Friday, December 16, 2016

Final words for straw-clutchers... just hang in there

"Reality has one advantage over fiction -- it does not have to be plausible." 
            -- Joe Carroll

== Clutching at straws for the Electoral Vote ==

Legitimately fearful, many thousands have bent their efforts to frantic petition drives, pleading with members of the Electoral College to cancel the calamity.  Last time, I offered a slew of different Electoral College Gambits… and the (very low) odds for each of ten scenarios.

Not one of which seems likely at all.


Among those that I left out? The Pence-Trump flip! GOP electors who can't stomach 'Ivan' Trump, the Siberian Candidate, but who are terrified of alt-right thugs, could vote Pence for prez and Trump for VP!  (A job well suited to him.) That kind of defector could both save the nation and plausibly shrug: "I voted for them!"  (And yes, that would pitch it into the House, onto Paul Ryan's lap, and the new president would still be a republican!)


Elsewhere, I've also pondered that DT isn't leaving things to chance.  Seeing that at least some GOP electors will defect (I predict not enough to matter, but perhaps enough to drop his total below 300) he might be seeking to bribe Clinton electors to do the same!  If you get such an offer, remember that this becomes a felony and could be a sting. Call your local FBI office.

Folks assume that the final moment will be December 19, when members of the Electoral College cast their votes. But frantic straw clutchers have until January, when the new House will certify each state’s electors’ ballots.  The House still has the power to refuse a state’s Electoral College delegation at that point. If they repudiated both Florida’s and Michigan’s delegations – for reasons of blatant (duh?) cheating -- the House might then seize the choice for themselves.  

That would, naturally, throw things before the High Court. In which case we would see what John Roberts and Samuel Alito are really made of.  Are they the dogmatic servants of rising feudal oligarchy that many now assume? Or adult citizens who have a limit to how much 1930s-Central-Europe style crap we have to take? This question will be asked not just in January, but many times, during a Trump Administration.

Okay, there are your straws! Folks who believe there is one chance in heck, for any of them -- (except DT's later removal by Ryan, say a year from now) -- aren’t readers of plausible science fiction. They believe in fantasy.

And yet…

== We start this adventure in great shape ==


Despite volcanic rhetoric, the U.S. is currently in pretty good shape, by most measures, despite having not had a functioning Congress for 20 out of the last 22 years. Indeed, one silver lining is how it leaves perfect the pure fact of the last 30 years.  That every metric of US national health does far better across the smap of democratic administrations than republican ones.

But it wasn't due to legislation. Which simply hasn't happened. Lately, we’ve mostly been administered in benign ways, though with almost zero innovation at the national level.


A locked and frozen federal government has fulfilled one Libertarian dream: wildly varied experiments at the state level – from marijuana legalization and investment in science, infrastructure and education… all the way to gerrymandering, voter suppression, bathroom bills and supply side ‘economics’ hothouses like Kansas. 

Outcomes in most (not all) so-called blue states have ranged from solid to excellent, while most (not all) red states, like Kansas, have seen their lot decay. It's valid experimental data, if we'll look at it.

Out of all the post-mortems from the election (I’ll resume my series of appraisals, shortly), one that I never see mentioned is this distinction between a U.S. federal government that was mostly in caretaker status, under Barack Obama, and the states, where legislation and experimentation have surged.

I have my own impudent hypotheses for why our red-state neighbors feel such wrath. One is that they know they have been very badly governed! But they have been talked into – somewhat naturally – blaming a distant federal government that has done next-to nothing new or different since 2001. (Except Obamacare – which now seems likely to be amended, with many name changes, rather than discarded; go figure.) 

In fact, Congress has cut funds from the IRS, SEC and other agencies that fight white collar crime, so many of those investigations have shifted to the office of the Attorney General of New York.

It’s said that “all politics is local.” We have red states whose outcomes from radical policy have been stunningly bad, but where citizens would rather not blame their accustomed political party. Not quite yet. Not while there’s a convenient scapegoat further upstairs, in the White House. 

(In a hopeful harbinger, the fed-up people of Kansas punished the GOP, this round, for running probably the worst state government in America. And the term “red state” applies to 33 out of 50, where the Republican governor and officials held sway over critical electoral infrastructure, like the voting machines.)

I guess we’ll see if the Confederacy can maintain this effective technique of delusion, as so many things go south, under Donald Trump.  Hope springs eternal… or at least for 2018.

== Straw don’t float for long ==

Long ago I said Donald Trump would “veer to the center” after winning the GOP nomination -- not one of my shining predictive successes. Nor, it seems, will there be any center-ward pivot once he takes office. His parade of extremist appointees lacks even a token nod toward the majority of Americans who voted against him. And thus, I find a silver lining – schadenfreude – in the discomfiture of Glenn Beck, Megyn Kelly, and the Worst Man In America – George F. Will – who issued polysyllabic, grandiose denunciations that “Donald Trump is no Republican.” Silly shill. He's no Yale-Bushite, paying lip service to right wing radicalism. He's the real deal.

(The mind boggles at the detestable treason of this monstrous excuse for an American.)


So, what turned a relatively non-ideological - though pathological - egotist into a frothing, alt-right fanatic?  Simple. The rallies. The roaring crowds rewarded and 'shaped' - by operant conditioning and addiction - a new Donald Trump who is not only amoral, sexist and deceitful, but now an extreme dogmatist, appointing men so extreme that Fox disowns them. It was the rallies, folks. And he seems intent on continuing them.

== Layers of reality ==


Jim Wright’s latest “Stonekettle Station” posting dives into the triumph of subjective reality – how for many Americans, “evidence” now consists of internet ravings and “proof” comes when those ravings are accompanied by a link and a jpeg.  He uses as a chief example the recent #Pizzagate tizzy. That notorious, made-up paranoia-drivel storm is believed by perhaps millions of gullibles for one simple reason.  Because otherwise they would have to face a hard truth. That nothing actually scandalous has ever been revealed about Hillary Clinton, even after 24 years of relentless “investigations” costing us all half a billion dollars, pursued avidly by professionals, congressional hearings, Foxzoids and internet lynch mobs.  After all of that, to be reduced to howling over a dumb-but-no-harm mistake in email procedure?  No, Hillary Clinton has to  have been running a child-porn and murder ring. Ah, that’s the ticket!

Oh but read some of the crap Wright wades through, having deliberately incited mania from ilks that frankly frighten me and that fortunately look at the long paragraphs here and wander away, seeking someplace more spasmodic to troll.

From The Washington Post; After allegedly trying to suppress voting, Trump applauds lower black turnout: This says so much worth pondering – about Trump, about his rallies, about their values… about patronization… and about how the Democratic coalition may need to rethink the loyalty of its parts.

Evonomics, one of the best sites online, ponders when the next president of America takes his oath of office in January, officers of Russian intelligence can savour a historic win. And that astonishing, appalling fact has divided, not united, the two parties that run the world’s great democracy. That should be enough to unsettle anyone.

Finally:  In the Atlantic, Eric Liu offers a suggestion for how folks depressed by the prospects of stunning levels of mal-governance can deal with the funk and malaise… start a club.  One with some positive goal.  Almost anything. Civic participation even at the lowest level can give people a sense of citizenship, involvement, even empowerment. 


---- Return to my earlier post-election postings: Part I and Part II



166 comments:

Ioan said...

How do you parse Elon Musk being named as part of the economic advisory board?

To me, that looks like a token appointment from the other side. I mean, can you name me another person Big Oil, Coal, Natural Gas, and the Saudi's all hate with a passion?

TCB said...

I don't know why they let Musk in the room, but by the look on his face I'd say he's only agreed to be in the room because the alternative is not being in the room.

DemetriosX said...

Barring something truly egregious that forces their hand, I don't expect the GOP to try to oust Trump until the next congress. That makes Pence eligible for two full terms, theoretically giving them the White House for a decade. And frankly there are way in which Pence worries me even more than Trump. I look at him and think Heinlein was only off by one election and Scudder wasn't at the top of the ticket.

Lorraine said...

...officers of Russian intelligence can savour a historic win. And that astonishing, appalling fact has divided, not united, the two parties that run the world’s great democracy. That should be enough to unsettle anyone.

OK, but if it were, say, a Canadian takeover, instead of a Russian takeover, some significant fraction of progressive Americans would be working with rather than against that, no?

Tacitus2 said...

David

At the tail end of the last thread you took a shot or two at me that seems a bit snippy.
I was asked for my opinion of the NC developments. I gave it. Legal but sleezy and something that those perpetrating it may well regret later.

You took exception to my "other examples could be given" without even bothering to explore what I had in mind. LarryHart (tips snow covered stocking cap) gave one.

A couple I had in mind.

It was legal to push through the Affordable Care Act by Reconciliation. But when the political world was, or should have been, rocked to its foundations by the election of Scott Brown specifically saying "Put me in Ted Kennedy's chair and I will stop this"...

So began the electoral winnowing of the Democratic Party, something that has crippled their influence anywhere more than 100 miles away from salt water or Wrigley Field.

Also, do you think, just maybe, that the Democrats are regretting the curtailment of the fillibuster for appointees? When you do things for your Party's short term gain, or with the illusion that you have a Mandate and an Obligation to Progress Apace...

I have only loosely followed NC. The departing Governor appears to be a putz. The whole state has been pummeled with political invective for over a year, much of it grating. So when the duly elected officials cast votes and make a change, the appropriate response to those opposed is to vote these legislators out next cycle. It is not as if varying states don't have either weaker or stronger Governorships.

I have been cutting you considerable slack because I can tell that this election has disturbed you greatly.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Also, do you think, just maybe, that the Democrats are regretting the curtailment of the fillibuster for appointees? When you do things for your Party's short term gain, or with the illusion that you have a Mandate and an Obligation to Progress Apace...


I see both sides of that one. Yes, now that the roles are reversed, Democrats might regret losing the option to oppose particular Trump appointees. However, at the time, the Republicans were opposing every Obama appointee, so I don't see what they did as "for short term gain" so much as "having to break the logjam somehow".

In other words, in that particular case, there would be regret either way, and I think that what they did at the time had to be done. You may think they're going "Dang, we shouldn't have done that, because look where we are now." But I think it's more like "Yeah, we knew this would happen eventually, but the system couldn't go on the way it was."

Which is the same reason I support Obamacare. :)



I have only loosely followed NC. The departing Governor appears to be a putz. The whole state has been pummeled with political invective for over a year, much of it grating. So when the duly elected officials cast votes and make a change, the appropriate response to those opposed is to vote these legislators out next cycle. It is not as if varying states don't have either weaker or stronger Governorships.


This is one of those "theory and practice" things* The reason the NC Republicans can get away with transferring power to the legislature is that the legislative districts are so gerrymandered that it's virtually impossible to vote them out next (or any) cycle. If that weren't so, they probably would have been voted out this cycle, along with the governor.

On this I agree with our host. It's one thing to bring on your own brand of legislation when you're in power. It's quite a different thing to use your power to game the rules so that your side becomes entrenched against democratic opposition. When voter dissatisfaction cannot be translated into voting the bums out, then the populace is left with the choice of 1776-America or 1789-France. The ruling powers today seem determined to send us down the latter route.

LarryHart said...

* I meant to footnote my favorite Yogi Berra quote, or at least one attributed to him:


In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is.

LarryHart said...

and I said:

It's one thing to bring on your own brand of legislation when you're in power. It's quite a different thing to use your power to game the rules so that your side becomes entrenched against democratic opposition.


We recognize this in the world of sports. If football worked like our government, the winning team would get first draft pick next year, plus they'd get to appoint their own fans as referees. Oh, and both the players and referees would be allowed to wager on the games.

Anonymous said...

Lies and Lies and More Lies:

Obama the Forger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pLdOylo1tk

Russell Osterlund said...

Thank you so much for the link to "Stonekettle Station" - I knew we were in deep doo doo before, but now...

Randall Winn said...

The good news is that believers in reality are still the majority. Even discounting the realist faction of the GOP, Hillary got more votes.

The problem is that we are shut out of the structures of power. Maybe it's time to chat up Nelson Mandela and other successful resisters.

BTW it's worth noting that Electors are federal officials elected by states, much like Senators and Representatives. No state law can tell a federal official how to vote. Not that it is likely that the Electoral College will save America from Idiocratic Fascism, but still.

Tacitus2 said...

RWinn
You touch upon an interesting topic. What are the parameters of appropriate protest? Could individuals of Progressive and Conservative leanings agree upon a "toolbox" that would clearly be "in bounds"? It would have to apply equally to those shut out of power in any circumstances current or foreseeable near future.

Perhaps Our Esteemed Host will take this on on?

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Randall Winn:

The good news is that believers in reality are still the majority. Even discounting the realist faction of the GOP, Hillary got more votes.

The problem is that we are shut out of the structures of power.


Isn't that how democracy dies (to thunderous applause)?

Anonymous said...

If we are grasping at straws, how about this fantasy? Both Trump and Pence are impeached our otherwise brought down by the Russian scandal, leaving the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan next in line to be President. Any chance of that?

Anonymous said...

Stop distracting people with the #FakeNews about Russians.

----

A former senior investigator with the State Department’s criminal investigative unit has turned whistleblower and alleged to both the media and Congress that senior staff within State Department covered up investigations into appalling behavior committed by members of Hillary Clinton’s security staff and our ambassador to Belgium. One of those alleged to have interfered was Cheryl Mills, Hillary’s chief of staff.

#RealNews: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2013/06/11/whistleblower-hillarys-chief-of-staff-quashed-state-department-scandal-investigation/

LarryHart said...

If "Real News" and breitbart ever came into close enough proximity, the resulting explosion would either power civilization for at least a decade or else destroy the universe.

Anonymous said...

As American proceedes face-first down the scee slope of progress (ugly slaughter on ugly stroads: up, in a nation so apparently livable that opiate deaths spiral: up), one need only look to the face-plant by that similar biosphere-destroying Empire, the Union Soviet--one might also use Empires Greek, Roman, or Assyrian as models, but since these date to the 6,000 years of Fuedalism period (and how oft you repeat that thought-stopper: Fuedalism! Boo!) there is clearly nothing to be learned from history--which saw all manner of blame placed towards CIA agents for the fall Soviet (with some element of truth, as the Empire American does have a rather clear record of smothering Democracy (Iran) or otherwise meddling as and how it sees fit: Hilary and her role supporting the regime change in Hondouras, anyone?) while missing other and perhaps more important signs of malaise, internal.

David Brin said...

Cut me no slack, Tacitus. Your "they are all the same, and travesty is normal" shrugs are getting tiresome.

You point to the fact that Zero republicans negotiated over Obamacare and claim that proves the democrats were the partisan-dogmatic ones! I have heard that claptrap for 7 years. And it is simply stunning rationalization. Not just diametric opposite Orwellian double speak but blatantaly so.

"Could individuals of Progressive and Conservative leanings agree upon a "toolbox" that would clearly be "in bounds"?"

I despair! I have proposed such things for eternities! Like giving every single member of congress two subpoenas to use as he or she wishes. Thus the minority party could hold hearings, currently absolutely impossible under GOP dictatorship, under which the DP minority are completely muzzled.

ATCH as the Dems yell but negotiate with a GOP president as they always do. In contrast to the GOP Congreses who ONECE in 30 years negotiated with a dp president.

They are opposites. And claiming that the DP is like the GOP in any way, at any level, is stunning hysterical delusion.

John said...

My method of dealing with the malaise is broad automatic text substitution. The instead of reading or hearing converted text of his name, it's Turnip all the time. And when the text is his full name it's replaced with The Orange Turnip:

The Turnip administration...
Turnip Tower
Associates of The Orange Turnip have reportedly been in regular contact with Vladimir...
Turnip on Twitter...

Does wonders to reverse malaise. Really does.
JD

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

What are the parameters of appropriate protest? Could individuals of Progressive and Conservative leanings agree upon a "toolbox" that would clearly be "in bounds"? It would have to apply equally to those shut out of power in any circumstances current or foreseeable near future.


I'd start with the First Amendment: speech, assembly, petitioning the government for redress. Start with living up to the notion that government not suppress such things.

One problem I see with your question is that progressives and conservatives can't even agree on what "shut out of power" means. I see it as describing those who can't get a seat at the table or get their voice paid attention to no matter the merit of their grievance or idea. Others seem to see it as describing those who are (unfairly) prevented from exercising their right to shut others out of power. As long as such differences of basic terminology exist, I don't see how to find common ground.

LarryHart said...

@John,


So what happened then? Well, in Whoville, they say
That the Turnip's small hands grew three sizes that day.


Heh.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Ioan, TCB: No matter how horrible he felt, he had to be in The Room Where It Happens. You get love for it, you get hate for it, you get nothing if you wait for it, wait for it...

@Tacitus: I think the point is that the supermajority in the Leg is built on egregious gerrymandering, so much so that there is a court order to have early elections in a year to correct the horrendous imbalance. The Leg has passed laws attempting to control the election adjudications, so that they can stay in power even when the voters do attempt to throw the bums out. The powers granted the governor are irrelevant; it is the attempt to rig the election system that is intolerable.

For justification they point to the Democrats doing the same things in 1972... not mentioning that in 1972, the Democrats were the outgoing Jim Crow regime, socially identical to the people trying to cheat now.

An Anonymous Coward (as Slashdot puts it) asks if Ryan could become President. Perhaps! And that would be a carrot to offer, in the negotiations to either elect a different President or else impeach the both of them. But unless Republicans decide that Pence is too tainted -- not likely -- he would likely be retained as the next President. He is making sure to steer clear of the innumerable questionable choices being made by His Orangeness. Ryan could be offered the new VP slot, but unless he is losing control of his majority, wouldn't you rather stay Speaker?

No, the most probable path remains: EC challenge fails; Trump is inaugurated; Trump acts recklessly and breaks several clauses of the Constitution; Trump is impeached; Pence serves the remainder of Trump's term. What else happens depends on Democratic actions and on success in breaking gerrymandering.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

he had to be in The Room Where It Happens. You get love for it, you get hate for it, you get nothing if you wait for it, wait for it...


My work is done!

LarryHart said...

@Robert,

Caveat emptor, but this snippet from today's www.electoral-vote.com seems to validate my opinion on this now-hypothetical match-up:

Many supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have said that if only Sanders had been the Democratic nominee, Donald Trump could have been beaten. Kevin Jones at Mother Jones has done an analysis showing that actually, Sanders would have been crushed. The essence of the analysis was to use the DW-NOMINATE system that rates how liberal a candidate is. He did this for all Democratic nominees since 1952.
...
In this system, lower means more liberal and higher means more conservative. The Democrats with scores above 15 (LBJ, JFK, Obama, and Bill Clinton) generally won. The ones below 15 all lost. The lowest scoring Democrat since WW II, George McGovern, had a score of 4, meaning he was more liberal than all but 4% of Congress. He was crushed. Sanders' score is a 1. He would have been toast. In contrast, Hillary Clinton is a 15 (the same as Jimmy Carter), and although she won the popular vote easily, she didn't win conservative white men in the Midwest. Sanders almost certainly would have had even more trouble with them. Republicans would have attacked him as a liberal, a socialist, and a communist. He wouldn't have had a chance in the states Clinton lost. He is simply too liberal for that part of the country

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

I was starting to type out a little comment when I suddenly heard your voice. No I was not hallucinating. I looked up and you were on TV here in France. It was a documentary on science fiction and the cinema and was quit well done. I believe it was called "Land de Science" on the channel Ciné+ Premiere. You even spoke some French in the beginning! Anyway it was good to see you.

Tacitus2 said...

David

Larry and Catfish caught my meaning straight away. I was addressing an earlier point by ReWinn, as he formerly styled himself, regards what citizens could/should do. You are discussing another matter, what politicians should do. Is this perhaps another manifestation of a world view that puts the deliberations of officials on a higher plane than the opinions of citizens?

I of course have no wish to be tiresome or to spread hysteria.

The method of Summoning me back is well enough established in ConBrin tradition that I am sure it could be Invoked.

Tacitus

Randall Winn said...

@Tacitus - "Appropriate protest" is almost an oxymoron, is it not?

More seriously: we have a problem with reality: one side is for it, the other side is not, to an extent that is ... to use Trump's newest neologism: "unpresidented". This has consequences in ordinary life ---- I bow to your expertise in medicine but AFAIK you can't just tell a wound to stop bleeding by denying that it is bleeding ---- and it will have consequences in public policy ---- you can't stop global warming by saying it's a Chinese hoax.

@Catfish - why would the GOP impeach Trump merely for violating the Constitution? So long as he is willing to do what they really want with cutting taxes on the wealthy and giving away public resources, a few billion in graft is merely chump change or, as why might call it, Trump Change.

@John - I suggest using Trump's "unpresidented" neologism early and often. Call me immature but it makes me snicker, and laughter helps!

Jumper said...

I wish I was more of a night person. I'd start attending more city council meetings. As it is, they start at my bedtime. Three serious concussions in a life are one too many, I guess. I did go to a few in my younger days as a student in U of F's school of journalism, and can say that going to a few will vastly increase one's sense of how government works.
But my question is, how many here have been to a city council meeting, ever?

Jumper said...

I pointed out to a friend the other day that every single planet I ever saw on Star Wars and Star Trek had exactly earth-level gravity. It's apparently too difficult to portray Mars's or the moon's for very long, or any other level. Such as 1.4 x earth's gravity? Nope. He was wailing by the time I was done, complaining he'd never see those movies the same again. Did I have to say it? Well, it's past time somebody did.
On the plus side, it's a good point to raise for the fake-moon-landing nuts: if it's too difficult for Hollywood 47 years later...

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

I pointed out to a friend the other day that every single planet I ever saw on Star Wars and Star Trek had exactly earth-level gravity. It's apparently too difficult to portray Mars's or the moon's for very long, or any other level. Such as 1.4 x earth's gravity? Nope. He was wailing by the time I was done, complaining he'd never see those movies the same again.


None of the "science" in Star Wars is worth caring about. It's cowboy opera in sci-fi trappings. The spaceships move like airplanes in dogfights, and the gravity is the same whether on a ship or a planet. I wouldn't bother trying to make sense of it.

As far as Star Trek--at least the original series--almost all of the planets they visited were specified as "class M", which means earth-type planets which support life that is essentially humanoid with slight variations. IIRC, there was only one episode where the planet was something other than class M. I'm pretty sure it was "class K, adaptable for humanoid life by artificial means" or something close to that. I have no idea which episode that was. Point being, it was the exception that proved the rule. Bigger point being, if the planets are (almost) all class-M, it makes sense that they have close to earth gravity.

matthew said...

Jumper - "But my question is, how many here have been to a city council meeting, ever?"

I have. I used to be a registered lobbyist back when I was much younger. Managed to start a political campaign that wrote / failed / then passed an Amendment to the NM State Constitution, which involved running a political campaign since voters had to pass the Amendment. Failed the first time (when I was involved with the campaign). Passed the second time after I had moved on. But I spent a bunch of time at city council meetings, state legislature committee meetings, etc.

Also, I was involved with a push to create a charter school in my home school district here in Oregon, so a bunch of school board meetings, etc. Ended up when the local school board, which was very against charter schools, changed MY mind about the validity of the school I was trying to charter. Changing my mind with evidence, something I don't see a lot of these days.

Time to dust off my suit and roll up my sleeves.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Jumper, you may attend a city council meeting if you wish, but few people do unless they are going to present testimony in person, for which there is a designated time. You can't hop up and break into the deliberations. As an alternative, our local public access cable channel, AKAKU, broadcasts the meetings

LarryHart said...

@Tacitus2,

Can't we continue conversing, even if our host is temporarily peevish toward you? It wasn't that long ago he wanted you to run for office in 2018.

@All,

On a lighter note, it's taken me over 50 years to realize that there are a whole bunch of "Christmas" songs which really aren't about Christmas (or any other holiday) at all, but just winter season songs. But they all seem to have one thing in common--they mention a sleigh. Apparently, the only sleigh in the universe is Santa's, so any song with a sleigh in it is a de facto Christmas song.

So far, I've got:

Jingle Bells
Jingle Bell Rock
Sleigh Ride
Winter Wonderland

Am I missing any? Or are there any counterexamples--"Christmas" songs which are really not about Christmas, but don't mention a sleigh?

donzelion said...

LarryHart (continued from yesterday): I wrote (to Alfred): "Actually, my intent was to prick one of the pessimism-bubbles (drawing attention back to the price of launching an impeachment crusade)

You asked: "Are you saying impeachment would be a good idea or a bad idea? Or maybe a separate question: In what manner are you disputing a pessimistic outlook?"

I'll support impeachment when there's evidence supporting an impeachment. Until then, adopting impeachment as a tactic is counterproductive, exacting a large (but hidden) toll from a community. I'm still trying to figure out how best to convey the way that this toll operates in brief passages.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion,

Ok, I see. When you said you were "pricking a pessimistic bubble", I thought you meant you would demonstrate why a pessimistic outlook was mistaken--that optimism was warranted instead. But you really meant you would demonstrate why a particular strategy born of pessimism wouldn't work.

Now, I'm pessimistic again. :<

Deuxglass said...

I think there is a real risk of being perceived of calling wolf a bit too much and lowering the Democrat Party's credibility each time on useless actions. We should be saving our ammunition for an opportunity that will count and then take action. Wait for him to make a big mistake and then pounce using all our resources. For the moment the Democrat Party is just pissing against the wind.

piggie zee said...

Following Larry Hart offtopic: Let It Snow and Baby, It's Cold Outside both seem to be played entirely as Christmas songs when in fact, they're a winter song and a winter date-rape song, respectively. Additionally, this year for some reason various versions of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah seem to be making the list - which also isn't remotely a Christmas song, although it's more Biblically related than Let It Snow or Jingle Bells......

LarryHart said...

@piggie zee,

Good catches on "Let it Snow" and "Baby, It's Cold Outside". The second one, I've only noticed recently that it gets radio play as a Christmas song, but this year, it's on quite often. And although I didn't use to like the song, it's growing on me. I wouldn't go so far as to characterize it as "date rape". More like attempted seduction, with the girl showing signs of consent ("Maybe just a half a drink more").

You've blown my sleigh theory, though, as neither of those two songs mentions one.


LarryHart said...

@Deuxglass,

Please, "Democratic Party". That other phrase is almost as bad as "irregardless".

Kat Bull said...

Your YouTube link doesn't work and why so Anonymous? Afraid?

David S,. said...

I use to like "Baby, it's cold outside", but then I saw this video (ordinal lyrics with parody choreography). http://www.funnyordie.com/embed/6f9f628aed?rel=0&wmode=transparent&autoplay=0
and now I can't un-hear the "date rape".

As a comparison, here is the original 1949 version from Neptune's Daughter:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MFJ7ie_yGU
(Watch the whole thing to see both sexes attempt seduction.)

PG Wagner said...

Good read, for sure, but I'm struggling with the tone of "it will be okay" when women are losing their inalienable rights to their body autonomy and agency over their lives by the day. And my LGBT friends fear for their lives, their marriages, and the codification of discrimination that is happening to them by the day.

How is it supposed to be okay for us?

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

Yep I made an error. Thanks for pointing that out. I switch between two languages fairly often and sometimes I think one word but write another one when I am in a hurry.

Slim Moldie said...

Can't find an answer to this question:
Can agiencies investigating Russian manipulation of election access the turnip's IRS files?

After reading this https://www.washingtonpost.com/amphtml/news/powerpost/wp/2016/09/21/this-is-why-donald-trumps-tax-returns-havent-been-leaked/ my assumption is no. Still curious.

MStewart said...

Stonekettle recommended this piece. I'm glad I dropped by to read it.

Robert said...

Well, Dr. Brin, here is another article explaining why Trump and why Russia meddled in American politics. It is to take advantage of the current economic bubble on oil and natural gas before climatic changes burst the bubble and devastate the petroindustry.

Rob H.

Robert said...

David S., there is a video with a revised "Baby It's Cold Outside" that emphasizes consent and still works nicely.

Rob H.

Jonathan Sills said...

"OK, but if it were, say, a Canadian takeover, instead of a Russian takeover, some significant fraction of progressive Americans would be working with rather than against that, no?"

No. I don't understand this insistence among some that "Progressive" or "Liberal" must of necessity mean "not patriotic at all". Love of country is not limited to only one political persuasion; in fact, the arguments get so bitter precisely because both sides are trying to save the United States. (It's just that they disagree on how exactly this should be done...)

Sea Canary said...

Perhaps you'll find this useful.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1DzOz3Y6D8g_MNXHNMJYAz1b41_cn535aU5UsN7Lj8X8/mobilebasic

Sea Canary said...

The link is to a Google document titled
Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda

LarryHart said...

@Deuxglass,

I don't mean to nitpick at your use of our language. You may not be aware that the opposition purposely uses the phrase "Democrat Party" to demean us, and that the sound grates on the American ear.

It doesn't work with their name, because the word "Republican" can be correct as both a noun and an adjective. But there's a clear distinction between "Democrat" and "Democratic".

Don Hilliard said...

Electricity still requires coal-, oil- or nuclear-fired plants to feed most of the grid...y'know, the one that Tesla cars charge from. Why should all those parties you name hate Musk? (And for that matter - who says they do?)

Just because Musk is advancing somewhat cleaner technology and wants to put us on Mars doesn't mean he's progressive, liberal, or anti-capitalist. He's a perfect G. Harry Stine benefactor.

The technological advancements, and what comes from them, will make him money. Whether this a good or bad thing is a matter for debate - but, like Trump, Musk is an aggressive and driving capitalist. He fits right in.

(Quoting Citizen G'Kar as written by Larry DiTillio and J. Michael Straczynski in BABYLON 5: "The Universe operates on the complex interaction of three elements: matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest." )

TLO said...

Brilliant. Thank you. I have hope. Slim though it may be.

Everyone I know (and I blessedly live in the bluest state in the Union) is still traumatized by the election of such a deplorable, lying, wholly-unqualified, whiny-man child.

We've seen how vengeful (a FACT his loyalists dismiss as mere suggestions...) the Dictator-'Elect' is. We've heard of the 'lists' that he keeps. The rage-filled, powerless feeling is strong as we watch with genuine fear the all too similar machinations that brought about the Third Reich happening in our already Great country. How do we defend this Republic from such a traitorous demagogue and the GOP following like blackmailed (by Russia not releasing their OWN emails, no doubt) sheep in his wake?

The Dems seem to be rolling over. They need to FIGHT. They're outnumbered in positions of power but they can lead We The People. And they need to lead with action. Not placating words.

Anonymous said...

Fake news is fake.

Jumper said...

There is more going on at a city council meeting than just watching. Although there is that. It will be of no value to those who want to be the Hero Who Saves the Town and if they can't be, then the heck with it. (This is what motivates, or rather fails to motivate, the non-voter, too.)

After you watch so many Angry Prophets, you hunker down and realize everybody in government deals with the indignant righteous all the time.

The other thing I mentioned about showing up is not seeing, but being seen. Meeting people.

StevoR said...

@ Loan : "To me, that looks like a token appointment from the other side. I mean, can you name me another person Big Oil, Coal, Natural Gas, and the Saudi's all hate with a passion?"

Al Gore?

James Hansen? Most actual climate scientists for that matter?

Treebeard said...

Have you guys considered that maybe we're in the midst of an epochal event: the onset of a post-liberal age, when liberalism starts to lose and its narratives start to fail across the board? When I see all the failed predictions, shocks and hysteria going on, I start to think that something bigger than a lost election or a fake news Russian conspiracy is playing out—something on the order of a civilizational earthquake. We know that eventually this happens to every order—maybe it's just time for liberals to be on the wrong side of history, and no amount of activism can turn back the tide?

(I mean really, is Star Trek still a serious model for you guys at this point? I have seen nothing but failure from the SF futurists during my lifetime; at some point, I just threw up my hands and realized I was reading fantasy and propaganda. Going through a period of shock and disillusionment was hard but good, in that nothing that happens now bothers me. Maybe some of you are having a similar experience now?)

All I know is that when some bearded mystic who calls himself an “Archdruid” is consistently more accurate and insightful on almost every issue than our Ivy League-educated experts, something big is happening here, though what it is ain't exactly clear. This is what the end of an age feels like, I suspect—the end of your age.

Hank Fox said...

I wonder if a born-rich billionaire like Trump -- who does business all over the world -- is actually an American in any real sense. I still suspect he sees this as some sort of large game, and I worry that he now has the idea that nothing can stop him. That there are no limits, no laws, that apply to him, and that America, this place all us ordinary people live, is just another big company to find ways to profit from. I don't think he cares, I don't think he CAN care, about anything else.

Related to all this, the past several years I've been having some thoughts about freedom of speech. You and I as individuals can lie to each other and there's a certain small amount of damage done. But when some large media corporation (coughFoxNewscough) lies to us, that seems more like assault to me. I don't see how it should be legal that propaganda can be projected at us 24/7 via public bandwidth, propaganda that ramps up fear and paranoia, and distinctly injures the people, the NATION, subjected to it.

In my mind, there's a clear downward progression from Reagan to Shrub to Trump in lawlessness and ineptitude, a progression I believe is directly related to the rescinding of the Fairness Doctrine by Reagan. What followed was slanted media and a dumbed-down audience. Us.

I don't see any path back from this point. If you can't get honest information, you can't make good decisions. You can't even THINK in any useful way.

Someone asked me not long back whether I was an optimist or a pessimist, and I said "Optimism, like anything, can be misused. If you're driving toward the cliff, that's not the time to be thinking 'Oh, something good will happen.' That's the time to be pessimist enough to slam on the brakes."

Donald Trump in the White House (I will never call him President; he dishonors the title) is America OVER the cliff.

This is not the time for optimism, for assuming good things -- somehow, some way -- are going to happen. I think it's going to be just as horrible as we can imagine, and in ways we can't imagine ... and I think the Democrats are just going to let it happen. Damned if I know what to do about it, other than to soldier on as best we can while things crumble around us.

Speaking of media, it doesn't help that a LOT of what gets projected as us on the left is every bit as false, as blown out of proportion, as what the righties get. That continues to annoy me, that I can't even trust my own damned side to tell me the truth. I often wish I could meet in person some of the people who toss out those breathless red-meat headlines (Donald Trump EXPLODES Over SNL Skit! GOP Will IMPEACH Trump at Inauguration!! This Hidden Fact SPELLS THE END for Trump!!) and florid, deceptive copy that empassions without informing. —I would bring a baseball bat.

LarryHart said...

Hank Fox:

I wonder if a born-rich billionaire like Trump -- who does business all over the world -- is actually an American in any real sense. I still suspect he sees this as some sort of large game, and I worry that he now has the idea that nothing can stop him. That there are no limits, no laws, that apply to him, and that America, this place all us ordinary people live, is just another big company to find ways to profit from. I don't think he cares, I don't think he CAN care, about anything else.


Comics writer/artist Dave Sim used to quote someone else (F Scott Fitzgerald?) as saying "Rich people are rich people first and anything else a distant second."


Someone asked me not long back whether I was an optimist or a pessimist, and I said "Optimism, like anything, can be misused. If you're driving toward the cliff, that's not the time to be thinking 'Oh, something good will happen.' That's the time to be pessimist enough to slam on the brakes."


Dave liked to talk about that one too, using the exact metaphor. He saw liberal/feminist society as making "Faster is fun!" signs while the car headed way, Way, WAY, WAY too fast toward the cliff.


Donald Trump in the White House (I will never call him President; he dishonors the title)


With you there. I've been referring to "Trump", but will phase that out after Jan 20 as well. Radio host Norman Goldman refers to "Mr Best Words" and the like in order to avoid saying his name as well.


Damned if I know what to do about it, other than to soldier on as best we can while things crumble around us.


I'm thinking we have to go local. Take care of our families and our communities. We can't rely on the nation or most states to be helpful.


I often wish I could meet in person some of the people who toss out those breathless red-meat headlines (Donald Trump EXPLODES Over SNL Skit!


Again, thanks to Dave Sim, I started noticing a long time ago when headlines when from stating facts ("Kennedy Says Such-and-Such") to emotions and implied mind-reading ("Bush Vows Such-and-Such", "Democrats Fear Such-and-Such").

Zepp Jamieson said...

"OK, but if it were, say, a Canadian takeover, instead of a Russian takeover, some significant fraction of progressive Americans would be working with rather than against that, no?"

I won't try to address a hypothetical, but for years I've said that Canada is what America would be like without the Confederate States.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"With you there. I've been referring to 'Trump', but will phase that out after Jan 20 as well."

I've been referring to him as Putnik. Never could resist a bad multilingual pun...

Paul SB said...

Hank,

My approach to the "One who shall not be named" is the refer to him as President-Elect Grope. If I had that kind of money, I would put it up on billboards.

Larry,

Do you get the feeling that America is becoming the Jerry Springer Show?

DavidTC said...

So, what do people think is going to be the *first* disaster of the administration?

I was thinking it was the fact that a lot of Trumps nominees won't get nominated. Rex Tillerson, for example, has a lot of Exxon stock that hasn't vested yet, and that he will be unwilling to give up, meaning...he won't be confirmed.

But *now* I'm laying odds on it being with the GSA and Trump's lease with the Old Post Office, which seems like it's going to happen *immediately*. Literally the second Trump is in office.

It seems entirely plausible that, at noon on January 20th, the second Trump is sworn in, the GSA cancel his lease.

As soon as Trump learns this, he attempts to replace people in the GSA, and discovers that, gasp, the Federal government does not operate like a corporation and he can't just *fire* people.

I am not sure what happens from this point moving forward, because I am not entirely sure how the process works, but it will involve Trump trying to do a lot of illegal things, most of which he won't get away with.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

I would add a /z/ to your pun. Putznik. I've heard some rather sniffy things about the Canadian government in recent years, so I don't think I would support a Canadian takeover. Maybe we should do what Britain did when they ran out of kings a couple centuries back and invited in William and Mary. Only we wouldn't be asking for royalty, just a transfusion of (hopefully more honest) politicians. This might just be wishful thinking, but at least its a better wish than what the twig is dreaming about, to whit: "...something on the order of a civilizational earthquake." Pure wishful thinking.

This one's pretty rich, too:
"All I know is that when some bearded mystic who calls himself an “Archdruid” is consistently more accurate and insightful on almost every issue than our Ivy League-educated experts, something big is happening here, though what it is ain't exactly clear."

What is clear is extremism. It takes some pretty extreme rationalizing to think the Archdruid is insightful, and that Ivy-League means "progressive." Ivy-Leaguers are about as progressive as the mega-rich families they were spawned from.

raito said...

Paul SB,

I may have to defend the Ivy League here. It's hardly as homogenous as you imply. My employers are Ivy League, and prety progressive. I also have some personal friends who went to various schools there, and their families are hardly mega-rich.

Paul SB said...

Okay, Raito, I don't have a problem with that. All groups of humans, however you define them, will include its share of saints, sinners and ordinary people. My first teaching assignment included a colleague who grew up dirt poor in South Central (ghettoville) LA, but got a scholarship to Harvard. He wanted to go back to his neighborhood and teach there to show people that if he could make it, they could, too. All he got from his students was accusations for not being a "real" Mexican.

But the Ivy League has caused huge harm in both of the professions I have spent my adult years in. As an archaeologist I was excluded from any projects that even bordered on the Classical world because they held sway over Antiquities officials in nations of the region, convincing them that anthropologists are a bunch of low-class never-do-wells who will only steal from their collections. They promote a very old-school form of class warfare.

What they have done to education in this country is far worse. It was Harvard professors who started what we now call the "Cult of Efficiency" in the 1930's. Their model of education, which was more about saving money than educating people, has dominated since then. It treats public service as if it were a business, which might save money but it provides services very, very badly. And, like businesses everywhere, when the model fails, the administrators blame the workers.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Talking about Universities – Apparently half of the top 50 are in the USA
Which given my own experience with the US education system did not seen likely

So I had a look at the listings – only one of the top 30 is not an English language University!

With the world class Universities in countries like Germany and France that has reinforced my feelings that the measures used are simply so Anglophonic that they are NOT very good measures of the actual excellence of the Universities concerned

Now thinking about those measures as basically being about the performance of English speaking universities then yes – with the USA making up 64% of the Anglophone world then the USA having half of the top 50 Universities makes a lot more sense

When I was helping Columbus North High School we won the “World Solar Car Championship” - World Champion of US High Schools that is

LarryHart said...

@Duncan Cairncross

It makes sense when you understand that every fall, the National League and the American League battle each other in the "World Series".

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB wrote: "I would add a /z/ to your pun. Putznik. I've heard some rather sniffy things about the Canadian government in recent years, so I don't think I would support a Canadian takeover. Maybe we should do what Britain did when they ran out of kings a couple centuries back and invited in William and Mary. Only we wouldn't be asking for royalty, just a transfusion of (hopefully more honest) politicians."

I like that. Let's compromise and call him "Putznik the Putnik". Or maybe the other way around.

I could easily envision a situation where the three west coast states, and several New England states, approach Ottawa and say, "We want to join your confederation, but in return we ask that you formally drop the British monarch as your titular head of state."
Parliamentary systems have their own flaws (for instance, you still don't get to select your administrative head of state--one small district, called a 'riding' does that, followed by a vote of the winning party) but there's no reason the individual states can't retain their own form of state governance. Sorting out the legality of laws deemed Constitutional but now subject to the fourteen major documents that make up the Canadian constitution would be an interesting tangle for legal scholars.
One problem to be addressed: a province of California would STILL outnumber and economically outperform existing Canada, plus Cascadia and New England--combined.Would Canadian political power shift from Ottawa to Sacramento, economic power from Toronto to Los Angeles, and cultural power from Montreal to San Francisco?

TCB said...

@ LarryHart, regarding sleighs: This is a thought that I had at some point. Before people owned cars, i.e. more than 100 years ago for almost everyone, if you had a vehicle it would be a wagon. I.e. you had a wheeled vehicle that could be pulled by two or more horses or some other combo of livestock. What did you do when it snowed? You got out the horses and hitched them to your sleigh. Basically the same vehicle but it had runners. Nobody needed to plow a road, no matter how remote you were from town. It DIDN'T MATTER! A sleigh doesn't get stuck in a foot of snow. Two feet, maybe...

Once cars on paved roads became common, snow plows (and eventually road salt) became a necessity, along with tire chains.

In a sense, a sleigh is not simply a quaint, obsolete way of travel, but an important part of a technological ecosystem which is now gone, replaced by purely wheeled vehicles and their support systems. (Incidentally, salt doesn't just rust cars, it builds up in soil and groundwater. The northern tier is slowly fouling itself with salt, and if we did not have other environmental problems, road salt would become a local one in a few more decades or centuries).

Jumper said...

Here's good reading on Google Translate and the success of neural networks.
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/14/magazine/the-great-ai-awakening.html

The beard on the tree is just Spanish moss, surely to be seen soon in Virginia and other Northern climes. Be aware it's rife with chiggers, irritating biting mites. They thrive on pigs, but soon die on humans, though not after some annoyance.

Russell Osterlund said...

With the many nicknames floating around these days for His Orangeness, I found this site for additional reference: http://www.thehypertexts.com/Donald%20Trump%20Nicknames.htm

Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Summing up my slight (respectful-friendly) tiff with Tacitus. Two Accronyms.

IOK-OSR-IYAR = It's OK - Or Slightly Regrettable - If You're A Republican.

Contrast with IACIYAD - It's A Crime If You're A Democrat.
--
As for the ent's forecast that the Enlightenment Experiment isOver, I am reading the recent book by the guru of his movement - Ted Kaczynski. And yes, it could happen, the odds were always against us. WE are the revolution, the only true one in the history of our species and its only hope. But we may fail.

OTOH, I compare our world and civilization to the imminent collapse proclaimed a century ago, by Oswald Spengler, and I guffaw in your face, pathetic poseur. We are the stuff of legends. If we are brought down by mobs of morons, we'll still be the heroes of lore, when some descendant get it right. And when they do, it WILL be Star Trek. And no sicko feudalists will ever again bring that animal reflex into governance.

Oh, I can confidently say this. DT will start firing military officers and intelligence officials right and left… as the GOP Congress fired all its science advisors in disbanding the OTA. This time, it won't go so well for them.

Brin, on the road

Jumper said...

Back when I had my hardwood floor business I hired a guy who was promising, but he had a bad habit of losing his carpenter's pencil, which we needed all day long to mark the ends of boards to cut. After giving him about four pencils in 2 days, I conceived a solution: I went out to my truck, sharpened a handful of pencils, and pointedly walked through the house depositing one in the middle of each room. "Run out of pencils now, motherfucker!" I said.

While I saw myself as being hilarious, it turns out he didn't take it in that light. He was scared and felt denegrated. "Yeah," a friend told me later, "no one can take a 'motherfucker' lightly." A lesson I learned.

So it goes.

Jonathan Sills said...

Once again, I remind anyone despairing of our Star Trek future that in Star Trek, history includes the Eugenics Wars, the Bell Riots, and the Third World War.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re Christmas music

Missed this tangent. If Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' is now a Christmas classic, then I believe there's this other band called "Sleigher" (possibly misspelled) - big fans of Christmas symbols like stars and stuff, sing a hearty song riffing on "It's a Wonderful Life" ("Mandatory Suicide") and other Christianized classic albums like "God Helps Us All" and stuff about heaven and hell.

I believe there's also a Star Wars holiday special somewhere out there with some other unheralded classic songs, as well as this listing of 10 even less successful holiday classics.

;-)

LarryHart said...

TCB:

What did you do when it snowed? You got out the horses and hitched them to your sleigh. Basically the same vehicle but it had runners. Nobody needed to plow a road, no matter how remote you were from town. It DIDN'T MATTER! A sleigh doesn't get stuck in a foot of snow. Two feet, maybe...

Once cars on paved roads became common, snow plows (and eventually road salt) became a necessity, along with tire chains.

In a sense, a sleigh is not simply a quaint, obsolete way of travel, but an important part of a technological ecosystem which is now gone, replaced by purely wheeled vehicles and their support systems.


Almost 30 years ago now, I read a book on Entropy (can't remember the author at this late date) which changed my view of such "advances". The book detailed how massive socio-economic shifts such as going from hunter/gathering to agriculture or from wood-burning to coal-burning, are not so much innovations as forced choices. We have to adopt a new technology because we've used the old one up. And the new one is less efficient and more troublesome than the old.

For example, when there are no more forests to consume, you can heat your home by burning coal, but you can't build a house or a bridge out of coal. And the road infrastructure that supported transport of wood has to be enhanced in order to support transport of heavy coal. And the by-products of coal-burning are more toxic. Etc.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: re the "Cult of Efficiency" in education (and more generally in public service) - I'm not sure the blame can be laid at Harvard's feet, BUT this does fit an argument I've been making lately.

My intent was to indicate how the 'nonprofit clusters' (universities, labor unions, and the many nonprof care & support orgs) would 'urbanize' - while the 'church' clusters would 'ruralize.' When organizations get measured and rewarded for 'efficiency,' they naturally focus on urban environments when possible in order to attain greatest 'bang for the buck' proof of their methods.

The efficiency effort - when moved away from actual factories - has tended to be more about proving value in order to secure funding (from city/state/federal authorities), rather than regulating actual education processes. A series of constantly shifting mantras to explain what educators always do is often the education equivalent of sticking a 'new-and-improved' label on the same ole soap (and then judging educators on how successfully they sell the stuff).

Marino said...

the onset of a post-liberal age, when liberalism starts to lose and its narratives start to fail across the board?

me being European, well, we had a "post liberal age" where the values our ent loves so much ruled. The Thirties with Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and Stalin. Been there, done that. Compared to that, the CSA, Jefferson Davis and Robert Lee were models of democracy, and Nathan Bedford Forrest was a barely questionable character. Our memories are a lot darker and grimmer that those of you USians...
And, as the French weavers in 1830 or the Republicans in Spain sang, "live working or die fighting" and "better die standing than live kneeling".
Anyway, remember our true and tested system for getting rid of Fascists: it involves a petrol pump and hanging corpses upside down, google "Piazzale Loreto" for a very graphic explanation.

Slim Moldie said...

Donzelion,

RE the Star Wars Holiday Christmas Special. If only the 2016 Election and surrounding events were a hollywood production instead of a reality. "I'm not convinced (Election 2016) wasn’t ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine..."
:)

TCB said...

I recall a comment once where someone from Europe said "The reason we were so hostile to Oliver North [and by extension other US conservative Republicans etc.] is that we've seen his kind before."

Exaaaaaactly.

donzelion said...

Slim Moldie: Grrr...now that you've referred to Election 2016 and the Star Wars Holiday Special in one sentence, I cannot unhear an unholy duet between a drunk Carrie Fisher and the President-Elect singing the 'Star Wars' holiday theme song...and I cannot get this out of my head.

Luckily, I know Sleigher can kill any such noise with something more cheerful. Or at least noisier.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

Oh how I wish it were only that simple!

"The efficiency effort - when moved away from actual factories - has tended to be more about proving value in order to secure funding (from city/state/federal authorities), rather than regulating actual education processes. A series of constantly shifting mantras to explain what educators always do is often the education equivalent of sticking a 'new-and-improved' label on the same ole soap (and then judging educators on how successfully they sell the stuff)."

Take it from someone who has been an "education insider" for the last 14 years, it is much, much worse than that. Most experienced teachers complain about how the education system has become a political football. When Democrats run the show, they try to reform the schools with new and improved teaching techniques, and when Republicans rule the roost, they force the schools back into the Dark Age methods of drill-and-kill. Administrators are just as political as anyone else, and tend to fire even very good teachers whose educational philosophies don't match their own.

But that's not what the Cult of Efficiency did. And yes, it was Harvard education professors who convinced government bureaucrats that Bigger is Better for public education. The more kids you cram into a classroom, the fewer employees on the payroll. Never mind that the more students you cram in the classroom, the higher the proportion of them fail. I have 4 classes that have 33-35 students each, and one that ended up with only 24. It's the end of the semester and I have only two kids with F's in the little class, the others have at least six, one of them has 15 (that one's Freshmen, and they are extra fresh this year). The point being that humans are not robots that can be programed en masse. Cramming that many kids together in the same place is a recipe for failure, because you are concentrating the most immature members of society together while minimizing the number of mature adults for them to model from. Under those conditions, where the little tykes can't get their oxytocin needs satisfied any other way than turning to each other, or else suffer from withdrawals off their own neurotransmitters, you get the generation of all sorts of bad attitudes and negative identity complexes, as well as huge numbers of inferiority complexes.

It raises the question of whether this was failure by design - the upper crusties deliberately sabotaging public education to undercut possible competition from the lower classes, or failure by sheer ineptitude - inability to recognize that people are not machines, and children much less so than adults. Whichever the case, the result is that generations have 'normalized' our miserable school system, have bought into the blame the victim mentality, and are clueless that things could be any better. Everyone just assumes that classes full of kids with just one adult is "normal" and that normal must be right, good and natural.

I could go on for hours about this stuff, but I have a Final Exam to make, and I'm being stereoed by both my kids.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB

My wife was a teacher's aide - I always thought that having a teacher in charge and a couple of aide's (along with a smaller class) was a pretty good method

What does that look like from your POV?

Paul SB said...

Marino,

Good to hear from you again! While I like the sentiments, I'm not sure how likely it is that ordinary citizens will be able to hang up Trumpolini on a meat hook. He has the backing of a military that has both weapons and resources no ragtag band of heroes have much of a prayer against, to say nothing of the various intelligence agencies. The one good thing we have going is the ubiquity of cell phone cameras to shine light. But if the government is blatant about their corruption anyway, and half the country think that acting like troglodytes is the right thing to do (corruption is only corruption when Democrats do it - when Republicans do it, it's business, and good t=for the nation), the transparency isn't going to help a lot.

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I don't want to ignore you, but a decent answer to your question will take some time. If I can get a moment tonight, I will, but I might not be able to get back to you for a couple days. It's Finals Week tomorrow.

Lorraine said...

Once again, I remind anyone despairing of our Star Trek future that in Star Trek, history includes the Eugenics Wars, the Bell Riots, and the Third World War.

We're not on that timeline. We have flatscreen monitors, and it's not even 2024 yet.

LarryHart said...

@Lorraine,

We might be on the "Soylent Green" timeline, though.

TCB said...

@ Paul SB, you say possibly "the upper crusties deliberately sabotaging public education to undercut possible competition from the lower classes"

I have believed that this is (often, tho not always) the case for years. I mean, hell, whenever I am at my most cynical about US society, I find that's when my expectations are most accurate. And I hate that it's so, but it is.

It helps to be smart, but it helps a lot more to get the opportunities the rabble kids don't. As Malcolm Gladwell pointed out, there was only one 12-year-old boy with regular access to a mainframe terminal in 1968 and his name was Bill Gates.

Slim Moldie said...

TCB,

And Lakeside High School tuition is still a great bargain at $32,000 a year.

David Brin said...

", a sleigh is not simply a quaint, obsolete way of travel,"

Except that the Age of Amateurs means there are almost as many blacksmiths today as in the Wild West. Almost as many sword makers as during the middle ages. The number of horses has risen steadily since 1950. None of this fits the glom narratives of left or right.

TCB said...

@ Slim, $32,000 a year. Really. Worse than I thought. Whillikers.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "Most experienced teachers complain about how the education system has become a political football."

Yet education has always been a political football...

I'm not aware of any 'bigger classrooms are better' views. Are there really such proponents?

I am aware of a number of 'efficiency cultists' (from 100+ years ago) who offered suggestions on how a small pool of teachers might 'better' handle a much larger classroom than had been the norm until then - thus removing one of the justifications for expelling 20-80% of students after 6th grade (with the uneducated mass becoming housewives, field hands, factory workers, etc.). Later on, those same tools might help overcome the problem that certain kids (those with rich parents) had their needs met, while most others did not. Again, I don't know of 'bigger classrooms are better' claims - but definitely understand 'bigger classrooms need larger budgets' (and that sort of claim would be one a fair number of administrators would prefer to make).

"Humans are not robots that can be programed en masse."
Aren't we robots who are programmed en masse - at least in part? Are we not programmed by media feeds, by impulses that set chemical drives in place, by seductive distractions that besiege our attention?

Yet even if we were robots programmed en masse, the model that says 20:1 student/teacher, or 35:1, or any other ratio, would be flawed - if multiple conflicting programs are being installed. Today, a universe of clickable gadgets, data feeds, digital gossip chirps away - trying to install programs into young minds that may conflict with a teacher's instruction. Even people who believed children are robots should still recognize that there's a need for much greater quantities of teacher:student interaction than would have been 'normal' 30 years ago.

Slim Moldie said...

TCB, yeah I can't wrap my head around those kind of numbers. High School? It's like calculating how much money Lebron James makes per dribble.

Donzelion, you nailed it on the need for greater quantities of teacher:student interaction and I'd add more teacher-facilitated content-driven student:student interaction. Lecturing and plugging students into videos can be effective. But most students can't apply knowledge without an opportunity to get timely or immediate feedback and ask questions and be pressed as a unique individual--not just a face in the crowd. (Your post reminds me of Asimov's story "Proffession" where the kids learn through tapes and the main character painfully realizes somebody has to make the tapes...)

donzelion said...

Paul SB/TCB: re "the upper crusties deliberately sabotaging public education to undercut possible competition from the lower classes"

Gents, I don't see that at all. I would expect that upper crusties are mostly indifferent to the needs of children other than their own - not malignant.

In business, it makes sense to some to be willing to sabotage a rival, or breach certain contracts if it's advantageous to do so. The business success of a rival can hurt you; the business failure of a rival can help you. Business typically appears as a zero-sum game; when it does not, it will more often appear to be a negative than a positive sum game. Indeed, very few people (if any) realized that business could even be 'positive sum' before Adam Smith.

Education, by contrast, presumes a 'positive sum' game. The more kids from your kid's school who study, work hard, excel, the better it is for your kid. The better your school district, the more valued the real estate. Even before the Greeks, education was perceived as a positive. In a few cases, opponents argued it was actually zero sum (e.g., segregationists arguing that benefits for minority children came at the expense of the majority), but almost never a negative sum game.

"whenever I am at my most cynical about US society, I find that's when my expectations are most accurate."
I find that cynicism impairs my ability to connect - to myself, to ideas, to other people - a price that surpasses the benefit it offers in terms of guarding my ego. If 'upper crusties' are indifferent, rather than malignant, perhaps we can collaborate to fix the problems - perhaps they will have some good ideas, or perhaps I can prove that what they thought were good ideas are actually not very good at all (as seems to have happened with Bill Gates). But if they are malignant, the only way to save education is by removing them and their influence - destroying their wealth before they hurt children. That's not the most helpful way to regard folks.

Alfred Differ said...

I suspect the underlying cause of the 'cult of efficiency' goes back to roughly the end of the enlightenment period and the appearance of the romantics. If one wants to pin a start date, though, I'd pick the failed revolutions in Europe of 1848-49. After that time, the classical liberals among the intelligentsia turned away almost completely from the older ethics system in favor of a reduced system that treated prudence as the root of all others. Reductionism has dominated for at least a century and a half with much wider impacts than in education.

We aren't ethical reductionists, though many people believe we are.

Alfred Differ said...

Rather than approaching Ottawa, I'd rather we just approached each other outside our election processes and worked out agreements regarding which of the coming lawsuits to fight and how to fight them. This would involve state government conversations that bypass national parties and the federal government.

While I like my Canadian neighbors, they aren't big enough for this fight. California, New York, and Illinois are.

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard: Think back to the period immediately after the Soviet collapse. Some argued it was the end of history. Heh. It certainly WAS a big deal with some things changing radically, and some in a small way before returning to a norm.

I agree with you that there is an earthquake underway, but I doubt we would agree on what it is.

Treebeard said...

Maybe Marino, but a post-liberal age doesn't have to mean a repeat of history. Whatever comes next, it won't be the 1930s, or the 1860s, or whatever. America ain't that much like your country anyway – which now that you mention it has some of the lowest birthrates on the planet and seems to be on that wonderful progressive one-way ride to the cultural graveyard.

That's the problem with trying to get rid of fascism: in killing off the most “evil” part of you, you may be killing off the best part of you (to quote Nietzsche), or at least the part that you need to survive in a fascistic universe. Italy under Mussolini at least strove for some kind of glory and greatness; what are doing today that is of any note? Where is your leader who wants to make Italy great again, or at least not die? Do you even care, or do you prefer the slow, decadent death march you're on now?

Treebeard said...

And another thought for Dr. Brin and co.: instead of sabotaging Trump before he even takes office, why not try to get him excited about your ideas? Imagine what might be possible if Trump got the Elon Musk bug and starting imagining Trump Rockets and Trump Cities on Mars? Why stop at making America great when we can make Mars great too? Or at least let's get back to the moon and put up some Trump Hotels before the dastardly Chinese claim it. Seriously, maybe it takes someone like this to kick things up a notch and channel the nation's energy. It seemed to work pretty well for Kennedy.

TCB said...

Kennedy: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

Trump: "“It's very possible that I could be the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it."

TCB said...

Ent said: "That's the problem with trying to get rid of fascism: in killing off the most “evil” part of you, you may be killing off the best part of you (to quote Nietzsche), or at least the part that you need to survive in a fascistic universe."

This reminds me of what I'll call the Tabletop Problem. I may have mentioned this before: so my friend and I were sitting at a table, and I said, So this table is maybe a meter wide and the varnish, let's say, is a millimeter thick. That's a factor of a thousand. Let the table be 200,000 years, which includes the whole time anatomically modern humans have existed, and maybe some ancestors. Now for all that time humans have succeeded by having more babies, using available resources, fighting and enslaving neighbors, cooperating only with our own tribe, and so on. Take over the world. Took a long time but these sorts of behavior have put us on top.

Now the varnish on the end of the table? That's only 200 years. That is the time since the Industrial Revolution. Only in this very brief period have these behaviors threatened our survival. We are programmed NOT to avoid reproducing, NOT to leave the wilderness alone, NOT to go centuries without wars, and so on. 200 years is no time at all to change our behavior so much, and yet we may all die if we can't.

Paul SB said...

Oh dear, now I have a whole bunch of things to answer before I can even get to Duncan's question...

TCB,
Most of the kind of fascist behavior our twig admires are products of civilization, which dates back only 8000 years. Most of the previous 200,000 years (our oldest anatomically moderns date to 208,000 ya) was spent at the band level (which is not the same thing as either tribes like our Native Americans or chiefdoms like Polynesia, neither of which represent the majority of human evolution). You will understand humans better if you think of instinct as more like a tool kit, one that does not match the social and physical environments we have created for ourselves since the his elf civilization. Fascists take advantage of that disconnect, but we can choose better.

Slim Moldie,
Greater teacher/student interaction is enormous. If I could remake the school system, schools would be tiny, the size of typical classrooms today, but with never less than a 6:1 student: adult ratio. That will get us a lot closer to Star Trek than any political reforms.

More for Alfred and Donzelion later. As usual, very good thoughts, here, but not 100% correct. Got to go to work, now.

Anonymous said...

Reading from these posts, American Educational System has clearly failed. It really does not matter who's in office; We are running out of basic resources that runs this World. It's not just fossil fuel.


Peak Oil (Peak Everything):

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

Slim Moldie said...

Paul SB, of course even your proposed remake struggles if kids aren't getting their basic needs met outside of school first.

Paul SB said...

Slim Moldie,

You are absolutely correct. My daughter graduated from the 9th rated public high school in the state, and she saw the teachers did not really perform any better than in the working-class neighborhoods, it is just that kids growing up in the working class neighborhoods have a lot more issues to deal with.

I see this as a recursive relationship, a feedback loop that can nurture success slowly, if done right, helping families out of poverty. It rarely gets done right, and much of the problem is bureaucratic. But much of the problem is also the assumptions everyone brings to the table.

Jonathan Sills said...

"We're not on that timeline. We have flatscreen monitors, and it's not even 2024 yet."

On the other hand, we didn't have standardized asteroid-ore-carrying ships and cryogenic suspension modules in 1996, either. Point is, just because Donnie assumes office doesn't mean the end of good futures - it just means that we're going to have a few troubles before our first attempt at FTL draws the attention of a passing alien starship. Might cost us a few hundred million people, which is not a good thing and I'd just as soon avoid that part if we can, but the Orange Turnip is not the end of all.

Berial said...

In the 'be careful what you ask for' column we have exhibit "A": "Wash. state's Electoral College votes for Clinton, Powell, Faith Spotted Eagle". Instead of Trump votes going to someone else we are seeing Clinton votes doing that. I mean Colin Powell and 'Faith Spotted Eagle'? This is why evil will triumph because 'good' is dumb. (And apparently also the enemy of perfect.)

Tony Fisk said...

...and the fix is in.

I suspect some college voters didn't wish to 'offend' the new world order.

As the title of this post says, time to "just hang in there"

LarryHart said...

re: electoral college

I heard the tail end of a conversation on Thom Hartmann's radio show but I didn't get the point of what they were talking about. The caller was saying that the Democratic electors were waiting for some sign from Hillary that they should take action of some sort, and the caller was blaming Hillary for not giving the signal.

I'm totally unclear what action Democratic electors could have taken which would have made any difference at all whether Trump would get 270 votes.

TCB said...

@ Paul SB, yeah, I understand that what we might call fascist behavior (militarism and social stratification, etc.) comes after agriculture; some societies afterward still managed to avoid this sort of stratification even after. Çatalhöyük maintained an egalitarian society in Neolithic Anatolia for more than a millennium.

I was making a more general point that the same basic survival strategies worked for most of history and all prehistory since Homo Erectus first controlled fire (which could be over a million years). The tabletop analogy is even more extreme if you're comparing a millimeter of varnish to FIVE tables.


Re: education, I think it may have been Plato or Aristotle who said that the ideal school is a log with a teacher sitting on one end and a student on the other...

Actually, apparently President Garfield said this about his mentor Mark Hopkins.

Pish. I liked it better when it was Aristotle.
The reason fascism comes into it is that it makes necessary change harder than it would be anyway.

TCB said...

PS that last line was supposed to come immediately after "The tabletop analogy [...] FIVE tables."

Twominds said...

@Anonymous 5:20 AM:
Ever so worse then that politics is taking so much of our attention and energy that would better be spent solving the really urgent problems.

Twominds said...

@TCB 3:12 PM
some societies afterward still managed to avoid this sort of stratification even after
Even much farther on in history, you can see egalitarian situations, though they don't seem to last.
My master paper for my university graduation was about a tell type village in North Germany, directly on the coast. It was inhabited from (writing this all by heart so give and take a bit) some centuries BC till about a thousand years later. Because of its cumulative layers, each phase of the village was recognisable. The first phase was five farm houses with their yards and sheds, remarkably similar in size and the amount of space they had for their cows (the subsistence base of the village).
Over time, the village growed, and when at its largest, there was one yard that was much bigger than the rest, with a hall house without any stables, but with a lot of little sheds for ore melting and metal working. Also on the yard were small houses/huts with stables for just a couple of cows. It looks like these were for the metal workers working for this big man. Around it were a couple of very big houses with huge stables, with space for much more catle than for a single family. It looks like they were the big man's herders. At the edge were still some farm houses with stables for cattle for a single family, but less than some hundreds of years before. The house and the yard of the big man were the only place roman imports were found, mainly pottery shards.
One family had managed to monopolise metalworking, traded directly or indirectly with the roman empire many hundreds of miles south, and made themselves into local kings. After my graduation there was another dig there and they did find a king's grave from that period. It was even richer than I had expected.
It was fascinating to see how the social structure had changed over time, evidenced by the change in buildings and finds.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@donzelion, TCB, PaulSB: confirmed by examination of the actions of, to take the most pertinent example, deVos. She is simply deaf to the concerns of the public schools and their denizens; her ideological stance requires her to consider any complaint to be self-serving and to dismiss it without examination. But she does not actually mean ill; she simply believes that her delusions of laissez-faire capitalist education are the ideal solution, and will not listen to reason, evidence, or argument to the contrary. She has her Truth and intends to set us all free.

The ent apparently believes in a "fascistic universe". The laws of nature do not have political opinions, and we are not nonsentient animals subject to pure Darwinian survival pressure, so this can only be referring to a mindset; the ent is convinced that fascism is either the Hobbesian state of nature, or the dominant philosophy of the world today. The former's absurdity is left as an exercise to the reader; the latter is contingent.

I must thank the ent, though, for a Google search upon "fascistic universe" in an effort to decode this mysterious phrase led to this cogent analysis of "Ur-Fascism", a distillation of the various fascisms. The author takes on Eco's classic 14 signs of fascism and interprets their distillation.

At this juncture, analyzing the current ascendancy as a species of fascism becomes cogent:

Catfish N. Cod said...


(1) Cult of Tradition: with the tradition in question being the rose-glasses view of early-mid 20th century America. Some elements seem to be from the 1950s, others from the 1910's-20's.
(2) Rejection of Modernism: overt praise of capitalism (though with an inconsistent populist critique) overlays the deeper rejection of many Enlightenment ideals and a preference for "Judeo-Christian" civilization, narrowly defined. Science and its fruits, as well as its partisans, are openly mocked, and free inquiry of opponents degraded (justified as encouraging the free inquiry of others, including anti-intellectuals).
(3) Action without thought as a virtue -- confirmed
(4) The syncretism of "Judeo-Christian", Anglospheric, 1920s laissez-faire and 1950s middle-class-unionism into a vision of "America Once Great" is incoherent (the 1950s high culture was a direct reaction to the collapse of the 1920s paradigm). Disagreement with the syncretic vision, even to point out its incoherence, makes one not a "Real American".
(5) Another way not to be a "Real American", of course, is to be a (recent) immigrant or non-white.
(6) Appeal to the White Working Class (WWC) but also the aggrieved middle class -- check
(7) Nationalism as source of privilege -- yes, but only for "Real Americans", thus denigration of California (for example) as "Unreal" by virtue of Democratic support, and therefore not worthy of inclusion in a popular vote count. (I could not believe this argument being made on the radio this morning.)
(8) Feelings of humiliation by "elites" -- check, with elites doubling as the primary enemy of the movement. Aside from "immigrants", foreign rivals are secondary targets.
(9) Trumpists are at a bit of a loss right now by virtue of victory; the attempted solution is usually to try to oppress designated targets further. Eventually this backfires; seeking struggle with everyone puts you on the losing side fast.
"Only an idiot fights a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the kingdom of idiots fights a war on twelve fronts!"
(10) Popular elitism is the official ideology, yet actual patrician elitism is seen in the council of advisors to the throne. This becomes another contradiction that must not be dissented from.
(11) The death cult has not yet become a central feature of Trumpism, and I pray it never does, but the seeds of it exist: in the survivalist movement, in the Second Amendment stand-your-ground memeplex, in the readiness to revolt should the movement be thwarted. The military itself will resist any attempt to make itself part of any death-cult movements.
(12) Meaningless machismo and weapons-as-compensation are already well documented among the rank and file, though the caudillo's military prowess is purely verbal.
(13) The Voice of the People now speaks on Twitter, and eager tweetbots fill his virtual stadium to cheer him. Television and websites provide adjuncts. The newborn regime has not yet advanced to the point of attacking citizens for being citizens, but the verbal groundwork has already been laid. Forget not that McCain has already been verbally attacked once for completely ludicrous reasons.
(14) NewSpeak is rampant; in addition to the simplicities of the Voice, well pointed out, there is also the frequent redefinition of words and the plain denial of statements clearly made in public mere hours before. Post-truth, post-fact.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

14) NewSpeak is rampant; in addition to the simplicities of the Voice, well pointed out, there is also the frequent redefinition of words and the plain denial of statements clearly made in public mere hours before. Post-truth, post-fact.


With his stances on Russia and China, Trump is almost literally declaring that Eurasia is our ally, and that we have always been at war with Eastasia.

I'm getting kind of tired of revisiting books that I read in the 1970s thinking back then, "Thank goodness we're past all this," and now feeling that they are torn from today's headlines.


Alfred Differ said...

@TCB: We are programmed NOT to avoid reproducing…

You might want to check with our resident anthropology SME’s on that. Last I checked, women CAN throttle up or down depending on the risks they perceive. There is a reasonable argument to be made that many women throttle down when risks are low in order to focus resources on a few children and throttle up when risks are high that their babies will die before reproducing grandchildren for them. Men are different obviously.

Awareness of this feature appears to be limited for possibly many reasons, but a woman’s ability to hide the timing of her ovulation is probably evidence of an old biological struggle for strategic dominance.

… NOT to go centuries without wars, and so on. 200 years is no time at all to change our behavior so much, and yet we may all die if we can't.

Murder rates appear to be downward trending. Your pessimism regarding what we can do is severely punctured by evidence from economic history too. Over a span of 300-400 years, we’ve manage to change enough to lift the vast majority of humanity out of subsistence-level poverty, frequent famines, and wind up in a world where fertility rates are returning to maintenance levels for most of us.

The varnish might only be a millimeter thick, but in many ways we aren’t the humans our ancestors of one meter ago would have understood. As individuals, we might be, but many other social structures have emerged since then.

David Brin said...

Catfish n' Cod any way you can write up this comparison of Eco's stages to today in a more formal way, e.g. as a blog? You already have about 30% of it written. That would let us link others to something easily digestible.

David Brin said...

Did anyone else make the call, in advance, that Clinton voters would defect? More than defected from Trump? I did! It is blatantly what DT would do - in his personality - to have obsessed over the last week with finding ways to bribe HC electors, as he expected more GOP defections.

In fact, there were few of the latter. Because of one simple fact. Repuplican confederates are no longer either sane or Americans. And I am talking about the "moderates" who claim to dislike DT.

Forget it. You had your chance. You chose sides against our entire Great Experiment. You chose sides a decade ago. You chose sides by watching Fox and nodding and mumbling: "yes my side is going crazy... but... but liberals are just as bad! Yeah, that's the ticket."

You are probably STILL saying it to yourself. You will keep reciting that mantra. But rest assured, the professional classes, the scientists, and all the others who deal in facts... and soon the members of the US military officer corps... cannot afford delusion. They will save us. And we will remember that you apologists-for-insanity abetted the insanity.

David Brin said...

BTW I am well aware that only a very few who ever come down here deserve even a fraction of the spleen I just vented!

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard: … in killing off the most “evil” part of you, you may be killing off the best part of you (to quote Nietzsche), or at least the part that you need to survive in a fascistic universe.

Heh. As if one is limited to fighting fire with fire. When the US army entered into direct conflict with Germany in WWII, were our tanks equally potent or better? Nah. They were more numerous. I don’t have to risk being a fascist to deprive fascists of supplies they need to commit their evil. Denying them the hearts and minds of those who would serve them is pretty effective.

Where is your leader who wants to make Italy great again, or at least not die?

Heh. As if that is needed too. Leaders don’t really lead. They persuade. The people can do that too and do so from time to time.

As for Trump catching the bug Elon Musk has, you’d have to have met Musk to realize what that would entail. I sincerely hope Musk tries for that, but I don’t have much hope it will work. Pitching space projects to rich people rarely works. I know. I’ve tried. There are very good reasons for why Kennedy’s approach will not work right now. If Trump does catch the bug, though, he should pass it on to his children. These things aren’t short-run investments.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

For all his faults, George Lucas got one thing right. This is how democracy dies--to thunderous applause.

Zepp Jamieson said...

If mine host will indulge me, I would like to place a link to my annual Solstice essay. This is something I've been doing since 1996, and it's my present to the world. Hope people will read and enjoy:
https://thebigweasel.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/solstice-2016-hope-in-a-hopeless-year/

Zepp Jamieson said...

Anonymous wrote: "Ever so worse then that politics is taking so much of our attention and energy that would better be spent solving the really urgent problems."

Unfortunately, it's an element of the human condition that the following can be posited: Following politics is tiresome. Ignoring them is lethal.

Paul SB said...

The longer it takes me to get back here, the more good stuff I miss!

Duncan,

To explain what I think about education and how it should be conducted, I have to explain some of what I learned from anthropology and archaeology about human nature, and how that has colored my view of our institutions of education. You can probably guess some of what I have to say, given what I have been writing here for some time. Humans have spent at least 200,000 years living in tiny groups, around 20-40 people with in the neighborhood of 5-10 children. For all of our prehistory, children have grown up surrounded by adults. That makes sense, as adults know which berries are yummy and which ones will out you 6 feet under, or which end of the snake not to touch. Children in hunter/gatherer societies do not spend a lot of time surrounded by hordes of kids, they are surrounded by hordes of adults. This has shaped the brains of humans, and you can see it best by looking at our neurotransmitters.

As social animals, oxytocin is the bond that keeps us together. Anything that stimulates the release of oxytocin makes a person feel comfortable. Go for awhile without it, and you start feeling uncomfortable. This effect is much more pronounced in children because they have not yet built tolerance to their neurotransmitters. Yes, as we age we feel our feelings less. This happens because our synapses start to pull receptors out, making us less sensitive, so that slap in the face really did hurt more when you were little, that ice cream really did taste sweeter, and that unrequited crush really did feel devastating (and this is why suicide is so much more common in the young than the old).

What we have done with our school system is to turn it around ass backwards. We put 30 or more kids in a room with just one adult. The natural instinct for all of those children is to get the adults to pay attention to them. This is hardwired into us, a product of thousands of generations. But with only one adult for so many kids to try to get attention from, few, if any, can get their oxytocin needs fulfilled. They can’t all get the teacher’s attention all the time, so they experience withdrawal, which makes them feel uncomfortable, unhappy to be at school. The next best thing they can do to get the oxytocin flowing is to turn to their peers and start yacking. It isn’t exactly what their instincts want, in much the same way masturbation isn’t exactly what our instincts want, but if you can’t do the reproductive dance with a fertile and willing partner, the brain will settle for a substitute temporarily (sorry about the somewhat vulgar analogy).

Paul SB said...

I have been in classrooms, as an observer during my rookie years, in which I saw a teacher who had iron-clad control over the students. They were quite as the grave until he called on them. It was pretty remarkable to see, especially down in South Central. Sitting in the back, I was supposed to be watching the teacher, but I had been trained as an anthropologist, which means being trained to observe. One thing I noticed was a few of the kids seemed to be shaking when the teacher wasn’t looking at them. Their faces didn’t show fear. These were kids who were probably a couple deviations to the right of the mean in terms of their sensitivity to oxytocin. It became obvious to me that this kind of school system favored people who are naturally less sensitive to oxytocin – like sociopaths – while those who have more normal levels of sensitivity have a harder time sitting still and concentrating. Later I found out that the kids I had seen who had the shakes in that class were kids who were frequently having discipline issues, never shut their mouths in other classes, and frequently ditched that very, very quiet class.


My wife was a teacher's aide - I always thought that having a teacher in charge and a couple of aide's (along with a smaller class) was a pretty good method

What does that look like from your POV?

It’s going in the right direction, but it’s really just holding back the tide with a spoon. I have had a few TA’s in my classrooms, and they generally only help the kids who have special needs, or once in awhile they hire a bilingual aide (never even close to enough) who can help people who speak Spanish but little English (and there’s no help if you speak Mandarin, Tagalog, Armenian or any of a dozen languages I have seen in tiny numbers, including one kid who hailed from Tahiti).

Paul SB said...

If I could remake the school system completely, schools would look much like ordinary homes, but with a lot of computers, lab supplies, gardens in the back yard, garage stocked with mechanical tools, all sorts of real materials. The ratio of adults to children would never go over 1:10 for high school, never more than 2:1 for elementary school. Schools would be networks of many small buildings on separate blocks with different facilities, through which students and teachers could rotate as they need. Once you start getting to the upper grades, students would spend much of their days working in local businesses, learning a trade like an apprenticeship. This would have to be carefully monitored, of course, to ensure that local businesses were actually teaching skills and not just exploiting labor. The key thing, though, is that the children need to be surrounded by adults, rather than adults being so badly outnumbered by children. That way they get their oxytocin needs satisfied, the atmosphere is much more comfortable, and they are much more motivated to learn. And let’s get them involved in doing real-world things, not sitting in rows reading out of books day in and day out. This is not to say that reading is a bad thing, but forced reading in school does more to make children hate books than TV or the internet. This vision would have a pretty high price tag, I know, but if we value children more than we value < 1% of our population becoming filthy rich, it would advance human civilization in a lot of ways. Fewer people would come out of school brimming with hate for the world they live in and inclined to make trouble for the world. The trog reduction alone would be worth it.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I’m glad you brought up the idea of the zero-sum game, as it is an issue I was going to bring up regarding education at some point. Helps my old brain remember what I was going to talk about. Of course, smart people who have been exposed to the idea can see that education is meant to be a positive-sum system. Unless grading is normed (graded on a curve), there is no reason all students can’t succeed and come out with straight A’s. The problem is that most people have never even heard of a positive-sum game, and culture has ensured that they think in zero-sum terms. Thus people assume that there will always be star students and abject failures, A students and flunkies. They usually assume that the difference between these extremes is genetic, and therefore nothing can be done to change their “destiny.”

Of course, modern neuroscience has made a complete hash of these assumptions, but hardly anyone has even heard the term “neuroplasticity.” The idea that we are far more flexible than past generations ever imagined has barely scratched the surface of our culture. As long as the vast majority of people are thinking in zero-sum terms, they will not believe that it is even possible for all (or even a majority) of children to be educationally successful. Likewise, most people in business think the same way. Everything is zero-sum to them. If someone else wins, that makes me a loser. Only a small number of people get it. I suspect that J.P. Morgan was one of them, when he bailed out the S&L Crisis. He knew that his own outrageous fortunes would lose value if the nation’s economy collapsed, but he was an exception. You see the same thing with our Silicon Valley millionaires, who get that if most people have money they can afford to buy their products, but if most people are reduced to pauperhood by parasitical businessmen and their government-corrupting lobbyists, there goes your market! Most businessmen just aren’t that smart. Most are those parasites with their lobbyists poised to twist government any way that benefits them in the near term, regardless of how many millions of their potential customers are screwed. And natural selection isn’t helping us here, not on any scale we are likely to see in our lifetimes.

So yes, I have little doubt that at least a large fraction of the upper crusties are actively trying to deprive most of the “hoi polloi” of adequate education. Smarter ones recognize that this is stupid, that they become wealthier when they lift all boats, but the smarter ones are not the norm. Inbred rentiers who inherited their wealth along with generations of arrogance are the norm. You and I perceive education as positive sum, but I went to a school full of rich kids back in 11th grade, and it was quite obvious that their parents did not want the “unwashed masses” corrupting their children’s superior education (much less getting familiar with their daughters).
If you pursued a teaching credential within the past 20 years or so, you are likely to have heard the term “Factory Model of Education” many, many times. When America began to industrialize after the Civil War, the education system was largely purposed to train factory workers. Why do you think they use bells? It’s a relic of the 1870’s. It was largely assumed that education should be made one-size-fits-all, and students could be stamped out like products from a factory. Any students who did not perform well under these circumstances were labeled mentally feeble and relegated to the most menial of lives. The classism inherent in the system should be clear enough, especially when you compare those public institutions to the private schools the wealthy were segregated into, ensuring that the upper crust never had to mingle with the dregs.

Paul SB said...

“I'm not aware of any 'bigger classrooms are better' views. Are there really such proponents?”

There were, back in the 1930’s, and they were Harvard professors hired as consultants by the federal government. The argument, as I learned when I was getting my teaching license, was that larger, more crowded schools would be able to afford better facilities. This mostly referred to athletic facilities, but science labs were also included in the argument. And while there may not be people making this argument today, there is little need for them to do so. Schools with 4000 students and classes that start at 35 students and go up from there have been the norm for a very long time, long enough that people just assume that this is the way it is. Inertia rules. There is a very specific institution that helps to ensure that inertia rules in terms of education. Most public schools get ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965) money per student enrolled per day, and schools fight for every student they can get to ensure those federal dollars keep coming. The school where I teach has had enrollments dropping for several years, so they are desperately scrambling to recruit more students. When teachers quit to go elsewhere, the district does not replace them, ensuring that class sizes remain high. It’s self-destructive behavior, since parents are more likely to send their kids to a school that has low class sizes, especially since smaller class sizes means both fewer discipline issues and higher academic achievement. But administrators are so short-sighted they don’t get this.

Education has its own, more extreme version of the Peter Principle. The Peter Principle is that people tend to rise to their level of incompetence and stay there. In education, it is the most incompetent teachers who get Administration credentials to become principals and assistant principals. I call this Peter Plus. They rise above their level of incompetence. On top of that, school boards all over the country are mostly comprised of local business leaders, people who are even less competent in terms of understanding the needs of schools and students than our inept administrative staff.

At the intersection of incompetence and inertia, last year we had a student who decided it would be funny to call the police and tell them that another student is planning to shoot up the school. The student he set up was not a great student, but a nice kid who likes to play paintball and wants to be a Navy Seal. The kid who spread the rumor that he was going to shoot up the school is just about the most hated kid in the school, but because he’s very religious he seems oblivious to the fact that most people hate him. He is a truly conniving, obnoxious sack of shit, and that is not a term I am willing to use with reference to many minors. When it hit the fan, the entire staff of the school expected the little shit to get expelled, but the school board gave him a slap on the wrist because they didn’t want to lose the ESEA money, which amounts to around $50/day. Now the kid thinks he’s invisible, and has allied himself with some of the worst hooligans to plant things like condoms, dildos and porno videos in classrooms, take pictures with their cell phones, then spread them on social media claiming to have found then in the possession of their teachers, in the hopes that they can get teachers fired. Clearly the money is much more important than the needs of the students. Any sane administrator would have expelled that little sack in a heartbeat rather than emboldening him to make ever more trouble for the school.

Paul SB said...

Aren't we robots who are programmed en masse - at least in part? Are we not programmed by media feeds, by impulses that set chemical drives in place, by seductive distractions that besiege our attention?

Yet even if we were robots programmed en masse, the model that says 20:1 student/teacher, or 35:1, or any other ratio, would be flawed - if multiple conflicting programs are being installed. Today, a universe of clickable gadgets, data feeds, digital gossip chirps away - trying to install programs into young minds that may conflict with a teacher's instruction.

Now this is some real insight. Humans are complicated concatenations of countless influences that clash and coalesce inside their crania (that’s a lot of alliteration!). Teachers tend to blame the parents for how bad their kids are, and parents blame the teachers. Unfortunately, the administrators typically blame the teachers, too. Reality, of course, is much more complicated than simple slogans you can fit on a bumper sticker. All the thunder and does of childhood make for tumultuous times that can never be encapsulated by simple platitudes. And they can never be solved by oversimplification.

Paul SB said...

I forgot to put quotes around Donzelion's lines above, starting from "Aren't we robots ..." and ending with "... that may conflict with a teacher's instruction."

I'm sleepy. I'll try to get back later.

Slim Moldie said...

Paul SB, really interesting insights especially the bit on neuroscience and oxytocin. All I have to offer on education tonight is a little story for your entertainment, that might be parable...

When I was thirteen I came to the conclusion that being a middle school teacher had to be the worst possible profession. My realization came during a school-wide assembly in the outdoor amphitheater under the beating sun. Actually it wasn’t an assembly. It was an hour long “un-assembly” levied by our principal as punishment for the collective offences of the student body during the previous assembly, which featured a performance by an Abraham Lincoln impersonator. I kid you not. So all us rule-followers sat doing nothing, as prescribed—well most of us. The perfect Zen opportunity, right? That said, half the boys I knew had mastered the gleak—including a buddy of mine who could summon a misty rainfall from the corner of his mouth and catch you from the side. Other kids were administering wet-willies—which would set off intermittent kerfuffles. After about thirty minutes, the increasingly flustered staff and admin had more than they could handle. And I didn’t even mention the sun. At least a dozen kids were using their wrist watches to reflect sunlight into the faces of teachers with a majority focusing on the bald-headed assistant principal patrolling from the stage. The poor bastard waved his arms in futility trying to ward off the growing array of invisible blows and the more he blustered and threatened, the more kids added their watches to the mix. It was horrible and beautiful.

Fast forward—this was about fifteen years ago and I was a math teacher in a windowless classroom beneath a parking garage in an inner city middle school. In the adjacent classroom screams and yelling erupted. My students began laughing.
“What’s going on?” I inquired.
“They got a substitute!” answered several kids all at once. “When there’s a substitute we turn off the lights and throw it down.”
“You’d never do that in here, right?”
“No, you’re cool. That’s hell of messed up. That’s why we do it to subs.”
I guess word got around because later that afternoon it was my turn. I turned away from the class and suddenly it was pitch black. It probably took me all of three seconds to cross the room to the light switch while they yelled and screamed and punched and threw their backpacks and textbooks at each other. From then on I always carried a flashlight in my pocket.

Let the truth shine bright. :)

Kal Kallevig said...

Paul SB

”This vision would have a pretty high price tag, I know, but if we value children more than we value < 1% of our population becoming filthy rich, it would advance human civilization in a lot of ways.”

Yes, the way we calculate costs would make this very expensive, but realistically, much of the work done today provides zero benefits to gross domestic happiness. Repurposing the efforts of those engaged in such work would cost society nothing, and would save all those wasted commuting hydrocarbons. Those people are already here and are being supported by this society. The same could be said for quite a few of the unemployed and homeless.

The profit from such a switch would be huge, effective education and care for children is probably the most productive work available.

”Most businessmen just aren’t that smart. Most are those parasites with their lobbyists poised to twist government any way that benefits them in the near term, regardless of how many millions of their potential customers are screwed.”

Another possibility is that they are just as caught up in the daily game of survival as the rest of us. I am reminded of the old story about draining the swamp full of alligators.

Anonymous said...

Could be of some use:

https://www.indivisibleguide.com

NoiseOfKnowing

Paul SB said...

Slim Moldie,

I had a similar experience when I taught at a middle school in South Central, though the one class that did it was a class full of special ed kids (with no special ed aides) and they kept doing it over and over again, for two weeks. The flashlight didn't deter them, and neither did the 1500 candle-power spot light. It only stopped when they transferred the perpetrator to another class.

Your story about the assembly is just one example of what happens when economy of scale crashes headlong into scalar stress. Everybody loses except the leaders on top who are insulated from the effects. And whatever those effects are, the culture normalizes them and swear they are "biological" and nothing can be done. Sure, it's all hormones, and changing the structure of our institutions can do nothing to change that - except that you don't get the kind of hooliganism we see here in smaller-scale societies. Kind of shoots down the "it's just natural" argument.

Read as much as you can about how brains work. This isn't just my recommendation. Who am I but a second-rate high school teacher at a third rate school? Dr. Robert Sapolsky is one of the world's leading experts on the brain and stress, and that's what he recommends.

Paul SB said...

Kal,

As far as your businessmen caught up in the survival game goes, I get that, and I get that "survival" seems like a matter of scale depending on where you are on the social ladder, and they aren't all a monolithic group. I once met with a financial advisor to talk about retirement plans, and he related have a large number of clients who come to him saying things like, "I only have about $10 million in savings and are only a few years from retirement! I don't know how I'm going to make it!" I got the impression that the financial advisor was really glad to have an ordinary human being to talk to for a change.

When I make blanket statements about the upper crusties, I'm not talking about the Dodgers fan who owns the sports bar down the street, or the lady who has an FTD franchise on the corner, I'm talking about the movers and shakers, the parasites who walk down the street and see ordinary people - people who are one Denial of Coverage away from homelessness, and are thinking of how they can squeeze even more out of them today.

A couple days ago my daughter told me about a Republican senator who called on the people of his state to send him their nightmare stories about Obamacare, but what he got instead was a flood of people telling him that without Obamacare they could never have gotten their illnesses treated and begging that they NOT repeal the ACA. It's those evil bastards I'm talking about, along with the Enron types who keep shit like them in their pockets.

TCB said...

Paul SB, holy hell, this is good stuff! Thank you!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Did anyone else make the call, in advance, that Clinton voters would defect? More than defected from Trump?


I don't see what was affected, though. The faithless Democratic electors didn't vote for Trump--they went for Bernie or Colin Powell or that North Dakota activist. I'm actually not sure what they were trying to accomplish, but my best guess is a protest vote. Could that protest vote have backfired and caused Trump to win in the event Republican electors had also defected? Yes, but only in the event that between 38 and 42 Republican electors had not only refused to vote for Trump, but had actually voted for Hillary instead. In that specific case, the faithless Democrats would have cost Hillary the election (though not given it to Trump either).

Had 38 or more Republicans done what was more likely--voted for Romney or Kasich or Ryan or some other Republican which the House of Representatives could then select as the winner--those faithless Democrats wouldn't have affected the outcome at all. The entire slate of Democrats could have voted for Mickey Mouse and not changed a thing.

So yes, you get one for the predictions registry, but I'm not sure this is one to be outraged about. I'm still trying to figure out what strategy there supposedly was for Democratic electors to take that would change anything without support from Republican electors.

Zepp Jamieson said...

" The faithless Democratic electors didn't vote for Trump "
I believe Brin was speaking of the regular voters, those who voted last month.
I had been saying all along that if Clinton did not embrace Sanders outreach to workers and make a full-throated defence of workers' rights, she would lose to Trump,
So I guess I did call it.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

Dr Brin was on a rant there, and might have been speaking of many things. But when he asked "Did anyone else (but himself) call it?", he was speaking of his prediction that Trump would bribe/blackmail Democratic electors into being faithless.

While some Democratic electors were in fact faithless, I don't see that they helped (or hurt) Trump in any way, nor that they could have done so without Republican support.

Robert said...

Actually, Dr. Brin, I called it.

You refused to believe. You drank the Koolaid that said Hillary's job experience would trump Sanders being an old white man who said what so many wanted to hear and thus acceptable to Trump voters who were lashing out against what they saw as the Democratic and Republican Parties' abandonment of them. You insisted Sanders was not electable. You blocked your ears and refused to hear. You closed your eyes and refused to see.

And Hillary was cast down. Trump got elected. Because you refused to believe that hatred of Hillary Clinton was so great that people would spit into the wind in an effort to spit at her face.

Well done.

Rob H.

TCB said...

I have very, very few good things to say about the conservative/GOP/confederate/neofascist bunch... but they are good at keeping their muskets all pointed the same way.

There's a song the granola folks will sing sometimes, "Ain't gonna study war no more..."

I applaud the sentiment, but it would be better if more of them would study it. At least they'd have a better understanding of what they're trying to end.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

I had been saying all along that if Clinton did not embrace Sanders outreach to workers and make a full-throated defence of workers' rights, she would lose to Trump,


That does seem to be exactly what happened. The working class has lost faith in the Democratic Party, which is somewhat understandable. However, the fact that they've enabled a Trump-led Republican government is nothing less than bitterly ironic in that context.

A funny version of (almost) the same dynamic is that scene in "Blazing Saddles" where the negro sheriff points a gun at his own head and says, "One false move and the n***** gets it!" Only, if that scene were to play out like 2016, he'd pull the trigger, and his dying words would be, "That'll show them!"

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com


The conclusion is that in these states, Democratic turnout was way down compared to 2012, much more than Republican turnout was up. The poster child here is Wisconsin, which Trump won by 23,000 votes. Democratic turnout was 238,000 votes less than it was in 2012 while Republican turnout was down by 3,000 votes. In other words, Republicans didn't beat the Democrats in Wisconsin, Democrats committed suicide. In six of the seven states, Democratic turnout was down. Only in Florida was it up, but up by less than Republican turnout.

The data don't show why Democratic turnout was down. Was it millennials sulking that they couldn't have their beloved Bernie? Was it FBI Director James Comey's letter than made Democrats who didn't really like Clinton much stay home? People will be analyzing the data for years to come, but one conclusion that is inescapable now is that Democrats lost because for whatever reason, they didn't bother to vote, at least not in the numbers they did in 2012.


I'm emotionally inclined to join our host in blaming my fellow Democrats for not voting. And yet, I also remember that in many of these swing states, voter suppression was a big effing deal, and that the difference between 2012 and 2016 was the Supreme Court gutting of the Voting Rights Act. So did these Democrats really "not bother to vote", or were they successfully kept from voting? If the latter, then this election really was a successful coup.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

You insisted Sanders was not electable. You blocked your ears and refused to hear. You closed your eyes and refused to see.

And Hillary was cast down. Trump got elected. Because you refused to believe that hatred of Hillary Clinton was so great that people would spit into the wind in an effort to spit at her face.

Well done.


Jeez, I know you're bitter and righfully so, but neither Dr Brin nor myself nor anyone who thought Hillary would beat Trump did anything to tip the scales toward Hillary. I voted for Bernie in my state's primary. I don't remember if Dr Brin did or not. So once Hillary was the Democratic candidate, what would you have had us do? Already be depressed instead of thinking our candidate would win? At what point would Dr Brin or myself or anyone have changed anything by knowing that Hillary would lose in November?

If our side is to blame for anything (and I include myself here), it is for the glee we greeted the fact that Trump would be the Republican nominee--that he'd have so much less of a chance at winning than other Republicans. Radio host Norman Goldman, who I agree with on almost everything, was actively pulling for Trump, on the grounds that he'd destroy the Republican party from the inside out. I accept more blame for thinking Trump was a good candidate (from our point of view) than I do for thinking Hillary would beat him. That is, to the extent that my emotional assessment mattered at all.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart:
Hope sells. Clinton left a hope vacuum, and Trump, a corrupt plutocrat, dared to fill that vacuum with promises to work for The Common Man. The promises were ridiculous on the face of them, but he was the only one making such promises.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Did Wisconsin Democrats commit suicide, or where they murdered? Wisconsin had some of the most far-reaching voter suppression measures available. For instance, requiring DMV-issued voter ID, and then closing DMV offices in heavily Democratic areas and curtailing the hours in areas that were largely working class.

Jumper said...

The closest parallels are the most disturbing: the Pol Pot regime, or even the genocide against the Tutsis. Pol Pot's followers, of course, killed anyone with an education, especially anyone who wore glasses. And the Hutu, well, who do they remind you of?

raito said...

Jumper,

That article on neural networks ins pretty good, though I'd disagree with one point (having worked in that field). I wouldn't say that they were out of favor for a time, as the article says. I'd say that it was more that the idea was (usually) that they were good for certain classes of problems, or (by the enlightened few) that the machines and more importantly the data weren't available to take the technique further. I'd also say that saying that artificial neural networks bear the same resemblance to wetware neural networks like made for TV movies 'inspired by actual events' bear to those events. What happened with ANNs is very much like what happened to the Z-buffer algorithm. It was discovered (in the 60's), then shelved because the machines weren't up to using it. Now, it's used everywhere because the machines have progressed to the point where using the algorithm is feasible.

In the case of ANNs, a small part of the limit were the machines themselves. Millions of artificial neurons don't take all that much capacity, really. The major stumbling block is that an ANN requires training data, the more the better. The next block is the training function (that's the feedback that let's the neurons adjust their 'weight'). With the rise of the internet, the amount of available training data just exploded, as did the possibilities for the training function.

Also, I regularly go to City Council meetings and School Board meetings. Sure, it's generally when I want to say something, but otherwise I can get to the minutes. Cable access channels do me no good, and I don't have cable. The last time I went was to take the CC to task on municipal fiber. It's happening, but 2 years ago it was a 5 year plan. Now it's a 10 year plan. And this in a city that claims to try to attract people with jobs (the poor have been moving here in greater numbers than non-poor. Not that I want anyone to not move, but I'd like a little balance). One school board meeting I went to was the annual budget vote (required in WI). I successfully kept the mill rate from going down. One guy who was pretty steamed about that later said I was right when it turned out we need to build at least 3 new schools in the district. So I go.

raito said...

Paul SB,

Yes, every group has it's bell curve. And the characteristics of that curve are important. Where the center is, what the standard deviation is, etc. I just seem to have had different experiences with the Ivy Leaguers than you have.

And here, the problems in the school district have more to do with having the fastest-growing district in the state combined with regressive state aid. They figure it using a 3 year average. So growing districts get screwed, and shrinking ones do well. At least they passed the first referenda: one to build 2 more elementary schools, 1 to fund maintenance beyond the state caps. Next year, we'll probably have one for an additional high school.

And I do believe very much that the best way to educate nearly every student is for them to have a personal attachment to the teacher. Nothing else works as well. Computers are useful, but they don't replace human interaction.

And on the subject of language in school, my daughter has a classmate who spoke only French. So I taught her some nice things to say in French. He appreciated it.

I will disagree quite vehemently, though, on the school as vocational training idea, at least though high school. After that, the student can choose. I've seen too many railroaded with that kind of thinking (and it appears to be happing in Milwaukee as we speak). On the other hand, I was one who was content to read books day in and day out.

Also, it seems to me that msot the the 'Silicon Vally millionaires' make their money from both other businesses and the middle class. And it seems to me that the older money makes their from other businesses and the lower class. I'm not sure what that says, or even if it's accurate.

Duncan Cairncross,

I'm less certain that the measures of colleges are language specific. Everywhere I've lived, there's people from all ove rthe world piling in to attend the local university. In the 80's (when the economy was much more bleak [especially personally]), I figured that the only things the US would still be good at in the future were education and agriculture. At least as exports.

donzelion,

You have a great point about the 'economy of scale' in education. When I went to high school, I went with a middle school full of the first generation of children whose parents had escaped the innards of Chicago and Detroit. They knew the stories. Some had lived part of them. And they knew that they were going to the school that the local university's school went to. The vast majority studied hard, graduated, and went on to college. It's hard to beat that as an outcome.

raito said...

Slim Moldie,

Yes, what happens outside of school makes a big difference. My children love books because I love books, and we have them in the house. They probably have never thought about where their next meal is coming from, because it's always been there. Since no one I know probably reads here, I'll ask forgiveness for blowing my horn just a little bit. My local elementary school has a small food pantry. No muss, no fuss. Have the child whisper to the teacher that they need a little help, and a little help goes into their backpack at the end of the day. Or come in and get some if you need it. They were coming up a little short this year, so I arrange dto fill their list. I've been there, and being hungry is no way to learn. I'll also say that how school lunch is dealt with today keeps the stigma away. Doing it all online, and with computers at the checkout means no one knows you're getting your lunch free.

I do like what Beloit(?) WI did. They figured out the cost of administering free lunch for the poor, and decided that it was easier to just make breakfast and lunch free for all students.

TCB,

I don't think any candidate has ever come out poorer at the end.

And finally, for Dr. Brin,

Lasers shot at anitmatter. Cool stuff.
http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/12/19/506134622/scientists-blast-antimatter-atoms-with-a-laser-for-the-first-time

And like it says, predicting is one thing. Experimental results are better. And best when the 2 agree.

raito said...

And the reference to Asimov's 'Profession' brings other stories to mind. Unfortunately, I read a lot, and only tend to keep the idea in my head, rather than names and authors...

One where a boy isn't looking forward to a future as a C student, so he changes his grades. It turns out that they're looking for people who think outside the box, and he ends up at the top levels.

One where a guy blows his chance and ends up working in the sewers, only to find that the administrators just do what the data tells them. And the data pipes are in the sewers...

And the one sad one where a boy is going off for examinations. His father tries to obliquely tell him to do less than his best. The boy ignores him (apparently). The parents are told that the boy passed with flying colors, and where would they like the body sent. A little Harrison-Bergeron-eque, that one.

Jonathan Sills said...

See, there's one thing the Bernie Bros we still have don't seem to get. You see Sanders as a caring, intelligent man, willing to go to the mat for the common citizen.

In the general election, though, the Republicans would have sold him as an old, out-of-touch socialist with a history of "fighting against Our Great Nation!" (accompanied by pictures of Bernie getting arrested during protests in the '60s, with absolutely no context attached). They would have whipped up their base against him in ways they couldn't (quite) manage against Clinton. (Oh, and given the rise of the alt-Reich during the campaign, don't forget the dog-whistles about the Jew...)

Basically, all other factors being equal and just swapping out Sanders for Clinton, they would have eaten his lunch in the general. I like to fantasize about what we could have gotten with President Sanders too, and I did push for him in the caucus here (in WA, the Republicans are the only ones who hold a primary), but in retrospect the defeat would have been worse. And you're only fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

Robert said...

First, I'm not a Bernie Bro. I'm Libertarian.

Second. My parents, who voted Trump, said they would have voted Bernie Sanders over Trump in a heartbeat. I have a feeling they are not alone in that.

Third, Republicans already were painting Sanders as a commie socialist without a clue. And people didn't care. People were enthusiastic over Sanders.

Fourth. Sanders would not have had the secrecy issue that Clinton had, he would not have had the aura of "I deserve this because it is my turn" Clinton had, and he would not have had decades of constant hate piled upon him that Clinton did.

It is quite easy to say "well Republicans would have painted Sanders as far worse than Clinton" but you know what? They spent decades on Clinton. They built layer after layer after layer of lies and deceit. And Clinton added to this with bullshit like the private servers, actions during fundraising, and "deplorables" and other dismissive language.

Clinton turned to fearmongering to try and keep Trump out. Sanders would not. Sanders would have stuck to his message. And all that the Republicans could do is smear and smear and smear... but on the other side you would have a constant message.

What do you listen to? A message of hope and a way forward? Or constant shit being flung by political monkeys?

Sanders did pretty damn good considering the Establishment in the DNC were determined to knock him out of the running and make sure Clinton got in. Imagine if they had remained impartial. Sanders very well may have won.

But mostly this is my saying to Dr. Brin, get off your goddamn high horse already. You claim to have called it. But Dr. Brin? You blinded yourself because you bought the Koolaid saying It's Her Turn. You let yourself be blinded by claiming "well, the others don't stand a chance against the Republicans." And you were wrong.

This one biggest forecast? You were bloody wrong. So don't go crying and claiming "this is the fault of voters who refused to accept the truth" because you are the one blinding yourself to the truth about the poison pill that was the Hillary Clinton candidacy. And twice now it has been proven to be incapable of breaking through to the Presidency - first against Barack Obama, and the second against Donald Trump.

The only difference is this time it's going to cost us. A lot of people are going to be put to work in private prisons for trumped up charges so Trump's people can put out dirt cheap products and keep him in power. And those of us who refuse to work in these slave labor camps? Won't ever be heard from or seen again.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Did Wisconsin Democrats commit suicide, or where they murdered? Wisconsin had some of the most far-reaching voter suppression measures available.


That's the point I was trying to make myself. Wisconsin and North Carolina were the most blatant at taking the Supreme Court sanction to suppress the vote and running with it. So before I blame fellow Democrats for "staying home", I have to remind myself that they might well have been on house arrest.

What can we do about that, though, even going forward? How to combat voter suppression when it's the official policy of the benefactors of that policy? I'm afraid the only option is becoming the complete withholding of legitimacy from this government. They can force us to obey, but they can't have willing cooperation or have us reach that moment of "He loved Big Brother." Sorry if this sounds like taking the low road, but there's no percentage in having Democrats compromise while they're in power, and Republicans refuse to do so when they are. That just moves us more and more to the right.

I mentioned the Star Trek episode with Edith Keeler a while back. That makes me realize that President Obama, like Edith Keeler, was "right, but at the wrong time." His efforts at peace and compromise allowed Trump to complete his heavy water expermiments. Which means someone has to go back in time and stop Dr McCoy.

Zepp Jamieson said...

So we shouldn't run a candidate of our choice because the Republicans might use attack and smear tactics? Well, they ran Hillary instead. Did that prevent the Republicans from using attack and smear tactics?
As long as you run from them, they win.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LarryHart: "What can we do about that, though, even going forward?"

Well, with GOP of the WH, Congress, and the courts, not much. Worst case scenario we'll never have a meaningful election again--just Soviet-style parodies. Best case scenario--grass roots movement that overwhelms the plutocratic class.

Jonathan Sills said...

By all means, run the candidate of your choice. However, during this "post-truth election cycle, there's simply no way Sanders could have won. Had he been able to foresee the level to which things would descend, he might well have decided to sit this one out and throw his full support behind another candidate (not necessarily Clinton - there were others early on) rather than risk it.

I won't say this was the worst, most vindictive mudslinging general election ever - I have too much historical perspective for that. (Lincoln's first Presidential campaign, anyone? Jefferson and Adams?) It was, however, in my opinion at least, the worst in living memory, eclipsing even the Kennedy-Nixon election. (The McGovern race in '72 was a close second - I still say Eagleton should have responded to questions about his mental history by noting that he was the only man in the running who had papers to prove he was sane.) And hope, while a fine and commendable thing, and often enough to hang one's future on, simply stood no chance this time around.

I understand the desire to do endless post-mortems, trying to find what went wrong - or, more accurately, who we can blame for it - but in a sense, Donnie truly was the Mule, an unpredictable factor that the existing system had no defenses against. The only way to have stopped him would have been either a more educated electorate, or direct popular vote rather than the EC. And it wasn't really anyone's "fault", so, frustratingly, there's no one to pillory.

matthew said...

Polling supports the idea that Sanders would have won in a landslide. with big long coattails.
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_sanders-5565.html

The public was in a mood for an outsider candidate, not business as usual.

Jonathan, you are spinning a narrative designed to keep the Democratic party from being competitive, and keep party apparatchiks in power.

And yes, Brin did not get the election correct with his predictions. And yes, those of us that said so before hand were sniped at here. And, no, I see no bit of humility from those that did the sniping, including our host. All I see is Progressive voters being blamed for a lack of enthusiasm, when there was a ton of enthusiasm for an outsider. Parties ignore such things at their own risk. Jonathan is one of many such.

Robert said...

So what you are saying is that a candidate advocating for the working class, who is stating ooutsourcing jobs and the like shouldn't be rewarded, was the opposite of secretive, and advocated for a living wage for all people would in fact fail against a Billionaire candidate who refused to release his taxes and is advocating for the rich?

And I think you are very very wrong about Sanders. If he knew he would face levels of derision and hate as Clinton did, he would roll up his sleeves, smile, and answer those slanders with facts and cold determination without descending to that level. I do not agree with Sanders' economic views. I feel he's mistaken on a number of things. But I respect him far more than I respect any of the candidates who ran. And I include Johnson/Weld in that mix.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

raito:

One where a boy isn't looking forward to a future as a C student, so he changes his grades. It turns out that they're looking for people who think outside the box, and he ends up at the top levels.


Sounds like Captain Kirk in "Wrath of Khan". "I changed the condition of the test. I don't believe in the no-win scenario."


And the one sad one where a boy is going off for examinations. His father tries to obliquely tell him to do less than his best. The boy ignores him (apparently). The parents are told that the boy passed with flying colors, and where would they like the body sent. A little Harrison-Bergeron-eque, that one.


Or Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery".

Robert said...

I always mentally rewrote the stupid one about the spaceship transporting supplies and having to eject a young female stowaway. Rather than eject her, they stripped out of their spacesuits, took most of the tools and such and put those in the airlock, and basically stripped down the ship so they could have the weight down to what was needed to save her life.

But as a logical person I also saw the story as suffering a massive flaw. If there was barely enough fuel to get a vital ship to the planet, then what happens if there was an accident? Running off of bare margins is idiocy, especially in a life-or-death situation like needing to deliver medical supplies.

From what I understand, the author himself wasn't happy with the story.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

"But mostly this is my saying to Dr. Brin, get off your goddamn high horse already. You claim to have called it. But Dr. Brin? You blinded yourself because you bought the Koolaid saying It's Her Turn. You let yourself be blinded by claiming "well, the others don't stand a chance against the Republicans." And you were wrong."

Strawmanning-bitter drive, top to bottom.


onward

onward

Ada said...

Powells.com has announced that they plan to send 10 books each to Presidents Obama and Trump, and are collecting suggestions. After considering and rejecting some rude ideas that would never change Mr. Trump's mind, I have suggested Brin's The Transparent Society.

My father suggested the novel Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi for President Obama.

Ada said...

Also - was this the first time a woman got an Electoral College vote for President? The question resists easy Googling. The first time two woman got Electoral College votes for President in the same election? (Highly likely IMO) The first time a Native got the same?