Thursday, October 13, 2016

Can elections be hacked? And the Russian gambit.

As the pace quickens, I'll use this political posting to catch up on side items... such as...

Hey Hill! Want a solution to all the fuss around the Clinton Foundation? Hand it all over to the Carter Center, lock stock and barrel. Analogous to Warren Buffett making Bill Gates his heir! Because the Gates Foundation is run so well. Likewise, the one thing all Americans agree about Jimmy Carter is his rectitude... and the effectiveness of his foundation. Just do it.  Carter will give Chelsea a job and no one will care.

Only note the difference in the way ex-presidents who are Democrats spend their time, vs Republicans. They are is diametric and perfect opposites. Oligarchs holding court vs. scurrying around trying to help the poor. 

== The KGB Connection ==

What gives with the crescendo of internet hacks and trolleries - of blatant Russian origin? This surge of activity - which has the cyber sleuths in our intelligence community scurrying - points to a fervid obsession with meddling in Western politics.

The sheer number of these attacks is quite boggling. They range from stealing and clumsily altering documents of George Soros’s Open Society Foundation to spreading anti-NATO rumors in Sweden to timing leaks of swiped Hillary Clinton emails for maximum effect on American elections.  

Former Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Morell – a lifelong leader in such matters, with no history of being political - describes Trump as “an unwitting agent” of Vladimir Putin, a view that is shared by many American intelligence personnel. 

John Schindler, a security expert and former National Security Agency analyst and counterintelligence officer, elucidates in an Observer article you must read. 'The case for Morell’s charge is circumstantial but impressive. We have Trump’s repeated business dealings in Russia, dating to the Soviet era, none of them very successful, though that didn’t stop the candidate’s son from declaring in 2008 of the Trump Organization: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”'  And you wonder why he won’t release his tax returns? 

Sure, Fox News and right wing radio guys have been spreading a cult of adoration of Vladimir Putin for a decade, culminating in Donald Trump’s huge, bromantic crush on the (I’ll admit) very clever Russian President. But is it truly possible that the conversion of U.S. conservatism into confederate-ism is so thorough that no one in Red America can smell a rat?  Nothing else makes the conversion more clear. Russia used to be red. Now the color doesn’t even apply in Trump Country.

It’s Gray.

== But can American elections be rigged? ==

We keep returning to this question. The recent discovery of e-meddlings in Illinois and Arizona voter databases has raised chills. “U.S. elections are hackable, though it is much harder than some appear to believe. There are three main areas of vulnerability, according to Andrew Appel, a Princeton University computer scientist. Hackers could tamper with voter records, removing names from official rolls. They could attack electronic voting machines. And they could disrupt the proper tallying of voting results as they are collected from various precincts.”

The Washington Post Editorial Board recently reiterated a point I’ve been making for years: In each case, one key to ensuring integrity is creating a paper trail that can be matched to the electronic records. Electronic voter rolls can be checked against paper ones; electronic vote counts can be compared to paper ballots filled in during the voting process; statewide vote tallies can be checked by examining and adding the results reported publicly in each precinct.

The editorial board is a bit too blithe for my taste, suggesting that most U.S. counties do have auditable paper trails and that our voting machines are hard to hack.  I’ll believe that when a truly thorough and scientific study is done. There are states where the politicians will stop at nothing.  If you’d gerrymander – and suppress voter participation without helping poor folks to get the ID they need – then you are the kind of person who would ease the way for corrupt machines to be used.

Still, they make a cogent point: At the moment, the biggest threat to the integrity of U.S. elections appears to be that politicians, Mr. Trump in particular, will use anecdote and innuendo to stoke a crisis of confidence. Given that Mr. Trump has already indicated he will not accept the legitimacy of an election that ends in his defeat, even a well-functioning electoral system in which any attempted hacks and other frauds are caught and corrected could look to many like a sham.

This is so important that I will say it in several postings:

Hillary Clinton needs to declare this as a crisis! She should demand that Donald Trump put up or shut up, on electoral fraud. 

Insist that he appoint 6 friends who are “sages beyond reproach” to join six she would appoint, plus six chose by retired US Supreme Court Justice and GOP appointee Sandra Day O’Connor. And have that commission investigate electoral rigging charges right now!  No delays. No excuses. And they should look at everything from voting machines to voter suppression to gerrymandering. And no time for sage perfection. Report back in two weeks!

It would be an aggressive, assertive action and she’d look decisive, presidential. And it is utterly necessary, lest her presidency begin less valuable than a bucket of tepid spit.

== Trump is not an anomaly ==

Don't for a moment entertain the delusion that Donald Trump is some weird, side-canker on U.S. Conservatism.  Sure, hundreds of prominent Republicans have fled from the current, pyrotechnically-offensive ravings of their party's standard-bearer. Many of these defectors openly avow that Hillary Clinton is an acceptably "solid" statesman worthy of support.

Don't believe a word of it. This hemorrhage of conservative adults is still filled with rationalizers who call Donald Trump a "special case," while urging support for down-ticket GOP candidates. Even as they declare acceptance of HC's acceptable solidity, most declare their intention to fight for a GOP led Congress that will wage war upon her from her very first day as Commander-in-Chief. 

No, no. You do not get to do that, and I will repeat my counter-nostrum over and over. Trump is not the "disease."  He is a symptom of a virulence that you guys helped to spread. Yes, even the sage, nodding heads and professionals, and intellectuals who doubted WMD lies and tried to break the Hastert Rule against ever negotiating. Even you who pursed your lips and frowned silently over the tsunami of Fox lies.

Case in point. Donald has just appointed conservative eminence grise Ed Feulner to join Chis Christie heading his Transition Team… to prepare for a (shudder) Trump Administration. Feulner is a former head of the Heritage Foundation, the top right wing "think tank" that gave us neoconservatism, Iraq Wars, Supply Side never-once-ever-right-ever-even-once "Economics," and… (surprise) the general outlines of Obamacare. Feulner is credited with building the Heritage Foundation from a small, struggling policy think tank in the 1970s to the influential behemoth that prepares a majority of GOP policy positions. (Generally in close collaboration with Rupert Murdoch.) 

Sure, DT has emphasized the Tea Party, Breitbart, confederate-treason, screeching-nitwit wing of the party, finishing the decades-long task of driving-off every skill and knowledge profession, from scientists to the military officer corps. A War on Expertise. But to call him (and them) "aberrant" is to ignore the fact that he won the GOP primaries convincingly. And that half of the Republicans in Congress are bilious, raving loonies, who sabotage science and research and investment and who refuse to negotiate even a basic budget for the United States.

So no, you "grownups" who are defecting to Hillary Clinton temporarily, you do not get to feel virtuous and bipartisan while helping to carve out the Trump tumor. The surface mole grew up top out of a metastasized disease. And American conservatism needs chem and radiation and cauterizing therapy to burn out the Murdochian confederatism. Rip it out, and there's a chance the movement might survive Even thrive.

Oh, interesting note: Both Trump and Clinton have taxpayer-funded office space provided for a transition effort, the result of a 2010 law that moved up the availability of such money to just after the party conventions, rather than after the election.

== Russian sabotage ==

The Russian ruling clade is doing what I would do — were I a member of a cabal dominating an underdog world power that is deeply opposed to democracy and the Western Enlightenment experiment. They are doing what underdogs always do — innovating. Finding ways to undermine and sabotage and mislead their bigger, stronger, but less-focused adversaries.

Never mind that they are only “adversaries” because of reflexive paranoia.  From that psychological perspective — then yes, one can see how Vladimir Putin and his cronies perceive themselves being “surrounded” and threatened.  And hence their emphasis on “D&D methods” of waging cold-war… Disproportionate and Deniable… emphasizing small investments that yield larger outcomes while letting the Russian leadership say “who me? I had nothing to do with that!”  The aim? To defeat their lumbering adversary with the Death of ten Thousand Cuts.

Cyber sabotage is the most famous of these D&D methods.  Another is disinformation — the spreading of false rumors through far-left and far-right gullible paranoia groups and sites, as described in this article where Sweden’s closer cooperation with NATO has been undermined with untrue narratives.

“A prime Kremlin target is Europe, where the rise of the populist right and declining support for the European Union create an ever more receptive audience for Russia’s conservative, nationalistic and authoritarian approach under Mr. Putin. Last year, the European Parliament accused Russia of “financing radical and extremist parties” in its member states, and in 2014 the Kremlin extended an $11.7 million loan to the National Front, the extreme-right party in France.”  Then there is Trump, over here. “The Russians are very good at courting everyone who has a grudge with liberal democracy, and that goes from extreme right to extreme left.”

“The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness,” Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, wrote in 2013.

We can only hope that this does not devolve into the scenario described in Frederik Pohl’s chillingly plausible novel The Cool War, which envisioned a horrid era when great powers deliberately and relentlessly sabotage each others’ infrastructure, causing power and water systems and bridges and highways and factories to collapse, leading to a general decline of all sides and all human civilization into a downward spiral of shabbiness and decay.

== Any proportion?  Any at all? ==
Finally. Just to be clear about the "30,000 emails" that Donald Trump wants Russia to find for him - there aren't even assertions of any concealed misdeeds in them! Only that HC made a dumb procedural mistake and tried to shrug it off.  Sorry fellahs. But that… is… it. The sum total of your trumped-up case.

Contrast this to 22,000,000 (yes, million) Bush emails that went "missing" when Congress sought information about the firing of 8 federal prosecutors who were sniffing at Bush-Cheney corruption.  Read that sentence over again, as many times as it takes, for the hypocrisy to sink in.

In 2014, e-sleuths managed to recover a bunch of those bushite erasures, though getting them sorted could take more years.  But the issue is both the amnesia and weird sense of scale displayed by our republican friends. Like spending 6 years of relentless hearings screaming over 4 volunteers who took an ill-advised risk in Benghazi... versus thousands who died on 9/11 because Bush re-assigned agents away from terror duties. Which of these got endless, endless hearings?

 Millions of deliberately deleted emails pertinent to blatant abuse of power in evading a corruption probe vs. a few thousand personal emails that no one even suggests were pertinent to any malfeasance? Which got hearings?

Cheney companies making billions off the Iraq wars and more billions sent by Cheney into Iraq as raw cash on pallets, that promptly disappeared...

... vs. a few hundred thousands in speaking fees with no known quid pro quo and those banks who paid for speeches are due anyway to get broken up by Hillary Clinton?  Which of these tales of corruption gets a lynch mob? 

I could go on and on.  But you see, those would be FACTS.  And now you see why Fox and its wholly owned party have declared war on science.

No. We want only five words from you scoundrels.

“OMG, what have we done?”


David Bley said...

To me the question is not Can American Elections be Rigged? but Does it Matter if American Elections Can be Rigged?

donzelion said...

Ah, still no discussion on Prop 54 from Dr. Brin. As it's been completely ignored, and as 'transparency' is one of his signature issues, I'll keep raising it until we hear something: this is perhaps the most important measure on the topic of transparency in CA, and possibly, if other states emulate CA (as is common), in the country.

CSPAN footage has been an amazing boon to democracy (yes, there are errors: e.g., a 'firebrand' issues seething critiques at 11 pm to an empty room as 'cheap' grandstanding - but that was 20 years ago, and the system has grown more sophisticated than that). Would it be awesome if every citizen had the same access to what happens in Congress as a lobbyist? Or would that hurt the process of democracy and reduce political compromise to two groups of stage managers screaming past one another, with a polity that cannot even be bothered to read the laws?

donzelion said...

Duncan: In California, with direct democracy through the proposition system, the 'people' are the legislature (or rather, an activist, like Munger, can propose a take-it-or-leave-it statement of purpose, which the people choose to adopt, or not). That's why Prop 54 (like most others) states with a series of "declarations" (here are facts that we have observed), then a series of statements of purpose (here is what we want to achieve), and then proceeds to substance.

Yet no matter what is written in the statute, in every common law jurisdiction, a minority has opportunity to challenge the law (and in America, they have more opportunity than most: the constitution creates lots of possible avenues for challenge). It is "undemocratic" - but quite republican: the logic among lawyers is that the Constitution is 'Odysseus tying himself to the mast to listen to the Sirens" - we have the freedom to listen to precisely what the "people" say and not just when they vote - but we have limits to what legislatures can do that override what the people say at any precise moment (unless the people speak clearly enough to amend the Constitution).

Federally, amending the Constitution is quite hard. But in California, we can amend our Constitution with a relatively straightforward proposition, which happens all the time. Sadly, most Californians don't pay a whole lot of attention to the process until election day. And few Americans have gone so far as California has in the proposition-based system.

Also, bear in mind that most other countries pass "purpose statements" - but then set up other laws (or budgets) with contrary purpose statements. That can make things quite difficult to figure out (e.g., if Californians refuse to pass a budget for a month or two, would the budget debates constitute "emergency" measures such that final bills must be printed & posted 72-hours in advance - with the technicians conducting video recordings expected to work for 'free' as though they were firemen or police officers?).

Anonymous said...

Aficionados of the Western death path need only note the scuttling of the then head of the State Department to help the poor...owners of Uranium One. Money, repeated broken promises, the usual. And why would the decay of your disgusting freeways and peace-destroying planes be a downward spiral? Eliminating those would be significant progress towards a livable world and would nix a bunch of Carbon emissions. Or do you sit smug about your Carbon Indulgences until Kyoto III: No Really This Time For Sures in a decade or two?

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "Way back in the 19th C, government officials would hire anthropologists to "go study the natives" of a place, so they could learn best how to rule them."

A very British and French approach, and the birth of foreign intelligence agencies (at least the anthropologists gained some language training). America and the Soviet Union followed suit in the 20th century; but after T.E. Lawrence and Philby, Americans were suspicious of such officers ('cientitis').

Most such anthropological efforts focused on 'unique descriptors' and 'power relations' - both gave insight into where to focus recruitment efforts for a colonial venture (in India, Sikhs, Gurkhas, and Muslims were natural targets; in Syria, Alawites). Latin America could not have been conquered but-for assistance from subject peoples under Aztec rule.

"Claims made that male competition for access to females is "natural" and the #1 driving force in human society is pseudoscience drivel."
I'd say it's worse than drivel. Men who fear that women will shrug them aside as "undesirable" need to shape a "man v. man" world: nothing threatens their sense of masculinity more than strong women who choose whatever man they wish based on their own interests. Men with weak manhood need to believe that other men are evil so they can perceive themselves as good. They need to believe that because other men are evil, they must arm themselves to stand against those evil men (and they need women to believe that too, so that they'll judge such men as 'better' than both the evil men out there, and the 'weak' men who laugh at this nonsense).

So it's not just baseless pseudoscience: it's a ploy for control (and a sad plea for respect: 'love me, because other men are evil, and I'm just mediocre - hey, look at my guns!').

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Fox News and right wing radio guys have been spreading a cult of adoration of Vladimir Putin for a decade..."

The right wing naturally fixates on any "strong man" they can find: Mussolini, Hitler, and many others are recurring objects of curiosity because they are so distinctive from "weak men" they find at home. But the oligarchs within the right wing find Putin exceptionally useful for a different reason: so long as Putin is powerful, they have a possible hedge against China (where they are making the bulk of their money), and Putin himself is a hedge against other Russian oligarchs (as Putin can wipe those oligarchs out the second he chooses to do so) - making Russian creditors malleable in ways that Chinese and New Jersey investors are not malleable.

"Russia used to be red. Now the color doesn’t even apply in Trump Country."
Trump Country is proud to be red, and the folks who despise 'socialism' have always been happy to trade with Communists (since the Koch fortune was originally established). But that shouldn't be mistaken for affection or loyalty. It's just posture, which works because the bulk of their rank'n'file is semi-literate and even more malleable than foreign strong men.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: [Still trying to call you out on Prop 54. This is THE transparency measure this year...and who else has studied the subject for decades?]

"...great powers deliberately and relentlessly sabotage each others’ infrastructure, causing power and water systems and bridges and highways and factories to collapse, leading to a general decline of all sides and all human civilization into a downward spiral of shabbiness and decay."
It's an intriguing premise, BUT the greater threat to infrastructure has always been indifference and neglect. That said, Steve Roth, one of your fellow contributors at Evonomics makes an intriguing point about income, there's a corrolary to his observation that he omits in that article:

(1) Income determinations exclude capital gains. (The facts are indisputable on that point).
(2) Most capital gains (as much as 96%) flow to people who earn more than $1 million a year.
(3) COROLLARY: Because government accounting is set up to measure income/savings rates that EXCLUDE capital gains, expenditures for infrastructure get treated the same way as any other expenditure.

HOWEVER - unlike expenditures for education, national defense, healthcare for the elderly, infrastructure always has 'winners and losers': the losers fight every project tooth and nail (at least, up to the point that they can become 'winners'). And since the costs of infrastructure are clear, while the benefits diffuse, only a few champions will defend infrastructure investments.

A better approach to federal accounting that factored "how much infrastructure shifts capital gains" would look at various expenditures and figure out just who profits from any roads, bridges, freeways, dams. The contractors building those projects tend to be toward the bottom of the pecking order: to what extent do real estate barons who profit most from public works "exploit" infrastructure? To what extent do they sabotage rival infrastructure in order to make their own plots more valuable?

The battle is less a "cool war" between superpowers than a "secret war" between oligarchs - a modernized evolution of the ancient war between oligarchs over trade routes/roads.

LarryHart said...


I'm not sure Dr Brin is accessing the comments section while travelling. He did say he would not be making the usual "Onward..." posts, and there must be a reason why he can't do that.

Treebeard said...

The reason some of us like a “strong man” like Trump is because we see that without a strong advocate who is one of us, capitalist democracy easily gets taken over by hostile plutocrats and “invisible governors” (to use Bernays's phrase). Spengler observed that democracy gets captured by money power, which causes people to look to a strongman to fight the money-men. In case you haven't noticed, our government has been totally captured by the money men (especially Wall Street darling Clinton). The same thing happened in Russia after the Soviet collapse, which brought in the wildly popular Putin. The fact that the money-men are so desperately working to stop Trump (who is getting the vast majority of his money from small donations, while Clinton is getting hers from huge donors and massively outspending him) and other populists suggests that they are a mortal threat to the plutocracy. And yet, here we have these “liberals” like yourself acting as apologists and propagandists for the plutocracy, and acting to thwart what is a pretty clear groundswell of popular revolt against this plutocratic sham-democracy we have. What gives, Doctor Brin?

donzelion said...

LarryHart: I realize that he's traveling; I'm hoping he's occasionally checking in. Whether I agree with him or not, Prop 54 (government transparency) is the sort of matter that he can play an important role on: he need not play it here, but he has an insight that ought to be brought into play in an important debate, and I'll do what I can to call his attention to that.

Meanwhile, I'm sort of hoping that the marine he's endorsed in his Congressional district keeps surging in the polls. Applegate looks like a good man. Darrell Issa? Not so much. But San Diego County has several Republican bastions: there are a lot of folks fighting to block freeways, most of whom are motivated by a very different sort of a "death cult" than the one concerning our anonymous munchkin above, or our resident Ent.

LarryHart said...


I get that you like an authoritarian strong man. What I don't get is how Donald Trump fits the role. Up until recently, he did a good job of playing one on tv, but he's a complete con man. He's selling you a bill of goods, and you seem to think that willingly falling for his shtick is advantageous to you. It is not.

If by some whatever-the-opposite-of-miracle is, Trump did manage to be elected president, you and his supporters would be the first to have buyers' remorse. He's not strong. He bluffs and threatens well, but that only gets you so far.

donzelion said...

Treebeard: "In case you haven't noticed, our government has been totally captured by the money men" Actually, a better way of phrasing it would be to say that our government was created, conceived, built, expanded, and transformed by the "money men."

Some 'money men' fight to stop Trump; most fight to 'support' him (or rather, they shrug him aside as the irksome little boy that he is, and turn their attention to more important matters). They do care about "containing" Hillary when she trounces Trump; they have no interest in defeating her if they can manage her, but need her to know they can wipe out any lead in Congress within a year or two, and reverse anything she does.

The money men are not afraid of liberals, or conservatives: they can buy either as they please, and play one against the other - laughing all the way to the bank at the impasse. They are annoyed by taxes, but have an army of accountants and can manage that too. The money men are not moved by fear, because they know how easily they can arouse it, and if they miscalculate, Switzerland and many other countries will offer protection. Or rather, what frightens them is not any government anywhere, so much as challenges posed by other money men.

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

Hi donzelion

Not so sure that the "money men" can run away if they need to,
I read an article saying that they were looking at NZ as a refuge if things turned to custard

A country that has large numbers of Maori and Scots - and a tradition of equality

I suspect any "money men" trying to retreat from a worldwide problem to NZ would find that they had exchanged the frying pan for the fire

Jeff B. said...

Re: the 22 million lost Bush emails: good news and bad news (depending on your perspective). The 22 million were almost all stored in private servers to deliberately avoid FOIA and govt. recordkeeping requirements. They were reported as lost, but subsequent work recovered most of them. So, Clinton certainly wasn't the first, and followed an example that was probably more widespread under Bush II.

Snopes has a good examination of the issue.

Jeff B. said...

And as far as Putin and Russia goes, yes, they've chosen to view the West as adversary. But I've stated here before that this is far more than mere opportunism or the machinations of a 2nd-class despot. Russians in general have deep, deep cultural suspicions of the outsider; for centuries they were victims to repeated invaders, first from the East, then later after they'd grown strong enough (following the West's lead in technological development) to shake of the Eastern threat, from the West. While the West promised the fruit of prosperity, this was tempered with three huge invasions since the beginning of the 19th century.

After WWII, the Cold War, although perhaps inevitable, was partly a result of Soviet leadership's interpretation of Western democracies setting up on its borders as another possible threat. Turkey, West Germany, Greece, and (originally) British and American interests in Iran combined with Maoist hostility pretty much guaranteed Russian suspicions, and such deeply held beliefs couldn't just disappear once the USSR fell.

And Putin, while very much playing the game with the oligarchy, was a child of the Cold War KGB and learned his worldview and lessons on the West in that light. He learned from the West after the USSR's fall- his mastery of Western media techniques make him very popular at home. So he can't be dismissed merely by the despot label; in some ways he is perhaps an embodiment of the Russian worldview- proud, defiant, certain he faces hostile neighbors, determined to protect his country (and, of course, his place in it).

Jumper said...

Trump a "strong man?" He's a punk and he's always been a punk.

Jumper said...

BTW, is there any source for the statement that Bush reassigned FBI off terrorism to pursue Clinton revenge? I have no doubt it could be so but documentation is hard to come by.

Treebeard said...

We aren't grey, we're orange. Red/blue, Confederate/Union divisions are obsolete – we're all citizens of the Trump Nation. In Trump Nation, everyone will be issued Trump Cards that entitle them to Trump steaks, Trump wine, Trump university credits, Trump hotel stays and gambling at Trump casinos. Everyone will have supermodel wives and live like reality TV billionaires. There will be Trump hotels on Mars and Trump rockets heading for the stars. There will be giant statues of Trump in every city, and giant walls to keep out the global forces of anti-Trumpism. But for those inside the walls, it's going to be a god-damned utopia. And you're trying to tell us this dream isn't worth fighting for?

Jumper said...

As long as you're fighting for dreams, dream a little harder. And congratulations on your newfound sense of humor.It's about time! To maintain it, wipe occasionally with a damp cloth.

Paul SB said...

Tell your colleague that was nicely done! Brings back memories, but when I had my solar energy class the internet was in its infancy and we had to use a lot of imagination. The diagrams your colleague put together are simple and easy to understand – which is as it should be.

Paul SB said...

In the previous thread our little buddy loci said that I am the poster boy for WEIRD, 'Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic', then went on to say that we are all delusional. Well, I can't argue with Western, as I was born and raised in that hemisphere, Educated, most certainly (and better ovocranial than osteocranial any day), Industrialized, only really because of the time and place in which I live. But the last two are bunk. By Western Industrial standards I am a far cry from Rich (if I was I would probably be too busy setting up my own Ferney to waste time swatting little men with huge egos), and while I have voted Democratic before, I have never signed up with the Party (and never will, though I would consider singing up with one if America had a dozen viable parties to choose from). That leaves me as WEI, which in Mandarin means "Huh?"

As usual the guy loses more credibility the more he types. If someone calls me weird, I usually thank them enthusiastically. It's not just that normal is boring, but "normal" is only a standard in the hearts of people who have childish insecurities. (Or as Bono once sang, "When I was 3 I thought the world revolved around me. I was wrong, and now I sing along.") No surprise that he assumes I am a Democrat, as extremists only see extremes - with their own camp or the opposite. If you are anywhere but an extreme, they can't understand you, because all they understand are the straw men that get bantered around by extremists. Might as well start calling him Straw Ranch.

Only fellow extremists can buy into his pseudoscientific sexism, or any of the other screed he peddles.

Paul SB said...

Treeyore, the problem with selling out to a "Big Man" is that the "Big Man" really doesn't give a rat's ass about you, or anyone else who sells out to him. You are nothing but a source of income, or labor, or a hole to be used for that "Big Man's" self-gratification. This is what happens when the alpha male gorilla takes over, and this is what happens when the "Big Man" takes over. That alpha male only lasts a couple years before someone else bumps him off, and his lackeys all go to the gallows. I'm not enamored of Hillary Clinton. I think the system here has developed too much inertia. But selling our souls to a "Big Man" is no solution - it's out of the frying pan and into the fire, and as Don McLean once sang - Fire is the Devil's only friend.

Paul SB said...

Now that I think of it, I should probably apologize to Treebeard for the snarky pseudonym. I still stand by what I said, but I could have been more polite about it. Sorry there, dude!

Ilithi Dragon said...

Not much to comment on the main topic, but I did want to throw out a mention regarding the idea of an RPG we'd talked about a few threads back.

My good friend, Catamount, and I (some of you might remember him, as he was a regular poster here a while back) have been working on an expansive sci-fi story universe that we hope to one day turn into a novel series. It stemmed from a conversation we were having on the Fermi Paradox, and the thought I put forward of, "What if we're that minor race that doesn't have Dilithium in its home system?" (to which Catamount promptly and appropriately replied, "YOU SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH!!!").

Base premise is that, by the end of the 22nd Century, humanity is doing pretty darn great. About as great as we could hope for, without a number of miracle technologies. We've colonized across the solar system, but it takes weeks to months to go anywhere with fusion reactors and plasma engines. We've been uplifting chimps, dolphins, and crows for decades, sentient AI have existed for decades, and have (relatively) recently been granted full legal rights, and exist as happy, productive members of the civilization. We've had problems, but we've solved them as adults. Then we encounter the rest of the galaxy, when one species kingdom sends an expedition from their equivalent of the East India Company to stake a claim to Earth, because "There be coal in them there hills!" Suddenly, humanity is thrust into a galaxy of tinpot kingdoms that haven't advanced much past Victorian era steam power, because they come from stars with abundant access to super-heavy elements that have gravimetric effects when electricity is applied to them, much like how lighter metals have electromagnetic effects when electricity is applied, allowing them to get into space with relative ease as soon as they developed the ability to generate electricity (plus larger plot elements). Suddenly, a technologically advanced and sophisticated Terran civilization, with fusion technology, advanced genetics, cybernetics, and AI-level sophistication in computers and programming, is thrust into a galactic civilization where the height of technology is a coal-fired steam ship with a crude diesel engine for emergency back-up, and mechanical, analogue calculating tools. Antics ensue.
We're looking to get things started sometime in early 2017, since my schedule won't support until then, and we have a lot of prep work to do before we're ready to start, but anyone interested in learning more, or giving the RPG a go, let me know.

Robert said...

Sounds like a short story I'd read sometime in the past.

Or heard about.

Rob H.

Paul SB said...

Ilithi Dragon,

No time on my part to commit to a campaign, though it sounds like fun. The premise sounds very similar to the old Space 1889 game. Your " tinpot kingdoms that haven't advanced much past Victorian era steam power, because they come from stars with abundant access to super-heavy elements that have gravimetric effects when electricity is applied to them" is a little like that game's Martian Liftwood. The main difference is that it is a galactic setting, and everyone else is stuck in the Victorian Era except the Humans. Interesting twist! Hope you have a blast (a blast of steam?)

Paul SB said...

Locumranch's little rant the other day reminds me of a story that came up in an Asian Civ class. I don't remember if it was related in the Ramayana or if it was in a different book, but it was interesting to contemplate. In the story, the "god of 1000 eyes" turned his attentions to the beautiful daughter of an old and well-cultivated guru. When the guru found out what the 1000-eyed god was up to, he came out of his cave and placed a curse on the god, which turned his 1000 eyes into 1000 vulva, so all the world could see what was on his mind. The god was so ashamed he hid in his palace and would not let anyone see him until the curse wore off.

Myths are usually allegories with political themes, like the interesting interpretation of the Cain and Abel story as a representation of two ancient city-states brought up in the last thread. In such stories gods are always kings, and the god of 1000 eyes is easily seen as the king with 1000 spies. The moral of the story, of course, is that while the ordinary citizens don't have political power, they do have the ability to shame a bad leader.

But the problem with applying this idea to today is that we have way too many people who see shameful behavior as a badge of honor. In our story, Trump might be the god of 1000 hands, each one reaching into the bank accounts and/or orifices of ordinary citizens. But the orange coalition admire him for that, instead of damning him for the bastard he is. How would Trump be any different from Franco, Marcos, Mussolini, Ho Chih Mihn, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Castro or any other petty dictator? The US does not have an equivalent of the Emergency Powers clause of the Weimar Republic, which means he can't become the kind of petty dictator he aspires to be. The Shrub tried, and he could only go so far, unable to jack up his country half as badly as those other jacked up theirs (he sure jacked up Iraq, though).

LarryHart said...

Mike Doonesbury's summer daydream...

What if Trump does somehow win election to the presidency, by voter suppression, by hacking, or by a true populist uprising against Clinton? At this point, he hates the "turncoat" Republicans more than he hates the Democrats. In fact, his "hatred" of Democrats is a tactical move for playing in this election, while he is in full Trumpian vendetta mode against the GOP establishment.

Is he really likely to enact Republican values or to let the Heritage Foundation choose "constitutionalist" judges to elevate to the Supreme Court? I think it might be just as likely he'd nominate Barack Obama, just out of spite!

And if congress sat on the nomination, he'd go ahead and take silence as consent. And if they voted Obama down, nominate Hillary Clinton. Al Gore. Keep upping the ante until congress caves in fear of who he'll put forth next.

Aaron Burr: This should be fun.

LarryHart said...

Ilithi Dragon:

(to which Catamount promptly and appropriately replied, "YOU SHUT YOUR WHORE MOUTH!!!")

That's almost a line from "Hamilton"!

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

But the problem with applying this idea to today is that we have way too many people who see shameful behavior as a badge of honor. In our story, Trump might be the god of 1000 hands, each one reaching into the bank accounts and/or orifices of ordinary citizens. But the orange coalition admire him for that, instead of damning him for the bastard he is.

The irony is that Trump's notion to expel those of us who don't believe in American values would, if implemented correctly, cause him and the deplorables among his supporters to be the first to go.

Tim H. said...

If there was a national security issue that could be solved by schtupping, Trump might be the guy, for everything else, not so much. BTW, I hope Freeboard isn't expecting to go to Trump's Taj mahal, it folded.

raito said...

Ilithi Dragon:

Harry TurtleDove, The Road Not Taken

I won't link to a PDF version, but you can find it easily enough.

Your version supposes that Earth is missing some critical element. Turtledove's supposes that we just missed the scientific boat.

I think I prefer Turtledove's as it doesn't require that Earth get the critical element from anyone. As soon as we have the ship, we can get to space ourselves.

Unless there's going to be an awful lot of alien politics involved, you'd think that the aliens could just quarantine the system and not let humanity out.

A key plot point is that early access to space travel sucks up enough of a civilization's effort that science lags behind.

Barrington Bayley's Star Winds also come to mind. There, humanity thinks that Mars is the technology source, when in reality, it was just a trading outpost of a much larger universe.

Jonathan Sills said...

Ilithi, the story others are referring to is "The Road Not Taken", by Harry Turtledove.

It's not quite the same concept; in that story, there was a simple experiment every other species known discovered when they were at about a 16th- or 17th-century level of technology, which gave them contragravity and FTL. They would set out among the stars in their wooden ships, armed to the teeth with cutlasses and black powder, confident that any species without FTL was even more primitive. Then they found modern-day Earth, where we never discovered that other technology and were forced to make do with learning more about physics, aeronautics, and chemistry than the poor aliens ever managed. They tried their usual technique of opening negotiations with a volley of cannon fire, and were promptly defeated. The last two survivors shared a horrified thought at the end - they had just given Earth, with its advanced metallurgy and nuclear weapons, the key to the stars as well...

Your aliens are a little more advanced than Turtledove's, and wouldn't be a pushover for Terran technology - they could be defeated, but not as easily, as they've got everything we have except atomics, lasers, and possibly radio (and associated technologies like radar).

Jonathan Sills said...

And I'm ninja'd by raito. However, I was delayed by searching for a PDF of "The Road Not Taken" (which I did not find) and by learning of its sequel, "Herbing-Haro", and finding a PDF of that (which I did). Basic idea behind "Herbing-Haro" is that several centuries in the future, after the Terran Confederacy has collapsed, a mercenary exploration company discovers (by losing four scouts first) the existence of another species that didn't get FTL until reaching 20th-century tech. Things... don't go swimmingly for our hero.

A.F. Rey said...

Ilithi, I would also read Poul Anderson's The High Crusade (a book I read not too long ago at your illustrious host's suggestion). That story deals with a group of knights that meet some space-faring invaders, take over their ship, then use the ship to travel to the galactic kingdom and take over that, all using medieval battle techniques.

Something for your alien races to do until the Earthlings figure out how to counteract them. :)

A.F. Rey said...

Donzelion, regarding Prop. 54, I don't think it is really an issue of transparency, per se.

From what I understand of the proposition (primarily from the California Report on public radio), it primarily has to do with requiring any bill to be published 72 hours before voting.

This is not really transparency, since the text of the bill will always be on record even after it is voted on. This has more to do with timing, and giving the legislators a chance to review the bill before it comes to a vote, with the primary complaint that legislators have to vote on bills while "the ink is still wet."

While I sympathize with the complaint (and right now feel inclined to vote for it), I do have some reservations, primarily because the only one who has funded the "Yes" campaign is a local rich, conservative farmer. According to the segment, the main beneficiary of this proposition would not be the People (who would need more time than that to review legislation, and probably wouldn't hear about it until the last minute anyway) or the legislators themselves (who could vote for retraction of aspects of the bills if needed, and who probably wouldn't vote for the bills in the first place if they came from the other party, no matter how much time they were given.) :)

Rather, it would benefit Special Interest groups and their lobbyists, for whom it would give enough time to find aspects that they disagree with and to pressure legislators about them.

I believe that legislators should have time to review bills and weigh the benefits against the problems. But if the only thing this proposition would do is give lobbyists a change to squeeze legislators before voting, it may not be worth it.
Especially for bills that are the result of heavy negotiations before they are put to a vote, like the climate action bill.

David Brin said...

jeffB - in the mid 80s I predicted that the Cold War would ease a bit when a generation of russian leaders arrived who had never personally known war. Ye, the core personality remains paranoia. Indeed, their effort to build a eurasian alliance against the West is disturbing,

Treebeard - notice I use his given name because, while his rant was drivel-nonsense, it was not hateful - cannot help but proclaim fealty to feudalism, every time. His depicted golden age is the dream of every caudillo and troglodytic lover of strongmen. Never mind that caudillos never delivered advancement, science, or improvement of life for commonfolk… though sometimes they subsidized art. Precisely because they were not answerable to accountability processes, nearly all such leaders were functionally insane and delusional. In any single generation of our Great Experiment, we out perform ALL generations of ALL feudal cultures and nations, combined, in all categories of human achievement. Except pain.

Ilithi Dragon, it was way cool to meet you at the SciFi bookstore in Albany NY. You are an impressive young feller and your service to our country is appreciated. Let me know if the package of books for your sub does or does not arrive within a few weeks.

Your pal's scenario is fun-sounding. It's in a very small sub-genre called Interstellar Blunderbuss Fiction. I do this is my Out Of Time series in which a godlike race gives IS teleportation to 2000 races across the galaxy, all at once, and some of them are barely technological. In any event, have your pal go to and look up my Advice to New Writers. It may be helpful!

Oh the classic inverse story, wherein 11th century English knights get to do galactic empire stuff is Poul Anderson's THE HIGH CRUSADE. Which had a very insipid German film made of it.

PaulSB some think Cain/Abel was about the shift from hunting to agriculture and the latter being kind of cursed.

Jumper said...

I admire Steven Gould because even though two major themes of his novels - personal teleportation, and doors into other worlds - were covered numerous times in prior work, and he just didn't give a damn. He had stories to tell and just let the muse grab him, and off he went. The results (the Jumper series, and Wildside) are good work. This "damn the torpedoes" attitude is probably crucial for a writer.

Strangely, once I started writing little tales, I discovered I would rather write stuff that ended up not being SF! I always thought I'd try it but once I started scribbling it turns out maybe it's not my path.

donzelion said...

AF Rey: Prop 54 has two main operations (and a host of implementation provisions:
(1) Any bill must be printed and published 72 hours before voting, and
(2) Any public legislative meeting must be broadcast, with archives available for 20 years, and which may be used by anyone for any purpose

"This is not really transparency"
Since much legislation occurs as a result of 11th hour compromises, publishing and fixing the terms of the legislation is very much about transparency. The broadcast of public meetings + 20 year archive would be CSPAN on steroids. It's a pretty substantial step towards transparency (maybe).

"This has more to do with timing, and giving the legislators a chance to review the bill before it comes to a vote"
That is also a factor, BUT a 72-hour delay on a vote would achieve the same goal. This "post and display" approach is, apparently, new in California.

"I do have some reservations, primarily because the only one who has funded the "Yes" campaign is a local rich, conservative farmer."
Umm..I think you're thinking of Prop 53. Prop 54 was funded by a wealthy scientist, Dr. Charles Munger Jr., the scion of Charles Munger senior (the partner and co-founder of Warren Buffett's business empire). In my mind, that doesn't make it right or wrong - but it is a flag warranting further investigation.

"the main beneficiary of this proposition would not be the People (who would need more time than that to review legislation"
My fear is that the legislation will get assassination treatment, with opponents hitting at any compromise measures to score points. It's not hard to reduce a bill down to a sound bite when one opposes it, and then plaster that throughout social media.

That said, it could be worth the price.

"it would benefit Special Interest groups and their lobbyists"
Almost certainly that will occur. At the federal level, when the government is controlled by political theater and party posturing, actual legislative work shifts to the federal agencies (and gets reviewed/challenged by the courts).

But if the only thing this proposition would do is give lobbyists a change to squeeze legislators before voting, it may not be worth it.
Agreed. That is why I cautiously may vote for it, but am also extremely ambivalent about what the likely price would be. Among the progressive groups, there's a division in the ranks: I've not encountered a bill embraced by the National Organization for Women and opposed by the League of Women Voters at the same time.

This one hangs in a balance, awaiting some deeper thoughts on what transparency is, what it is good for, and how best to achieve it.

locumranch said...

I think David is asking the wrong question: It's not whether or not our elections can be hacked, it's whether or not our elections can be free.

In our post-Skinnerian Era, we are constantly subjected to omnipresent emotional manipulation, so much so that many of us have retreated into mass-induced media psychosis.

Like Paul_SB, we have been conditioned to believe that we are 'poor', even though we live in the most materially successful society in the history of the world, in order to justify our individual & collective demand for frenetic & thoughtless activity that we euphemistically describe as 'economic'.

Even though many of us no longer produce anything of material value, we work longer & longer hours in make-work careers. We work so we can afford the prerequisites of work: Men work so they can afford the transport, gadgets & attire required for their occupations; and women place their children in daycare in order to afford to pay someone else to raise their children.

We reside in a perpetual motion machine, the end product of Industrial Age Methodism, and most of us are terrified of stepping off our socially-mandated hamster wheels.

The average Western WEIRD-o, and I include myself in this category, suffers from Post-Incarceration Syndrome:

We are so terrified of freedom that we place fetters on ourselves.

Care to perform an experiment? Make two lists. The first list should contain those things that you currently permit yourself to do; and the second list should contain those actions that appear forbidden. Which list is longer? Then, remind yourself that tomorrow never comes & rip up that stupid bucket list of yours.


donzelion said...

Paul SB: Your tale of the "curse for a God of 1000 eyes" morphing into the "King with 1000 spies" made me think pageants. I'll hide in a cave with my shame later, yet a piece of me sees a cognitive link: a man who made a fair share of his money putting girls and women in bathing suits and parading them publicly - then "making" the suits skimpier, the heels higher, and bosoms larger.

Then there's the twin fiascos: Miss Teen South Carolina (poor kid), and the anti-evolution spiel of the bulk of the Miss USA candidates - Obviously, it's not their brains that are being valued. Seems to me that the design of pageantry takes the 'curse' of staring at those who stare at a parade of (slightly covered) vulvae: converting what ought to be shameful into something...proud?

"The orange coalition admire him for that"
It is a very strange sort of pornographic iconography. Most of the dictators (following a model typified by Augustus Caesar) strategically pushed moral causes, in part as a ploy to attack disfavored individuals and groups (targeting homosexuals, deviants, adulterers, and any others who failed to observe standards that were expected). The trick of using shame to attack so often and so aggressively to avoid ever being judged in turn is an old one.

The term "sexual politics" has been vogue for decades (with some claiming that Kennedy beat Nixon only because of his sex appeal) - but this is the first year it's become quite so central to a narrative that perplexes me. And yet, even I feel no small quantum of shame: when Michelle Obama frets about men who have gazed at women and made them feel uncomfortable, I am guilty of the charge (and it doesn't make me any less shameful to share in the guilt with Jimmy Carter - since he at least set about trying to make for a better world).

Jumper said...

Duchamp was so far ahead of his time we may not have caught up yet.

donzelion said...

Locum: "In our post-Skinnerian Era, we are constantly subjected to omnipresent emotional manipulation..."
From which people were free in a pre-Skinnerian Era? Unlikely.

"Even though many of us no longer produce anything of material value, we work longer & longer hours in make-work careers."
That's actually quite accurate. David Graeber has an exquisite piece about why that is the case in Evonomics. But on reading it, I cannot help avoid thinking of Camus' "Myth of Sisyphus": is it truly so horrific to imagine Sisyphus happy?

To which, my next thought is to alter the Sisyphus story: what if, while pushing his rock up the hill, Sisyphus spies his own son on the next hill over, similarly pushing a rock up? Would he shrug? Would he bewail the plight of man anew? Would he smile the same smile?

An existentialist shares your battle cry: "We are so terrified of freedom that we place fetters on ourselves." But perhaps not the solutions you've tended to advocate.

That said: still waiting for word that you've finished your book. Knock that one off your bucket list.

LarryHart said...


And yet, even I feel no small quantum of shame: when Michelle Obama frets about men who have gazed at women and made them feel uncomfortable, I am guilty of the charge (and it doesn't make me any less shameful to share in the guilt with Jimmy Carter

I've been wondering how important/useful it is to make the same confession. The beauty of women is what makes life worth living. If a pleasant-looking woman returns a smile at me, it can make my day.

So how is that different from Trump? Well, for one thing, my fantasies are so G-rated as to be embarrassing to relate. I like to look, and a pleasant return look is the tastiest icing on the cake. Nothing more invasive than that. And, Jimmy Carter notwithstanding, fantasizing is not the same thing as acting those fantasies out on an unwilling victim.

In real life, it would never occur to me to actually physically invade the space of, let alone forcibly grope or kiss a woman, let alone rape. Believe what you will, but I don't even fantasize about such things. I'm not just speaking politically-correct with a *nod wink* either. Regulars here know that I worship the ground my wife walks on, and there's no way the lure of a quick fling makes it worthwhile to risk hurting and losing her trust and love. But even when I was single and looking for strangers to interact with, my goal in an encounter was always to leave the woman in question pleased by me. I would never want to leave a woman creeped out, scared, or upset with me.

So I get to use my favorite 1984 quote again. The way Donald Trump acts toward women, relative to the way I act toward women, is "a different thing; in fact, the opposite thing."

You too. :)

Paul SB said...


I'm guessing you just took a brief look at the blog and are not yet back from your travels, so I should not expect an immediate answer. Still, it's good to see that some of this far-flung community can get to meet in person. On the Cain/Abel interpretation, that is pretty standard in the social sciences going all the way back to 1930's Structural Functionalism. This other interpretation (I forget who brought it up, though i remember Paul451 getting enthusiastic about it) interested me because it sounds like an artifact of Peer Polity Interaction. But being the eternal fence sitter, I can see the two interpretations as entirely compatible. Pastoral and agricultural communities rarely get along, frequently battling over land rights, access to water, etc. It should be no surprise that the myths and legends of agriculturalists and pastoralists would contain allegories regarding such age-old conflicts. But you often get kingdoms in which a majority of the people follow one economy or the other, such as the ancient Ethiops who were mostly pastoralists and neighbors to the more agricultural Egyptians. So seeing that myth as a representation of relations between nations is just an extension of the relationship between their respective pastoral and agricultural economies.

Regarding Treebeard, I wasn't exactly showing the better angels of my nature, was I?

Jeff B. said...

Dr. Brin,

in the mid 80s I predicted that the Cold War would ease a bit when a generation of russian leaders arrived who had never personally known war. Ye, the core personality remains paranoia. Indeed, their effort to build a eurasian alliance against the West is disturbing

The Russian psyche (if there can be said to be a collective "people's psyche" is a curious mixture of paranoia, cynicism, and hope. I was privileged to see just a bit of the first thaw of the ice dam that was the Soviet state (sorry, tired, metaphor's a morning creature.) In 1/89 I got to tour Leningrad, Moscow, Tiblisi, Toshkent, and Samarkand. While we didn't get to meet many locals, the Intourist (govt) guides assigned to us were eye openers. Gorbachev's glastnost and perestroika were in the air, so while I expected some cautious optimism, the guides were astonishing. Government employees, openly discussing the changes, their hopes, the dreams for their country's future.

I am sadly of Donzelion's opinion that the outcome after the fall of the USSR was perhaps inevitable. The fall left chaos and a huge power vacuum; without the moral restraints imposed by the Soviet system, the only ones who knew how to use power were the apparatchiks who became the oligarchs, and those who came to serve them. The optimism of the vast populace was a fragile thing; having no experience with anything resembling self-government, they turned as they have in times past to strong leaders to bring them out of the turmoil and fog and confusion.

Despite the inevitable tragedy, despite the rise of Putin and the oligarchs, Russia today is still a big improvement for many people. The state does not intrude too much into every aspect of life, people can communicate with each other and outsiders without (too much) fear (excepting those with the loudest opposition voices). We can only hope that this is a step on the way toward even more freedom, and that their paranoia is allowed to abate so that they can progress.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I kinda figured we weren't the first to have the concept occur to us, nor to make a story out of it. But it's a fun idea, and we're putting together an expansive universe with multiple layers of major and minor plots that I'm excited to explore and build further.

Dr. Brin,

It was a pleasure to be able to meet you, again, however briefly. I wanted to be there earlier, but we got out later than I was hoping to (our afternoon trainer got extended by almost an hour because we loaded the trainer up with the weapons launch console from a Virginia, then a first flight Los Angeles (I'm on a third flight LA class), to play with the different control set-ups and see if we could figure out how to shoot a torpedo all on our own - we weren't successful, even with the earlier version of the same class of ship that we're trained on, though that was as much the fault of trouble with the touch-screen trainer as anything else). We actually met, very briefly, once before, at the Smithsonian "The Future is Now" convention in DC a couple years ago. I was the guy wearing the Starfleet costume.
} : = 8 )

Paul SB said...


I get where your sense of shame is coming from, but I have a different take on that sort of thing.

"And yet, even I feel no small quantum of shame: when Michelle Obama frets about men who have gazed at women and made them feel uncomfortable, I am guilty of the charge (and it doesn't make me any less shameful to share in the guilt with Jimmy Carter - since he at least set about trying to make for a better world)."

We live in a world that has thousands of years of cultural baggage dumped upon us by ages in which our ancestors were largely clueless and were just guessing about what our nature as human beings truly is. It has only been within the last couple centuries, since we started down a path of using reason and evidence in place of blind obedience to authority that we have begun to get some inkling as to what we really are. While we may be centuries from full cognizance of ourselves, there is one thing we can be pretty sure of - were are mostly the same. The human species has remarkably little genetic diversity, and when you look at the genetic differences between the male and female of the species, it's quite tiny.

Paul SB said...

But every society on Earth creates oversimplified distinctions between its members base don superficial differences (exactly Straw Ranch's issue - he can't see that people are people, he has to put them all into categories. He claimed that I put women on a pedestal, which I suppose it must look that way from the view of an extremist who denigrates them.) Any group of people you care to name will contain its share of saints and sinners, whether that group is based on sex, "race," religion, nationality or choice of hobbies. Individuals go on pedestals when they do great things that deserve merit, regardless of who they are, where they came from, how much melanin is in their skin, or what may or may not dangle between their legs. Ethnographers noted long ago even the simplest cultures draw a distinction between child and adult, for obvious reasons. As human societies increase in size and complexity, they start drawing distinctions between people based on arbitrary characteristics, and the first to get institutionalized is sex (though many societies recognize more than 2 genders). As population and complexity increase, other arbitrary distinctions set in - kinship affiliations like clans, socioeconomic class, sodality memberships, occupations and so on, as the hierarchy builds. Each of these distinctions comes with its stereotypes, sets of assumptions, taboos, proscribed and prescribed behaviors.

All this mess is pasted over our instincts, and does much to channel them, but also to mask them. It is entirely natural for people to ogle one another. You can't help doing it. The question becomes, are you ogling with intent, and can the people you ogle tell if you are? For thousands of years civilizations have used all these arbitrary distinctions create conditions that allow physically larger males to take advantage of females, which makes them into what is called "structural inferiors" - people who it is often considered acceptable to treat in ways that would be considered unfair to others of your own status. Obviously this is not just about the M/F divide, it is also about ethnicity and SES, religion, language, etc. Those structural inferiors live in constant fear of the attentions of the "real" citizens.

Paul SB said...

I get what Michelle Obama was saying. It applies to anyone who lives in that status. As a society we are slowly changing into one where those old distinctions don't matter. We are working back toward the more egalitarian ways of our most distant human ancestors, for whom merit mattered much more than the accidents of birth. If your were a good hunter, no one cared what you looked like, because you were bringing home food. Today, if you are a good salesman, there is no reason anyone should care what you look like. Women can bullshit people out of their money just as easily as men can. But we are still clinging to these ancient ways of thinking. When you stare at a beautiful woman, she doesn't know for sure if she should feel flattered or afraid of what you might do to her. If you don't look, you might not be human (or you might be blind, or perhaps you might prefer to look at the other sex). Looking is not hurting, but as long as we live in a world full of primitive superstitions and outdated ideas, you do have to be careful not to terrify people. There is still that 20% greater body mass issue to consider, however gentlemanly we may be.

Troglodytes don't get this. They see women as nothing but objects, trophies to display their prowess, which is why they so often complain when women open their mouths (and I include my namesake, the Apostle, in this category). For them, there can never be a relationship of respect or friendship between sexes, unless you somehow excise all hormones from their bodies. But in our society today, male and female mingle at work, on the streets, on the beaches, in houses of worship, pretty much everywhere except the restroom, and most get along just fine. Our hormones still ensure that we will arouse one another, but arousal is not destiny. Don't feel guilty if your hormones turn your head. Members of both sexes need to understand that this is natural, and it does not make everyone into natural-born rapists. It is troglodyte culture that encourages some to behave that way, and you can't tell who is good or bad by the way they look, what accent come out of their mouths, etc. That makes it much harder for the structural inferior to change, out of fear and uncertainty, even while most of society is moving toward equality.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
It may be parochial but I prefer our
Publish for comments
Record all of the comments - re-work the legislation
Publish again
Then the legislature vote on the amended legislation

We don't record the actual sessions where the compromise is beaten out - IMHO there are more negatives than positives in publicizing that session

I suspect that it would work better with a parliamentarian system

Paul SB said...


You said up above: "The irony is that Trump's notion to expel those of us who don't believe in American values would, if implemented correctly, cause him and the deplorables among his supporters to be the first to go."

That would be true by most people's idea of what American values are, but if Donald Dunk becomes Dictator, he would be the one who got to define American values, and what he would do would surely be little different from every other dictatorship - superficial characteristics like nation of birth, sex or skin pigmentation would once again become defining features of friends and foes. Donzelion commented that most dictators since the time of Augustus try to paint themselves on the moral high road, which allows them to foist the fears of their populations onto the backs of helpless minority groups (a.k.a. scapegoating). What seems to be happening with Trump, though, is that he is working from a different set of morals, one that appeals to a subset of the population that is mostly male, mostly Caucasian and poorly educated. As a campaign strategy I doubt it will work. While there are a lot of troglodytes around, they aren't the majority anywhere in the country.

Paul SB said...

Larry, con.t,

I like your comments to Donzelion. I can't say I haven't had dark thoughts at times, or maybe the term might be playful, as I have never felt an urge to do anything more than snuggle, but I would bet if I ever acted on those thoughts they would not be interpreted that way. I could never get the desire to rape. How could it possibly make a person feel good to be hated? I have no real desire to even touch a woman, however beautiful, if I do not actually like her, and she me. Neurochemistry bears me out on this one. The thing about what your brain releases after sex that I have explained before: if you love the person, you get oxytocin, which makes long-lasting happiness. If you don't and see your partner as an inferior, your brain released prolactin, which makes you irritable and unsatisfied. A rapist gets his dopamine high, but goes through life feeling forever empty.

The problem is that ancient cultural baggage. When I was an undergrad we were examining birth rates among different human populations, and a trend became pretty clear. The more clothes people wore, the higher their birth rate. Those "naked savages" seem to be committing a lot less "sin" than those uptight civilization slickers with all their religious taboos. As soon as you forbid something, it starts looking better and better. likewise I heard interviews with teenagers in Denver, where pot has been legal for a couple years now, who were saying that pot isn't cool anymore. It's not forbidden, so it's lost its mystique.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I'm happy to inform you that you are fully WEIRD in the sense that locumranch implies. The ‘D’ doesn’t mean Democrat. It means democrat. It means you expect to have a say in the governance of the state without becoming an aristocrat to do it. That fits most Americans, so wear it proudly. The ‘R’ means rich relative to the subsistence line of about $3/day of real income. You might not be rich by US standards, but the ~12% 9and shrinking) of the world left near that line would simply point out that all Americans are rich. They’d have a point too.

The WEIRD acronym comes from the folks doing psych research in the West who mostly study their students. It turns out that their students aren’t very representative of humanity as a whole. Much of the world is becoming WEIRD, though, so this might not matter much longer. You would know this lesson from the anthropology side. Imagine all of us applying what we know about ourselves to foragers of 30,000 years ago. There have been sociological changes since then (and variety too), but the WEIRD thing is it is possible there are psych differences too.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding Prop 54 here in California…

Rather, it would benefit Special Interest groups and their lobbyists, for whom it would give enough time to find aspects that they disagree with and to pressure legislators about them.

The well-funded groups are already in there trying to spot deals made in smoke filled rooms or at the last hour. With the current method, only the well-funded groups can afford to play this game. A 72 hour delay would enable groups with smaller funds to play the game too. Since some special interest groups oppose others, this might work to our benefit. At a minimum, though, it will open up the legislative process to us all. Since so many of us seem to like the initiative process where we act as our own legislature, that makes this aspect of Prop 54 a transparency thing. We get to look back at people in positions of authority.

The neat thing about the meeting record provision isn’t the recording of what the talking heads say. That’s good, of course, but the potentially big deal happens if some of us turn the cameras outward into the audience. We will be able to see who is there watching. Try this at the level of city politics and you’ll see people who imagine themselves as potential members of city governance groups. One can learn a lot about the pressures city officials face by watching the people who watch them.

I’d like to see a proposition someday that expands this one to cover all governance in the State. For groups with small budgets, I’d be happy enough with a rule that said they couldn’t block people recording what they do and using it for any legitimate (not criminal) purpose. The act of governance should be observable (open meetings rule) and recordable (by anyone).

The fight will come someday when we consider the Courts.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I like your comments to Donzelion. I can't say I haven't had dark thoughts at times, or maybe the term might be playful, as I have never felt an urge to do anything more than snuggle, but I would bet if I ever acted on those thoughts they would not be interpreted that way.

I think people like Trump really believe that their power and celebrity makes them desirable to women. So when he feels them up or grabs them by the you-know-what, or walks in on them naked in the dressing room, he thinks they are enjoying the attention from him. That's why he can say, and probably believe, that these women are lying. Not that they're lying about his actions (he's already bragged about that), but about the fact that his attentions were unwanted.

I could never get the desire to rape. How could it possibly make a person feel good to be hated?

That's because you're not a bully. Bullies like Trump and the deplorables among his followers enjoy it when people fear and hate them, but are impotent to do anything about it. I'd guess that they enjoy that feeling even more than the sex.

I have no real desire to even touch a woman, however beautiful, if I do not actually like her, and she me.

Well, "desire" is an ambiguous term. I admit to having a "desire" to touch a beautiful woman in the sense of "It would feel really nice to do so", but I do not have a "desire" to live out all of the real-world consequences of so brazen an act. And I certainly have no desire at all to touch a woman for the purpose of making her feel uncomfortable or victimized.

Paul SB said...

I'm well aware of the term and its use in evolutionary psychology. You know that, and I know that, but read what HE wrote again and you will see that is not at all what HE meant by it. In his twisted mind he sees himself and his rural red clade as Not-WEIRD, and WEIRD as a pejorative to hurl at all urbanites, who he still deludes himself into labeling blue. So yes, I am fully WEIRD in the way E.O. Wilson would use the terms, as are all of us who visit this blog. Anyone who has the means to visit this blog is at least Industrialized, even little loci, unless he can show that his computer was farmed or is some kind of dairy product.

As far as the relative psychology of people in different places and times goes, psychology is conditioned by culture and environment, so of course people who lived 30 k years ago would have a different psychology. People who live in different countries at the same time have different psychologies, even living under the same post-industrial economies. And in 30 k years there is enough time for even the genetic underpinnings of psychology to show some change, though you have to get that psychology is not just about gene frequencies. For most of the last century psychologists claimed that whatever they discovered in Western college students must be human universals, claims that not just anthropologists were dubious of. Since the evolutionary psychology paradigm started, at least some psychologists have moved away from universalizing their navel gazes.

Paul SB said...

Your assessment of Trumpers seems pretty on-mark to me, and I'm speaking of bullies generally and not specifically Trump voters. As far as the impulses go, maybe I have known too many beautiful women who were just horrible people. I know when I was younger my impulses were stronger, but my experience has dampened those down. I see good-looking and my mind immediately responds with distrust, while women who are more plain but have what seems like a genuine smile strike me as more attractive. I have the same effect, in a non-romantic sense, with men who are charismatic. I'm no judge of male looks, but I can tell when a man is persuasive, and I immediately start to distrust anyone who comes across as charismatic. Too many bad experiences, so my reflexes have been conditioned.

donzelion said...

Alfred: Re Prop 54: "The neat thing about the meeting record provision isn’t the recording of what the talking heads say. That’s good, of course, but the potentially big deal happens if some of us turn the cameras outward into the audience. We will be able to see who is there watching."

I get the frame of reference: we have no need of Newt Gingrich preaching to a choir of crickets at 11:50 pm on a Friday night when nobody is watching (for the sake of composing)...but in this day and age, wouldn't it be relevant if someone did make such a speech, with "no one" watching, and that lack of an audience was itself worth positing? I can just imagine people trying to speak, claiming they made an earth-shattering speech, and then the feedback showing that "5000 people watched that speech, of which, 4000 were robots and the last 1000 weren't even from the same country." What a path?

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Oh. Heh. His clade is definitely WEIRD too, though not quite so liberal in the classical sense. Too much reverence of aristocratic honor. 8)

(Obviously I didn't read him carefully enough.)

I've been enjoying my reading of the debate over whether human psychology has actually changed since our forager days. One side points to this bit of evidence and the other says that the society frames what the plastic humans within it can do, but a return to an older frame would show we are still what we were. It all sounds so impossible to falsify to me, but it is fun reading. 8)

(I suspect the domestication of dogs has changed us fundamentally by reshaping what it means to be a human individual. Take away our dogs and I don't think we'd be what we once were no matter what else was also reverted.)

I do note that locumranch has a notably peasant view of value tied to labor, but I'm finally tired of economic quibbling. He just wants to argue, so I'm going to let it go and return my favorite science. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: A lack of audience would be useful to know too, but I suspect that will happen as certain groups shift to watching electronically. The special interests that don't want to be noted will reduce their costs and exposure and hide.

Where I think the audience view will come in most useful is when candidates point out that they support or oppose cause X and we can tie there statements to other events, non-events, and the people around them. Mix in the facial recognition software and this could get interesting in a social graph kind of way.

Heh. You still aren't going to get your indefinite preservation, though. I admire your desire for it, but even language changes over the course of a couple of generations. You'll need scholars performing exegesis to decipher the older material and tech people performing the digital equivalent to play the older material. I know a guy who worked recently to recover NASA data from old nine-track tapes of the early lunar exploration. He had a heck of a time finding equipment and code that could read the tapes let alone vendors who could maintain it all when it broke. V Vinge in his Zones of Thought stories described such efforts not as programming, but as archeology. The youngest among us are likely to see so much change that they will understand one need not be mining an archive from a previous civilization to run into this issue. Our own is changing rapidly enough that we will have trouble mining our own archives.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

As far as the impulses go, maybe I have known too many beautiful women who were just horrible people. I know when I was younger my impulses were stronger, but my experience has dampened those down. I see good-looking and my mind immediately responds with distrust, while women who are more plain but have what seems like a genuine smile strike me as more attractive.

Ah, you weren't denying an enjoyment of female charms, but taking issue with what constitutes attractiveness. I certainly identify with that, and when I referred to a "beautiful" woman above, I meant one who I personally find subjectively attractive, not one who fits particular conventional standards.

For example, just a few weeks back, I was in the grocery store when I came across a short woman trying and failing to reach bags of chips which were on the top level of shelves. She was not conventionally "beautiful"--older than my 55 years--but neither was she ugly, just what would probably be described as "plain". Donald Trump would never have given her a second look. But her grateful smile when I offered to reach the bags for her--it just makes my day.

And if I were running for public office and some reporter dug up that woman and tried to get dirt from her about me, I am confident that if she remembered the moment at all, it would be fondly. Ok, that might be wishful thinking, so let me say, she'd at least probably vote for me.

LarryHart said...

Holy crap, tornadoes aren't normal in Oregon, are they?

I hope Dr Brin has safely left by now.

Paul SB said...


The inability to falsify has been a primary criticism of ev psych from its inception. It comes up with all sorts of really fascinating hypotheses, but rarely finds ways that they can be tested, so it all turns into just-so stories. But they are such fascinating just-so stories!

As far as changing psychology goes, most likely those who argue that we haven't changed one bit in 40,000 years are just clinging to an old paradigm they grew up with. There is also very good arguments for emphasizing continuity. Humans have huge problems adapting to modern life. We aren't even fully adapted to agricultural life, and we have been doing that for 8,000 years. We have gained a whole lot of understanding, especially in terms of diseases and disorders, by positing the old Environment of Evolutionary Adaptation. It's a huge advance over the untested assumptions of the past. But it is also apparently wrong to a certain extent. 80 centuries in plenty of time for at least some changes in gene frequencies to become apparent, to say nothing of neuroplasticity - the natural adaptiveness of our neural tissues to fit our environments.Unfortunately, neither brains for gene sequences preserve very well, and we don't have time travel, so we mostly have general principles to go on.

As far as little loci goes, I have been saying for a long time that he just likes to argue.

Paul SB said...

Tornadoes are pretty rare along the coast, but they do happen once in awhile. I grew up in a Plains state and we had tornadoes every summer. They can be serious, but not a huge panic button. Good, sturdy architecture is most of what you need, but most people are too poor for sturdy. It reminds me of an old Calvin & Hobbes comic in which Calvin remarks that God must be a vengeful god, or else He would not have put tornadoes and trailer parks in the same places.

Wasn't Dr. Brin just in New York?

A grateful smile from anybody, male or female, cute or otherwise, old or young, makes my day. And for me "cute" has more to do with personality, though I don't deny there's a visual component.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "You still aren't going to get your indefinite preservation, though."
Again, I can't see why not. Yes, popping petabytes onto spinning hard drives won't cut it. But there are many alternatives, and processes of archiving can be dramatically improved with the right interest.

You'd be surprised how many 200-year old legal cases one comes across when studying the history of laws: 'ancient' and difficult to read, the origins of both modern patent theory and numerous aspects of real estate trace to a dispute over a fox hunt in 1805. The language may change, but the meaning derived from language is itself a living injection from an audience of respondents: I can only guess how much nuance might be derived from 2016 intonation and posture by a historian in 2216, let alone a lawyer.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- indefinite preservation

The way that the computer game seems to work is that every time I get a new machine its hard drive is at least 20 times the size of the old one

This means that storing everything off the old machine only takes 5% of the new drive - a reasonably insignificant amount

So I simply stuff all of the old junk into a corner of the new disc

Extrapolating forwards this should mean that the indefinite preservation will just happen

donzelion said...

Duncan (again re Prop 54): "It may be parochial"
It isn't.

"but I prefer our Publish for comments Record all of the comments - re-work the legislation Publish again Then the legislature vote on the amended legislation"
That is how it is normally done here as well. If Prop 54 passes, then instead of being 'normal' procedure, "publishing 72 hours ahead" would become mandatory.

But there are fairly common exceptions to the process that come up in 'must-pass' bills (usually budget-related). On the budget, there's some real problems that have come up in California. On some occasions, government employees have resorted to trying to pay their rent and medical costs with IOUs (I don't believe credit cards will accept such payment). Budget crises can create a severe hardship for government employees - and worse, a federal constitutional crisis quickly arises (the IOUs, if backed by California government guarantees, become a form of money - and it is against the federal constitution for any state to coin money; if not backed by a government guarantee, then what good are they?).

Bear in mind, California voters regularly create these budget fights - they pass a tax cut, then demand an increased service but refuse to pay for that service. When the law contains internal contradictions of that magnitude, how the leaders cope is pretty important.

A friend of mine was a very conservative Republican state assemblyman who crossed party lines to support one of those budgets just to break the deadlock and handle the crisis: he was crucified in his home district by assault radio. I suspect this will happen more often. I dread that. You are right, there will be a stiff price from men who have courage, and a reward for cowards to hide behind parties and special interests.

Yet if his conduct in those debates were available today, I am quite sure that fair-minded people would look twice and see clearly what was done and why, and judge him the better man for it.

"I suspect that it would work better with a parliamentarian system"
Perhaps so, but that's not our system here. I cannot say this will work. It could be a catastrophic experiment. But it could also be something new and powerful. I cannot say, but I still hope.

[Personally, I would expect that the experiment will result in gimmicks and tedium - but we'll see a lot more FB memes floating likening assembly figures to various animals.]

Paul SB said...

Duncan and Donzelion,

Just a thought on indefinite preservation: while Duncan is right that improvements in the technology allows us to store more and more data, eventually compatibility issues start to set in. I have all the papers I wrote when I was in college tucked away in a corner of my hard drive, along with stories I was writing back then, even when I was too poor to own a computer. I went to the computer lab with a bunch of floppy discs and saved everything that way. Now you can hardly find a floppy drive, but that is less an issue than the fact that the software that iOS compatible with today's operating systems can't open those old files. Historians and lawyers of the distant future may find all these records perfectly preserved in some form, but will they be able to read those preserved documents? It's analogous to how language itself evolves over time. Most of us can slog through a Shakespeare play with the help of Cliff's Notes to explain all the antiquated terminology, spellings and turns of phrase, Chaucer is more of a chore, and Beowulf even more so. How much nuance, subtlety and implication is lost that way? But with technology, we simply may not be able to read the records at all.

I always thought that putting a gold phonograph album on Voyager was making a huge assumption. Any aliens capable of practical interstellar travel are likely to be so technologically advanced that they would look at the thing, shrug their pseudopodia and assume it was some kind of emblem or decoration, or maybe something religious (the oldest joke in archaeology) and not even try to investigate it as a technological artifact.

It seems that most posts are getting through now.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: Alfred raised the compatibility issues earlier as well - and yes, that's also an issue. Should be solvable though - if someone takes an archival interest in doing so. You didn't apply such an interest to the word processor docs years ago; but I can't think that this is an insurmountable problem - and it seems quite possible that a problem of this magnitude could result in unexpected solutions. Indeed, the internet itself was in part born and transformed by similar efforts in unanticipated directions.

"It's analogous to how language itself evolves over time. Most of us can slog through a Shakespeare play with the help of Cliff's Notes to explain all the antiquated terminology, spellings and turns of phrase, Chaucer is more of a chore, and Beowulf even more so. How much nuance, subtlety and implication is lost that way?"
Agreed: and I do not believe watching Shakespeare perform his own plays would necessarily improve upon our understanding (it might even canonize the Bard, and strip innovation as "deviation").

But I do believe that the nonverbal cues that are communicated in public affairs MAY be quite important. Not to lawyers so much, and really, a historic 'shoulder shimmy' is unlikely to sway history either. BUT to ordinary people, to the extent some meaning is being communicated, producing a large mass of unedited video footage of people doing important work could prove a step in the right direction.

And really, folks ought to know just how much time committees squander renaming post offices (the boring bits that CSPAN neglects to show us) - and then realize that the whole purpose of bogging down their work in mundane trivialities is to evade scrutiny for more important priorities, and to do so on the taxpayers' dime.

David Brin said...

donzelion: When it comes to voting for judges, I tend to go with the expertise of the LA Times. When it comes to the tsunami of Ballot measures in CA, I am better equipped than most and yet, boggled. I may decide to go with whatever Jerry Brown recommends, for many of them. He knows every issue in detail and he is smart and he is on our side. The reforms he helped pass before made California’s election laws the best in the nation and the most transparent and honest.

JeffB re the Russian psyche see my story "The Logs" in Insistence of Vision. Tell me what you think! And why are there any of you who haven't bought it, yet? ;-)

locum always has and always will ignore (1) the hellish-awful-brutal lives of ALL, including nobility, who came before us and… And (2) the age of amateurs, in which free people by the millions are choosing avocations and breadth and are behaving in ways that are diametrically opposite to absolutely every single raving of contempt for his neighbors that a weak ego makes him claim to be true. He knows I am right about this, so his mind just glides AROUNF it and avoids storing the fact anywhere, so he can preserve his beloved incantations.

The fact that he is diametrically wrong about everything only makes him double down.

As do all members of the cult.

David Brin said...

Oh... I just got home from NYC and Albany NY, Speaking for Viacom and for GE. The week before that I was in Oregon. In 10 days I speak for IBM in Vegas. So much for anyone calling me a left-wing commie. Oh but I am speechifying to corporate masters! That must make me a sell-out!

Or maybe... someone who talks interesting Ideas to interesting people who are interested.

Jumper said...

Not long ago I found a file - call it "arg.asc" - and I didn't know what it was. I fretted and searched the net - which took longer than it ought - until, chagrined, I realized "ascii."

But on the topic, a friend assures me that today the best storage for the dollar is good quality DVD files. Bitrot gets hard drives even when stored. The problem is video and the compression compromises and the sheer volume.

locumranch said...

Paul_SB, Larry_H & Donzelion provide eloquent proof about the intensity of our Behavioral Conditioning culture:

The first denies any & all sexually-gendered desire toward beautiful women; the second admits gendered sexual desire but claims an incapacity toward action; the third (shamefully) admits to gendered sexual desire & cannot 'even conceive' of socially inappropriate action; and all statements demonstrate (in varying degrees) social restraint & an absence of personal liberty, freedom or choice.

I must take care to emphasise here, as others tend to place words in my mouth, that I am NOT advocating violence against women or any individual. Instead, I merely pointing that the three above have been rendered INCAPABLE of either gendered Free Will or Freedom of Choice/Action.

That is the subtext of Michelle Obama's speech -- It her belief that gendered heterosexual males can NO longer be allowed to pursue their heterosexual desires for women, let alone speak of their crude heterosexual desires to women without being subject to social damnation.

This is a fascinating development, especially in liberal society actively celebrating the sexual freedoms of the LGBTQ and S&M community which were once thought intolerable perversions just a few short generations ago.

Finally, it is important to note women are merely PEOPLE (as are men), yet there are absolutely NO equal & opposite laws designed to protect men from sexually aggressive & manipulative women. Quite the opposite.

California has just passed a new law that redefines all men as rapists if they engage in sexual activities with any woman who is under the influence (because alcohol nullifies female autonomy & deprives them of their ability to consent), yet our our society continues to insist that drunken males engaged in sexual activities must be held fully liable for Willful Misconduct & punished to the full extent of the law.

I repeat that we live in the Post-Skinnerian Age of omnipresent behavioral conditioning, insomuch as none of us can be considered well & truly 'free', and this belies the increasingly tiresome Age of Amateurs meme "in which free people by the millions are (freely) choosing avocations and breadth".

Instead, most of us are NOT 'free' in any sense of the word:

We (and our assorted 'amateurs') are merely prisoners pacing out the unseen dimensions of operant-constructed cells. And, those of us who do not move, do not notice their chains.


Ilithi Dragon said...

So this article popped up on my Facebook feed, and I found it to be very salient and on point regarding the support for trump. Having grown up on one of those red seas in Central PA, and moved out of it as fast as I could (while trying to avoid the densest city regions), I can say that this matches very closely with my own experience, and hits several critical points that get missed by the larger conversation in general, and the dems in particular.

Paul SB said...

Sometimes this guy's rants border on hysterical, in that guilty-pleasure sense where we laugh when we hear people say things that are unbelievably stupid and understand that they actually believe their own bullshit. Take this one:

"our Behavioral Conditioning culture"

Sounds like some post-Orwellian, "Manchurian Candidate" style paranoia about brainwashing, portrayed by Hollywood and echoed by morally outraged but poorly educated patriots. If the guy truly understood what Pavlov and Skinner had shown, it's that all culture is behavioral conditioning. It happens to dogs, it happens to humans, it happens to fish, and no doubt it worked pretty much the same way in those Devonian Era lobe-finned fish that were the first to crawl out of the water and stake out terrestrial real estate. Was there ever a time when culture did not use the principles of operant conditioning to raise its children and teach them how to survive in their world? This would only be possible for computers or organisms that literally have no brains. The very purpose of a brain os to learn general principles of behavior that increase the organism's survivability in the environment in which it was raised. Labelling our civilization today a "Behavioral Conditioning culture" is a bit like calling milk "Bovine gland extraction" in the hopes that ignorant people will be grossed out and not realize what those words actually mean.

In the same vein, he interprets any attempt to restrain sexual violence by men as an unfair restriction on our freedom, and criticizes anyone who has different tastes from his own. His assessment of California's new law, long overdue, to protect women from assault while intoxicated is quite laughable. Could a woman really take advantage of a man in the same way a man can a woman? I can think of an old Shakespeare quote that shows the lie in that one, but more to the point, I have heard this described as "trying to put a marshmallow in a light socket."

The laughable thing is that he (and millions of other Americans) actually believe this scatology, as obvious as it is. That brings me back to another work of literature I have quoted here before:

"What are the most common traits of nearly all forms of mental illness?"
The answer? Nearly all suferers lack –

FLEXIBILITY - the ability to change your opinion or course of action, if shown clear evidence you were wrong.

SATIABILITY - the ability to feel satisfaction if you actually get what you said you wanted, and to transfer your strivings to other goals.

EXTRAPOLATION - an ability to realistically assess the possible consequences of your actions and to empathize, or guess how others might think or feel.

Earth p.149

David Brin said...

I will surprise you all by saying locumranch... while lying-delusional-strawmanning in his portrayal of what you guys said and meant... nevertheless is only 99% wrong. He has about 1% a point.

That 1% is that it's true, male humans are visually stimulated (as are chimps etc) and we feel strong drives to behave in ways that in past cultures were considered much more normal. Moreover, those liberals who want to simply deny both facts, while some women both flaunt their visual cues and blame males for reacting at all, are not being completely fair. But -- (and if anyone ever quotes the preceding sentence out of context, they are damned liars)---

But liberals - even PC police bullies - are aiming in the right overall direction, while troglodytes like locumranch aim in the generally wrong direction. The past WAS hellish for women and children. They DID have their rights and opportunities and bodies violated! Moving decisively away from the old injustices is the right thing to do. We need to ensure that women are empowered to look us in the eye and be respected. The absolute proof is that we are dumb-asses if we waste talent. And worse if we condone anyone forcing themselves upon others.

I believe a hundred years from now, things will equilibrate in ways that take into account males visibly reacting in harmless ways to females who deliberately offer visual ... er... provocations, while women who are not flaunting are treated as non-sexually as any adult should treat anyone else. But the thing about PC is that we often need to pass through a period of low-tolerance for the thing we are trying to correct. And there is TONS of ancient, unfair and even nasty shit that our ancestors shrugged off that we must not shrug off anymore.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion: Storing bits on a DVD or other long survival duration medium isn't the problem I'm pointing toward. I'm sure we can invent good stuff for storage and also find an equivalent for PDF that all recorders can use as an export target format. There IS a problem with format expiration, but we can cope with this if we are willing to spend the money. It won't be small dollars, though, until we have cheap AI's or Expert Systems for the tasks. After the Singularity, this is a simple problem. Before it happens, though, the main problem is that this stuff will bore humans to tears. Work quality will suffer often enough to create another kind of bit rot. Good luck beating that issue.

One of the grad students who worked with my advisor a few years before me was a member of the last generation to type his dissertation on a typewriter. His dissertation is available in dead-tree format from any of us who have a copy or from the usual sources who have access to library microfiche. I used an early word processor to produce the typed copy, so mine is available the same way. However, I did the best I could at the time to plan for the day when I'd make it available in digital form. I've been a big fan of 'free access' when it comes to science for many years. That was about 25 years ago. Most of those plans have fallen through. I have no equipment that can read the disks, but I could probably buy something if I'm willing to pay enough. Before that happened, I copied many things to hard drives and then to USB drives. I have digital copies, but the word processor I used is way, way, way out of fashion. I've converted the format three times trying to ensure I had a workable copy in a modern word processor. Each conversion, though, has lead to degradation. Fonts fall out of fashion. Methods for rendering formulae change. (Is LaTeX gone yet?) Even the embedded images (plates in the old days) are a royal pain to preserve in a format people can display. I do have a fall back plan, though. I have a yellowing physical copy I can scan periodically in whatever the popular format is.

My one little story spans a 25 year effort and while I don't have a big budget for the effort, it shows the issue we face. Bit storage is easy. Bit reading isn't. One needs a really, really good plan if one wants to preserve content that is inherently digital. Meeting minutes can be printed for something like my fall back plan. A meeting's video recording can't.

The 20 year part of prop #54 is going to be expensive in ways I think few anticipate. I'm still going to vote for it, but in later years when the real costs are better understood, I'll also vote to fund the preservation effort in a different way that what is present in the proposition. I want the archive badly enough to live with 'good enough for now', but I think we will have to devote significant money to do it right.

[My favorite 'old case' is the resurrection of what became Amendment #27. I had to memorize the 26 amendments in high school US government class and was surprised years later to learn there was another. How could I have missed the effort to get it through Congress and then ratify it?! Heh.]

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: (Continued)

I could go on and on about the preservation issue. Lots of us who work in IT could. No doubt there are younger people out there now who are smarter than me and they'll find solutions I missed. The warning I'm giving is that this problem is harder than most realize. Nothing short of an accurate crystal ball or cheap AI will make it easy because we are intentionally changing the way we do things as we learn better ways. That means budget limitations will ultimately constrain your desire for indefinite storage.

As for the value to be found in this, I'm fully supportive. The notion that we only record the written word for long term preservation is a hold over from previous centuries where we had no affordable way of doing better. Making the archives usable, though, is where the high costs will arrive. Kings could hire scribes to record their every word, but could not reasonably afford to have copies made for all their subjects. We can do that now through digital means (amazing!), but preserving the other 93% of our communications (tone and gesture) requires video and audio (easy) and making it available to all for centuries to come (much harder!). It's worth the effort, but getting it funded will be a political process a King would have understood.

Paul SB said...

Ilithi Dragon,

I read over that article you linked to, and though I have a few quibbles with it, I thought it was really appropriate. Most of all, it is a clear demonstration that we do not absolutely have to obey the Law of Segmentary Opposition if we don't want to. His whole point was that - whatever side of the fence you sit on - you will do better making an effort to understand the other side rather than simply demonizing and stereotyping the other side. This is part of the "unfair and even nasty shit that our ancestors shrugged off that we must not shrug off anymore" that our host was talking about (okay, I hope I'm not putting words in his mouth here).

A point that I think the author did not make clearly enough, though it seems dot be implied, is that the world is changing, and many people are scared of change. That's nothing new, nor is it really anything new that the world is currently changing at an ever faster rate, like the Universe expanding into no-one-knows-what. But when has it ever not been changing?

Both of my parents came from small towns, though one in a foreign country. I live in a huge metropolis now but spent the bulk of my formative years in what can only be called a small city, less than a quarter million people, which I left for many of the same reasons young people leave rural places. No jobs, not much for education, barely any prospects for marriage, too little to choose from in every way. To me it matters little where a person comes from. It is the quality of the person that matters. I have known good people on both sides of the urban/rural divide, and slimeballs on both sides, too. People are people (a song written by a bisexual back in the 80's, someone who most of my more rural acquaintances would see as a sign of the coming Apocalypse) and we would do far better dealing with our issues (be they urban or rural - they are all connected and neither can live without the other) than acting as if pointing fingers and casting aspersions will make our problems magically go away. This is true for both sides.

Today has been a hot day, and I am wearing a guebara - a style of shirt from Mexico that is quite practical in hot weather (though it is not considered formal enough to wear on work days). I get some funny looks when I wear one of those. Why can't I take advantage of a good idea just because it did not originate with my ethnic group? Practicality will take us all a lot further than rhetoric.

But it's an election year, and the rhetoric is at fever pitch in any election year. This year seems more extreme, but I would rather ask a person who has a stronger background in American history than I do before assuming this impression is correct. I can remember some pretty extreme stuff coming up at other points in our history.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Would you believe that locum might have actually been right 2%? Here's another:

"Finally, it is important to note women are merely PEOPLE (as are men), yet there are absolutely NO equal & opposite laws designed to protect men from sexually aggressive & manipulative women. Quite the opposite."

I think I mentioned a couple threads back that I had to do my annual sexual harassment training recently, and was a little surprised to note that according to that, the number of sexual harassment cases against women is growing at quite the rate. And yet, the stereotypes we all have is that sexual harassment is always male aggression targeted at women. The other interesting thing they reported was the extent of male-on-male sexual harassment, which was rarely homosexual in nature, rather it is alpha males asserting dominance over others through sexual means, mostly very childish shaming tactics like making snide remarks about the size of their employees genitalia. These cases are resulting in costly law suits.

But on the double standard issue he raised, there are quite a few (mostly Red) states where women automatically get custody of children in all divorce proceedings, regardless of their competence. I had a friend who went through a rather ugly divorce when I was in college, and in spite of his wife having recently been discharged from a mental hospital, only to shack up with some loony cult, there was just no question that she would get custody of their 3-year old daughter. There are some issues that need to be resolved, but ironically, it is the very places that loci alignes himself with that are clinging to that double standard. Larry could justifiably toss out that poor marksman quote from "Wrath of Khan" here.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Most of the "sexual" and other harassment is actually a question of power - not sex,

People who are equal in "power" can banter and joke, as soon as there is a significant imbalance in power those same jokes can become harassment

I had not really thought about the physical power imbalance men to women - but I would agree it's significant

My generation played "mating games" - hard to get, run away and chase, all get pissed and all of those - most of the time they were harmless - but we will need to stop all of that until we are over this hump
As Dr Brin says in 100 years time people will be able to have that type of fun again

Robert said...

Ah well, Dr. Brin. You missed my comments (expanding on something from "Magic Binds" from Ilona Andrews) that Adam and Eve were not the first persons... but were early villages, with Eve perhaps a colony of Adam (thus "of the rib"). But without context and imprecise storytelling, it got turned into actual people. And for that matter, Cain and Abel could have been one of the first conflicts between communities of farmers and ranchers (people who settle down to live off the land, and those who herded goats and sheep).

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Women have been conditioned not to bite the face off of unwelcome males.

LarryHart said...


Paul_SB, Larry_H & Donzelion provide eloquent proof about the intensity of our Behavioral Conditioning culture:

...The second [that's me he's slandering here] admits gendered sexual desire but claims an incapacity toward action;

Last time, I was making a funny when I said that your reading comprehension sucks and that I'm beginning to realize that was God's honest truth.

I don't need to force myself on an unwilling, helpless female the way you or Donald Trump apparently do because...well, in the interest of remaining a gentleman, I'll digress to an analogous topic. Just a few hours ago, radio host Hal Sparks was talking (of course) about your man Trump, and noting that the sort of insult that gets under his skin (such as "not as rich as he pretends to be") indicates something he believes to be true and doesn't want attention called. In contrast, said Hal, he (Hal) knows that he's well-read and educated and knows about many different subjects, and so when an internet troll tries to insult him by calling calls him (Hal) "stupid", it's water off a duck's back, because he (Hal) has no insecurity about his own intelligence. He doesn't have to wonder if the troll is right, or live in fear that the troll is outing him.

Likewise, you, sir, who are no gentleman (though I doubt you qualify as a "ruffian" either) trying to assert that I am physically or metaphorically impotent is as laughable. Let's just say you picked the wrong evening to follow that comment with.

You obviously have no idea what a willing partner is, which explains why you think there's a binary choice between rape and celibacy. I'd feel pity for you if I had any human empathy left toward your sorry a$$.

and all statements demonstrate (in varying degrees) social restraint & an absence of personal liberty, freedom or choice.

Men are socially inhibited from pissing in the middle of Time Square. Do you lament that social restraint as well? Of course you do.

The only absence of personal liberty, freedom, or choice I see at work here is that I am socially constrained from challenging you to a duel.

I must take care to emphasise here, as others tend to place words in my mouth,

You wish others came anywhere near your mouth and put anything into it. No, you do a good job of placing those words all by yourself, as does Donald Trump.

that I am NOT advocating violence against women or any individual. Instead, I merely pointing that the three above have been rendered INCAPABLE of either gendered Free Will or Freedom of Choice/Action.

INCAPABLE, because we choose (freely) not to initiate violence against women? You don't even know what your're talking about any more, as your sentences contradict each other in the same paragraph. I'd say I'm sorry that I get more "gendered Action" in a month than you have in your entire life, but I'd be lying about the "being sorry" part.

That is the subtext of Michelle Obama's speech -- It her belief that gendered heterosexual males can NO longer be allowed to pursue their heterosexual desires for women, let alone speak of their crude heterosexual desires to women without being subject to social damnation.

You have an awfully narrow definition of what "pursue" and "desire" mean. Aren't good red-state Christians supposed to be civil toward women and to refrain from gratuitous sex? Was Trump-like behavior more common among the Puritans in the 1620s? Does it gnaw at your unsatisfied soul that a man can be gentlemanly and restrained and have a healthy sex life?

I'll argue points with anyone who wants a good debate or conversation, but the next slander you hurl against me is the last post of yours I bother to read.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry
I gave up on Locum a long time ago

Jeff B. said...

Dr. Brin,

JeffB re the Russian psyche see my story "The Logs" in Insistence of Vision. Tell me what you think! And why are there any of you who haven't bought it, yet? ;-)

It's definitely on my list. Alas, the book budget's not what it used to be, what w. a 20 year old in college and a 16 year old involved in just about every activity under the sun. That and a lack of bookshelves... But hey, the holidays are coming.

Paul SB said...


What you said about harassment having more to do with power than sex is exactly what the training said. It says something very sad about humanity that people would associate those two, but then, you see that same behavior in other animals as well. So I guess the sad part is that humans pride themselves on being so much better than animals, and yet humans so frequently behave in exactly the same ways. Proof if we ever needed any that humans are subject to instincts, even with our neuroplasticity.

Our erstwhile doctor (and I hope to God he doesn't see female patients) is a case in point. His obsession with sex shows minimal self-knowledge, as if all his thoughts come unfiltered from his limbic system to his keyboard, frontal lobes only serving the purpose of finding what appear to him to be clever ways of justifying his base nature. Like so many playground bullies, his arguments come down to making claims about who has the biggest male anatomy. These are exactly the people who are coming more under fire from their employees in sexual harassment suits.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

As Jeff says, "The holidays are coming", and I'm notoriously hard to buy gifts for, so someone will ask me for suggestions.

While I typically buy my books in paperback, I did buy a hardcover "Existence" back in 2012, and if someone asks, your new book will be my first suggestion.

Paul SB said...


I doubt your threat means a whole lot to Straw Ranch. He only uses people as props for his screed. He doesn't need you to banter with, because he doesn't banter. This blog is a pulpit from which he hurls his holy fire on the congregation of sinners, hoping to smite them with fear. It's all monologue.

Jeff B.,

I ran out of book shelf space ages ago, too. Ask for a Kindle or a Nook for Christmas. My daughter has the former and loves it (and it's loaded up with Brin, as well as Heinlein & Czerneda and McDevitt and lots of other juicy stuff, but takes up half as much space as an iPad..

Jeff B. said...

Illithi/Paul SB:

That Cracked article makes some decent points. I've said for a long time that merely dismissing conservative voters as racist rednecks completely misses the point. My neighbors and fellow denizens of Redland shouldn't just be labeled as unintelligent if they don't have the sophistication of a college education- heck, many of them are college educated, more than one might think.

What is truly lacking is a connection. Areas like NW and Central PA are red, as is much of the midwest. But- and a big but- if some effort were made to genuinely reach out to people, to demonstrate on a personal level that say the Democratic Party was making honest efforts to address the things that concerned them most, then the red would go blue so fast it'd make heads spin.

That'd take a few things to happen, though. 1st, the aforementioned genuine effort to talk to people and determine what their real concerns are, and work toward solutions. 2nd, the ability to separate out the dogwhistle issues like immigration, which really, really matter almost nothing far into the Redlands. In other words, counter the "look, squirrel" tool the Republicans use.

And third, the ability to get out into the communities on a local and statewide level and talk, really talk to people. One of my greatest frustrations as a blue dot in the Red Sea is that the state and local Democratic groups do absolutely nothing except consolidate votes in the urban areas. Trump supporters can get yard signs for free from the local organizers. Clinton, I'd have to order and pay online from the state or national headquarters. Not one campaign worker even attempts to talk to people in the rural areas, so the Dems remain Outsiders, the urban Others.

I'd argue a 4th point but it's one that would fight against social and cultural trends of centuries- if even a small percentage of Dems moved to the rural areas, the changes to the political landscape would be massive. Even if they weren't enough to automatically outvote the Republicans, they'd change the tone of the conversation- Republicans wouldn't be able to automatically demagogue their way into office, they wouldn't be able to run unopposed, and their friends and neighbors would see that the damn godless liberals aren't all so bad. But this is just a pipe dream.

Would that I could be such a voice. We moved to the country because of a love of the wild, a desire to own enough property for our kids to grow up loving the outdoors, of being near one of the best state park and forest systems in the country. But I'm no salesman (elsewise I wouldn't be working for the govt.), and I shy from debates with coworkers and acquaintances out of politeness...

And last thought, while in some areas Dr. Brin's solution of registering R to counter the whackaloons, this only works when there is a choice. It's criminal, but in my gerrymandered state (and county and local govt., too) many Rs go completely unopposed, so no vote can change fate.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I will echo the "Kindle"

There are a lot of free books available - Baen have a free library
warning it is intended to get you addicted then they sell more books!
Gutenberg have almost everything pre 1920 available free

I'm on Kindle number 7!
I've broken two - first one was replaced free - second one at a reduced price
One for my son
Three for my wife - she upgraded then the new one failed and was replaced free

All on my account so any book purchased can be read on any of the three

LarryHart said...


My late father was more of the generation that revered male responsibility as head of household and all that. But to him, the measure of a real man was self-control, not self-indulgence.

Dad, whose idealized fantasy woman seemed to be a "beautiful blonde" (despite being happily married to a brunette) would understand someone in Trump's position enjoying the view while sitting next to a sexy woman on an airplane, or even chatting her up and trying to impress her. OTOH, Dad would have been physically sickened at the thought of a man reaching over uninvited and actually reaching up a woman's skirt, let along grabbing her by the p---y.

The idea that Trump represents a conservative backlash against declining morals is absurd.

Jeff B. said...

Paul SB,

I'm one of those nutjobs that must have the total sensory involvement that only a physical book has... the texture, the act of turning pages, the smell, the ability to flip around out of sequence. E-versions will never have the appeal, so big house filled with over 900 books, two to three deep in some cases. My sci fi and fantasy collection while woefully inadequate is still crammed in a bookcase and a half.

And more threatening, I recently restarted my fallow interest in aquaria, which are essentially wet bookcases in area, with more more activity but less readability therein. So, even more competition for space.

i_/0 said...

Not one shred of hard evidence offered to support the claim of Russia hacking US elections, on the other hand copious hard evidence of Americans hacking American elections over the last fifteen years from voter suppression to electronic voting and polling disparities, not to mention the jaw dropping disparity of access to 'democratic' government between the super wealthy and everyone else.

The parents of Rupert Murdoch, had he been aborted would have given the world an astonishingly generous gift, alas he exists. But where is the evidence of Fox being biased toward Russia since inception? It would give me great pleasure to see the entire Murdoch empire fall off a cliff but I also value the truth. By all means, unite yourselves in loathing of Putin to destroy Murdoch, but remember, Putin is just one man, not the personification of Russia.

The current braid of narratives over Syria are heartbreakingly similar to the festival of bullshit that washed over us to justify Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and more recently US/UK/Saudi backed destruction of Yemen.

Anyone with an attention span and moderate intelligence has already noted that nearly 3 years of American led bombing in Syria resulted in ISIS et al going from strength to strength. One month of bombing by Russia and they were nearly finished. We might reasonably ask, who exactly was America bombing? The hard evidence (note: not opinion) mounts that US/UK/Qatar/Saudi and Israel have funnelled weapons, training and logistics through Turkey to Al-Nusra, AL Q, ISIS and others the entire time with the sole aim of ousting Assad.

I'm hoping that the war with Russia which America is trying to incite with it's caricatured rhetoric is just theatre to enhance trade for military industry and big oil, but I have rarely witnessed such utter irresponsibility masquerading as foreign policy. Ineptly childish if it wasn't so dangerous. What could possibly go wrong?

I'm simply astonished that the ego masturbation of American intellectuals does not include the occasional cold shower of unpleasant facts. It's interesting that all the Russian wars over the last twenty or so years have been at the edges of the former soviet empire and arguably defensive. Comparison with Americas record in the same period is instructive.

As I pointed out on another comments section, the decision to invade Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen was taken within a few weeks of September 11th, 2001. REF General Wesley Clarke. The irony that Iraqi women were educated in a secular state, with health care and working infrastructure before it was all destroyed to be replaced by warring hard line Islamist juntas would have been bitter enough if the same fate hadn't befallen Libya and soon Syria and Yemen if the US/UK/Qatar/Saudi/Israel alliance has it's way. Outside of the American/British media echo chamber, you will be increasingly hard pressed to find many who consider America an honest broker. To argue that US government is an adjunct to it's 'defence' industry might have been an exaggeration at one time. It's become a reasonable assessment. So much for your enlightenment values Mr Brin. It wasn't Saddam and Gaddafi your nation destroyed, it was countries, it was ancient networks of inter faith community built over millenia, it was people. As an act of vandalism it will be long remembered.

Anyway, as you were.

Paul SB said...

Overgrown playground bully is exactly what Trump is. You're smart enough to get that, as are a lot of the American people (and people around the world). But people whose modus operandi is bullying often end up in positions of power, like Putin, or all those corporate executives who are getting sued (and in some cases having to pay personally, not getting bailed out by the company) and they will get behind one of their own, pumping out propaganda that favors him because it favors the old alpha male pattern in which they are the top dogs. All they have to offer the world is SSDC (same shit, different century).

We don't have to drool like one of Pavlov's dog whenever we see a pretty face because we look beyond the misery of those past centuries. And we certainly don't need to be cowed by fools who can't even tell what species they are.

Jeff B.,

All good points. I knew quite a few people in my university who had come from the surrounding small communities, mostly to get degrees in agricultural studies for obvious reasons, and many of those were studying genetics. Brains are adaptable things if provided stimulation. Unfortunately politicians tend to want to play the numbers, and there is a sense among Democrats that the rural areas are unlikely to be swayed and aren't worth the effort. But I have seen a few. I remember an older fellow who went around in Sunday Best and a cowboy hat, and no one expected him to turn out to be a Democrat. But that was ages ago, at an age when I wasn't even very aware of what a Democrat was and why they were hated almost as much as gays.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I love books!
I have about 3000 actual paper books - but they are a nightmare to store organize and move

E-Books are not as good - yes - the reading experience is OK - small size and "different feel" is IMHO outweighed by the ability to increase font size when I'm tired

The organize and sort and select part - yes - E-Books are currently bloody awful!

I'm hoping and expecting that to get better but the:
lower cost
immediate gratification (no waiting for the post)
And above all the easier moving (about 800 books on my Kindle)
Mean that I'm a convert

David Brin said...

Red America is traumatized in a way that CRACKED missed. Their shrine and temple is the local high school. And every June the brightest graduates - the pride of the town - skip off to the universities and cities. I bet that rankles. Every single year.

i_/o I know folks in the intelligence community. The Russian hacking is blatant, huge and extremely aggressive. Both they and China are forging an anti-western xenophobia to distract their subjects.

But I admit, Putin was traumatized by loss of the Ukraine. He himself blames that huge setback on Obama, the very same Obama whom Fox calls a patsy, to Putin's cleverness.

As for Fox, Putin worship has been blatant for years.



raito said...

Alfred Differ,

LaTex is alive and well. Serveral at my place of employment use it by choice. A fairly-recent college graduate of my acquaintence used it to take notes in college.

Paul SB,

"Could a woman really take advantage of a man in the same way a man can a woman?"

In a discussion that took place some years ago, 2 persons allowed the initials MD after their names asserted that, yes, a woman could. One of them was an ER doctor who then described in detail a few cases where one might have thought the physical state of the male to be impossible, yet it was not (not sexual assault cases, trauma cases, mostly).

Our host is correct in saying that we go through a period of low tolerance with these sorts of things. I'd most likely say that it's darned hard to get that pendulum to stop at equilibrium the first time through.

"And yet, the stereotypes we all have is that sexual harassment is always male aggression targeted at women."

Isn't that the truth. Which recalls a story. One place I worked finally got a sexual harassment policy. It basically said, "We don't allow it." I asked the CFO what the definition of sexual harassment was. He was unable to tell me. I had to tell him that, under the last WSEU (WI State Em[p Union) contract that I'd read (for an unrelated, but equally unpleasant purpose), I'd been subjected to sexual harassment. What had actually happened was that a female co-worker had commented (at all) about my dating habits. My hide is a bit thicker than that. But it sure scared the heck out of the CFO that such behavior was considered in at least one circumstance to be sexual harassment.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

This blog is a pulpit from which he [locumranch] hurls his holy fire on the congregation of sinners, hoping to smite them with fear. It's all monologue

Need I add that there is an appropriate response from "Hamilton"?

Jefferson always hesitant with the president,
Reticent. There isn't a plan he doesn't jettison.
Madison, mad as a hatter, son. Take your medicine.
Damn, you're in worse shape than the national debt is in.
Sitting there useless like two shits,
Turn around, bend over, I'll show you where my shoe fits!

LarryHart said...

Sorry...missed the admonition to move...