Thursday, October 06, 2016

Politics not as usual - the crazy preference for "divided government"

Median income in the U.S. rose at its fastest rate last year while inequality shrank. What’s more, the income gains were larger for the poor and middle-class than for the wealthy, thus cutting into inequality. In addition, the poverty rate fell by 1.2 percentage points, the steepest decline since 1968. There were 43.1 million Americans in poverty this year, 3.5 million fewer than in 2014. The share of Americans who lack health insurance continued a years-long decline, falling 1.3 percentage points, to 9.1 percent.

This anchors in what has been utterly universal. Every major metric of U.S. national health improves across the span of democratic administrations. and almost all decline across Republican ones. Across the board, including deficits! Anyone who cares about actual outcomes would never trust the GOP with a burnt match.

Especially since this rapid rise should have happened 4+ years ago, had the GOP-run Congress passed the Infrastructure Bill, repairing our corroding bridges and roads, injecting high velocity cash into our sluggish money supply. (Supply Side tax cuts for the rich have only inflated asset bubbles while widening disparity, actually slowing money velocity.)

In fact, it is less the federal-level democrats than state level ones who should brag. Stymied by Congressional GOP blockage, blue states have been doing Keynsian stimulus and infrastructure investing - and it's working, as they surge in every way ahead of red states like Kansas, which keep doubling-down on Supply Side voodoo. This answers the key question posed by the CSMonitor article, as to why rural folk are lagging.

Seriously, compare outcomes! That is what they never, ever want you to do - the incantation-pushers at Fox and Breitbart. It is why they wage war on every knowledge and fact based profession. (Name an exception.) Especially science. It's why fact-checking their candidates feels so futile. Nevertheless, see my analysis of: Fact-checking the First Presidential Debate.


== Let's Bribe Trump to release his taxes! ==


A 26 year old Marine Corps veteran started a campaign on CrowdPac to raise money - to be donated to ten veteran's groups - if Trump releases his tax returns by the final debate on Oct. 19. Entrepreneur Reid Hoffman (co-founder of LinkedIn) made a $5 million matching pledge, bringing the total over $6 million for this CrowdPac campaign. This is an excellent example of citizen involvement. Wage this phase of our Civil War with wagers!

Demand they back up the spectacularly, actinically insane things they assert and believe - from 'Obama's a Kenyan Muslim' to 'no climate change' to 'the GOP is fiscally responsible and governs well' - and put money on it! Find a trustworthy person to hold the stakes. Watch how they run, and change the subject.

Oh, but let's get back to Americans' least favorite institution. After years of scaffolding and refurbishment, the US Capitol has been returned to its former glory. If only they could do the same to Congress. The Congress that broke all records for laziness, shattering the previous records held by every GOP led session since 1998, just finished its longest recess in U.S. history, to return to pass a year-delayed Zika Bill and yet another emergency 3 month funding bill, because it has not been able to do a simple budget since 2010, when the Republicans took over.

“Americans are worried and angry about the big issues: stagnant wages, immigration, trade deals, health care, entitlement programs, the tax code, the Zika virus, tainted drinking water. Yet the best Congress can do for the moment is to keep the government running on autopilot for a few more months, and even this isn’t guaranteed,” writes Dana Milbank in The Washington Post.

As House Democrats point out, 195 of the 219 ‘bills’ that Paul Ryan’s House brags of having passed have been minor “suspension” bills, such as post-office namings. That's 195 out of 219.

Seriously, you think cynicism and pessimism and dismissing Congress as an “institution” and a “corrupt political caste” will get you off the hook? Bull. It is not the institution but the drooling insane party that has gerrymandered its way into control over what was once the greatest deliberative body on the planet. 

In California, the other party only loosely guides its majority, who argue openly like adults, listening to business and community leaders about what needs to be done. Individual legislators negotiate in almost perfect transparency… and laws adapting to the 21st Century get passed… and constituents discuss pending bills and grownup POLITICS happens!

Republicans used to do this, back in even Gingrich’s day. Before a merely conservative party went stark, jibbering insane. You conservatives, know that Trump is not a disease but a symptom. You will only regain a sane conservatism by understanding a word. "Cauterize." Better yet... immolate and hope for a phoenix.

== Libertarians rise? ==


Straight from the old heart of the Confederacy: The Richmond Virginia Times-Dispatch dumps Trump and endorses Gary Johnson for president. And yes, I forecast that there would be a rush by “quasi-sane” American conservatives to the Libertarian Party candidate, perhaps even enough to get him on the coming presidential debates. At which point the bleed could become a gusher.

Clinton is not eager for all this, because she knows Johnson would bleed her a bit, too… and open a possible door for lefty-green Jill Stein. (I think she’s being shortsighted; getting ten million saner republicans to shift to the Libertarian Party could help us all.) But let’s keep it all in context. With Virginia turning blue, Richmond is no longer Jefferson Davis’s town. The re-ignited confederacy treason, sparked deliberately by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and their pals, is aflame mostly elsewhere, in states that did not invest in education.

The Libertarians have some ideas and promise. Mostly pro-transparency and leaving peoples’ bodies to themselves. But their current cult of “government = always bad!” is lunacy contradicted by all of American history. Our parents in the Greatest Generation would have been appalled. Half of our current wealth we owe to sci & tech advances, many of which emerged from taxpayer funding of R&D. From the 1790’s National Road to rails to highways and airways, from space to the web, government infrastructure investments were crucial every decade... till the last two. When fanatical GOP Congresses ended a two hundred year partnership of public and private.

== The fallback of sane Republicans: divided government!”

What's John McCain's re-election slogan now? "Elect me in order to put a 'check' on President Hillary!" Wow what a mantra. Of course it is based on the Fox-ite litany that divided government is best. Which they never said back when the GOP controlled every branch and lever of government from 2001-2007, setting a record for laziness that only the recent Boehner-Ryan congresses have matched. No attention to the people's business, not even funding to fight Zika. No adjustments to fit an onrushing 21st Century. Just favors for the oligarchy.

Oh, it was not for lack of determination or focus. For 25 years the GOP was the most disciplined and tightly run partisan group in American history. Every Republican pol repeated any talking point issued by Roger Ailes, within 24 hours. But that focus, that discipline was aimed at doing nothing. Not even passing a budget on time. Even once. Ever.

The incantation that "gridlock is good" is stunning drivel. Despite recent excellent economic news, the overall pace of this recovery, from the pit we fell into during the last Bush years, has been way too slow. Why? According to a deep and extensive study that weighed many factors for cause and effect: "As the U.S. economy enters its eighth year of its recovery from the Great Recession, one major factor is slowing its growth: Government gridlock." 


What can we expect if the Democrats take Congress? Reiterating a point that deserves it: just look at California, where the prospect of a 2/3 Democratic Assembly and Senate triggered screaming forecasts of instant communist dystopic hell. Except those Democrats did as Dems always do in power – they separated into individual legislators, negotiating pragmatically. And, to everyone’s surprise, the GOP minority became both moderate and influential!  Tipping the balance between DP factions. And California state government has been – without question – the most effective in the United States at responding to citizen concerns while adapting to an ever-changing 21st Century.

Yet even as the Republican intelligencia are fleeing their toxic candidate, with many of them stepping up to support H. Clinton, because “at least she’s knowledgeable, moderate and stable,” some are repeating the mantra... "elect her to avoid Trump, but keep Congress red, so we can make her life a living hell, and make sure nothing at all gets done."

No, the issue is not divided vs. undivided. It is whether to trust a party with zero positive accomplishments and mountains of negative ones, ever again.

Take this example: At the recent National Security Forum, Trump again expressed his admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Are you offended? Well, stop blaming Donald Trump for embracing things like the cult of Putin-worship that have been spread by Sean Hannity, O'Reilly, Limbaugh and the confederate media for years! Again and again: Trump is not the disease. He is a symptom.

Addenda Miscellany: In his "charity" foundation, Donald Trump became expert at one thing. He found a way to give away somebody else's money and claim the credit for himself.


Meet Rebekah Mercer, the powerful hedge fund heiress who is now the money-mogul appointing almost every top official in the Donald Trump campaign, replacing the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson as the top GOP feudal patron.


== Finally ... but most important... SCIENCE! ==


Lawrence Krauss and his colleagues at ScienceDebate, supported by nearly every major science organization in the country, have spent two decades heroically asking political candidates to answer a series of questions about science and technology policy, in recognition of the fact that these matters will ultimately present the most important challenges to the next President. 

After getting predictably detailed -- somewhat wonkish, but scientifically enthusiastic -- answers from the Clinton campaign, and predictably lefty answers from Jill Stein, Donald Trump’s campaign finally sent in his answers. They were released on the Science Debate Web site.

Krauss makes no bones about his own reactions, which he lays out in the New Yorker. But then, if there were no other loathsome traits to the re-ignited Confederacy, their incessant and volcanic War on Science, is enough of a lethal threat to our children that nothing else would be needed.  It is the marrow-deep cancer that decent American conservatives must burn out of their movement, if it is to survive. 

Last minute item.  You think those talking about a "war on science" are exaggerating? Have another look at the biliously anti-science House GOP.  Again and again and again.... this is not about Donald Trump. He is not a disease.  He's a symptom.

115 comments:

Jacob said...

Regarding Voting...

Hi. I've taken classes on elections, worked on them as an Election Inspector, and thought long and hard about how to improve things. While it is a fallacy to appeal to authority, I do think it is useful to establish that this isn't off the cuff.

The main concerns regarding elections are generally...
Are Votes Cast and Counted as intended?
Is Voting accessible enough so that Voters can participate without allowing non-Voters (non-people, foreign, or unauthorized) to vote?
Are people using bribery/coercion to force or prevent specific Votes?
Is there any retaliating against people for the way they vote?

There are tensions such as those between Transparency and Privacy at all aspects of trying to accomplish/avoid the above concerns. The Secret Ballot is very effective at handling the later two, but hinder the first two. It is no surprise that we adopted it in our chaotic & troubled past. I'd have supported it then. Now however, I think it is time to work a bit smarter.

As a Transparency advocate, I want us to work on ensuring that votes are Cast and Counted as intended. Something we currently fail at. I can say with absolutely certainty that our current system is not secure. When I worked elections security was established by having 1 member of both primary parties escorting votes to the county seat where they are tallied. This is based on declared affiliation. If I or others in a similar position had simply lied about my party, a conspiracy of two could have changed apparent outcomes. Electronic Voting machine manipulation would be an easier way to malign the vote on a grand scale. The problem here is that none of us can ensure that our vote as counted as we intended it to be.

This is all due to the Secret Ballot which we have for a good reason. So lets talk about those goals and how to accomplish them in the modern era. Please consider the following four bad actors. The Employer who will fire someone for voting the wrong way. The Spouse that will beat someone for not submitting. The Super Pac that will pay swing state voters to win elections. The Foreign Government with almost Omnipotent Hacking ability. There are many other types, but this should do for our discussion. Our goal is to prevent them from changing votes. Please now adopt their mindset in order to manipulate the system I purpose.

Once & on Request, we provide voters with a personal Online ID & Password.
Voting can take place at any time once the Election Board establishes candidates and current Results are Available at all times.
Internet Voting closes 1 week before the actual Election. Be sure to check your vote on someone else's phone or a library computer during this week.
Voting in Person Overrides your Internet Vote.

Those are the basics of what a Voter needs to know. Now lets examine the bad actors and how to circumvent them. That the Secret Ballot still exists as it does today where you can vote in person.

- Employer enforced voting. (Hand over your ID/Password or be fired.) Simply do so and report the business to the Elections Board. Vote in Person and override however the business votes. This type of thing is illegal and not worth the risk considering how ineffective it is. Early voting would still be happening so trying to lock down just 1 day wouldn't work.

- The Abusive Spouse. (Physical, Emotional, or Abandonment Abuse.) Hand over the information or Vote to their wishes. Override the Vote in person.

- The PAC with money. (Bribery.) Accept the Bribe, or better yet hold out for a better one. Report them to the Elections Board for prosecution. Vote in Person to override their Vote.

Jacob said...

continued...

- The Foreign Power/Group (Big Hacking.) This is the real danger to move to Internet based voting. There are a TON of ways to muck up most systems. In order to address these, the biggest by phase is the Transparency included in the system. You can SEE how your ID has voted at all times. Rather set up some system which you also have to determine is trustworthy, lets just let you Verify your own Vote as often as you like. You simply can't do better than that. Be sure to check on someone else's device too. A Big Hacker could capture your device such that you try to Vote A, Hacker Votes B for you, You query your ID, Hacker reports A back. It isn't effectively possible for a program to detect you querying ID's Vote on an unrelated device and Report A without Actually change the Vote to A which was your original intent. Internet Voting Closes a Week early to lock all votes in so they can't be changed after you've checked them.

To be extremely brief on the Security of the government Servers themselves. Here is the layout. Internet -> Vote Verification and Writer PC -> Vote Database PC -> Vote Reader PC -> Internet. I assume Big Hacking owns any PC it can talk to. Period. The Vote Verification and Writer PC & The Vote Reader PC are connected to the Internet and therefore own-able by big Hackers. The solution for this is to make both PCs almost completely Read Only. Just flat out remove the Write Heads from the logic parts of the computer. Keep them only in the channels that handle Votes. I don't want to get too deep in this part of the technical side as I think it distracts from the overall picture. If however, you agree with the other parts we can get into it.

donzelion said...

Jacob: Welcome aboard! (have I seen you before?) I also worked as an election inspector, though that was 10+ years ago, and on legal staff for the NYC Board. Someone who has seen the count as it occurs will recognize the problems in that area which others, who've read about it (when it's even covered, which is rare) will miss an awful lot of the important detail.

To your main concerns, I'd add race, which comes into play in many more subtle ways than just "X party opposes minority voters" (though that exists too).

Still, "in-person" voting controls for a lot of the types of influence that could be brought to bear, but not all of them. Common anecdotes:
(1) A hotel operator wants to prevent his cleaning staff from voting, and so he schedules an extra 4-hour shift to make it difficult for most of the staff to vote. That operator claims that the extra shift was warranted by elections parties. How to prove either way?
(2) A bus operator wants to bring in only certain seniors from a senior housing center, so they delay the bus until dinner or Jeopardy starts, knowing that the folks they don't want to vote anyway will probably not bother getting on the bus.

These sorts of claims are usually harder to prove than insider trading cases (which are always extremely expensive to prosecute). They can sway 20-40 voters in a primary election, which can dictate the outcomes for many down-ticket, city council/judicial elections, where less than 400 votes are likely to be cast anyway.

However, these mechanisms tend to be ineffective at manipulating top-ticket votes, where many thousands of votes are cast. The risk of detection is much greater for mass fraud; it appears to be pretty rare (except for purely racially-motivated fraud).

Jacob said...

Hi Donzellion,

I've followed the site for some year, but commented rarely. I couldn't pass up the chance to talk about Voting as I see great possibilities if we improve things.

Your two points are attacks on accessibility. I hope you'd agree that my suggestions make Day of even more ineffective.

I'm interested in cautious implementation of bold ideas. I'd like to see a party adopt the system in a city, then a county, then a state, before using it for their national primary. I'd offer ever increasing rewards for breaking the system. Only after properly testing should it be implemented for a general.

hadend said...

Though it's promising to hear median incomes are up, it's pretty hard to infer any long-term trends from such data. Also, rising costs in things like healthcare makes income growth comparisons problematic. Rent is another one too. When I talk to older folks from my city, people are surprised at how much rent is now. It's amazing for me to hear stories about people being able to rent decent 1 bed apartments on a part-time job, back in the day. There are large portions of the country whose lived experience is one that confirms their view of America in constant decline. Look at places like Flint or Detroit, look at medical bankruptcies, look at... and on and on.

It's hard for me to see how the Dems can regain the majorities needed to pass legislation, unless they recognize this and try to win back people they've lost to the Reps. A lot of Trump's support is drawn from the fact that he at least acknowledges life is worse for many Americans (ignoring the fact that he probably couldn't/wouldn't do much to change the situation if actually elected).

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: (from last thread)
I'm happy to blame the Roman Church for a lot of things too, but then I'd have to change my name to Differ_ranting_on_the_quad.

I learned from watching the preachers_on_the_quad in school that they liked being persecuted. I later learned to associate that behavior with David's indignation addiction. While I SO wanted to punch those guys in the nose for raging at me and other nearby innocents, I unwittingly learned a partial defense against memetic infection instead.

Trash talk is fun at times, but a cool head is required to go after the real problems. 8)

Jumper said...

David, I think you mis-classified Trump as "not the disease." "Opportunistic infection" would be the case, don't you think?

donzelion said...

Jacob: All I can say is caution towards any changes is appropriate for elections. Weaknesses may be present that are ignored up to the point that circumstances motivate someone to exploit that weakness. In the world of security, 99.9% of the time, a system that could be easily penetrated will still 'appear secure.' We have a lot of moving pieces here intended to make it harder to breach the system, but in some cases, the more efficient the system, the more vulnerable it is to attack.

"Your two points are attacks on accessibility."
Actually, my concern about racial animus is more systemic than that. Whatever the weakness in the system (e.g., voter registration records, actual ballots cast, ballot counts, etc.), it will be explored by someone when the incentive is present.

"I'm interested in cautious implementation of bold ideas."
I'm more interested in protecting the system from threats that have been seen, and anticipating new threats that may emerge. When it comes to elections, 'boldness' should be limited to the candidates, not the bureaucrats counting votes, who should be friendly, honest, and forceful in implementing the rules.

That doesn't preclude changing to new systems, but sets a high burden of proof before adopting them. (Again, NYC is a great test case, since darn near every form of electoral corruption ever conceived has been attempted there at one time or another.)

Alfred Differ said...

@hadend: The Dems DO acknowledge (at least indirectly) that a certain clade is worse off. Uneducated whites in many places are slipping in terms of wages compared to the educated ones. The acknowledgement comes in the form of a desire to spend money on education, but without the admission that certain adults need it to get by because that might be taken as an accusation of stupidity.

There is a long-term trend related to the improvement of the median income. It is the trend in real income as measured by the stuff we buy instead of the dollars we earn. Divide out the monetary value of our labor and measure directly in terms of the basket of goodies we need to be able to purchase and you'll see a general trend of improvement even before one tries to account for quality improvement in those goodies we buy. This happens when our wages go up or the prices for the goodies come down.

Don't let the gloomsters rule the day. Progress in real wages is pretty good, though slow enough to annoy people who expect magic outcomes. If you want to help someone in particular achieve the magic, help them get an education that will enable them to move to where the economy is jumping.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Aren't we in the US reaching a tipping point where perhaps more do want to cheat than don't?

Nah. We wouldn't have passed our initiative trying to kill gerrymandering in CA if that were true.

I think it is more accurate to say people withdraw from the system when they feel they have no influence. What's the point? I think there are many, many more of them than actual cheaters.

Jumper said...

Paul SB, see:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooks_Brothers_riot

Nice thinking by Jacob. I hope you write a few letters in your local arena. I suspect the League of Women Voters would be interested. Hint: request help & don't mansplain.
(joke)

donzelion said...

Hadend: "There are large portions of the country whose lived experience is one that confirms their view of America in constant decline."
A considerable portion of the country always argues we're in decline, from the founding, through every boom and every bust, and to the present. We created numerical indicators to try to reach a more general picture, but nobody lives as an indicator.

"It's hard for me to see how the Dems can regain the majorities needed to pass legislation, unless they recognize this and try to win back people they've lost to the Reps."
What rational argument does one make to "win" a group that rejects evolution? How does one "win back" a crowd that defines itself by opposing everything?

Such voters cannot be "won": they can only be USED like a tool. Reps are all too happy to exploit Christians who despised "Slick Willy" for his moral problems, but have no issue whatsoever with Trump despite having committed the same offenses they once found so horrific. Why ally with Trump? Because their wealthiest congregation members ally with Trump, and those folks pay for their salaries.

A committed hypocrite cannot be "won" - by any policy, posture, statement, or action. They can only be bought, used up, disposed of, and then sold, as Trump has been doing and will do with them. Perhaps calling people to honor their own principles and cease being hypocrites is a better course, BUT the tradition among hypocrites is to kill anyone who demands that.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

"Aren't we in the US reaching a tipping point where perhaps more do want to cheat than don't?"

Nah. We wouldn't have passed our initiative trying to kill gerrymandering in CA if that were true


If I were single, I'd probably have moved to California by now.

I was thinking of the states run by Republicans. The ones changing their election laws to discriminate now that the Supreme Court told them it's ok to do so. The ones who implement voter ID laws, more or less admitting that the purpose is to drive down Democratic voters. The ones in Pennsylvania who intend to challenge every minority voter, often using uniformed police officers to do the intimidating.

Seems to me there's a lot of cheating, not just clandestine cheating but institutional cheating which is backed by a large segment of the populations of those jurisdictions. Donald Trump's standings in the polls tell me that approximately 40% of the voters prefer to cheat.

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart: Donald Trump's standings in the polls tell me that approximately 40% of the voters prefer to cheat.

I don't see it that way. From what I've heard, they are mostly upset about who whites are losing control of the nation. The formerly dominant group doesn't like becoming the formerly dominant group.

No doubt some are willing to cheat to prevent that, but to get to 40%, we'd have to include actions like closing the border as cheating. Hmm... Well... Okay. Maybe they are all cheating. My libertarian hackles rise at the idea of border closures. Sounds too much like a birth lottery to me. Very unethical.

Tony Fisk said...

Hi Jacob,

While I tend to side with Duncan in saying that paper ballots work pretty well in Australia as well as NZ (except for the Senate, all those poor trees...), I can certainly see the benefits in moving to an electronic ballot (easy and secure voting could lead to frequent voting, and would have an interesting effect on governance). I once had a go at describing how such a ballot could be provided over the internet. I usually get patted on the head and told it wouldn't work because hackers etc. (which I take as telling me to let go and let Diebold etc. ;-)

For interest's sake, you can see the underlying database design here

Alfred Differ said...

For people to get the electronic voting thing, you'll need to educate them on more than the table structure. Lots of people don't understand how PKI can be used to sign transactions, but some who do don't realize how dumb people can be with their digital certs and the PINS that unlock them for use.

Of course, a complete picture of how this works is probably book-sized. Have fun. 8)

Robert said...

Here's the thing. You have three populations in this country: Rural, Suburban, and Urban. The Rural people are tremendously outnumbered but also hold the most land. They feel infringed upon by all these people living in a tiny little area and thus favor Gerrymandering to provide rural regions with power to deal with those "uppity urbanites" who "dare" pass legislation but have "no idea" what it's like to live in rural areas.

Unless you somehow manage to find a way for the rural population to not feel threatened and disenfranchised by the Urban populations (and suburbs are considered Urban by these folks in many cases, but are still desirable for the taxes they bring in), you will never see gerrymandering end.

Rob H.

hadend said...

Donzilion,

Life is demonstrably worse for many millions of people - it's is not the view of a few cranks. This is borne out by the 'numerical indicators' (i.e. statistics) like real wage growth, net household worth, average life expectancy, etc. But politics is as much about lived experience as it is about facts (though I'd say there's a lot of truth to the fact many peoples lives are worse off then they were 40 odd years ago).

Giving people a giant middle finger and letting them know how much you loathe them isn't a great electoral strategy IMHO. The Dems don't need to change everyone's mind - they just need to peel off a fair chunk to have a workable coalition. Sure, many red state voters have built a lot of their identity around being assholes, hating libs, etc. A lot of them are racist and like Trump for that reason too. But does anyone really think some unemployed factory work in Indiana is so much more invested in racism then say a worker 50 years ago? People organized across race lines in the Jim Crow South. If the Dems could offer people policies that actually stand to improve their lives, rather than the same neoliberal fare, this would be a way of winning a strong coalition. I think there was evidence of this when you look at Sander's favorability with independents. Even if it's a long-shot, it's better than just crossing our fingers and hoping the reps 'snap out of it'.

hadend said...

Alfred Differ,

I realize we're talking about real income and not nominal. However, prices don't rise uniformly. I don't know how the econometrics works exactly - for example, do they consider average rent or home prices? Increases in the cost of living skew things too. Healthcare costs have spiraled in real dollars. When you consider that full health insurance is a rarer and rarer benefit, like many other benefits that used to be taken for granted, you see why real income can be misleading?

Paul SB said...

Hadend, go back and look at those statistics again. The host here keeps pointing them out and linking to them, and they are not quite what you portray. It sounds to me you are suffering from the Spotlight Fallacy.

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Spotlight_fallacy

Paul SB said...

Jumper, thanks for the link! I had forgotten about the Florida shenanigans back in 2000.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

You forget I grew up with a Catholic mother, and not an angry, screaming dogmatist but a strong, smart and pragmatic one. I knew enough history when I was 20 to be outraged, but by the time I was 22 I knew enough social science to realize that if it hadn’t been them, it would have been someone else. In this case the structure seems to me to be prime, and judging past people by today’s standards isn’t very useful, because everyone knows it’s an apple:orange comparison. Some of the sins committed by the Church over the centuries were deeply heinous, but you don’t see them doing those things today. You just hear them vehemently denying what their ancestors were guilty of. But the Lutherans and Anglicans and any number of churches did the same things.

Paul SB said...

Larry,
I like your analogy about fans coexisting with different fictional universes, often with their own, contradictory timelines, except that for most non-schizophrenics (and I have seen some OCF’s [Obsessive-Compulsive Fans] who made me wonder) fiction is still just fiction. Living in a society in which many spirit entities are assumed to truly exist is a rather different story, but I suppose it is as close to that as any of us are likely to experience.

A book on CD is still basically writing. The “reader” does not really have an opportunity to dialogue with the “speaker” (except possibly on the blog! That’s where you could have a true hybrid communication).

I had forgotten about the Good Kirk/Bad Kirk episode! I doubt that our arboreal buddy will fill us in, though. The measure of a true troll is that they don’t take the time to thoughtfully read and respond to dialogue, they just skim superficially and hurl invective at anything they don’t like. We’ll see if this one gets past his bark…

“If I were single, I'd probably have moved to California by now.”

Show your wife and daughter “Inside Out” then suggest it would be great … oh, wait, then you would be in San Francisco, and we still couldn’t have frozen yogurt together.

Paul SB said...

Robert,

I have always found the ideal RPG group to be 3-4 players. Less than that and the interaction starts getting stale, more than that and the interaction gets stereotyped. I find the same thing with a good novel. Too few major characters and it starts to read like a diary, too many and they start getting so shallow you lose interest. But what is even stranger is that the learning seems to work best that way, too. Put kids into groups for projects and you have much the same dynamic, though a majority of learning is still individual. Bad idea, but unsurprising both coming from and reinforcing our overly individualistic culture. But there are many arena where a group size around 4 is most effective. That solo period was good in terms of the quality of interaction between the one player and the NPC’s, but like I said, it got old after awhile.

A mixed-sex group will usually have a different dynamic, too. In all male settings, the braggadocio sets in quick and robs the experience of many of life’s subtleties. Being male I have never participated in an all-female group, but the mixed groups I used to game with were often more interesting. (It may be that your womanizing wizard was hesitant to hit on the other players because that might be interpreted as having some real-world meaning, which would get awkward. It can get extra awkward when PC’s play opposite sex. More often than not no one will hit on that player – which can be a bonus in and of itself – but you get a few who are more committed to role playing than roll playing, and things can get interesting, or very funny.)

And Tacitus, I think it would be quite fun to sit down around someone’s dinner table and role play with some of the people here. I doubt I would get the same joy if it were done over skype or some other computer interface, human nature being what it is, but some of the people here are just cool and might be fun to hang with.

hadend said...

Paul SB, go back and look at my discussion of the relevant statistics. I think you who are suffering from the Slovenian Chimneysweep's Fallacy.

David Brin said...

hadend I agree about peeling off varied still-marginally rational conservative groups. I have long preached that. But I will no longer pretend that 30 years of odious hate and culture war by Red America against “decadent city folks” can be allowed any longer to stand. It is time to confront it head-on as the diametrically opposite-to-true lie that it has always been.

hadend: medical costs are going up, but at the slowest rate in a generation. I do not accept that Tump’s support comes mostly from poor working white males who have seen their lot worsen. It is mostly from poor working white males who have seen the visual character of the country become less dominated by working white males - who are also getting older and grouchier after two decades watching Fox.

Your hypothesis would entail them looking at actual outcomes and deciding based on the overwhelming evidence to never again trust the absolutely accomplishment free and fact-free GOP with even a burnt match.
But instead they join the War on Science and against every single one of the smartypants professions whose help they need, in order to make things better. Why would anyone do that, except if the hatred of smartypants were THE core motive and goal?

If the Congress passed the Infrastructure Bill, many of those working white males would get great jobs. So why can Ryan etc screw the bill for 6 years with utter impunity? Because they know the rage is not about self- interest.

It is about rage itself.

Guys what amazes me is that I have posted many times bragging about California, fully expecting at least SOME people to rave fictions and incantations… but the facts are SO clear that not one gopper has even tried.

donzelion said...

Hadend: I'm not suggesting that life is "only" worse for the cranks. Indeed, at every time in the history of every country, there are some who perceive "decline" and others "progress." We create metrics, indicators, and entire fields of science to try to objectively quantify "the norm." But we are all individuals, none of us is a mathematical abstraction (unless Dr. Watson looms somewhere in this forum).

"If the Dems could offer people policies that actually stand to improve their lives, rather than the same neoliberal fare, this would be a way of winning a strong coalition."
Hmmm...
1. "For families making less than $125,000 a year, we will eliminate tuition" for in-state students at public colleges.
That's a net savings of many thousand dollars per year for 98% of America. That should improve millions of lives.

2. "Pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship that keeps families together."
The main beneficiaries of the "path to citizenship" are necessarily the immigrants themselves, but all those unemployed factory workers who are frozen out by illegal immigrants whom oligarchs prefer to hire and then underpay (illegals cannot complain in court, they make ideal 'serfs'). The only reason we don't get immigration reform (except canards like walls and deportation) is because too many rich people make too much money keeping the system as crazy as it actually is.

3. Health care.
Health care costs rose before Obamacare by close to 300% faster than inflation. After Obamacare, that's fallen to about 20% above inflation (still too damn high, but a much slower rise). Health care costs have killed the several of the largest, oldest, most powerful corporations in America, and are what drove those corporations it didn't kill to set up their factories overseas (almost as much as taxes...).

4. "Fighting for equal pay."
Since more than half the country consists of women, this certainly would improve the lives of a large number of people. Seldom reported, "equal pay" would also greatly help MEN who cannot compete when firms pay women 75% what they would a similarly qualified man: the men with a job might shrug off equal pay, but men without a job are among the greatest beneficiaries.

5. Increase the federal minimum wage to $12/hr.
This would indeed help millions of Americans.

None of that is 'neoliberal crap.' That's just 'liberal crap.' Sanders disagreed with Clinton on some of those items ($12 isn't enough - it must be $15!) - but those are differences of degree, not direction. To implement Sanders' plan, Sanders needed a revolution. To implement Hillary's plan, she'll need legislation and a lot of support - certainly not something that can be counted on, but we'll just have to see.

Trump, by contrast, opposes all of that. Where Hillary is 75-80% of what Sanders wanted, Trump is 180 degrees opposed to it. Yet is still loved. The folks who deny evolution support him: they cannot be reasoned with, as they've rejected reason itself. So they must be isolated, immobilized, and pushed out of the way: they are the idiots who rubberneck on a freeway to look at the dead bodies, slowing things down for everyone else and contributing nothing beyond a gripe about the traffic they helped generate through their imbecility.

donzelion said...

Paul SB/Tacitus/ et. al.: re roleplaying...well gosh, it's been a few decades, but if I can find the time (and get the invitation), I'm in. ;-)

donzelion said...

RobH: Disputes among rural/suburb/urban clades can be rationally handled: compromises are viable, possible, and worth seeking.

Many people I've met in rural areas are quite sophisticated: they accept science, because they recognize how it makes their lives, crops, and livelihoods better. Many more were not. I've found far more 'evolution deniers' even in "liberal California" than I ever did in Iowa or Saudi Arabia.

There is no point trying to reason with those who renounce reason. The best that can be done is to move the debate past them, and work with those who are willing to engage. And when it comes to evolution, those who reject it are not just rejecting science, they're renouncing their willingness to contribute to human civilization: they opt to become a "taker" instead of a "contributor" - a threat to civilization itself. They merit suspicion and/or disdain, until they prove loyalty in other ways.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: there are at least a half dozen different Californias - some doing well, others struggling. The thing is, even parts of the state that despise Jerry Brown and all he stands for have prospered under his governorship (Orange County, much of San Diego County) compared to where things were 8 years ago. Yes, he raised taxes more than any predecessors. He also balanced the budget, repaired much of the educational infrastructure that had eroded, and helped "Make the State Great Again" by any metric one can name. He's popular, and for some good reasons.

The big differences between Jerry Brown's job and Obama's is that Obama must contend with (1) Fox News, which mostly ignores Jerry Brown, and (2) a Republican-dominated Congress.

One wonders what America might look like but-for those two massive defects that impede our efforts.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Unless you somehow manage to find a way for the rural population to not feel threatened and disenfranchised by the Urban populations (and suburbs are considered Urban by these folks in many cases, but are still desirable for the taxes they bring in), you will never see gerrymandering end.


While I take your point, I think you're confusing gerrymandering with...well, I'm not sure what, but something else.

First of all, "Democrats do it too" is true in this case. Not as often any more, but my own state of Illinois was heavily gerrymandered by Dems in 2010. It had been heavily gerrymandered in 1990 by Republicans, so caveat emptor. But my point is, gerrymandering is more about the party in power after the census than it is about rural/urban.

Because the lightly-populated part of a state can't be gerrymandered to outnumber the heavily-populated part, because districts are apportioned by approximately-equal population. If, for example, your state has 300,000 rural Republicans and 3 million city dwellers, it is not mathematically possible do make the city into only one district and have it outnumbered by several rural districts. Most of the districts will be urban no matter what. Or the districts can be drawn such that the urban dwellers are apportioned into as many separate districts as possible, but then each district is still dominated by the city. If the divide is strictly urban vs rural, urban would always win in numbers.

Gerrrymandering works by concentrating as many of the opposition as possible into the fewest number of districts. The districts have to be arranged such that like-minded people in the cities have more majority districts than the opponents do. Republicans could never win with gerrymandering unless there are plenty of urban Republicans in the mix.

You do bring up an important point, though, which I'll save for a separate reply.

LarryHart said...

continuing @Robert...

I think you're onto something that is separate from gerrymandering.

Is it possible that rural residents, by living off of the land, think of themselves as more "actual" residents of the state, and urban areas as more like a holding area for useful (and not-so-useful) guest workers who may sleep in the state, but don't really live there in the way the rural folk perceive themselves to do? In this view, urban voters are pretty much one step above illegal aliens. It's an affront that those people get to vote as if they "really" live here, and an added insult that there are so many of them.

LarryHart said...

hadend:

If the Dems could offer people policies that actually stand to improve their lives, rather than the same neoliberal fare, this would be a way of winning a strong coalition


The Democrats do offer people policies that actually stand to improve their lives, and Republicans in congress obstruct such policies into oblivion, and then (successfully!) run on the fact that people's lives haven't improved.

I do blame the Dems for not pointing this out more forcefully, but it is a pipe-dream to think that the voters are unhappy because of Democratic policies, when in fact, they are unhappy because of the result of successful Republican obstructionism.

Or as the musical's Hamliton said of his own era's southerners:

They don't have a plan;
They just hate mine.


LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I had forgotten about the Florida shenanigans back in 2000.


So, apparently, have the Jill Stein voters.

Robert said...

Okay. Let's try this again.

I have a couple rural friends who are all for gerrymandering. They believe gerrymandering helps ensure that rural areas have more power and more "equal" representation than happens if "liberal urban areas" have a greater sway in government.

In short, they feel representational government fails to represent the larger regions which they consider more important than urban centers.

Now, not all rural dwellers are conservative, and not all rural areas lean to the right. But if you look at the map of the United States, you see a huge area of red... which all have a lot fewer Electoral Votes because they are more sparsely populated. (More Representatives might very well break that conservative deadlock, btw.)

I doubt my rural friends are alone in feeling gerrymandering is good because it keeps urban people from having more political power than they do.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I like your analogy about fans coexisting with different fictional universes, often with their own, contradictory timelines, except that for most non-schizophrenics (and I have seen some OCF’s [Obsessive-Compulsive Fans] who made me wonder) fiction is still just fiction. Living in a society in which many spirit entities are assumed to truly exist is a rather different story,


But why did people think those entities really existed? It's not as if any of them had seen or talked to Zeus or Kali or whomever. They heard stories and believed in those stories' veracity. And then they encountered people who believed different stories. And eventually, they had to deal with "If this story is true, then that story can't be true," which begins a whole mess of interpretation and legalistic arguments, which sounds very much like present day theology.


A book on CD is still basically writing. The “reader” does not really have an opportunity to dialogue with the “speaker”


I get that. But a book on CD communicates auditorially rather than visually, and must work through different brain functions than the written word does. You also get distinguishable voices and inflections that you don't get from a book. I wasn't saying it was completely different from reading a paper book, but neither is it completely the same.


I had forgotten about the Good Kirk/Bad Kirk episode!


For me, Good Kirk/Bad Kirk illustrates why we need both logic and emotion; both compassion and assertiveness; both liberals and conservatives.


“If I were single, I'd probably have moved to California by now.”

Show your wife and daughter “Inside Out” then suggest it would be great...


You know I love my wife dearly. But one of her quirks is an irrational disdain of California. So be it. In Chicago, at least I'm happy to live near 1/5 of the world's drinkable water.

Paul SB said...

Hadend,

I have to get my not-yet-caffeinated anatomy to work, so I don't have a lot of time. I will say that others here (our host & Donzelion esp.) have already dealt with your complaints. What you cite as issues are mostly just results of Negativity Bias and living in an echo chamber. I'm not saying everything is perfect and there is no room for improvement, but when the Donald goes on about how bad unemployment is when it is down lower than it was before the recession, and the states where he was making that charge were below the national average, it should be obvious that someone is just playing on people's fears. The sad thing is that so many people live in these little echo chambers of fear, unaware of how negativity bias distorts their views (to say nothing of Dunning-Kruger), and are convinced that they are absolutely right about every little thing they complain about.

Paul SB said...

Larry,
I was pretty California phobic, too, before I moved out here. Now I just shrug off all the BS people tell me it's "really" like here.

Donzelion,
While I would love to, role playing again like the good old days is not going to happen any time soon, what with the demands on my time. Maybe in 5 years, when my son is finished with school, but he has ASD and I am doubtful he'll fledge the nest on schedule. My daughter hasn't and she's much less severe. Nice dream, though!

More later, after work...

Jonathan Sills said...

While I do think that Republicans fleeing their sinking ship in droves would be the best thing that could happen, Gary Johnson isn't really a much better choice than Donald Trump.

In interviews, Mr. Johnson has expressed confusion over geography ("What's Aleppo?"), international politics (could not recall the name of the one world leader he respected, former Mexican president Vicente Fox), and basic science (in one interview, he stated that global warming isn't that much to worry about, as one day the Sun would expand and swallow Earth anyway. He didn't seem to be aware that this wouldn't happen for some five billion years yet). His one edge over Donnie (sorry, Donnie doesn't deserve the respect implied by use of his proper name) is that he hasn't subscribed to eugenics (Donnie likes to talk a lot about how the people he admires have "good genes", in addition to his previously-established racist tendencies). Unfortunately, the office of the President of the United States isn't one that allows for much lag time in preparing - you have to know a lot of things on day 1, and Mr. Johnson just doesn't seem to have the knowledge base needed.

I'm also put off by his insistence that private industries can be trusted to regulate themselves, of course (history suggests otherwise), but that's a different issue.

donzelion said...

RobH: There's nothing wrong with rural people seeking to expand their political power. Gerrymandering is a very specific kind of "evil": so long as people stay within some limits, their efforts to expand their power may be justified. Those who seek broader public good will have to oppose them, but this opposition can be quite productive and everyone can win through the engagement.

What is wrong is the alliances that form to attain those goals. Backing the folks who despise the government - in order to take power within the government is a form of extortion. "Give us 10 seats or we burn down the capital and take a chainsaw to the government!" One cannot negotiate with such lot in good faith: one can only oppose them.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "You know I love my wife dearly. But one of her quirks is an irrational disdain of California. So be it. In Chicago, at least I'm happy to live near 1/5 of the world's drinkable water."

Do people really drink water straight from Lake Superior? Or the other lakes? I sort of thought some treatment was needed first... well, we're living next to 50% of the world's total water supply, about 30,000x as much water as those lakes. Wouldn't drink it without a bit of treatment first... ;-)

donzelion said...

Paul SB: I could see, perhaps, a session. Could not see committing to a campaign. But I think just a live conversation would suffice. And I wonder what roles and types our fellow board members would assume.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I love you guys, but damn you can be exhausting to keep up with.
} : = 8 D

Regarding the idea of an RPG, I would totally be down to join in on one. In-person RPGs will probably be quite challenging, but internet-based games can still be quite fun. Playing text-based forum RPGs with friends was one of my most favorite high school past times, and there are certain advantages to playing on forums via text vs in person, particularly in the increased scheduling flexibility, and the fact that you can compose a post over hours or a day, in free moments, instead of making a set meeting that lasts hours once or more a week.

As for elections and politics, I will once again lament the fundamental lack of good, accurate, honest, and reliable information sources that are readily available to the general public, especially the less tech-savvy portions of the public, and also lament the gullible willingness of large portions of the public to bury themselves in confirmation bias. Also the lack of education on and training in how to avoid cognitive dissonance. It seems to me that those three things are the largest contributing factors to the problem of an uninformed/disinformed public, which in turn is one of the fundamental problems we face as a nation. And the fact that I don't have any good solution to those problems that I can take action on.
} : = 8 /

donzelion said...

Perhaps, Ilithi, we're actually playing an RPG on the Contrary Brin forum, and weren't even aware of the game within a game? Elon Musk, among others, seems to think so...

As for elections and politics, I will once again lament the fundamental lack of good, accurate, honest, and reliable information sources that are readily available to the general public,
Everything "free" sucks. Seek news that is financed by subscribers rather than advertisers.

NPR is phenomenal. Economist is smart. FT is reliable. Between those three, you will know more than anyone around you about any topic of interest.

If you're still looking to study and pursue broader education, and as a Navy man (which requires slightly more global views than other services), I'd try out the Economist: global coverage unparalleled in Western press. Read it cover to cover one week, and it will overwhelm you. TOO MANY CHARTS! No pretty pictures! Who cares about the plight of pygmy monkeys in Ouagadougou! After 8 weeks, pieces start to gel. After 50 weeks, you'll know international affairs better than anyone around you (and you'll know where Ouagadougou is) - except perhaps an intelligence officer (who invests 3-5 hours a day to keep up). It takes about 5 hours to completely cover-to-cover an issue if you listen to the audio while doing something else (but if you read along with the audio, you'll learn more than by listening or reading alone).

For daily stuff, NPR is a fine choice. But they're not "free": you have to choose to keep them going.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Donzelion said...
Everything "free" sucks.


Which is exactly the problem. The information that is free and readily available to the public is mostly trash, or straight up disinformation. So many people don't have the time, energy, inclination, and/or money to invest in the more reliable information sources, and the information sources that they can access easily, that are SUPPOSED TO BE reliable, aren't. And so many people just don't have any good training or experience, if any at all, to teach them the skills necessary to discern good information from bad, good analyses from bad, and sensible conclusions from nonsense.

Soon many people I talk to who support Trump and what the Republicans are doing are operating off of fundamentally wrong information, trusting patently unreliable sources, and these readily-accessible-but-wrong information and sources lead them to fundamentally wrong conclusions and views of reality, and poisons their minds against the truth, or at least more accurate and reliable information and sources.

Telling people to go spend money on better sources, and spend many hours a week ingesting information, won't solve this problem (though I personally appreciate the source recommendations; some of them I already use or trust). That's time, energy, and money that many people just don't have to spare, or that many people have no inclination to spend when they have other sources of information that are more readily available, free and easier to access and digest, regardless of how much less accurate / more wrong they are.

The truly frustrating part, for me at least, is that I have no workable solution that I have found that I can take action on.

Jacob said...

Hi Ilithi,
Delegation is a (maybe not The) solution. We shouldn't require people to spend that much time, but we need better outcomes than the current system. We currently delegate to people we don't know and generally can't have a conversation with. I'd like to see a system in which we have unlimited delegation chains. Each level having the potential and likely outcome of increased knowledge/perspective.

hadend said...

Paul SB,

I'm sorry you've fallen for the classic Viceroy's Kidney Stone Fallacy (aka ergo propter hoc propter sum ergo hoc propter), I can only suggest that you read again and understand my argument.

Yes, the Donald plays on people's fears. He is also pretty much polling evenly with HRC in an election he should be getting crushed in. My question is do you not think that the populism Trump taps into needs to be addressed? Or to put it another way, do you really think the Dems can keep winning elections by dismissing this populism?

Ilithi Dragon said...

That's an interesting idea. I actually kinda do something like that now, with computer hardware. Years ago, I kept very up to speed on the latest and greatest happenings in the PA hardware world, but then found myself in a position where it wasn't super relevant to me, and I had (and still have) two very close personal friends who also keep very up to speed with that stuff, so I just stopped staying current myself, and let them do all the work of staying informed, and now just take their advice and brush up on a few relevant factors whenever I need to make a pc hardware decision.

Not sure who we could turn the idea into a implementable solution, though.

Jacob said...

Get Electronic. Allow people to assign their voting power to any other Voter. Email people every [Pick One:] time, week, month, or year on how their vote is used. Easy enough to Automate.

Currently we do this through expensive elections and don't have much in the way of feedback on what our representatives are actually doing.

We need to agree on a practical, transparent security solution to allow for modern organization.

matthew said...

I'd be interested in a Skype Contrary Brin RPG. Anyone else here do GURPS? Interested in the Uplift GUPRS setting? Or something else?

More directly, I'd be interested in meeting / discussing online with ya'll. Quite a few here have been commenting back and forth with me for what?... Nine, ten years? If nothing else I'd enjoy putting faces to names that I've "talked" with here for the best part of a decade. Last Brin booksigning I attended I *almost* asked any frequent CB commenters to identity themselves by handle, but I chickened out. Bad on me.

Back to political news - I bet we're about a week from the first of the planned October Suprises (TM) that will attempt to dislodge HRC from a path to victory. I'm betting WikiLeaks goes first week of the 15th, followed by a couple "lone wolf-" style terrorist attacks a week later. Of course, my namesake hurricane is currently wreaking havoc with voter registration in Florida. Matthew-the-storm looks to be a force into itself (aided, of course, by FL's crazy election laws which ONLY allow the legislature to change / extend voter registration). The FL panhandle (heavily Red territory) will suffer no such voter registration losses so my bet is Republican obstruction to any registration-related legislative redress.

David Brin said...

Back briefly from travels. Monday I fly to New York & Albany...

Larryhart, yes Illinois, Maryland and some other democratic states still gerrymander. But nearly all of the rebellions against this crime have occurred in blue-dem states. A large number of them including CA.


“irrational disdain of California” I just got back from paradise (the Wilamette Valley in Oregon) so I am tempted by the thought.

Rob: “They believe gerrymandering helps ensure that rural areas have more power and more "equal" representation”

They already have this in the insane distribution of Senate power among states. WHY should there be two Dakotas?

The House should not be like this. The House should represent population and thus urban America. It does not because of cheating.

hadend, the Trumpists have much more of a grudge against smartass college grads and scientists than against even other races. Think about it.

JS: without any doubt Gary Johnson is a kook. But he will not be president. What’s telling is that Romney got browbeaten into silence by Ryan & Priebus, so we’ll get no big call for Republicans to flee to the LP and THAT would have been truly wonderful. Traitors and cowards, all.

Jumper said...

I propose a moratorium on urban and suburban dwellers defining the current rural experience. "Living off the land" is a stretch, I'm betting. Living out of a decent pick-up truck, maybe? But I'll join my proposed moratorium too now. The only guy I know who lives way out there lives in a little suburbia-in-the-wilderness and works at a nuclear power plant.

hadend said...

Donzelion,

Clinton's and Sanders' positions on social issues are near identical, sure. On economic issues, they're pretty close on the political spectrum too. But the critical difference between Clinton and Sanders is not in their individual platforms, it's in their theory of politics.

My point is how are the Dems going to bring about reform? The HRC model is basically 'incrementalism' - it's centered around HRC as a politician and her personal qualifications, not policy or people. It rejects 'unrealistic' ideas and insists the only way to achieve progress is appeasing powerful interests like pharma, health insurance, Wall Street to pass minor reforms that will be significant when added together. Obamacare epitomizes this: cutting a deal with the insurance industry to kill the public option, it's helped cut the number of uninsured but it is terrible legislation. To many people it simply means being forced to purchase really bad private health insurance and it has no way structural way of curbing medical costs the way a single-payer system would.

The Sander’s model is very different: aimed at growing popular support around ideas that address people’s basic needs and using a popular mandate to overwhelm the right-wing opposition. Things like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Voting Rights Act were passed this way. Hell, this was basically the politics of the New Deal. When you look at what the incremental approach has given us: things like NAFTA and deregulation of finance, it’s hard to say that model’s been very good at achieving liberal goals. We’ll see what Clinton does if/when she get’s in office. While all those things you mention above are great, I’m skeptical we’ll see them with her in office…

Jumper said...

What if she's right?

Ilithi Dragon said...

Matthew,

I've never used GURPS before, and I'm not familiar with it at all. I've probably heard of it at some point, but never learned enough to remember it. Care to give a brief synopsis? The two systems I'm most familiar with are D&D/Pathfinder, and the Window system. The former is the classic RPG system, the latter I ran a star trek RPG with a group of friends for a short while (unfortunately, life intervened for several of us). Most of the RPing I did in high school consisted of system less, "freeform" games, where we more or less engaged in a group writing activity with everyone controlling different characters, sometimes with a DM driving a main plot, sometimes not. It actually worked pretty well, once everyone got the hang of not God moding, or controlling other players' characters.

I'd love to discuss details more with anyone interested in putting together a game of some sort, or something. I'm easy enough to track down on the Internet, just look for Ilithi Dragon on Skype or Facebook or pretty much any communication service. If the name is in use, it's me, if not, I don't have an account on that service.

Dr. Brin, any of the event(s) that you're going to open to the public? NY/Albany is close enough that I might be able to make a trip out, depending on the time of day and my work schedule. No Starfleet uniform this time, though; that costume is currently in storage.

As for urban vs rural "living of the land", most of the ruralites I grew up with have some knowledge/skills with the outdoors, and many of the older generationals either grew up on or worked in a farm at some point in their childhood, but they never actually "lived off the land" in any real sense, however much they wax nostalgic about it. If given the tools, most of them would be able to survive off the land easily enough, though they wouldn't enjoy it as much as they think, but if they had to build everything from scratch, with no modern tools or equipment, they wouldn't fair much better than any urbanite.

There is definitely a much greater trend to do more outdoors activities, such as hunting and camping and fishing, etc., but that is entirely due to proximity to areas they can display those things, and less availability of other forms of entertainment.

The problem is self-superior tribalism, from both sides, and the best solution would be to find a way to give both the opportunity to comingle, with urbanites getting out in the woods, and ruralites getting into the cities, and experiencing and enjoying the benefits of both. Streamlined mass transit systems that can quickly and conveniently ferry people in and out of the city, and give urbanites access to parks and forests and campgrounds, etc., and ruralites access to big city universities, shopping, jobs, clubs, etc. Would be ideal.

Another thing we should/could do is start some initiative to educate older generationals on the use of technology, and how to avoid the scams, pitfalls, and click bait. We who grew up with this stuff, or readily embraced it, have long ago learned how to use and maintain communication technologies and devices, and how to avoid the dangers of the Internet jungle, but so many people who didn't grow up with the tech, and didn't embrace it, struggle with using and maintaining the equipment, and struggle to understand and avoid the many pitfalls of the Internet. Helping them learn and build the knowledge and skills necessary to connect and communicate and avoid the clickbait traps will go a long way towards bridging the generational gap.

hadend said...

Maybe she is. However, the fact that she's polling even with the orange TV man, in an election that should be the biggest gimme in modern election history makes me think 'no!'. Also the fact that she needed all the help of the DNC and MSM to edge out an obscure 75-year-old socialist makes me think the model isn't working according to plan.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Point of order, the Affordable Care Act is as it exists now not because dems had to appease, or even set out to appease big pharma to get the bill passed. It exists as it is now, including without the single payer system the dems wanted and had originally included, entirely because of GOP obstructionism, and their openly stated strategy and objective of doing everything in their power to make the ACA a failure, so that they could hang that failure around President Obama's neck, as part of their larger, and also openly stated strategy and objective of doing everything within their power to turn his presidency into a failed presidency, purely out of political vindictiveness and to make President Obama and the dems look bad.

The ACA is a shitty mess because the Republicans did everything they could to make it a shitty mess, and no other reason.

Jacob said...

I think we've learned weak forms of "You-Gotta-Believe-Me". I know I've slowly built up Bias over the years and that it is hard to overcome. However when I problem solve in the political arena, I always ask myself what is the value inherent in my opponents positions. How can I accomplish that and my own goals? I assume I'm not ready to debate if I can't see value there.

David Brin said...

Ilithi Dragon on October 12 around 5pm I'll be at Flights/Fantasy Bks 381 Sand Creek Rd Albany (518) 435-9337 http://flightsoffantasyny.com .

GURPS UPLIFT was written by Stefan Jones, who used to hang around here. Haven't seen him in a while.

"The problem is self-superior tribalism, from both sides, and the best solution would be to find a way to give both the opportunity to comingle, with urbanites getting out in the woods, and ruralites getting into the cities..." Both happen a lot. Problem is that urbanites romanticize the nature they visit and ruralites hate that! And ruralites see cities stealing their brightest high school grads every year.

See Zootopia!

I call bull re Hillary's incrementalism. She will push for whatever congress will allow. If we do not give her a congress, then she'll go Obama on us and do what she can, incrementally.

Obamacare will be replaced if we get a congress. At first, very simply, by including every child in Medicare till age 25 and lowering the age to 60. That would be both popular and scare the insurance companies into compromise.

Sam Trenholme said...

I’m enjoying the discussion, but I am de-lurking to wish David Brin a happy belated birthday (I was yesterday, the 6th; he shares a birthday with my daughter, so I always know when it’s his birthday).

And, yes, Trump is going to — barring an October surprise or a really bad debate performance from Hillary — lose big time on November 8. Whether or not the Democrats get the US Senate is up in the air, and, if they don’t, I wonder what excuses the Republicans will come up with to continue to not even hold hearings to appoint someone to the Supreme Court.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dragon

For decent "free" content the BBC is the gold standard
The Guardian is OK for world stuff but a bit funny about Corbyn (Labour leader) for UK stuff

Paul SB said...

Ilithi Dragon,

I have already said I have no time to commit to a game, but I can take a few minutes to explain ones I have used before. GURPS means Generic Universal Role Playing System. It was devised (by Steve Jackson Games, which had not jumped into the RPG market before this) to be a system of rules that could be used in any story setting you want. Of course, it ended up producing huge numbers of supplements to provide background for a huge number of different settings. Some people saw that as a money-making scheme, and though I agree, I was totally okay with it, because it made a platform for people to explore all sorts of options without having to make up everything from scratch. I knew a bunch of history buffs back then, and we gamed in the time of Thutmose II, The Age of Pericles, during the reign of Emperor Caligula (that was brutal!) the Renaissance and the 18th Century, to say nothing of all science fiction games we did. I once ran one based on Blake's Seven, another on Anne McCaffrey's old sci-fi stories, and a few campaigns that were purely the creations of ourselves. I still have the GURPS Uplift book somewhere....The real beauty of the system is that its character generation. It starts you out with a fund of points to purchase attributes, skills and abilities, but you can then acquire more points by giving your characters all sorts of quirks and disadvantages. This encourages the players to really role play, rather than approaching an RPG as if it were a war game (which is basically what D&D was). The one thing I don't like about it is that it uses d6's, which always struck me as needlessly cumbersome to work with, when you could easily use percentile dice and immediately grasp how the probabilities are playing out. I generally preferred the old Iron Crown system for that reason, or FASA's Star Trek RPG, and wished someone would create a hybrid between the two.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Dr. Brin,

I just might be able to make that! If Wednesday isn't a terribly late day. It'll also be a good excuse to pick up a hard copy of Existence, too, since I only have a digital copy right now.

Ha, yeah, it never even occurred to me how accurately Zootopia portrayed that.

You're right that a lot of urbanites do get out into the "country", but there isn't much co-mingling of urbanites and ruralites, and most ruralites I know rarely go into the larger cities, and always dread doing so.

Some of that is the traffic. When you live in an area where three cars going the other way is heavy traffic, and you're used to depending on your car to get anywhere, and rely on the freedom and flexibility it gives you, getting anywhere in the city is a nightmare, especially if you're completely unfamiliar with robust public transit systems, and if there is no easy access to public transit into the city that you don't have to drive almost all the way to the city to access.

Increasing public transit access between rural areas and larger cities, so that ruralites have access to them, can learn how to use them, and can easily use them to get into and around the cities would go a long way to helping, because it would make it easier for ruralites to access and understand cities, and their various benefits. It would also give urbanites and suburbanites greater range of places to live and still access their city jobs, increasing the co-mingling. And more will have to wait until later, I have to go get ready to stand watch.

And happy birthday!

LarryHart said...

hadend:

When you look at what the incremental approach has given us: things like NAFTA and deregulation of finance, it’s hard to say that model’s been very good at achieving liberal goals. We’ll see what Clinton does if/when she get’s in office. While all those things you mention above are great, I’m skeptical we’ll see them with her in office…


You're focusing way to much on the presidency--actually the weakest of the three branches in this regard. FDR had a majority in both houses of congress, and still needed the Supreme Court to finally get out of the way before he could pass meaningful legislation aimed at remediating the Great Depression. Either President Hillary or President Bernie would be in the same situation with the current congress and Supreme Court.

If we put enough liberals in congress, they are likely to do the same, and Clinton would sign their legislation. But first, we have to flip the Court, and in that role alone, it matters a great deal who wins this particular election.

LarryHart said...

Sam Trenholme:

And, yes, Trump is going to — barring an October surprise or a really bad debate performance from Hillary — lose big time on November 8


From your lips to God's ear.

However, in the meantime, I'm predicting that Trump will look surprisingly good in Sunday's debate and be declared the new Comeback Kid. Why? Because Hillary is breaking away in the polls now, and the corporate media can't have that!


Whether or not the Democrats get the US Senate is up in the air, and, if they don’t, I wonder what excuses the Republicans will come up with to continue to not even hold hearings to appoint someone to the Supreme Court.


"The election was rigged." seems like the first place they'll go.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"But why did people think those entities really existed? It's not as if any of them had seen or talked to Zeus or Kali or whomever. They heard stories and believed in those stories' veracity."
- People who live in very small-scale societies often encounter neighbors who believe differently than they do. They tend to see those differences as being one set of gods for us, a different set of gods for them, and when in Rome, do as the Romans do, or you might piss them off. I had a history professor who argued that this mentality really did not change until Jerusalem was sacked in 70 A.D. under Tiberius. I forget which prophet it was, but one of them argued that the Diaspora was a direct result of their God punishing them for knuckling under to the Romans for so long, and that this "proves" that their god is real and the others were not. I'm not sure I buy this 100%, as it is kind of hard to believe that the previous 4000 years no one would have noticed the logical contradiction. But empires often hold together better when they incorporate the cultures of their subjects, rather than trying to completely subsume them.


"I get that. But a book on CD communicates auditorially rather than visually, and must work through different brain functions than the written word does. You also get distinguishable voices and inflections that you don't get from a book. I wasn't saying it was completely different from reading a paper book, but neither is it completely the same."
- Agreed. Linguistic processing takes place in the temporal lobes, which is the auditory center, but written language requires the occipital lobes to get involved, since these process vision, so both are at work in reading but only one in listening. It makes sense when you consider that humans were speaking for at least 40 thousand years, but writing for only 6 thousand, and for most of that time only a handful of people were allowed to know how to read. It also shows that when you read, you are engaging more brain circuitry, which makes reading often easier to remember than just listening to what people say. This is why regular reading tends to make people smarter than just talking by itself. Writing is even better, for a number of reasons, some of which I will have to explain to my staff at a meeting on Monday (I'm hopeful at least some will get it and use it - right now people are so disgusted with administration that anything that sounds like out is supported by Admin will be rejected by many of the staff, even if it is good.)

Paul SB said...

Illithi Dragon,

When I read your "Happy Birthday" to Dr. Brin, I imagined the voice of Eeyore saying "Thanks for noticing!" ; ] Of course, like the characters in Inside Out, all of Christopher Robin's imaginary friends were representations of his own personality (yes, even Kanga!) so hopefully this will not draw out his inner donkey.

Paul SB said...

It looks like my computer is acting up again! I posted another one on the Good Kirk/ Bad Kirk thing, and it just disappeared. I'll paste it back in again & see if it works.

Larry, cont.

"For me, Good Kirk/Bad Kirk illustrates why we need both logic and emotion; both compassion and assertiveness; both liberals and conservatives."
- And we cannot excise one side of our personalities - or national character for that matter - without severe consequences. Unfortunately this is exactly what we do when we "engender" ourselves and each other with stereotyped traits. Robin Lakoff once asserted that many of our political differences boil down to differences in how we conceive of the family, and while I saw his point, I could go further than that. Many of our differences, as well as many of our stress-induced causes of death, boil down to how we conceive of ourselves and other people generally. Think about how conceptions of gender, for instance, impact our psychology.

A couple weeks ago I had my students in Anatomy read an article about how the body maintains homeostasis. It talked about the usual things like temperature and blood pressure control, but it also discussed how both laughter and crying are mechanisms the nervous system uses to maintain homeostasis. Something tickles your funny bone, it throws your nervous system off its normal balance. It releases a bunch of anandamide into your nucleus accumbens and you start laughing. You don't laugh forever, the laughing is part of a feedback loop to get you back to normal. It works the same with crying, but if you are male you just aren't supposed to do that, or you're some kind of wimpy, girlie-man fag bait. How do you think our nervous system deals with not being able to use this natural mechanism (this instinct, if you will) to return to balance? It doesn't. Instead, you build up substance p in your system, which either makes you more and more angry or it makes you more and more depressed. In other words, you get trapped in a positive feedback loop. Where negative feedback loops make things disappear, positive feedback makes things spiral out of control. Voila, you have huge numbers of males with unresolved anger issues and/or clinical depression. I know this, but I still don't do it. I can only think of one time in my adult life that I cried, when a cousin of mine was nearly killed in a car accident. I know how this affects people, but the culture is so ingrained at such an early age it's really hard to change.

One of the things I really loved about the movie "Inside Out" was how it showed, not what Disney or any other culture machine you would expect, that there is a place for negative emotions in our lives, and it is neither normal nor healthy to be cheery and laughing every minute of every day. The personified Sadness ends up being the one that saves the day (oops, I should have said SPOILER ALERT here, shouldn't I?)

hadend said...

LarryHart,

That's exactly what I'm talking about, appealing to people the dem party's lost to regain down ticket races to get the kind of popular mandate where they can actually fight corporate opposition to reform. I'm saying the strategy should be in the mold of Sanders' campaign: trying to rally strong support around political issues (free in-state tuition, single payer) that speak to peoples basic needs. FDR's political strategy was not incrementalism. Much of the most progressive and profound legislation we have was not achieved by small incremental policy tweaks. Also, I don't think FDR whined about how mean and stupid the republicans were - he was willing to form coalitions with people he did not like and who did not like him to achieve political goals against republican opposition.

Yeah, flipping the court is necessary, how you plan on doing that? Don't tell me I'm focusing too much on the presidency then tell me we need to flip the court.

Paul SB said...

Jacob,

You wrote:
"However when I problem solve in the political arena, I always ask myself what is the value inherent in my opponents positions. How can I accomplish that and my own goals? I assume I'm not ready to debate if I can't see value there."

to which I have to say, that is a strikingly adult attitude.

If we can get what we need and let the other guy get what he needs, too, why the hell not? it isn't necessary to outright destroy an opponent in most cases, but too many people have this reflex. This is part of why I think we would be much better off if we had a plethora of political parties instead of just two huge sides. Their constant conflict tends to drive people to unreasonable extremes, as we have seen in Congress since the Hastert Rule.

Alfred Differ said...

@hadend: However, prices don't rise uniformly.

True, but the same can be said about wages. What matters is the ratio between your wage and the price of a basket of things you need to be able to buy. Ignore the stuff you want but do not need for a moment and you get ‘real income’ that is already adjusted for inflation. If rent goes up and wages go up to match, real income holds steady. If wages go down and gasoline prices go down to match, real income holds steady. Real life is a complex set of prices, so one has to bundle the purchases into a basket and consider a weighted price.

The fact that some prices HAVE gone up and wages haven’t does not mean real income has come down. In 2009 when I faced the full price of my health care plan after being laid off (COBRA price), my eyes almost popped out of my head. (They were in the same ballpark as my mortgage payment.) Obviously my previous employer had covered much of it as part of my benefits, right? Since they viewed that as compensation to me, my ‘wage’ was considerably higher than what I saw on my pay stub. Take all those things into account (half my Social Security taxes are paid by my employer too) and one sees the actual income I made with the caveat that some of it was pre-destined to purchase some things in the basket.

Real income is not misleading if one accounts for things correctly. It is even better if one skips the dollar denomination in exchange for the basket of needs. Do I really need a car? Maybe in some job markets, but not everywhere. Do I really need a giant TV? Heh. My son says I do, but I know better. Do I need a roof over my head? Sure, but I can manage with roommates if needed.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I had a history professor who argued that this mentality really did not change until Jerusalem was sacked in 70 A.D. under Tiberius.


That's not Tiberius in 70AD, is it? I'm not entirely up on my Roman emperors, but I thought Tiberius came before Nero.


I forget which prophet it was, but one of them argued that the Diaspora was a direct result of their God punishing them for knuckling under to the Romans for so long, and that this "proves" that their god is real and the others were not. I'm not sure I buy this 100%


That's an interesting variation on "Our god can beat your god". In this case, "We lost the battle, which proves that our God is the real one, and the gods of the winners are not"???

hadend said...

Dr. Brin,

I agree - a lot of flyover country vote out of spite and they're not very lovable - but arguing with someone you agree with 85% is more fun than arguing with someone you agree with 15%. When I was talking about appealing to people the dem party's lost, I was thinking of something I saw awhile back:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqgLMBBuaMk

The guy in the video is not someone I'd wanna be friends with, probably wouldn't have anything in common with him. But do you really think the dem party couldn't win people like him back by offering them some sense of justice, like prosecuting corporate greed?

Also, I'd bet good money we don't see medicare for under 25's even if we get congress and the oval office. For one, dems can always point to the next round of elections. You don't think insurance companies will push back hard against such an effort?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

When I read your "Happy Birthday" to Dr. Brin, I imagined the voice of Eeyore saying "Thanks for noticing!"


Maybe this is just cynical me, but I imagine "Thanks, but now identity thieves on the internet know my birthday."

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: At the risk of buying into cyclic history theories, I look at some of the past sins of different denominations as coming from a time when the rhetoric of the times required faith to be a public matter. My identity in a community required public expressions of loyalty. One of the meanings for ‘having faith’ in English almost equates to ‘loyalty to’, so public displays of loyalty to a particular transcendent meme were the thing to do. Our current rhetoric doesn’t demand this of us most of the time. In fact, for many, faith is a loyalty expressed privately. That seems to cycle between public and private over a span of centuries, but where we are now can be debated.

You just hear them vehemently denying what their ancestors were guilty of.

Yah. One of the things that bugs me about some atheist groups is they seem to relish reminding people of faith of their memetic failures. History is important to remember, but I’d rather let it go nowadays. Maybe we will cycle back and repeat our mistakes from 400 years ago, but I’m doubting it because education levels have changed dramatically since then.

But the Lutherans and Anglicans and any number of churches did the same things.

No doubt. They used to be willing to commit some brutal acts and outright atrocities, but the modern rhetoric discourages that kind of behavior. Psychologically, I suspect most of us are still as capable of brutality as those ancestors, but our social arenas don’t permit it. There are still ranters on college campuses, but it is more interesting to look at what the on-lookers are doing when they encounter them. The crowd looks at itself for direction.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

One of the things I really loved about the movie "Inside Out" was how it showed, not what Disney or any other culture machine you would expect, that there is a place for negative emotions in our lives, and it is neither normal nor healthy to be cheery and laughing every minute of every day


Oh, now I remember which movie "Inside Out" is. My daughter and I actually did see that one.

LarryHart said...

hadend:

Yeah, flipping the court is necessary, how you plan on doing that? Don't tell me I'm focusing too much on the presidency then tell me we need to flip the court.


I did say that the presidency was important for flipping the court, but in that regard, there's not much difference between Hillary and Bernie. Any Democrat or Dem-leaning independent will do. To the extent that the Senate is also involved, it's better that Bernie is still a Senator.

Alfred Differ said...

@Jonathan Sills: Gary Johnson isn't really a much better choice than Donald Trump.

Oh come now. Seriously? The question about respected foreign leaders came from Chris Matthews. His questioning style is lightning fast and changes direction quickly. He’d make most of us look stupid without really intending to do so. It’s hard to keep up. If you watch the rest of the interview, though, you’ll see Johnson DID keep up, change directions with Matthews, and demonstrate his knowledge. Besides, there is also the small possibility that Johnson doesn’t actually respect ANY of the current foreign leaders. He is running as a Libertarian and that wouldn’t shock us. 8)

As for Aleppo… well… Okay. That’s an honest gaffe. Not surprising for a candidate how can’t field an army of advisors supporting his campaign. He’s not stupid, though. He’s rather American which means he is someone whose primary focus is domestic. Many presidential candidates start this way and then accrete advisors as the donations arrive.

The context of these things matter. In this case, he would be a far better choice for Trump supporters who want to shake things up. Johnson would. Look up how often he used his veto powers as Governor of New Mexico. Even the GOP would have a hard time legislating with him as President. Post offices around the country would go unnamed in droves. 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Besides, there is also the small possibility that Johnson doesn’t actually respect ANY of the current foreign leaders. He is running as a Libertarian and that wouldn’t shock us. 8)


Hillary is a liberal, but she runs (and is blamed by liberals for it) running as a realist rather than the Democratic Socialist she'd probably prefer to be. Gary Johnson seems to me to not recognize the limits of Libertarianism's appeal to the general electorate. He demonstrates that the Libertarian Party is not ready for prime time.


As for Aleppo… well… Okay. That’s an honest gaffe


I liked the comment from Ken Jennings, the former "Jeopardy" champion, who quipped, "At least he answered in the form of a question."

David Brin said...

Rural folks who visit cities are pleased to see their stereotypes reinforced by the urbanites racing about seeming “rude.” But they simply have a different view of time.Convince a New Yorker that your needs are great enough and genuine? He will interrupt his racing train of thought to give you the shirt off his back.

Paul” “"But why did people think those entities really existed? It's not as if any of them had seen or talked to Zeus or Kali or whomever.”

Look up Julian Jaynes. They may have actually talked to us. in a sense.

hadend… let’s hope my wager - about expanding medicare to include children, will be tested by a bigly Democratic Congress.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The context of these things matter. In this case, he would be a far better choice for Trump supporters who want to shake things up. Johnson would. Look up how often he used his veto powers as Governor of New Mexico. Even the GOP would have a hard time legislating with him as President.


I would understand Republicans who can't stomach Trump going over to Johnson. I'm surprised that he seems to be attracting disaffected Democrats away from Hillary. I get that some see "He's not Hillary or Trump" as a good thing, especially to Bernie Bros, but if they're upset at Hillary for not being liberal enough, they're going to be awfully disappointed with Johnson's actual policies, maybe even moreso than with Trump's.

Hillary could well play Hamilton's part in this exchange with Washington from the musical:


W: You wanna pull yourself together?

H: I’m sorry, these Virginians are birds of a feather

Young man, I’m from Virginia, so watch your mouth

So we let Congress get held hostage by the South?

You need the votes

No, we need bold strokes. We need this plan

No, you need to convince more folks

James Madison won’t talk to me, that’s a nonstarter

Winning was easy, young man. Governing’s harder

They’re being intransigent

You have to find a compromise

But they don’t have a plan, they just hate mine!

Convince them otherwise

What happens if I don’t get congressional approval?

I imagine they’ll call for your removal

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Hope you're enjoying your B-day! Did you do anything special?

I am familiar with the Bicameral Mind hypothesis. An older archaeologist I used to work with, the one I have mentioned who was in Mensa, mentioned it once in awhile. His take on out was that it was really intriguing, but no one believed it could possibly be tested scientifically. Richard Dawkins said something along the lines of ... wait, I bet I can find it ...

"It is one of those books that is either complete rubbish or a work of consummate genius, nothing in between! Probably the former, but I'm hedging my bets."

This from the Wikipedia entry, easy enough to find. But as far as people actually seeing or hearing all those gods, Occam's Razor does just fine with old-fashioned hallucination, induced either by the brain's reaction to toxins or by exposure to sun and wind (not at all likely in the Judean Desert, of course!). There's nothing like a little DMT (dimethyl tryptamine) to get you in touch with your spiritual side. Some elements of the Bicameral Mind make sense with what we know today, but it isn't exactly established science.

hadend said...

Dr. Brin, though it would be completely ahistorical, it would be a great thing if some like that could get passed.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

You're right, it was Vespasian in 70 A.D. My history judo is not strong anymore!

"That's an interesting variation on "Our god can beat your god". In this case, "We lost the battle, which proves that our God is the real one, and the gods of the winners are not"???"

Simon Winchester, in his book "Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded" argues that much of today's radical jihadi movements can be traced back to a similar argument made by imams in Indonesia after the tremendous 1883 eruption. Indonesia was under the thumb of the Dutch at the time, but not long afterwards the local people began to rise up in rebellion against Dutch rule. The argument was that the volcano was sent by Allah to punish Indonesians for allowing infidels to rule them. The logic sounds pretty twisty to me, but I have seen enough twisted people to find it believable.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

But as far as people actually seeing or hearing all those gods, Occam's Razor does just fine with old-fashioned hallucination, induced either by the brain's reaction to toxins or by exposure to sun and wind (not at all likely in the Judean Desert, of course!). There's nothing like a little DMT (dimethyl tryptamine) to get you in touch with your spiritual side. Some elements of the Bicameral Mind make sense with what we know today,


Certain mental attributes might make it plausible that people saw or conversed with the supernatural. But would they share a halucination--all believing that they were conversing with Zeus or Pan or whomever--without first knowing and believing in a particular story?

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The argument was that the volcano was sent by Allah to punish Indonesians for allowing infidels to rule them. The logic sounds pretty twisty to me, but I have seen enough twisted people to find it believable.


Oh, I find it believable that people rationalized such a belief after being subjugated by another culture. I also think they would have come up with a more traditional "my god beats your god" story had they actually won the confrontation.

Dave Sim is not so unusual in that regard--the idea that no matter what happens, it becomes proof of one's preconceived notions.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB:
What you said originally was (added emphasis mine):

I forget which prophet it was, but one of them argued that the Diaspora was a direct result of their God punishing them for knuckling under to the Romans for so long, and that this "proves" that their god is real and the others were not.


Now, I can see a rationalization for the fact that one lost a cultural war which spares the notion of the loser's god as being the real God. But the loss proves this? As if the Jews beating back the Romans (or the Indonesions throwing off the Dutch) would have indicated that their God was not real after all? That just seems bizarre to me--like something Donald Trump would say. :)

Jonathan Sills said...

I'm afraid I must apologize to Mr. Johnson. I still find his ignorance disturbing - but at least he's shown some willingness to learn, and is himself disturbed when he finds his knowledge lacking.

And somehow I doubt that even in his cups, Mr. Johnson could ever descend to such an appalling level as we have learned today that Donnie has in the past - and he certainly would come up with something more sincere than Donnie's non-apology if he did.

Mr. Johnson would be almost infinitely preferable to Donnie in the office of the President. (Of course, that's true of a lot of people, particularly including our gracious host...) And I apologize to Gary Johnson and any of his compatriots here for ever daring to suggest that he was anywhere near Donnie's level of ignorance and barbaric behavior.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Johnathan

I must differ with you on who is preferable to the Donald, - Mr Johnson like Cruz has policies that would make the USA much much worse - and has the capability to get some into place

An incompetent clown is much to be preferred over a possibly competent devil

Paul SB said...

Larry,

On gods & hallucinations, it's not that people tend to see the same thing and come to the same conclusion without consulting one another.

"Certain mental attributes might make it plausible that people saw or conversed with the supernatural. But would they share a halucination--all believing that they were conversing with Zeus or Pan or whomever--without first knowing and believing in a particular story?"

What happens is that when someone has a hallucination, people start interpreting their hallucination. People don't live in a vacuum, and anything that happens to their neighbors gets talked about. A community will come to a consensus on what it means. Then the next time someone has a hallucination, it adds to the cannon, and the belief system evolves. The real kicker is that once ideas are established within a community, they form the way the brains of people experiencing hallucinations interpret them. Thus a Native American who went out on the Spirit Quest would hallucinate the local animal spirits, while a Christian monk wandering the Judean Desert would hallucinate a visit from an archangel. Buddhist mystics meet incarnations of Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, and Hindu yogis have their various gods and spirits to envision. The neurological mechanisms are the same in all cases. Drugs like psilocybin or the depredations of dehydration and exposure to extreme temperatures, high, sustained winds can all cause a DMT release (there are weirder things that can cause hallucinations, like prolonged exposure to repetitive drumming, or for some people even abstinence from sex). But the human mind is a symbolic mind. It will interpret hallucinations according to its own symbol systems.

The community reinforces this with ambiguous stimuli. When they see something in the dark they can't quite make out, they typically will interpret it as some mythical being (these days it's UFOs) instead of admitting that they don't really know what it was. This is a form of Pareidolia. Google it and look for images - there's some pretty funny ones out there.

Have I told you about the accident my friend in Pennsylvania had, where he was burned over 90% of his body? I'm pretty sure I wrote about this one before. His wife told me about how she pulled him out of his burning car and sprayed him with the garden hose, but later he said it was Jesus that pulled him out, and within a year she had changed her story, too.

Paul SB said...

Hadend,

To your:

“My question is do you not think that the populism Trump taps into needs to be addressed? Or to put it another way, do you really think the Dems can keep winning elections by dismissing this populism?”

I can answer yes and no. Yes, it needs to be addressed, but I don’t expect it to matter if it is. I get that people feel betrayed, feel let down and feel like the government isn’t doing its job. But the people who are swinging to the Trump camp are deluding themselves if they think an obvious con-man is going to change his shorts all of a sudden and start doing things for the American people when his entire life has been about doing everything for himself. People who are that delusional are not people who are going to be convinced. Something really dramatic can happen, but what they need to see is that even with Republican obstructionism things have improved. We are nowhere near as bad off as were at the end of either Bush Administration. The best times this country has had in recent memory has been under a Democratic administration. This populism is not fueled by actual facts. It is fueled by propaganda, repeated ad nauseam in the media. The media profit by jingoism, taking advantage of negativity bias, and create a self-destructive society pursuing the ends of their corporate masters.

And no, I don’t think they are going to win by dismissing this populism. No one will win by dismissing it, but the people who are winning by feeding it are harming the nation. This is a populism that is founded on disinformation. I wish I knew an effective way to counter this. If times get better, they will still be convinced we are nearing The End of Days. We can add Anchoring Bias to the list of logical errors that have led people to this behavior. Some of them won’t be satisfied with anything less than a bloodbath. You can give them jobs, servants, McMansions, their own cook and chauffeur, and you can do this for the entire 330 million people, and they will still believe that everything is so much worse than when they were young.

As Larry, Donzelion & Dr. Brin have all pointed out, the policies of the Dems have been making a majority of people’s lives better, while Republican policies have made the rich happier at the expense of everyone else. The Dems are not likely to change what they are doing very much, and they don’t seem to be smart enough to change their rhetoric in ways that might convince some of the fence sitters rethink their positions.

The only solutions I can think of are 1. Return journalism to the regulations they used to have, allowing for rebuttal time so people aren’t entirely surrounded by nothing but their own ideas. 2. Much more intensive education in critical thinking, psychology & rhetoric for the young ones. Then we have to wait for generations of Dunning-Kruger people to die out and hope these things stick.

BTW – you added a couple extra ergos and propters.

Jumper said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BWWWQzTpNU
Trailer for SF movie Passengers, set on a starship.

David Brin said...


Guy reviving Julian Jaynes Origin of Consciousness hypothesis. Fascinating.

https://www.ted.com/talks/mariano_sigman_your_words_may_predict_your_future_mental_health?language=en

David Brin said...

Johnson's version of libertarianism would finish off half of the madnesses afflicting our conservative neighbors.

Alas, the other half....

Duncan Cairncross said...

"The crazy preference for "divided government"

I was recently asked "why Parliamentarian systems seemed to work better?"

The answer is that the US system is specifically DESIGNED not to work - the Federal system is a top layer which was designed not to be able to interfere with the actual governments which were the State governments

When you look at your problems in that light it is easy to see why a large percentage of Americans like the idea of a divided government

Jumper said...

Designed with a speed limit.

On the other matter it strikes me that so much rhetoric from the Trump factions sounds like straight-up Soviet era disinfo. I found this on Wiki recently and decided to re-read the whole thing.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitrokhin_Archive#Disinformation_campaign_against_the_United_States

Tacitus2 said...

Paul Ryan is not enormously popular in the hallowed halls of ConBrin but I hope you can give him a slight hat tip for telling Trump to go somewhere else (my take on it was "to Hell") instead of coming to Wisconsin.

I am sure Ryan had his reasons for not running for President but both short and probably long term the country is shortchanged by this.

Regards a virtual RPG, perhaps our genial and footloose host would look benevolently on use of some minor elements from the Uplift series. A few of those alien races could be fun to "play" if you could set limits on deus ex mach technology.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB on hallucinations:

I don't think we're arguing about anything here. I differ to your knowledge of how such hallucinations become incorporated into a cultural milieu. My main contention (which I don't think contradicts you) is that, over time, the cultural consensus becomes a story that explains the story elements which are the community's collective hallucinations.

Then, eventually, the community encounters another community which has developed a different story around different hallucinations (story elements).

And at first, this can be fine. But once someone starts noticing (and can't un-see) that that story isn't compatible with this story, then you've got trouble. At the very least, some experience cognitive dissonance. At worst, they can't abide the inconvenient fact that the other story exists, and must resort to genocide to eliminate the inconvenient story. Even worse is if their story specifically tells them that people who don't believe the story are enemies to be destroyed.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus:

Paul Ryan is not enormously popular in the hallowed halls of ConBrin but I hope you can give him a slight hat tip for telling Trump to go somewhere else (my take on it was "to Hell") instead of coming to Wisconsin.


Tacitus, you conflict me greatly. I know you are sincere in your admiration for both Ryan and Scott Walker. OTOH, from what I know about them, I despise them both with a passion. OTOOH, I realize you live right there in Wisconsin, and your view may be more informed than what I see in national media.

With that in mind, I don't find it as admirable as you do that Ryan, who had just recently announced his full-throated support for the Republican nominee, changed his mind the day after the newly-surfaced Trump interview where he makes himself toxic to women and anyone who knows women. Ok, it's better for him to sprun Trump than to support him, but the timing makes this more political expedience than heroism.

At this point, Ted Cruz would look positively prophetic with his principled stand at the convention--up there with Bernie Sanders voting against the Iraq war--had Cruz not already caved for Trump after talking it over with Jesus.


I am sure Ryan had his reasons for not running for President but both short and probably long term the country is shortchanged by this.


He did run in 2012 (a vice-president is usually an audition for a future presidential run) and he is running now--for 2020.

LarryHart said...

...in fact, Ryan may secretly prefer that Trump loses the election, thinking he'd be more able to challenge Hillary than to challenge a sitting Republican president in 2020.

Anonymous said...

America is by now mostly suburban, and with that comes the stroad, plenty of free parking, a quite high and moreover increasing death rate on said stroads, and for doubtless uncorrelated reasons a porking on of the pounds. A paradise for little fat man, as Orwell put it. Strong Towns has done the math on this suburban development model, so it's little wonder to hear repeated squeals for the Federal teat given that those suburbs lack the private tax revenue to support their very expensive public infrastructure. Car sewer is an apt term here. Another interesting statistic is the rise of poverty in the suburbs, a much more difficult and invisible issue than when poverty was defined by a few blocks of blight that enterprising engineers could simply cut a highway through and solve. One might also look at housing costs, and how various adults have left California, having never been able to afford a home there. Sweet sweet proposition 13. How is the homeless problem, by the way? Official statistics put a lively shantytown in L.A. at just two permament residents, and there are those airport workers living in one of the inevitable parking craters that surround LAX (a perfect name for your Carbon habit). That's been going on for years now. Indeed, the decline is hard to miss--unless one is a thrice blinkered optimist who takes great pains to ignore the negative--with a $12 minimum wage merely being kicking the poor less hard--what would that minimum wage be today if it had continued on the up and up from the 60s?

"Every major metric of U.S. national health improves across the span of democratic administrations." False. Road deaths decreased under Ford, Reagan, Bush, and Bush, and were up under Carter, up under Clinton, and look to be up under Obama, given the sharp uptick in 2015 and no less splatterific first half to 2016. On the other hand, one could easily argue that road deaths are not a major metric of U.S. health, given how blind Americans are to the high costs of their car sitting.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

I watched that TED Talk you posted, and it was fascinating! Thanks for that! But I am not buying it 100%. In terms of its modern, clinical use, they may be on to something extremely useful in terms of diagnosing mental health. But there is a flaw in the way they started, examining ancient texts. That is, the times in which those texts were written were not times when a majority of people were literate. Only a tiny minority of people were, and these were generally the leaders of society or trusted employees (scribes - whose writing was nothing more than routine record keeping). In other words, the samples are biased. This analysis can tell us about the leaders of the ancient societies, but not about the people more generally. In small-scale societies, up to and including the chiefdom level, it is quite common for schizophrenics to be seen as people who have special gifts or are favored by the gods & spirits, and are institutionalized as what we generically call a shaman (I forgot the name of the Siberian tribe the word came from - but you get the idea). these shaman are often considered equal in political power to the chief himself, who may have a relationship of consultation or sometimes conflict with the shaman. In either case, these are men of power in society, and it could easily be that the average leader tends to lean more schizophrenic than the average citizen.

There's something interesting to contemplate regarding our choices of leaders, both in political and religious terms... : ) : / : (

Paul SB said...

Larry,

On hallucinations, you have it right, at least in terms of what I think. I suppose the question is about time. How long can any given society exist with a number of contradictory myths (stories) before it starts to break up into mutually hostile factions? That history professor seemed sure that at least in ancient times, those contradictions could be ignored for centuries at a time. While I found the idea interesting, like you I'm a bit skeptical. I can see why any particular regime might officially recognize many different myths in an attempt to appease disparate ethnic groups within its borders. But, like you, I doubt that too many individuals would fail to notice. But like I wrote to our host above, there is a problem with historical methods. They rely on the written word, and for most of that history only the most powerful people in society wrote.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I can see why any particular regime might officially recognize many different myths in an attempt to appease disparate ethnic groups within its borders. But, like you, I doubt that too many individuals would fail to notice.


Before modern mass-communication, it seems likely that disparate cultures within an empire didn't need to interact with each other to the extent that different cultural stories are threatening. It may become more of a problem when a particular story insists that the fate of one's immortal soul depends on believing the story, especially when doing so (believing in the story) requires one to discredit the other stories.

David S said...

Brin wrote "The House should not be like this. The House should represent population and thus urban America. It does not because of cheating."

The problem is the whole winner-take-all approach to representing populations. A single individual cannot accurately represent a population unless that population is sufficiently small enough (but then who wants a house with thousands or tens of thousands of members). The possible solution it to make the existing districts larger, allow citizens to vote for more than one candidate, and then accept the top N vote getters.

Jumper said...

Anonymous keeps beating Brin about the head and neck with smart growth truths I would assume David already agrees with. We get trollish screeds here sometimes from people who rant about the International Building Codes, which are really a triumph of modern society, being awful plots by IT, the bodiless telepathic brain from A Wrinkle in Time...

But anonymous (Carsitter) seems to do these hit-and-run (!) blitzes without a desire for engagement.

Paul451 said...

Paul SB said...
"an article about how the body maintains homeostasis. [...] discussed how both laughter and crying are mechanisms the nervous system uses to maintain homeostasis. [...] It works the same with crying, but if you are male you just aren't supposed to do that, or you're some kind of wimpy, girlie-man fag bait. How do you think our nervous system deals with not being able to use this natural mechanism (this instinct, if you will) to return to balance? It doesn't. Instead, you build up substance p in your system, which either makes you more and more angry or it makes you more and more depressed. In other words, you get trapped in a positive feedback loop. Where negative feedback loops make things disappear, positive feedback makes things spiral out of control. Voila, you have huge numbers of males with unresolved anger issues and/or clinical depression."

Cute. But completely contradicts gobs of actual psy research that shows a strong body/mind (behaviour/thought) feedback process, where even fake physical displays of emotion alter your actual emotions in that direction, almost as much as real emotions alters your physical displays and behaviour, and overlapping research that showed that repressing negative emotions is healthier in the long term than acknowledging or giving in to them. (Eg, people who opt for a "stiff upper lip" deal better with trauma. So-called "catharsis" tends to merely increase anger/grief.)

The whole point of CBT over "talk therapy" is that the underline cause of a negative emotional state is less important than simply "treating the symptoms" of negative behaviour directly.

(Like Jaynes' Bicameralism, the homeostatis riff is a clever just-so story that makes us feel superior.)

David Brin said...

Anon-dope: the full version is ATTRIBUTABLE and unambiguous large scale metrics of US national health. OMG “road deaths”. Seriously. THAT is what you got? You seriously offer up that as your refutation?

Notice guys how he clutches an (absurd) incantation instead of facing the flat out fact. That even if he found an actual exception (he has not, yet) all it means is that 99% of all metrics of US national health do better under democrats. And only a loon or a traitor would want the near universal decline America gets under republicans.

David S…. no. The truly modern solution is for computer-whiz Americans to form alliances that span the country. Any 500,000 citizens can pool together and get a representative. If they drop to 450,000 they must either recruit more or break up and join other coalitions. This way representatives represent ALL of their constituents. Every single one. And yes, we’ll get maybe 50 absolute kooks in Congress. But the rest will be serious negotiators.

Jumper in fact I am glad we have Houston which has no zoning laws. I wish we had a couple more variants as experiments.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

This is a great observation:

"Before modern mass-communication, it seems likely that disparate cultures within an empire didn't need to interact with each other to the extent that different cultural stories are threatening."

I would counter that while that is very much true, you still had some pretty cosmopolitan cities in even early empires, like Susiana or Babylon. So it's more a difference of degree - probably a huge difference. Most early empires were more interested in taxing their vassals and dividing up arable land among their own aristocracy than bothering much about what the peasants believed. The "innovation" of insisting that anyone who is different must be assimilated or destroyed might be only a few thousand years old, rather than being some universal feature of the relationship between government and religion.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,

I'm familiar with Cognitive Behavior Therapy and the whole mind/body connection thing, though I'm probably not as up to date as I would like to be. I've even mentioned some of this here before, like the experiments where they put baby dolls in men's arms and saw their t levels drop like pigeons on a dropped pizza. The whole "fake it 'til you make" principle looks pretty sound (not just in psychology - it's the foundation of Buddhist meditation, which has been around a lot longer). It may be better described as redirecting the mind than treating the symptoms, which has a rather negative connotation.

However, I'm not sure that one necessarily contradicts the other. My understanding is that this is a false dichotomy. Seeking catharsis in extremis has exactly the effect you said. If people always indulge every little feeling, like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum, they myelinate on their anger and end up perpetuating childish behavior into adulthood. If people suppress feelings, they will tend to extinguish them, and become more like our ideal of a rational adult. And yet, even the most stiff-upper-lipped gentleman gets caught shoplifting, lying, groping, or exploding in irrational rage.

There's a balance point in there somewhere, Mr. Spock. I lean heavily toward stiff upper lip, and would recommend it generally. But everything in moderation, even moderation itself.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

Mr Spock was half human. In retrospect, he was probably trying to be "more Vulcan" than a full Vulcan actually would.

Treebeard said...

Responding to last thread, Trump is absolutely a Zen master, or a guru in the Chögyam Trungpa school. Such gurus can say "grab them by the pussy", strip naked on the street or show up drunk to a speech and people will still love them. Their kind understand how to break the power of words and rules that box in our minds and police our lives (see PC plutocratic police state America, circa 2016). Without them, you are living in a tyranny of technocrats and lawyers and their abstractions. Great leaders offer us the opportunity to be at least vicariously free of them, hence their fanatical followings.

And yeah, I do think the Mirror Universe looks more fun than the normal one, and prefer the Sith to the Jedi all the way. Darth Trump for Galactic Emperor!

David Brin said...

Yeah yeah yeah. Pampered puppy yearns for the big jungle where he'd be Top Dog. Really! Truly! Look, his paws twitch as he dreams of hunting mastadons! How cute.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Jonathan Sills said...

"Mr Spock was half human. In retrospect, he was probably trying to be 'more Vulcan' than a full Vulcan actually would."

That is in fact a correct reading of the character. In the beginning of the first movie, he was undergoing the discipline of Kohlinar, whose goal was the complete suppression of all emotion; it took melding with V'ger to show him how very sterile and pointless that end was.

Very few Vulcans attempt Kohlinar; they talk a good game about logic and suppression, but in the shows we've seen that they're often not that great at it. (Ambassador Sarek and his discussions with the Tellarite in "Journey To Babel", for instance, or the baseball-playing Vulcans in the DS9 episode "Take Me Out To the Holosuite", with their arrogant dismissal of the DS9 team as being beneath them because none of them were Vulcans.)

Implied in the episode "All Our Yesterdays", and explored in the extended-universe novels, is the idea that Vulcan society was once so savage it would have given Klingons pause, and that without the Reformation of Surak, teaching them to subjugate emotion to reason, the entire world would have died in nuclear fire (they were supposed to just be developing atomic weapons at the time). In Diane Duane's novels, it is argued that the phrase meaning "passion's mastery" was later mangled into a similar phrase meaning "passion's suppression", leading to the image of Vulcan that Spock tried to emulate.