republicans keep telling Libertarians. Libertarians are the abused spouses of the Republican Machine - Republicans keep whispering "you know I love you and things are better for you with me. You don't want Democrats in control. They'll take everything you hold dear and destroy it. You can't allow them to seize control. They'll never relinquish it." And for some bizarre reason... Libertarians accept this lie and thus help ensure Republicans remain in power.

This is part of the reason why I consider Sanders a superior candidate to Clinton. The Clintons are despised by Republican politicians and voters. If Hillary is the Democratic candidate, Republicans will be out in droves. They will not be able to NOT vote no matter how horrific their candidates are because of their fear of Bill and Hillary.

Sanders? He's an old white man. And while the politicians go "Socialist!" the voters go "but he says things that make sense... we agree with what he's saying! And he's white!" (That said, if Sanders does manage to pull an Obama on Clinton, it is inevitable that his being Jewish will become a sticking point Republicans will try to use against him. After all, he'd be the first non-Christian President in over 150 years.)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob H for the first time you've made a potent case for Bernie. Heck I might even listen, if my vote matters in June's CA primary...

ut meanwhile, it is Hill's to lose. And Bern is raking in contributions for a war chest that will NOT be spent sabotaging her, but to make his points, which he will keep making.

Paul451 said...

Observation from the last thread,

"In magical circles, knowing the complete and true name of an
or process

was once thought to give one complete control over it. [...] To this day, many magical thinkers still insist that knowledge of a 'true name' gives one a complete understanding and some measure of control over that particular
or thing;

hence our incessant jingoism, the proliferation of
non-definitional labels
and meaningless terminologies

which tend to be
& obfuscational.

dark matter:

Terms like these are mere incantations that neither describe nor define. At best, they signify membership in an exclusive club. At worst, they stifle
critical thought,
& empiric inquiry.

I've noticed that magical thinkers also seem to be drawn to the rule-of-three.

The insistence on the rule-of-three even applies...

"This was thought to work because
(1) a name is a definition,
(2) a contagion link,
(3) a similarity link
and (3) an association. "

...when there are four. (Numbers are his.)

David Brin said...

For supporters of inherited oligarchy to accuse utterly meritocratic and stunningly individualistic, cantankerous and competitive scientists of "exclusive club" tendencies is... ironic and hilarious.

Not that corners of science aren't subject to such human temptations, from time to time! They just detect and pierce them and pop them far more often and better than any other type of human activity ever has. Indeed, every one of the polysyllabic terms that L parrots (sans understanding) was invented by the new, scientific way of thinking. Hence the hypocritical homage of accepting the standards of the thing being attacked and attempting to accuse science of not being the very thing that it is better-at than any other human clade.

In fact, accuse away! Science loves -- (well, accepts) CITOKATE. It's just amusing to see those who hate science accusing it of being the kinds of people that (in truth) the accusers are. As they look in a mirror.

Daniel Duffy said...

Robert, the reason for the Republican dichotomy is simple: old people vote, specifically old white people.

As there are fewer and fewer old white people in each election cycle, the GOP needs gerrymandering to stay relevant at the nationa level.

But in off-year elections, old white people are the only ones who vote (especially for state houses and state officical).

See Kentucky.

raito said...

Do you guys even pay attention to what's going on in WI (the Land of Fromage)?

In regards to women the first thing to happen lately was elimination of post-first-trimester abortions across the board. Even though there can be medical reasons for it, including attempt through testing to prove that the fetus is viable.

Next was the attempt to force clinics out of existence by requiring that the clinicians have admitting privileges. That one, at least, was found to be unconstitutional.

(sarcasm on)
Our beloved governor, at least, doesn't hate science! He says he believes that modern medicine is so great that there is never a time when a pregnancy is dangerous to the mother. So abortions are never necessary.

On the other hand (OK, it's the same hand), he'd also force women to full term in cases of incest and rape.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Paul SB see Vonnegut's PLAYER PIANO for a near future when automation has taken away most jobs... and when a doctor's degree is what a bachelors was, in 1960

I myself just re-read that book a few months ago. I've read it several times since I was 20 in 1981, and every time, I understand it more and more.

and they have a new "magister" degree above that.

...but here, I think you might be conflating it with a different book. I don't recall the term.

To say about the 1990s that "Hyperbolic partisanship wasn't quite as bad in those days" is truly amazing. Who'd have thunk it could get worse?

Perhaps tangential to your question, but I remember as far back as the 1980s, wondering how much longer the GOP could keep blaming failures on "not being far enough to the right", and continue to move in that direction. And it hasn't stopped yet.

I favor higher education for all who will work hard in school. The answer to automation is to extend college prodigiously! By 2100 I hope our lifespans top 100 and we spend 50 of those years sampling ideas and taking classes on gorgeous, paradise-campuses, arguing vehemently and staying young while our robots eagerly take care of the details.

Now here, you touch on my...whatever the term is for "pet peeve" but a positive rather than a negative thing. Unemployment induced by technology replacing human labor should be a good thing. It means that human labor is not required to make the system work (or at least is required in much, much smaller amounts than we've been used to). In such a world, one should be entitled to a certain amount (to be determined later) of luxury and leisure from the commons. The right to life should not be dependent on your being able to fill increasingly-fewer roles dedicated to increasing the wealth of increasingly-few members of the owner class.

Anonymous said...

Old news, old news, that automation has taken away jobs (from the poor) and given everyone (who is rich) time to attend and give lectures. The natural consequences of such productive, err, activity was covered by E.M. Forster in "The Machine Stops" some number of decades prior to Vonnegut. On the topic of inequality, see Steve Lopez's recent article on Tillman, 71, who enjoys 50 gallons of water per week, all the while some anonymous (lecture-attending?) Bel-Air estate owner gets by on just 218,400 gallons.

As to the recent bipartisan transportation pork--roads, roads, and more roads--others have somewhat lower opinions of the fiscal soundness and safety of the environment thus built.

locumranch said...

If it's disingenuous for Republican Industrialists to berry-pick climate change data from the last 17 years (and so limit AGW temperature increases), then it is most certainly disingenuous for War-Mongering Democrats to limit their presidential military records to the 'Post-Vietnam Era' (and so limit their complicity in wholesale global slaughter).

History shows us that US Democratic Presidents love a 'good war' to a much greater extent than US Republican Presidents (mostly because US Republicans tend to favour Isolationism), so much so that Democratic Presidential Racist-Heroes like FDR used 'Lend-Lease' policies to fight a clandestine war with Nazi Germany prior to September 1940 (more than 12 months before any formal declaration of war by either side), incarcerated 120, 000 Japanese-Americans in WW2 internment camps & denied Jewish refugees entry in the USA from 1938 to 1952 by quota, even though this denial condemned many of those refugees to certain death, 'begging' yet another comparison between Donald Trump & FDR.

That last phrase serves as a shout-out to a frequent contributor who is always 'Jumper-ing' to conclusions, possibly because of poor historical recall, but most likely due to a substandard grasp of the English language & an inability to differentiate between figures-of-speech like 'Begging the Question' (which refers to a type of fallacious circular reasoning wherein the premise of an argument presumes a foreordained conclusion) and a phrase like 'Begs the Question' which suggests a further line of reasoning (wherein the term 'beg' is defined as 'to ask humbly or earnestly').

Kudos to Paul451, btw, for seizing on my Magical Thinking reference with the audacity of the Spanish Inquisition whose '3 weapons are fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency ... and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope ... sorry, FOUR weapons (etc)'.

Hoping for a Trump-Clinton runoff, btw, so Trump can counter Hillary's domineering braggadocio by reminding the world that a person incapable of commanding marital fidelity would make a poor Commander-in Chief, indeed.

David Brin said...

As usual, completely non-compos. "Begs the question" has the same meaning as "begging."

And the flip that today's GOP is the confederacy which used to be democrat is ignored.

Above all, dems actually LEARNED from mistakes like Vietnam, which goppers compulsively repeat, using idential language and polemics and "reasoning.

Above all... making FDR into satan. Pure proof of membership in a stunningly evil cult. My parents' generation adored him above all living humans. Flawed in many ways. But he saved civilization. The Greatest Generation knew it. They were not fools sir.

You are.

locumranch said...

We know that you've accepted that the American Civil War was 'about' Slavery but, if you think that WW2 was about civilisation or the Jewish people, then you've really bought a pig-in-a-poke, mostly because FDR saved civilisation in the same way he 'saved' the Jewish refugees on the SS St. Louis.

Your parent's generation suffers from Stockholm's Syndrome, IMO.


Jeff B. said...

Rob H.,

"Yet in State elections, in an increasing number of states... Republicans are taking control.

This suggests then that the Republican Party is not in fact in its death throws. My own predictions of the imminent demise of the Republican Party fails to account for its growth on the Local and State levels."

From what evidence I've seen, state control by the Republicans is holding steady, at least in purple to bluish states, largely due to gerrymandering. Witness PA, OH, WI, MI, all competitive or leaning Democratic, but legislatures heavily weighted toward the rural, heavily Republican areas.

At the local offices, where it matters at all (many, at least in smaller areas or offices, do not) it largely seems to depend on the politics of the surrounding area. There are many, many offices in Dem-leaning areas- Philly, Pgh., Cleveland, etc.- that have been Dem-dominated for generations. So I would contend that the Republican dominance is part perception, and part gerrymandering.

Dr. Brin, have you seen Krugman's blog today? It highlights some of your favorite stats, re: partisanship and ideologies of scientists and academia.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

It looks like Locum has finally gone full Loco

Treebeard said...

Marino, call it what you like, but for me “Judeo-Protestant-Freemasonic” describes the American civilization as succinctly as I can think of. If you want to understand what America fights for, who its enemies are, what its agenda is, its culture, civilizational fault lines, etc., I find that these 3 words rarely fail. Granted, the Protestant part of this axis is in steep decline (see the Supreme Court) and is being swallowed up by some kind of New Age pod people invasion. How about “Judeo-Protestant-Freemasonic-Californicated”? As they used to sing in my youth: tidal waves couldn't save the world from Californication. California Über Alles!

LarryHart said...


Hoping for a Trump-Clinton runoff, btw, so Trump can counter Hillary's domineering braggadocio by reminding the world that a person incapable of commanding marital fidelity would make a poor Commander-in Chief, indeed.

Whereas someone who can't manage to practice marital fidelity is eminently qualified?

LarryHart said...


As they used to sing in my youth: tidal waves couldn't save the world from Californication. California Über Alles!

You say that as if it's a bad thing.

David Brin said...

Jeff B I read the Krugman piece. As usual, it is cogent and clear -- compared to most media and pundits -- yet disappointingly shallow compared to discourse here (allowing for our raving ents.) Yes, Krugman shows that the change has been the rapid and volcanic veer of the US right into jibbering insanity. (Witness the contributions above.)

What his final remarks fail to note is there's another factor to the liberal tilt of academe. Sure, 90% of it is due to conservatism leaving the intelligencia, not the other way around. But I give 10% credit to the bullying tactics used at many universities to punish and drive off thinkers who are non-politically correct.

Surprised? Not if you've been here long enough. Longtime residents in this blogmunity know that I blame the far-left for some of our troubles, including driving the Straussian neoconservatives out of campuses where their views might have been moderated. By trashing the offices of Wolfowitz, Perle, Nitze and that lot, the lefties only drove them into the arms of AEI & Heritage where their subsuming into the dark side became complete... the way Anita Hill and her ilk gave us the Justice Thomas of today... a monster partly of their own creation.

Am I reacting in part to the monstrously vile campus lefty-bullies I witnessed, back in college? Sure. They still exist, doing their nasty thing and reminding us that -- while 99% of our current danger comes from a Saudi-financed takeover of the Entire American Right -- we should never cease to be wary of another side. One that would give us Orwellian domination of their own, if given the chance.

In other words... the greatest danger we face is if Blue America fails to win this round and the oligarchic putsch continues, causing moderate liberals -- the only sane faction left in the American polity -- to actually believe the drumbeat that they are "leftists." If liberals start radicalizing and becoming leftists... then we will be in deep, deep shit. Caught between Scylla and Charybdis. And one faction of monsters or another will prevail.

David Brin said...

Oh, for anyone on the US right to lecture us about MORALITY?????? Guffaw! Dennis Hastert designed the modern GOP and he's revealed as a perjurer and child molester. The tally of politicians caught in regular infidelity may be approximately even... but the DIVORCE rate for goppers is hugely higher and US conservatives no longer consider that a litmus of anything at all. Witness Trump.

As for buggery-perversion? A GOP lead, hands down.

Along with nearly all the states that are leaders in teen sex, teen pregnancy, STDs, domestic violence, murder... oh and let's not leave out gambling! Used to be a sin, remember? Hah!

Yeah, tell us about morality.

Oh... US Jews know that FDR was late and flawed... like Lincoln with emancipation. But he came through eventually. And his opponents (like Lincoln's) were by comparison useless or downright evil. And Harry Truman made Israel happen. And Loco is loco.

Tim H. said...

I wonder how much a hypothetical Sanders administration would draw inspiration from FDR's "Economic bill of rights"? That old document could be important if automation is to move us to a post scarcity future, rather than economic stagnation.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Oh... US Jews know that FDR was late and flawed... like Lincoln with emancipation. But he came through eventually. And his opponents (like Lincoln's) were by comparison useless or downright evil.

By now, everyone is well aware that the US didn't enter WWII to save the Jews. But as Dr Brin says, outcomes matter. And yes, the quotas which prevented Jewish refugees from escaping Europe were despicable. Is anyone here claiming that the mid-20th-Century Repulbicans were more welcoming? So much for that mythical Judeo-Protestant alliance.

Supporters of Donald Trump, whose rallies look more and more like 1930s fascism reborn, assert with a straight face that American Jews should be on board with them? Because the Democrats weren't as good as they should have been in 1940? Seriously?

David Brin said...

Tim H, Americans have a weirdness to differentiate between government interventions to increase opportunity versus interventions to achieve fairness in outcomes.

The latter, even when well-motivated, can become sinecures for paternalistic bureaucrats and foster dependency. Outcomes-equalization puts negative pressure on what Americans feel are positive sum games that, in order to function well, must have winners. Viscerally, they feel it undermines ambition and encourages laziness and whining.

To be honest, I share all of these reservations. Our spectacular successes arose from positive sum competitive arenas -- markets, democracy, science, courts and sports (and now, crudely, the Internet) that all require some degree of inequality of outcomes in order to spur creative vigor. At some scale or another (subject to fierce argument) outcomes intervention by the state will certainly stifle these arenas. Americans tend to set the boundary farther to the "right" in that demands for government outcomes intervention should face a burden of proof.

Things are very different when it comes to Opportunity equalization. Even American see real value there, and have spent two centuries building highways and schools that can be used by all, subsidizing research shared by all, Expanding opportunity protection (albeit too gradually) to all races and genders, and building the finest universities on the planet. To the extent that we have been failing in this mission -- the horrendous student loan scandal, for example, and allowing even a single American child to lack nutrition and health care -- I tend leftward, just as I tend rightward regarding outcomes equalization.

In this disparity, I think most of my countrymen would agree, if only the choice were put to them plainly, as I just did here. Moreover, the distinction was made very clear as long ago as 1776, with publication of Adam Smith's founding document of western society, The Wealth of Nations, wherein in make it very clear that the state should take actions to increase the number of skilled and confident competitors, and thus invest in infrastructure and schools and sanitation the will allow more children to participate. Indeed, the economist-idol who has been quasi deified by the American Right - Friedrich Hayek - in fact said pretty much the same thing.

When a state action aims to address a clear and blatant disparity of opportunity - one that limits the supply of new, capable competitors - then the burden of proof must fall upon those who object to the intervention. The default should be to intervene in favor of opportunity, until challengers show that the problem can be eliminated by non-governmental means. Feed these children now! Save those bridges now. Improve schools now. Then show us how the programs can wither away.

David Brin said...

Part II:

Now, these two notions - equalization of opportunity vs outcome - do overlap! When a competitor fails in the marketplace of labor or business, there should be a limit to how low they are allowed to fall. This is not Nature, red in tooth and claw. Second and third chances come under opportunity enhancement, though the major effort must be yours.

The most controversial overlap comes in the area of wealth redistribution. That certainly sounds like outcome equalization! But it ain't necessarily so. The worst destructive force that suppress equality of opportunity across 6000 years was inherited oligarchy and feudal overlordship -- the normal system in most human societies and utterly despised by Adam Smith as the ruination of all competitive-creative systems. Indeed, partly influenced by Smith, the American Founders, in the 1780s, seized up to a third of the land in the former colonies, owned by aristocratic families, and redistributed it or sold it to make the playing field more level. States banned primogeniture and fiercely enforced equal inheritance so that rich family fortunes would break up among many heirs.

Today's inheritance tax has similar effects, incentivizing wealthy families to create charitable foundations, rather than led the feds get their clutches on it. In practice, this limits the likely creation of neo-feudal castes, made up of kids who never produced any goods or services or earned the wealth and power they would then exert over the rest.

Wealth redistribution is thus a tricky middle ground. Equalization of opportunity (and maximization of competitive creativity) is impossible without some. On the other hand, some inequality of outcomes is absolutely required in order to maintain the kinds of incentives that spur creative people to take risks and develop great new things. This is one more area in which pragmatic compromises are more likely to navigate well that dogmatists of a "leveling" left or an oligarchy-loving right will ever capably perceive.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

That was well stated.

But there always seems to be disagreement, doesn't there? For example, the idea that every American agrees with opportunity equalization is something I don't particularly find to be true (though I wish it were). Those who have, or whose ancestors have, made themselves free of economics (as far as they can), don't appear to agree.

If they did, their children would be in public schools, with the same opportunities as every other child. Yet they aren't.

It's not that I think there's shouldn't be private schools for those who are able to access them. But I do not like when doing so removes funds from public schools.

There certainly seem to be forces out there that don't like opportunity equality. Even in America.

But it would be foolish to say it's all bad and that we haven't made any progress.

There's always going to be outcome disparity. One of my high school history teachers famously said, "If I gave everyone in this room $100 and locked you in this room all night, but morning some of you would be broke."

And yes, there should be a limit to how far one is allowed to fall. On the one hand, are we not men? Do we not have any compassion? And on the other, those who fall too far become a drain on others (even without public programs, and especially if there's too many).

As far as schools and feeding children go, Beloit WI schools that decided to do away with any sort of monitored program for free meals. They found that administering the plan cost a lot. So much so that they're now in a program that just feeds everyone. It also removes any stigma from those receiving free meals, though card plans largely reduced that anyway. If you've never missed a meal because of the inability to pay for food, you're fortunate. Trust me, you don't want that experience.

Val said...

I used to reason, fact check, bring historical context and research everything when trying to educate my insane conservative friends. They think I'm just some liberal nut, when actually I got my degree in History and Social science, so its more just that I understand and have studied more of the fine details. None of my efforts mattered so far so I've sort of given up.

Conservatives simply don't care about facts, data or the actual truth on anything. They don't even bother putting in the effort for gather the facts that could even support any one of their arguments or assertions. After all "Obama is a secret Muslim..." Its become quite a frequent go to I've all but lost it. Why bother doing research when they can make anything up so utterly fantastical it breaches any sense of reality or logic to support what ever the thing they afraid of that week.

I've shown people the literal text in historical documents, and the constitution its self about all sorts of things. The written words of the founding fathers. Nothing will seeming get through to convince my friends otherwise that the country was founded when Jesus himself wrote the Decoration of Independence. (Perhaps I exaggerate, a little, but sadly not that far)

It gets rather demotivating.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, I think we could get enough of the economic bill of rights to matter without getting into equalizing outcomes, we just need to raise the floor. Current economic trends have a downright ugly extensibility, 5% of the population living in gated communities and selling luxury goods to each other doesn't sound like a robust economy.

locumranch said...

I agree with what LarryH & David just said:

'Outcomes (do) matter', yet care must be taken not to ascribe 'intent' & 'causality' where none may exist. FDR did manage some unquestionably good outcomes, but it is naïve to insist that (1) he intended these good outcomes ('to save the Jews', in LarryH's words), (2) this good outcome of saved Jews reflects on FDR's 'morality' (more intent), or (3) FDR's actions 'caused' the afore-mentioned good outcome, especially when established Allied & US policies (pre & post-WW2) placed Jewish refugees & the nascent Jewish Nation State (Israel) at a severe survival disadvantage, so much so that it would be more appropriate to say that these 'good outcomes' (in particular) occurred DESPITE many of FDR's actions & intents.

Similarly, David's skepticism about the political right's 'morality' (or the lack thereof) is completely appropriate. It is important to note, however, that he is the only one making claims about relative political 'morality' on this thread. Being skeptical of everyone's morality, I have made no such claims about Trump's or any conservatives moral bonafides. All I have said (and continue to say) is that many of the celebrated political left, including FDR & JFK, were not necessarily moral OR well-intentioned, regardless of outcomes.

And, if it all comes down to 'outcomes' (as LarryH suggests), then maybe morality of the political candidates is NOT the issue that we should be discussing, indicating (perhaps) that we should be looking for a Riddick to lead us in times of trouble instead of the most moral & well-intentioned victim.


LarryHart said...


I agree with what LarryH & David just said

Oh, help me, Jesus. :)

And, if it all comes down to 'outcomes' (as LarryH suggests), then maybe morality of the political candidates is NOT the issue that we should be discussing

I was not aware that we were discussing the candidates' personal morality as a deciding issue. I was responding to your own contention that Donald Trump could somehow use Hillary's husband's questionable personal morality as a winning issue against her. My only point there was that I don't think that strategy would work.

Meanwhile, American policies toward immigrants in general, including Jews, in the 20s, 30s, and 40s was embarrassingly bad. It was hardly FDR's doing, though. You seem to imply that President Hoover or President Landon or President Wilke would have handled such things differently. There was little difrerence between the parties in that regard. But, FDR, was on the right side of fighting the Depression and fighting Hitler. That forgives many sins. Likewise, these days, a Republican in any national office will work to transfer more wealth and power to the already-wealthy and powerful. Only Democrats or Democratic-leaning Independents will support the right of people like you and me to the means of survival. That's the only morality I'm concerned with come November.

David Brin said...

raito said : "It's not that I think there's shouldn't be private schools for those who are able to access them. But I do not like when doing so removes funds from public schools."

Indeed that is what politics are for. Ideally, opportunity equalization comes from raising up the bottom and middle, not by preventing the rich from paying for better stuff. That payment for better stuff, though, should be taxed at a rate that subsidizes the lifting of new competitors. And will this be deemed as undesirable by some at the top? Duh? AGain, it is a matter for politics... and hence the Fox/Saudi/Koch campaign not to win political struggles, but to destroy politics itself, as a problem solving methodology for a civilization they ungratefully seek to destroy.

"If I gave everyone in this room $100 and locked you in this room all night, but morning some of you would be broke."

Yes and some would be pregnant. And some would need shots.

LarryHart please... when he talks like a normal person, raising interesting points and conceding others... ENCOURAGE IT!!

In this case I will admit that demmie prexies - except Jimmy Carter - appear to cheat a bit on their wives. Though none of them - not one - did it beyond the wife's ability to tolerate and move on. Zero divorces. And Zero perverted pedophilia etc.

Reagan was the first divorced president and Trump is on wife #3 and has orgies... as did GW Bush before he went to rehab.

And the gambling thing is huge. "Conservatism" is not what it was, and religion-centered kind is actinically hypocritical.

And yes, FDR itched to fight Hitler and did everything he could to throw America onto the scales against that evil.

David Brin said...


continue in the next


John Stanton said...

Hillary vs. Bernie -- some musings

Hillary has the Democratic Establishment backing her, many endorsements, big money, and Bill. Bernie has better ideas, says what he means, is funny, is a secular Jew, has the support of many voters, and he is not Hillary. is a very good website for politics. They think Bernie will do better than most people think:

Many Republican Jewish voters will vote for Bernie over Trump or Cruz.

In the general election Bernie would do better than Hillary. The Reagan Democrats will be more likely to vote for Bernie than Hillary.

Trump won't be a favorite of evangelicals.