Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Weaknesses in the fabric of our republic: Infrastructure investment vs finance-wizard parasites

Nothing typifies the American right's nosedive more than the War on Infrastructure. Lawrence Summers, past president of Harvard and former treasury secretary, writes here about this growing consensus, even among more sober conservative thinkers. “The case for infrastructure investment has been strong for a long time, but it gets stronger with each passing year, as government borrowing costs decline and ongoing neglect (of decaying roads and bridges) raises the return on incremental spending increases.”

Read the Summers article, about what should be the simplest matter for consensus, if our Congress contained pragmatic patriots instead of raving dogmatists. Summers lays our various tradeoffs in paying for such a program, which would also inject high velocity cash into our sluggish economic bloodstream. 

It turns out that every approach pays for itself! Making this a no-brainer. Which confirms the Congressfolk who have been blocking an infrastructure bill for 20 years to be brainless.

But this is not about just our roads and bridges. Especially savaged in recent decades have been the glory of an advanced civilization - our universities. Those red states that actually invested in their universities - Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas - thereby succeeded in reducing the brain drain of their brightest kids departing after high school. Only now, those in-state graduates create blue islands like Austin and Raleigh, that then have to be tortuously gerrymandered lest  those smart and knowledgable citizens then elect (shudder) democrats.

Hence the GOP's solution – torch universities nationwide. Saddle students with the costs and debt. And as a side benefit this helps also to wage war on science. See: The right's war on college: destroying America's great public universities. 

Those states – both blue and red - which have resisted the trend and kept investing are reaping fantastically better actual outcomes.  

 == Why the skyrocketing wealth disparities? ==

The Evonomics site is on a roll, aiming at one “emperor” after another, pointing out the lack of clothes. Moreover, these brave iconoclasts are mostly economists who really want capitalism to work well! But they are smart enough to know a rationalization for parasitism when they see it. 

In this article by Lynn Stout - Distinguished Professor of Corporate and Business Law at Cornell Law School – demonstrates that the emperor’s been naked for a very long time: 

Bank executives frequently proclaim that Wall Street is vital to the nation’s economy and performs socially valuable services by raising capital, providing liquidity to investors, and ensuring that securities are priced accurately so that money flows to where it will be most productive. There’s just one problem: no part of this Wall Street mantra is true.” These three “services” are false – or mostly false – because the capital-raising, liquidity and money flow services are mere add-ons to a gambling casino where the house takes a huge cut out of every bet.  

For example: In 2010, corporations issued only $131 billion in new stock. That same year,  more than $15 trillion in stocks were traded more than the nation’s GDP. So, what benefit does society get from all this secondary market trading, besides very rich and self-satisfied bankers like (Goldman-Sachs chair Lloyd) Blankfein?”

So much for raising capital. As for the liquidity argument: Dr. Stout points out that the average human investor “could get by with much less trading—and in fact, they did get by, quite happily. In 1976, when the transactions costs associated with buying and selling securities were much higher, fewer than 20 percent of equity shares changed hands every year. Yet no one was complaining in 1976 about any supposed lack of liquidity. Today we have nearly 10 times more trading, without any apparent benefit for anyone (other than Wall Street bankers and traders) from all that “liquidity.”

I might add that she leaves out HFT or High Frequency Trading by computers, which offer up a vast array of problems and dangers that I list here.  

But the craziest incantation used to justify finance-parasitism is price discovery, the weirdly passionate and utterly evidence-free catechism that Wall Street trading helps allocate society’s resources more efficiently by ensuring securities are ‘priced accurately.’ Stout demolishes this in economist’s terms…

…but I have an even better argument, based on both biology and thermodynamics, the branch of physics that is more reliably true than quantum mechanics or even relativity. In that same essay about HFT, I go on to show that living creatures thrive by finding a steep gradient of usable energy, in much the same way that energy converting machines do. The argument is a little involved. But when these slopes or gradients get too shallow, plants and herbivores and carnivores all get sickly and die! 

And the thing that usually makes this shallowness?

Parasites. 

Make the parallel. It will astonish and appall you, and ultimately enrage you. This is not a simile or a metaphor but an exact diagnosis of how the financial industry has ruined growth rates and sucked life out of the economy.  It’s not mystical or even economics.  It’s physics. It is thermodynamics and the basis of all living ecosystems. 

To be clear... leftists are wrong to blame ‘capitalism’ or competitive enterprise for this mess!

Capitalism… truly competitive and productive market enterprise… is a principal victim of these parasites.

== Technology doubters ==

Uber-techno-grouch Nicholas Carr (author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains) is at it again, railing that: “Technology promised to set us free. Instead it has trained us to withdraw from the world into distraction and dependency.” 

Oh, my, get ready for a choice rant.  From his new book, Uptopia is Creepy and Other Provocations, here’s a good one: 

“The greatest of the United States’ homegrown religions – greater than Jehovah’s Witnesses, greater than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, greater even than Scientology – is the religion of technology.” And: By spreading a utopian view of technology, a view that defines progress as essentially technological, they’ve encouraged people to switch off their critical faculties and give Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and financiers free rein in remaking culture to fit their commercial interests.” (excerpted from Aeon).

As years pass, I am increasingly impatient with the smug superiority of grouches, whose disdain for their neighbors and fellow citizens drips from every missive… while they fail utterly to put our problems and progress into comparison against 6000 years of failed experiments in the only known alternative – hierarchies of feudal-inheritance and privilege. 

Sure there are new addictions to deal with.  But the fraction of the population that breaks away to think deep thoughts – as you the reader are doing right now – has never been higher.

Grouches are very useful for pointing out things to discuss.  But when you start believing them… that is the road to hell.

== The Big Kneel ==

Oh all right.  I give in.... What do I think about second string  49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the US national anthem? (And the subsequent wave of players kneeling as it’s played?) 

First… I don’t… think about him, that is. For one thing, I'm a baseball guy - a better sport for dozens of reasons. For another, we got bigger issues. But heck. If forced to express an opinion, I’ll defer to my FB friend, Jim Wright, who writes to veterans, as a veteran, a very moving missive suggesting that: Real respect can not be compelled, bought, inherited. Read that instead of my screeds. 

Have I an opinion, though? No. I have five at least. First, that we only move forward by applying moral pressure on our faults as a nation, as my father did, when he marched with ML King and as the Black Lives Matter activists are doing now, in the streets.

Second: that the pressure-appliers don’t always have to be personally admirable! 

Many are! Others are – as individuals – sanctimonious bullies, whose preening may be much more about grandstanding than true, moral leadership. And to a large degree that does not matter! What counts is the *direction* in which we are moving. And that we move with purposeful determination. And it is (mostly) irrelevant whether Colin Kaepernick is a showboating prima donna-ingrate who ignores how very far we’ve come. (And he may be none of those things! I truly do not know.)

No, what matters is that America - and the Great Experiment that America leads - have always benefited from critics and criticism. No matter how good we are, we can get *even better*. Always. Lots better. Hence, our reflex should be to give benefit of the doubt to critics. 

And not to those who reflexively shout for them to shut up.


116 comments:

Anonymous of England said...

A big block to infrastructure spending in the current age, is the burden of process -- environmental assessments, regulatory reviews, legal challenges -- that can drag on for years. The US is also saddled with the Davis-Bacon act, to throw more sand into the gears.

And politicians are more likely to opt for grandiose vanity projects like the California High-Speed rail (or the UK's HS2) which have no cost-benefit justification, rather than the bread-and-butter of maintenance.

Rather than a central bolus of money which would be about as effective as it was 8 years go, better to work at a local level.

Creigh Gordon said...

Finance is definitely a vital part of the economy's infrastructure. But finance exists only to serve the productive parts of the economy (it is actually an overhead cost to the productive economy). Increasingly today finance is parasitic, drawing off interest payments that would otherwise go to profits for the producer or lower prices for consumers or R&D on new products or productivity improvements.

donzelion said...

Anonymous of England - "...politicians are more likely to opt for grandiose vanity projects ...which have no cost-benefit justification, rather than the bread-and-butter of maintenance."

On the contrary: politicians overwhelmingly prefer the bread-and-butter of maintenance to new projects. Maintenance is where most of the jobs are, most of the persistent largesse can be divvied up, and most of the constituents see a serious benefit.

'Vanity projects' serve at least two purposes:

(1) Gambles that are inconceivable absent public expenditure. All such gambles are wasteful in hindsight: who knew in 1961 what it would cost to reach the Moon, and whether the benefits would outweigh those costs? If we lived in a world where cost/benefit analysis guided all conduct, we would remain in a mostly zero-sum world, where new possibilities are not explored due to their lack of clear benefits.

(2) Banners for attracting investment that would otherwise flow elsewhere. It's easy for politicians to squirrel away money into pet projects in their districts that essentially pay people to dig and refill holes. It's harder to do so when those constituent services come at the price of something larger that many people desire.

Every freeway project ever conceived was challenged by the people who were bypassed by the freeway. Yet if we give in to the 'local interests,' we wind up with a world where movements are expensive, slow, and infrequent. Some folks look back upon such an era with romantic nostalgia. Of course, nostalgia, like hindsight, is lousy leadership and worse policy.

DR Montgomery said...

I often ascribe these unfortunate trends to a twist on Plato's Forms. I love ideas and ideals - I think we should always aspire to better ourselves, what we do and what we make. However, sometimes we get a little too caught up in the desire of an ideal - too focused on the concept - that we forget we still need to pay attention to the real world.

Invest in a hammer, not a picture of one. Invest in a road, not the promise of a better one. Otherwise the one selling the pictures and making the promises will end up with everything. Once, we called people like this snake oil salesmen. I wonder what we'd call them these days?

Ilithi Dragon said...

From the previous thread...

David Brin said...

Ilithi Dragon that was a super description of Naval procedure and it helps explain why your service is the one that I deem more "adult" than any others. You simply cannot - (notwithstanding tailhook flyboys) - afford for macho preening to overcome competence. It's why, despite my having (by a twist of fate) never served, I call the Navy "my" service. I woulda worked for Rickover... and did, in parallel worlds.


It's especially true for submarines, which is the closest thing you can find in the real world to an operational starship (two of the many reasons why I chose Navy and subs). When you take a ship and journey to a place where the environment is actively trying to kill you, and are expected to not only operate for extended periods of time there, but perform potentially high-risk operations there, and even engage in combat there, you don't have room for extraneous BS, though proper decorum and respect for rank is still required (and necessary for successful operations). That's why, if one of my more ambitious ultra-long-term goal plans ever pans out, and I manage to finish my degree, get a commission, and work my way up into the admiralty far enough to push the Navy into space, the first place I'll go looking for spaceship crews will be the sub force.
} : = 8 )


Oh, it's "complementary" not with an "i". I want you to be persuasive!

Hey, I spent the day being a Torpedoman, a rate known for fixing electrical problems by smacking them with a crescent hammer. Today wasn't too bad, most of my time was spent coaching sailors through gun shoots, and helping teach nukes the basics of the use of and justification for deadly force, but still. I'm going to claim a by on this one. Appreciate the back-up, though.
} ; = 8 P



Techno-grouches don't really make me angry any more. They just make me tired. And a little annoyed, but mostly just tired. It's always the exact same complaint or the exact same prediction, invariably dour and dull, about EVERYTHING, every single new piece of technology or new innovation that comes along. Sometimes it makes me roll my eyes and wish they'd just hurry up and die so I wouldn't have to listen to their droll BS anymore, but that's mostly on my more impatient days.



On Kaepernick... There's a limit to what I can say in public forums, because everything I say reflects on the Navy as a whole (and every sub-division of the Navy I fall into), but I can say that my initial and primary thought on Kaepernick is, "*shrug* It's a free country." I don't approve nor disapprove of Kaepernick's actions - I honestly have no strong feelings one way or the other.

Beyond that... He kinda has a point. And it's a free country. We are not REQUIRED to stand for the national anthem, we are not REQUIRED to show deference or respect for anything (I am required to stand and salute when in uniform, because I'm in the military, but that's a completely separate matter), and true patriotism is not blind adherence to ritual; true patriotism involves the intestinal fortitude to recognize the country's problems and try to help fix them. I think he might be able to find better ways of tackling the problems he's trying to address, but I can't argue too much with the attention his is bringing to the matter.

*shrug* It's a free country.

Ilithi Dragon said...

*he is. Blah. All over those damn typos today.

locumranch said...


Infrastructure is an Industrial Age relic, an anachronism & out-dated social modality whose relevance is "going, going, gone" and won't be coming back.

When was the last time any of you shopped on 'Main Street,' frequented the theatre, used a 'land-line' or travelled by railroad?

The telly thwarted the cinema; the cinema crushed the theatre; the MP3 (iPod) player superseded the CD, tape, phonograph & radio; the radio & recording replaced the concert hall; the cellphone tower invalidated the connecting wire; and, soon, the internet will destroy many of our physical 'brick & mortar' remnants, including our community centres, post offices, central banks, shopping districts, workplaces, lending libraries & ivy-covered universities.

Except for infrequent shits & giggles, our Western Zeitgeist will isolate humans into self-contained living modules: Their entertainment, software; their education, programmed; their work, intangible; their power, grid-less; their sustenance, vat-grown; their pharmacopoeia, printed molecules; their water, recycled; and their travel, virtual.

After first being 'discouraged', physical travel will soon be outlawed. Our very Limbs will atrophy; our Wheels will rust; our Roadways, Monuments & Infrastructure will crumble from disuse; the Great Outdoors will be either reclaimed by Nature or repurposed into exclusive estates for the Elite; and, having once eaten of the Lotus, most of us will not even notice.

Old industrial rules & definitions no longer apply.


Best
_____
Kaepernick is emblematic of this shifting paradigm: He is a many times multi-millionaire, a man of formidable wealth, rewarded for producing nothing of genuine value, who still has the temerity to self-identify as a designated victim in accordance with an out-dated social contract.

Ilithi Dragon said...

*sigh*

Aaaand now I'm tired again.


Is that what you honestly believe, Locum, or are you just throwing out a catastrophic decay prediction for some other reason?

Jumper said...

I remember in ninth grade my home room teacher made us stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance and he would recite the Lord's Prayer. This bugged me, the rebel. So I refused to stand, and was sent to the principal's office. He tried to pass it off as "standing as a show of respect" whether I believed or not. I refused. I was sent in again.

Finally the principal, whom we saw as a bad autocratic sort (but on reflection I appreciate his sense of justice), agreed this was not required, and word was sent to the fundamentalist teacher to drop it. So I remained seated during these rituals.

One day it struck me that in my case, America was working as it was supposed to. So when it was time for the Pledge of Allegiance I stood, put my hand on my heart and recited it along with everybody.

His jaw dropped, which made it worth it, and he asked me on the way out why I had joined in. "I'll only say it if I'm not forced to," I said.

Jumper said...

As far as we know locumranch suffers from necrophilia or more likely, erotophonophilia. He's likely tempted to commit terrorism, most likely to occur would be if a comely female were to look at him and state "God is love" which would be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Sexually unsuccessful, he thus also regularly expresses openly misogynistic tendencies. The cognitive short circuits imply a meth habit. He seems to sleep sometimes and reappears almost normal, his thinking getting more addled with each ensuing day until he goes off the rails altogether once again.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Jumper,

While I haven't had much experience with Locum particularly, since he seems to have joined the community during my absence, it's been my general experience that responding with ad hominem attacks to people who espouse seemingly unshakeable, diametrically opposing views, and even engage in ad hominem attacks themselves to promote them, never does anything but serve to further alienate the person you're responding to, and further solidify their opposition to your views, or that their views are right and that anyone opposing them is some flavor of idiot.

The best way to get anyone to critically examine their own positions with an openness to the possibility of error, flaw, or inaccuracy, let alone get them to seriously reconsider their positions, is to talk to them about their positions, get them to elaborate and explain, without fear of rebuke or ridicule. Honestly question them and have them walk you through their reasoning, and they'll be much more receptive to issues with their reasoning that you raise. You might also find that they have some good or valid point in there somewhere, that's actually worth considering. Responding with vitriol, however, will only guarantee that you only ever get vitriol back.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I don't always have the energy and/or the patience to hold myself to that standard every single time, but it is an ideal of behavior that we should at least strive for.

donzelion said...

Ilithi: Locum's the resident grouch. He loves NASA, drawing fire, and writes like that one guy at the bar who is always angry with everyone (but secretly sort of actually likes people and would look after them, after enough cynical tirades) (I've never met him - this is the projection I put onto the Locum-bot). Roll eyes occasionally, but occasionally he has some interesting things to say (and honestly, but-for his contributions, much of the discussion might devolve into "I agree! Yeah, well I agree more!").

Jumper: mocking Locum's sexuality will drive this forum down to the level of Republican presidential politics. Surely you wouldn't want to borrow a line from Marco Rubio!

David Brin said...

DRM... I share your feelings about Plato, a very clever fellow... who betrayed the soul of Western Civilization.

hadend said...

Following Larry Summers' advice on economic planning is roughly like asking an arsonist to help put out a fire he's created. This is a man who started his career working for Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, a right-wing effort to gut New Deal banking legislation. That largely successful effort laid the groundwork for more deregulation in the 90s - like removing the separation between commercial and investment banks - which Summers completely endorsed. If you knew what he did in Russia in the 90s you couldn't listen to that man ramble about infrastructure investment with a straight face.

I honestly don't understand how you can uncritically quote someone like Summers unless you are ignorant of his entire career. The right's 'nosedive' might be predictable and terrible, but what hope is there for the neoliberal wing of the Democratic Party to do anything when they've appointed people like Summers to cabinet positions time after time?

locumranch said...


It's fascinating that Illithi_D (of all people) is so quick to dismiss my futurological musings as "catastrophic decay prediction" since he lives the above-described dystopia on a daily basis, as one would expect a dedicated Submariner to do, isolated, in "self-contained living modules: Their entertainment, software; their education, programmed; their work, intangible; their power, grid-less; their sustenance, vat-grown; their pharmacopoeia, printed molecules; their water, recycled; and their travel, virtual", up to & including the assumption that nuclear torpedoes & missiles equal some sort of 'technological optimism'.

Of course, these dystopic predictions also describe the life of many elementary/secondary school, academic, corporate or Star Trek drones, much in the way they describe my current life inside a major metropolitan hospital, breathing recycled air, bathing in artificial light, as I subsist on vat-made foods, manipulate medical software & perform arcane tasks under varying degrees of isolation.

Even Jumper (!!), with his Pledge of Allegiance tale, seems to understand what BF Skinner has oft articulated:

"The ideal of behaviorism is to eliminate coercion: to apply controls by changing the environment in such a way as to reinforce the kind of behavior that benefits everyone"; we have been bred & led; we are NOT free; and, no offering compels our obedience better than the "illusion of (our) freedom".

Best
_____
Yvan eht nioJ: The military has been using tv & film to recruit saps for generations.

David Brin said...

I am well aware of Summers' background, hadend, which is far more complicated than you realize. Yeas, in the early 90s there were many liberals who let themselves be cozened by the neoliberal/Chicago incantations. So what do you want? Sane people look at evidence and can realize "I was fooled" and adjust and change their stances. Did you even other to read Summers's description of the highly Keynsian infrastructure investment? Because he now realizes that Keynsianism SOMETIMES works, while neoliberalism is a dogma to justify return to feudalism.

Locum, you give articulate voice to your cynical pain. But you are a stunning ingrate. The hellish life you so disdain is one that nearly all of your ancestors would have given an arm to live in.

As a doctor you should be aware of chemical imbalance and its power over personality.

hadend said...

Omitting the salient features of Summers' background - in a post critical of financial deregulation no less - is laughable. I love that in your retelling of Summers' bio, he is a passive figure who was fooled into neoliberal beliefs. Ah yes, that innocent boy, Lawrence Summers, who passively stumbled into being the head of the World Bank and into multiple cabinet appointments. I guess he's kinda like the Forrest Gump of Harvard economists - just a happy-go-lucky kinda feller.

I guess it's irrelevant that when he actually had real political power, he used it to advise and push for brutal privatization of Russia? Sure, Russia suffered through one of the worst economic and social collapses during the 90s, sure thousands of people died early, brutal deaths from poverty, but hey, he wrote an op-ed in support of infrastructure investment so it's OK?

Perhaps, just maybe, he has held important posts in the Clinton and Obama administrations because of his neoliberal beliefs and not in spite of them. You honestly need to learn how to look at politics more critically. When it has come to things like financial deregulation, Summers has ruthlessly used his financial connections, political capital, and status to get his way. Compare those methods with writing an inconsequential and toothless op-ed.

David Brin said...

Jiminy! Blame Summers for Russia when it was George HW Bush who sent over scads of crony "advisers" at Yeltsin's request who laid down the blueprint for oligarchy. Summers is far from my hero and I never said he was. But your stunning unwillingness to contemplate the actual article and its actual content that we were actually talking about is the hallmark of an actual raving obsessive.

hadend said...

Lol sure, when looking at an opinion article you shouldn't consider the author, possible motivation, history, or public record. You should just pretend like persuasive essays are written in a vacuum and only consider the text in front of you.

You should go read about what went on in Russia in the 90s since you seem ignorant about it. What's funny about your 'it was HW's fault' is that it's essentially the same stupid argument every right-winger gives when asked why GWB didn't do more to stop 9/11 : "Clinton left traps for Bush".

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dragon
You were talking about procedures for doing tasks on subs,
You may be interested to know that we do something similar in industry in mass production

The problem is different because we have cut the jobs up into smaller pieces, but the idea is the same

On one of our assembly lines each operator does something - and the following operator performs a check that it has been done
Guy 1 will fit a bolt and torque it up
Guy2 will check that torque

When you are working for "repairs per million" you need to be into that sort of detail

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dragon
Locumranch has been around for a very long time
Dr Brin told me off for insulting him!
I just ignore him - it is worth reading most of Dr Brin's commentators but not his

Jonathan Sills said...

Insulting commenters is seldom a useful technique. I prefer to borrow a method from the old TV show The Paper Chase, and the comments section of Peter David's blog - and "shroud" certain people. When their names come up, I simply slide down the page until the next name appears, as it's become plain over time that this person has nothing worthwhile to contribute to the conversation.

So far that's just locum,Tree, and now this hadend fellow.

Andy said...

Regarding the effects of technology on our lives, I found this extremely well-written and relevant. I can definitely see the changes in my own personal life.

http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html

Arizsun Ahola said...

locumranch,

That is a silly way to dismiss Kaepernick's protest. It is basically a ad hominem attack on the messenger to invalidate the message. Kaepernick himself specifically said that he was not a victim, but that he was protesting what he sees happening.

His protest has been spectacularly successful in that it has generated so much discussion. The people who are the victims do not have the platform to generate that kind of discussion.

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

I don't approve nor disapprove of Kaepernick's actions - I honestly have no strong feelings one way or the other.

Beyond that... He kinda has a point. And it's a free country. We are not REQUIRED to stand for the national anthem, we are not REQUIRED to show deference or respect for anything


What gets me is...I always thought standing for the national anthem was a show of respect for the country, not specifically for the military. I can see some overlap, but the notion that a protestor is disrespecting the armed forces is kinda weird to me.

But then there was comics writer Frank Miller who seemed to think that "Occupy Wall Street" was somehow supporting al-Queada, so it shouldn't surprise me that right-wing authoritarians have no cognitive acuity. It often does, though.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

The telly thwarted the cinema; the cinema crushed the theatre


Tried to price (or even find) tickets to "Hamilton" lately?

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

While I haven't had much experience with Locum particularly, since he seems to have joined the community during my absence, it's been my general experience that responding with ad hominem attacks to people who espouse seemingly unshakeable, diametrically opposing views, and even engage in ad hominem attacks themselves to promote them, never does anything but serve to further alienate the person you're responding to, and further solidify their opposition to your views, or that their views are right and that anyone opposing them is some flavor of idiot.


Some people make it very clear that they are lost causes, by design. This is one of those cases.

A.F. Rey said...

The US is also saddled with the Davis-Bacon act, to throw more sand into the gears.

It is strange that you characterize the Davis-Bacon Act as throwing "more sand into the gears," English Anon. I would think that a minimum wage would actually make it easier to accomplish infrastructure repairs, since it would make it easier to hire more qualified workers for the job.

You should go read about what went on in Russia in the 90s since you seem ignorant about it.

Not a good assumption to make, hadend, especially to a physicist (who has been trained since infancy--aka freshman year of college--to always show his work). Better to explain why you think he is wrong than to assume ignorance.

LarryHart said...

hadend:

Following Larry Summers' advice on economic planning is roughly like asking an arsonist to help put out a fire he's created. ...

I honestly don't understand how you can uncritically quote someone like Summers unless you are ignorant of his entire career


There is a Monty Python sketch in which the announcer states about a gangster that "In a fit of pique, he napalmed Chelsea." Followed by the funny line "Even the police had to stand up and take notice."

I think Dr Brin's point is that if "Even [Larry Summers] has to sit up and take notice," the flaws of Wall St, then we're past serious debate on that subject. It's similar to when someone like Frank Luntz asserts that Republicans are driving their voters away. No, I don't take Frank Luntz as an arbiter of truth, but when he in particular says that in particular, then something worth noting is going on.

LarryHart said...

Johnathan Sills:

Insulting commenters is seldom a useful technique. I prefer to borrow a method from the old TV show The Paper Chase, and the comments section of Peter David's blog - and "shroud" certain people. When their names come up, I simply slide down the page until the next name appears, as it's become plain over time that this person has nothing worthwhile to contribute to the conversation.

So far that's just locum,Tree, and now this hadend fellow.


And that Anonymous "car sitter" guy. Don't forget my favorite. :)

occam's comic said...

Let me join in with the people who think larry summers is a piece of human filth. This is the scum bag that used his economics degree and position at Harvard to promote the economic case for environmental racism. It boils down to pollution should be concentrated in poor areas (poor black areas especially ) because poor people are worth less than rich people.

Infrastructure spending can provide short term stimulus but if done wrong it will be a long term liability for a community. What makes infrastructure spending bad in the long term? If the people who use that public infrastructure can't afford to maintain it then most of the private investments that accompanied the public investment loose their value.

I would really recommend that people go over to Strongtowns.org and read about how many of the problems our communities face come from the bad decisions about infrastructure that we have been making sense the end of WWII.

Here is an example from Lafayette
in 1949 there was about 5 feet of public water pipes per person.
in 2015 there was about 50 feet of public water pipes per person.
So 10 times more infrastructure but average inflation adjusted incomes only increase by a factor of 1.6. So a massive increase in the cost to maintain the infrastructure but only a small increase in income.

If you are living in a cul de sac community with Mc Mansions on large lots, you almost certainly can't afford to pay for the long term maintenance of the road, sewer and water infrastructure in your neighborhood.

David Brin said...

Jonathan… in fact hadend’s initial crit - reminding us that Summers has a checkered past – was not uncalled for. Turning that into a screeching rant that never looked at the core topic at-hand, then spewed paranoid conspiracy theories that aren’t even remotely possible? Well…

Hadend’s frenzy to divert attention from the topic, which was investment in infrastructure, yammer-[points at the failure of the post Soviet transition, blaming Summers, whose lifestyle is that of a mildly well-off academic… and not the US and British billionaires who went over as Bush-dispatched ‘advisors’ and swiftly financed 100 or so stooges to buy up citizen shares in state corporations, to become Russia’s ‘oligarchs.” Hey dope. Where do you think the oligarchs got the cash to buy up 100 million shares in Yukos and so on? From Larry Summers?

Problem with paranoid ravers is that they never look at HOW it could possibly have happened the way their masturbatory yearnings believe.

LarryHart said...

Perhaps off topic, but I just need to have this out there for CITOKATE or whatever.

I've been waking up in cold sweats worrying that Donald Trump is actually going to win this thing.

This is the same me who confidently predicted, and stands by the prediction, that Hillary Clinton will be our next president. This is the same me who was terrified when Hillary seemed to be coasting to 400 electoral votes, because I just knew the media would pull the rug out. This is the same me who knows that, if Trump would somehow pull ahead by 10% or so, the media will make sure that lead evaporates, because their interest is not in Trump (or Hillary) winning, but in the race being a nail-biter down to the finish.

I know all that, and yet, like that guy in Monty Python's Life of Brian, "There's no pleasing some people." I'm getting seriously depressed about the prospect of a Trump presidency with a Republican congress.

So I guess my question is...what's wrong with me?

donzelion said...

Sheesh - so easy to derail an original premise about the need for infrastructure investment into a personal attack on (a) Larry Summers, (b) Locum, (c) anyone else out there. Seriously...?

Driving the 10 Freeway to downtown LA from my corner of 'farthest East' LA County, with about a million other drivers on the road next to me, leaving at 6 am to (barely) make an 8:45 appointment (and a 9am court date), and then driving back to the office in 35 minutes tells me something about the state of infrastructure in California. And the need. And makes me a little frustrated that so many efforts to distract from doing anything succeed to easily.

As a California resident, the story of the 710 freeway is most telling. In the 1950s/60s, New Yorkers (under Robert Moses) 'expedited' infrastructure projects by dubbing them 'parkways' (which made it possible to extort the robber barons - who could either tolerate a freeway through their houses or pay to divert it through another robber baron's home). Not so in California, where wealthy folks in South Pasadena allied with Hollywood + Orange County to block construction on most major infrastructure works: the robber barons of SoCal played the game more creatively (and recognizing the threat, pushed development out of the region into far exurbs).

Anyone with a 6 hour commute (3 hours each way) recognizes the choices: rent a home in which to raise a family, or live on the freeway 30 hours/week. Hundreds of thousands of people know what that is like. Few recognize who benefited from setting the stage so that those were the only realistic choices (or they assume that the people who made this choice are 'stupid' - rather than recognizing work ethic that would otherwise be deemed exemplary). None of this emerged by accident - but much of it is aided by the easy distractibility of folks trained to chase a circus rather than to respect roads.

donzelion said...

By the way, had I waited until afternoon to drive back from downtown LA, it would have been another 2.5 hours on the freeway, rather than 35 minutes for going during non-peak times.
God I love court dates at 9 am...

Would technology 'liberate' me from this? Possibly. Sitting in an auto-pilot car, I could work en route and ignore the traffic. Sitting on a train (which is a 2.5 hour trip in total), I could reduce the amount of time focused on the road. Talking on a mobile phone en route lets me recapture about 20 minutes of time from the commute (at the price of some distraction). Numerous services exist for me to appoint an appearance attorney to handle this matter themselves (shifting the travel to another poor sap).

But at the end of the day, concentration and focus are still a valuable, necessary commodity - which is narrowly, temporally limited. So long as attention itself is limited, travel will be necessary, and infrastructure essential to delivering that sort of focus.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Sitting on a train (which is a 2.5 hour trip in total), I could reduce the amount of time focused on the road.


I'm reminded of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", and Judge Doom proclaiming, "I bought the Red Car to dismantle it." so that people would be forced to drive on his nutty freeway.

donzelion said...

BTW - I'm still awaiting a response to the query from a few posts ago: how can George HW Bush be blamed for Russia, rather than Clinton?

The Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991. Bush I had (a) Iraq/Kuwait fallout, (b) Somalia ramp up, (c) a difficult election, (d) a feisty Republican Party that hated him, and (e) a promising outbreak in a peace process between Israel/Palestine/Jordan, and (f) an economic recession - all of which seemed likely to be under control using his then existing resources. In the next 11 months, he navigated one or two of those matters somewhat successfully (depending upon how one defines success); the others spiraled out of control. In November, he became a lame duck, and in January, he was gone.

In total, he had less than 13 months to come up with the sort of response folks here seem to believe he should have done. Bill Clinton had 8 years. I can imagine a fair number of criticisms of Bush I's handling of the fall of the Soviet Union, but really, those are veiled criticisms of Clinton and his 'New Democratic Party.'

The blame cannot plausibly be laid at Bush I's feet for what happened in the Soviet Union And let's get real: folks are being naive to assume America 'made' Russia into anything (or could have 'made' Russia into anything else simply by some better thinking). Russians made Russia into what Russia has become. The most powerful corporations in the world tried to influence the direction Russia moved - just as they tried to influence Germany, Japan, China, and many other countries: in Russia, they failed overwhelmingly, despite putting tens of billions of dollars into the effort. How can anyone actually believe a few consultants telling a few Russian clients what they wanted to hear overpowered all of that money?

donzelion said...

@LarryHart - "I'm reminded of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", and Judge Doom proclaiming, "I bought the Red Car to dismantle it." so that people would be forced to drive on his nutty freeway."

LOL, nice reference. A handful of old Angelenos still talk about how the old public transit networks were 'torn up' and 'removed' by 'oil lobbies' and their inside developers. Making an evil toon responsible for the reshaping of the community moved that story into the realm of laughable fantasy. (It also hid the role that the backers behind the studios played in making it happen.)

But the really laughable fantasy is that the system here emerged by accident (and the billionaires who profited from the system somehow made those billions materialize out of thin air). Or any other system, for that matter (e.g., Trump-style 'investment' into NY really operated by choking off alternative investment structures, and shifting the differential into his pockets - all while claiming credit for helping to 'save the city').

So it goes at the oligarch level...

Anonymous said...

I am quite convinced that our automobile infrastructure will used in drastically different ways after self-driving electric cars become ubiquitous over the next decade. Once highways are no longer noisy and polluted, all the land used as buffers for these issues plus the occasional drunk driver careening across medians, could potentially become useful as parks and housing development. Once people are more efficiently shuttled about, we might even need significantly less roads as well.
Property values will be fluctuating greatly from the advent of self-driving cars as few will care much about an hour long commute that you can either sleep through or catch an episode of Game of Thrones. Do you live in the suburbs, but your favorite Armenian restaurant is all the way in the Big City? Better get a reservation early, because everyone in a 100 mile radius who loves food served by mustachioed women will be showing up on weekday nights.
Fuel stations will no longer be on every corner when your car is simply programmed to find the cheapest charging station to "fill up". They are already being priced out of the downtown areas of big cities to make way for office blocks.


I just hope we get a hyperloop system that can take you from Cabo to Anchorage, though I would be happy just to get from Carslbad to LA's Chinatown in less that 3 hours!

-AtomicZeppelinMan

matthew said...

I said it months ago - Trump will win this presidential election. I expect 2-3 more "lone wolf" style terrorist attacks, the remainder of the WikiLeaks news bombs, and at least one more woman coming forward to claim Bill raped her, all in the next 6 weeks. All providing the thing that Trump is selling - fear.

There are too many people in this world with an economic, religious, or crackpot reason to prefer Trump over Clinton. Money will flow, bombs will be set, and perjury will be committed all in the name of preserving dumb rich white male rule over America.

Trump is scary to liberals. But not scary enough to stop the flight to Johnson and Stein. Not scary enough to encourage the young to vote for someone that has been dogged with claims of corruption since the youths' parents were children. All the Koch's had to do was convince 10% of liberals that now was the time to stand on principle and abandon the center-left. They've succeeded.

The first meme war is over, having been won by Koch-funded efforts to subvert the left into thinking that voting for the lesser of two evils was somehow the situation. This is the first election where the comments on Facebook memes is where the battle is won. The far right, with their reliance on conspiracy theories dating back beyond the John Birch Society are more versed in the use of memes than the left and are used to operating in a fact-free environment.

Trump will be President.

I really hope I'm wrong.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

Not being too successful sleeping off the flu, I wandered back into this forum, where my fevered brain latched onto this comment of yours:
"(and honestly, but-for his contributions, much of the discussion might devolve into "I agree! Yeah, well I agree more!")"

And I have to say that for the most part I agree with you, and I find all this agreeableness most agreeable, especially when compared to the state of childish trollery that dominates much of the internet landscape. However, while having a discourse of competitive emulation in terms of agreeableness can at first appearance seem superficial, it is the BUTs where the real substance is to be found. As a group we are not always on the same page together, or even in the same chapter, but that is a strength. We strengthen each other's arguments and understandings in discussion, even with all the "I agree"ing going on.

The few trolls we get here tend to ruffle a lot of feathers, and rarely do they have anything to say that did not come from some list of political talking points, backed by dogmatism and a tendency to hurl vile calumny at anyone who disagrees on even the finest of details. It seems to me that during that brief time when our chief bridge lurker was absent, conversation got more detailed and productive, as it was less about fending off attacks from people who are not just off the page but reading from very different books (trashy post-apocalypse fantasy novels, by the sound of it), and more about examining the nuances of whatever subject was at hand.

Would you concur?

Jumper said...

At work there's an older guy near my cubicle, like me, and since I'm the elder a couple of times he's called me "old man." This is rather common in various workplaces when two older guys are surrounded by youngers. I smile and he expects me to call him "whippersnapper" or the like. Not a big deal.
What freaked me out is the reaction of the youngers. They acted like he'd slapped me with a glove and challenged me to a duel. I knew they suffer from ageism, but jeez! Or maybe they just thought I was going to deck him, I don't know why.

Paul SB said...

NuclearDirigibleDude,
If we can get a hyperloop to Anchorage, why not take it across the Bering Straight, along the TransSiberian Railway and all the way to London? Run branches to Rio, Sydney, Johannesburg and hook the whole planet together. Imagine what that would do for the economy!

I doubt people will still be watching GoT by the time the automobile has been phased out with self-driving cars. One change I am hoping for is that some clever chemists somewhere will find a replacement for asphalt that is more pliable, easier on the fleshy hominid forms that often have accidents on roads (having dug bits of asphalt out of my own flesh).

Paul SB said...

Larry,

There's nothing wrong with you except a little healthy paranoia.

Jumper,

Remember, those younger people grew up watching Jerry Springer. They think that's normal (and entertainment, even).

David Brin said...

LArryhart we saw a repub prez & repub congress from 2001 to 2007. They controlled every lever of power and used them to rape us financially and to start wars without vetting or questions – which allowed Cheney and Haliburton to rape us some more. OTOH, beyond those two endeavors, republicans exhibit an ameliorating trait… laziness. They passed almost none of the horrible items on their social agenda.

Things could be very different with Trump, who may vigorously push things, the way Duterte has, in the Philippines.

Swiveling though. I am NOT declaring the following as a prediction, but my instinct (perhaps wishful) is that a lot of ‘holding-my-nose’ Hillary voters are pre-punishing her right now by not telling pollsters they’ll be voting for her. It makes psychological sense. I hope it’s true.

Even though such twits chap my hide. I never wanted her! But she is as solid as solid can be and will bring a very deep bench of grownups to DC. And we’ll endure 4-8 years of endless raving spite war against he… unless we can ream out Congress and thus get conservative America to decide to SNAP OUT OF IT!

Donzel, the 710 is scandalous.

Donzel the Soviet Union’s official fall was not the demarcation. For more than a year there had been preliminary plans to send every Soviet citizen a share of each privatized soviet company. Bush cronies were already there, making informal plans. Why do you think the communists tried the August failed coup?


Jumper said...

This is very interesting tech:
http://www.wired.co.uk/article/sonic-tractor-beam-moves-beads-with-sound

Jumper said...

On Bill Weld, Gary Johnson's VP pick.
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/05/20/weld-jump-into-race-par-for-course/RktL24g8b4WXcRvMvxGrmI/story.html

Jeff B. said...

LarryHart,
I'm getting seriously depressed about the prospect of a Trump presidency with a Republican congress.

I've speculated much about the role of the newstainment complex in this campaign. Their best interest is just that, in making it interesting. I'm suspicious about the timing successive releases about the email "scandal," just when Clinton was on the upswing (several times). False equivalency, inadvertent sexism, repeating opinion instead of actually, you know, investigating...

Their job, to paraphrase a particularly ham-handed former employer, is to "maximize shareholder value." Plain and simple- until we have other entrants in the big media world not beholden to the almighty profit, then our news will always have a slight whiff of something off.

Jeff B. said...

Matthew,
I said it months ago - Trump will win this presidential election. I expect 2-3 more "lone wolf" style terrorist attacks, the remainder of the WikiLeaks news bombs, and at least one more woman coming forward to claim Bill raped her, all in the next 6 weeks. All providing the thing that Trump is selling - fear.

I do see some glimmers of hope, and don't things will get as far as you fear. I think Slate had a analysis piece yesterday (sorry, can't find the link, it was something like Terrorism is no help to Trump) that showed that data so far finds no correlating bump in his polling numbers after terrorism incidents.

I'm very concerned about Clinton's poll slide, but have to hope this is just a combination of her "bad week" and her recovery from pneumonia keeping her from being in front of the camera. She's had moments of true brilliance, and can easily win this if she focuses her game on what really works.

Who knows, there might even be hope for the media- after months of being probably the worst offender of the false equivalency, "balance coverage" game, the NYT really laid into Trump for his ridiculous, clumsy pronouncement on Obama's birth status. Maybe others will follow suit?

Jeff B. said...

Paul SB,

I've often daydreamed about someone coming up with a completely permeable, even somewhat absorbent road surface to replace asphalt and concrete. It would simultaneously mitigate much of the flooding from urban/suburban paveover, and perhaps reduce urban heat signatures.

Alas, no chemistry/materials science or engineering background, so I'll keep dreaming. Right up there with grassy throughways for all the personal hovercraft.

Jeff B. said...

Alfred Differ,

I still owe you a response from the previous thread re: oligarchy, and legal/tax inhibitions on they that dwell therein, vs. alternatives. The topic is so vast and far ranging I've not had nearly the time required to render a coherent reply... perhaps someday soon.

Anonymous said...

With big infrastructure for things that were hip back in the 60s comes big Carbon burn and the splattering of new stroads across a once livable nation—do note that 2015 saw the largest percent increase in road-slaughter since the 60s and great strides in pedestrian and bicyclist death-counts as the so-called War on Cars continues. As you walk about America, do take note of the car-sitters bent out over their wheel-wells, stuck in traffic. Is that healthy? Look at their faces, stuck in traffic, thumbing some iWhatzit. Are they healthy? Americans have porked on 15 pounds in recent years, and none of it vertical. Why lust for the mechanized horror of mandated car-sitting that big infrastructure will bring?

Paul SB said...

Jeff,

Permeability would not only help with flooding, getting water off the roads would cut down on traffic accidents.

What might happen is application of our computer technology to make "smart" roads with built in sensors that adapt to local conditions. The road surface could heat up to melt off ice or snow, then absorb that water and channel it to storage. I'm not sure how it could help with the heat island effect except by increasing reflectivity, which would be a hazard to motorists. But perhaps there could be a technology to channel the heat away into useful purposes instead of it merely being absorbed in the daytime and released at night.

I loved the idea of hovercraft when I was a kid, until I heard how noisy they are. They still look cool, and having grown up in a place that found itself regularly buried in the snow, I never got why even emergency services never thought to use them. Your ambulances could blow right over the snow. But the noise! It's like Heinlein writing that we would all be flying in personal helicopters by now, as if the leaf blowers weren't bad enough.

Paul SB said...

Now the other option would be to invent transporters, but that is probably a couple centuries in the future. In the meantime, 300,000,000 people need safer transportation, rather than dreams about going back to some unattainable past. Chances are, whatever team of scientists and engineers who make that future possible will have gone to work in self-driving cars, and would gladly trade them for instantaneous transport (while hiking trails and riding bicycles on the weekends).

More than enough words for this bridge lurker.

A.F. Rey said...

Hopefully Clinton's polls rise again after the first debate next week, because if not, it may be something more fundamental in the campaign than just a bad weekend.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/election-update-democrats-should-panic-if-the-polls-still-look-like-this-in-a-week/

LarryHart said...

matthew:

rump will be President.

I really hope I'm wrong.


Strangely enough, you're making me feel better. :)

I think I learned from Scooby Doo that there's always a surprise--that the best laid plans oft gang aleee. So when Hillary looks like a shoo-in, and we're expecting Democrats to take not only the Senate but the House as well, I know that will not happen. Likewise, now that there's an expectation that Trump will win, I'm more confident that that won't happen.

So thanks, dude. :)

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

What freaked me out is the reaction of the youngers. They acted like he'd slapped me with a glove and challenged me to a duel


Those youngsters might be fans of the musical "Hamilton".

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Swiveling though. I am NOT declaring the following as a prediction, but my instinct (perhaps wishful) is that a lot of ‘holding-my-nose’ Hillary voters are pre-punishing her right now by not telling pollsters they’ll be voting for her. It makes psychological sense. I hope it’s true.


I tend to think you're right. I disagree with matthew's assertion above that Trump isn't scary enough to liberals to keep them from voting for neo-Naders. They might be saying that now, but (heh) that's a different thing; in fact it's (well maybe not quite but) the opposite thing. How many people will walk into the voting booth and decide then that they can't vote for Trump? A lot, I think.

So despite my trepidation, I stand by my twin predictions, which were and are:

It will become obvious that Trump doesn't want the job of president
AND
The next president of the United States will be Hillary Rodham Clinton.


LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Larry,

There's nothing wrong with you except a little healthy paranoia.


Dude, I love ya, but I wasn't asking what was wrong with me for worrying about Trump winning.

I was asking what was wrong with me because I know how the media is manipulating the polls--not necessarily to favor Trump, but to make it into a nail-biter--and it still gets to me.

Anonymous said...

I predict that at the first debate, Drumpf will accidentally call Obama the N-Word. Clinton will then calmly walk over and give him a solid slap to the jowls. She will make it back to her podium before he regains his wits and tried to bum rush her, leading to several Secret Service men tackling him. The live feed will then suddenly go dark before the "Technical Difficulty" logo pops up. The next day, a black and blue Drumpf will announce his withdraw from the race.

-AtomicZeppelinMan

LarryHart said...

JeffB:

I've speculated much about the role of the newstainment complex in this campaign. Their best interest is just that, in making it interesting. I'm suspicious about the timing successive releases about the email "scandal," just when Clinton was on the upswing (several times).


I know all that. I noticed the trend in the 2008 primaries, and then that general election. What bothers me about myself is that I do know what's going on and still let it get to me.

There are consequences to the media perception of a nail-biter, even if Hillary does get 400 electoral votes on November 8. One is that they're giving Trump cover to say the election was "rigged" when he loses. Another is that they're giving the Republicans cover if they actually rig the results.

LarryHart said...

JeffB continues:

Their job, to paraphrase a particularly ham-handed former employer, is to "maximize shareholder value." Plain and simple- until we have other entrants in the big media world not beholden to the almighty profit, then our news will always have a slight whiff of something off.


It used to be said by communists of capitalists that "They will sell us the rope we hang them with." If we really do get President Trump, I'm thinking the media outlets who foisted him upon us in service to their entertainment ratings will come to feel that they metaphorically sold that rope to Trump's supporters.

LarryHart said...

AtomicZeppelinMan:

I predict that at the first debate, Drumpf will accidentally call Obama the N-Word.


To avoid being proven wrong on a technicality, I'd leave out the word "accidentally".

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"What bothers me about myself is that I do know what's going on and still let it get to me."
- It's still just healthy paranoia. Your frontal lobes don't think Donald Dunk will win, but somewhere deep inside your amygdala is whispering "Scooby Doo!" (Or should that be "Rooby Roo!") System 1 vs. System 2. You can't silence the two sides of your instincts, the best anyone can do is learn to tell when it's the right time to listen to one and not the other. Is your passport current?

Ever listen to Diana Krall?
No cares for me
I'm happy as I can be
I learn to love and to live
Devil may care

No cares and woes
Whatever comes later goes
That's how I'll take and I'll give
Devil may care

When the day is through, I suffer no regrets
I know that he who frets, loses the night
For only a fool, thinks he can hold back the dawn
He was wise to never tries to revise what's past and gone

Live love today, love come tomorrow or May
Don't even stop for a sigh, it doesn't help if you cry
That's how I live and I'll die
Devil may care

hadend said...

Brin, how many 'mildly well-off academics' do you know who have net worths in excess of $20 million? How many do you know that rotate between high-profile cabinet appointments and lucrative wall street hedge fund consulting? The funniest thing about saying Summers behaves like a 'mildly well-off academic' is it's probably the only thing a person could say to him that would actually offend his reptilian ego. I'm not going to keep repeating all the terrible stuff from Summers' bio - it's all well known, some of it legendary, and occam's comic has mentioned other bits as well.

To everyone saying you should just focus on the thesis of the article and not the person advocating it, imagine applying that deranged logic to someone like Donald Trump, who - after all - has said he will invest more in infrastructure than Hillary Clinton. Guess you shouldn't question whether he could actually deliver on that promise, whether he even wants to, or whether he's saying it for some ulterior motive - you're just supposed to blithely agree with the policy because it'd be good.

I'll leave you with a classic from the eminently quotable Lawrence Summers,

"Any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites." - from his glowing 2006 obituary of Milton Friedman



donzelion said...

Dr. Brin - "the 710 is scandalous."
There's about a dozen different scandals tied into that unfinished bit of freeway. Which are you referring to?

"the Soviet Union’s official fall was not the demarcation."
Since U.S. technical consultants had been visiting Russia (and China) for several decades, the fall of the Soviet Union isn't a demarcation so much as one of those inherent realities that presidents deal with. But late glasnost plans for privatization were only one of a large number of factors driving the coup plotters in '91 - and most of the coupmeisters were more worried about the 'decentralization plan' that would confer broad autonomy for the soviet republics than by something as trivial as a few businesses (we're talking the loss of entire fleets and nuclear arsenals - MUCH more important than the loss of business opportunities).

It was the 1993 Constitutional Crisis where the privatization plans pitted Yeltsin v. the Parliament, and again, that's Clinton's watch. And once again, the Soviet Union never once suffered a shortage of plans (5 year plans were only the most public of them).

Again, the evidence that Bush cronies guided/led/caused the outcome is lacking. Sure, they were there, as were non-Bush cronies, and many others. But the Russians (esp. those well-positioned among them) chose their own path, and those well-placed among them only occasionally adjusted to shifting power bases during the Clinton years. Those oligarchs from Yeltsin's days were purged in Putin's days: the power behind both sets of leaders overwhelmed mere commercial concerns.

hadend said...

Donzilion, I don't believe it's easy to say it was all the Russians' reformers fault or all the neoliberal advisors' fault. The neoliberal advisors who controlled the distribution of western aid to Russia had a symbiotic relationship with their favored clique of Russian reformers. They both benefited from that relationship. A favored reformer would have a steady flow of cash from Washington and so would always have an edge on his political rivals. They never had to struggle to build a power base, or appease a local constituency because of that golden lifeline from Washington. Likewise, by giving huge amounts of aid to a small group of (very corrupt) people, those favored few could muster enough political power to ram through the desired neolib reforms without having to face parliament or other democratic blocks. A lot of this was enacted without a vote so it's hard to say the Russians chose their own path - the corrupt reformers were some of the most despised people in Russia.

David Brin said...

'How many people will walk into the voting booth and decide then that they can't vote for Trump? A lot, I think.'

Hm… that’s not good enough. I want them to decide that before leaving the house or mailing the absentee ballot. The nation desperately needs there to be a democratic Congress at least for 2 years. There is a mountain of unfinished business and we do not need for her presidency to be entirely war from the start. Two years of actual hard working governance… let’s try it. Just try it! For that to happen, republicans need to stay home.

AZM noooooo! Trump has to stay in! Pence would deliver a speech giving every gopper some excuse or another to go to the polls.

David Brin said...


hadend really? You think a net worth of $20M is… rich? OMG I am shocked Summers has so little! Add it up. Figure in addition to pretty solid $200K + incomes from academe or government jobs, various consultancies, and maybe $100k in speaking fees…. ALL OF THAT legit and non-compromising… $20M is a pretty small nest egg. Big to you? Sure. Big to me. But in fact it’s barely above upper middle class.

All you’ve done is both undermine your case and prove how little you know about the world. If this truly is Summers’s net worth then he is, for all his faults (many) an honest man.

David Brin said...

That was $100k/YEAR in speaker's fees. Seriously. If our top tier aristograts were all below $100M in net worth we'd be safe.

hadend said...

Are you trolling me Dr. Brin? I really hope you have some other Larry Summers in mind and that we're just not talking about the same person.

Let's put aside the fact that is a low-ball estimate of his probable net worth. Let's also put aside the fact that you went from calling him a 'mildly well-off academic' to yawning at his eight-figure (oh how quaint) net worth. A $20M net worth puts him in the top 0.1% of US taxpayers, hardly the upper middle class. I guess he's poor compared to the Koch brothers though so hey, he's practically an itinerant sharecropper!

That all those fees and consultancies aren't as legit and non-compromising as you claim is basically what I was trying to argue above. Maybe it's just so riveting to hear him crow about marginal utility theory or maybe, just maybe, those generous speaking fees come with certain strings attached.

Larry Summers is a giant albatross around the neck of the Democratic Party. The party would be much better off disavowing people (using the term loosely) like him.

hadend said...

The man made $135,000 from a single speech for Goldman. That must have been such a profound, interesting speech!

hadend said...

Sorry, I forgot that's chump change, yawn. I wouldn't get out of bed for anything less than a mil.

Jumper said...

I predict some of the people predicting will be right, and some wrong.

I win!

LarryHart said...

hadend:

To everyone saying you should just focus on the thesis of the article and not the person advocating it, imagine applying that deranged logic to someone like Donald Trump, who - after all - has said he will invest more in infrastructure than Hillary Clinton. Guess you shouldn't question whether he could actually deliver on that promise, whether he even wants to, or whether he's saying it for some ulterior motive - you're just supposed to blithely agree with the policy because it'd be good.


A more appropriate example is that when Donald Trump's own biographer says the guy is a psychopath. The act of him saying it carries meaning which does not imply anything like "I believe anything that guy says." It's this particular thing that this particular man is saying which is important.


I'll leave you with a classic from the eminently quotable Lawrence Summers,

"Any honest Democrat will admit that we are now all Friedmanites." - from his glowing 2006 obituary of Milton Friedman


Again, all the more significant when that guy then admits to the errors of Friedmanism.

David Brin said...

All you show Mr hadend is that you are an idiot. ).2% is the top thousandth, which includes mostly professionals, medical doctors and such. Go ahead and obsess on Summers if you like. I was referring to an article in which he was siding with the middle class against its enemies. You are hurling against him yawners - explained by the fact that he knows a lot.

You claim to be a paladin against oligarchy. I accomplish more against and know vastly more about the attempted oligarchic putsch in America... in any week... than you will across your entire life, sir. Go flounce your utterly futile preening all you want. It is sterile impotence.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

If you are still waking up in a cold, Donald-inspired sweat, here's something to try tonight. First, turn off anything with a screen 1 hour before bedtime. No TV, computer, even the cell phone goes down (yes, that means no late nite BrinBlogging - sorry Dr. Brin!) Those screens mess with your serotonin levels, making it harder for you to get to sleep. During that hour, do something you enjoy that has absolutely nothing to do with politics. Like to cook? Make the next day's glorious dinner and shove in the fridge. Tried crochet? Get that winter afghan going before all that lake effect snow buries you and your family. Go for yoga? Do all the downward dog you like. Meditate? Go lotus position and Om to your heart's content. Reading can be good, but it can't be anything that will bring your mind back to poly-ticks.

When we sleep, our brains are busy processing the day's memories, starting with the most recent. Studies have shown that what you do in the last hour before sleep has a profound impact on both the quality of your sleep and what goes into long-term memory the next morning. The more emotional, the greater the impact, but remember Negativity Bias! Anything associated with fear and/or anger will have a roughly 3x bigger impact, so do something fun. And if it can be done with minimal lighting, that's even better.

Another thought. It is recommended to rebalance your serotonin levels that you take a walk outside (preferably with significant people in your life) just before sundown. This might please our car-sitter troll, though nothing I have read suggested cycling at that hour. If your serotonin levels are out of whack, which is true for most people today, what with all our artificial light sources, quite a bit if time passes between your head hitting the pillow and actually falling asleep. During that not yet asleep time the mind tends to wander, and since the limbic system is all myelinated, the tendency for many is to focus on negative thoughts. But you can change the tape with a little concentration. :]

Hopefully that helps. It might not work the first time, though. The human nervous system usually takes a couple weeks to adjust to a change of schedule.

Jeff B. said...

LarryHart,

A bad habit, I know, but watching FiveThirtyEight's daily forecast adjustments help me keep it in focus. Despite their latest bad news opinion piece (if the slide continues, time for Dems to panic), they do document the oscillations in the campaign. Clinton's back up a point or two...

Forgot to mention earlier, there's been sustained results since they started their senate forecasting a week or two ago that Dems have a 55% chance of retaking the Senate. I'm sure if it happens it won't be filibuster-proof, but..

Jeff B. said...

Paul SB,

What might happen is application of our computer technology to make "smart" roads with built in sensors that adapt to local conditions. The road surface could heat up to melt off ice or snow, then absorb that water and channel it to storage.

I'd say that any such surface would have to be passive- no active tech, for simplicity and for cost. The only places that could afford such active-controlled road systems might be (gated) communities of the fiscally-gifted. To me, simply absorbing and routing any moisture into the substrate would eliminate a vast burden on most wastewater drainage systems...

Tacitus2 said...

For various posters who are sleeping poorly this week.

Some of the hype regards a potential Trump victory is just that. Our crappy media-entertainment industry loves a Horse Race. This plus today's Concerning Thing Said* by Trump or his Surrogates has obliterated any discussion of real issues. A pox upon them.

I have already gone beyond the election. I don't know what will happen overall. You don't either. So get out and vote as seems best to you, and to the extent that anybody is still capable of being influenced, have cordial interactions with them.

I won't judge the decisions of anybody here. I frankly don't greatly care whether you think mine are Wise, Stupid or simply Misguided.

But here you go for what it is worth.

Wisconsin appears to be within 5% in reputable polling. If that holds up I will have to hold my nose and vote for HRC. I don't think she will actually be running the country but that's another discussion.

If the polling numbers skew such that Badgerland EVs are clearly going to Clinton then I can afford the indulgent luxury of a protest vote. Either leave Pres blank or vote Libertarian.

Down ballot I have only a couple of races that are actually in play. None of them feature moustache twirling villains. I will vote as seems good to me. I am less dismayed by the prospect of a Republican Senate than many here but that's my prerogative.

Happier stuff next posting, I promise.

Tacitus

*or sometimes things he didn't even say. The End Justifies the Mean after all.

Jumper said...

I don't think heated roads are very likely. The energy cost would be high, and putting roofs over them likely competitive. I don't think porous roads will happen either, because strength depends very much on density, which porosity decreases. You can theorize exotic materials such as slabs of diamond sponge, but if we have that capability I suspect roads will be the least of our applications.

Of course the free enterprise freight system will want to load up the roads with heavier and heavier axle loads. The free enterprise system is good at consuming all it can from the commonwealth. Unless forbidden, they'd soon have diamond sponge road wearing out in 5-10 years just like nowadays.

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

Paul SB - lol, I concur. And had missed your post as well.

Dr. Brin (and Hadend, if you care to read, rather than spout vitriol) - I'd strongly recommend reading the Congressional Research Service's 2002 report on the history of U.S. foreign assistance to the former Soviet Union, as it's quite comprehensive. I can review exactly how those budgets work, in detail: most Americans think that the U.S. "gives away large chunks of money" - and few realize that 80-90% of our foreign assistance budget (except for the block grants to Israel) stays in America. It is simply erroneous to assert that 'phantom funds' from Washington created the Russian oligarchs: they did it themselves (with real funds, from other sources).

The U.S. seldom sets up oligarchs abroad or at home - intentionally. Rather, oligarchy arises naturally from domestic structures, reflecting preexisting power balances: outsiders may in some cases make this worse, but as this is a frequent phenomena, blaming Washington for its emergence in any one state is as logical as blaming Washington for any specific hurricane.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

According to a few sources, income of $300K (the lower end of Summers's income form your statement above) is in the top 3% (or close) in the US. That seems to be an awfully odd definition of 'barely above upper middle class'. I'd sure like to hear how many you'd like to see in the middle of that diamond. If you consider for the sake of argument that the middle is defined by half the households, the current upper limit is about $98K (depending on your source). Doesn't help that on the other end the bottom quarter ends at about $28.5K.

I'd call it rich. I call it rich when someone could liquidate all their assets and live on the cash for the rest of their life with a say, 95% chance (there's always the odd economic disaster).

You say we'd be better off if the top guys had less than $100 million. I'd thought for many years the all the Congressmen were rich by my definition. Turns out that I was mostly right, but not entirely.

It's also my opinion that someone who is by my definition 'rich' is going to have an awfully hard time relating to the problems of those who aren't.

None of which addresses the man himself.

On infrastructure:
I still think that the best long-term option is to replace road with rail. But not rail as it currently exists, but autonomous vehicles on aluminum rails replacing current road-based traffic. But you won't really get there incrementally, as you might with the current trend towards autonomous automobiles. While I find the current trend interesting in a technical sense, it's a lot of wasted computing power.

Jumper said...

What's the reason for aluminum rails?

Deuxglass said...

In defense of Locum,

Yes he is a troll but he is our troll and has been with us for a very long time. Sure he gets on our nerves but he is loyal to Contrary Brin in his own way and I respect that. He represents the most “contrary” part of Contrary Brin and so he does serve a function. He is a counter-point to ultra-logic. He is angry at us but at all of us and doesn’t single out some for special harassment. He doesn’t stoop to excessive back and forth snide remarks as I have seen in other forums. He doesn’t overdo it and knows when to stop. He is a troll in control.

I believe he is a medical doctor although I might be wrong. We should be asking his opinion on things in which he has real expertise and then see what he says. Locun, how do you feel about single-payer medical insurance vs Obama Care?

raito said...

Jumper,

Aluminum is very plentiful in the crust, smeltable/refinable by electricity, and is a decent conductor. Power through the rails is the way to go, and sections with no vehicles can be powered down easily enough. It may not wear as well as iron, but should hold up to loads approximating today's automobiles. I'm not worried about commercial loads, as I think under a system like I envision those would be split up among more vehicles.

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

You said “A more appropriate example is that when Donald Trump's own biographer says the guy is a psychopath”. I do not support Trump and will not vote for him but I would not trust his ghostwriter because he admitted to lying about Trump from A to Z. He gave a sob story about needing the money at the time to justify lying. Why should I believe him now? Maybe he needs some money now and has the promise of ghostwriting another book for all I know. I wouldn’t believe anything he said. Once you lie for money it's over. He has no credibility in my book.

locumranch said...



Language is recursive:

If we define the term Infrastructure as "the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities needed for the operation of a society, enterprise or industry", then we define the basic physical and organizational structures of our society in terms of the needs of our industry and enterprise.

By this definition, then, that it follows the continued existence of our post-Industrial business, financial & city centres is NEITHER material NOR justifiable.

Detroit, Sheffield, Wittenoom & the Kowloon Walled City have DIED for this very reason: Their infrastructure became unsustainable from the very moment that they lost their industrial 'Raison d'Etre'.

This is also why the freeways & commuter routes around Lost Angeles & Manhattan are such an anachronistic mess:

They serve little or no purpose in the post-Industrial era. Nothing of value is produced in the old 'downtown' that cannot be produced elsewhere at half the cost; most workers & materials have to be imported into it's rather desolate interior on almost a daily basis; and, after working hours, all goods & services must be exported as it's workers flee the lifeless city centre in order to return to their houses, stores & families.

Without industry, our sainted infrastructure has NO value, social or otherwise.


Best

Deuxglass said...

Locum,

I believe you are a medical doctor. What is your opinion of Obama Care? Are you for a one-payer or buyer? Just curious.

Tacitus2 said...

But Locumrach, the irrelevance of old industrial centers did not happen overnight. It was a gradual process and while it appears to be nearly complete in Detroit it is a rolling outage as they sat. We can't spend billions on transportation systems on a purely speculative basis. Consider also the decisions made when gasoline was expensive and going up. Rail made more economic sense then. Oh, but fracking (and lets be fair today, some progress on alternatives) came along. Now in California there is the high speed train to, um, Bakersfield maybe?

Its a classic example of the perfect being the enemy of the workable. For the cost of a rail system that would likely need perpetual subsidies you could outfit a fleet of clean energy buses with fabulous amenities.* And if they don't stand the test of time you scrap 'em or sell 'em to mildewy 70's revival bands for party buses.

And before we write off Detroit and Sheffield Entire keep in mind that over long stretches of time entire cities rise and fall. Irrelevance can be temporary. London is a great example. Burned down, bombed flat, picked over by barbarians. Spots where cows grazed in the year 500 are now among the priciest real estate on earth.

Tacitus

*I'm retired now, I think I shall re-invent myself as a Party Transit consultant. A bus with a microbrewery on board....how about mobile Voter Registration....a spa for longer commutes...the mind boggles, it does....

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Larry,

If you are still waking up in a cold, Donald-inspired sweat,...


Tacitus2:

For various posters who are sleeping poorly this week...


Actually, I feel much better just knowing that this is a "thing" that other people know about. Doubtless, Hillary's campaign is strategizing against Trump, with the next notable arena being Monday's debate. I panic more when it looks as if no one else notices or cares that Trump is threatening--when accepted wisdom says Hillary can coast to a landslide, but meanwhile, Trump support swells.

I'll put this in terms of one of our host's early novels. In "Sundiver", there's an alien character named Bubbacub who looks like a cute rodent or teddy bear or something like that, and the human attitude toward him is mostly bemusement. But there's a scene where someone--the female captain if I'm remembering correctly--has a conversation with him in which it's dawning on her that "This being is dangerous!" That pretty much describes my observations about Trump.


LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Studies have shown that what you do in the last hour before sleep has a profound impact on both the quality of your sleep and what goes into long-term memory the next morning. The more emotional, the greater the impact, but remember Negativity Bias! Anything associated with fear and/or anger will have a roughly 3x bigger impact, so do something fun. And if it can be done with minimal lighting, that's even better.


Hmmmm, I have to sell the wife on this one. :)

Another thought. It is recommended to rebalance your serotonin levels that you take a walk outside (preferably with significant people in your life) just before sundown.


We already do.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

I predict some of the people predicting will be right, and some wrong.

I win!


Well, the odds be with you, but it's not a sure bet. They could all be wrong, including you.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

n defense of Locum,

Yes he is a troll but he is our troll and has been with us for a very long time. Sure he gets on our nerves but he is loyal to Contrary Brin in his own way and I respect that. He represents the most “contrary” part of Contrary Brin and so he does serve a function. He is a counter-point to ultra-logic. He is angry at us but at all of us and doesn’t single out some for special harassment. He doesn’t stoop to excessive back and forth snide remarks as I have seen in other forums.


Agreed on all counts.


He doesn’t overdo it and knows when to stop.


Sometimes. :)


He is a troll in control.


Now, there's a line that belongs in "Hamilton".

donzelion said...

Locum - "Without industry, our sainted infrastructure has NO value, social or otherwise."

Try drinking water in a community with unreliable infrastructure, risking cholera and other potentially fatal diseases, and tell me how it has no value.

Try producing 100% of your own power yourself, internally, through solar or wind or any other source (again, none of it transmitted through power lines).

Try producing 100% of the medical goods and products in-house (no delivery through a truck using public infrastructure).

Try posting on an internet that doesn't connect to telecommunications infrastructure.

Try eating food that is locally produced, using rainwater exclusively (no agricultural infrastructure).

Try treating all your hospital sewage in-house, through your own septic systems (it's doable, sometimes, but expensive).

Try all that and then tell me that infrastructure holds no value after you've tried it. (Or, as an alternative, move somewhere for a month or six where these infrastructural components aren't present - you'll discover just how important these and many other shared systems are for a comfortable life.)

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Try treating all your hospital sewage in-house, through your own septic systems (it's doable, sometimes, but expensive).


There's a scene toward the end of Vonnegut's "Player Piano" where the anti-machine rebels go nuts, destroying everything willy-nilly without regard to value. "I blew up the water treatment plant. Give the country back to the people!"

locumranch said...



Sorry, Deuxglass. I didn't see your question before the above post.

I was in favour of Obama Care (ACA) and a single payer system, at least in the short-term, because our modern healthcare system standard is unsustainable as it has been burning it's capital (provider good will) in order to function. That is just my assessment, but I believe that 'burn-out' stats & perhaps even Tacitus agree with this.

In practice, however, that is NOT the kind of Obama Care we received. With the death of the single payer option, we are left with a giant insurance boondoggle (wherein Big Insurance got the 'boon' and the healthcare provider/consumer got the 'doggle'), much in the same way that Medicare part D represented a giant cash gift to Big Pharma which tripled the average RX cost to the healthcare consumer.

Look to the Canadian & British NHS if you imagine 'single payer' (as in 'Cutting out the Big Insurance middleman') as a long-term solution. It's NOT. Rather, it's just a delaying action in the face of 'Entropy always Wins'.

Best
______
@Tacitus: I agree. We have had SOME success in our attempts to reanimate (repurpose) our dead & dying Urban Centres but, like attempting to resuscitate a deceased centenarian, it is a waste of resources, ill-advised & ultimately futile. Urban City Centre TIME OF DEATH: Now. It's called 'Triage' when we cut our losses & care for those who we can still save.

@Donzelion: Detroit & LA no longer deserve 'infrastructure', according to the above definition, as they no longer serve the needs of INDUSTRY. Of course, you can make a good case that their continued existence is equally justified by either 'human rights' or nostalgia. Are you doing those people a favour, though, by condemning them to an impoverished existence in an economic dead zone?

donzelion said...

Tacitus - if you're suggesting that instead of the California high-speed rail link from LA to SF, to go with a fleet of buses between the two cities, then you're missing the point.

A high-speed train from LA to SF could deliver passengers in about as much time as it currently takes to commute from the far exurbs of LA into the inner city. It could do so in less time than it takes to fly from one city to the other (counting time to/from the airports). It would be something novel for America, but something that has worked quite impressively in Japan, France, Germany, and even China.

"...You could outfit a fleet of clean energy buses with fabulous amenities."
Indeed you could, BUT a 7-hour commute would mean that the trans-city traffic would primarily consist of 'business travelers' and tourists - not 'regular work time commuters.' Those folks are already served by airports and charter aircraft.

Nobody recognized why broadband internet investments were 'socially useful' when they were first launched in the '80s - that came later. But infrastructure has remarkable precedent in paying for itself in unexpected ways (even if it truly annoys the folks who wanted to privatize it and turn everything into their own little toll road).

"Spots where cows grazed in the year 500 are now among the priciest real estate on earth."
The most valuable real estate in the world is technically land in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (few cows grazing in 500 CE - more sheep and goats). But absent modern infrastructure, it would lose the majority of its 'value' (sure, the religious sites would be important, but it's hard for pilgrims to finish a pilgrimage if they must carry their own water on their backs). As for London, that bridge kept on falling down, and kept getting rebuilt - London exists because infrastructure makes it viable (although originally, it existed because feudal landlords made it necessary to have some place to flee when they imposed brutal wages - and up through Victorian era, persistent cholera and other nasties rendered London a pretty nasty place to live in...cities of the past offered LOW rents compared to villages).

hadend said...

Donzelion, No vitriol, just saying. Favored reformers like Anatoly Chubais (the poster child of the reformers) received, at the very least, 100s of millions of dollars in aid money (a lot of that in the form of direct aid and loans from USAID). I say 'at the very least', because it depends how you count it. For example, IMF officials made it a condition of Russia receiving several billion dollar loans, that Chubais would personally remain in the Yeltsin government. He pushed through the loans-for-shares program which gave away huge swathes of state assets in rigged auctions - that program had a huge role in establishing and entrenching the oligarchs.

The US didn't create the Russian oligarchs in the sense that they didn't just give them pallets of cash. They used a mixture of threats and favoritism to make sure people like Chubais would hold important political appointments and push through the desired neoliberal reforms. What the neoliberal advisors true intentions were, who honestly knows? They promoted and pushed, though it's called 'liberal', basically far-right policies that included gutting basic public services and almost entirely deregulating industry. Maybe some were True Believes and others more cynical.

donzelion said...

And in other news, Idiocracy is being screened on October 4 in numerous select cities. Alas, the LA screening is sold out.

I've mocked the movie (which I secretly love), but it seems apropos given some of the nonsense spouted in public (and occasionally, in public forums among folks who know better). 'Ow my balls!'

Tacitus2 said...

Donzelion I must admit I was actually thinking of the proposed but now abandoned idea for a high speed link between Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin.

But in each case an honest appraisal would have to include cost to build, cost to maintain, likely ridership and cost per passenger. Oh, also the cost to dismantle it when it gets made obsolete by something else.

Regards the merits of mass transit for the well heeled vrs the, er, poorly heeled? I certainly expect some subsidies for the first group and a larger amount for the second. The devil resides at his customary address, in the details.

It is so hard to get believable numbers especially when many of the interested parties have vested interests in these projects.

Tacitus

donzelion said...

Hadend - USAID does not typically make loans or grants to individuals, or to private for-profit companies, absent extremely explicit budget allocations that delineate every last coffee mug they can purchase using government funds. This is one of the strictest and tightest controlled budgets operated by the federal government because it is always the easiest target for political opponents.

If they did, and you had evidence of them doing so, then you've neglected to bring a claim in which you could receive 3x the amount that was fraudulently transferred.

Anatoly Chubais' 'tulip farm' did receive a few hundred thousand dollars (and participants received millions, in the form of financial aid to finance fellowships at American universities, also paid for in part by the Fed - and all that money stayed here). Some of those participants may have received additional funding from other U.S. agencies; I cannot say, but cannot rule it out. Anyone who could say with certainty would know the intimate details of intelligence operations budgets, and thus probably wouldn't say.

"I say 'at the very least', because it depends how you count it."
Read through the CRS report I referred to above, then tell me which of the major line items was USAID funding, which ones persisted after 1995 - and where the money came from. You can also review the USAID budget, which has been public for decades, and see where and how they allotted the money (I did so in painstaking detail for Egypt to try to understand why U.S. democratization efforts kept failing, despite hundreds of millions of dollars in expenditure - and Egypt received far more than Russia ever did).

"[Chubais] pushed through the loans-for-shares program which gave away huge swathes of state assets in rigged auctions - that program had a huge role in establishing and entrenching the oligarchs."
I am aware of his role. Russia considered privatization schemes comparable to those used in Czechoslovakia and in Hungary - neither of which resulted in oligarchic entrenchment quite the way Russia's did. A handful of well-positioned Russians were able to engage in rather simple commodity arbitrage to buy up commodities in Russia sold at fixed prices, sell them on global markets at going rates, and then pocket the change to take over valuable enterprises for pennies on the ruble.

None of them did so, to the extent anyone can prove, by use of U.S. public funds (but it's unclear who, if anyone, provided private funding). They wouldn't have needed to: all they needed was someone to vouch for their creditworthiness (e.g., Yeltsin), and they could do it all themselves. And if it WAS done with U.S. funds (whether private or public), the funders were pretty foolish - getting very little in exchange for their money, in a travesty that even the most salivating Republican attack dogs neglected to bite upon. How likely is that?

Jeff B. said...

I loved the rail systems in Europe, both subway and topside lines- clean and efficient, and economical. There was talk a few years back of a high speed line connecting Pittsburgh w. Philadelphia (and hence the entire East Coast), but it was shot down by lawmakers from the non-urban reaches of the state. Who knows? I've not seen a cost analysis or projection, but such a line seems like common sense to me- turn an eight hour car trip or an almost-as-long-due-to-airport-security flight into a couple quiet hours on a train.

And it would have been able to be the start of a western extension, through Cleveland/Columbus to Chicago and beyond, at least to St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis. Now I'll be lucky to see that in my lifetime.

Why've we lost our vision?

Jeff B. said...

Donzelion,
A handful of well-positioned Russians were able to engage in rather simple commodity arbitrage to buy up commodities in Russia sold at fixed prices, sell them on global markets at going rates, and then pocket the change to take over valuable enterprises for pennies on the ruble.

That indeed is the Russian way. It was wishful thinking on our part that they would naturally turn to open democracy as some sort of natural state, just like it was naive of us to expect something out of the Tiennamen protests. Today's oligarchs are the same people who sat near the top of the bloated Soviet hierarchy. If some American money did end up in their system, it did not influence the outcome one whit.

For the Russian people to turn to democracy would take slow growth a la South Korea, or epic, frightful change and maybe occupation, like Japan. I don't see the former happening in the foreseeable future, and the latter of course not at all.

donzelion said...

In other stories, Elibazeth Warren has the best take I've seen so far on the problem in the banking industry:

"...Mr. Stumpf, if one of your tellers took a handful of twenty dollar bills out of the cash drawer, they would probably be looking at criminal charges for theft. They could end up in prison. But you squeezed your employees to the breaking point so they would cheat customers so you could drive up the value of your stock and put hundreds of millions of dollars in your own pocket. And when it all blew up, you kept your job, you kept your multi-million dollar bonuses, and you went on television to blame thousands of $12 an hour employees who were just trying to make your own cross-sell quotas that made you rich."

Bear in mind, Stumpf is a 'mere' lightweight among the wealthy set - less than a billion dollars to his name (before this mess occurred). A real oligarch has even more extensive mechanisms to attain power and wealth.

occam's comic said...

This is a article from Strongtowns.org
It talks about traditional development patterns vs auto centered development in a small town in Minnesota. I like the StrongTowns movement it focuses on local issues in a way that can really bring conservatives and liberals together.



In the United States we've proceeded for sixty years with reconfiguring our public spaces to accommodate the automobile. The built in assumption of this approach, especially when it comes to commercial property, is that the more cars driving by the better. What we've overlooked in our haste to "modernize" is the lower return on investment we get from this approach, even under ideal conditions. Today we need the humility to acknowledge that our ancestors -- who built in the traditional style -- may have known what they were doing after all.

occams comic said...

(continued)

Highway 210 runs east/west through downtown Brainerd. In the hierarchical road system, it is the top of the pyramid and would be classified in most places as a "major arterial". It is designed as a STROAD (a street/road hybrid), attempting to apply highway design standards to what otherwise would be an urban street. In doing so, it has dramatically transformed the land use pattern of the area.

The picture below highlights two blocks that front the highway corridor. The one on the left, which we've labeled "old and blighted", is a block that has retained its traditional development pattern. To the right we have identified the "shiny and new" area, the block that has recently been transformed to an auto-oriented development style, to the glee of city officials and local economic development advocates. In between is a hybrid of the two; part traditional and part auto-oriented.

The old and blighted area is a collection of run down, marginal establishments. There are two liquor stores, a pawn shop, a barber shop, a bankruptcy attorney, a campaign headquarters, a retail establishment, a cafe and a vacant building. This is not a desirable area. If the adjacent highway didn't already ensure decline, local "improvements" have degraded what little pedestrian connectivity may have existed to the adjacent areas. None of it that remains is easy, natural or inviting. In the community's eyes, this is an area that is waiting to redevelop, to transform itself fully into an auto-oriented pattern. That transformation has begun; note that the very westerly building, which is a liquor store, has turned two lots into a parking lot.

By contrast, the shiny and new area contains only one business, that being a new Taco John's drive through fast food restaurant. The modern facility contains two drive-through lanes, good access to the adjacent streets and all the parking that would ever be needed. They've done on-site stormwater retention (the environmentalists applaud) and modern signage. It meets all of the city's design and zoning codes. The restaurant replaced some buildings that were, themselves, part of an evolution from the original, traditional development to the auto-oriented. With the new Taco John's, the transformation is complete.

Robert said...

Off on a brief aside. I've been having fun indulging in thoughts of how technology could create "superheroes" (in the case of the story-world I'm crafting, to deal with an interdimensional invasion by creatures made of what is essentially solid shadow).

Given what we do know of technological innovations and research into nanotechnology and the like, what abilities do you think could be granted through nanotechnology and biotechnology?

The biotech could probably allow such things as improved vision (better night vision for one), improved hearing and smell, perhaps improved reflexes, and the like. And of course the Genies could be discriminated against because their abilities bred true and some folk will find any reason to discriminate.

What might nanotechnology allow? Could it help improve strength? Maybe increase the toughness of muscles, tendons, and bones so that muscles can be used to a fuller extent? What abilities do you think could be enacted by nanotechnological engineering of the body to become more efficient?

And what about actual cybernetics? What directions do you see cybernetics going in? What could be done that seems at the edge of science fiction but in fact is within the realm of what could actually be done?

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert,

I think increasing strength might be difficult. So many systems involved. Strong muscles but not strong tendons or bones, well you can see the issue there.
Vision, sure. It would even be feasible to extend beyond our customary spectra. I don't think I would want enhanced hearing.....those folks down the block with a penchant for bad Heavy Metal music are bad enough already.
It would probably be possible to build in better tolerance of heat and cold. Maybe shorter reaction times. I would think getting by on less sleep or alternatively being able to reduce metabolic rate to tolerate hibernation could be done.

Biochemically much of this stuff already exists in the natural world.
As to flying, laser beam eyes, sorry, Laws of Physics will still be rigorously enforced.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

hadend’s contribution about Chubais was genuinely cogent and interesting. See? That’s what happens when you control your temper.

donzel, your unwillingness to consider that US & Western oligarchs would funnel money to Russian ones UNDER the table is utterly naive.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass… by your way of viewing things, I do not call Locumranch a “troll.” He’s… odd and grouchy and once in a while tips into troll-level speech meriting a warning. Don’t forget, we also have Treebeard! And occasional actual troll visitors. Still, I am amazed that - with my personality - I haven’t drawn in the real article here. I think… well… real trolls find long paragraphs intimidating!

His most recent, re Obamacare was… dazzling. Maybe 40% right!
==

David Brin said...

raito we really need some expanded terminology. A person with $20M in net assets is “rich” in most old-fashioned ways. Certainly richer than me! Two homes and serenity vs any needs, forever. Fine.

But limited ability to cheat in ways that might eliminate competition. That wealth range still spends a fair amount, meaning they are not usually rentier sinks that hoard and crush money velocity. Sure, they are above “upper middle class” but they are part of the “lower upper class” who must drive their own cars and juggle schedules for themselves when the nanny takes a holiday.

Look, I ain’t pitying them! But any powerful man who has had world-affecting powers who winds up in that range after 30 years has probably been pretty honest about it.

An asshole possibly? Wrong to have suckled up to ‘neoloiberalism” in the 1990s? Sure. That’s a different matter. As is him being right, now, to revert back to Keynsian-Smithian liberalism.

INFRASTRUCTURE. I am fine with swinging out emphasis away from highways! CA’s battle to get high speed rail is like LA’s desperate fight to get metro subways and trains… the right wingers fought it hard and now we know life would be impossible without it.

But we cannot turn our backs on the highways and let them decay.

===
Tacitus, squint and look 50 years from now. The very notion that there would NOT be high speed rail or tube transit up between SoCal and the Bay area is simply absurd. The question for sane folks is how? I am willing to listen to arguments that normal, world class high speed rail is obsolete! Maybe we should leapfrog the rest of the world! As Africa is leapfrogging copper wires.

But to do nothing? Baloney. The most important aspect of CA’s HSR system is lining up the rights of way.

occam's comic said...

Rob
Start here for nanotech;

http://www.foresight.org/Nanomedicine/

and Bob Freitas book
Nanomedicine basic capabilities
https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=157059645X/foresightinstituA/

You can get some fun stuff like
video tattoos as your interface with your internal nanobots, hold your breath for a hour, very enhanced immune system,




LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I think increasing strength might be difficult. So many systems involved. Strong muscles but not strong tendons or bones, well you can see the issue there.


I was a teenager when the old "Six Million Dollar Man" tv show was popular. I loved the show, but even then, I could "feel" that something was wrong when Steve would use his bionic arm to lift a car off of the ground. Like, wouldn't it do something bad to his spine and hips?

David Brin said...

Great discussion!

onward

onward