Monday, October 24, 2016

International concerns and promises

Keeping with a breather from the US election... (phew!) ... except for maybe a lagniappe at the end. Still, there are adjacent topics worth contemplating!  Such as: Instead of building A Wall, Why Not a Binational Border City?  Consider...


Border City - plans by Fernando Romero
A Mexican architect, Fernando Romero, has a utopian vision for a walkable city straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. And no, that does not mean surrendering sovereign border control. Just bring it into the 21st Century. People in the city would wear their ID openly.  It is called your face. 

Moreover, there is a fact we must face.  We are achieving what should always have been the Number One U.S. foreign policy goal – to help create a stable, middle class Mexico – another Canada – along our southern flank.  No measure could do more to enhance our security and – ultimately – economy, and it is exactly one of the effects of NAFTA. It has resulted in net immigration from Mexico into the US turning negative, as the Mexican middle class burgeons and, yes, is starting to buy megatons of stuff from north of the border.

 Sorry left and right wingers.  You have both been short sighted and dumb on this one.

== The Big Picture on Nation States ==

As Distrust Mounts, U.S. and China Battle Over New Rules of Global Order: An interesting Big Perspective article, pertaining to US-China relations, by Wang Jisi, one of China’s “America experts.” Here's an excerpt:

 ‘In the political area, China advocates the “democratization of international relations,” which is to realize democratization on a country level in the international system where developing countries hold the majority. However, the United States continues to advocate reinforcing the “liberal international order” and promoting the “democratization of the world,” which is related to individual freedom and rights of the people. Between these two rules, there are insurmountable obstacles.’

Also: ‘Both China and the United States attach a high degree of importance to cybersecurity and regard each other as one of the main sources of cybersecurity threats they face, but the two countries have very different focal points: China is more concerned about political infiltration of its domestic network that may undermine the leadership’s authority, while the United States is concerned about “online hackers” stealing U.S. commercial secrets or attacking security agency websites.’

This seems a fair summary, as far as it goes. Yet it glosses over fundamentals. 

Essentially, the Chinese leadership views it as inherently destabilizing and dangerous to vest sovereignty and power in billions of autonomous human beings – a position that they share with almost all previous human cultures on this planet. In other words, their elitism and paranoia is normal.

Even within the U.S. and other nations that have done this vesting - switching to an openness-accountability model - a large share of elites recoil at the experiment in distributed, autonomous and effective citizenship. History shows that these experiments are rare and do not seem “natural” to people already in power.

Of course, then it’s pointed out that these experiments in distributed-flattened systems based on reciprocal accountability have also been fantastically successful – at engendering scientific, commercial, economic and happiness advancements. 

To which the inevitable response is to point out disadvantages. These include worries about the flighty chaos or intemperate public fads and whims. (See our own Federalist Papers.) It does seem logical that a serene, intelligent and thoughtful elite should be more effective. In China’s case, that elite consists largely of engineers, which has put off for a decade or more their hitting the "wall of competence" at state planning.

In China, an earnest effort was made to incorporate some controllable aspects of western society – corporations, mass education and investments in technology – while retaining the top-down control of traditional, pyramidal hierarchy.

Even in the West, there is severe discomfort with the next step… giving humans powers of citizenship pertaining to the planet and its institutions.  Certain elements of “world government” – courts and bureaucracy – have been allowed, while others – e.g. an elected executive and legislature – have been banned even from discussion! All authority is vested in two hundred nation states, a situation that plays into the hands of anti-democratic forces.

Now... consider China's Debt Crisis:  “China’s "credit to GDP gap" has reached 30.1, the highest to date and in a different league altogether from any other major country tracked by the institution. It is also significantly higher than the scores in East Asia's speculative boom on 1997 or in the US subprime bubble before the Lehman crisis. Studies of earlier banking crises around the world over the last sixty years suggest that any score above ten requires careful monitoring.” 

This from John Mauldin’s newsletter. China’s problem is not federal government debt, but corporations and local governments that are drowning in red ink. ‘Outstanding loans have reached $28 trillion, as much as the commercial banking systems of the US and Japan combined. The scale is enough to threaten a worldwide shock if China ever loses control. Corporate debt alone has reached 171pc of GDP, and it is this that is keeping global regulators awake at night.’ 

To be clear… there is still room for a soft landing. But we are pushing the envelope of even very smart human competence. In fact, I feel no schadenfreude. I wish them luck.

== Tax Havens and Secrecy ==

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is following the script I described in my 1989 novel EARTH -- as he lambasts tax havens and financial secrecy as the principal villains consigning half the world’s population to poverty.  “Half of the world’s wealth is now in the hands of the richest 1 percent. Shockingly, just 62 individuals hold more wealth than the poorest half of the world put together.”

To be fair, Correa leaves out some good news… that half of that poor-half have been climbing out of extreme poverty in recent years, mostly by their own efforts but assisted by global trade and by improved infrastructure and governance. Neighboring Peru, in particular, has seen results from vesting the poor in their own property, according to the brilliant plans of economist Hernando de Soto Polar, combining both libertarian and liberal ideas. A version of “leftism” that is decisively different from the catastrophic Chavez-Madero approach in Venezuela.

Only read Correa’s denunciation of banking secrecy, which was exposed in all its evil by the Panama Papers episode a while back.  In EARTH I portray the world after a charismatic developing world president got fed-up and crafted an alliance of such nations to go after… Switzerland.  (Read about the Helvetian War!) But in the near term:

We are taking the bold step of calling a national referendum to decide whether or not elected politicians and civil servants will be allowed to hold assets in tax havens. If our proposal, known as the “Ethical Pact,” passes the test of the electorate, all such public servants will have one year from the referendum to bring their wealth back into the country or be barred from office.

“Across Latin America, $340 billion in tax payments are evaded annually to the detriment of poverty and inequality reduction in what is still the world’s most unequal region…. Oxfam calculates that 32 million people in Latin America would be lifted out of poverty if income tax was paid in full in the continent as opposed to hidden in tax havens.”

Number one on my priority list for Hillary Clinton’s presidency would be to negotiate treaties – among the world’s nations, and between the states of the US -- to reduce or eliminate the foul practice of hiding who owns what.

Finally...


Comics can shed light (and occasionally humor) on serious global issues, as shown by Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis: Story of a Childhood, Art Spiegelman's Maus: A Survivor's Tale, or Joe Sacco's Journalism in a Visual World. Sarah Glidden's latest entry into graphic journalism - Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq - attempts to humanize the ongoing international refugee crisis. Watercolor illustrations and dialog illuminate the hardships of daily struggle for individuals displaced by war or repression -- showing the fear, resilience and courage of families facing horrific situations and yet, managing to build new lives.

== Okay I can't help myself! ==

The damned election.  We were just out canvassing for Colonel Doug Applegate, running for the 49th District, against the infamous hypocrite and French Revolution-style aristocrat Darrell Issa. Indeed, it's good to see both Clinton and Obama turning vigorous attention to Congress. For just 2 out of the last 22 years, have we had a Congress that was not locked into a torpor of utter futility by the laziest political party in U.S. history.

Dogmatic? Tools of the top 0.001%?  Sure? Tipping into troglodytic racism?  Yep. Waging outright war on science and every other professional caste? Yep. Insane. But it is important to note that none of these has been as damaging to the republic as that slothful refusal to even hold hearings about any issues important to a 21st Century American and world.

Worst of all has been the laziness.  Moreover. And Donald Trump is not a disease on the Republican Party.  He is a symptom. 

Don't be fooled into ticket splitting.  The GOP needs to be sent home for 2 years of wound-licking and reflection. Republican voters need to replace monsters like Issa with some of the grownup conservatives the party used to provide, capable of pragmatism, moderation, conversation, sane argument, appreciation of facts (science) and actually negotiating. Which means dropping the Hastert Rule. Concocted by those two prime role models -- the sexual predator perverts Dennis Hastert and Roger Ailes. 

You decent American conservatives out there can help this repair and renewal.  Starting this November by sending home every member of the current cult of GOP leaders. Yes, and at the state level, too.

Hey, 2018 ain't so far. Come back with a new team. Heck, maybe YOU are that kind of old fashioned adult.

131 comments:

Jerry Emanuelson said...

For those who are not familiar with Hernando de Soto Polar (mentioned in the main post), many of his speeches and documentaries are now on YouTube. This includes two 56-minute documentaries that have often been shown on PBS stations. See:

Globalization at the Crossroads

and

The Power of the Poor

Jumper said...

President Correa makes a good statement.

The rich prefer a sort of international anarchy. Individual states may run things in a variety of ways, but the countries are like men living in an anarchic state. International law is small and obviously not universal. The plutocrats always have a place to flee into this anarchy.

That's why I call a certain class "international anarcho-plutocrats."

Just about everyone has dreamed non-seriously of making off with a fortune in ill-gotten money. How ruinous to our fantasy the spectre of international law with teeth! It kills our dream of escaping and setting up in Mexico - or Chile, or Bhutan, or Thailand.

Creigh Gordon said...

"it's good to see both Clinton and Obama turning vigorous attention to Congress." Let's give a shout-out to Bernie too, who has been effectively raising money for down-ballot races along with Our Revolution (the remnants of his campaign? a PAC??).

David Brin said...

Bernie can have all the shout-outs I can muster!

Laurence said...

@ Jumper.

And just what's wrong with Bhutan?

donzelion said...

Jumper: "The rich prefer a sort of international anarchy."
The rich don't think in such terms: it's their hired hands who tell them "hey, I got another trick that'll slice 3% off that tax hit" who negotiate anarchy.

"International law is small and obviously not universal."
See that screen you typed those words upon? And every other product around you? All manifestations of international law. It is vast, vaster than anyone tends to recognize. It feeds you, clothes you - it created America, and every other nation-state, and does more to keep us safe than many ranks of soldiers.

"Just about everyone has dreamed non-seriously of making off with a fortune in ill-gotten money. How ruinous to our fantasy the spectre of international law with teeth!"
Depends. International law (and there are 'teeth' even if there is no "leviathan") creates a possibility of replacing short-term, one-off, highly risky "ill-gotten money" for long-term, repeat, lower risk "well-gotten money." Many folks are willing to make that trade - but there's always a price, and it's never clear who will wind up paying it (plutocrats excel, beyond anything else, in getting someone else to pay the costs for them).

Jumper said...

Have you seen the ships in the ocean? They don't often have to show license and registration. Lot of anarchy. I think many rich are terrified of any world government except state anarchy. Where would the Onassis clan, or Putin's stash, be without international anarchy?
Did I say there was something wrong with Bhutan? No.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...

"The reaction of conservatives accept that premise is to malign reality for not conforming with conservatism."


It does seem that way some times.

LarryHart said...

"That happened when I met my wife. I loaned her "The Postman", and she immediately came back at me with the entire Uplift trilogy (the second trilogy hadn't been published yet). We complement each other that way."


Being able to share things you really enjoy with someone as close as a spouse is a beautiful thing. My wife isn't even a science fiction reader but I've convinced her to read some of my favorites over the years and she also really enjoyed the first Uplift trilogy.

LarryHart said...

"Without spoiling too much, I do believe a character whose initials are T.O. is still out there having heretofore-untold adventures."


Good news!

LarryHart said...

matthew in the previous thread:

Also, I may be ready to admit HRC may win. I estimate the "fascist"polling gap (the effect of not wanting to admit you voted for the wannabe strongman) at 5%. Nate Silver has HRC up by 6% nationally.


I wonder if the reverse is true as well. People who are sane enough to realize that only one candidate is qualified to be president might be reluctant to admit in public that they are voting for the demonized Hillary. Especially women voting against their husbands' express wishes.

You mention North Carolina below. A co-host on the Bill Press radio show is from South Carolina, and he says that in the evangelical stronghold he comes from, the men are voting for Trump, but the women support Hillary.


Now, I'm just worried about turnout.


As do I, as does radio host Norman Goldman. Complacency could hurt big time if Democrats don't think they have to bother. That's why it's important to keep the Senate and Supreme Court in view. It's also why I voted yesterday.

But I wonder if Trump, with his "rigged" meme, is working to suppress his own vote. I mean, if the election is rigged anyway, why bother to vote? Why even bother to intimidate minorities from voting?


Early voting in democratic strongholds in North Carolina down by over 80% from 2012. Still think this thing is in major doubt.


What are your sources on that? I'm seeing a different picture:

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2016/10/24/early-voting-polls-in-north-carolina-show-clinton-democrats-leading-big/


Democrats are surging to a big lead in North Carolina’s early voting, a Public Policy Polling study found.

Among likely North Carolina voters who say they have already voted, 63 percent said they had cast their presidential ballots for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton — and only 37 percent had voted for Republican Donald Trump


http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2016/10/democrats-leading-big-in-nc-early-voting.html


PPP's newest North Carolina poll finds that Democrats are running up large leads already during early voting. Among those who say they've already voted, 63% say they cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton to only 37% for Donald Trump. Interestingly, less than half of a percent say they voted for Gary Johnson, which could be a sign that he won't end up getting that much more support than a normal third party candidate. The big Democratic advantage holds down ballot as well. Roy Cooper leads Pat McCrory 61-33 for Governor among those who have already voted, with Libertarian Lon Cecil at 1%. And Deborah Ross leads Richard Burr 52-34 for Senate, with Libertarian Sean Haugh at 7% among those who say they have already cast their ballots.

reason said...

Regarding the debt to GDP ratio - do you mean Government debt to GDP or TOTAL debt to GDP ratio? There is a world of difference.

reason said...

Oh, I read the original and it is still not clear - is local government "government"? (Could be simply bailed out by the central government). But total debt is bad news.

In talking about Hastert and Ailes you missed out on Norquist. There is nothing more pernicious that ratchet rules. They always end up strangling you.

reason said...

One ratchet rule that is strangling us, and has not much to do with the GOP is the way price targeting by the central bank is interpreted to be an upper limit instead of an average. It works as a ratchet, and it is strangling us.

matthew said...

@ LarryHart - I heard the low turnout in NC on NPR.

Here's a source - https://thinkprogress.org/north-carolina-counties-that-slashed-early-voting-sites-see-hours-long-lines-fcffa0151748#.d1hw3e8tk

From the article:

"Guilford County reduced the number of polling sites in the first week of early voting from 16 in 2012 to a single location this year. Turnout so far is down 85 percent."

LarryHart said...

@matthew,

I suppose the two things are not contradictory. Turnout could be lower, with a high percentage of those who did turn out swinging Democratic.

We'll see.

LarryHart said...

BTW, there is something fundamentally flawed about the system when whichever party is in charge of a state/county designs voting rules to benefit the party rather than to facilitate a fair election. I don't blame the parties for doing so under the existing rules, but the rules must be changed to take the administrative decisions of elections out of partisan hands.

Devil in details, of course.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion, All manifestations of international law

Heh. You are going to confuse people who aren’t experienced with emergent law. Markets look like ‘rigged elections’ to them, thus they count only sovereign-written regulations as law. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart: It’s not just the ruling party making rules at the local level. In any location where the minority party has any teeth, they both tend to provide oversight even if one dominates the rule making process. You could see the process on display during the Florida recount of 2000. In my own neighborhood, they make it very easy to volunteer for oversight duties (even as a partisan) and election duties (where you leave your partisan boxing gloves at home).

Ultimately, though, it is up to the People to defend their election processes. The Court slaps us occasionally when we do things that make it hard for parties to do as they wish because it looks like a violation of the first amendment. When we act through initiatives, we are effectively operating as our own legislature and should face limits, but that doesn’t mean we can’t act. Here in California, we DO act.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ:

I'm not worried about the outcome in California (or Illinois, for that matter).

It concerns me that North Carolina can shut down most early-voting sites, making people wait in line for so long that they're likely to give up or not bother. It concerns me that Donald Trump is calling for patrols to intimidate blacks and Latinos at the voting locations in places like Pennsylvania and Arizona.

Ultimately, it concerns me that, because one party does better when more people vote, while the other party does better when fewer people vote, that it is taken as if both of those are partisan concerns--that Republicans have as much right to suppress the vote as Democrats do to facilitate voting, because both sides are simply acting in their own partisan interests. We're supposed to be a democracy, which to me means that everyone who is eligible to vote has a chance to cast a vote that is counted.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "You are going to confuse people who aren’t experienced with emergent law. Markets look like ‘rigged elections’ to them"

Concur, regretfully. So much that looks 'rigged' is simple arbitrage with a cost-shifting and tax-avoidance dimension. When trade regimes bestow benefits, they do not fall so evenly: the man who didn't die in a war that never happened is unlikely to be grateful for the regime that preempted a return to the historical norm - he sees only a hardship, and overlooks the benefit.

I wish I knew how to get through to them. Yes, the system is 'rigged' - as in, it's a powerful structure designed to operate mainsails that can catch winds to propel several vessels efficiently. Mostly, "the system" does what it was designed to do (mitigate/prevent major wars). Want a system that broadens wealth further than the existing system? Then build it. (Turns out, such systems look more like NAFTA, CAFTA, and the TPP though...)

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: Oh - missed the Applegate canvassing. I hope that you're both making a big deal out of the California National Guard scandal; I'm pleased the LA Times has been fronting the story, and infuriated by the effort to gouge members of the National Guard who served overseas to repay their enlistment bonuses because they were "overpaid." I should think that story would play well in San Diego: why was Darrell Issa sleeping? Indeed, why was everyone sleeping, except the Guard themselves?

The issue ought to be Applegate's. But it's not the only time I can think of that an issue is a natural for it's most logical proponent, yet gets overlooked in the fray... (prop 54, wink wink).

Tim H. said...

donzelion, I would say the transition that follows in the wake of something like NAFTA is usually done with little concern for the people and businesses that stand to receive the less desirable end of the stick. The mechanization of agriculture might be an applicable example, the families that successfully transitioned are able to farm a LOT of land, the previous owners bought out, move to the city and businesses close up, because there's no longer enough people to pay to keep the doors open. If one were to follow William Least Heat Moon's route in "Blue Highways" now, there might not be a lot of people to talk to. I don't really want to be the sort of person who can say "Fuck the doomed.", which I suppose is my argument with contemporary conservatism. If we get better at cleaning up the collateral damage of trade treaties, and if it still makes sense when the collateral damage is taken into account, I've got no problem with them.

Jumper said...

Not so fast. Dark energy might not exist:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161021123238.htm

Paul SB said...

Tim H., I like your reasoning.

A society that is strong, flexible and just (and no human society goes without concepts of justice) has to do more than just innovate and Sell! Sell! Sell! Even Neanderthals made an effort to care for those less fortunate among themselves. All those people who got pushed off their land to make room for the "Green Revolution" a generation ago needed somewhere to go and some way to survive. Without mechanized farming we could not possibly feed all our people, so it was a good thing in one sense. But if we leave everything to the pseudo-darwinian laws of the market, we end up creating a whole lot of human misery around us, and desperate people turn to desperate measures (like voting for a grope-monster with a dead Pomeranian on his head, of smashing your window and stealing everything you own). The kind of trade agreements Donzelion is talking about usually do more good than harm. But if we fail to mitigate the harm they do, we end up with some pretty huge problems. Unfortunately, the conservatives among us find it all too easy to blame individuals for social problems and leave people out to hang, regardless of the consequences.

Back to work now!

Tacitus2 said...

From the original Post.

"Hey, 2018 ain't so far. Come back with a new team. Heck, maybe YOU are that kind of old fashioned adult."

From The Return of the King:

"Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself."

Tacitus


LarryHart said...

donzelion:

I wish I knew how to get through to them. Yes, the system is 'rigged' - as in, it's a powerful structure designed to operate mainsails that can catch winds to propel several vessels efficiently. Mostly, "the system" does what it was designed to do (mitigate/prevent major wars)...


I wish I could get through to people that "More people vote Democratic than Republican" is not an example of a rigged system.

Tangentially, I wonder why people who argue so vociferously for voter id to insure that the wrong people don't cast a vote also think that closed primaries are an example of "rigging". The arguments for open primaries could also be construed as arguments why anyone on American soil should be allowed to vote.

raito said...

LarryHart,

And in a prime example, a Green Bay city clerk wanted to know if she could deny UWGB an early polling station because it might benefit Democrats...

https://www.thenation.com/article/city-clerk-opposed-early-voting-site-at-uw-green-bay-because-students-lean-more-toward-the-democrats/

LarryHart said...

@raito,

Back in (I think) 1978, Illinois changed its gubernatorial election from the presidential years to the mid-term years. At the time, I thought that was a good idea to keep the governors' campaign separate from the hoopla of the presidential one, but now, I'm convinced that move was made to benefit Republicans. Democrats tend to stay home in off years.

But, you ask, isn't Illinois a blue state? Well, yes, in presidential elections. But we had Republican governors from the mid-70s through the turn of the millennium. The State Senate was in Republican control much of that time, and even the State House was Republican for (IIRC) two years. Much of Illinois's current fiscal woes came out of Republican policies, which seemed to rely on the 1990s economy continuing to grow indefinitely.

LarryHart said...

raito:

And in a prime example, a Green Bay city clerk wanted to know if she could deny UWGB an early polling station because it might benefit Democrats


If a Democratic official even hinted (in an e-mail) about refusing an action because it "might benefit Republicans", it would be a major scandal. But somehow, it's acceptable in this country to think that Democrats don't really have a right to vote, and that making it more difficult for them to do so is an acceptable countermeasure.

Remember the argument that "We know Iraq has WMDs because we sold the things to them"? Likewise, Republicans should claim that they know the elections are rigged because they are the ones rigging them.

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :

One of the last potentially impactful endorsements left out there has finally dropped. Former general and Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that he will be voting for Hillary Clinton on November 8.

That Powell is not voting for Donald Trump is not a surprise, since he recently described the GOP nominee as a "national disgrace." The question was whether Hillary Clinton was a bridge too far, since she and the general don't see eye-to-eye on some things, and since he's not thrilled to be blamed for her e-mail server. However, he appears to be looking past those problems, and so joins a fairly long list of Bush administration officials who have jumped ship on the red team this year, including former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, former President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board Chairman Brent Scowcroft, former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.


Finally, someone fills the role of this lyric from "Hamilton", names altered appropriately:


The people are asking to hear my voice,
For the country is facing a difficult choice,
And if you were to ask me who I'd promote--
Hillary has my vote.

I have never agreed with Hillary once.
We have fought on like seventy-five different fronts.
But when all is said and all is done,
Hillary has beliefs. Trump has none.


Well, I'll be damned. I'll be damned.
Powell is on your side.
Well, I'll be damned. I'll be damned.
And you won in a landslide.


Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

As a fair minded person you will want a more detailed discussion of the UW Green Bay matter:

The City Clerk had various concerns which were deemed reasonable. The comment regards favoring Democrats arose from a discussion on the rule that a polling place not favor one party over another. She sought guidance from the Wisconsin Election Commision. Some very unfortunate choice of wording to be sure.

http://wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=380764

I am adopting a 24 hour rule on most inflammatory news these days. I recommend this policy.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

@Tacitus2,

I'm willing to accept your more reasonable explanation of that e-mail conversation. Do you extend the same to Mrs Clinton?

While I do perceive Wisconsin to be tilting its rules towards Republicans, they at least seem to be keeping within the lines of legality while doing so. I'm more concerned with blatant pro-Republican moves in North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and with the gutting of the Civil Rights Act which made such things possible.

Can reasonable people agree that decisions on how to facilitate free and fair elections should not be made by those who stand to gain the most from gaming the decisions (while perhaps also agreeing that it's difficult to imagine an easy remedy for that situation)?

Anonymous said...

Rather more the twitching collapse of the US economy sent those wage-depressing Mexican workers packing--one might recall that it was American corporations (courtesy of NAFTA) flooding the people of the corn with, well, cheap corn that set those workers in motion, and who are American businessvolk to turn down such cheap labour? American workers cost money. Profits! Consequent opiate problems and strato suicide rates in the fly-over states? Err, all is well! So sayeth the Pinker-man. Amen.

The United States promotes the democratization of the world? Really? If America was actually in the business of promoting democracy, then why did it smother that baby in Iran ('53) Guatemala ('44 '54) Chile ('73) Hondouras ('09) and etc.? Reject that hypothesis, yo. China should well mistrust those warbling on about free trade and other abstractions, because, oh I don't know, that whole opium thing, Standard Oil, United Fruit, etc.

Tacitus2 said...

Larry

Regards (President, lets get used to it) Clinton there is a much larger body of information and the stakes - money, lives, etc - are a lot higher than a county clerk in Wisconsin. I have given her a pass in some areas but not all. Her aides actually say more of the real worrying stuff. They concern me more than Madam President herself.

I agree with your second para.

I don't see how we can get around the problem with the third paragraph. We elect (state) Secreteries of State and assorted municipal and county officials. Turning the machinery of elections over to an unelected and (hopefully?) non partisan body is a question just a little beyond my few moments before class starts.

But if I ever do take the plunge into politics I will challenge my opponent to join me going out into the community to register new voters. If, regardless of your party, you can only squeak by with a victory by a whisker you can't claim to have a wide mandate to act. What about all those who did not vote?

A few years back a good friend of mine ran for State Assembly. Had she won I would have run against her two years later on just such a basis. We would have had some merry old joint appearnces and debates at many places, including taverns, across Western Wisconsin!

Tacitus

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "decisions on how to facilitate free and fair elections should not be made by those who stand to gain the most from gaming the decisions"
It's not just difficult: it's impossible to imagine a solution that would bring in impartial judges. Hamilton/Madison (not the musical, but the Federalist Papers gents) offered a better solution: expand the sphere, use faction to check faction - all of which can only occur with transparency.

Anonymous: it was American corporations (courtesy of NAFTA) flooding the people of the corn with, well, cheap corn that set those workers in motion"

(1) Farmers have been leaving agriculture for about a century now, both in the U.S. and in Mexico, and indeed, in much of the world. Blaming NAFTA for the perpetuation of that trend is fashionable, but the evidence is quite mixed.

(2) There's a story that Iranians, Chileans, etc. are too stupid to know how to implement a coup without Americans telling them how to do it, as though these people are all a bunch of primitives who need the CIA to greenlight their choices and pick governments for them. A false story, one driven by Hollywood tropes and James Bond nonsense. The U.S. certainly does try to change foreign governments occasionally - most notably in Iraq (1991-2003), Nicaragua (Sandinistas), and Afghanistan (Soviet occupation). The key to distinguish when the efforts were real and when they are smoke/mirrors is the budget line: when changing a government doesn't cost any specific money, then that government that was changed wasn't particularly stable to begin with.

raito said...

Tacitus2 give the most charitable explanation. I'm still skeptical. And I don't see anything in section 5 of the state statutes, particularly 5.25 Polling places.

As a reducto ad absurdum, a rule that says a polling place can't favor a particular party might be considered to be at odds with any party's candidate winning an election.

As for the legality of the various rule-tilting... Sure, it's legal. And still wrong. Except for the DMV workers discouraging people without 'proper' documentation from filling out paperwork anyway, as is allowed.

Still, you run into some contradictions in WI. The GOP legislature makes ID required, and closes/restricts the DMV offices where ID is obtained. But they do so possibly disproportionately in the rural counties most solidly in their pockets. Maybe someone in the GOP was smart enough to run the numbers and figure out it was a net gain, but I doubt it.

At least the early voting restrictions got tossed out.

I don't think I'd go into politics. I don't think I have the stomach to do what seems necessary to win. My favorite campaign ad was for some judge in Iowa that I heard on the radio. Some retired judge said, "I'm so and so, and here's why you should vote for this guy." At the end of the ad I had a fairly decent idea of the candidate's platform. And even more impressive, I had no idea who he was running against. That's how I'd run. And how I'd lose.

Jumper said...

I read from Tacitus's link they were offering the students free bus passes to the polls. I have no news of free bus passes being offered for voters here in North Carolina. I always thought Wisconsin was more civilized than the South.

LarryHart said...

raito:

As a reducto ad absurdum, a rule that says a polling place can't favor a particular party might be considered to be at odds with any party's candidate winning an election.


That seems to be Trump's "rigged" argument, as well as that of the unrepentant Bernie Bros--that the election will be/was rigged by all those people not voting for their preferred candidate. I believe some of them are sincere--that they love their candidate so much (and perceive support for Clinton to be lukewarm at best) that it is inconceivable to them that the mass of voters isn't in complete agreement. That the official vote turns out differently proves the fix is in.


I don't think I'd go into politics. I don't think I have the stomach to do what seems necessary to win.


I'm pretty sure the real-life Thomas Jefferson held that view of politics--that anyone who actively sought public office was disqualified by that very fact. Ideally, public office shouldn't be a prize that the candidates compete for.


My favorite campaign ad was for some judge in Iowa that I heard on the radio. Some retired judge said, "I'm so and so, and here's why you should vote for this guy." At the end of the ad I had a fairly decent idea of the candidate's platform. And even more impressive, I had no idea who he was running against. That's how I'd run. And how I'd lose.


But that would be a better system. I suppose what I'm getting at is that good candidates must be willing to lose an election rather than "do all it takes" to win, and hope that the good type of campaigning catches on in the voters' eyes over time. Even respecting the fact that the world is as it really is, not as I wish it were, someone like Trump who just can't stand to lose is dangerous.

LarryHart said...

While re-reading "Existence", it's especially funny to encounter catchpa's phrase of "Please prove you're not a robot." I won't belabor the whole conversation we've had before, but I keep picturing Gavin looking at the screen with a cartoon "?" over his head, wondering what he should do next.

Deuxglass said...

Donzelion,

You said “Concur, regretfully. So much that looks 'rigged' is simple arbitrage with a cost-shifting and tax-avoidance dimension.”

In my business, when a rival investment bank was making big money with a new product or method we would reverse-engineer it and see if we could copy it. In finance there are no patents or copyrights. Once we knew how they were doing it we would call in the lawyers and ask them if it was legal. Most often it was not so we told them to find a way to make it legal because we knew Bank XYZ was doing it. The lawyers and accountants would come back with schemes involving complicated transactions usually involving using the bank’s balance sheet in different countries and jurisdictions and we would then make the go/no go decision based of potential profitability. At no point did we question the morality of what we were doing which was finding ways to get around the law and violating the intent of the law. It never came up either in conversation or in our minds. Once your corporate lawyers give you the seal of approval your conscience is clear. What was illegal becomes legal. I am not saying that the fault is the lawyers’, it is not. I am just saying that morality often has nothing to do with the law.

Tacitus2 said...

ratio

I was not actually being charitable. I simply wanted to put something other than the Huffpost version on record. I don't know anything about the political motivations here.
It is fair to say that early voting has been a bit more of a contentious issue than the conventional polling setup. Could College Students really not make it to the polls on election day? They have to take a break from Chaucer and/or Halo once in a while.

I also found the bit about not providing an unfair partisan advantage in polling location to be odd. It seems a rather malleable thing.

Is it a factory shop floor, a country club, a Catholic Church, a place with no public transport, up a steep hill, in a crime ridden neighborhood, Chinatown, a housing project, a Senior Center...? You appear to know more about election law than most.

Me I just vote at the library down the street. Seems OK.

Tacitus

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...

"I'm pretty sure the real-life Thomas Jefferson held that view of politics--that anyone who actively sought public office was disqualified by that very fact. Ideally, public office shouldn't be a prize that the candidates compete for."

In his novel Songs Of Distant Earth Arthur C. Clarke expressed this same sentiment. The leader of the small society of the earth-colonized planet the story takes place on was, if I recall correctly, selected at random and the typical point of view of the people was that it was an unwanted duty. Though that always appealed to me, I don't think such a simple system would work very well or last in a large (population and area) society.

Deuxglass said...

Paul SB,

Thanks for giving me your background. It helps me see and appreciate the person behind the words. You have had an interesting life. I love Colorado myself and wanted to settle there as did a couple of my school friends but fate ruled otherwise. I like California but I must say that when I visit it I get a strange feeling. I feel that it is the “end of the world”, an enclave, a strip of land with mountains and desert to the east and the Pacific to the west. You can actually see the limits where people can live. I was used to the Midwest where you can drive thousands of miles through green land dotted with farms, small towns, and larger towns. It goes on and on. In California I felt hemmed in.

I hear you are an archaeologist and in that I envy you. When I was young I devoured books that talked about the great discoverers of old civilizations and lost languages. In college I did take a couple of course in archeology one of which involved learning how to knapping flint. After almost crushing a couple of fingers I distinctly remember being proud of producing a hand axe that only a retarded Australopithecus could love.

Do you follow maritime archaeology? I just read about the Black Sea Maritime Archeology Project which is mapping the ancient sea-level off of Bulgaria and as an unplanned side-affect they discovered over 40 sunken ships from various epochs. Since the depths of the Black Sea is anaerobic these ships were in almost mint condition. Check out the page here. It’s fantastic!

http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/44562

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Regards (President, lets get used to it) Clinton


Well, at the moment, "President Clinton" is someone else. Maybe Presumptive-President Clinton? :)

I probably should have referred to "Secretary Clinton", not only because it's her most recent title, but because it echoes the "Secretary Jefferson" and "Secretary Hamilton" references in the musical. During the last debate, my head was constantly providing appropriate lines from "Hamilton" that I wished Hillary could actually sing in context. Especially this one (emphasis mine) :


I know that [Donald Trump] is here and he would rather not have this debate
I’ll remind you that he [was] not Secretary of State
He knows nothing of loyalty
Smells like new money, dresses like fake royalty
Desperate to rise above his station
Everything he does betrays the ideals of our nation

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

In his novel Songs Of Distant Earth Arthur C. Clarke expressed this same sentiment. The leader of the small society of the earth-colonized planet the story takes place on was, if I recall correctly, selected at random and the typical point of view of the people was that it was an unwanted duty.


Funny you should mention Clarke. I recently did a re-read of his "Imperial Earth", and was stunned to find a line in there about the president running like mad not to be elected, but once in office, doing the best job he can to earn time off for good behavior. The reason I was stunned was that I had thought that was an actual Thomas Jefferson quote, but I had obviously come across it in that book (which I had read before).

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

Don't quit the day job.

Tacitus

matthew said...

Regarding college students not being able to make it to the polls on election day - my very small college town was ~50% students by population. The dorms were gerrymandered up into five different districts and *every* college student was purged from the voter rolls after every election. No one wanted the students to vote, especially the local Democrats. I had professors that would always schedule major exams during voting days too.

I do admire the chutzpah of the conservative mentality typified by Tacitus' comments here on early voting - cheating voters out of voting is ok as long as my side wins. Tacitus - explain to me, simply, how restricting early voting is contentious. How, exactly, is our Union served by making it harder to exercise the responsibility of voting by eligible voters? I only see ONE benefit to restricting early voting - conservative groups have more power.

donzelion said...

Deuxglass: "In finance there are no patents or copyrights."

Ahem, after State Street Bank & Trust Co. v. Signature Financial Group, Inc. (1998), 'business methods' were subject to patent. In re Bilski limited that 10 years later, and Mayo v. Prometheus and Alice v. CLS Bank went even further, but the current state of play for patenting 'business methods' is unclear (four liberal justices ruled 'business methods' should not be eligible for patents, but until a fifth joins them on the Supreme Court and a formal opinion is issued overturning State Street, this remains an open question).

State Street operated some of the largest financial instruments around, so for a time at least, finance (at least in America) was very much linked with patent operations.

I'm unaware of any other countries following suit: America has long been an outlier in many areas of patents (e.g., software patents are not recognized in much of the world).

"The lawyers and accountants would come back with schemes..."
That was the stage at which I would normally get called upon (usually to say that their scheme would be illegal in some country in the Middle East and there is no possibility of cure...which they already knew but needed to confirm as inexpensively as possible.)

"Once your corporate lawyers give you the seal of approval your conscience is clear."
Indeed. In my region, the bulk of the corporate lawyers offered plays to link interests in unfinished buildings (esp. in Dubai) into complex trades as collateral, which was typically done to avoid regulatory triggers in another jurisdiction (e.g., an 'asserted market value' of collateral is offered; to challenge that, federal inspectors would need to verify the status of collateral and determine that this was fraudulent mischaracterization - which would require cooperation with foreign governments that was not forthcoming - and thus, the asserted value would persist for years, easily long enough to open and close a position)...

"I am just saying that morality often has nothing to do with the law."
Again, I must regretfully concur. A lot of the ways that the wealthy move from 'pretty rich' to 'extravagantly rich' look 'unfair' to outsiders who aren't familiar with the process. Some of that may actually BE unfair, but a lot of the claims of 'unfairness' are based on ignorance about how the world operates (e.g., "tax avoidance" is perfectly legit, "tax evasion" is not, and the difference isn't always quite so clear to an ordinary person).

Tacitus2 said...

Matthew I do have a longstanding policy of answering evey question politely posed to me. Saying that I condone cheating voters is skating close to the edge. But OK.

The issue is not whether college students should vote. They should. You could have an respectful discussion - at least it would be respectful on my side - of where students are actually in residence. Is their home their freshman dorm room? Or back in Conservative Corners somewhere down state? Or in another state? There are reasonable questions as to which local races for instance they really should be weighing in on. Is somebody who is graduating in 9 months going to be around to pay taxes for a school bond levy?

Voting has gone from a simpler, agrarian era where everyone stayed pretty close to home...on into a modern and much more mobile age. We have always had an option, absentee balloting, for those whose work or travel has kept them from the polling place on Election Day. As I said, that hardly applies to most college students.

You should really use the term Extended Voting. Absentee balloting has been expanded. How far should we move the start point. A few days, a week, a month? Do people who vote early miss any late developments that might influence their vote? I suspect that most who go to the effort to vote early are in the Dedicated Partisan category and so their vote may not change for any reason.

Now you saw above that I favor efforts to increase voter participation. Do you feel that early voting, as opposed to absentee, makes a big difference there?

And since you insist on calling me Conservative I suppose I had better oblige you by serving up a nice slab of Old Timey Thinking. I enjoy the sense of collaborative civic endevour that comes from my whole community all heading down to the polls. If I am for any reason not able to be there that day I vote absentee.

Are you denying the additional expense of extending the voting time period? Can you not imagine issues with ballot security when batches of ballots are spread out temporally and geographically. (don't get the vapors matthew, I am not calling fraud. But bags need to be sealed and stored, more work and more expense).

You feel strongly that I am trying to disenfranchise voters. Respectfully I contend that I am not. We differ on how far we should go to reach out and make voting easier. I say quite a ways. You say, lots further.

Tacitus

donzelion said...

Erm, I should have said, "In my former region of employment..." (the bulk of the corporate lawyers offered plays to link interests in unfinished buildings (esp. in Dubai) into complex trades as collateral...) Bear in mind that the money flowing from that region into the global financial system was more than an order of magnitude greater than Warren Buffett's own backing of Goldman and other financial players.

I had almost nothing to do with most of that - but got little snippets of insight here and there. Some of that informs why I keep chastising anyone who asserts the existence of a "Saudi-Murdoch cabal": they know nothing about what they speak, and why that would be about as unlikely as Israel conferring Palestinian statehood tomorrow as a result of Daesh/ISIS mediation: simply impossible beyond ludicrous.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Don't quit the day job


Funny you should say it that way. I'll explain more when the dust settles.

But if that's a knock at my "Hamilton" lyrics, I only substituted the name "Donald Trump" for "Alexander Hamilton", and took liberties with the tense of the verb "was not". Aside from that, the lyrics are all Lin-Manuel Miranda's, including "I remind you he is not Secretary of State".

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

Hoping all is well.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

@Tacitus2:

I don't want to put too much out there on the internet before a done deal. Suffice to say my day job left me, but I've got some other prospects, and this may turn out to be something I should have done several years ago. Inertia can be a bitch to overcome, and sometimes requires a kick.


LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

We have always had an option, absentee balloting, for those whose work or travel has kept them from the polling place on Election Day. As I said, that hardly applies to most college students.


Maybe not if they're voting locally, but if they're voting from their home address then absentee balloting absolutely applies. Back in the late 70s and early 80s, when you still needed a justification for an absentee ballot, I always voted absentee from college. As long my college and home addresses were in different counties, that was a legitimate reason.

Since I went to the University of Illinois, the state-wide races were the same from either location.

donzelion said...

Matthew: "my very small college town was ~50% students by population."

In such a setting, implementing something a la Oregon's "vote-by-mail" system seems quite appropriate to me. For people like Raito who want to have the civic engagement of turning up at a poll site, they can deliver their ballots by hand, rather than by mail, along with any friends who wish to join them.

Of course, there are a number of problems with 'vote-by-mail.' There's no such thing as a problem-free system: the question is, which problems are worth bearing - and at what price? I'll tolerate a certain number of 'zombie voters' as long as they don't change electoral outcomes. If they might, then there must be a system to review the ballots cast and verify the count (and that is always much more onerous than voters realize).

The student must decide wherever they "reside,"
And the system must respect a clear decision.
Yet students oft depart from their alma mater's heart
So the system will reflect this imprecision.
Hence "trust but verify" is the simplest formulae
For votes to count without an Inquisition.

Tacitus2 said...

"Inertia can be a bitch"

Probably another of those turns of speech that we shall be expected to abandon in the Correct Era.

But more seriously. Twice in my working life I have stepped away from a very well compensated position that was slowly chewing me up. Nothing else really lined up, just took the jump. Both moves were exactly the right thing to do and I have no regrets.

Best wishes.

Tacitus

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Oh, I missed this -
"The arguments for open primaries could also be construed as arguments why anyone on American soil should be allowed to vote."
Bear in mind that up until about a century ago, any adult male on American soil WAS allowed to vote (at least in many parts of the country).

It's only since various anti-immigrant laws came down in the 20th century that the rules started to change. The anti-immigrant factor played an incredible role in enacting Prohibition, and was probably always linked to 'preserving local values.' (See, e.g., Ken Burns' treatment on the link between immigration and Prohibition.)

Paul SB said...

Deuxglass,

You're welcome, though a slight correction: I was an archaeologist. I finished my Master's in 2000, got a pretty low-level drudge job in California, and was laid off along with about 3000 others in the state when 9/11 happened. With the economy tanking and my wife hearing the banshee call of the biological time bomb, I had to change careers to get more stability. Now, in my 14th year as a public school teacher, I'm too out of shape to have any chance of going back to my former calling. Life throws its nasty tricks at us, doesn't it?

I've been too busy to do more than skim the past couple days, but my son is taking a nap and I am too tired to grade.

I made some pretty mentally-challenged stone tools in my day, too, though what you can do depends a lot on the quality of the stone. I once worked on a National Guard base in Central California where we found outcrops of mint-green chert that was soft as butter. One of the older hands was knocking out all sorts of stuff and leaving lying around for the younger archaeologists to find as a practical joke - if they couldn't tell it was freshly-knapper, they didn't deserve their degrees! I still have a small chunk of that chert, but I'n afraid to try to make it into anything because my skills are so rusty, and I doubt I will ever get access to that place again.

Thanks for the maritime archaeo link. When I was younger and had more hair on my head, and less adipose around the middle, I learned to scuba dive for exactly that reason. I also ended up learning a whole lot of nautical terminology (something I wish Dr. Brin had thrown a wee bit more into "Glory Season"). But my wife was terrified I would be eaten by sharks, and before long all of my archaeological skills would become irrelevant.

But on the subject of the Black Sea, are you familiar with a book called "Noah's Flood" by Ryan & Pittman? The authors are geologists who worked on a project back in the 60's to drill cores from the Black Sea, and discovered that around 9000 years ago it had been a basin with fresh-water lakes, until an earthquake ruptured the Bosporus and flooded the basin. The hypothesized that this flood, only 1000 years before the first true civilization in the region, is what inspired stories of a great flood. It's a great bit of sleuthing, though their geology is more sound than their archaeology, which should be no surprise, since they are geologists. That and a song by Tangerine Dream inspired me to write a short story back when I had more time for such things.

I don't feel especially confined in California. I'm not close enough to the coast to see it, so maybe that is why. The way west is blocked, but not to ship or air travel. It's more the lack of funds that keeps that from happening. But I do miss the high mountains of my home state. The Coastal Ranges here are disappointingly bare, and I miss all the pines and aspens. My daughter swears I must be part elf, as much as I miss those trees.

Paul SB said...

I was going to provide a link to the Amazon page for that book and forgot. Dory brain strikes again!

https://www.amazon.com/Noahs-Flood-Scientific-Discoveries-Changed/dp/0684859203/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477524917&sr=1-1&keywords=Noah%27s+Flood

David Brin said...

""Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself."

Everyone tempt Tacitus! Tacitus for state assembly 2018!

Only I despair that not one pol or media outlet had pointed out my riff on compliance assistance. If you sincerely believe a new, onerous requirement should be imposed on people or companies, then the govt should allocate funds to help them to comply. All the more so, for the poor. Yet the states imposing voter ID have done the opposite.

The diametric opposite.

The hypocritically and utterly-evil cheating opposite.

Tony Fisk said...

Since we have an archaeological theme developing:

"Oh what tangled webs we weave. When two folk meet: the genes they leave!"

Probably not worth quitting my day job to bowdlerise Shakespeare (who may contain traces of Marlowe, one gathers)

Paul SB said...

Tacitus for State Assembly! Oh, wait, I'm not in Wisconsin...

Larry for City Council! Oh, wait, I'm not in Chicago ...But government positions must be lucrative, or the rich people wouldn't be hogging them. Best of luck!

Anyone else here lack political ambitions? I'll vote for you. I've never trusted anyone who wants to be a leader. Maybe we should go with Draco's method, and draw lots. It might be better than doing the Campaign Limbo (How low can they go?).

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "The Coastal Ranges here [in California] are disappointingly bare"

The mighty Coastal Redwood I hugged 6 months ago roars with fury at your lack of respect. Then again, as it does so from far up in Humboldt County, you cannot hear it, so perhaps it never made any noise.

And if you're missing mountains, the mighty Sequoia I hugged three weeks ago in the Sierra Nevada laughs at the 'tired old mountain ranges of yester-geologic era' (it's a bit of an adolescent among mountain ranges, so a modicum of disrespect is wholly appropriate...and it can boast bigger trees).

donzelion said...

Tacitus: IF you run for office, you'll receive no endorsement from me whatsoever.... until I know your name. ;-)

Dr. Brin: "...not one pol or media outlet had pointed out my riff on compliance assistance." Perhaps they're waiting for you to take a stand on Prop 54 (transparency), since that's an issue you've advocated for, published on, and commented about at length for a very long time that is up for debate and has drawn a great deal of internal uncertainty among many progressives. ;-)

Time is probably too late for organizing a panel to debate it, alas. But there are still a few tech journals in California that might be curious what one of 'transparency's' godfathers thinks of this effort.

Jumper said...

I have thought about why people, including students, fudge their residency. Car insurance is one that probably tempts a lot of students to claim residency wherever rates are lower. People near state lines do it, and also fake their residence for tax reasons - auto tax, registration fees, etc.

I don't think voting crosses their minds when they do this. Still, I wonder how many disengage with democracy because of these small cheats. They don't want to blow the scam.

But aside from these outliers, it seems the problem of selecting polling places is a similar problem as drawing representation district lines. Gerrymandering is the temptation to partisans.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

But government positions must be lucrative, or the rich people wouldn't be hogging them. Best of luck!


Remember when Homer Simpson was elected union leader?


Homer: How much does the job pay?

Carl: Nothing.

Homer: D'oh!

Carl: ...unless you're crooked.

Homer: Woo hoo!

Tacitus2 said...

Donzelion.

As I am now retired the need for "cloaking" is gone. No longer will patients in the ER waiting room spend their time perusing the internet for my name!

For what it is worth I have picked up a number of alter egos along the way. I am at various turns Tacitus2, Badger Trowelsworthy, Dagmar Suarez and the more pedestrian Tim Wolter. Picking the "real" one is not productive. I am all of them.

But none of me are running for anything.

T

LarryHart said...

regarding public office...

I suspect that many of us here would be more comfortable with a "man behind the great man" role.

donzelion said...

Tacitus: "But none of me are running for anything."
Yet. ;-)

Well, I can't goad Dr. Brin into commenting at length about a topic that is directly in his line of interest, so I'll not pretend to have the ability to goad you anywhere. But respect is earned and warranted, and handling aggressive attacks gently is admirable.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I just helped a lady on vacation here from NYC with absentee voting. She hadn't expected to be here long enough for it to interfere with voting, and the process (get absentee form, submit absentee form, receive ballot back, submit ballot, all within a couple of weeks) makes me doubt she will be able to vote properly, just because of transit times. E-voting would help with this, but again, without an auditable trail, it gets scary out there.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I haven't been to Humbolt County since I was 16, but I do remember the Redwoods up there. And I have been to Sequoia a few times. But I can't see either of them from where I live, much less escape the noise of the dogs and the Harleys and the jacked-up pickup trucks that patrol my neighborhood on a nightly basis.

Redwoods, BTW, speak in very quiet voices, given their size. One told me it objected to humans naming it General Sherman. Seeing all the female cones at its base, I understood why. Have you ever seen the Bristlecones? Some of the oldest organisms on the planet, but you need 4wd to get up there. One day...

We have a hook up location, you just need to name an evening or weekend time.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

This quote isn't as funny, but you might recognize the source:

"It's said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power."

Is there a Hamilton analogue?

BTW: The Rock Lobster thing worked for awhile, but for a couple days I had that one stuck in my head (weird, as I hadn't actually heard the song since I was in high school).

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart:

Can reasonable people agree that decisions on how to facilitate free and fair elections should not be made by those who stand to gain the most from gaming the decisions (while perhaps also agreeing that it's difficult to imagine an easy remedy for that situation)?

Heh. I've never met a member of Homo Angelicus, but I suspect you need some of them if you want a solution for this. With Homo Sapiens, I suspect we are stuck setting factions against each other as the best of what is possible. It works most of the time, but makes collusion between two large parties relatively easy. Third parties don't like the current arrangement, but they have a path forward by changing the coalitions within the two major parties.

Not only is it hard to imagine an easy remedy. I think reasonable people can argue one does not exist.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion:

I wish I knew how to get through to them. Yes, the system is 'rigged' - as in, it's a powerful structure designed to operate mainsails that can catch winds to propel several vessels efficiently. Mostly, "the system" does what it was designed to do (mitigate/prevent major wars). Want a system that broadens wealth further than the existing system? Then build it. (Turns out, such systems look more like NAFTA, CAFTA, and the TPP though...)

Heh. Spoken like a lawyer. My strong suspicion is 'the system' isn't designed at all except at the periphery and only then to deal with cheats who know the social norms and persist in violating them. It is emergent which makes it the height of hubris to think one can design it better. 8)

Want a system that broadens wealth further than the existing system? Change the rhetoric so it becomes sinful to capture government, bias market rules in favor of any market participant, and to abandon one's duty to act upon personal knowledge that enables market clearing processes. Bias the rhetoric and one is not designing the system that emerges. No one is. It will emerge more free, fair, and level. History shows how.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I'm effectively unelectable. You can safely vote for me with no risk of me winning anything.

My wife promised years ago to toss my stuff on the lawn if I ran for anything. I make a joke of it from time to time and explain I had to turn to libertarians to find common cause with the equally unelectable. She just growls and changes the subject. 8)

donzelion said...

Alfred: Ha - you're paraphrasing MADISON!
"If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." - Fed 51

(Hamilton wrote most of the rest of them, but Madison tended to write the best of 'em)

Of course, if men were angels, we would also have a very easy time with elections. "Your turn!" "No, it's your turn!" "No, it's your turn!" Something like four cars meeting at an intersection in Portland...

donzelion said...

Alfred: "It is emergent which makes it the height of hubris to think one can design it better."
Oh, come now, the mere fact that a system is emergent, responsive, and unpredictable does not mean we cannot design it 'better' (or better design certain aspects to operate within it). Weather is also emergent, but we build better roofs today than we once did. And we can build better rules about roof building as well.

"Want a system that broadens wealth further than the existing system? Change the rhetoric so it becomes sinful to capture government,"
"Sin" compels certain folks to refrain from certain behaviors. But as the love of money is the root of (much) evil, I'd rather focus on how to make it less lucrative or common. That's where NAFTA, TPP, and other free trade agreements come into play (based on an empirically demonstrable assertion that the first target of governments is 'the least loved people with money - typically foreigners').

The rhetoric adopted decades ago fixated on the term 'transparency' - with an eye toward mechanisms for piercing opacity (that space where bribes, and wars, so often take hold). But the other side of transparency is perfect knowledge of who pays the consequences - an impossibility given the inevitability of unintended consequences, but even so, we can learn and do better.

Jumper said...

donzelion's retort was similar to the one I planned. Earth's atmosphere might be random but an airplane is well-designed.

Our constitution is designed. Common law is emergent.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

The idea that it is not worth designing anything because Nature does everything better sounds like a product of the Age of Cynicism, when Orwell turned caution from wisdom into intellectual fashion, which then went through the crucible of the Cold War to become an unconscious Pavlovian conditioned reflex to become nihilists. I hear this from environmental activists all the time, people who know terror much more than they know ecology. You might argue The Second Law of Thermodynamics, but every living cell thumbs its nose at that, actively pumping water, simple sugars and amino acids into its membranes. Human were born with the weakest dentition and most useless claws out there. Our native ability to survive without our natural ability to thumb our noses at Mother Nature is an extinction pathway. Well, except that we could plan. We made stone tools to compensate for our lack of teeth and claws, clothes to make up for our lack of adequate "natural" temperature control mechanisms, to say nothing of teepees, wigwams, huts, half-timber cottages, trailer parks and McMansions.

No Homo angelicas, certainly, but without H. tryitouticus you humans would have been consigned to the dustbin of extinction way back in the days of H. habilis. I would reach for that yard sign any time soon.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Redwoods, BTW, speak in very quiet voices, given their size. One told me it objected to humans naming it General Sherman.


You may remember Redwoods playing a part in the "Cerebus" storyline. "Not this again!"

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

"It's said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power."

Is there a Hamilton analogue?


Hmmm, I don't think the theme is actually touched upon in the musical.

I know I've heard the quote before. I don't recall the source, but my first guess would be Thomas Jefferson, with Washington and Franklin as runners up.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

(Hamilton wrote most of the rest of them, but Madison tended to write the best of 'em)


One thing that is mentioned in the musical but not explained (and if I learned it in history class, it didn't stick). Madison was later a bitter foe of the Federalists in general and Hamilton in particular. So why was it Madison, along with Hamilton, who wrote the Federalist Papers?

Paul SB said...

Larry,

You'll have to remind me where the redwood scene was. I have a vague recollection, but that's the best my tired old brain can manage right now. Curious, though, being part elf.

I think our host would be flattered to find his words mistaken for the likes of Jefferson, Washington or Franklin, but as Newton might say, he stands on the shoulders of giants.

On a much more frightening front, on route to my on-line gradebook I had to pass through the default homepage, which led off with this story about what our hair club aficionados have in mind for after the election.

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/beneath-cheers-at-donald-trump%e2%80%99s-rallies-dark-fears-take-hold/ar-AAjsiMQ?li=BBnb7Kz

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB:

I'd be more worried about that Trump rally article but for the byline that leads off "COLORADO SPRINGS-". Ok, there might be a local problem, but I don't expect it to be reflective of the nation at large.

I think that the news media has shifted narratives, since "The election is a nail-biting horse race" is no longer sustainable. So instead, they're building up suspense over what Trump supporters will do when they refuse to accept defeat. I'm expecting the reality to be more mundane than they're making it out to be.

The bit about the Redwoods came during the Judge's explanation of history at the end of "Church and State", and then again in book called "Reads", in which many of the pages are straight text rather than comics. Dave Sim in his "Viktor Davis" voice tells stories of how the world came to be. There's a bit in those passages about Redwoods reacting to history. If I have a chance later today (after biting my own nails over my job interview), I'll look them up.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB:

BTW, I don't know if I'm seeing different banner advertisements than you are, but when I looked at that article you linked to, off to the right under "More news from MSN" was a headline that Our Host predicted:

"The GOP Needs to Elect Trump, Then Impeach Him"

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'm effectively unelectable. You can safely vote for me with no risk of me winning anything.


That's what the said about Ronald Reagan.

And Trump.

raito said...

LarryHart,

Some years ago, the local weekly did an interview with a former politician (I want to say Blaska, but I could be wrong). In it, he said that somehow he was convinced to run a different, cleaner sort of campaign. The result was that he lost. He summed it up by saying that if he ran again, he wouldn't run a clean campaign (by which he meant not smearing his opponent(s) ).

Tacitus2,

I fully agree with you assessment of the coverage of the GB thing, which is why I linked to a story with the text of the email.

I couldn't say anything about 'unfair partisan advantage' because I couldn't find any such statute or similar. If there were one, it sure would give anti-gerrymandering forces some ammunition, though. Local news man-on-the-street interviews with UWGB students gave some credibility to difficulties getting to the on-campus polling place during regular hours on the day of an election. I know that there were times in my college career where it was pretty rough for me.

I'm not sure I'm more informed than most. The best I'll claim is that I know where to look for this sort of stuff, and I try to pay attention.

As for early/absentee voting in WI, it's currently at record levels. At least the anti-early voting forces won't be able to claim that no one does it. Personally, I think that part of the reason so many are voting early is so they can turn off their media until the results are in.

raito said...

donzelion,

It's worth noting that something like 72% of the current early voting was done in person, rather than through the mail.

Dr. Brin,

In WI, the agency charged with educating the public was so charged after it was in the process of being dissolved (and replaced by a partisan board).

LarryHart,

Emergent systems often end up in a local maximum. We seem to call a move off the local minimum in a direction towards a larger maximum 'disruptive'.

As for Homo Angelicus, I think phrase 'cooperation and competition' might apply there. It was in something I read recently. ;)

LarryHart said...

raito:

As for Homo Angelicus, I think phrase 'cooperation and competition' might apply there. It was in something I read recently. ;)


I like the idea of bi-partisan (or multi-partisan) monitors making sure there are no shenanigans at the polling places. It concerns me that in some localities, one party so dominates the authorities that there are no watchers watching the watchmen from the other side, or that if there are, there's no one to complain to. When visibly-armed off-duty policemen engage in one-sided intimidation, what recourse is there?

LarryHart said...

raito:

Personally, I think that part of the reason so many are voting early is so they can turn off their media until the results are in.


That's certainly one reason my wife and I voted early. It's also a way of putting a kind of "body English" on the thing. I figure a certain percentage of other people will make the same decision that I do to vote early or not to do so. And the more who do, the more votes can't be swayed by last-minute Breitbart propaganda or trivialities from Wikileaks.

For people already sick of the coverage, it can't help that Election Day this year is as late on the calendar as it is possible for it to be. Thanksgiving is just over two weeks later.

locumranch said...


Angelicus, subset of 'Homo'.

Let's discuss the $28 Trillion USD Chinese Industrial debt for a moment. This represents a secured debt subset composed of M2 money, the term 'M2 money' meaning NEAR money of non-liquid assets & the term 'secured' meaning capital, physical & tangible, wherein these assets can only be said to maintain value if we assume fungibility (steady-state evaluation) rather than Supply & Demand-dependent value fluctuations.

This Chinese Industrial debt parallels the $1 Trillion USD secured M2 money-subset US Home Mortgage market which went in default in 2008 and caused a 10-year Global Recession, the collapse of eminent international financial institutions & the Icelandic national bankruptcy, as opposed to the $1.5 Trillion USD unsecured, intangible & non-fungible US Academic Tuition debt that HRC has promised to void if elected.

Hehehe. I now realise that the best way to defeat Globalism is to elect the likes of HRC:

One World Economy to rule them all, One World Economy to find them,
One World Economy to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

Have a Nice Day.

A.F. Rey said...

Which means, this year, the nation will give thanks two weeks earlier than usual. :)

A.F. Rey said...

(Previous post was supposed to go right after Larry's comment: "For people already sick of the coverage, it can't help that Election Day this year is as late on the calendar as it is possible for it to be. Thanksgiving is just over two weeks later."

Darn you, locum, and your quick Enter finger! :(

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

Locum:
The Sun riseth, the Sun sets
One world turns, while most forget
That all our petty squabbles, all our debts
Are shared arrangements, not epithets.

Chinese industrial/real estate debt does parallel US home-owner debt in many ways, BUT the beneficiaries of their debt are almost exclusively well-placed insiders, while our system did confer a benefit of home ownership upon many millions of people. It's similar, but not the same. When their debt collapse comes, the question is whether the beneficiaries of the debt are so invested as to stay and claw their way out of the morass: rich people don't have to do that (and Chinese wealthy have always been quite skilled at leaving China). For us, while repossessions and the like are possibilities, it's much harder to relocate millions of houses and rebuild neighborhoods. Perhaps we chose more wisely than most of us realize.

As for academic debt, if you believe that millions of American debtors will flee to other countries, rather than repay, then you believe that we will never recoup the cost. I happen to find that improbable. Even with "one world economy," location matters immensely. I do not see that changing.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion: Yah. I always found Madison to be the more impressive one, but I was paraphrasing Popper paraphrasing Madison. Popper pointed out that we’d still want controls on government even with angles running everything. Arbitrary law is demeaning to those under it no matter who rules. For the sake of our own egos, we’d want controls. 8)

As for designing things, lots of people leap from my position to a conclusion that I argue against designing anything. I’m not an anarchist, though. The roof example you give demonstrates practical wisdom (prudence it its purest form), thus it is a good idea. However, it is still a peripheral thing. The hurricane will still stomp you flat. Build a bunker if you like, but a 10 foot wall of storm surge isn’t to be trifled with. On top of that, the good roof design is an emergent thing too.

When I argue that the urge to design is the height of hubris, I’m talking about designing the system. Feel free to design things that operate within the system and learn from your mistakes. Prudence is a good thing. People who design whole systems, though, are quite dangerous if they get a chance to deploy them and enforce them. They take communities composed of millions of minds with distributed knowledge and cripple their ability to act upon what they know yet don’t know that they know.

People who want to constrain systems aren’t as dangerous and might even get my support, but I’ll still be wary. Consider Jumper’s comment that the Constitution is designed. Sure. However, the government it describes is mostly constrained by it. Our Constitution is way, way too short to actually design the federal government. For example, there is nothing in it saying that upon admission of a new state, the senators must have staggered terms. That little improvisation was invented after ratification and never adopted as an amendment. It is a strongly enforced custom. Much of what we do is like that. Much of it emerged from distributed knowledge.

Humans are designers by nature, but we should step back occasionally and recognize that natural selection processes can make use of information on a much broader scale than individual minds can. As designers, we should consider when it becomes imprudent to design.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Madison was later a bitter foe of the Federalists in general and Hamilton in particular. So why was it Madison, along with Hamilton, who wrote the Federalist Papers?"

Trying 3rd time to answer fairly, without excess verbosity or insufficient answer.

The division between Hamilton & Madison (and Jefferson) really arose over issues of foreign trade. Although many point to "large government v. small government" philosophies, the specific items of tension - the Federal Bank and the navy - were about facilitating and securing foreign trade (as were differences over infrastructure - the key reason why roads, canals, etc. were needed was to market products internationally).

(1) Jefferson/Madison favored a "minimalist government" not merely for philosophical reasons. Major plantations had a large 'human capital' by which they could secure trade in labor-intensive commodities. Trade treaties might even threaten their interests.
(2) Hamilton favored a "maximalist government" - it would expedite settling debts, and expand additional manufacturing options. Trade treaties were essential (as was a navy).
(3) Small farmers throughout the country tended to favor the Jefferson/Madison approach, since the costs of trade infrastructure were obvious, but the benefits diffuse. Why should Pennsylvanians pay a penny for a canal in NY? Why should whale oil from New England light lamps in London, when folks needed lamps in America too, and lamp oil ain't cheap?

Often, the first and third groups joined together against the second group - hence the breach between Madison & Hamilton (there never were enough plantation owners to win elections, but they had dealings with the smaller farmers and commanded loyalties by taking them on against the industrialists). Not so different from today (a white working class endorses a man who typifies the ancient oligarch tradition of selling them out - and whereas Trump was a steady defender of Clintons during the 1990s/00s, he now 'despises' everything they stand for and seethes about the 'corruption' he once sought to profit from).

donzelion said...

Alfred: I actually like both Madison and Hamilton (and rewrote that 3x to try to convey why that old feud is still relevant today without turning in a 600-word discourse). Madison & Jefferson were the better writers, and both are profound thinkers. Hamilton, however, understood the nature of organized power better than either of them - had he prevailed (and lived), the War of 1812 might have turned out quite differently.

"When I argue that the urge to design is the height of hubris, I’m talking about designing the system."
Agreed: we cannot "design" a system as though we were gods able to build something from scratch. We're not even angels, let alone deities. Everything we do is endogenous to a system that existed before we did it. But by that token, we can never constrain "the system" either - at least, not without simultaneously "unleashing" a different aspect of the same system. Any attempt to "rein in" government in one instance will merely empower other forces at the same time to do as they will with less "restraint."

In the Hamilton v. Madison/Jefferson dispute, the "system" the Anti-Federalists sought to constrain was one which favored infrastructure, foreign trade, and industrialization. Jefferson sought to constrain it because it threatened the slave-economy of Southern oligarchs. They found allies from 'libertarians' (esp. in rural regions) who preferred that debts not be enforced or taxes imposed (and who knew quite well how unlikely it would be for them to access capital markets to compete effectively).

"Our Constitution is way, way too short to actually design the federal government."
On the contrary, it's just about short enough to serve as a useful foundation. Engineers work best when they can reduce extremely complex concepts down to brief formulae that can be used reliably to construct far more complex edifices than are otherwise possible. The foundation is settled; the rest of the structure we build upon it is left to us.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: I will never argue that we shouldn’t design anything. We are decent designers when we are willing to learn from mistakes, but in that process we are both designers and natural evolvers. Each process has a place in what we would like to accomplish.

It mostly comes down to the analogies we use to perceive the world around us. Is the economy an engine like Duncan describes? He has a lot of experience with engines and manufacturing processes, so I can’t blame him for seeing things this way. Is it, though? I was trained as a physicist, so my analogies tend to come straight out of textbooks. The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a fun one to use, but most people mangle it with a partial understanding of probability. Fun. Is a cell accurately modeled as a closed system, though? Not really. As for teeth and claws, we don’t have the metabolism for them. Big guts cost big calories too, so we’d have to give up brains to make a living as anything more dangerous than what we are as individuals. Fortunately for us, we are dangerous as packs. In that approach, we aren’t all that different than other social hunters except for being much smarter possibly as a result of our pesky double selection behavior when it comes to choosing mates. 8)

Analogies are perception models as far as I’m concerned. I’ve learned to think of each non-trivial one as if it was a sensory input. I know a ‘sour grapes’ story when I hear one because I have acquired the fable that is the proto-type. I know a ‘catch-22’ when I hear or see one because I have acquired the proto-type story. I know about conflicts of interest, gerrymandering, wage slavery, and many other things in a similar way. Analogies are perceptors and we accrete them over the decades.

When I argue against designing whole systems for communities, I’m arguing against what I see as a misperception. The economy is not an engine. The map is not the terrain. The model is not the problem which is not the universe. Ceci n’est pas une pipe. Reasonable people can argue for designed constraints on our systems if they do so with caution, but it is hubris to argue for designing whole systems where no individual human can contain the distributed knowledge available within it. Only one of V Vinge’s transcendent beings could do that. We simply aren’t big enough, though our civilization might be.

donzelion said...

Alfred: last thoughts for today, then back to work -

"People who design whole systems, though, are quite dangerous if they get a chance to deploy them and enforce them. They take communities composed of millions of minds with distributed knowledge and cripple their ability to act upon what they know yet don’t know that they know."
I look at Stephen Hawking and I think, gosh, even cripples are not crippled, unless they wish to be.

A new system cannot "take communities" and "cripple their ability to act." It might change HOW they act, and what their frame of reference for action will be, but so long as people retain agency and rationality, their distributed knowledge can still operate as both individual and as an emergent collective.

To me, the crux of 'emergent' theory (as opposed to 'reductive' theory) is that a group can reflect entirely different properties than any specific individual within the group. It may be possible to cripple some individuals (e.g., by imposing an 70%+ income tax on them, as existed from 1933 to 1980), but there is no reason to believe a group will itself be similarly crippled.

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion: Impose a socialist system and the supporting rhetoric upon a community and you'll cripple it's ability to act upon what individuals know should be done with scarce resources. If they act on their knowledge instead of deferring to central planners, they are working against the rhetoric (many do this in practice), but if they obey, their knowledge is largely wasted.

Few of us understand the potential for emergent structure, but I don't think you are one of them. You've demonstrated that you've acquired those perceptors. If we were face-to-face, you'd see me hand-waiving and pointing to dangerous people in the corner over there who think they are smart enough to dictate all the rules. No one here is guilty of that, though. Not even locumranch and treebeard. The worst done by people here (in my eyes) is when they misperceive. The economy is not an engine. Etc.

dennisd said...

@everyone
I have nothing to add to the content of these comments.

However, I will say that I find it refreshing and fascinating to read a comment thread, such as this one, where the points of view expressed are informed by so many different domains: physics, law, education, finance, and theater (Hamilton!).

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding the Hamilton and Madison arguments, I think history has shown the open debate has been more valuable than choosing a winner. We are both a Republic and an Empire and the tension this creates won't go away. It shouldn't go away.

Describing our Constitution as a foundation is fair, but that supports my point that it isn't a design document for the federal government. The original Constitution designs part of it, the Bill of Rights constrains what might emerge, and then things flower from there.

Alfred Differ said...

@dennisd: This place certainly is a blast. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart:

That's what the said about Ronald Reagan.

And Trump.


heh. Okay. I promise not to build a wall. I'd rather open the border.
I also promise to look at you all most of the time you ask for something and ask this simple question...

Why in the world would you want your government doing X when you could do it yourselves?

If people can come up with reasonable answers around which a consensus forms, I'll consider not reaching for the veto pen.


My wife would dump me, though. No doubt about it. Scandalous behavior would ensue. 8)

locumranch said...


The exchange between Alfred & Donzelion reminds of me Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alsaka) who once compared the Internet to "a series of tubes". This, then, is the danger of Analogical Reasoning:

Since you can cite similarities between two systems to support the conclusion that such similarity exists, it can easily devolve in a circular argument, especially when you indulge in absurd analogies that compare Apples to Engines, insomuch as a debt default can be compared to another debt default (even when they differ by orders of magnitude), but a complex economic system is NOT comparable to a 19th century internal combustion motor.

Poor analogical reasoning amounts to little more than a self-reinforcing Magical Incantation.

This is the point to which our Declining Civilisation has come: A circular argument that (1) a debt default cannot occur if we continue to acquire more debt and (2) we can avoid error-dependent consequence by denying that our errors have inevitable consequence.


Best

donzelion said...

Alfred: "Impose a socialist system and the supporting rhetoric upon a community and you'll cripple it's ability to act upon what individuals know should be done with scarce resources."
Not so. Indeed, look in Acts 2, when the first Christian church adopted a socialist system with supporting rhetoric - and still built a Mediterranean church of slaves fending for other slaves - a robust enough system to displace the most powerful and enduring empire in that region.

That said, I'd never endorse a socialist system, at least not on a Soviet model. Central planners tend to offer broad instructions, local planners respond to those instructions with their own strategies - it's not necessarily all that problematic, since every capitalist corporation operates through similar mechanisms (e.g., China Inc.). Compulsion is more problematic: forcing people to think and act a certain way, penalizing them for noncompliance - such policies result in a community that squanders its energy hiding minor 'wrongs' that would be better spent building great 'rights.'

"If we were face-to-face, you'd see me hand-waiving and pointing to dangerous people in the corner over there who think they are smart enough to dictate all the rules."
If you did, then I'd probably laugh with you at them, and together we'd criticize their agenda, even coming at it from distinct perspectives. Respectful attentiveness slowly, surely erodes impulsive fury. We wouldn't even need to convince the firebrands to put down their torches - simply reviewing things we see as we see them, disagreeing honorably with one another, vents the flames for enough to defer insurgency.

donzelion said...

Locum: Describing the internet as a 'series of tubes' - or our own brains for that matter - can be helpful: close off the wrong tubes, and both can 'die,' but there's a pretty robust system to try to keep those tubes from being closed. But that's a pretty partial description, useful only in one context. As is often the case with analogies.

As for Hillary Clinton's 'college debt forgiveness' plan, it proposes to discharge student loan debt after 20 years (or 10 years if someone works in the 'public interest'). It's hard to imagine any specific knowledge or skills conferred in a university that will retain their value in 20 years: most of what is learned in college is setting a foundation for lifelong self-education. In that way, it's not unreasonable for a debtor to be compelled to approach a student contemplating a loan and ask, "how are you going to pay this back" frmo the beginning - just as they would for any other investment.

"This is the point to which our Declining Civilisation has come..."
Prove that our civilization is declining. On balance, 2015 was probably the best year in human history on any objective basis - save perhaps fear that our civilization is in decline.

Nobody is avoiding error-dependent consequence: we are critiquing our errors and correcting them. We avoid circular argument by clarifying the circularity. We enhance our civilization by contributing what we can. So long as this continues, we have little to fear beyond the hobgoblins of our own imaginations.

Jumper said...

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-cE-ex8QNnAg/UyBh3RV0YcI/AAAAAAAADH0/iyi17b8Oubg/s1600/Screen+Shot+2014-03-12+at+9.30.27+AM.png

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion: You are trying to convince me that a slave system doesn't waste most of what people within it know? 8)

The notion that a slave system can displace some other feudal system doesn't refute my point. One crippled system is more capable than another. So what?

Freeing people to use what they know within social norms established by a liberal rhetoric is how we've accomplished so much. Systems led by a few minds cannot possibly compete with systems 'led' by millions.

I won't froth at the mouth, though, and demand pure freedom. We seem to manage well enough with partially socialist systems, so I can live with that. Within such systems, most of us find a way to act upon what we know anyway often enough to matter. So be it. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch:

Poor analogical reasoning amounts to little more than a self-reinforcing Magical Incantation.

It can in a vacuum. Anyone who encloses themselves in a small social bubble is in danger of this. In a larger community, though, my poor analogies are likely to be caught by my friends and neighbors who are less enamored by the analogies if find so compelling. This is especially true of analogies I craft since those are the hardest for me to abandon.

Regarding debt defaults, though, I'll point out that the individual most guilty of magical thinking is the borrower. Watch the interest rate they pay to discover the signal the lender broadcasts showing whether they believe the borrower. Junk bonds are declared junk as a signal.

Letting individuals default, though, has an advantage. Mistakes happen and lenders should not be free of the consequences of lending stupidly. If they signal with low interest rates when the true risk of default is high, they are counting upon someone else to pay off the loan. Watch these signals like a hawk for they may be counting on tax payers.

Donzelion has a point about expired skills that should not be brushed aside too. In a high tech field, one doesn't have to wait 20 years to be obsolete. Half of what we learn in college is obsolete before we get out. I'm not inclined to relieve borrowers of their obligations just for that, though. Both borrower and lender need to be a little smarter before tax payers should shoulder any burdens.

donzelion said...

Alfred: "You are trying to convince me that a slave system doesn't waste most of what people within it know?"
Didn't claim it wasn't immensely wasteful, only that even a slave system cannot extinguish a community's vitality. As such, vitality is not necessarily driven by the viability of the system - it's a result of human interactions that operate beneath the systemic level (including interactions with self).

"Systems led by a few minds cannot possibly compete with systems 'led' by millions."
Perhaps Locum ("our declining civilization...") would disagree with you re China.

Though I agree with you more than I disagree, I fear the implications of that. Certain advantages from flawed system may distort more fundamental realities for a time: we'll have to see how modern China deals with a crisis like a massive depression before we can tell whether they have legs. I hope they can: I hate the thought that we'd be proven correct in a nasty outcome. But in the long-term, we're all dead. So hopefully, this can be worked out.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that part of your misgivings about a planned system stems from an assumption that planning necessarily means inflexibility, and that planners will tend to become micromanagers. Certainly many are and many do, but a wise planner, if planning something to last a long time, plans for change, creating mechanisms that nurture rather than stifle change. Since no one can predict the future with accuracy better than chance, building something like an amendment process into a constitution would be an example. Competitive arena like markets, scientific research, technological invention, the arts etc. all allow for adaptability and emergent properties, at least as long as they remain competitive and do not succumb to monopolistic forces. The framers of the U.S. Constitution planned the government, but society today is not what it was in 1787. Their plan for a government has worked fairly well. The problem that we are having today stems mainly from their failure to plan to ensure a variety of political parties. Our two-party system approaches that monopole too closely, leaving gridlock as an inevitable byproduct.

Paul SB said...

A quick note on analogical reasoning. If you are human, your reasoning is analogical. This is one place where really old psychology is actually pretty well confirmed by neuroscience (referring to Vyogotsky's Schema Theory). All reasoning is a matter of making dendritic connections between new information and previous neural networks, which basically means that all our understanding is based on analogy with previously learned concepts. I know this makes a bit of a chicken/egg conundrum, but unless human brains start operating differently, it's pretty much what we have to work with. There's no point in disparaging analogical reasoning per se. Rather analogies simply get refined as we learn more detail about a subject. If anyone can point to a case of reasoning that is not analogical, I would be happy to hear it.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is a fun one to use, but most people mangle it with a partial understanding of probability. Fun. Is a cell accurately modeled as a closed system, though? Not really.


I doubt the previous poster meant that living cells disprove the Second Law--just that the demonstrate the fact that (local) organization does happen. That the Second Law doesn't mean that entropy increases uniformly everywhere, as some Creationists seem to think.

Back when I was a regular on the "Cerebus" Yahoo forum, one fundie thought he had a successful argument that life couldn't have formed by itself because of the Second Law--that systems disorganize rather than organize. When someone brought up the fact that Earth is not a closed system because energy comes in from the sun, the guy I'm talking about let loose with what he thought was a slam-dunk response: "What if the sun is included in the system?" He really thought that this was something that never occured to the rest of us, or that it couldn't be easily answered by "Then the entire system is getting more disorganized, but the part of the system that is the sun increases its entropy more than enough to account for the decrease in the part of the system that is the Earth."

This was also someone who snarked at the fact that global warming might be responsible for local cooling in the Great Lakes region, even when I pointed out that his refrigerator actually made the world warmer if you take both inside and outside the fridge into account.

Jumper said...

Why is the left opposing a breakthrough carbon tax which is offset by regressive sales tax lowering?
https://climatecrocks.com/2016/10/26/washingtons-carbon-tax-initiative-splits-greens/

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB:

Concerning the Redwoods in "Cerebus", the following is part of the Judge's monologue to Cerebus on the moon from issue #107, toward the end of "Church and State" :


Whether your're talking about the great dinosaur civilizations, wiped out when they invented a hairspray that reduced the pure oxygen content of the air by half...

Or the giant walking redwoods who CREATED the atmosphere of pure oxygen in the first place when they exploded the first SODIUM CHLORIDE bomb...

It's been one thing after another.

Believe me...
I've seen it all...

Every twelve thousand years or so...
Thanks to the sodium chloride bomb's FALLOUT
It rains HARD enough
And LONG enough
To raise the surfaces of all the OCEANS
And the ENTIRE WORLD is covered in water...

The phenomenon is KNOWN
ALmost invariably

As the GREAT FLOOD...

ONLY the Redwoods
FROZEN into near-immobility by the by the reduced amounts of carbon dioxide in the AIR
Survive long enough to call it by another name
WHICH
Roughly translated from the original REDWOODESE

Means "OH NO"...
"Not THIS again."

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Poor analogical reasoning amounts to little more than a self-reinforcing Magical Incantation.


You mean like inserting "Rural Red-State..." before anything good and "Progressive Urban Blue-State..." before anything that is bad?

Alfred Differ said...

@Donzelion: ... only that even a slave system cannot extinguish a community's vitality.

Okay. On that low level we can agree. A system that leaves most of it's people near subsistence living, though, is not one I consider to be all that vital. I'm a child of the Enlightenment, so I look upon most of history as pretty dismal. Most of my ancestors had sucky lives whether they were actual slaves or under the thumbs of princes and priests.

Perhaps Locum ("our declining civilization...") would disagree with you re China

Well... he'd be mistaken. The Chinese are buying into the Bourgeois Deal. Their leadership likes to believe it isn't happening and they still have control. Arguing that they do, though, is like arguing that a surfer atop a tsunami is in control. Maybe a little, hmm? Mostly not.

These Chinese are known for a certain level of cyclical behavior in their tendency to centralized autocracy. That may still happen, but that is almost irrelevant in a system that accepts the bourgeois deal. They question reasonable people can ask is whether they will hold to the deal if Something Bad Happens. Such people could ask the same of us. Locumranch and Treebeard would probably argue that we won't or won't forever. Maybe. We will see.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Donzelion has a point about expired skills that should not be brushed aside too. In a high tech field, one doesn't have to wait 20 years to be obsolete. Half of what we learn in college is obsolete before we get out. I'm not inclined to relieve borrowers of their obligations just for that, though. Both borrower and lender need to be a little smarter before tax payers should shoulder any burdens.


While I'm in "nostalgic for Cerebus" mode, on that same old Yahoo list, the subject of time travel (in science fiction) and subsequent paradoxes came up several times. I once tried to draw an analogy between time paradoxes and the practice of borrowed money.

If I borrow money to invest in a business, and that business goes bankrupt without ever being profitable, there's no "paradox" created by the fact that I spent money that I never earned. Someone ends up having lost that money. Either it is subtracted from my future earnings, or I lose collateral to pay for the debt, or ends up in a bank's balance sheet as a loss, or gets paid to the bank by a re-insurer, or my children are sold into slavery, or whatever. There are myriad ways the economy possibly absorbs the effect of the unpaid debt, but the point is that this all happens in a normal, easily-traced manner. There are no "financial paradoxes" created which force the universe to realign itself or any such drivel.

My theory was that so-called time paradoxes created by interference with the past would play out in a similar manner.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Certainly many are and many do, but a wise planner, if planning something to last a long time, plans for change, creating mechanisms that nurture rather than stifle change. Since no one can predict the future with accuracy better than chance, building something like an amendment process into a constitution would be an example.


I was going to invoke the Constitution even before you mentioned it. The really-Greatest Generation (Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and yes Hamilton) seemed to understand that the Constitution had to be flexible and "grow" in order to survive, which is why the "strict Constitutionalists" who insist that we have to interpret the words exactly as they were meant in 1789 are espousing a ridiculous position. They insist on reading the Constitution "as the Founders intended," willfully ignoring the fact that the Founders intended flexibility and growth.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: It isn’t so much that central planners are inflexible. The real issue is they can’t know what the community knows. It simply isn’t possible to centralize the information they need on which to make good decisions. At best, they can centralize some of it and make the best decisions they can. One needs something to close to omniscience to accomplish the real task. One needs to be a transcendent like V Vinge described. Communities contain distributed knowledge that none of the members contain within them in whole. There is a fundamental impossibility staring us in the face here. What gives me misgivings is that people can’t see it. They breath it like air every day, but don’t realize it is there.

A wise planner (Homo Angelicus) can approximate what we can accomplish more completely simply by freeing our friends and neighbors to act upon what they know. That doesn’t mean we can’t create constraints on what they try to do, but tight constraints are a form of central planning again. They prevent too much if they are too tight.

The Framers did NOT plan the government. They framed one… barely… and recognized that we would alter it later using the knowledge we would acquire. We did exactly that, but not through design processes. Often times we didn’t even follow the frame. Much of what we’ve done is emergent. Most of it I’ll argue.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Heh. In other words, %^%$ rolls down hill. 8)

I learned to love paradoxes when I was learning physics. They are wonderful things. They always show the person thinking about them is confused or the model is inconsistent. The former is correctable. The latter is too, but it takes more work.

For example, the twin paradox collapses when one asks the confused person one question. What is a clock? If they think there is a paradox, they are confused about what a clock is.

I suspect the time travel paradox (killing your grandfather too early) is equally illusionary. The question is probably like this. What is space-time's topology?

Jumper said...

The many-worlds theory seems inevitable. Unavoidable. The "hidden hand of fate forces a straightening-out" idea seems preposterous.

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

(At the risk of hijacking the comments of this post), I don't see it so much the "hidden hand of fate" as the laws of physics. Assuming time travel can occur, then messing with the past or bringing something back from the future would be an action that would cause a chain of reactions as inevitable as those that follow any normal action in the present time.

OTOH, I find it preposterous that a tiny action could cause an entire universe worth of matter and energy to come into being. That's probably not what you meant by "many-worlds theory", but that's what some people mean by it.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Larry - Jumper
I see time travel as self limiting (re Larry Niven)

If you can't change the past then time travel is simply archeology

If you can change the past the only stable change is one that eliminates time travel,

And IMHO is the most likely cause for the Fermi paradox

As far as treating society as an "engine" - that is only an analogy BUT man's position as Homo. tryitouticus is definitely the way to go

I am so going to steal that!

Alfred Differ said...

The many worlds theory always struck me as wishful thinking. A critter with a fore-brain imagining possible worlds and gods to populate them doesn't make them so. 8)

One can think of antimatter as regular matter going backwards in time, but I don't want to meet up with the scattering event that sends all my particles backward. Any other option also strikes me as wishful thinking.

If there is one thing we are pretty sure of, though, it is that the universe is not deterministic. Many of our models are, but the universe probably isn't.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

In case you missed it, check out the previous post. I copied a long passage from Cerebus which included the part I remembered about the redwoods.

...after which you apparently disappeared. "Poit!"

LarryHart said...

...oops, I meant to post that under the current post.

And BTW, Dr Brin has gone...

onward!


onward!

Jumper said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperbolic_3-manifold
Without a tutor this is slow going for me. I tell myself it's good to keep the old brain stretched. I've been at it a while off and on over a few years. I think it gives some flexibility in visualizing the Big Bang.
Chirality in spaces keeps popping up. Hmm.

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