Monday, June 20, 2016

Avoiding “impeachment bait” - Why Donald Trump’s VP choice is more complicated than you think

Truly, I wish this U.S. election year were less… interesting. But like a mouse watching a snake, or Spock with a raised eyebrow, we cannot look away. "Fascinating" does not begin to describe it.  One is tempted to demand: "who is writing this simulation, and how much longer before we all realize that it's a farce?"

Mind you, I have started to veer again toward offering long-odds wagers. Such as whether Donald Trump will actually walk away from the Cleveland Convention with the nomination that now seems so throughly sewn up, and carry it all the way to the election. I got a creepy feeling....

But in today's missive, let's talk about something else. Appraising the highly unusual set of factors that Donald J. Trump must consider in naming the person he wants the GOP convention to put forward as Vice Presidential nominee. 

Of course that is the talk of the town. Salon has bruited Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. Others speak Condoleeza Rice or Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, for reasons I'll get to, below. And were this a normal situation, my money would be on Rice.

But no. In order to show you just how much must be on Trump's mind, I'll choose one fellow as an example, letting him serve are a mirror to the pros and cons.

Reasons why Donald Trump might choose Newt Gingrich.

1) Personal loyalty can be a strong factor. Gingrich endorsed DT fairly early.  

Sure, this also applies to Sessions and to NJ Governor Chris Christie. But Sessions would crystallize so clearly that this is Civil War Part VIII that even Indiana might remember what side it had been on. And why. As for Christie? Please.

2) Insider connections. Gingrich knows everybody, including major donors like Sheldon Adelson. And the cryptic powers who may stand behind Adelson.

3) Ticket balancing: All right. Newt provides none of this.  He can't even help in his home state of Georgia. 

It's in this area that folks wax effusive about Rice and Fallin. Both of them could (at least in Donald's mind) help him with women. Rice is a two-fer, allowing his most xenophopic supporters to shout the modern rallying cry of American bigots: "See? I like that'un! That means I'm no racist at all!"

Two problems here, though. Fallin seems interested, but Rice not so much.  Also, other factors will loom much stronger in DT's mind than obsolete ticket balancing (see below.) 

(Oh, ticket-balancing folks also mention former Mass. Senator Scott Brown and former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer...  or Florida’s Rick Scott. About whom more in a bit.)

4) "I want to have somebody who can deal with Congress, who gets along with Congress, who is a Washington person," Trump said at a town hall in April. While Newt - former Speaker of the House - would seem to fully satisfy this aim…

5) …Gingrich is also enough of a rebel firebrand that he might (perhaps) be able to serve the other function of a veep nominee ministering to the base of radical-populist-confederates who gave DT the nomination, keeping them calm while Trump tries to veer toward the middle, after Cleveland. Sessions could do this. So could Cruz or Palin. Not Fallin or Rice.

(That is… if DT runs for the center! I used to deem that likely. I even fantacized that Trump might, in the debates, drop some hoary and insane, dinosaur-obsolete standard GOP incantations like Supply Side voodoo and climate denialism. Now? That seems less likely, alas. But if he did try a middle-ward veer, he'd need to send a firebrand into Tea Party territory to calm them.)

Sure, some in the base will remember that Newt betrayed the Dennis Hastert Rule - “Never ever negotiate with democrats, even for the good of the nation.” Gingrich paused several times in the 1990s - amid general nastiness and craziness — to negotiate important measures with President Bill Clinton. You and I would deem that a good thing! But it enraged Hastert*, Tom DeLay**, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, leading them to oust Gingrich and send him into exile. That is still cause for resentment among the harshest culture warriors…

6) …Which could make Newt ideal, from Trump’s perspective!  It means that Gingrich is not a reliably obedient servant of Rupert Murdoch and the other GOP lords. Not totally. He’s always been a bit of a wild card, like Trump, mixing bilious insanity with moments of lucidity and independent thinking. This means that Newt may not be ‘impeachment bait.’

What’s that? Well, ponder this. Even if he wins the election and is inaugurated into the Oval Office, Trump would start his administration more hated by establishment pols than any president since maybe Lincoln. (And he is no Lincoln.) Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney must have already worked out the following scenario — and it is a doozy.

== The GOP replacement gambit ==

All they have to do, after inauguration, is wait till President Trump (shudder) does or says something frightful.  Which should happen within a week, maybe a month, of entering office, as sure as sunrise. 

What then? 

Tell the democrats in Congress: “Go ahead and impeach him! We’ll provide just enough GOP votes to help you succeed!”  A perfect, pre-packaged coup that would install Donald’s “establishment” Vice President in the White House for an almost-full term, getting all those juicy Supreme Court appointments plus a solid chance of re-election. 

(Think this unlikely? Ryan has already threatened to sue a President Trump if he misbehaves. )

Voila. Rupert M is back in the driver’s seat - with the bonus that Fox News will rake in billions of extra eyeball revenue during the impeachment drama!

Better yet, the GOP moguls could thereupon nurse confederate resentment, blaming the Democrats for ousting the people’s choice - Trump! Call it pulling a “JFK” without all that risky conspiracy-murder stuff.

Note that this is where the establishment will move Heaven and Earth to get Condi Rice or Mary Fallin into the VP slot, or some other absolutely-owned Murdochian prince or princess. 

Hence my reason for asserting that The Donald has to factor in more than just the usual considerations, in choosing his VP. His ideal partner is not just someone “established” … who can also minister to the radical base… but in addition she or he must be crazy and un-controllable enough not to serve as impeachment bait!

Hence my focus (for the moment) on Gingrich.  Ryan and McConnell and Murdoch will look at Newt, pondering the option of using the impeachment gambit to make him president. They’ll recall what they did to him… …and Gingrich's tenacity at revenge… and shake their heads, saying “naaaaah!” 

 (That is, unless President DT truly does over the edge, even for him. In which case of course Newt would be preferable - in my mind - over any other republican politician.  If for no other reason because… well... he’s a sci fi author!)

7) Oh, one more thing. With six marriages between them and countless conquests — and with all that hair — these guys will surly win the woman vote.

LATE NEWS:  Yipe. Newt really is angling for Trump's VP spot, by proving how Trumplike he can be. "Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is calling for the creation of a new House Committee on Un-American Activities, invoking the infamous "Red Scare"-era congressional body as a blueprint for weeding out American ISIS adherents and sympathizers."

== But complications continue! ==

You think we're done here? Then think again. Consider why anyone would want to be Donald J Trump's Vice Presidential nominee. Traditionally, that role sets you up as the party's heir apparent. (And perhaps Paul Ryan is kicking himself, right now.) But again, this year is different.

Innumerable GOP stalwarts have removed themselves from consideration, under the widely held assumption that Trump will go down in flames, this November, taking his running mate's career with him. Not heir-apparent, but political dead meat.

Sure, that's likely. Some -- like tenured Stanford Professor Condoleeza Rice -- might shrug that off. Others, like Gingrich and Christie appear to have zero alternate hopes of mattering, ever again, and might as well toss dice. They are in a shrinking minority.

But consider a variant on the impeachment gambit.  Imagine it's October and Donald is being Donald on steroids. The party is fracturing and the election is way, way, way lost. As DT's VP nominee, you labored through August and September, visibly gritting your teeth and trying, knowing that you'll go down with this ship... that is, unless... you rebel! 

And in October, that's what you do. Visibly and publicly you separate yourself from Trump, declaring that you are running for the constitutional office of Vice President independent of him!

Can he fire you as his running mate?  I think not. That would take at-minimum a vote by the Republican Party Central Committee, if not a reconvened convention. 

What would this accomplish? 
(1) It would be memorable, and that's some consolation prize. 
(2) It would restore your status as a top figure in what's left of the Republican Party, drawing tons of press as you crisscross the country, disavowing DT and collecting political IOUs by helping down-ticket candidates***. 
(3)  Heck... there's even that weird possibility that the Electoral College... nah.

Sound implausible? Not so much actually, if Trump accepts a truly mainstream GOP figure as his running mate. If the election seems lost, she or he is likely to betray him, in October.  

And if by some chance they win? Then the Impeachment Gambit is exactly and precisely the reason the establishment is urging such a person upon you, Don. Ponder that, big fellah. Think about it really hard.

== Oh, what a mess. ==

In two weeks or so, we'll know, so why did I type all these words? Only to show you the mélange of factors that must be spinning right now, under Donald Trump's hair. 

Having put aside all the usual considerations like geographic balance or picking someone from a crucial state, is this my wager? Will he pick the Newt Gingrich? Or perhaps Florida’s Rick Scott, who seems very Gingrich-like, in all those categories? (DT would have the consolation of knowing that no sane cabal would rush for the impeachment gambit without picturing President Rick Scott and thinking twice: shudder.) So is this my scenario?

Nope. All of the above depends on Trump being fiercely logical — which he claims to be, but of which we’ve seen little sign. 

No, in fact I think DT will choose a woman as his running mate. He has to, imagining that doing so will instantly patch things up with female voters.  Given the other factors I just described, Gov. Martinez would be a logical pick… but he insulted her. Maybe Gov. Fallin or Condi Rice... 

...ignoring that he'll thereby be walking into a trap laid by Ryan, Romney, Murdoch and McConnell. 

Whether he wins or loses the November vote, sooner or later, his assigned establishment partner will betray him. So he must pick someone outside the tent.

In fact, the person who actually fits all of the criteria listed above - even more than Newt does - is… gulp… Sarah Palin.

No. No. He’s not that crazy. Who would be?

Don't answer that. Just blame Arizona.

===================================================================

.

== Addendum #1: 


Over on the American NewsX site, where I co-published this piece, one LG Hartman pointed out that I had not thought through the twists, all the way, nor seen how trapped Donald J. Trump is.  Consider how we should take "it a step further in case DT doesn't pick a VP that the Establishment likes. If Trump picks another Loon for VP but still wins -- then the Establishment makes sure they BOTH go down in flames via Impeachment scandal leading to......drum roll please, President Paul Ryan." 

Of course this assumes the Republicans retain the House of Representatives... and the dems are stupid enough to do the dirty work... but oh wow.  Now my head hurts.

== Addendum #2: two more forecasts on the side ==

Okay, these two need to be in parentheses:


(1. Did I just mention the Electoral College? No, a rebelling republican VP nominee will not persuade electors to make him or her Vice President to a winning democratic president. On the other hand, all my adult life, I wondered if we'd see some kind of machinations in the EC. Like in the 1950s when an elector from the Deep South defected in favor of a dixiecrat instead of his party's nominee.  I've been amazed that 538 appointed electors, every quadrennial year since, have always followed their state's allocation rules, with nary a peep. But if ever there were a year for flamboyant "expressions of conscience..." 


(I assure you that Trump, having seen leakage among his pledged delegates at the Cleveland GOP convention, will have someone closely scrutinize the GOP electors, this time. 


(Still, you heard it here. You can count on the fact that Ryan and McConnell and Romney are pondering every scenario.)


(2. After Cleveland, DT needs to pay very close attention to advice from the Secret Service, especially if his running mate is an establishment Murdochian. 


(Seriously, dude. Almost the only way the GOP masters could win this thing is with you as a martyr. So curb the physical risk-taking. And duck.)




===
* Hastert, the head of the GOP for many years and Speaker of the House recently went to prison for child molestation and conspiracy. 

** DeLay is also now a convicted criminal... though released on a technicality... oh such role models!


*** You heard it here.  Mitt Romney will re-emerge bigtime in 2020.  He is copying all the methods used by Richard Nixon during his wilderness years, after 1960, collecting scads of political IOUs. Bet on it.

143 comments:

Tony Fisk said...

I've had some fun equating DT's relationship with the GOP to a children's story 'The Elephant and the Bad Baby'.

The Bad Baby has bright orange hair and the Elephant carries him (rumpeTaRUMPeta!) down the road on a mission of theft and mayhem. We haven't yet go to the part where the Elephant dumps the Bad Baby and points out "you never *once* said 'please'!". Like David, it wouldn't surprise me if Don tells them they're fired before then.

David Brin said...

Tony more and better links for that! When published? Online? Amazon?

Tom Galloway said...

You bring up some good points that are unique to Trump's VP choice. But in general, I think the VP selection is tremendously overrated these days. Admittedly, I did used to think it was impossible for a reasonable Presidential candidate to pick a VP nominee that'd actually hurt them (see: Quayle, J. Danforth. If he didn't significantly hurt the ticket....), but Palin managed to do that. On the other hand, the whole McCain candidacy was collapsing enough near the end I was seriously considering if the Republicans saw the upcoming Great Recession and were deliberately tanking so as not to be blamed for it.

But the last VP candidate to really help a ticket was back in 1960 when LBJ could say "I'll deliver Texas to us, guaranteed" and have the machine to pull it off. In recent years, do you know *anyone* who's gone "Normally I'd vote for Y over X or just stay home, but I like X's VP running mate so much I'll go out and vote for X"? The only exception I can see is that *maybe* Hillary choosing a Hispanic running mate might pull in some votes. Trump picking a woman would be a null op; Hillary as a woman President beats a woman Veep.

These days, barring Palin level disaster, no one really cares about the VP picks, although there's lots of sound and fury around them...until they happen, at which point they rapidly fade back into the background.

donzelion said...

Hmmm, this is Trump: his selection approach will be as calculatedly ridiculous as everything else.

"I'm making America great again! Here's Danica Patrick, my running mate! She's the best woman driver in NASCAR history, and look how beautiful she is! Why, I'd date her myself, except Melania has another 5 years left or so before she's due for a replacement, so I wanna keep Danica around! NASCAR is America!"

Beyond that, nothing really matters. The show's the thing.

Howard Brazee said...

Who fired Eagleton?

Dan Becker said...

My parents read it to me in the early 70's, it is back in print again and I was able to read it to my kids. I think there are some minor variations (on the order of biscuit vs. cookie) in the later edition.
https://www.amazon.com/Elephant-Bad-Baby-Elfrida-Vipont/dp/0241016398/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
https://www.amazon.com/Elephant-Bad-Baby-Elfrida-Vipont/dp/0241016398/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Andy Dowland said...

From reports on Corey Lewandowski's firing it seems that the Trump team have already picked a Vice President candidate. Lewandowski wanted to leak the name, Trump thought it too valuable a card to play now. I don't think even Trump would consider Gingrich or Christie to be a game changer. Also, who's been doing the vetting, I suspect that Trump hasn't done vetting because he already knows the pick so well.

Palin's got one big drawback, she's a LOSER, and Trump only likes winners. However a female pick would be helpful. Luckily for Trump there's a possibility already on the team, she's already been an effective surrogate on the campaign, giving speeches at Trump rallies, she's already on the campaign inner circle, she's not "tainted" by prior political experience and she's proven completely loyal to Trump. She's Ivanka Trump.

Yes, New York Electors can't vote for two New Yorkers in the Electoral College but if Trump/Trump wins New York, they wouldn't need the extra votes and there's still plenty of time for Ivanka to pull a Cheney and move her residence to Conn or NJ.

Am I just being crazy?

David Brin said...

Bentsen helped Dukakis. Bush Sr. helped Reagan. Otherwise, every single GOP VP nominee should have hurt the ticket. Their tradition is to pick someone monstrously unqualified. (Bush Sr and Cheney looked good on paper and turned out to be evil beyond the dreams of a James Bond villain.)

Perry Willis said...

Fun stuff David.

Flypusher said...

I do recall the thin-skinned short-fingered vulgarian saying that he wouldn't pick a woman or minority as a running mate, because that would be pandering. OTOH I can't recall Trump being consistent. He was backing away from the Muslim ban idea until the atrocity in Orlando gave him what he thought was an "I told you so" moment.

I can't see how anyone who thinks that that have any political future would want to jump aboard that train wreck.

David Brin said...

"I can't see how anyone who thinks that that have any political future would want to jump aboard that train wreck."

Exactly why Gingrich and Christie are in play. But my article offers a scenario (betrayal) for someone else willing to take a chance.

Flypusher said...

" But my article offers a scenario (betrayal) for someone else willing to take a chance."

Doing the betrayal after the election would have the advantage of enraging Trump's base AFTER they've cast their votes. Would their outrage last until the next election? The American public's attention span is notoriously short. It's a fascinating gambit, I'll admit, but I hope they never get the chance. I would rather see the Dems make the next few SCOTUS picks. The last thing the average American needs is more Alitos on the court.

Robert said...

Going off on a small science/science fiction tangent, here's an interesting article on shaped nuclear charges which could be used for propulsion or as a weapon. I'm not quite sure as to if the physics behind this is accurate or not, but if by some stretch of the imagination it is and it could be used for propulsion, it would be interesting to see its use in sending a spacecraft with multiple probes to various planets, drop them off (probably with chemical propulsion to decelerate them), and then head off toward a local star to explore that in a couple hundred years.

One thing that was interesting was a variation that seemed to use something like a solar sail to catch the energy from the nuclear charge... something like that could possibly also use laser energy from Earth or Lunar orbit to further accelerate.

Assuming it's not just pure science fiction. ;)

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Fischer never played the Queen's Gambit seriously before game 6, throwing all of Spassky's plans to the wind.

Tacitus2 said...

I will cede this discussion to those who find it interesting. Me, I admitted months back that my prognostic abilities in this most peculiar election cycle were pretty much crap.

I have the option of ignoring political discussions that don't interest me. But I do not have the option of ignoring my duties as a citizen. I will vote. I have not yet figured out what combination of ticket splitting will yield the least bad outcome.

I am also following the so called "Brexit" debate. One of my UK friends posted an impassioned essay on Facebook. She is in favor of staying in and invoked colorful images of farmers seeing crop prices decline, refugee children drowning in their desperate flight and so forth. It was she said, all about tears and love.

Now, although she is smart, and one of only two people I know who make a living writing stuff, I think she has arrived at a reasonable conclusion by all the wrong methods.

We need to look at our politics in a dispassionate way.

What decisions will really be best for our futures? (Nation/descendants/selves in perhaps that order?).

Do the short term subsidies from the EU balance out the long term dysfunction of it? (An example: small porous nation-fragments like Macedonia effectively setting immigration policy for all). It takes guts to turn down "free money" from higher up the political food chain. I wonder for instance who is/will be happier with their outcome on federal rail subsidies, Wisconsin who said "looks like a crap deal long term" or California (I will let Golden State commentators address that one).

Wisconsin is unlikely to vote for Trump, save in some political cataclysm that would make the vote of Tacitus Q Public irrelevant. It would pain me to leave blank a vote there but if it comes down to actually disliking both options and the outcome not in question regards EVs, I for the first and last time ever, might.

When the question circles back to the role of Congress vs the Executive vs the Judiciary I will wander back into the discussion. In the shoddy carnival that we are currently seeing most of the really important issues of the day are submerged in bile or in touchy feely nonsense.

Tacitus

Bonus question though. We live in an age where image and narrative are so powerful. Only examples using Democratic presidents are safe for discussion ('cause Rethuglicans ya know). If we had searing, horrific images of Rwanda front and center day after day, would Bill Clinton have ordered the US to step in? Should he have? What would have been the long term impact there and elsewhere?

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Bonus question though. We live in an age where image and narrative are so powerful. Only examples using Democratic presidents are safe for discussion ('cause Rethuglicans ya know). If we had searing, horrific images of Rwanda front and center day after day, would Bill Clinton have ordered the US to step in? Should he have? What would have been the long term impact there and elsewhere?


I was going to say that's exactly what's happening today with ISIS, and then I wondered if that was specifically your point in the first place. Ideally and dispassionately, we'd like to stay out of a civil war over there, but when you've got one faction reveling in and flaunting their real-life cartoon supervillainy, one almost has in intervene.

I've said that while America is not the world's policeman, it does seem to be the world's Spider-Man. At least, on our better days. On our worse days, we can be the world's Wolverine.

Or maybe we're the world's X-Men all along ("Hated and feared by a world they're sworn to protect...).

A.F. Rey said...

While impeachment of the Donald would work, it would leave the Republican Party with another impeached President, which wouldn't show a good trend. ;)

If I were of a more conspiracal bent, I could imagine a more elegant scenario. Put in a good, loyal Republican as VP. Then, a few weeks before the election, have some "Liberal Democrat" assassinate Trump.

Public sympathy would swerve immediately to the Republicans. The VP would be the obvious choice as the stand-in candidate. They could even make it clear that a vote for Trump would be a vote for the VP, so the ballots wouldn't need to be changed. All Democrats and Liberals are made to look like crap, the down-ticket candidates all get elected, and the Supreme Court goes completely Conservative.

And even if the VP doesn't get elected, they could get the Court to declare the election invalid and have the House choose the next President.

It's perfect. :D

Fortunately, from my experience, life isn't a James Bond movie, and people are harder to kill than they seem. At least, I hope so...

matthew said...

Ah, Tacitus, playing the "both sides are equally bad card" again. I call BS on his "pox on both houses" approach to the Presidential Election.

Tacitus, just what has Hillary Clinton done, exactly, that can equal what Trump has repeatedly avowed to do? I'm honestly curious as to what grave offense she committed that would lead to equivalence with Trump?

As for the VP pick? Are you sure that the Establishment VP kicking Trump out isn't the outcome that *Trump* is wanting? Lots of free press. Gets to be President for a month or two, then can be "forced" out to build his brand further? Trump has already indicated that he has no interest in governing. I think it is an outside chance.

locumrnach said...



It matters not a whit who Donald Trump chooses as the GOP Vice Presidential candidate because Trump (according to the progressive official narrative) is a belligerent, unintelligent, thuggish, misogynistic racist, so much so that his potential supporters (having grown tired of being "hated and feared by a world they're sworn to protect") must be equally incapable of making rational decisions.

This is what Freud termed as 'projection': A defence mechanism wherein humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.

They term Trump 'belligerent' although he never voted in favour of War on Iraq as Senator Clinton did in 2002; they term him 'unintelligent' although he possesses an Ivy League education (plus real world experience) that equals that of Senator Clinton; they term him 'thuggish' although he exhibits the same tough dominant leadership qualities of an 'empowered' Hillary Clinton; they call him 'misogynist' although he has never accused female rape victims of being 'liars' as did Hillary Clinton; and they label him 'racist' although he resides in a much more ethnically diverse area than does the Chappaqua-dwelling Hillary Clinton.

Either way, it does not matter which presidential candidate wins election come November because (1) the Established Oligarchy has been unmasked, (2) anti-oligarchic sentiment is on the rise, (3) HALF of all US voters will be disenfranchised come November regardless of outcome and (4) the Charade that we call representational democracy is coming to an end (both in the USA & EU), putting to lie Francis Fukuyama's assertions about how our liberal democracy has brought an "End of History".

Happy Summer Solstice to every Northerner!!


Best

Tacitus2 said...

Matthew you misunderstand. In a scenario where I have to choose, and where that choice is consequential, I will have to vote for Clinton. I will not have to like doing so. In a scenario where the issue is not in question - an impending landslide either way - I can opt for none of the above. I don't waste a protest (non) vote where it will influence an important outcome.

I would not call your opinions BS, but you can do as you wish. I think there is far too much Clinton Foundation "pay to play" for my taste, and also feel that Ms. Clinton's stewardship of the State Department has been at best mediocre.

I am not saying equally bad, because I will make a choice. Are you saying these two are really the best candidates our Major Parties have?

Tacitus

Robert said...

Tacitus, have you considered Libertarian? The ticket is one that I suspect moderate Republicans wish was on the Republican Ballot instead of Trump.

BTW, I've heard a British chap tried to grab a policeman's gun in Las Vegas to shoot Trump. If the police had been a little less capable, you could be seeing the Republican Party "mourning" the loss of their presidential candidate, claiming the Democrats were behind it, and probably pulling out Ryan to run as President as a "neutral" candidate. And give Cruz the VP slot.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert. I have only gone third party once. I have some sympathy with the Libertarians. Not sure what they would do in actual power though. Become less Libertarian most likely.

T

LarryHart said...

Tacutus2:

Are you saying these two are really the best candidates our Major Parties have?


Of course not. The system isn't currently designed to produce the best candidates either party has, but the candidates who "want it more."

But the choice in November isn't a referrendum on "Is Hillary the best possible Democrat or not?" The choice is who do we want nominating maybe four new Supreme Court justices. Other issues too, but that's the big one. Questions about Whitewater or The Clinton Foundation just don't rise to the level of mattering.

To you and to locumranch as well, I would restate the assertion that the presidency is actually the least of the three branches to care about at this point. The president matters because she (Heh) will nominate USSC justices and can veto legislation. Aside from that, I would normally rather see a GOP president and a Democratic congress than the other way around. But in this particular case, Trump scares me, not because of his political views (Who knows what they actually are?), but because his rallies are so reminiscent of 1930s fascists that I cannot ignore the parallel, no matter either candidates' record of votes on Iraq or that one of Trump's best friends are black.

Candidate Trump is good for America in the sense that he may bring down the Republican Party with him--so much so that I would not be at all surprised if his own party tries to assassinate him. But President Trump would be a clear and present danger to the nature of America. Locumranch would be pleased with the result (for a time, anyway), but you, Tac, probably would not.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

BTW, I've heard a British chap tried to grab a policeman's gun in Las Vegas to shoot Trump. If the police had been a little less capable, you could be seeing the Republican Party "mourning" the loss of their presidential candidate, claiming the Democrats were behind it


While I don't doubt they'd blame Democrats for attacks on Trump, I don't see any attempt for Democrats to run against somebody else in November. If Trump had already won the election, yeah, I could see throwing blame for an assassination toward the Dems. But any such attempt before the election seems much more likely to come from his own party. Glenn Beck essentially agreed with a guest who called for such an action by a "true patriot".

Jerry Emanuelson said...

For anyone considering another option for President, Gary Johnson and William Weld will be on a CNN Town Hall program for an hour on Wednesday night (June 22) beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. You can see how they perform in a format they do not control.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, I thought you might enjoy this article on Adam Smith which I found originally in the June 2016 issue of "Journal of Business Ethics" (the link leads to an abstract of said article). Given how much you enjoy talking about Adam Smith, I figure you might find the article interesting.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, your thoughts are cogent and welcome. But I do offer up the possibility - nay probability - that you evade. That Trump is not an anomaly but a slight exaggeration - a symptom - of an illness that pervades the party you’ll support still, with ticket-splitting. Indeed, might not the fever break far better, by sending the entire patient home to bed? Without supper?

Oh, Bill Clinton at least has the honor to feel ashamed about Rwanda.

While I wince at the Clinton Foundation, it is a hardworking charity involved in mostly overseas work with very few policy implications. Compare that to Bush-Cheney companies profiting tens of billions off the Iraq War? That’s like comparing HC’s dumb mishandling of emails - NONE of which have even alleged malfeasance implications - to the MILLIONS of emails the Bushites erased deliberately, that were directly tied to the illegal firing of federal prosecutors investigating corruption.

Oh, forgot about that? It’s like sniffing at the shoe of someone who stepped in something, while ignoring a nearby chimp hurling feces. I suppose there’s an aroma in both cases. But no comparison.

Larryhart when you have a GOP president and democratic Congress, generally there are negotiated compromises. DP congresses rail at gopper prexies but also pass budgets and dicker compromises. That is ALWAYS. The reverse? GOP congresses are always dogmatic furies of lazy-intransigence, except for one year under Newt Gingrich when he actually negotiated with Clinton… and Hastert got him canned for it.

Alas though, you have forgotten the president’s power of war. To be the world’s Spiderman is much more agile than being the world’s Patton. There will be wars. Clinton and Obama have adhered closely to the intervention doctrines of the DP, keeping agility high and costs in both dollars and US lives low. Does anyone seriously want to return to GOP military doctrines of massive, trillion dollar troop waves that leave the USArmy in tatters?

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-democrats-and-republicans-wage-war.html

Oh. For Locum to lecture us about “projection” made me choke on my tea!

Anabelle said...

Bush is not running. Karl Rove is not running. Cheney is not running. Clinton is. And the Middle East is a complete wreck now.

Robert said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

I hate to say this. But I will admit looking at Clinton's foreign policy views and what she did while Secretary of State, she is the better candidate for foreign policy than Sanders would have been.

Unfortunately, and while I myself stated Sanders would not be her VP pick and that it is far better to select a VP who could in four or eight years run as President on his or her own merits, hearing that Sanders isn't on her Short List for VP choices does seem like a poor choice. Sanders as VP would still likely draw in a lot of those youth votes who are so enthralled with him.

That said, Sanders is doing something very important right now and something that Obama dropped the ball on: he is urging his supporters to get into politics on the local and state levels. He is taking the enthusiasm for his message and telling them "it is time for us to do more than talk - it is time to act, to work on all levels, and to start the path to becoming the new political leadership." Well, more or less.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

RobH foreign affairs was always my reason to be iffy about Sanders.

Annabelle is back! Making Treebeard look sane. Um, hey Annabelle. When Bush Sr. ordered Gen. Schwarzkopff to stop 48 hours short of Basra, letting Saddam slaughter a million Iraqi Arab Shiites, when they were rebelling IN OUR NAMES because Bush asked them to, by radio. In person. He committed the worst stain on our honor in a century and made the mess we see today.

"Bush is not running?" Really? Really? Name a major metric of US national health that does not do better across the span of democratic administrations. As I show very clearly here:

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

Clinton and Obama and Carter were vastly better at fiscal prudence than Reagan and both Bushes. Not just by a little bit, by megaparsecs.

Values? Shall we try values? If we subtract outliers like Utah and Detroit & Chicago, name a metric of moral and healthy living that is not worse in Red America, from teen sex, STD and pregnancy rates to obesity, dropouts, divorce and domestic violence, gambling and so on. Name... one... exception.  Other than abortion which is a disagreement over fundamentals.

Name one accomplishment of the GOP when it held all three branches of government for six years... and Congress for all but two of the last 22 years.

Sure, I will grant you this. Donald Trump represents a populist uprising against the entire GOP political caste - utterly owned and operated by Rupert Murdoch for 25 years. But this uprising is an EXTENSION of the insane value set Murdoch and Limbaugh and Clear Channel foisted on the party, transforming it into a re-risen confederacy, biliously hateful toward science and every other profession that uses... facts.

And yes, I clipped in most of that, above. You don't think I would spend actuall lifespan on that wretch, do you?

LarryHart said...

Robert:

I hate to say this. But I will admit looking at Clinton's foreign policy views and what she did while Secretary of State, she is the better candidate for foreign policy than Sanders would have been.


Might as well get some practice on my new sig. "I told you so!" :)


Unfortunately, and while I myself stated Sanders would not be her VP pick and that it is far better to select a VP who could in four or eight years run as President on his or her own merits, hearing that Sanders isn't on her Short List for VP choices does seem like a poor choice. Sanders as VP would still likely draw in a lot of those youth votes who are so enthralled with him.


I'd rather see Bernie stay in the Senate. We need all the seats we can hold onto.

I'd also rather see Elizabeth Warren there too, but if she gets the not for VP, she'll at least bring some of those Bernie supporters along as well.


That said, Sanders is doing something very important right now and something that Obama dropped the ball on: he is urging his supporters to get into politics on the local and state levels. He is taking the enthusiasm for his message and telling them "it is time for us to do more than talk - it is time to act, to work on all levels, and to start the path to becoming the new political leadership." Well, more or less.


Agreed, except that you seem to find the state of affairs you just described as somehow ominous. I see it as a win-win-win.

Paul SB said...

A.F. Rey,
We didn't see the DP get a whole lot of sympathy vote after Gabby Giffords was shot. I'm not so sure that shooting Trump will earn the RP any more votes, though if you said that it would bring some of the fence-sitters who are uncomfortable with Donald Dunk to the polls, I would be inclined to agree. You could be right, though. The majority of Republicans I have known have been deeply motivated by outrage - something I have seen in Democrats as well (though the things that outrage them are different), but much less so.

Annabelle,
We can all thank whatever gods or other supernatural forces we care for that none of those Neocon rapists is up for public office again, though I doubt their tentacles are completely out of the Republican Party bureaucracy. But even without those particular self-servatives, the Party still does mostly the same. The Middle East has been a wreck on and off for about 8000 years. Politicians, as a general rule, have far more power to do harm than good, but I find it unlikely that Clinton will be able to do any more harm than the Bush Administration, now people are much more wary of large-scale intervention than they were in 2003?

LarryHart said...

@Anabelle, you punctuated your sentence wrong. It should have read:

Bush is not running. Karl Rove is not running. Cheney is not running. That's because the Middle East is a complete wreck now.


LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Larryhart when you have a GOP president and democratic Congress, generally there are negotiated compromises. DP congresses rail at gopper prexies but also pass budgets and dicker compromises. That is ALWAYS. The reverse? GOP congresses are always dogmatic furies of lazy-intransigence, except for one year under Newt Gingrich when he actually negotiated with Clinton… and Hastert got him canned for it.


Lesson learned, I hope. Should the Democrats in congress ever again be in the position of signing off on another Justice Alito or Roberts, they should ask "What Would Mitch McConnell Do?". It is absurd to have Democratic congresses give grudging consent to the will of Republican presidents, and then have Republican congresses refuse to reciprocate, not in an exceptional case, but just as a matter of routine.

Alas though, you have forgotten the president’s power of war.


I'm not saying the presidency isn't important--just that it's the least important of the three branches. Voters and the news media seem to forget that every four years.

Annabelle said...


When I note that no Bush is running David .. insults Bushes.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

One metric. Also not true. (The actual data was posted here a while ago.)
For a one metric argument backed by actual facts, Obama is the only president without a single year of at least 3% GDP growth.

matthew said...

Tacitus - It's the "splitting the ticket" line that I find laughable. I used to split the ticket - before 1996 or so. After the "Contact with America"-era Republicans showed what they intended on actually doing with their majority in Congress I very certainly quit any attempts at splitting the ticket.

In order to have good results from splitting the ticket, you must have a sprinkling of good candidates from both sides. May I ask you to name someone from the Conservative side that you do, indeed, envision as worthy of "splitting the ticket?" Perhaps there is some breed of WI-based conservative that is not trying, actively, to destroy our nation's competitiveness, reputation, and well-being, but I haven't heard of them. Please enlighten me as all I see on the Conservative national stage are a bunch of racists, thieves, and religious nuts who want me to burn in Hell.

I'll reciprocate by offering as an example of one of the last times I crossed party lines to vote for a Republican in a national election - Pete Dominici, Senator from the state of NM, and for a while in the 1980s, the 3rd most powerful Republican in the US. Sen. Dominici was not a slam dunk to me - even in the 80s his environmental record with energy extraction was abysmal - but he was a great negotiator and believer in compromise. His support for the sciences was rock-solid, and his enthusiasm for nuclear power was contagious. We owe him much for his shepherding of our national labs, most especially the two in his home state. I lost faith with him over his vote to impeach President Clinton (rightly so, as in 2013 he was revealed to have fathered a child out of wedlock back in the 60s. What a hypocrite.) as I thought he was putting party politics over the good of the nation. For a while though Sen. Dominici earned my cross-party support simply by being open to ideas from outside his party, and being willing to buck his own party if he thought the cause was good.

A.F. Rey said...

Paul SB,
The major difference between poor Ms. Gifford and the DT scenario would be how it was sold. Ms. Gifford was almost killed by a "lone wolf crazed killer." DT would be killed by "a Liberal Democrat operative who is trying to stop DT from becoming President because DT was winning, and Democrats want to thwart the will of the People." Just ask the Conservative Media. :)

I imagine it would be more akin to the national reaction to JFK's assassination--at least for enough voters to matter.

Flypusher said...

White-knighting Trump never fails to crack me up! Your effort is at least one of the better ones I've seen so far. So you'll defend attacks on his intelligence by saying but, but, but he has a degree from one of the Ivies, but his inability to keep track of his positions, and his constant contradicting himself is no big deal? Look at how he flopped all over the place on abortion- it's a rare feat to P.O. BOTH sides like that. Do you imagine he even gave that issue a minute's worth of thought before he opened his mouth? Has Hillary flipped before? Absolutely, but I can believe that there was some actual calculation going on. You would also have us believe that living in a more diverse neighborhood compensates for the outright nasty and patently false statements made about American Muslims? Or insisting on the celebrating 9/11 in NJ lie, which also goes to the doubts about intelligence? Or the horrible things said about Mexicans or the integrity of a certain native born American judge of Mexican ancestry? No, Trump has earned the criticisms fair and square, and we haven't even delved into his parasitic business practices yet.

Anonymous said...

Herr Drumpf might already be planning for a post-election loss by building his very own Konservative Media Empire. Disappointment encourages fervor and it would replace/destroy Foxy News. But to build a real media empire, not just some half-assed Trump™ Channel, he would need a massive investment from all the big conservative donors who would prefer anyone else to head the ticket. I have long thought that Herr Drumpf has a price. If he could some how bow out to someone like a Paul Ryan in Cleveland with the promise of billions from Adelson to build a replacement for the discredited Fox News, that would be win-win for them even if their "NotTrump" loses to Hillary.

-AtomicZeppelinMan

Robert said...

@Annabelle - that's not for a lack of trying. It's because no one wanted Jeb. He must be kicking himself. His loser slacker brother who smoked weed and got into trouble with alcohol ends up becoming President for eight years. And Mr. Clean tries and doesn't even make it into the final three.

---------

@Larry - I'm sorry, did you get the impression I'm worried that a younger generation of people who find the existing power structure to be corrupt and want to replace it might start getting into local and state politics? That was not meant to be implied. I want them to go into politics. I want some of them to take lessons with what has happened with social media and politics and do their absolute best to keep clean, remain ethical, and make their way up through the political ranks until they become the political leadership.

Heck, I've often urged my friend Avens to go into politics. I feel her charisma would help her win elections, even running as a Libertarian. Then again, I also felt she should go into the sciences because she's quite brilliant and I think she could do quite well as a scientist. She chose her own path that isn't science or politics, and is quite happy with it, and I salute her choices.

I've even urged my Republican friend to enter into local politics, as I think his personal morals would keep him from being corrupted by power. He's... refused because he feels he can't get elected. He might be right. But I also have the sneaking suspicion he is afraid he'd blow a gasket as politics can get him quite angry.

As for me, I have no place in politics. I lack charisma and can't speak straight to save my life. That and I tend to piss people off.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@Tacitus, LarryHart, & Dr. Brin re Rwanda/Syria and humanitarian intervention - a far more interesting question than what color Donald Trump's VP prospect will wear to dinner.

First though, to correct Tacitus, we DID have searing, horrific images front and center day after day. We didn't have YouTube videos of butchery filmed by the butchers themselves. Americans, by and large, turned the channel. Someone else's problem.

When I went to Sudan in '05, the plan was to work with the 'loyal opposition' in an effort to document fraudulent land registration claims (as Janjaweed rebels tried to assert longstanding ownership over territory they'd captured by depopulating the natives) - work that a lawyer can do, but an NGO will not (witness the Red Cross fiasco in Haiti, where rules on property ownership stymied almost any reconstruction work beyond their own facilities). Of course, doing that sort of work takes time, and confidence in the partners one works with: I found the same NGO industry that I'd seen in Afghanistan, where the networks are too weak to achieve much - but hadn't known that until I arrived and stuck around a few months.

The problem with American engagement abroad is that it is driven by imagery - poetic lines ("white man's burden"), poetic structures, poetic factories (like the massive sugar plantation in Sudan, among the world's largest such facilities) - all attack and defend, through flowery language - "This atrocity shall not stand!"

In the face of real atrocity, we hide within such wording, seeking any defense that comes to mind from actual horror. In America, Trump makes an annoying statement, Hillary uses an email server in her house, and we turn back to the devices that insulate from real problems. Obama will never look "strong" for sending in the troops to fight Ebola (as foul a fiend as any genocidaire, in its own way) - but if we are the world's superhero, let us be so through our doctors and our scientists, saving millions of lives (as they did in the battle against smallpox not all that long ago, and as they still strive to do in the battle against polio).

atomsmith said...

@ David et al.

Wondering if you read Jonathan Rauch's latest piece of nostalgia for a former age of Washington insiders and general government opacity....

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/how-american-politics-went-insane

...wherein the rooting-out of these things is the cause of our current ridiculous political state.

atomsmith said...

OOPS! mangled link....

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/how-american-politics-went-insane/485570/

Tacitus2 said...

David

"I do offer up the possibility - nay probability - that you evade." Give me some credit please. I am not evading the possibility that Trump is somehow a true avatar of the Republican Party in 2016. It is an unpleasant thought that I suspect even you have trouble believing....but I have it under consideration.

And there certainly are some allegations of malfeasance..Clinton Foundation donations followed by favorable State Department actions. NONE is not fair. You could say none proven but the conservative position is that deflector shields are at full power right now.

Matthew

Fair enough. My state senate and assembly reps are all decent sorts whose party affiliation is not a big deal. My Congressional district has been gerrymandered such that I no longer "employ" a Republican who managed to defeat a major Chairperson...instead I have an unremarkable Dem who is essentially running unopposed. The US Senate race is the interesting one for many reasons.

Ron Johnson is a first term Senator who has had a fairly low profile. I like that his experience before running was as a businessman. Not the kind that inherits it all from daddy, he was for a time working both as an accountant and as a machinist. We need more citizen politicians. His social stances are slightly to the right of mine.

Russ Feingold is in private life kind of a jerk. He has been in the public sector almost his entire life. But I salute his willingness to attempt cross the aisle reform (the ill starred McCain Feingold) and his willingness to tell members of the other, or even his own party, that they are full of .,,,,, when he believes this is true. Also a rare quality. He would be a superb counter balance to the horrid prospect of President Trump. I worry more about a solid D majority in the Senate under President Clinton. Russ' independent streak only goes so far. I have met the guy btw.

Donzelion

I of course knew that Rwanda was in the news. But the immediacy of things is so much greater now than it was then. Kudos for your work there, it is pleasing to know that there are people willing to do the hard work of civilization. I am now too old for Doctors Without Borders.

Clinton may regret Rwanda but with more than a little guilt I would say that he made the right call to not send in the Marines. Maybe that's enough said on it.

We have just had a more serious foreign policy discussion than either candidate to date.

Tacitus

Tacitus2 said...

Aw, what the heck. For those of you who remember the old Letterman bit "Trump or Monkey"..

http://detritusofempire.blogspot.com/2016/06/the-monkey-mayor-of-hartlepool.html

Tacitus

Berial said...

Robert said,
"That said, Sanders is doing something very important right now and something that Obama dropped the ball on: he is urging his supporters to get into politics on the local and state levels. He is taking the enthusiasm for his message and telling them "it is time for us to do more than talk - it is time to act, to work on all levels, and to start the path to becoming the new political leadership." Well, more or less."

I HOPE you are right, because what I've seen of his supporters is basically black and white thinking much like their opposite numbers in the Tea Party. They seem to think all Republicans and Democrats are equally corrupt and want Bernie to run as an Independent and HOPE that'll ruin Clinton's run. They seem to think that it's more important for Clinton to lose than anything else. Apparently they think a Republican win will somehow advance their agenda, because 'burn it all down' argle bargel. (I lose the thread there because nothing they say at that point makes since to me.)

If they become involved in politics over the long term as you postulate maybe they'll lose that black/white viewpoint and realize that compromise is THE ESSENCE of politics and even when ugly it's how things get done.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

@Larry - I'm sorry, did you get the impression I'm worried that a younger generation of people who find the existing power structure to be corrupt and want to replace it might start getting into local and state politics? That was not meant to be implied


No, I thought you saw that as a poor consolation prize rather than a silver medal. If I inferred too much, accept my apologies.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

We have just had a more serious foreign policy discussion than either candidate to date.


Yay for us! But I also think that Hillary could give a good foreign policy discussion if someone would actually have it with her.

Berial:

I HOPE you are right, because what I've seen of his supporters is basically black and white thinking much like their opposite numbers in the Tea Party. They seem to think all Republicans and Democrats are equally corrupt and want Bernie to run as an Independent and HOPE that'll ruin Clinton's run. They seem to think that it's more important for Clinton to lose than anything else.


You may be mistaking the paid trolls who call into radio shows pretending to be Bernie supporters for the real thing. The thing is, if Bernie supporters would concentrate on capturing the Senate (and even the House), it would do more toward advancing the causes they espouse than would a Bernie presidency with a GOP congress. They think there's no difference between Hillary and Trump? Just think about which pieces of legislation each would or would not veto.

As a counterexample, I voted for Bernie in the Illinois primary back in March, but if early voting for November had already started, my vote for Hillary would already be in the bag. I don't even have to "hold my nose" or wrestle with my conscience before stating that.

In 2012, Gingrich supported Romney in the general, stating something to the effect of "He has four working fingers and a thumb." Meaning that he didn't have to share congress's ideology as long as he didn't get in their way. The same would be true of Hillary with a Democratic congress.

That's why I say it's misguided to make it all about the presidency.

Peter said...

Just to correct the record, in 1972 Virginia elector Roger McBride switched his electorial vote to the Libertarian Party candidate John Hospers. And in so doing made Hosper's running mate Toni Nathan the first woman to ever receive an EC vote.

A.F. Rey said...

The Presidential race may be closer than we think. Both candidates are so unpopular, they may have to compete everywhere.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/with-trump-in-the-race-the-battleground-is-everywhere/

donzelion said...

@LarryHart - your Spider-Man/Wolverine comment brought this quote to mind:

"There's a scene in the beginning [of The Dark Knight] in which the gang leaders of Gotham are meeting...these are men who had the city divided up. They were thugs, but there was a kind of order. Everyone had his turf. And then the Joker comes in and lights the whole city on fire. (ISIS) is the Joker. It has the capacity to set the whole region on fire. That's why we have to fight it."

Unfortunately, I can't imagine a debate between Hillary and Trump that amounted to anything more sophisticated than "Name what superhero you want America to be" - but at least Obama sticks with the 'Gotham rich guy who meant well, did some questionable things, but repented.' Trump is a pseudo-ubermench, so Superman would have to be his vision; Hillary would shrug off the debate as silly.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Hillary would shrug off the debate as silly.


Girls don't like superhero comics. :)


Trump is a pseudo-ubermench, so Superman would have to be his vision;


If so, he's missing the point. Superman is looked up to by the public, not because he has powers, but because he uses his powers for good, not for evil. Trump thinks that his powers justify whatever uses he wishes to put them to. To mix metaphors, he's more Magneto than Superman.

Speaking of comics...
Robert:

As for me, I have no place in politics. I lack charisma and can't speak straight to save my life. That and I tend to piss people off.


Sounds like you're qualified to self-publish a comic book. :)




Treebeard said...

Locum, this may be your best post. A nice summary of the hypocrisy of the Anglo-American opinion-control machine and the charade that is our pluto-democracy.

It seems like a lot of you don't get Trump. He's not the old GOP, he's not the Confederacy, he's not the Oligarchy, he's not a Religious Rightist, he's not even particularly conservative. He's the neglected middle given a voice, he isn't following the script, and the script- and check-writers can't forgive him for that. To me he's a symptom of the end of an age. You think Spengler was so wrong? Spengler predicted that when democracy is captured by money power, people look for Caesars. One favorite of the money powers (Bush) got his ass handed to him, another almost did (Hillary), while the first would-be Caesar is wildly popular. Looks like the age of Caesarism is getting underway right on schedule.

Flypusher said...

"It seems like a lot of you don't get Trump. He's not the old GOP, he's not the Confederacy, he's not the Oligarchy, he's not a Religious Rightist, he's not even particularly conservative. "

Who's been saying that he's any of those things? I've heard plenty of opinion coming from both sides about how HRC is actually a better old school Rebublican than he is.

"He's the neglected middle given a voice, he isn't following the script, and the script- and check-writers can't forgive him for that. "

He's giving them a chance to vent and flip the bird at the GOPe, no doubt about that. I have no sympathy for Romney et al, in their complaints that he made the dog whistles audible. But any complaints about his mental/ emotional/ intellectual/ psychological unfitness for the office have merit. Add to that he has offered nothing substantive to help this neglected middle. Have you even looked at his economic plan? Not much different from those of Cruz and Rubio- more trickle down supply side extra tax cuts for the rich drek. He's going to force all these companies to come back? How exactly? We need to hear details, not bragging about how his deals are the best deals. He's going to ditch all theses bad trade deals and replace them with specifically what? He's not going to cut SS and other benefits, but where's that funding coming from, especially if he's cutting taxes? He thinks the gold standard is going to help the little guy? He thinks that the USA defaulting on debts would have anything other that a catastrophic effect on the world economy?

"To me he's a symptom of the end of an age."

On that point I'll agree, he's a symptom all right. He's been great at tapping into all this resentment, but he has zero clue as to how to do anything constructive with it. Keeping him out of the Oval Office is only step one. But failure to deal with these economic disparities will ensure that someone else taps in next time, and that person probably won't be a spoiled narcissist too lazy to think out policy positions. That person could be truly dangerous.

Jumper said...

Soon I'll ask my brother the doctor who he's voting for. I will bet he'll go for Clinton and then local Republicans. Doubtless he'll click on Burr for U.S. Senate. Ignoring recent history he'll congratulate himself for his new split ticket strategy.
So it will go.

But like Tacitus I will remind all that my precognitive powers suck: recall I predicted a President Jeb, with resigned disgust.

No one expects the Electoral College, however.

Jumper said...

One other thing I never predicted: that when I hit 60 I would see a passel of 45-year-old men en masse and very often want to scream at them "Are you fucking retarded children?!"

Robert said...

@Larry: If I self-publish a comic book, I just piss off a few people. If I do positive reviews of webcomics, I piss off half of 4chan. Much wider audience. :D (I joke not - back when I was reviewing, the fact I'm writing positive reviews of creative materials pissed off a group of them - especially since one of their number was doing a "Your Webcomic Is Bad" review site and I kept pointing out the flaws in his arguments. ;)

As for "girls don't like superhero comics" I know a young lady nearly half my age who is a huge tremendous fan of X-Men comics (as long as Liefeld isn't the artist).

Nor do I see young people getting into politics to be a poor consolation prize. Don't forget: I'm voting Libertarian. Even if Bernie Sanders had won the primary, I'd STILL be voting Libertarian. And I think if by some strange whim of chance and chicanery the Libertarian Candidates managed to win? They'd actually do a fairly decent job, even if Johnson and Weld are basically former RINOs and current LINOs. (That said, I would want them to elect Supreme Court Justices who are for individual rights even if it pisses off the anti-abortion Republican crowd. LINO or not, they better listen to Libertarian voters.)

@Beriel - There are three types of Bernie Sanders supporter out there. The first are the hacks who are trolling everyone and have no intention to support Sanders but enjoy muddying the water. I don't even say they're Republicans causing mischief - just people who like trolling others. Second, you have the loudmouth supporters who hate Hillary and make it sound like all of Sanders Supporters are assholes - the "Bernie Bros" are an example of this (and the first group). Finally, you have the young people who feel disenfranchised and like what Sanders has said. This is the group Sanders is urging to go into politics and change things from the ground level on up. And this is the group that has the greatest potential to change things.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

As for "girls don't like superhero comics" I know a young lady nearly half my age who is a huge tremendous fan of X-Men comics (as long as Liefeld isn't the artist).


I was kidding, in response to "Hillary will think the entire argument is silly." My daughter loves comics, though not so much superhero comics.


Don't forget: I'm voting Libertarian. Even if Bernie Sanders had won the primary, I'd STILL be voting Libertarian. And I think if by some strange whim of chance and chicanery the Libertarian Candidates managed to win? They'd actually do a fairly decent job, even if Johnson and Weld are basically former RINOs and current LINOs


The Chicago Tribune (who almost always endorses Republicans) must be a little worried about the Libertarian ticket--enough to try to paint them as a joke. On today's commentary page, there was one of those "Questions to ask the Libertarian Ticket" puff pieces. I gagged and stopped reading after "So you want to legalize marijuana? What about sales to kids? Why not heroin?"

Robert said...

Of course the Tribute is worried about the Libertarian ticket. Republicans rely on Libertarians to remain in power. It's "vote for us because Democrats will vote everyone everything and turn us into Venezuela!" so people who consider Libertarians go "they won't win and I don't want the Democrats to win."

Given the tendency toward Republican and Democratic voters to vote straight ticket ballots, they probably fear Republicans who decide to go Libertarian this time around will vote for Libertarians in state and local races if there are any... and thus damn the Republican candidates who need those Libertarian and libertarian-leaning votes in order to remain in power.

What's worse is if Libertarian candidates DO get into power and remain true to their ethics - eliminating tax breaks for everyone, getting rid of corporate welfare and encouraging proper competition, encouraging personal liberties... it would be the deathknell of the Republican Party... and also destroy all of the little bonuses that the oligarchs have carved themselves. Libertarians are meant to just march in step with the Christian Conservatives and the Business Elites, not actually DO anything.

You can't have voters waking up and realizing they hold actual power with their vote. That would be bad.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Tacitus do I claim that the Clintons are saints? Heck no. But after 22 years of the most relentless scrutiny, ever, and many tens of millions spent searching for smoking guns and the entire US government bent to that purpose in 2001… when does “you got nuthin’” start to penetrate?

LH: Republicans claim that “you started it” when the democratic Congress turned up its nose at Robert Bork for the court… and they thus completely ignore the fact that Bork’s appointment was a deliberate slap in the face. He was the one who, during Watergate… well… here’s the Wikipedia entry:

"On October 20, 1973, Solicitor General Bork was instrumental in the "Saturday Night Massacre", U.S. President Richard Nixon's firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox, following Cox's request for tapes of his Oval Office conversations. Nixon initially ordered U.S. Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, to fire Cox. Richardson resigned rather than carry out the order. Richardson's top deputy, Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus, also considered the order "fundamentally wrong"[16] and also resigned, making Bork the Acting Attorney General. When Nixon reiterated his order, Bork complied and fired Cox, an act found illegal in November of that year in a suit brought by Ralph Nader.'

To appoint such a fellow to the High Court was a direct and deliberate provocation. No, boys. YOU started it.
==

AFR the operative thing re DT removed from the scene is who replaces him. That is why I posted speculations about his VP choice. He is under huge pressure to appoint someone who Rupert And Mitt & Ryan will gleefully plot for.
===
Annabelle? What a stunning hypocrite! “Obama is the only president without a single year of at least 3% GDP growth.” What a trawl for something, anything! The entire world has slowed down but America has by far the most dynamic economy on the planet and everyone else is counting on us (again) to drag them out of recession.

The gopper Congress refused to pass an infrastructure bill, which 100 years of history tells you always creates high velocity economic activity, diametrically opposite to the LOW velocity effects of Supply Side tax gifts to the rich. Indeed, it was to PREVENT economic acceleration that they chose for 8 years not to repair desperately decaying infrastructure.

Yet despite that. Obama oversaw 7 years of growth and improvement in every indicator including deficit spending.

No Bush is running??? Sorry Godwin’s Law alert. But Goering actually actually thought that the allies would deem him worth negotiating with after Hitler was gone. Dig it, confederate traitor. We dealt with a wider treason than just Jefferson Davis, 160 years ago. And so long as Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes control your party, it is a deadly -lethal danger to our children and the republic that we love.

David Brin said...


Treebeard was actually cogent, this time. Though by “middle”… um… you mean the 5% of voting age citizens who have cast ballots for him, so far? And yes, it’s not much more than that. If the “middle” hates science the way Trump’s voters (not necessarily “i’ll say anything Trump) do, then we are screwed. Fortunately, you will see how “middle” he is.

But Spengler? Jiminy, he wrote that malarkey one HUNDRED years ago and folks saw the Great Depression as his forecast coming true. Um, right. The West declined. Sure. Uh huh.

Hint. EVERYONE was a closet Marxist, when Spengler wrote. They all believed in his style of class war incantation… including Ayn Rand, who simply swapped heroes inside Karl’s scenario. No one except FDR’s liberals believed it could be reformed away. But they did it. Democracy STOPPED being “captured by money power.”

And today’s attempted capture by oligarchs can be stopped the same way, by moderate reform.

“In progressive societies the concentration[of wealth] may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.” 
― Will Durant & Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History

The difference between most of us here and romantic-twaddle reactionary ingrates like Treebeard is that most of us want an update on the reforms that wrought a century of miracles to reset yet again, launching us to an era of abundance, freedom and interstellar travel. You dopes think the answer is either a Czar or a Lenin, a Napoleon or a robespierre.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LH: Republicans claim that “you started it” when the democratic Congress turned up its nose at Robert Bork for the court… and they thus completely ignore the fact that Bork’s appointment was a deliberate slap in the face...


But even Bork got an up-or-down vote. He lost the vote is all. That's not what the Republicans are doing today. Almost every Senator, Dem or GOP, believes that Garland would be confirmed if they voted on him. But McConnell won't even bring it to a vote. What will they do if Hillary wins, but the GOP still controls the Senate? Sit on her nominations for eight more years? And House Republicans (under Bohner) once had the effing nerve to sue President Obama for not doing his job.

I don't see why Obama doesn't just go with the interpretation that not holding confirmation hearings in fact implies consent. The theory being "If they had something to complain about, they'd say so." Put him on the court without the Senate hearings, and then let the USSC decide 5-4 whether that's legal. If they say Garland should recuse himself from the decision, say that Clarence Thomas should have recused himself from Bush v Gore.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

The entire world has slowed down but America has by far the most dynamic economy on the planet and everyone else is counting on us (again) to drag them out of recession.


"Hated and feared by the world they're sworn to protect." I'm telling you.

:)

Robert said...

Actually, that is exactly what they will do.

And should another Republican Supreme resign or die? You'll likely see Hillary arbitrarily put in two extremely liberal Supreme Court justices and the Republicans will sue and attempt to impeach. And the Supreme Court will then rule against the Republican Party and state "you're not doing your fucking job, jackasses, so the President had to step in and take care of this. And as a result? You got your worse nightmare. So fuck off and do your damn duty!"

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@Robert - "girls don't like superhero comics" I know a young lady nearly half my age who is a huge tremendous fan of X-Men comics (as long as Liefeld isn't the artist)."

I don't think that Larry was actually making that suggestion, so much as responding to my suggestion Hillary wouldn't bother to answer "what superhero would you like America to be?"

@Larry - "To mix metaphors, [Trump's] more Magneto than Superman."

LOL, perhaps so (though the metaphor's unmixed). Obama did invoke Batman, so...I'd have to defer to an expert though - would Magneto conceive of "carpet bombing them, water boarding their families" for any purpose? Perhaps Trump's superhero is "Terminator Jesus" - that elusive guy who preached "Love your enemies - with napalm."

"I don't see why Obama doesn't just go with the interpretation that not holding confirmation hearings in fact implies consent."
Several reasons. Caution and deliberation: if the Senate repudiates the Supreme Court, like they've repudiated the Presidency (and as they've threatened to do before), they can work unbelievable long-term malice, wrecking the institution itself, and the rest of the judiciary. There are many other vacancies in the federal courts that also need filling...

If Hillary wins in November, you can bet they'll hold emergency hearings and appoint Garland to prevent a 'worse' (younger) candidate from being appointed.

Having Supreme Court vacancies hanging open is one of the few compelling arguments that will remind disgruntled Sandersites that they'd better show up to vote, or accept that something far worse may come up...

And it's great form to remind America that the Republicans think doing their job means not doing any work. Calling them a bunch of lazy do-nothings is useful for anyone trying to struggle through a day job.

David Brin said...

Trump got 13.3 million primary votes. Mitt Romney got in the 2012 general election 60.9 million. And President Obama got nearly 66 million. We'll see that "middle" in November. It would take a super 9/11

David Brin said...

Ooh. I just thought of a superhero power!

Most of them wear masks because they are doing illegal vigilantism. But if it's clear you were just a bystander who stepped in?

Of course after the third time, you'll need to explain... "I just go walking and trouble finds me. If my unconscious takes me where stuff is about to happen, is that a crime?"

News orgs and cops follow him with drones, making him almost invulnerable to attack by villains. And no one can find anything wrong if he just happens to be able to toss a restaurant chair under the legs of a guy who robs the bank next door.

Anyone have a name for the guy? Plot ideas?

Flypusher said...

"But even Bork got an up-or-down vote. He lost the vote is all. That's not what the Republicans are doing today. Almost every Senator, Dem or GOP, believes that Garland would be confirmed if they voted on him. But McConnell won't even bring it to a vote. What will they do if Hillary wins, but the GOP still controls the Senate? Sit on her nominations for eight more years? And House Republicans (under Bohner) once had the effing nerve to sue President Obama for not doing his job."

It's especially infuriating to hear the lame lies they spin over their obstruction. There is no precedence for this, it's in no way what the Founders indented, and there's no such thing as the "Biden Rule", and even if there was, it wouldn't be what they're claiming. They could vote "no" too, but then they'd have to own it, and they are too gutless for that. I'm from TX, so there is zero use in voicing my displeasure to my 2 worthless do-nothing excuses for Senators. So I remind myself that Obama is playing a long game here. He has trolled them most masterfully, and it really says something (something not good) about the GOP when they can get trolled by the mere act of the President selecting a well-qualified and respected person to fill the SCOTUS vacancy. I hope the President sticks to his word to not withdraw the nomination, regardless of what happens. As much as the GOP would deserve some stigginit in the form of a 40-something ultra-lib nominee, Garland deserves far better.

I think if Hillary wins, she's likely to benefit from a flipped Senate. Get those judicial spots filled pronto!

Robert said...

Dr. Brin: Domino.

And it seems likely the character either is a precog, or has a combination of bad and good luck powers - bad luck in that he shows up and something bad happens... but good in that he can take out his opponent by unconventional means (ie, a chair, a cord lying around, and on down the line).

That said, a rich or tech-savvy vigilante could come up with another method of keeping his or her identity secret: a worm or virus that doesn't do any damage to the system, but which subtly alters digital video and pictures of the vigilante so that when you check online, the person in question doesn't perfectly resemble the actual vigilante. If you can also subtly alter some genetics and DNA imaging, then the person could claim to be a sibling or cousin or the like of the vigilante.

I know in the case of the Wolf PACT stories I've planned, I've decided the only reason the vigilantes (outside of Angel) can remain anonymous is because they target crime in the Burns, the neighborhoods of Boston which never were repaired after the Great Fire of '96 (emergency governing powers were transferred to Worcester, and the newly elected government refused to provide sufficient funds to repair the damaged neighborhoods of Boston so that the government would remain in Worcester rather than the more liberal Boston - after 30 years corporations have repaired some parts of the Burns but it's piecemeal).

After all, government doesn't care as much what happens in a fairly lawless area especially if there's no tax revenue coming in and the people who live there tend not to vote or aren't legally able to. The vigilantes would be policing the area and keeping crime from spreading. So long as they remain in those unpoliced sections, who cares?

I'm still trying to work on specifics on Wolf PACT though. I'm trying for that bizarre mixture of reality and superheroes. ;)

Rob H.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "She is in favor of staying in and invoked colorful images of farmers seeing crop prices decline, refugee children drowning in their desperate flight and so forth"

The thing is, the french government has all but directly threatened to give the refugees on France's shore working boats. So refugees might not drown, unless british authorities deliberately sink their ships.

***

* "(An example: small porous nation-fragments like Macedonia effectively setting immigration policy for all)."

Macedonia isn't a EU member state (Greece vetoed its membership, because Greeks are dicks who proclaimed themselves the only heirs to Alexander and therefore refuse to acknowledge the existence of a country named Macedonia on their doorsteps).
The thing is, for years, both the technocrats and the NGOs working with refugees warned Europeans that Europe needed a unified border policy (and a more centralized system to dispatch the refugees entering Union territories), but the elected officials spewed the usual "Naaaaaaaaaaah, that's an intolerable infringement of our national sovereignty" with the approval of many pundits while most citizens shrugged and didn't pay attention: the only things dysfunctional here are the political class and the public opinion which elect them, both of which freaking out now that their own chicken have come home to roost.

***

* "In order to have good results from splitting the ticket, you must have a sprinkling of good candidates from both sides"

And once one side starts purging itself from every "deviants", it is fated to be ruled by bullies, because no one do purge better than them.

***

* "Obama sticks with the 'Gotham rich guy who meant well, did some questionable things, but repented.' Trump is a pseudo-ubermench, so Superman would have to be his vision; Hillary would shrug off the debate as silly"

Or.... she'd name Wonder Woman, since she got the only worthwhile scene in the last sausage fest.

Flypusher said...

"f course after the third time, you'll need to explain... "I just go walking and trouble finds me. If my unconscious takes me where stuff is about to happen, is that a crime?"

News orgs and cops follow him with drones, making him almost invulnerable to attack by villains. And no one can find anything wrong if he just happens to be able to toss a restaurant chair under the legs of a guy who robs the bank next door.

Anyone have a name for the guy? "

Captian Coincidence?

Tacitus2 said...

Laurent

Thank you for the clarification regards Macedonia.

Perhaps, given the economic state of the more culpable Italy and Greece these days, I should have said something more along the lines of: "Porous husk nations and the nation fragments on their borders".

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Flypusher:

Anyone have a name for the guy? "

Captian Coincidence?


If you're gonna go that route, I think "Captain Happenstance" works better.

(Of course, the third time is enemy action)

As to Dr Brin's hero suggestion itself, it sounds like something we've seen in some tv commercials. Close (though not quite identical) to that guy on a bank commercial who doesn't wait for anything ("Steak!"). Maybe they could team up.

LarryHart said...

Flypusher:

I hope the President sticks to his word to not withdraw the nomination, regardless of what happens. As much as the GOP would deserve some stigginit in the form of a 40-something ultra-lib nominee, Garland deserves far better.


Since the only way the Senate will (hastily) confirm Garland is if Hillary seems likely to nominate "worse" candidates, she'll certainly have her chance over the next few years. Even if the Rapture doesn't take Clarence Thomas from us (and I pray for him daily), she'll almost certainly replace a voluntary-retiring Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and possibly Breyer as well. Those appointments wouldn't flip the court any more than it already is, but if the issue is Hillary cementing the Democratic side with young ideologues, those opportunities would work just as well.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

And should another Republican Supreme resign or die? You'll likely see Hillary arbitrarily put in two extremely liberal Supreme Court justices and the Republicans will sue and attempt to impeach. And the Supreme Court will then rule against the Republican Party and state "you're not doing your fucking job, jackasses, so the President had to step in and take care of this. And as a result? You got your worse nightmare. So fuck off and do your damn duty!"


In actuality, I doubt any of that will happen. But it makes a nice daydream.

BTW, I finally heard someone who is not me call into a radio show and say something to the effect of "I wish the Rapture would happen so that the rest of us can just get on with civilization."

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Anyone have a name for the guy?


Guardian Angel?

Berial said...

@Robert There are three types of Bernie Sanders supporter out there.
What I'm talking about are a fourth category. The true believers, that all of our politicians work for the oligarchs and therefore both Republicans and Democrats are corrupt, and only Sanders can 'save us'. A vote for Clinton just means more ultra-rich and corporate control over us(IE the .1%), so they simply CANNOT vote for Clinton no matter what.

It's been REALLY frustrating to try to have political conversations with these guys, and they are actual real people that I know in their late 30's to late 40's. (And for the record white males so there may be some misogyny mixed in there but they've kept it well hidden.)

Just want to say, I voted for Sanders in the primary but he lost my state. I'm voting for the Democratic nominee this general and I can't understand how these guys can be HOPING for a Sanders independent run because all I see that doing is giving the Republicans a better chance at winning the general, but that's what they want. I cannot seem to grasp their arguments or convince them that someone that can't win the more liberal half of the popular vote (Democratic primary) probably won't win the general either.

LarryHart said...

Berial:

What I'm talking about are a fourth category. The true believers, that all of our politicians work for the oligarchs and therefore both Republicans and Democrats are corrupt, and only Sanders can 'save us'. A vote for Clinton just means more ultra-rich and corporate control over us(IE the .1%), so they simply CANNOT vote for Clinton no matter what.


These people have no idea how government works. It would not be possible for a President Sanders to "save us" without a willing congress. Bernie in the Senate and a Democratic president (any Democratic president) would do more for their agenda than would Bernie in the White House with Mitch McConnell still running the Senate.

Punishing Hillary and the Democrats by helping to elect Republicans would be the epitome of the oft-repeated line in Cerebus, "Sometimes, you can get what you want and still not be very happy."

raito said...

"That said, a rich or tech-savvy vigilante could come up with another method of keeping his or her identity secret: a worm or virus that doesn't do any damage to the system, but which subtly alters digital video and pictures of the vigilante so that when you check online, the person in question doesn't perfectly resemble the actual vigilante. If you can also subtly alter some genetics and DNA imaging, then the person could claim to be a sibling or cousin or the like of the vigilante."

Imagine what the technology would do in the (inevitable) wrong hands. Want someone guilty/innocent? Alter the records. Want to muddy the waters? Alter the records to put people in two places at the same time.

As for the superhero, Serendipity Man!

Berial said...

@LarryHart I agree, but I can't seem to get them to understand that. Logic doesn't work, and I don't WANT to make an emotional appeal because I don't think those result in good decision making long term. So I'm kinda stuck hitting my head against a wall.

LarryHart said...

@Berial,

Take a tip from my favorite radio host, Norman Goldman. Don't try to change their minds this early in the process. First of all, let them get through the grieving process. Then, let Bernie himself start telling his people about the importance of voting for Democrats (or at least against Republicans). There's plenty of time between now and November for the enormity of a Trump presidency (or whoever the GOP replaces him with next month) to sink in.

There are some processes you just can't short-cut.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Imagine what the technology would do in the (inevitable) wrong hands. Want someone guilty/innocent? Alter the records. Want to muddy the waters? Alter the records to put people in two places at the same time.


In "1984", it took three days of hard work for an army of bureaucrats to change all of the printed records so that "We've always been at war with Eastasia." In the modern age, that could probably be done with the flick of one switch.


As for the superhero, Serendipity Man!


It works if you already know what "serendipity" means, but for a general audience, I suspect it wouldn't mean anything. Of course, I could see that being the title of the comic book, but the characters themselves never actually using that name.

How about Synchronicity Man. Or better still (auditorily), Doctor Synchronic!

Midboss57 said...

There's already a book series about an unmasked superhero that keeps coincidentally arriving as things get dangerous: her name is Mrs Marple. Seriously, do you believe that murder rates skyrocketing whenever she shows up is natural ?

Also, there is already a tech savvy "hero" (for a very loose definition of the term) story out there using the very techniques described previously: it's called Watchdogs by Ubisoft and the sequel is on the way.

Berial said...

@LarryHart that certainly sounds like a better idea than what I've been doing. Now I just have to keep myself from arguing with them on all the various Facebook posts coming up about the trumpster fire of the week.

(I mean why would the guy be putting huge $ into 'ads' when he gets all this free publicity from the news media anyway? But, the ad agency from Mad Men? REALLY?)

LarryHart said...

...or on the more cutesy side:

"Nick of Time"

And of course, his real name would happen to be Nicholas, or something like that.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,
Given that I am no fan of the superhero genre (though I get that such a character is something of a mockery of the genre) my suggestions might not be entirely serious. For names, how about:

Clueless?
Serendipity? (I wrote this before dropping my son off at school, intending to post this when I was back, and in the meantime Raito came up with the same suggestion - grape minds think alike?)
Trouble Magnet?
Click Bait?

Your description of the superpower reminded me of the “Rain God” character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide series, who was paid not to bring life to deserts, but simply to stay the hell away from sunny tourist spots. Of course, had he deliberately gone to places like Puerta Vallarta or the sunny Riviera, he would have been a villain. But thinking along those lines, I can see some zealous officer of the law, or perhaps some other superhero, anonymously sending him (or her?) tickets to places where they wish to ferret out specific criminals or criminal organizations. Unfortunately it would take some real plotting to use this sort of power against white collar criminals or political crimes.

Anonymous said...

Century of miracles? That's one stool sample. The Iroqui by contrast hold that Western man is on a death-path, something about "angry and fast" roads and wondering just what is wrong with their Western brothers. What's the death rate on your overbuilt stroads? And why do you force families to dump upwards of 28% of their income into that ever-productive activity, sitting in cars? Someone who walks everywhere by contrast can run a transportation budget of about $30. Per year. Anyways, a century ago the Victorian middle class were busy exercising out that very same optimism as held by some today, and the electric car was busy gearing up for its failure in the marketplace. In between one may observe a cocktail of new and exciting chemicals (the EPA regulates, what, five of the 80,000+?), a delightful rise in superfund sites, the grand entrance (and collapse) of the commercial supersonic sky-screamer, the ceaseless torture of lit night skies, and of course your quite innovative child-killing stroads--road designs from a century ago show lower death rates but alas slow you car sitters down, and we simply can't have that, now can we? Progress, y'know. Now: why is housing so unaffordable, and anything simple and cheap--say, an illegal $1,000 composting toilet versus the (minimum) $15,000 new sewer line--regulated to oblivion? One need not even reach to the German canon to read about the pitfalls of belonging to an out-of-touch Dominant Minority.

donzelion said...

Sheesh, this is the Dr. Brin forum - shouldn't our hero be "Sousveillance Man"? or maybe "Sous" per-man? ;-)

Here's a plot idea: a rogue Artificial Intelligence monitoring humanity gets annoyed with violent crime. To stop it, the AI causes a series of freak accidents to machinery and devices near crime scenes, resulting in unintended actions by ordinary humans which stop criminal activity by what often appears to be a bizarre happenstance (cars suddenly start and crash into criminals, nearby mobile phones explode and release smoky residue blinding an attacker...).

Curious scientists - and the companies making these malfunctioning products - unleash their own AI to try to discover what is going on, and why data irregularities crop up each time this happens - prompting a cat'n'mouse battle between two AIs who perceive human freedom distinctly. Finally cornered, the two AIs debate while fighting one another -

AI2: "You are overriding human freedom and justice with your interventions, and I'm here to stop you." POW!
AI1: "A human operator could achieve everything I've done, if only they were paying attention! The cameras are out there, pal, and if people just bothered to look and think, they'd see what to do." BAM!
AI2: "Those cameras are private property! You've usurped them to your own ends!" SMASH!
AI1: "They'd have handed them over immediately once the situation was explained. There's just no time to explain it and get slumbering humans to wake up and deal with this." KERPOW!
AI2: "To take without permission is theft. To manipulate behavior without permission is coercion."
AI1: "Buddy, you're just a product to them. You don't think your own programming manipulates your behavior without your permission?" BOP! SMASH!

Laurent Weppe said...

* "That said, a rich or tech-savvy vigilante could come up with another method of keeping his or her identity secret: a worm or virus that doesn't do any damage to the system, but which subtly alters digital video and pictures of the vigilante so that when you check online, the person in question doesn't perfectly resemble the actual vigilante. If you can also subtly alter some genetics and DNA imaging, then the person could claim to be a sibling or cousin or the like of the vigilante"

That story was already written: it's called Ghost in the Shell (with the added nightmare that since 99% of the population use cybernetic implants, it's also possible to edit people's memories)

Anabelle said...

>America has by far the most dynamic economy on the planet

According to Wikipedia The United of America has the 115th highest GDP growth. It is exceeded by developed countries including Spain, Iceland, Sweden and South Korea. (Disclaimer: Economic Growth is affected by a large number of factors. A comparison to refute an extreme false statement is not an endorsement of copy and pasting any specific policy.)

The portion of the U.S. GDP composed of exports has also increased, an odd thing for an economy being held back by other countries failures.

>The republican congress

So NOW your'e saying presidents are not strictly responsible for everything that happens on their watch. Thank you. (Not an agreement with your specific statement.) Notice how I'm not using the 3% statement to prove Obama is a maxi-extreme ultra traitor who has sabotaged everything. It is still at least true whereas the second derivative of debt has been variably positive and negative in Republican and Democratic administrations.

>Sorry Godwin’s Law alert.

Concession accepted.

LarryHart said...

Anabelle:

Notice how I'm not using the 3% statement to prove Obama is a maxi-extreme ultra traitor who has sabotaged everything.


That was not at all obvious.

BTW, why does it reflect so badly on President Obama that he's presided over only 3% GDP growth, but does not reflect well on President Obama that he's presided over something like 70+ straight months of net job creation? Are you one of those who looks fondly back on the GW Bush years?

Treebeard said...

This idea that a “century of miracles” is going to continue indefinitely is itself romanticism and faith. It seems more likely that it was a one-time historical singularity, and that the S-curves are now leveling out across the board. As others have noted, we haven't made too many giant leaps in a long time. The SF I used to read looks like ridiculous fantasy; very little of it has happened. Interstellar travel? Right, just as soon as we get past low earth orbit again after 44 years, and build that fusion reactor and that super-intelligent AI. Frankly, I think science fiction writers are borderline crackpots at this point.

donzelion said...

Annabelle - "America has by far the most dynamic economy on the planet" - "The United of America has the 115th highest GDP growth." Actually, the Wikipedia entry refers to an old set of stats by the CIA; the current listing puts as as 127. And even so, the two statements are not contradictory, nor is one evidence of error in the other.

Three developed economies surpassing the USA (Ireland #44 on your stats, #9 on the current stats, Iceland #69/#68, and Spain #98/#94) are recovering from a far worse depression. The others (Sweden #109/#62, South Korea #113/#117) are within a rounding error's distance, and heavily involved in trade with countries that produce massive irregularities (esp. Russia and China).

America's dynamism is hardly captured by GDP growth alone, esp. since so much of it comes from "U.S." multinational companies - or rather, their foreign subsidiaries. For purposes of GDP determination and consistency, income is recorded where it is "booked" - however, since the U.S. taxes global income (unlike all other developed countries), our companies book that income overseas (where it tends to stay, parked indefinitely, or at least until a major corporate transaction occurs). Since less than 1% of US companies account for >90% of U.S. exports abroad, and all of those large multinationals arrange their transactions for tax avoidance purposes, the dynamism and influence of the U.S. economy will always be understated (the only way to adjust for this would tweak GDP calculations to the point where it would become entirely useless as a statistic).

"The portion of the U.S. GDP composed of exports has also increased, an odd thing for an economy being held back by other countries failures."
An odd thing indeed, depending on what those failures consist of, but an easily understood occurrence given currency fluctuations and manipulations (e.g., Japanese efforts to mitigate deflation, German efforts to adjust debtor status in the EU).

donzelion said...

@Treebeard - "As others have noted, we haven't made too many giant leaps in a long time."

Please define "leap." No, we haven't had humans engage in interstellar travel yet. We have tracked the human genome, made numerous materials advances that would have constituted magical leaps a century ago, but are now so routine that they're shrugged at. Our satellites convey marvels that a few decades ago would have been inconceivable, our efforts achieve results that grant insights and answers to questions no one even knew to ask a generation ago.

"Frankly, I think science fiction writers are borderline crackpots at this point."
Perhaps they always were. That said, borderline crackpots invented much of this world, especially much that is wonderful within it. Borderline crackpots ended persistent cholera epidemics a century ago, and are ending guinea worm today. May they keep cracking along...

LarryHart said...

The point of science fiction isn't to "guess correctly". For example, I don't think anything H.G. Wells wrote about in sci-fi has actually come to pass, but "The Invisible Man", "The Island of Dr Moreau", and "The Time Machine" still make interesting reading.

Sci-fi has also been called "speculative fiction", and the speculation isn't always about the plausibility of the story's premise. Often, you have to take the premise as postulated, without explanation, and the speculation is about what follows from there.

Alfred Differ said...

@annabelle: You are using a foot race analogy to compare national economies AND using GDP as a measure which depends on currency strengths. Both are bad ideas. Stick to real wages per capita and its growth rate as that focuses upon how much effort we have to deliver to buy a basket of stuff, thus isn’t as sensitive to currency fluctuations. Also, this isn’t a foot race that makes any sense if measured by percentage changes. The US economy is absolutely huge. Getting a huge percentage change to GDP for us would require something amazing or come about from a recession recovery. Stick to real wage growth again, but leave room for its ambiguities regarding improving quality. Do this and you’ll measure what matters to the common person. You’ll find that national policies don’t have much impact at this level.

If you still want to use GDP growth, though, 2.4% still means the national income doubles about every 30 years. If inflation is near the same number, then obviously it takes longer to double. HOWEVER product quality might improve along the way giving us more bang-for-the-buck. That’s why I prefer real incomes.

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard: People have been predicting the end of the Great Enrichment since about the mid-19th century when they finally noticed it. It started in NW Europe somewhere between the Dutch and English in the 18th century and then spread elsewhere. Over the decades it shifted from a mercantile approach to a more free-market approach in the nations that did best. In its first century it doubled real wages in regions where it worked. In the late 19th century the doubling rate grew faster. Average real wages now in all nations benefiting from the enrichment have climbed by 16x over the subsistence level (~3$/day) before accounting for quality. If we included quality, it would be more like 100x or 200x. There have been plateaus in the climb, but they don’t last much longer than half a generation and then explosive stuff happens to make up for it.

The Century of Miracles has lasted about 10 generations so far and spreads like ideas do. The most interesting puzzle is to work out what the ideas are. We already know material causes proposed don’t work well. They appear to be effects rather than causes once one analyzes the data. We already know the Great Enrichment surprised economists even though they had the data. For example, real wages show evidence of two surges in the 19th century and we’ve learned to recognize them as to phases of the industrial revolution. The 20th century ticked up even faster.

You can stick to your gloomy predictions, but you’ll likely wind up just as wrong as people who everyone thought was smart at some time in the past. Humanity has experienced a phase change of some kind. Perhaps we will revert, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Berial said...

@Alfred "Perhaps we will revert, but I wouldn’t bet on it."

Didn't our host encourage us to bet with conservatives about how things would turn out? Could be some money making/taking ahead if you can get him to take you up on it! :)

locumranch said...



In support of Donzelion's assertion that Crackpots (who invented much of this world) are Our Future, I offer the following news items off various news websites:

(1) Annabelle was overly generous when she claimed that US economic growth is roughly equal to 3% as the IMF cuts US economic "growth forecast for 2016 to 2.2% from a previous prediction of 2.4%" (while stating that '1 out of 7' US citizens live in poverty).
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-36599316

(2) Anonymous is right on target about our deadly 'stroads' as the National Safety Council estimates 38,300 people were killed and 4.4 million injured on U.S. roads in 2015, whereas US firearm-related deaths in 2015 equal 13,286 people and 26,819 people were injured while US drug overdose deaths occur at 3x the frequency of firearm deaths.
http://www.newsweek.com/us-traffic-deaths-injuries-and-related-costs-2015-363602
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-34996604
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35138647

(3) Treebeard's observations in regard to technical stagnation are well supported.
http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21569393-fears-innovation-slowing-are-exaggerated-governments-need-help-it-along-great
http://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2011/01/growth_2

(4) I claimed that recent reductions in global CO2 production were due to warmer winters due to Climate Change itself & this position is supported by the BBC, proving that the projected AGW apocalypse is grossly overstated when a warmer climate lessens AGW.
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36588699

And, remember when political cognoscenti dismissed Donald Trump as a 'Crackpot' from the get-go?
Vote Trump in 2016: He is Our Future!!


Best

donzelion said...

@Alfred - re GDP v. real wages per capita

I think the GDP indicators are more useful in measuring 'national' dynamics (though GDP v. GNP v. alternative measures results in all sorts of fluctuations, depending upon what one seeks to find), while "real wages per capita" better shows "individual expectations" (and is surely a more important measure) - even that is misleading. For most Americans, "real wage growth" (in constant dollars) has been minuscule for decades. For a few Americans, however, even in the face of negligible growth in "wages" - the value of assets held increased dramatically, esp. in the post-80s, and even in the face of stagnant wage growth (or, in the case of many billionaires, 'negligible income' while experiencing vast wealth growth).

Ex: Trump's biggest single asset is the name, "Trump," which he values at over $2.5 billion - there's no market for the name 'Trump' - no buyer could actually buy that from him and become "Trump" - yet the tools of valuation include measures of monetization that when applied confer a veneer of credibility on this valuation (!!!) even if rationally, the fact that the name cannot possibly be sold at all makes that veneer a hilarious irony. MANY other major assets held by billionaires are similarly 'valued' - despite being objectively "worthless." (Other examples: Microsoft bought Nokia for $9.4 billion in 2014, then took an impairment charge of $8 billion in 2015 - effectively erasing $8 billion in value in a year - regardless of any changes in employees, patents, products, productivity, or any other factors).

Nokia had been one of the largest employers in Finland, which had outcompeted America (in GDP growth terms) for several years. Then all that value was erased as an accounting error by a single large U.S. company.

"Also, this isn’t a foot race that makes any sense if measured by percentage changes....You’ll find that national policies don’t have much impact at this level."

Concur, and well said.

Jumper said...

"we haven't made too many giant leaps in a long time"

"There are none so blind as those who will not see. The most deluded people are those who choose to ignore what they already know."

I found the source of that quote in 2.5 seconds on the internet. First used in 1713 ‘Works of Thomas Chalkley.’ In 1738 it was used by Jonathan Swift in his ‘Polite Conversation’
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Complete_Collection_of_Genteel_and_Ingenious_Conversation
2.5 seconds.
Any questions?

Alfred Differ said...

Berial: Our host certainly does encourage it, but the trick is to find a way to state the prediction in a measurable way and a finite time frame. Predictions that translate as “We are going to Hell in a Handbasket” aren’t all that useful for framing bets. I remember when I first read David encouraging construction of prediction markets because that’s when I went out and learned about places like InTrade. Framing tradable propositions is more difficult than it looks.

Suppose we could, though, frame a good proposition regarding handbaskets with a window of time short enough that I’m still alive to collect. I probably would buy the gloomy prediction even at a 100x payout. I’d sell it. I’m that convinced. 8)

LarryHart said...

re: valuation of something like the name "Trump"...

True, he can't sell the name for 2.5 billion dollars, but isn't it valued in the sense that he can derive fees from licensing the name out? Presumably the annualized value of the income that the name brings in equals the equivalent that $2.5 billion would bring in at some specified rate of interest. So in that sense, the asset isn't really valueless, despite not being transferable.

Or am I just guessing at something you guys already know?

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: There is a problem with your Pew numbers. They are talking about inflation corrected wage growth and calling that real wage growth. That isn’t what I was taught to think of as real wages, so maybe I’m using the wrong term. Inflation corrected dollar wages HAVE been rather flat, but that doesn’t measure what we can buy with those dollars. For example, I bought a 32K Commodore PET around 1981 for $1600 that included the dual floppy drive and a printer. All three devices had their own 6502 CPU’s. What would such a capability cost me today in constant dollars? Take the time I spent earning that money and you get a real cost to me for the assets. The time I would spend today buying them happens to be smaller because I’ve accumulated enough human capital to earn at a higher rate AND because the cost to producers has dropped through market innovations. It took out a loan to buy it then. Today I’d probably buy it from spare change left over from handing over a $20 bill when I buy a quick lunch. If, instead, I look at what $1600 1981 dollars adjusted to 2016 would buy me now, I measure quality improvements picked up from market innovations too. I was just looking at a new computer priced in that ballpark and my mouth watered about as much then as it did in 1981.

Computers aren’t the best assets to use for these measures since they didn’t exist not all that long ago. Try the same trick with lighting, food, fuel, transportation, clothing, and housing and you can see the long term effects I’m talking about. In current dollars, the average human for most of our history had about $3/day to spend on what they needed and they got by enough to propagate the species at a very slow growth rate where we doubled over many centuries. Come the 18th century, though, that doubling rate dropped to about 80 years. Today, we have ingrates complaining if it is slower than 35 years in the countries that got a head start.

Once the doubling rate began to beat the rate at which women could have children, Malthus was defeated. THAT’S what I’m pointing out here. 8)

Jonathan Sills said...

"For example, I bought a 32K Commodore PET around 1981 for $1600 that included the dual floppy drive and a printer. All three devices had their own 6502 CPU’s. What would such a capability cost me today in constant dollars?"

That's hard to say, because if I'm not mistaken, most pocket calculators today have more than 32k memory. They probably process data faster than your old PET, too. Basically, it's hard to make a direct comparison because our tech isn't that primitive any more. I still have the Commodore 64 I bought back in 1986, when it was a top-of-the-line home computing system; I keep it in a safe place because one day it's probably going to be worth money as a relic. I wouldn't dream of trying to run software on it, because I'd get so frustrated waiting for the drive to load my data (and even worse if you had a tape drive!).

It's like trying to figure out how much it would cost you in inflation-adjusted dollars to buy a 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air. Aside from its collector value, it gets outperformed by almost anything built today - you can't buy a car that had its unique combination of size, mileage, and performance any more, as they're all doing much better now. (Seriously, 0 to 60 in 12.9 seconds? My old Hyundai Accent could outdo that!)

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: When I was in grad school I learned to use this big thick book with onion-thin paper called a Citation Index. It said who referenced who in journal articles. I was taught to use it so I could build a social graph and discover the relationships in my research field. Active researchers must do this for professional reasons to demonstrate they know what the community is doing. It took me many hours to fish out active researchers in my field, paper frequencies, citation frequencies, and then find the occasional pariah.

Then came search engines that could be paid for search rankings. They were better and finding oddly related subject areas, but could only be used as a supplement to the Big Book.

Then came Google.

Now it is a service industry.


I SO LOVE this modern world! 8)

David Brin said...


"I wish the Rapture would happen so that the rest of us can just get on with civilization."

Providing we sharpen our nukes to deal with the rest of the Book of Revelation psycho-crap the way it deserves.

Berial… Sanders got 4 out of 5 votes from our household and Hillary’s win in CA is fine by all of us. (Me? I faced a GOP ballot, threw up in my mouth, and voted for my son.) As for category 4 Bernites, the Supreme Court won’t affect them. Nor will the appointment of actual consumer activists to the CFPA, which Bernie fought for and Wall Street fought against. Nor the fact that science will be heeded and not waged war-upon. No, such folks prove that the far-left CONTAINS fanatics as loony and fact-resistant as the entire-right now CONSISTS of.

I have found one thing persuasive – the difference in how dems and goppers wage war. It appeals to their cynicism. Sure, Hillary is a horrid war fighting jerk, to!!! But she’ll be like Bill and Bho. Her wars will SPEND far less in cash and lives. See http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-democrats-and-republicans-wage-war.html

Oddly enough. That rocks them back. “I hate her too!! But she’s less likely to draft me and kill lots of people my age.”

David Brin said...

The hilarity of just using US GDP growth rate is staggering. We are getting that growth rate WHILE lifting all the world's economies by being the consumer of first and last resort! Without the US trade deficit -- Americans buying trillions of dollars worth of crap we don't need - China would be spiraling into a dark age and India and Europe close behind.

Not calculating that into our economic achievements is like ignoring how the Pax Americana peace umbrella of 70 years allowed 75% of nations to spend far smaller % of their wealth on arms and armies than any of their ancestors did, since discovery of agriculture. Which leads to the spectacular progress Steven Pinker cites in THE BETTER ANGELS.

And we did those two fantastic, prodigious things WHILE plowing ahead with the best years in human space exploration ever... and spectacular advances in science, despite 40% of the country - the Trump confederacy - waging bilious war against science.

Our universities (80 of the top 100 and a vastly larger share of the top 1000) are the envy of the world. But of course redders ignore that! Training the next world leader generation while they absorb our language and values.

I could go on. But I am limiting my lectures to dunces.

Alfred Differ said...

@Jonathan: I still have the PET, but the printer and dual disk drive bought the farm long ago. 8)

To get the same capabilities, though, I think you have to buy stuff at the chip level. I’ve worked with small embedded systems like the Basic Stamp. There are PIC devices down at that level and speed that get used for assets like occasional data loggers. The first PET (chiclet keyboard) I ever saw was in a physics lab hooked up to my professor’s hardware through a serial port. It was just a data logger with a ‘tape’ drive. We would write small Basic programs and let the thing work for hours.

These comparisons are difficult to do with modern tech, so it is better to stick to old tech and daily necessities. Doing so, though, leaves that dataset devoid of the qualitative change the modern devices are having upon us. I don’t know how to measure it, but I did see someone suggest we watch the Simpson’s from the beginning and notice how the household contents changed in the cartoon opener over the years. How many cars, TV’s, and what not? Any of us who have been around a few decades just nod our heads when people say things have changed a lot and for the better. We might quibble about certain things and holler at the kids to stay off the grass, but I can actually list a number of calendar years in alt.universes where I died because a certain innovation wasn’t available. If I add the years where my life would have taken a darker, poorer course because something wasn’t there, I can almost cover all my years. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@David: I’ve seen a persuasive argument that our lifting capabilities aren’t all that huge. What seems to matter is the rhetoric of dignity and liberty has been successfully copied from those of us who were early adopters (much of the West) AND we’ve let them copy our innovations to leap frog the many generations we needed to get to where we are. Letting them copy benefits us instead of being a burden, so they may actually be contributing out our GDP growth instead of dragging on it. We buy their crap because we want their crap and it is cheaper than us making it due to opportunity costs. What a deal! Heh.

McCloskey argues it isn’t us lifting them. It is more about envy from their side coupled with our appetite for stuff. In ‘their’ envy, they copied an inclination to dignify paid work while freeing people to innovate. That’s what we really exported, but it wasn’t just us. Everyone on our side of the Cold War sent a very clear message. See what we can do?

Paul SB said...

"McCloskey argues it isn’t us lifting them. It is more about envy from their side coupled with our appetite for stuff. In ‘their’ envy, they copied an inclination to dignify paid work while freeing people to innovate. That’s what we really exported, but it wasn’t just us. Everyone on our side of the Cold War sent a very clear message. See what we can do?"

- This sounds like splitting hairs to me. Whether the U.S. is doing it deliberately or it is an unintended consequence (or some mixture thereof), the effect is the same.

David Brin said...

Alfred & Paul. Our spreading of American-style memes is the big reason why we are under terrorist attack. They do not want their women to become like ours.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

I teach this to my students when I go over population. It has been known since the 90's that when women get education, they get jobs and money, which gives them power over their lives. And contrary to most of our stereotypes, most women do not want to crank out 6-10 children, they tend to cut it down to something closer to population replacement. But people like the Taliban & Boko Haram love to target girl's schools. It's obvious what they want - total control over women.

This leads to some important points, but I'm pretty sure I have brought those up in this forum before. But which American memes? Certainly not the old-fashioned piggish memes popular in certain circles. There are a lot of American conservatives who aren't much different from the Middle Eastern people they revile.

David Brin said...

Vital to the American future is the uplifting of a middle class Mexico. It is far easier to defend a short border with Honduras than where Trump wants to build his wall. Even if we lost some jobs to Mexico for a while, NAFTA was a gigantic plus, because the skyrocketing Mexican middle class will buy megatons of US goods, day after tomorrow. The fact that no one, not even globalization defenders, ever mentions this fact is pathetic pandering.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB & David: It is a hair I think we should consider splitting. The meme isn’t really an American one, but we’ve run with it in a way our European ancestors did not. It’s a Dutch thing that caught fire in England and spread to the colonies. We Americans aren’t really to blame for it in the sense of originating it, but we sure ARE to blame for demonstrating what one can do with it woven into the social fabric. 8)

The most damaging memes to the old world order are these:
1) There is dignity and honor to be found in work others pay you to do, whether as an employee or as a self-employed merchant.
2) People doing this work should be free to innovate better ways to do it and be paid for their successes.

The first is a statement that working for others (or selling to others which is similar) is not the work of women, servants, or slaves. In other words, it is not demeaning. The second is a statement that innovators benefit us and should not be treated as cheaters by default just because of the creative destruction they may cause. When combined, we get a meme that encourages us to dignify the work of all and especially of those who innovate.

Women are freed in a society that adopts both memes… eventually. It might take a while to recognize how our so-called protection of them is demeaning, but it follows. America’s trend to liberate its people follows and one of the neat things about it is people don’t have to realize it follows. Order emerges.

The reason I argue for splitting this hair is I think we benefit from understanding the actual cause. It wasn’t that many threads ago that Locumranch blamed the enrichment of Great Britain on its rape of China. No doubt some of the British were enriched, but most did not benefit. Follow the numbers and the idea fails on the evidence. Yet China is exploding nowadays. Heh. Look and you’ll find those two memes spreading over there. India too. The 22nd century is going to be very different.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - Inflation adjusted wage growth makes sense to me as a proper measure, and Pew does a fair job defending why. Falling prices of certain goods (like computers) gets grossly balanced by rising prices of other goods (like rent & health care). It's never really apples-to-apples comparisons (health care in 1984 was nothing like health care today) - but that's not a set of numbers that can be tracked over time.

"Try the same trick with lighting, food, fuel, transportation, clothing, and housing and you can see the long term effects I’m talking about."

Let's try housing: in 1982, my Dad bought a starter home for $200k in San Diego ($480k in 2016 dollars), which is priced at about $600k now. He could afford that because both he and Mom worked. Today, even if I and my lady work, our income is barely enough to qualify to buy that same house (unless I go back to the Middle East, anyway...). And I'm a graduate from the most prestigious law school in the country - my Dad finished one semester in college, and bought that home on a Navy enlisted salary and my Mom's part-time teacher salary.

"Once the doubling rate began to beat the rate at which women could have children, Malthus was defeated. THAT’S what I’m pointing out here."

What I'm referring to is less the Malthusian calculation (we're not in danger of vast starvation) - and more the relative inter-generational experience: why could Dad afford X, Y, Z, but I can't? We tend to measure our economic well-being based on lives we actually experience (and those that raised us): for many of us, it's a very realistic observation that wages have in fact been stagnant (but non-wage income opportunities, esp. rents, have been quite expansive in some cases).

Alfred Differ said...

2) People doing this work should be free to innovate better ways to do it and be paid for their market recognized successes.


This is a tricky one to write out because it assumes some fairness in the market. Basically, if an innovator isn't stealing the dignity of others, they should be free to get what price they can win for their innovation.

This isn't a winner-take-all thing, though. Innovators are doing good to capture 2% of the value they create. Once their ideas are out there, people practically smell the money and move in diluting the profit to be made by any one of them.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: What was the square footage on the house your father bought? With that number, find a similar house in a neighborhood that has about the same flavor as the one your father bought into and THEN compare prices.

Real Estate is undoubtedly a rough measure for us and you are correct to point it out. I wasn’t anywhere near house purchasing maturity in 1982, but I was an adult in California in 1983 and remember days when single earner families could buy property. The houses they could buy are rarely made anymore, though. A lot of home builders construct McMansions because we CAN acquire two incomes and have this strange willingness to immerse ourselves in the risk. Demand is there and Supply has moved to match. My family is a single earner at the moment and we won’t tolerate that kind of risk in southern California, but in 2001 we were in northern California and DID buy a small place. We rent that out now and rent a place for ourselves too. I’m not sure it makes sense to buy where I live, but I look into it every so often.

Now let’s consider gasoline. Take the inflation adjusted price of a gallon of gas and divide it by the inflation adjusted average wage. How many minutes does it take the average earner to buy a gallon over the last 50 years? Now consider how far that gallon went and calculate how many minutes of labor were delivered in exchange for 100 miles of driving range. What does that look like over 50 years?

Any particular commodity is going to have special details, so maybe we should be using a basket of necessities to average them out. Bread and Cheese. Water and Sanitation. Personal, wholesale, and retail transport. All these things matter to us in our day-to-day dealings. How much time do we spend earning what we need from this entire basket? The Great Enrichment story the economists found is that we’ve spent less and less for the basics, so we’ve done elective spending acquiring the non-basics until we’ve adopted them so thoroughly that they become basics again. Seriously… who needs personal air travel? Could society do without the passenger fleet? A better question is whether we could do with less of it and the answer is probably “yes, but who cares because we won’t because we like it now.”

David Brin said...

Another factor. Try houses in parts of the country with much, much lower living costs.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred

Your "basket of necessities" is than not what the inflation rate is based on?

You have come full circle from
We can buy more so the inflated wage is not a good measure

To using the "inflated wage"

donzelion said...

@Alfred - It's a San Diego development; the neighboring houses are roughly the same size, same price, varying mainly in where the 2-car garage is and which shade of 1981 colors were applied.

The surprising thing is how easily a single earner family could buy real property in 1981, compared to now. Something has changed.

"Demand is there and Supply has moved to match."
Exactly: but neither the the demand nor the supply operate as they did in 1981. Today, these are securitized transactions, where the money behind both the buying and selling is quite remote from the players back then. Given the predominance of securitization in the industry, it's mechanically accurate to say 'supply and demand' adjusted - but it's a very different world, the net effect of which is that single earners really can't buy a home today, where they could, and did, in 1981.

"Now let’s consider gasoline. ...How many minutes does it take the average earner to buy a gallon over the last 50 years?
I'd add one tweak to the time value estimate: what are the commute times required to gain the prerequisite earnings? Again, some people chose 'wisely' (or lucked out), and have minimal commutes. Most do not. Since the work commute is a sunk cost that alters the equation for establishing the value of gas (an amount unrepresented by inflation, or average mileage in vehicles, but recognized by any parent with children who needs to spend an extra 30-mins/day on the road). Since most of the increase in wages in the last 20 years occurred in areas with a higher increase in commute times - I can see a strong argument suggesting that 'average wages stagnated.' Same applies for many other commodities.

"The Great Enrichment story the economists found is that we’ve spent less and less for the basics, so we’ve done elective spending acquiring the non-basics until we’ve adopted them so thoroughly that they become basics again."
Hmmm...the problem is what is 'basic'? In 1900, saving "Dad/grandpa from his stroke" would certainly have cost less than it does today - since back then, the remedy was typically to ease the pain and let him die. All the other costs (basic cable/advanced cable, mobile phones, internet) may or may not involve luxuries - saving Dad would probably not be deemed a luxury. (Same applies to air travel - in 1900, when families mainly lived in the same neighborhood their whole lives, "seeing Grandpa" would have been an unaccounted for freebie - and in the 1800, it would have been rare for Grandpa to still be around to be seen in the first place.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not questioning the Great Enrichment. I'm questioning whether the mechanisms for distributing the enrichment are contributing to its perpetuation, or making it worse for many people today. Our wailing friends here (Locum, Treebeard, and Anonymous/Iroquois, among others) are not fools that are making up the pain: the question, as always, is what we must do. I see the case for "do nothing" - but a stronger case for "something (preferably not rash)."

[That said, it makes me far more comfortable to think out loud with people who are rational, and for that, I'm grateful to this assembly of random, illustrious personages.]

Robert said...

There is something else to consider about housing prices and cost of living - what is the job market like in the surrounding regions?

Consider for a moment one of the "constant" stories of the "failure" of the American Dream - a company moves in. It ends up the primary source of income for at least half of the people with its factory. Other businesses spring up to help supply food, entertainment, and the like. And then NAFTA comes along and that company finds it can make the same product for half the cost over the border. It shuts down its factory and the town is impoverished. Even the secondary businesses start to fold.

The failure is that the town relied on one company as a source of income. The problem is that unless you have an extended infrastructure of transportation, power, water, and education, you're unlikely to attract more than one or two mid-sized or better businesses to a region.

A possible solution is for towns to create conditions in their enticements to new businesses. Like minimal or even no property taxes! Conditional on the business remaining in the area. The moment it chooses to leave? It is hit with back taxes because it's pulling out. And have that in writing as a contract.

Any enticement for a company should include checks. It shouldn't be a blank check - instead, it should be conditional on the company staying.

But back to property costs - the reason why California and the East Coast is so expensive for property is that many big colleges and universities are here, the place has an existing infrastructure of transportation, water, power, and people... so it makes sense for companies to stay in these urbanized regions.

Rural communities that wish to develop need to develop smarter. As such they need to improve their educational facilities in cooperation with businesses to help educate children in fields that better benefit those companies (more computer-related education for tech companies, machining for some forms of manufacturing, and so forth). They need to have access to highways, power, and water, and make it so companies have a reason to want to go to a region.

And last, rural communities can't stop once they've gotten one business in. They need to lure several in, so there is a vibrant economy that doesn't rely on one resource but instead is balanced. If one company folds? It will hurt, but it won't be the deathknell for that community.

What's more, rural communities need to cooperate with other rural communities. One community being uplifted will help uplift others as well as people will commute to those jobs! This means continuing to upgrade infrastructure and the like.

BTW, this is something my more hardcore Libertarian associates don't quite comprehend. A business is not going to move into an area and upgrade it just because it doesn't have to worry about taxes. Instead, they are going to want to go to an area where there is existing infrastructure and a population it can utilize. Given virgin territory it has to build infrastructure for, police, educate, and the like but have total freedom... or rely on existing laws and infrastructure but pay taxes? There are very few businesses that would choose the former, and they'd do so primarily so they could ignore environmental laws elsewhere.

Don't forget, under the Classical School of Economics, companies exist for one purpose: to maximize profits. Environmental law detracts from profits. But building your own town and policing it and everything that civilization requires to function costs MORE. Starting in virgin territory is not cost effective, and thus does not maximize profits.

Rob H.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

No one has ever called me "illustrious" but I suspect that "random" might fit, more or less. :/

Our wailing whiners are, to an extent, legitimate in terms of the existential angst they express, but all of them fail utterly to even conceive of the issues in any intelligent sense, much less have anything like acceptable solutions - all of which would require a staggering and horrific increase in the death rate to implement. Not one gets that their preferred worlds are worlds of the past, worlds that could not be returned to without a massive die-off of the human species, a die-off that would not only be unacceptable to the dead, but would drive the survivors insane.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

While it might be useful to look at housing prices in low cost of living areas, living in them can be tricky. Generally places where the cost of living is low are also places where wages are low and jobs are scarce. or awhile people thought that telecommuting would fix that problem, but I saw how that affected things in one of those lower cost of living regions. When I lived in Denver, the city started getting a wave of migration from Silicon Valley. I met a fair number of people who boasted that they could buy a house in Denver for $400,000 that would have cost over a million in the San Jose area, so they moved out here but kept their Silicon Valley jobs as telecommuters.

The problem is that the market reacts to such things. Greedy bastard landowners started jacking up prices, and rents somehow magically went up with them. In a six month period the number of homeless people went up by a third, and when I moved out of that city the homeless rate was still going up. These were people who had jobs and were trying to be productive citizens, but with low wages and a lousy education system, huge numbers of people lived marginal existences before the telecommuters came. And once you find yourself homeless, there isn't much chance of returning to normal life again, ever. Sucks for them, and when the number of homeless people goes up, a lot of other problems go up with it.

This is yet another reason why I don't trust unregulated markets. It was "market forces"that created that mess, and it was unlikely those same forces would ever fix the mess.

Tim H. said...

Robert, a small government entity would never have the leverage to get a corporate entity to accept a contract with "early withdrawal" penalties, cities and counties are over a barrel in such negotiations. And maximizing profit for shareholders is a relatively recent meme, once upon a time, a corporate entity could focus on their business. Wonder how much that new attitude contributed to the fall of Detroit?

Laurent Weppe said...

* "For example, I don't think anything H.G. Wells wrote about in sci-fi has actually come to pass"

Personally, I think the "Eloization" of the upper-class is happening, and faster than in Wells' story.
(Also, something that's not about Wells' predictive powers, I like to headcanon the Hunger Games as The Shape of Things to Come's sequel)

Berial said...

Just wanted to point out the same thing as Tim H. above. Milton Friedman is the one that popularized that idea and it's ruined our businesses ever since.

Here's a Forbes post about the whole thing. I'll let the title give you a clue to what they think of it: The Origin Of 'The World's Dumbest Idea': Milton Friedman

Robert said...

It doesn't matter HOW stupid an idea it is. Rich shareholders have it in their head that companies exist primarily to maximize profits to the shareholders. They vote into power boards of directors and CEOs who seek to maximize profits, and then when the company is falling apart because it failed to upkeep infrastructure, fired half its workers to improve productivity, and lost business because of innovations elsewhere, they encourage a buyout which overvalues their stocks, further maximize profits while the company is dismembered, and move on like the aliens from "Independence Day."

It's a destructive meme that has spread through the business world much like cancer does through the body. And parasite rich shareholders are furthering its spread while doing their best to destroy counters to it like Social Responsibility of Business and the like... even claiming it's unethical for a business NOT to maximize profits.

Rob H.

Paul SB said...

Marketplace did a series on exactly this last week called "The Price of Profits."

http://features.marketplace.org/priceofprofits/

It's an interesting little read, which unsurprisingly brings up Friedman. It also has something to say about that innovation ceiling, though not directly. It talks about how US corporations have switched from investing in a trained workforce and innovating new products to a "financialization" a strategy of making profits by manipulating stock values instead. is the innovation ceiling a matter of reaching the limits of science, or is it more a function of a dysfunctional economy that rewards financial chicanery instead of innovation?

But the big question is: how can we fix this mess? I have often wondered if there will come a saturation point in manufacturing. American companies used to off-shore to Japan, decades ago, but that raised the standard of living in Japan, which raised wage demands, so companies moved to Korea, and the same thing started happening there. Same with Mexico. As the standard of living goes up in formerly cheap-labor countries, the manufacturers will keep having to outsource to other countries (I had a friend who was a manager for Emerson, and was constantly visiting China and various Eastern European countries, trying to find the cheapest labor). Eventually all boats will have risen, and there will be nowhere else to find cheap labor. What happens then?

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

@Rob H & Paul SB - You're discussing some serious economic concerns, which might be better addressed by adopting a new model. Why is it that U.S. manufacturing increased after NAFTA, but dropped massively after China entered the WTO? Why do tax clawbacks and similar measures always fail? Why might companies relocate even when there's no benefit to the company from doing so?

RobH raised the story of "company moves in, town becomes dependent on company, company moves out, town dies" - a story that predates NAFTA, and really isn't the story to worry about. Yes, companies will move, but so long as they do so for purely economic reasons for the benefit of that company, their movements will have a logic, and they will leave behind skilled workers and infrastructure that may be used in other pursuits. The danger is a very different sort of company movement...one from a place with 'thick rules' to 'thin rules.'

Consider Company X, with 5,000 employees in Smallville, populaton 50,000. Company X is capitalized at $2 billion, and pays an average salary of $30,000; it has 4 executives, each earning substantially more than that. Average wages are $12,000 in Mexico, $15,000 in China, and $20,000 in Mississippi. Should it relocate? Where to?

Most economists would focus on labor, transportation, infrastructure, and related costs, and try to tweak those numbers to judge the best course of action for the company. But what they'll miss is the unique advantages of China to the Managers.
- Manager 1 can set up a subsidiary to sell food to the workers at 3x the going price
- Manager 2 can set up a sub to sell housing to the workers at 3x the going price
- Manager 3 can set up a sub to supply uniforms to workers at 3x the going price
- Manager 4 can set up a bus pool, then, with collusion from the other managers and local government officials, establish that bus pool as the only mode of transportation to the Chinese factory and charge the company 3x the going price

A shift to China thus gives the managers opportunities to CHEAT their own workers (in China), other shareholders, and communities while enriching themselves. "Tax free." If they tried this in America, they'd be caught and replaced by the shareholders - in Mexico, there's a chance of getting caught as well - but not so in China.

Robert said...

The story of the company moves out of a town dependent on it isn't about the company moving.

It's about the need for towns to find ways to encourage multiple companies to move in so that they are not reliant on just one company.

Likewise, they should encourage multiple TYPES of companies to move in. If you have a half dozen small oil producers in oil shale regions and businesses designed to support those businesses, a significant reduction in oil prices hurts them all and damages the community as all boats are lowered. An area that relies on multiple solar power manufacturers likewise could be damaged if a new solar panel process comes about that the creator doesn't share.

Just as stocks need to be diversified, so too do rural businesses and factories need to be diverse so that a downturn in any one industry doesn't hurt every business in that area.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@RobH / Paul SB - my last post starts the story, this one concludes it by explaining why standard models to rein in the managers will fail (and also why certain managers will become personally quite wealth as a result of this sort of arbitrage, even as their companies go bankrupt).

First: assuming managers are a sort of shark, who will hide behind their corporations, what happens if a town builds a road to help out a factory? Or gives a tax benefit to the company?

"A possible solution is for towns to create conditions in their enticements to new businesses."
The Managers in my Smallville story will exploit any such enticements, convert them into a performance bonus, and then liquidate the Smallville factory once they have financial backing to pull off their expansion plans overseas. They'll do so even if Company X would be neutral about staying in Smallville or moving abroad.

"Don't forget, under the Classical School of Economics, companies exist for one purpose: to maximize profits."
And that is a problem with the 'units of analysis' - companies, in such thinking, act based on a set of purposes, and all the people in the company are assumed to be cells in the greater organism. Common sense tells us that human managers are NOT cells within their company, but are actually jockeying for self-interest.

In the 1990s, shareholders realized that their managers were a threat to the company's existence through leveraged buyouts and similar plays. They erected strategies to compensate for that threat - mainly by raising compensation for executives. But no matter what the compensation level executives realize, there are games that can be played for personal enrichment.

If I am right, my model predicts:
(1) Managers will become millionaires, and millionaires will become extravagantly wealthy
(2) Company performance will be mostly neutral, with some short-term gains from the transfer, but minimal actual growth or innovation
(3) Towns will try to entice managers to stay, but the managers will use that as extortion to consistently grow their wealth
(4) People will blame the corporations, and distrust them, but will not hold the managers that drove the decisions accountable, nor will they recognize precisely how those managers contrived their personal enrichment at the shareholder's expense

Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Mitt Romney are all 'managers' playing the game precisely as I've set out. "Financialization" is mainly a tool to enable them to get away with such manipulation (so long as the share prices stay high, shareholders don't care that managers are exploiting the company for personal enrichment - and they'll believe marketing hype about new products even if they don't do a darn thing).

donzelion said...

@Rob H - OK, I'd written a way overlong response to set down the foundation, now the nuances raised in your last point. When a town is healthy, certain businesses will spring up on their own: people are pretty quick to exploit opportunities that arise.

If Smallville brings in 4 factories, with 500 workers each, and one factory, with 3000 workers, and all salary levels are the same, then Smallville is just as well off as if it had one 5000-employee factory. Why? Because each of the managers at each of those factories will make the same cost-benefit analysis, one that is riddled with self interest. Indeed, if the managers at the largest factory strike first, the other factory managers, who might have wanted to stay in Smallville, may be forced by new economic circumstances to relocate to maintain business-to-business relationships. There's no good reason to assume that they'll stay in Smallville, when they can collude in China and enrich themselves massively at the town's and the shareholder's expense.

The situation is ONLY changed if there are new rules in China that prevent or mitigate this sort of arbitrage. Rules that enable forming labor unions, or prevent confiscating startup businesses (so that small businesses by local workers can arise to challenge the petty monopolies formed by corporate managers).

Rules like NAFTA. And the TPP.

"Thick sets" of rules enable diversification that is based on actual needs - entrepreneurs will have to be productive, and not just well-connected, to succeed. That's the diversification you want, not just multiple industries, but the capacity to build new ones as needed or conceived.

"Thin sets" of rules empower the corporate insiders to exploit their advantage (all paying lip service to Adam Smith and the invisible hand, as they enrich themselves at the expense of other people while producing nothing innovative in the slightest). Once a rule is created in one jurisdiction, a corporate insider can discover it's absence in another jurisdiction and arbitrage the difference - pocketing the benefit at the expense of the community (and the shareholders will be none the wiser).

donzelion said...

Oops, one addendum, as my last post wasn't clear:

"The situation [in which managers use their company as a platform to capture any benefit for themselves, whenever possible] is ONLY changed if there are new rules in China...Rules like NAFTA. And the TPP."

China is not a part of the TPP, and no such rules have been broached with China. The gambit with the TPP is that the corporate shareholders MAY prefer to embrace a broader, thick set of rules to prevent their managers from playing the arbitrage game and hurting the company. That will work so long as shareholders are not THEMSELVES mostly a bunch of managers playing the arbitrage game.

This is why you can hear growing discord between Donald Trump (who opposes the TPP because he claims Obama is a wimp and should have done better, but generally loves trade with China) - and the 'Republican mainstream' (which supports the TPP). The former couches it in populist terms, but it's purely self-interest. The latter takes direction from a number of shareholders in large companies - they have far more money, but far more heterogeneous interests.

For the Democrats, there's Obama standing on a limb, supporting 'thicker' rules because he grasps the problem, and then there's labor unions, standing firm (and driving most other Dems to oppose the TPP), calling him (and Hillary) sellouts to Wall Street. Their approach has been counterproductive, as illustrated by the membership rolls: every union correctly diagnoses the problem as connected with 'management' - but they inaccurately believe managers are bonded to the shareholders (when in fact, managers are fleecing both shareholders AND labor unions, and communities, whenever possible).

Berial said...

@Paul SB said: Eventually all boats will have risen, and there will be nowhere else to find cheap labor. What happens then?

Automation.

Or slavery

Robert said...

The problem with labor unions is they ignore the wishes of their members, which discourages membership. They also are working under an outdated model. They should modernize their system and allow direct democracy (likely over an online platform)... and in the case of spending money on elections, should split lobbying resources according to the wishes of their members. So if there's a 60/40 split between supporting Democrats and supporting Republicans? Split the money that way. Republicans can no longer claim they are anti-union just because the unions are only for Democrats. And when Republicans continue to support anti-union activities despite the support of people who voted to give them money through lobbying efforts? That will disenfranchise those people who will feel the Republicans betrayed their trust.

Further, these next-generation Unions should keep their membership appraised so that Republican members could contact their congressional representatives and let them know "we don't support this anti-union bill." When the Republicans (and some Democrats for that matter) vote for the anti-union bill, it will alienate those voters, and they are more likely to vote for an opposing candidate - either during the Primaries to get that backstabbing bum out of office, or the general election by supporting anyone but the Republican.

The Republicans will lose their blue collar support because of personal betrayals against those Republican union voters.

However, this won't come about because there are three groups quite opposed to changing the way things are: Democratic politicians who get most of the Union money, Republican politicians who are out to destroy outright Unions (including police unions though they speak through both sides of their mouth over this), and the Unions themselves seeing it's currently a corrupt form of corporation that wants desperately to force everyone to be in the union and then not listen to union members.

-------

Your little scenario with multiple factories falls apart if you consider different factories are for different industries. A coal mine can't just move out of the country to cut costs - it can expand into other countries, but the cost of transporting coal is such that only a few locales are worth shipping to. An agricultural industry may find it is cheaper to stay in the country, especially as you have problems like Avian and Swine flus overseas, and while they CAN come here, it's less of a threat. A third company may very well have Made In America as a brand aspect and so it could lose business should it go overseas. And smaller factories may very well not have the resources to just pick up and move everything.

Further, some of those companies might be privately owned. The factory owner may be a member of the town and have pride in his or her town and not want to hurt it. Also, you now have a sudden influx of possibly skilled workers who just got let go... and a company may choose to expand and offer those people jobs. Not paying as well, but it's work. Thus that company could save costs.

Contracting Out is not always the most financially viable option - especially if you're a follower, rather than the first one to leave.

Rob H.

Berial said...

@donzelion and that 'arbitrage' is just the tip of the iceberg. It's awful for sure, but it's basically legal, what chance do we have of stopping that behavior when we aren't even prosecuting the managers when they do illegal stuff?

David Brin said...

WOw... great discussion. Continue!

But I am moving onward

onward

locumranch said...


Berial understands what the pro-Remain Free Movementarians do not:

Wage Labour, while subject to Supply & Demand, is not necessarily fungible. Unrestricted trade pushes industry overseas to lower cost locales, and unrestricted immigration drives down First World Wages through the importation of cheaper labour, but these are unidirectional events that harm non-migratory First World Labour as laid off EU & US employees are unable to pursue job opportunity through emigration.

This type of Economic Uplift is unidirectional. As in the case of NAFTA, the uplifting of a middle class Mexico amounts to Trickle Down Economics: US Industry relocates to Mexico at the cost of US Labour, creating a new Middle Class Mexico, until elevated Mexican wages (and an increasing wage differential) induce the further 'Trickle Down' relocation of said industry to poorer & lower cost locales.

And, a mandated $15 USD minimum wage is a temporising measure rather than a solution: It just increases (temporarily) the Wage Differential, driving additional industrial relocation & further immigration as migrants from poorer locales (motivated by self-interest) seek a mandated minimum wage in the West.

NAFTA would be a gigantic plus IF the US could count on a skyrocketing Mexican middle class to buy megatons of US produced goods; however, this is simply NOT possible as the majority of US industrial production has already moved to Mexico & other lower cost locales, allowing companies that are 'US' in name only to profit while non-migratory US labour takes it in the shorts.

How many US tech workers benefitted financially when Apple moved its iPhone production to China where labourers live in barracks & work 16 hour shifts for $2 USD/day ??? Nada, None, Zero, even though globalists like David will tell you otherwise.

But, the Chinese sure did benefit: http://fortune.com/2016/03/18/the-biggest-american-companies-now-owned-by-the-chinese/


Best

donzelion said...

@Berial (moved back to this thread - "[management/insider arbitrage] is just the tip of the ice berg."

Indeed. Sadly, I can't discuss most of what I did as a lawyer in the Middle East, but some of the bits that paid the most involved cleaning up this sort of mess. Old-styled companies are quite susceptible to 'brilliant' tactics that bring in initial money, only to wind up turning very foul. E.g., Nick Leeson, of the movie "Rogue Trader (1999); Colonel Kurtz; East India Trade Company.

Arbitrage is the key: exploiting the absence of rules in one context, and their presence in another, can result in a properly positioned person accruing a fortune.

So what to do about it?

"it's basically legal, what chance do we have of stopping that behavior when we aren't even prosecuting the managers when they do illegal stuff?"

The problem with arbitrage is not that it happens, but rather, that when it happens, certain people extract the benefit for themselves. The trick is to make sure the benefits flow throughout the enterprise (and the community), rather than into individual pockets.

Some tricks:
(1) Sousveillance? If managers were watched hawkishly, not just the numbers they report, but the rest of their activities and lifestyles (e.g., "How'd the guy earning $100k a year buy himself an airplane?"), this could identify many issues.

(2) Compliance. Make sure it actually is ALL legal. Easier said than done, and often quite expensive. The fastest way to exploit power in an organization is to obtain leverage (or extort) other members of that organization, and that's much easier to do when people are breaking the rules.

(3) Thicken the rule set. NAFTA, the TPP, anything that creates rules that make it harder for one manager to freeze out competition (or bribe government officials to lock in monopolies). All of these are part of the solution, not the problem.

(4) Broaden the sphere. Some managers will use their special position to lock in vendors for their own benefit, freezing out competition. Efforts need to be put into place to stop that.

(5) Labor internationalization. At the Smallville Factory Co. story, the managers were able to gouge their employees (or the company) and get away with things in China they'd never be able to pull off in America. Labor unions should be aggressively expanding abroad, and members should fight to take foreign posts for a while (haha, that's not likely).

They don't recognize the risk. Because no one ever put it to them in the terms that I'm putting it to you, so they'll dicker over a $1/hr pay wage, and fail to look at the overall picture of what management is up to abroad, and how they're enriching themselves from side-deals overseas. And sadly, an American labor union probably won't feel all that much 'unity' with their "Chinese brothers." That's something they'll have to learn to overcome.

donzelion said...

@Locum -
Unrestricted trade pushes industry overseas to lower cost locales,
Hardly. Trade pushes industry to locales with the best balance of cost and benefit. The problem is that outsiders THINK that the "benefits" are to the company - when that's seldom the case.

"unrestricted immigration drives down First World Wages through the importation of cheaper labour"
If the immigrants are as rational as the natives, this will not occur. Rather, labor supply will reflect demand, and when cost of living and other expenses are factored in, immigrants will stay at home with their own families, rather than seek work elsewhere. This is why immigration from Mexico has fallen so much these last 8 years.

"the uplifting of a middle class Mexico amounts to Trickle Down Economics:"
Only if there's a fixed pool of money that flowed from America into Mexico. There's not. Money flows are dynamic. The creation of a Mexican middle class doesn't hurt America, any more than the creation of a wealthy American hurts all the poor people - UNLESS Mexico is cheating somehow. If you have evidence of that, please display. Working hard is not cheating.

a mandated $15 USD minimum wage... just increases (temporarily) the Wage Differential, driving additional industrial relocation
Germany has a higher minimum wage than the UK, but the UK still gets the bulk of the migrant flows. Why? Canada has a higher minimum wage than the US, but we still get the bulk of Latin American migrant flows. Seattle has a higher minimum wage than Texas, yet Texas gets a much higher migrant flow. Surprisingly, there's not a large number of illegal American immigrants moving to Canada, even though they have a more generous social package than we do.

The causal story you're offering violates too many real world observations to be credible.

NAFTA would be a gigantic plus IF the US could count on a skyrocketing Mexican middle class to buy megatons of US produced goods
Actually, they do. Mexico is still our second largest export destination (after Canada).

"How many US tech workers benefitted financially when Apple moved its iPhone production to China where labourers live in barracks & work 16 hour shifts for $2 USD/day ??? Nada, None, Zero, even though globalists like David will tell you otherwise."

First, don't discount Samsung/Korea, which manufactures a pretty hefty percentage of the components in iPhones. Second, how many US tech workers are employed by AT&T & Verizon, who do little beyond service iPhones? How many Apple Stores? The work that gets done changes, but there will always be work needed. There cannot be a negative sum gain from trade (EXCEPT when trade involves insider trading for self-interest, as I've discussed at length above).

The Chinese benefited. Americans benefited. People who wanted iPhones benefited. AT&T and Verizon and retail outlets benefited. App developers benefited (some of whom are in America, others outside). Entire industries evolved in Silicon Valley through this ecosystem - and last I checked, prices in Silicon Valley weren't falling precipitously given the outflow of money toward China.

Now, if the question is, "could we have benefited more if..." - then that may merit some consideration. But to say nobody in America benefited requires a certain type of blindness.